A vector space is defined as a set with two operations, meeting ten properties (Definition VS). Just as the definition of span of a set of vectors only required knowing how to add vectors and how to multiply vectors by scalars, so it is with linear independence. A definition of a linearly independent set of vectors in an arbitrary vector space only requires knowing how to form linear combinations and equating these with the zero vector. Since every vector space must have a zero vector (Property Z), we always have a zero vector at our disposal.
Worksheet on identifying subspaces, linear independence, spanning and basis.