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Zorn’s Lemma

If X is a partially ordered set such that every chain in X has an upper bound, then X contains a maximal element. Proof. Consider for each x ∈ X the weak initial segment s : X → P (X ) defined as s(x) = {y ∈ X : y ≤ x}. Let S = ran(s). Observe that s is one-to-one and that s(x) ⊂ s(y ) iff x ≤ y . Therefore, S is partially ordered by inclusion and there exists a maximal element in X iff there is a maximal set in S . Let χ be the set of all chains in X . Observe that χ is partially ordered by inclusion. Also, χ contains all the subsets of each of its sets and if C is a chain in χ, then ∪A∈C A ∈ χ. Finally, every member of χ is included in s(x) for some x ∈ X . Since each set in χ is dominated by some set in S , the passage from S to χ introduces no new maximal elements. Therefore, there exists a maximal element in X iff there is a maximal set in χ. Let f : P (X ) → X be a choice function for X (i.e. f (A) ∈ A for all A ∈ ˆ = {x ∈ X : A ∪ {x} ∈ χ}. Define a dom(f )). For each A ∈ χ, let A ˆ− A = ∅, then g (A) = A ∪ f (A ˆ − A) function g : χ → χ such that if A ˆ− A = ∅, then g (A) = A. Therefore, A ˆ− A = ∅ iff A is maximal. and if A We define a subcollection τ of χ to be a tower if the following hold: (1) ∅ ∈ τ (2) if A ∈ τ , then g (A) ∈ τ (3) if C is a chain in τ , then ∪A∈C A ∈ τ Observe that χ is a tower. Since the intersection of towers is a tower, let τ0 be the intersection of all towers. We claim that τ0 is a chain. We define a set C ∈ τ0 to be comparable if ∀A ∈ τ0 either A ⊂ C or C ⊂ A. Therefore, τ0 is a chain iff all the sets in τ0 are comparable. Note that ∅ is comparable. Suppose A ∈ τ0 such that A is a proper subset of C . Since C is comparable, either g (A) ⊂ C , or C ⊂ g (A). However, g (A) − A is a singleton, and so A cannot be a proper subset of C if C ⊂ g (A). Therefore, g (A) ⊂ C . Consider the collection U of the sets A ∈ τ0 such that A ⊂ C or g (C ) ⊂ A. We claim that U = τ0 . We first check that U is a tower: (1) ∅ ∈ U : This follows from the fact that ∅ ∈ C
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We have thus shown that if A ∈ τ0 . then g (A) ∈ U : If A ⊂ C . Therefore. then g (A) ⊂ C . τ0 is a chain in χ. and so g maps comparable sets to comparable sets. Since τ0 is a chain. if g (C ) ⊂ A. it follows that g (T ) ⊂ T . If A = C . it follows by minimality that U = τ0 . . It is always true that T ⊂ g (T ). Since U is a tower in τ0 . for each comparable set C . T = g (T ). then g (A) = g (C ) and so g (C ) ⊂ g (A). the union T of all the sets in τ0 is itself in τ0 . then ∪A∈C A ∈ U : This follows from the definition of U . then g (C ) ⊂ g (A). Therefore. Since ∅ is comparable and the union of a chain of comparable sets is comparable. Finally. then either A ⊂ g (C ) (since A ⊂ C ) or g (C ) ⊂ A.2 (2) If A ∈ U . the set g (C ) is also comparable. (3) If C is a chain in U . Therefore. Since T includes all the sets in τ0 . it follows that the comparable sets in τ0 constitute a tower and hence they exhaust τ0 .