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The Joy of Sets: Fundamentals of Contemporary Set Theory (Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics) Hardcover – 24 Jun 1994

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Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, which forms the main topic of the book, is a rigorous theory, based on a precise set of axioms. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Superb! 4 Jun. 2005
By Victor A. Vyssotsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Keith Devlin is one of those rare research mathematicians who is able to make recent advances in mathematics understandable and interesting to those whose mathematical education is obsolete or incomplete. I'm in the former category, having done my graduate work in pure math 50 years ago; although I've tried to keep up, constraints of time and other obligations have made it difficult.

Most modern texts on set theory put the reader to sleep, either because they avoid the important parts ("Set Theory for Those who Don't Want to Know It") or because they employ a degree of formalism that is quite difficult to grasp ("Set Theory Derived by Pure Propositional Logic, Step by Step"). Devlin's book avoids both traps. He presents modern advanced material that illuminates the subject admirably, but is careful not to submerge the reader in overwhelming finicky details. His discussions of constructive set theory, of independence proofs in set theory, and of non-well-founded set theory, are the first ones I've seen that get me excited enough to put the book aside and start exploring some of the implications on my own.

If I search for anything about the book to criticize, I find only one very minor thing. The sequence of proofs that show "Zorn's Lemma", the Axiom of Choice, the well-ordering principle, "Tukey's Lemma", etc to be equivalent to one another as an addition to the traditional Zermolo-Frankel axioms would be clearer if prefaced by an intuitive discssion of why the various steps in the chain of reasoning "ought" to work as they do; such a discussion helped me a lot many years ago to internalize what's going on. But that comment is just a nit.

On the other extreme, having once, 30+ years ago, being forced by the exigencies of a real-world problem to blunder through the creation of my own version of fragments of non-well-founded set theory, it gives me much joy to see it exounded as a coherent mthematical topic.

I read and reread this book, and drag it off the shelf when it occurs to me to ponder on some aspect that I don't fully recall. There are a number of other books on topics in pure mathematics about which I feel the same way, but they are a tiny minority among the deluge of texts that will never be read by anyone who doesn't have to. It's obviously an excellent text for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students, but beyond that, I recommend it to anyone with a working knowledge of pure math whose knowledge of set theory is somewhat behind current knowledge.

In short, buy a copy!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
At times not so easygoing, but indeed a joy to read ... 31 Oct. 2001
By Frederik Lefever - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the foundations of the mathematics will benefit from reading this excellent book.
Despite considerably abstract (almost no concrete examples), this book was carefully conceived to guide the reader through some of the most exciting contemporary ideas on set theory. If I had to name a minus about this book, I would mention the lack of solutions to the problems posted by the author. This makes the book a little less suitable for self-study.
Nevertheless, this book was written with care and love for the subject.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Too short on explanation 12 July 2005
By Nathan Oakes - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This text is intended for seniors or beginning grads. The first three of seven chapters form a very quick survey of naive set theory. Since it aims at a more advanced audience, it is not as explanatory as Enderton and the exercises assume more maturity. Chapters 4 - 7 survey some advanced topics that aren't part of the usual introductory set theory course. These chapters have no exercises.

The development lacks a lot in clarity, exercises have only cursory introduction, and the author tends to get ahead of himself, assuming material before introducing it. The text by Roitman is much better and is targeted at the same audience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very good book! 28 Jun. 2013
By Danny - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is very easy to read! (at some points, well I have trouble learning new material).
The book begins with naive set theory, the stuff every math major first gets exposed to when they first learn about sets.
To then introduce precise definitions and the axioms of set theory. It is very detailed, and exercises are pretty challenging, unless you are some kind of genius, it should be an easy read.
I am your average math major, nothing special but I do enjoy the maths they have. I enjoy the pure side of the subject (like modern algebra and some topology) and this adds as a very interesting topic to know. If I can read it, you probably can too.
Sets, sets and sets.
Be careful when reading in public, apparently it looks like the JOY OF SEX to some people :P.
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Quite possibly one of the worst mathematics texts I've ever read! 26 April 2007
By Hassan Sahibzada - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is completely useless. It is near impossible for someone to learn Axiomatic Set Theory from this book. The majority of the proofs in this book go something like "obvious", "trivial", "left to the reader", "an easy exercise" and so on. The proof may be obvious to the author - but not to someone who is learning the subject for the first time. The majority of my class also hated this text and I don't think our professor like it too much either. In fact, the first time our professor recommended opening the book was to see how the Hebrew letters used for cardinal numbers look typed, since he couldn't draw them correctly on the blackboard! I usually don't write reviews for texts I dislike but I hated this book enough that I felt obliged to caution anyone planning to waste their money on this book.
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