In many areas of mathematics there is a need to have methods taking local information and properties to global ones. This is mostly done by gluing techniques using open sets in a topology and associated presheaves. The presheaves form sheaves when local pieces fit together to global ones. This has been generalized to categorical settings based on Grothendieck topologies and sites.

The general problem of going from local to global situations is important also outside of mathematics. Consider collections of objects where we may have information or properties of objects or subcollections, and we want to extract global information.

This is where hyperstructures are very useful. If we are given a collection of objects that we want to investigate, we put a suitable hyperstructure on it. Then we may assign “local” properties at each level and by the generalized Grothendieck topology for hyperstructures we can now glue both within levels and across the levels in order to get global properties. Such an assignment of global properties or states we call a globalizer. 

To illustrate our intuition let us think of a society organized into a hyperstructure. Through levelwise democratic elections leaders are elected and the democratic process will eventually give a “global” leader. In this sense democracy may be thought of as a sociological (or political) globalizer. This applies to decision making as well.

In “frustrated” spin systems in physics one may possibly think of the “frustation” being resolved by creating new levels and a suitable globalizer assigning a global state to the system corresponding to various exotic physical conditions like, for example, a kind of hyperstructured spin glass or magnet. Acting on both classical and quantum fields in physics may be facilitated by putting a hyperstructure on them.

There are also situations where we are given an object or a collection of objects with assignments of properties or states. To achieve a certain goal we need to change, let us say, the state. This may be very difficult and require a lot of resources. The idea is then to put a hyperstructure on the object or collection. By this we create levels of locality that we can glue together by a generalized Grothendieck topology.

It may often be much easier and require less resources to change the state at the lowest level and then use a globalizer to achieve the desired global change. Often it may be important to find a minimal hyperstructure needed to change a global state with minimal resources.

Again, to support our intuition let us think of the democratic society example. To change the global leader directly may be hard, but starting a “political” process at the lower individual levels may not require heavy resources and may propagate through the democratic hyperstructure leading to a change of leader.

Hence, hyperstructures facilitates local to global processes, but also global to local processes. Often these are called bottom up and top down processes. In the global to local or top down process we put a hyperstructure on an object or system in such a way that it is represented by a top level bond in the hyperstructure. This means that to an object or system X we assign a hyperstructure

H = {B0,B1,…,Bn} in such a way that X = bn for some bn ∈ B binding a family {bi1n−1} of Bn−1 bonds, each bi1n−1 binding a family {bi2n−2} of Bn−2 bonds, etc. down to B0 bonds in H. Similarly for a local to global process. To a system, set or collection of objects X, we assign a hyperstructure H such that X = B0. A hyperstructure on a set (space) will create “global” objects, properties and states like what we see in organized societies, organizations, organisms, etc. The hyperstructure is the “glue” or the “law” of the objects. In a way, the globalizer creates a kind of higher order “condensate”. Hyperstructures represent a conceptual tool for translating organizational ideas like for example democracy, political parties, etc. into a mathematical framework where new types of arguments may be carried through.

Diffeomorphism Invariance: General Relativity Spacetime Points Cannot Possess Haecceity.


Eliminative or radical ontic structural realism (ROSR) offers a radical cure—appropriate given its name—to what it perceives to be the ailing of traditional, object-based realist interpretations of fundamental theories in physics: rid their ontologies entirely of objects. The world does not, according to this view, consist of fundamental objects, which may or may not be individuals with a well-defined intrinsic identity, but instead of physical structures that are purely relational in the sense of networks of ‘free-standing’ physical relations without relata.

Advocates of ROSR have taken at least three distinct issues in fundamental physics to support their case. The quantum statistical features of an ensemble of elementary quantum particles of the same kind as well as the features of entangled elementary quantum (field) systems as illustrated in the violation of Bell-type inequalities challenge the standard understanding of the identity and individuality of fundamental physical objects: considered on their own, an elementary quantum particle part of the above mentioned ensemble or an entangled elementary quantum system (that is, an elementary quantum system standing in a quantum entanglement relation) cannot be said to satisfy genuine and empirically meaningful identity conditions. Thirdly, it has been argued that one of the consequences of the diffeomorphism invariance and background independence found in general relativity (GTR) is that spacetime points should not be considered as traditional objects possessing some haecceity, i.e. some identity on their own.

The trouble with ROSR is that its main assertion appears squarely incoherent: insofar as relations can be exemplified, they can only be exemplified by some relata. Given this conceptual dependence of relations upon relata, any contention that relations can exist floating freely from some objects that stand in those relations seems incoherent. If we accept an ontological commitment e.g. to universals, we may well be able to affirm that relations exist independently of relata – as abstracta in a Platonic heaven. The trouble is that ROSR is supposed to be a form of scientific realism, and as such committed to asserting that at least certain elements of the relevant theories of fundamental physics faithfully capture elements of physical reality. Thus, a defender of ROSR must claim that, fundamentally, relations-sans-relata are exemplified in the physical world, and that contravenes both the intuitive and the usual technical conceptualization of relations.

The usual extensional understanding of n-ary relations just equates them with subsets of the n-fold Cartesian product of the set of elementary objects assumed to figure in the relevant ontology over which the relation is defined. This extensional, ultimately set-theoretic, conceptualization of relations pervades philosophy and operates in the background of fundamental physical theories as they are usually formulated, as well as their philosophical appraisal in the structuralist literature. The charge then is that the fundamental physical structures that are represented in the fundamental physical theories are just not of the ‘object-free’ type suggested by ROSR.

While ROSR should not be held to the conceptual standards dictated by the metaphysical prejudices it denies, giving up the set-theoretical framework and the ineliminable reference to objects and relata attending its characterizations of relations and structure requires an alternative conceptualization of these notions so central to the position. This alternative conceptualization remains necessary even in the light of ‘metaphysics first’ complaints, which insist that ROSR’s problem must be confronted, first and foremost, at the metaphysical level, and that the question of how to represent structure in our language and in our theories only arises in the wake of a coherent metaphysical solution. But the radical may do as much metaphysics as she likes, articulate her theory and her realist commitments she must, and in order to do that, a coherent conceptualization of what it is to have free-floating relations exemplified in the physical world is necessary.

ROSR thus confronts a dilemma: either soften to a more moderate structural realist position or else develop the requisite alternative conceptualizations of relations and of structures and apply them to fundamental physical theories. A number of structural realists have grabbed the first leg and proposed less radical and non-eliminative versions of ontic structural realism (OSR). These moderate cousins of ROSR aim to take seriously the difficulties of the traditional metaphysics of objects for understanding fundamental physics while avoiding these major objections against ROSR by keeping some thin notion of object. The picture typically offered is that of a balance between relations and their relata, coupled to an insistence that these relata do not possess their identity intrinsically, but only by virtue of occupying a relational position in a structural complex. Because it strikes this ontological balance, we term this moderate version of OSR ‘balanced ontic structural realism’ (BOSR).

But holding their ground may reward the ROSRer with certain advantages over its moderate competitors. First, were the complete elimination of relata to succeed, then structural realism would not confront any of the known headaches concerning the identity of these objects or, relatedly, the status of the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles. To be sure, this embarrassment can arguably be avoided by other moves; but eliminating objects altogether simply obliterates any concerns whether two objects are one and the same. Secondly, and speculatively, alternative formulations of our fundamental physical theories may shed light on a path toward a quantum theory of gravity.

For these presumed advantages to come to bear, however, the possibility of a precise formulation of the notion of ‘free-standing’ (or ‘object-free’) structure, in the sense of a network of relations without relata (without objects) must thus be achieved.  Jonathan Bain has argued that category theory provides the appropriate mathematical framework for ROSR, allowing for an ‘object-free’ notion of relation, and hence of structure. This argument can only succeed, however, if the category-theoretical formulation of (some of the) fundamental physical theories has some physical salience that the set-theoretical formulation lacks, or proves to be preferable qua formulation of a physical theory in some other way.

F. A. Muller has argued that neither set theory nor category theory provide the tools necessary to clarify the “Central Claim” of structural realism that the world, or parts of the world, have or are some structure. The main reason for this arises from the failure of reference in the contexts of both set theory and category theory, at least if some minimal realist constraints are imposed on how reference can function. Consequently, Muller argues that an appropriately realist stucturalist is better served by fixing the concept of structure by axiomatization rather than by (set-theoretical or category-theoretical) definition.

Frobenius Algebras



To give an open string theory is equivalent to giving a Frobenius algebra A inside Vect. To give a closed string theory is equivalent to giving a commutative Frobenius algebra B inside Vect.

The algebra A (B) is defined on the vector space which is the image under Z of the interval I (circle S1). To prove that a open/closed string theory defines a Frobenius algebra on these vector spaces is easy, especially after one reformulates the definition of a Frobenius algebra in a categorical or ‘topological’ way. To prove the converse, that every Frobenius algebra arises as Z(I) or Z(S1) for some open/closed Topological Quantum Field Theory (TQFT) Z is the more interesting result. There are three different ways of proving this fact.

The first and perhaps most modern way (elegantly set forth in Kock’s work) is to express 2Cob and OCob using generators and relations, and to use a result of Abrams work, which formulates the axioms for a Frobenius algebra in exactly the same way. The second way is to use the Atiyah-style definition of a TQFT, where the burden of proof is to show that, given a Frobenius algebra A, one can define the vectors Z(M) ∈ Z(∂M) in a consistent way, i.e. the definition is independent of the cutting of M into smaller pieces (this is called consistency of the sewing in conformal field theory). The third way has been implicitly suggested by Moore is to take advantage of the fact that it is relatively harmless to consider 2d cobordisms as embedded inside R3.


Frobenius algebras are classical algebras that were once, shamefully, called ‘Frobeniusean algebras’ in honour of the Prussian mathematician Georg Frobenius. They have many equivalent definitions; but before we list them it is worthwhile to record the following fact.


Suppose A is an arbitrary vector space equipped with a bilinear pairing ( , ) : A ⊗ A → C. Then the following are equivalent:

  1. (a)  A is finite dimensional and the pairing is nondegenerate; i.e. A is finite dimensional and the map A → A∗ which sends v → (v, ·) is an isomorphism.
  2. (b)  A is self dual in the rigid monoidal sense; i.e. there exists a copairing i : C → A ⊗ A which is dual to the pairing e : A ⊗ A → C given by e(a, b) = ε(ab).


(a) ⇒ (b). Choose a basis (e1, . . . , en) of A. Then by assumption the functionals (ei, ·) are a basis for A∗. Then there exist vectors e1,…en in A such that (ei, ej) = δji. Define the copairing i by setting

1 →  ∑i ei ⊗ ei

Then a general vector v = λiei goes through the composite V →i⊗id V ⊗ V ⊗ V →e⊗id V – as:

v = λiei → λiej ⊗ ej ⊗ ei → λiej(ej, ei) = λiei = v —– (1)

Similarly, w = λiei goes through the composite V →id⊗i V ⊗ V ⊗ V →e⊗id V as:

w = λiei → λiei ⊗ ej ⊗ ej → λi(ei, ej)ej = λiei = w —– (2)

(b) ⇒ (a) . The  copairing  i  singles out a vector in A ⊗ A b y 1 → ∑ni ei ⊗ ei for some vectors ei, ei ∈ A and some number n (note that we have not used finite dimensionality here). Now take an arbitrary v ∈ A and send it through the composite V →i⊗id V ⊗ V ⊗ V →e⊗id V:

v → ei ⊗ ei ⊗ v → ei(ei, v) —– (3)

By assumption this must be equal to v. This shows that (e1, . . . , en) spans A, so A is finite dimensional. Now we show that v → (v, ·) is injective, and hence an isomorphism. Suppose (v, ·) is the zero functional. Then in particular (v, ei) = 0 ∀ i. But these scalars are exactly the coordinates in the ‘basis’ (e1, . . . , en), so that v = 0.

This lemma translates the algebraic notion of nondegeneracy into category language, and from now on we shall use the two meanings interchangeably. It also makes explicit that a nondegenerate pairing allows one to construct, from a basis (e1, . . . , en) for A, a corresponding dual basis (e1, . . . , en), which satisfies e(ei, ej) = δij,and which can be recovered from the decomposition  i(1) = ∑iei ⊗ ei

A Frobenius algebra is

(a)  A finite dimensional algebra A equipped with a nondegenerate form (also called trace) ε : A → C.

(b)  A finite dimensional algebra (A, β) equipped with a pairing β : A ⊗ A → C which is nondegenerate and associative.

(c)  A finite dimensional algebra (A, γ) equipped with a left algebra isomorphism to its dual γ : A → A∗.

Observe that if A is an algebra, then there is a one-to-one correspondence between forms ε : A → C and associative bilinear pairings (·, ·) : A ⊗ A → C. Given a form, define the pairing by (a, b) = ε(ab), this is obviously associative. Given the pairing, define a form by ε(a) = (1,a) = (a,1); these are equal since the pairing is associative. This establishes the equivalence of (a) and (b).