Conjuncted: Affine Schemes: How Would Functors Carry the Same Information?


If we go to the generality of schemes, the extra structure overshadows the topological points and leaves out crucial details so that we have little information, without the full knowledge of the sheaf. For example the evaluation of odd functions on topological points is always zero. This implies that the structure sheaf of a supermanifold cannot be reconstructed from its underlying topological space.

The functor of points is a categorical device to bring back our attention to the points of a scheme; however the notion of point needs to be suitably generalized to go beyond the points of the topological space underlying the scheme.

Grothendieck’s idea behind the definition of the functor of points associated to a scheme is the following. If X is a scheme, for each commutative ring A, we can define the set of the A-points of X in analogy to the way the classical geometers used to define the rational or integral points on a variety. The crucial difference is that we do not focus on just one commutative ring A, but we consider the A-points for all commutative rings A. In fact, the scheme we start from is completely recaptured only by the collection of the A-points for every commutative ring A, together with the admissible morphisms.

Let (rings) denote the category of commutative rings and (schemes) the category of schemes.

Let (|X|, OX) be a scheme and let T ∈ (schemes). We call the T-points of X, the set of all scheme morphisms {T → X}, that we denote by Hom(T, X). We then define the functor of points hX of the scheme X as the representable functor defined on the objects as

hX: (schemes)op → (sets), haX(A) = Hom(Spec A, X) = A-points of X

Notice that when X is affine, X ≅ Spec O(X) and we have

haX(A) = Hom(Spec A, O(X)) = Hom(O(X), A)

In this case the functor haX is again representable.

Consider the affine schemes X = Spec O(X) and Y = Spec O(Y). There is a one-to-one correspondence between the scheme morphisms X → Y and the ring morphisms O(X) → O(Y). Both hX and haare defined on morphisms in the natural way. If φ: T → S is a morphism and ƒ ∈ Hom(S, X), we define hX(φ)(ƒ) = ƒ ○ φ. Similarly, if ψ: A → Bis a ring morphism and g ∈ Hom(O(X), A), we define haX(ψ)(g) = ψ ○ g. The functors hX and haare for a given scheme X not really different but carry the same information. The functor of points hof a scheme X is completely determined by its restriction to the category of affine schemes, or equivalently by the functor

haX: (rings) → (sets), haX(A) = Hom(Spec A, X)

Let M = (|M|, OM) be a locally ringed space and let (rspaces) denote the category of locally ringed spaces. We define the functor of points of locally ringed spaces M as the representable functor

hM: (rspaces)op → (sets), hM(T) = Hom(T, M)

hM is defined on the manifold as

hM(φ)(g) = g ○ φ

If the locally ringed space M is a differentiable manifold, then

Hom(M, N) ≅ Hom(C(N), C(M))

This takes us to the theory of Yoneda’s Lemma.

Let C be a category, and let X, Y be objects in C and let hX: Cop → (sets) be the representable functors defined on the objects as hX(T) = Hom(T, X), and on the arrows as hX(φ)(ƒ) = ƒ . φ, for φ: T → S, ƒ ∈ Hom(T, X)

If F: Cop → (sets), then we have a one-to-one correspondence between sets:

{hX → F} ⇔ F(X)

The functor

h: C → Fun(Cop, (sets)), X ↦ hX,

is an equivalence of C with a full subcategory of functors. In particular, hX ≅ hY iff X ≅ Y and the natural transformations hX → hY are in one-to-one correspondence with the morphisms X → Y.

Two schemes (manifolds) are isomorphic iff their functors of points are isomorphic.

The advantages of using the functorial language are many. Morphisms of schemes are just maps between the sets of their A-points, respecting functorial properties. This often simplifies matters, allowing allowing for leaving the sheaves machinery in the background. The problem with such an approach, however, is that not all the functors from (schemes) to (sets) are the functors of points of a scheme, i.e., they are representable.

A functor F: (rings) → (sets) is of the form F(A) = Hom(Spec A, X) for a scheme X iff:

F is local or is a sheaf in Zariski Topology. This means that for each ring R and for every collection αi ∈ F(Rƒi), with (ƒi, i ∈ I) = R, so that αi and αj map to the same element in F(Rƒiƒj) ∀ i and j ∃ a unique element α ∈ F(R) mapping to each αi, and

F admits a cover by open affine subfunctors, which means that ∃ a family Ui of subfunctors of F, i.e. Ui(R) ⊂ F(R) ∀ R ∈ (rings), Ui = hSpec Ui, with the property that ∀ natural transformations ƒ: hSpec A  → F, the functors ƒ-1(Ui), defined as ƒ-1(Ui)(R) = ƒ-1(Ui(R)), are all representable, i.e. ƒ-1(Ui) = hVi, and the Vi form an open covering for Spec A.

This states the conditions we expect for F to be the functor of points of a scheme. Namely, locally, F must look like the functor of points of a scheme, moreover F must be a sheaf, i.e. F must have a gluing property that allows us to patch together the open affine cover.

Ringed Spaces (1)


A ringed space is a broad concept in which we can fit most of the interesting geometrical objects. It consists of a topological space together with a sheaf of functions on it.

Let M be a differentiable manifold, whose topological space is Hausdorff and second countable. For each open set U ⊂ M , let C(U) be the R-algebra of smooth functions on U .

The assignment

U ↦ C(U)

satisfies the following two properties:

(1) If U ⊂ V are two open sets in M, we can define the restriction map, which is an algebra morphism:

rV, U : C(V) → C(U), ƒ ↦ ƒ|U

which is such that

i) rU, U = id

ii) rW, U = rV, U ○ rW, V

(2) Let {Ui}i∈I be an open covering of U and let {ƒi}i∈I, ƒi ∈ C(Ui) be a family such that ƒi|Ui ∩ Uj = ƒj| Ui ∩ Uj ∀ i, j ∈ I. In other words the elements of the family {ƒi}i∈I agree on the intersection of any two open sets Ui ∩ Uj. Then there exists a unique ƒ ∈ C(U) such that ƒ|Ui = ƒi.

Such an assignment is called a sheaf. The pair (M, C), consisting of the topological space M, underlying the differentiable manifold, and the sheaf of the C functions on M is an example of locally ringed space (the word “locally” refers to a local property of the sheaf of C functions.

Given two manifolds M and N, and the respective sheaves of smooth functions CM and CN, a morphism ƒ from M to N, viewed as ringed spaces, is a morphism |ƒ|: M → N of the underlying topological spaces together with a morphism of algebras,

ƒ*: CN(V) →  CM-1(V)), ƒ*(φ)(x) = φ(|ƒ|(x))

compatible with the restriction morphisms.

Notice that, as soon as we give the continuous map |ƒ| between the topological spaces, the morphism ƒ* is automatically assigned. This is a peculiarity of the sheaf of smooth functions on a manifold. Such a property is no longer true for a generic ringed space and, in particular, it is not true for supermanifolds.

A morphism of differentiable manifolds gives rise to a unique (locally) ringed space morphism and vice versa.

Moreover, given two manifolds, they are isomorphic as manifolds iff they are isomorphic as (locally) ringed spaces. In the language of categories, we say we have a fully faithful functor from the category of manifolds to the category of locally ringed spaces.

The generalization of algebraic geometry to the super-setting comes somehow more naturally than the similar generalization of differentiable geometry. This is because the machinery of algebraic geometry was developed to take already into account the presence of (even) nilpotents and consequently, the language is more suitable to supergeometry.

Let X be an affine algebraic variety in the affine space An over an algebraically closed field k and let O(X) = k[x1,…., xn]/I be its coordinate ring, where the ideal I is prime. This corresponds topologically to the irreducibility of the variety X. We can think of the points of X as the zeros of the polynomials in the ideal I in An. X is a topological space with respect to the Zariski topology, whose closed sets are the zeros of the polynomials in the ideals of O(X). For each open U in X, consider the assignment

U ↦ OX(U)

where OX(U) is the k-algebra of regular functions on U. By definition, these are the functions ƒ X → k that can be expressed as a quotient of two polynomials at each point of U ⊂ X. The assignment U ↦ OX(U) is another example of a sheaf is called the structure sheaf of the variety X or the sheaf of regular functions. (X, OX) is another example of a (locally) ringed space.



Many important spaces in topology and algebraic geometry have no odd-dimensional homology. For such spaces, functorial spatial homology truncation simplifies considerably. On the theory side, the simplification arises as follows: To define general spatial homology truncation, we used intermediate auxiliary structures, the n-truncation structures. For spaces that lack odd-dimensional homology, these structures can be replaced by a much simpler structure. Again every such space can be embedded in such a structure, which is the analogon of the general theory. On the application side, the crucial simplification is that the truncation functor t<n will not require that in truncating a given continuous map, the map preserve additional structure on the domain and codomain of the map. In general, t<n is defined on the category CWn⊃∂, meaning that a map must preserve chosen subgroups “Y ”. Such a condition is generally necessary on maps, for otherwise no truncation exists. So arbitrary continuous maps between spaces with trivial odd-dimensional homology can be functorially truncated. In particular the compression rigidity obstructions arising in the general theory will not arise for maps between such spaces.

Let ICW be the full subcategory of CW whose objects are simply connected CW-complexes K with finitely generated even-dimensional homology and vanishing odd-dimensional homology for any coefficient group. We call ICW the interleaf category.

For example, the space K = S22 e3 is simply connected and has vanishing integral homology in odd dimensions. However, H3(K;Z/2) = Z/2 ≠ 0.

Let X be a space whose odd-dimensional homology vanishes for any coefficient group. Then the even-dimensional integral homology of X is torsion-free.

Taking the coefficient group Q/Z, we have

Tor(H2k(X),Q/Z) = H2k+1(X) ⊗ Q/Z ⊕ Tor(H2k(X),Q/Z) = H2k+1(X;Q/Z) = 0.

Thus H2k(X) is torsion-free, since the group Tor(H2k(X),Q/Z) is isomorphic to the torsion subgroup of H2k(X).

Any simply connected closed 4-manifold is in ICW. Indeed, such a manifold is homotopy equivalent to a CW-complex of the form


where the homotopy class of the attaching map ƒ : S3 → Vi=1k Si2 may be viewed as a symmetric k × k matrix with integer entries, as π3(Vi=1kSi2) ≅ M(k), with M(k) the additive group of such matrices.

Any simply connected closed 6-manifold with vanishing integral middle homology group is in ICW. If G is any coefficient group, then H1(M;G) ≅ H1(M) ⊗ G ⊕ Tor(H0M,G) = 0, since H0(M) = Z. By Poincaré duality,

0 = H3(M) ≅ H3(M) ≅ Hom(H3M,Z) ⊕ Ext(H2M,Z),

so that H2(M) is free. This implies that Tor(H2M,G) = 0 and hence H3(M;G) ≅ H3(M) ⊗ G ⊕ Tor(H2M,G) = 0. Finally, by G-coefficient Poincaré duality,

H5(M;G) ≅ H1(M;G) ≅ Hom(H1M,G) ⊕ Ext(H0M,G) = Ext(Z,G) = 0

Any smooth, compact toric variety X is in ICW: Danilov’s Theorem implies that H(X;Z) is torsion-free and the map A(X) → H(X;Z) given by composing the canonical map from Chow groups to homology, Ak(X) = An−k(X) → H2n−2k(X;Z), where n is the complex dimension of X, with Poincaré duality H2n−2k(X;Z) ≅ H2k(X;Z), is an isomorphism. Since the odd-dimensional cohomology of X is not in the image of this map, this asserts in particular that Hodd(X;Z) = 0. By Poincaré duality, Heven(X;Z) is free and Hodd(X;Z) = 0. These two statements allow us to deduce from the universal coefficient theorem that Hodd(X;G) = 0 for any coefficient group G. If we only wanted to establish Hodd(X;Z) = 0, then it would of course have been enough to know that the canonical, degree-doubling map A(X) → H(X;Z) is onto. One may then immediately reduce to the case of projective toric varieties because every complete fan Δ has a projective subdivision Δ, the corresponding proper birational morphism X(Δ) → X(Δ) induces a surjection H(X(Δ);Z) → H(X(Δ);Z) and the diagram



Let G be a complex, simply connected, semisimple Lie group and P ⊂ G a connected parabolic subgroup. Then the homogeneous space G/P is in ICW. It is simply connected, since the fibration P → G → G/P induces an exact sequence

1 = π1(G) → π1(G/P) → π0(P) → π0(G) = 0,

which shows that π1(G/P) → π0(P) is a bijection. Accordingly, ∃ elements sw(P) ∈ H2l(w)(G/P;Z) (“Schubert classes,” given geometrically by Schubert cells), indexed by w ranging over a certain subset of the Weyl group of G, that form a basis for H(G/P;Z). (For w in the Weyl group, l(w) denotes the length of w when written as a reduced word in certain specified generators of the Weyl group.) In particular Heven(G/P;Z) is free and Hodd(G/P;Z) = 0. Thus Hodd(G/P;G) = 0 for any coefficient group G.

The linear groups SL(n, C), n ≥ 2, and the subgroups S p(2n, C) ⊂ SL(2n, C) of transformations preserving the alternating bilinear form

x1yn+1 +···+ xny2n −xn+1y1 −···−x2nyn

on C2n × C2n are examples of complex, simply connected, semisimple Lie groups. A parabolic subgroup is a closed subgroup that contains a Borel group B. For G = SL(n,C), B is the group of all upper-triangular matrices in SL(n,C). In this case, G/B is the complete flag manifold

G/B = {0 ⊂ V1 ⊂···⊂ Vn−1 ⊂ Cn}

of flags of subspaces Vi with dimVi = i. For G = Sp(2n,C), the Borel subgroups B are the subgroups preserving a half-flag of isotropic subspaces and the quotient G/B is the variety of all such flags. Any parabolic subgroup P may be described as the subgroup that preserves some partial flag. Thus (partial) flag manifolds are in ICW. A special case is that of a maximal parabolic subgroup, preserving a single subspace V. The corresponding quotient SL(n, C)/P is a Grassmannian G(k, n) of k-dimensional subspaces of Cn. For G = Sp(2n,C), one obtains Lagrangian Grassmannians of isotropic k-dimensional subspaces, 1 ≤ k ≤ n. So Grassmannians are objects in ICW. The interleaf category is closed under forming fibrations.

Functoriality in Low Dimensions. Note Quote.

Let CW be the category of CW-complexes and cellular maps, let CW0 be the full subcategory of path connected CW-complexes and let CW1 be the full subcategory of simply connected CW-complexes. Let HoCW denote the category of CW-complexes and homotopy classes of cellular maps. Let HoCWn denote the category of CW-complexes and rel n-skeleton homotopy classes of cellular maps. Dimension n = 1: It is straightforward to define a covariant truncation functor

t<n = t<1 : CW0 → HoCW together with a natural transformation

emb1 : t<1 → t<∞,

where t<∞ : CW0 → HoCW is the natural “inclusion-followed-by-quotient” functor given by t<∞(K) = K for objects K and t<∞(f) = [f] for morphisms f, such that for all objects K, emb1∗ : H0(t<1K) → H0(t<∞K) is an isomorphism and Hr(t<1K) = 0 for r ≥ 1. The details are as follows: For a path connected CW-complex K, set t<1(K) = k0, where k0 is a 0-cell of K. Let emb1(K) : t<1(K) = k0 → t<∞(K) = K be the inclusion of k0 in K. Then emb1∗ is an isomorphism on H0 as K is path connected. Clearly Hr(t<1K) = 0 for r ≥ 1. Let f : K → L be a cellular map between objects of CW0. The morphism t<1(f) : t<1(K) = k0 → l0 = t<1(L) is the homotopy class of the unique map from a point to a point. In particular, t<1(idK) = [idk0] and for a cellular map g : L → P we have t<1(gf) = t<1(g) ◦ t<1(f), so that t<1 is indeed a functor. To show that emb1 is a natural transformation, we need to see that


that is


commutes in HoCW. This is where we need the functor t<1 to have values only in HoCW, not in CW, because the square need certainly not commute in CW. (The points k0 and l0 do not know anything about f, so l0 need not be the image of k0 under f.) Since L is path connected, there is a path ω : I → L from l0 = ω(0) to f (k0) = ω(1). Then H : {k0} × I → L, H(k0, t) = ω(t), defines a homotopy from

k0 → l0 → L to k0 → K →f L.

Dimension n = 2: We will define a covariant truncation functor t<n = t<2 : CW1 → HoCW

together with a natural transformation
emb2 : t<2 → t<∞,

where t<∞ : CW1 → HoCW is as above (only restricted to simply connected spaces), such that for all objects K, emb2∗ : Hr(t<2K) → Hr(t<∞K) is an isomorphism for r = 0, 1, and Hr(t<2K) = 0 for r ≥ 2. For a simply connected CW-complex K, set t<2(K) = k0, where k0 is a 0-cell of K. Let emb2(K) : t<2(K) = k0 → t<∞(K) = K be the inclusion as in the case n = 1. It follows that emb2∗ is an isomorphism both on H0 as K is path connected and on H1 as H1(k0) = 0 = H1(K), while trivially Hr(t<2K) = 0 for r ≥ 2. On a cellular map f, t<2(f) is defined as in the case n = 1. As in the case n = 1, this yields a functor and emb2 is a natural transformation.

Homotopically Truncated Spaces.

The Eckmann–Hilton dual of the Postnikov decomposition of a space is the homology decomposition (or Moore space decomposition) of a space.

A Postnikov decomposition for a simply connected CW-complex X is a commutative diagram


such that pn∗ : πr(X) → πr(Pn(X)) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and πr(Pn(X)) = 0 for r > n. Let Fn be the homotopy fiber of qn. Then the exact sequence

πr+1(PnX) →qn∗ πr+1(Pn−1X) → πr(Fn) → πr(PnX) →qn∗ πr(Pn−1X)

shows that Fn is an Eilenberg–MacLane space K(πnX, n). Constructing Pn+1(X) inductively from Pn(X) requires knowing the nth k-invariant, which is a map of the form kn : Pn(X) → Yn. The space Pn+1(X) is then the homotopy fiber of kn. Thus there is a homotopy fibration sequence

K(πn+1X, n+1) → Pn+1(X) → Pn(X) → Yn

This means that K(πn+1X, n+1) is homotopy equivalent to the loop space ΩYn. Consequently,

πr(Yn) ≅ πr−1(ΩYn) ≅ πr−1(K(πn+1X, n+1) = πn+1X, r = n+2,

= 0, otherwise.

and we see that Yn is a K(πn+1X, n+2). Thus the nth k-invariant is a map kn : Pn(X) → K(πn+1X, n+2)

Note that it induces the zero map on all homotopy groups, but is not necessarily homotopic to the constant map. The original space X is weakly homotopy equivalent to the inverse limit of the Pn(X).

Applying the paradigm of Eckmann–Hilton duality, we arrive at the homology decomposition principle from the Postnikov decomposition principle by changing:

    • the direction of all arrows
    • π to H
    • loops Ω to suspensions S
    • fibrations to cofibrations and fibers to cofibers
    • Eilenberg–MacLane spaces K(G, n) to Moore spaces M(G, n)
    • inverse limits to direct limits

A homology decomposition (or Moore space decomposition) for a simply connected CW-complex X is a commutative diagram


such that jn∗ : Hr(X≤n) → Hr(X) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and Hr(X≤n) = 0 for

r > n. Let Cn be the homotopy cofiber of in. Then the exact sequence

Hr(X≤n−1) →in∗ Hr(X≤n) → Hr(Cn) →in∗ Hr−1(X≤n−1) → Hr−1(X≤n)

shows that Cn is a Moore space M(HnX, n). Constructing X≤n+1 inductively from X≤n requires knowing the nth k-invariant, which is a map of the form kn : Yn → X≤n.

The space X≤n+1 is then the homotopy cofiber of kn. Thus there is a homotopy cofibration sequence

Ynkn X≤nin+1 X≤n+1 → M(Hn+1X, n+1)

This means that M(Hn+1X, n+1) is homotopy equivalent to the suspension SYn. Consequently,

H˜r(Yn) ≅ Hr+1(SYn) ≅ Hr+1(M(Hn+1X, n+1)) = Hn+1X, r = n,

= 0, otherwise

and we see that Yn is an M(Hn+1X, n). Thus the nth k-invariant is a map kn : M(Hn+1X, n) → X≤n

It induces the zero map on all reduced homology groups, which is a nontrivial statement to make in degree n:

kn∗ : Hn(M(Hn+1X, n)) ∼= Hn+1(X) → Hn(X) ∼= Hn(X≤n)

The original space X is homotopy equivalent to the direct limit of the X≤n. The Eckmann–Hilton duality paradigm, while being a very valuable organizational principle, does have its natural limitations. Postnikov approximations possess rather good functorial properties: Let pn(X) : X → Pn(X) be a stage-n Postnikov approximation for X, that is, pn(X) : πr(X) → πr(Pn(X)) is an isomorphism for r ≤ n and πr(Pn(X)) = 0 for r > n. If Z is a space with πr(Z) = 0 for r > n, then any map g : X → Z factors up to homotopy uniquely through Pn(X). In particular, if f : X → Y is any map and pn(Y) : Y → Pn(Y) is a stage-n Postnikov approximation for Y, then, taking Z = Pn(Y) and g = pn(Y) ◦ f, there exists, uniquely up to homotopy, a map pn(f) : Pn(X) → Pn(Y) such that


homotopy commutes. Let X = S22 e3 be a Moore space M(Z/2,2) and let Y = X ∨ S3. If X≤2 and Y≤2 denote stage-2 Moore approximations for X and Y, respectively, then X≤2 = X and Y≤2 = X. We claim that whatever maps i : X≤2 → X and j : Y≤2 → Y such that i : Hr(X≤2) → Hr(X) and j : Hr(Y≤2) → Hr(Y) are isomorphisms for r ≤ 2 one takes, there is always a map f : X → Y that cannot be compressed into the stage-2 Moore approximations, i.e. there is no map f≤2 : X≤2 → Y≤2 such that


commutes up to homotopy. We shall employ the universal coefficient exact sequence for homotopy groups with coefficients. If G is an abelian group and M(G, n) a Moore space, then there is a short exact sequence

0 → Ext(G, πn+1Y) →ι [M(G, n), Y] →η Hom(G, πnY) → 0,

where Y is any space and [−,−] denotes pointed homotopy classes of maps. The map η is given by taking the induced homomorphism on πn and using the Hurewicz isomorphism. This universal coefficient sequence is natural in both variables. Hence, the following diagram commutes:


Here we will briefly write E2(−) = Ext(Z/2,−) so that E2(G) = G/2G, and EY (−) = Ext(−, π3Y). By the Hurewicz theorem, π2(X) ∼= H2(X) ∼= Z/2, π2(Y) ∼= H2(Y) ∼= Z/2, and π2(i) : π2(X≤2) → π2(X), as well as π2(j) : π2(Y≤2) → π2(Y), are isomorphisms, hence the identity. If a homomorphism φ : A → B of abelian groups is onto, then E2(φ) : E2(A) = A/2A → B/2B = E2(B) remains onto. By the Hurewicz theorem, Hur : π3(Y) → H3(Y) = Z is onto. Consequently, the induced map E2(Hur) : E23Y) → E2(H3Y) = E2(Z) = Z/2 is onto. Let ξ ∈ E2(H3Y) be the generator. Choose a preimage x ∈ E23Y), E2(Hur)(x) = ξ and set [f] = ι(x) ∈ [X,Y]. Suppose there existed a homotopy class [f≤2] ∈ [X≤2, Y≤2] such that

j[f≤2] = i[f].


η≤2[f≤2] = π2(j)η≤2[f≤2] = ηj[f≤2] = ηi[f] = π2(i)η[f] = π2(i)ηι(x) = 0.

Thus there is an element ε ∈ E23Y≤2) such that ι≤2(ε) = [f≤2]. From ιE2π3(j)(ε) = jι≤2(ε) = j[f≤2] = i[f] = iι(x) = ιEY π2(i)(x)

we conclude that E2π3(j)(ε) = x since ι is injective. By naturality of the Hurewicz map, the square


commutes and induces a commutative diagram upon application of E2(−):


It follows that

ξ = E2(Hur)(x) = E2(Hur)E2π3(j)(ε) = E2H3(j)E2(Hur)(ε) = 0,

a contradiction. Therefore, no compression [f≤2] of [f] exists.

Given a cellular map, it is not always possible to adjust the extra structure on the source and on the target of the map so that the map preserves the structures. Thus the category theoretic setup automatically, and in a natural way, singles out those continuous maps that can be compressed into homologically truncated spaces.



During his attempt to axiomatize the category of all categories, Lawvere says

Our intuition tells us that whenever two categories exist in our world, then so does the corresponding category of all natural transformations between the functors from the first category to the second (The Category of Categories as a Foundation).

However, if one tries to reduce categorial constructions to set theory, one faces some serious problems in the case of a category of functors. Lawvere (who, according to his aim of axiomatization, is not concerned by such a reduction) relies here on “intuition” to stress that those working with categorial concepts despite these problems have the feeling that the envisaged construction is clear, meaningful and legitimate. Not the reducibility to set theory, but an “intuition” to be specified answers for clarity, meaningfulness and legitimacy of a construction emerging in a mathematical working situation. In particular, Lawvere relies on a collective intuition, a common sense – for he explicitly says “our intuition”. Further, one obviously has to deal here with common sense on a technical level, for the “we” can only extend to a community used to the work with the concepts concerned.

In the tradition of philosophy, “intuition” means immediate, i.e., not conceptually mediated cognition. The use of the term in the context of validity (immediate insight in the truth of a proposition) is to be thoroughly distinguished from its use in the sensual context (the German Anschauung). Now, language is a manner of representation, too, but contrary to language, in the context of images the concept of validity is meaningless.

Obviously, the aspect of cognition guiding is touched on here. Especially the sensual intuition can take the guiding (or heuristic) function. There have been many working situations in history of mathematics in which making the objects of investigation accessible to a sensual intuition (by providing a Veranschaulichung) yielded considerable progress in the development of the knowledge concerning these objects. As an example, take the following account by Emil Artin of Emmy Noether’s contribution to the theory of algebras:

Emmy Noether introduced the concept of representation space – a vector space upon which the elements of the algebra operate as linear transformations, the composition of the linear transformation reflecting the multiplication in the algebra. By doing so she enables us to use our geometric intuition.

Similarly, Fréchet thinks to have really “powered” research in the theory of functions and functionals by the introduction of a “geometrical” terminology:

One can [ …] consider the numbers of the sequence [of coefficients of a Taylor series] as coordinates of a point in a space [ …] of infinitely many dimensions. There are several advantages to proceeding thus, for instance the advantage which is always present when geometrical language is employed, since this language is so appropriate to intuition due to the analogies it gives birth to.

Mathematical terminology often stems from a current language usage whose (intuitive, sensual) connotation is welcomed and serves to give the user an “intuition” of what is intended. While Category Theory is often classified as a highly abstract matter quite remote from intuition, in reality it yields, together with its applications, a multitude of examples for the role of current language in mathematical conceptualization.

This notwithstanding, there is naturally also a tendency in contemporary mathematics to eliminate as much as possible commitments to (sensual) intuition in the erection of a theory. It seems that algebraic geometry fulfills only in the language of schemes that essential requirement of all contemporary mathematics: to state its definitions and theorems in their natural abstract and formal setting in which they can be considered independent of geometric intuition (Mumford D., Fogarty J. Geometric Invariant Theory).

In the pragmatist approach, intuition is seen as a relation. This means: one uses a piece of language in an intuitive manner (or not); intuitive use depends on the situation of utterance, and it can be learned and transformed. The reason for this relational point of view, consists in the pragmatist conviction that each cognition of an object depends on the means of cognition employed – this means that for pragmatism there is no intuitive (in the sense of “immediate”) cognition; the term “intuitive” has to be given a new meaning.

What does it mean to use something intuitively? Heinzmann makes the following proposal: one uses language intuitively if one does not even have the idea to question validity. Hence, the term intuition in the Heinzmannian reading of pragmatism takes a different meaning, no longer signifies an immediate grasp. However, it is yet to be explained what it means for objects in general (and not only for propositions) to “question the validity of a use”. One uses an object intuitively, if one is not concerned with how the rules of constitution of the object have been arrived at, if one does not focus the materialization of these rules but only the benefits of an application of the object in the present context. “In principle”, the cognition of an object is determined by another cognition, and this determination finds its expression in the “rules of constitution”; one uses it intuitively (one does not bother about the being determined of its cognition), if one does not question the rules of constitution (does not focus the cognition which determines it). This is precisely what one does when using an object as a tool – because in doing so, one does not (yet) ask which cognition determines the object. When something is used as a tool, this constitutes an intuitive use, whereas the use of something as an object does not (this defines tool and object). Here, each concept in principle can play both roles; among two concepts, one may happen to be used intuitively before and the other after the progress of insight. Note that with respect to a given cognition, Peirce when saying “the cognition which determines it” always thinks of a previous cognition because he thinks of a determination of a cognition in our thought by previous thoughts. In conceptual history of mathematics, however, one most often introduced an object first as a tool and only after having done so did it come to one’s mind to ask for “the cognition which determines the cognition of this object” (that means, to ask how the use of this object can be legitimized).

The idea that it could depend on the situation whether validity is questioned or not has formerly been overlooked, perhaps because one always looked for a reductionist epistemology where the capacity called intuition is used exclusively at the last level of regression; in a pragmatist epistemology, to the contrary, intuition is used at every level in form of the not thematized tools. In classical systems, intuition was not simply conceived as a capacity; it was actually conceived as a capacity common to all human beings. “But the power of intuitively distinguishing intuitions from other cognitions has not prevented men from disputing very warmly as to which cognitions are intuitive”. Moreover, Peirce criticises strongly cartesian individualism (which has it that the individual has the capacity to find the truth). We could sum up this philosophy thus: we cannot reach definite truth, only provisional; significant progress is not made individually but only collectively; one cannot pretend that the history of thought did not take place and start from scratch, but every cognition is determined by a previous cognition (maybe by other individuals); one cannot uncover the ultimate foundation of our cognitions; rather, the fact that we sometimes reach a new level of insight, “deeper” than those thought of as fundamental before, merely indicates that there is no “deepest” level. The feeling that something is “intuitive” indicates a prejudice which can be philosophically criticised (even if this does not occur to us at the beginning).

In our approach, intuitive use is collectively determined: it depends on the particular usage of the community of users whether validity criteria are or are not questioned in a given situation of language use. However, it is acknowledged that for example scientific communities develop usages making them communities of language users on their own. Hence, situations of language use are not only partitioned into those where it comes to the users’ mind to question validity criteria and those where it does not, but moreover this partition is specific to a particular community (actually, the community of language users is established partly through a peculiar partition; this is a definition of the term “community of language users”). The existence of different communities with different common senses can lead to the following situation: something is used intuitively by one group, not intuitively by another. In this case, discussions inside the discipline occur; one has to cope with competing common senses (which are therefore not really “common”). This constitutes a task for the historian.

Derivability from Relational Logic of Charles Sanders Peirce to Essential Laws of Quantum Mechanics


Charles Sanders Peirce made important contributions in logic, where he invented and elaborated novel system of logical syntax and fundamental logical concepts. The starting point is the binary relation SiRSj between the two ‘individual terms’ (subjects) Sj and Si. In a short hand notation we represent this relation by Rij. Relations may be composed: whenever we have relations of the form Rij, Rjl, a third transitive relation Ril emerges following the rule

RijRkl = δjkRil —– (1)

In ordinary logic the individual subject is the starting point and it is defined as a member of a set. Peirce considered the individual as the aggregate of all its relations

Si = ∑j Rij —– (2)

The individual Si thus defined is an eigenstate of the Rii relation

RiiSi = Si —– (3)

The relations Rii are idempotent

R2ii = Rii —– (4)

and they span the identity

i Rii = 1 —– (5)

The Peircean logical structure bears resemblance to category theory. In categories the concept of transformation (transition, map, morphism or arrow) enjoys an autonomous, primary and irreducible role. A category consists of objects A, B, C,… and arrows (morphisms) f, g, h,… . Each arrow f is assigned an object A as domain and an object B as codomain, indicated by writing f : A → B. If g is an arrow g : B → C with domain B, the codomain of f, then f and g can be “composed” to give an arrow gof : A → C. The composition obeys the associative law ho(gof) = (hog)of. For each object A there is an arrow 1A : A → A called the identity arrow of A. The analogy with the relational logic of Peirce is evident, Rij stands as an arrow, the composition rule is manifested in equation (1) and the identity arrow for A ≡ Si is Rii.

Rij may receive multiple interpretations: as a transition from the j state to the i state, as a measurement process that rejects all impinging systems except those in the state j and permits only systems in the state i to emerge from the apparatus, as a transformation replacing the j state by the i state. We proceed to a representation of Rij

Rij = |ri⟩⟨rj| —– (6)

where state ⟨ri | is the dual of the state |ri⟩ and they obey the orthonormal condition

⟨ri |rj⟩ = δij —– (7)

It is immediately seen that our representation satisfies the composition rule equation (1). The completeness, equation (5), takes the form

n|ri⟩⟨ri|=1 —– (8)

All relations remain satisfied if we replace the state |ri⟩ by |ξi⟩ where

i⟩ = 1/√N ∑n |ri⟩⟨rn| —– (9)

with N the number of states. Thus we verify Peirce’s suggestion, equation (2), and the state |ri⟩ is derived as the sum of all its interactions with the other states. Rij acts as a projection, transferring from one r state to another r state

Rij |rk⟩ = δjk |ri⟩ —– (10)

We may think also of another property characterizing our states and define a corresponding operator

Qij = |qi⟩⟨qj | —– (11)


Qij |qk⟩ = δjk |qi⟩ —– (12)


n |qi⟩⟨qi| = 1 —– (13)

Successive measurements of the q-ness and r-ness of the states is provided by the operator

RijQkl = |ri⟩⟨rj |qk⟩⟨ql | = ⟨rj |qk⟩ Sil —– (14)


Sil = |ri⟩⟨ql | —– (15)

Considering the matrix elements of an operator A as Anm = ⟨rn |A |rm⟩ we find for the trace

Tr(Sil) = ∑n ⟨rn |Sil |rn⟩ = ⟨ql |ri⟩ —– (16)

From the above relation we deduce

Tr(Rij) = δij —– (17)

Any operator can be expressed as a linear superposition of the Rij

A = ∑i,j AijRij —– (18)


Aij =Tr(ARji) —– (19)

The individual states could be redefined

|ri⟩ → ei |ri⟩ —– (20)

|qi⟩ → ei |qi⟩ —– (21)

without affecting the corresponding composition laws. However the overlap number ⟨ri |qj⟩ changes and therefore we need an invariant formulation for the transition |ri⟩ → |qj⟩. This is provided by the trace of the closed operation RiiQjjRii

Tr(RiiQjjRii) ≡ p(qj, ri) = |⟨ri |qj⟩|2 —– (22)

The completeness relation, equation (13), guarantees that p(qj, ri) may assume the role of a probability since

j p(qj, ri) = 1 —– (23)

We discover that starting from the relational logic of Peirce we obtain all the essential laws of Quantum Mechanics. Our derivation underlines the outmost relational nature of Quantum Mechanics and goes in parallel with the analysis of the quantum algebra of microscopic measurement.

Categorial Logic – Paracompleteness versus Paraconsistency. Thought of the Day 46.2


The fact that logic is content-dependent opens a new horizon concerning the relationship of logic to ontology (or objectology). Although the classical concepts of a priori and a posteriori propositions (or judgments) has lately become rather blurred, there is an undeniable fact: it is certain that the far origin of mathematics is based on empirical practical knowledge, but nobody can claim that higher mathematics is empirical.

Thanks to category theory, it is an established fact that some sort of very important logical systems: the classical and the intuitionistic (with all its axiomatically enriched subsystems), can be interpreted through topoi. And these possibility permits to consider topoi, be it in a Noneist or in a Platonist way, as universes, that is, as ontologies or as objectologies. Now, the association of a topos with its correspondent ontology (or objectology) is quite different from the association of theoretical terms with empirical concepts. Within the frame of a physical theory, if a new fact is discovered in the laboratory, it must be explained through logical deduction (with the due initial conditions and some other details). If a logical conclusion is inferred from the fundamental hypotheses, it must be corroborated through empirical observation. And if the corroboration fails, the theory must be readjusted or even rejected.

In the case of categorial logic, the situation has some similarity with the former case; but we must be careful not to be influenced by apparent coincidences. If we add, as an axiom, the tertium non datur to the formalized intuitionistic logic we obtain classical logic. That is, we can formally pass from the one to the other, just by adding or suppressing the tertium. This fact could induce us to think that, just as in physics, if a logical theory, let’s say, intuitionistic logic, cannot include a true proposition, then its axioms must be readjusted, to make it possible to include it among its theorems. But there is a radical difference: in the semantics of intuitionistic logic, and of any logic, the point of departure is not a set of hypothetical propositions that must be corroborated through experiment; it is a set of propositions that are true under some interpretation. This set can be axiomatic or it can consist in rules of inference, but the theorems of the system are not submitted to verification. The derived propositions are just true, and nothing more. The logician surely tries to find new true propositions but, when they are found (through some effective method, that can be intuitive, as it is in Gödel’s theorem) there are only three possible cases: they can be formally derivable, they can be formally underivable, they can be formally neither derivable nor underivable, that is, undecidable. But undecidability does not induce the logician to readjust or to reject the theory. Nobody tries to add axioms or to diminish them. In physics, when we are handling a theory T, and a new describable phenomenon is found that cannot be deduced from the axioms (plus initial or some other conditions), T must be readjusted or even rejected. A classical logician will never think of changing the axioms or rules of inference of classical logic because it is undecidable. And an intuitionist logician would not care at all to add the tertium to the axioms of Heyting’s system because it cannot be derived within it.

The foregoing considerations sufficiently show that in logic and mathematics there is something that, with full right, can be called “a priori“. And although, as we have said, we must acknowledge that the concepts of a priori and a posteriori are not clear-cut, in some cases, we can rightly speak of synthetical a priori knowledge. For instance, the Gödel’s proposition that affirms its own underivabilty is synthetical and a priori. But there are other propositions, for instance, mathematical induction, that can also be considered as synthetical and a priori. And a great deal of mathematical definitions, that are not abbreviations, are synthetical. For instance, the definition of a monoid action is synthetical (and, of course, a priori) because the concept of a monoid does not have among its characterizing traits the concept of an action, and vice versa.

Categorial logic is, the deepest knowledge of logic that has ever been achieved. But its scope does not encompass the whole field of logic. There are other kinds of logic that are also important and, if we intend to know, as much as possible, what logic is and how it is related to mathematics and ontology (or objectology), we must pay attention to them. From a mathematical and a philosophical point of view, the most important logical non-paracomplete systems are the paraconsistent ones. These systems are something like a dual to paracomplete logics. They are employed in inconsistent theories without producing triviality (in this sense also relevant logics are paraconsistent). In intuitionist logic there are interpretations that, with respect to some topoi, include two false contradictory propositions; whereas in paraconsistent systems we can find interpretations in which there are two contradictory true propositions.

There is, though, a difference between paracompleteness and paraconsistency. Insofar as mathematics is concerned, paracomplete systems had to be coined to cope with very deep problems. The paraconsistent ones, on the other hand, although they have been applied with success to mathematical theories, were conceived for purely philosophical and, in some cases, even for political and ideological motivations. The common point of them all was the need to construe a logical system able to cope with contradictions. That means: to have at one’s disposal a deductive method which offered the possibility of deducing consistent conclusions from inconsistent premisses. Of course, the inconsistency of the premisses had to comply with some (although very wide) conditions to avoid triviality. But these conditions made it possible to cope with paradoxes or antinomies with precision and mathematical sense.

But, philosophically, paraconsistent logic has another very important property: it is used in a spontaneous way to formalize the naive set theory, that is, the kind of theory that pre-Zermelian mathematicians had always employed. And it is, no doubt, important to try to develop mathematics within the frame of naive, spontaneous, mathematical thought, without falling into the artificiality of modern set theory. The formalization of the naive way of mathematical thinking, although every formalization is unavoidably artificial, has opened the possibility of coping with dialectical thought.

Abelian Categories, or Injective Resolutions are Diagrammatic. Note Quote.


Jean-Pierre Serre gave a more thoroughly cohomological turn to the conjectures than Weil had. Grothendieck says

Anyway Serre explained the Weil conjectures to me in cohomological terms around 1955 – and it was only in these terms that they could possibly ‘hook’ me …I am not sure anyone but Serre and I, not even Weil if that is possible, was deeply convinced such [a cohomology] must exist.

Specifically Serre approached the problem through sheaves, a new method in topology that he and others were exploring. Grothendieck would later describe each sheaf on a space T as a “meter stick” measuring T. The cohomology of a given sheaf gives a very coarse summary of the information in it – and in the best case it highlights just the information you want. Certain sheaves on T produced the Betti numbers. If you could put such “meter sticks” on Weil’s arithmetic spaces, and prove standard topological theorems in this form, the conjectures would follow.

By the nuts and bolts definition, a sheaf F on a topological space T is an assignment of Abelian groups to open subsets of T, plus group homomorphisms among them, all meeting a certain covering condition. Precisely these nuts and bolts were unavailable for the Weil conjectures because the arithmetic spaces had no useful topology in the then-existing sense.

At the École Normale Supérieure, Henri Cartan’s seminar spent 1948-49 and 1950-51 focussing on sheaf cohomology. As one motive, there was already de Rham cohomology on differentiable manifolds, which not only described their topology but also described differential analysis on manifolds. And during the time of the seminar Cartan saw how to modify sheaf cohomology as a tool in complex analysis. Given a complex analytic variety V Cartan could define sheaves that reflected not only the topology of V but also complex analysis on V.

These were promising for the Weil conjectures since Weil cohomology would need sheaves reflecting algebra on those spaces. But understand, this differential analysis and complex analysis used sheaves and cohomology in the usual topological sense. Their innovation was to find particular new sheaves which capture analytic or algebraic information that a pure topologist might not focus on.

The greater challenge to the Séminaire Cartan was, that along with the cohomology of topological spaces, the seminar looked at the cohomology of groups. Here sheaves are replaced by G-modules. This was formally quite different from topology yet it had grown from topology and was tightly tied to it. Indeed Eilenberg and Mac Lane created category theory in large part to explain both kinds of cohomology by clarifying the links between them. The seminar aimed to find what was common to the two kinds of cohomology and they found it in a pattern of functors.

The cohomology of a topological space X assigns to each sheaf F on X a series of Abelian groups HnF and to each sheaf map f : F → F′ a series of group homomorphisms Hnf : HnF → HnF′. The definition requires that each Hn is a functor, from sheaves on X to Abelian groups. A crucial property of these functors is:

HnF = 0 for n > 0

for any fine sheaf F where a sheaf is fine if it meets a certain condition borrowed from differential geometry by way of Cartan’s complex analytic geometry.

The cohomology of a group G assigns to each G-module M a series of Abelian groups HnM and to each homomorphism f : M →M′ a series of homomorphisms HnF : HnM → HnM′. Each Hn is a functor, from G-modules to Abelian groups. These functors have the same properties as topological cohomology except that:

HnM = 0 for n > 0

for any injective module M. A G-module I is injective if: For every G-module inclusion N M and homomorphism f : N → I there is at least one g : M → I making this commute


Cartan could treat the cohomology of several different algebraic structures: groups, Lie groups, associative algebras. These all rest on injective resolutions. But, he could not include topological spaces, the source of the whole, and still one of the main motives for pursuing the other cohomologies. Topological cohomology rested on the completely different apparatus of fine resolutions. As to the search for a Weil cohomology, this left two questions: What would Weil cohomology use in place of topological sheaves or G-modules? And what resolutions would give their cohomology? Specifically, Cartan & Eilenberg defines group cohomology (like several other constructions) as a derived functor, which in turn is defined using injective resolutions. So the cohomology of a topological space was not a derived functor in their technical sense. But a looser sense was apparently current.

Grothendieck wrote to Serre:

I have realized that by formulating the theory of derived functors for categories more general than modules, one gets the cohomology of spaces at the same time at small cost. The existence follows from a general criterion, and fine sheaves will play the role of injective modules. One gets the fundamental spectral sequences as special cases of delectable and useful general spectral sequences. But I am not yet sure if it all works as well for non-separated spaces and I recall your doubts on the existence of an exact sequence in cohomology for dimensions ≥ 2. Besides this is probably all more or less explicit in Cartan-Eilenberg’s book which I have not yet had the pleasure to see.

Here he lays out the whole paper, commonly cited as Tôhoku for the journal that published it. There are several issues. For one thing, fine resolutions do not work for all topological spaces but only for the paracompact – that is, Hausdorff spaces where every open cover has a locally finite refinement. The Séminaire Cartan called these separated spaces. The limitation was no problem for differential geometry. All differential manifolds are paracompact. Nor was it a problem for most of analysis. But it was discouraging from the viewpoint of the Weil conjectures since non-trivial algebraic varieties are never Hausdorff.

Serre replied using the same loose sense of derived functor:

The fact that sheaf cohomology is a special case of derived func- tors (at least for the paracompact case) is not in Cartan-Sammy. Cartan was aware of it and told [David] Buchsbaum to work on it, but he seems not to have done it. The interest of it would be to show just which properties of fine sheaves we need to use; and so one might be able to figure out whether or not there are enough fine sheaves in the non-separated case (I think the answer is no but I am not at all sure!).

So Grothendieck began rewriting Cartan-Eilenberg before he had seen it. Among other things he preempted the question of resolutions for Weil cohomology. Before anyone knew what “sheaves” it would use, Grothendieck knew it would use injective resolutions. He did this by asking not what sheaves “are” but how they relate to one another. As he later put it, he set out to:

consider the set13 of all sheaves on a given topological space or, if you like, the prodigious arsenal of all the “meter sticks” that measure it. We consider this “set” or “arsenal” as equipped with its most evident structure, the way it appears so to speak “right in front of your nose”; that is what we call the structure of a “category”…From here on, this kind of “measuring superstructure” called the “category of sheaves” will be taken as “incarnating” what is most essential to that space.

The Séminaire Cartan had shown this structure in front of your nose suffices for much of cohomology. Definitions and proofs can be given in terms of commutative diagrams and exact sequences without asking, most of the time, what these are diagrams of.  Grothendieck went farther than any other, insisting that the “formal analogy” between sheaf cohomology and group cohomology should become “a common framework including these theories and others”. To start with, injectives have a nice categorical sense: An object I in any category is injective if, for every monic N → M and arrow f : N → I there is at least one g : M → I such that


Fine sheaves are not so diagrammatic.

Grothendieck saw that Reinhold Baer’s original proof that modules have injective resolutions was largely diagrammatic itself. So Grothendieck gave diagrammatic axioms for the basic properties used in cohomology, and called any category that satisfies them an Abelian category. He gave further diagrammatic axioms tailored to Baer’s proof: Every category satisfying these axioms has injective resolutions. Such a category is called an AB5 category, and sometimes around the 1960s a Grothendieck category though that term has been used in several senses.

So sheaves on any topological space have injective resolutions and thus have derived functor cohomology in the strict sense. For paracompact spaces this agrees with cohomology from fine, flabby, or soft resolutions. So you can still use those, if you want them, and you will. But Grothendieck treats paracompactness as a “restrictive condition”, well removed from the basic theory, and he specifically mentions the Weil conjectures.

Beyond that, Grothendieck’s approach works for topology the same way it does for all cohomology. And, much further, the axioms apply to many categories other than categories of sheaves on topological spaces or categories of modules. They go far beyond topological and group cohomology, in principle, though in fact there were few if any known examples outside that framework when they were given.

Badiou Contra Grothendieck Functorally. Note Quote.

What makes categories historically remarkable and, in particular, what demonstrates that the categorical change is genuine? On the one hand, Badiou fails to show that category theory is not genuine. But, on the other, it is another thing to say that mathematics itself does change, and that the ‘Platonic’ a priori in Badiou’s endeavour is insufficient, which could be demonstrated empirically.

Yet the empirical does not need to stand only in a way opposed to mathematics. Rather, it relates to results that stemmed from and would have been impossible to comprehend without the use of categories. It is only through experience that we are taught the meaning and use of categories. An experience obviously absent from Badiou’s habituation in mathematics.

To contrast, Grothendieck opened up a new regime of algebraic geometry by generalising the notion of a space first scheme-theoretically (with sheaves) and then in terms of groupoids and higher categories. Topos theory became synonymous to the study of categories that would satisfy the so called Giraud’s axioms based on Grothendieck’s geometric machinery. By utilising such tools, Pierre Deligne was able to prove the so called Weil conjectures, mod-p analogues of the famous Riemann hypothesis.

These conjectures – anticipated already by Gauss – concern the so called local ζ-functions that derive from counting the number of points of an algebraic variety over a finite field, an algebraic structure similar to that of for example rational Q or real numbers R but with only a finite number of elements. By representing algebraic varieties in polynomial terms, it is possible to analyse geometric structures analogous to Riemann hypothesis but over finite fields Z/pZ (the whole numbers modulo p). Such ‘discrete’ varieties had previously been excluded from topological and geometric inquiry, while it now occurred that geometry was no longer overshadowed by a need to decide between ‘discrete’ and ‘continuous’ modalities of the subject (that Badiou still separates).

Along with the continuous ones, also discrete variates could then be studied based on Betti numbers, and similarly as what Cohen’s argument made manifest in set-theory, there seemed to occur ‘deeper’, topological precursors that had remained invisible under the classical formalism. In particular, the so called étale-cohomology allowed topological concepts (e.g., neighbourhood) to be studied in the context of algebraic geometry whose classical, Zariski-description was too rigid to allow a meaningful interpretation. Introducing such concepts on the basis of Jean-Pierre Serre’s suggestion, Alexander Grothendieck did revolutionarize the field of geometry, and Pierre Deligne’s proof of the Weil-conjenctures, not to mention Wiles’ work on Fermat’s last theorem that subsequentely followed.

Grothendieck’s crucial insight drew on his observation that if morphisms of varieties were considered by their ‘adjoint’ field of functions, it was possible to consider geometric morphisms as equivalent to algebraic ones. The algebraic category was restrictive, however, because field-morphisms are always monomorphisms which makes geometric morphisms: to generalize the notion of a neighbourhood to algebraic category he needed to embed algebraic fields into a larger category of rings. While a traditional Kuratowski covering space is locally ‘split’ – as mathematicians call it – the same was not true for the dual category of fields. In other words, the category of fields did not have an operator analogous to pull-backs (fibre products) unless considered as being embedded within rings from which pull-backs have a co-dual expressed by the tensor operator ⊗. Grothendieck thus realized he could replace ‘incorporeal’ or contained neighborhoods U ֒→ X by a more relational description: as maps U → X that are not necessarily monic, but which correspond to ring-morphisms instead.

Topos theory applies similar insight but not in the context of only specific varieties but for the entire theory of sets instead. Ultimately, Lawvere and Tierney realized the importance of these ideas to the concept of classification and truth in general. Classification of elements between two sets comes down to a question: does this element belong to a given set or not? In category of S ets this question calls for a binary answer: true or false. But not in a general topos in which the composition of the subobject-classifier is more geometric.

Indeed, Lawvere and Tierney then considered this characteristc map ‘either/or’ as a categorical relationship instead without referring to its ‘contents’. It was the structural form of this morphism (which they called ‘true’) and as contrasted with other relationships that marked the beginning of geometric logic. They thus rephrased the binary complete Heyting algebra of classical truth with the categorical version Ω defined as an object, which satisfies a specific pull-back condition. The crux of topos theory was then the so called Freyd–Mitchell embedding theorem which effectively guaranteed the explicit set of elementary axioms so as to formalize topos theory. The Freyd–Mitchell embedding theorem says that every abelian category is a full subcategory of a category of modules over some ring R and that the embedding is an exact functor. It is easy to see that not every abelian category is equivalent to RMod for some ring R. The reason is that RMod has all small limits and colimits. But for instance the category of finitely generated R-modules is an abelian category but lacks these properties.

But to understand its significance as a link between geometry and language, it is useful to see how the characteristic map (either/or) behaves in set theory. In particular, by expressing truth in this way, it became possible to reduce Axiom of Comprehension, which states that any suitable formal condition λ gives rise to a peculiar set {x ∈ λ}, to a rather elementary statement regarding adjoint functors.

At the same time, many mathematical structures became expressible not only as general topoi but in terms of a more specific class of Grothendieck-topoi. There, too, the ‘way of doing mathematics’ is different in the sense that the object-classifier is categorically defined and there is no empty set (initial object) but mathematics starts from the terminal object 1 instead. However, there is a material way to express the ‘difference’ such topoi make in terms of set theory: for every such a topos there is a sheaf-form enabling it to be expressed as a category of sheaves S etsC for a category C with a specific Grothendieck-topology.