Simple Theory of Types

Discipline: Philosophy

Theory developed by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) to deal with paradoxes like his paradox of classes: is the class of all classes that are not members of themselves a member of itself? If yes, no; if no, yes.

Russell said there is no such class. Classes (and also properties) cannot all be lumped together, but form a hierarchy. Objects are of type zero. Classes of objects are of type one. Classes of type one classes are of type two, and so on. The class of all type n classes is of type n+1, but there is no class of all classes (or property which applies to all properties).

This is the simple theory, which Russell developed only as part of the ramified theory (see ramified theory of types). This latter (which also applies to propositions) resolves the various paradoxes, but lets us speak only of classes and so on of a given level; notions like class-membership, property, and truth (in the case of propositions) become systematically ambiguous over the hierarchy of levels of classes, properties, or propositions.

Other solutions have therefore been sought, but Russell's paradox and similar ones revolutionized logic early in the 20th century.

I M Copi, The Theory of Logical Types (1971)


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