I make an attempt at the description of the delicate role of the standard model of arithmetic for the syntax of formal systems. I try to assess whether the possible instability in the notion of finiteness deriving from the nonstandard interpretability of arithmetic affects the very notions of syntactic metatheory and of formal system. I maintain that the crucial point of the whole question lies in the evaluation of the phenomenon of formalization. The ideas of Skolem, Zermelo, Beth and Carnap (among others) on the problem are discussed.
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