Category-Theoretic Sinks

The concept dual to that of source is called sink. Whereas the concepts of sources and sinks are dual to each other, frequently sources occur more naturally than sinks.

A sink is a pair ((fi)i∈I, A), sometimes denoted by (fi,A)I or (Aifi A)I consisting of an object A (the codomain of the sink) and a family of morphisms fi : Ai → A indexed by some class I. The family (Ai)i∈I is called the domain of the sink. Composition of sinks is defined in the (obvious) way dual to that of composition of sources.


In Set, a sink (Aifi A)I is an epi-sink if and only if it is jointly surjective, i.e., iff A = ∪i∈I fi[Ai]. In every construct, all jointly surjective sinks are epi-sinks. The converse implication holds, e.g., in Vec, Pos, Top, and Σ-Seq. A category A is thin if and only if every sink in A is an epi-sink.

Badiou’s Vain Platonizing, or How the World is a Topos? Note Quote.


As regards the ‘logical completeness of the world’, we need to show that Badiou’s world of T-sets does indeed give rise to a topos.

Badiou’s world consisting of T-Sets – in other words pairs (A, Id) where Id : A × A → T satisfies the particular conditions in respect to the complete Heyting algebra structure of T—is ‘logically closed’, that is, it is an elementary topos. It thus encloses not only pull-backs but also the exponential functor. These make it possible for it to internalize a Badiou’s infinity arguments that operate on the power-functor and which can then be expressed from insde the situation despite its existential status.

We need to demonstrate that Badiou’s world is a topos. Rather than beginning from Badiou’s formalism of T -sets, we refer to the standard mathematical literature based on which T-sets can be regarded as sheaves over the particular Grothendieck-topology on the category T: there is a categorical equivalence between T-sets satisfying the ‘postulate of materialism’ and S hvs(T,J). The complications Badiou was caught up with while seeking to ‘Platonize’ the existence of a topos thus largely go in vain. We only need to show that Shvs(T,J) is a topos.

Consider the adjoint sheaf functor that always exists for the category of presheaves

Idα : SetsCop → Shvs(Cop,J)

, where J is the canonical topology. It then amounts to an equivalence of categories. Thus it suffices to replace this category by the one consisting of presheaves SetsTop. This argument works for any category C rather than the specific category related to an external complete Heyting algebra T. In the category of Sets define YX as the set of functions X → Y. Then in the category of presheaves,

SetsCopYX(U) ≅ Hom(hU,YX) ≅ Hom(hU × X,Y)

, where hU is the representable sheaf hU(V) = Hom(V,U). The adjunction on the right side needs to be shown to exist for all sheaves – not just the representable ones. The proof then follows by an argument based on categorically defined limits, which has an existence. It can also be verified directly that the presheaf YX is actually a sheaf. Finally, for the existence of the subobject-classifier ΩSetsCop, it can be defined as

ΩSetsCop(U) ≅ Hom(hU,Ω) ≅ {sub-presheaves of hU} ≅ {sieves on U}, or alternatively, for the category of proper sheaves Shvs(C,J), as

ΩShvs(C,J)(U) = {closed sieves on U}

Here it is worth reminding ourselves that the topology on T is defined by a basis K(p) = {Θ ⊂ T | ΣΘ = p}. Therefore, in the case of T-sets satisfying the strong ‘postulate of materialism’, Ω(p) consists of all sieves S (downward dense subsets) of T bounded by relation ΣS ≤ p. These sieves are further required to be closed. A sieve S with an envelope ΣS = s is closed if for any other r ≤ s, ie. for all r ≤ s, one has the implication

frs(S) ∈ J(r) ⇒ frs ∈ S

, where frs : r → s is the unique arrow in the poset category. In particular, since ΣS = s for the topology whose basis consists of territories on s, we have the equation 1s(S) = fss(S) = S ∈ J(s). Now the condition that the sieve is closed implies 1s ∈ S. This is only possible when S is the maximal sieve on s—namely it consists of all arrows r → s for r ≤ s. In such a case S itself is closed. Therefore, in this particular case

Ω(p)={↓(s)|s ≤ p} = {hs | s ≤ p}

This is indeed a sheaf whose all amalgamations are ‘real’ in the sense of Badiou’s postulate of materialism. Thus it retains a suitable T-structure. Let us assume now that we are given an object A, which is basically a functor and thus a T-graded family of subsets A(p). For there to exist a sub-functor B ֒→ A comes down to stating that B(p) ⊂ A(p) for each p ∈ T. For each q ≤ p, we also have an injection B(q) ֒→ B(p) compatible (through the subset-representation with respect to A) with the injections A(q) ֒→ B(q). For any given x ∈ A(p), we can now consider the set

φp(x) = {q | q ≤ p and x q ∈ B(q)}

This is a sieve on p because of the compatibility condition for injections, and it is furthermore closed since the map x → Σφp(x) is in fact an atom and thus retains a real representative b ∈ B. Then it turns out that φp(x) =↓ (Eb). We now possess a transformation of functors φ : A → Ω which is natural (diagrammatically compatible). But in such a case we know that B ֒→ A is in turn the pull-back along φ of the arrow true, which is equivalent to the category of T-Sets.


From Vector Spaces to Categories. Part 6.


We began by thinking of categories as “posets with extra arrows”. This analogy gives excellent intuition for the general facts about adjoint functors. However, our intuition from posets is insufficient to actually prove anything about adjoint functors.

To complete the proofs we will switch to a new analogy between categories and vector spaces. Let V be a vector space over a field K and let V ∗ be the dual space consisting of K-linear functions V → K. Now consider any K-bilinear function ⟨−,−⟩ ∶ V × V → K. We say that the function ⟨−,−⟩ is non-degenerate in both coordinates if we have

⟨u1,v⟩ = ⟨u2,v⟩ ∀ v ∈ V ⇒ u1 = u2, ⟨u,v1⟩ = ⟨u,v2⟩ ∀ u ∈ V ⇒ v1 = v2

We say that two K-linear operators L ∶ V ⇄ V ∶ R define an adjunction with respect to ⟨−, −⟩ if, ∀ vectors u,v ∈ V, we have

⟨u, R(v)⟩ = ⟨L(u), v⟩

Uniqueness of Adjoint Operators. Let L ⊣ R be an adjoint pair of operators with respect to a non-degenerate bilinear function ⟨−, −⟩ ∶ V × V → K. Then each of L and R determines

the other uniquely.

Proof: To show that R determines L, suppose that L′ ⊣ R is another adjoint pair. Thus, ∀ vectors u,v ∈ V we have

⟨L(u), v⟩ = ⟨u, R(v)⟩ = ⟨L′(u), v⟩

Now consider any vector u ∈ V. The non-degeneracy of ⟨−, −⟩ tells us that

⟨L(u), v⟩ = ⟨L′(u), v⟩ ∀ v ∈ V ⇒ L(u) = L′(u)

and since this is true ∀ u ∈ V we conclude that L = L′

RAPL for Operators:

Suppose that the function ⟨−, −⟩ ∶ V × V → K is non-degenerate and continuous. Now let T ∶ V → V be any linear operator. If T has a left or a right adjoint, then T is continuous.


Suppose that T ∶ V → V has a left adjoint L ⊣ T, and suppose that the sequence of vectors vi ∈ V has a limit limivi ∈ V. Furthermore, suppose that the limit limiT(vi) ∈ V exists. Then for each u ∈ V, the continuity of ⟨−, −⟩ in the second coordinate tells us that

⟨u, T (limivi)⟩ = ⟨L(u), limivi

= limi⟨L(u), vi

= limi⟨u,T(vi)⟩

= ⟨u, limiT (vi)⟩

Since this is true for all u ∈ V, non-degeneracy gives

T (limivi) = limiT (vi)

The theorem can be made rigorous if we work with topological vector spaces. If (V, ∥ − ∥) is a normed (real or complex) vector space, then an operator T ∶ V → V is bounded if and only if it is continuous. Furthermore, if (V,⟨−,−⟩) is a Hilbert space then an operator T ∶ V → V having an adjoint is necessarily bounded, hence continuous. Many theorems of category have direct analogues in functional analysis. After all, Grothendieck began as a functional analyst.

We can summarize these two results as follows. Let ⟨−,−⟩ ∶ V ×V → K be a K-bilinear function. Then for each vector v ∈ V we have two elements of the dual space Hv, Hv ∈ V defined by

Hv ∶= ⟨v,−⟩ ∶ V → K,

Hv ∶= ⟨−,v⟩ ∶ V → K

The mappings v ↦ Hv and v ↦ Hv thus define two K-linear functions from V to V : H(−) ∶V → V and H(−) ∶ V → V

Furthermore, if the function is ⟨−,−⟩ is non-degenerate and continuous then the functions H(−), H(−) ∶ V → V are both injective and continuous.

the hom bifunctor

HomC(−,−) ∶ Cop × C → Set behaves like a “non-degenerate and continuous bilinear function”……

Functors. Part 5.

We have called L ∶ P ⇄ Q ∶ R an adjoint pair of functions, but of course they more than just functions. If L ⊣ R is an adjunction, then property (2) of Galois connections says that ∀ p1, p2 ∈ P and q1, q2 ∈ Q we have

p1 ≤ P p2 ⇒ L(p1) ≤ Q L(p2) and q1 ≤ Q q2 ⇒ R(q1) ≤ P R(q2)

That is, the functions L ∶ P → Q and R ∶ Q → P are actually homomorphisms of posets.

Definition of Functor: Let C and D be categories. A functor F ∶ C → D consists a family of functions:

• A function on objects F ∶ Obj(C) → Obj(D),

• For each pair of objects c1, c2 ∈ C a function on hom sets:

F ∶ HomC(c1,c2) → HomD(F(c1),F(c2)). These functions must preserve the category structure:

(i) Identity: For all objects c ∈ C we have F (idc) = idF(c).

(ii) Composition: For all arrows α, β ∈ C such that β ○ α is defined, we have

F (β ○ α) = F (β) ○ F (α)

Functors compose in an associative way, and for each category C there is a distinguished identity functor idC ∶ C → C. In other words, the collection of all categories with functors between them forms a (very big) category, which we denote by Cat.

This definition is not surprising. It basically says that a functor F ∶ C → D sends commutative diagrams in C to commutative diagrams in D. That is, for each diagram D ∶ I → C in C we have a diagram FI(D) ∶ I → D in D (defined by FI(D) ∶= F ○ D), which is commutative if and only if D is.

Now let’s try to guess the definition of an “adjunction of categories”. Let C and D be categories and let L ∶ C ⇄ D ∶ R be any two functors. When C is a poset, recall that ∀ x, y ∈ C we have ∣HomC (x, y)∣ ∈ {0, 1} and we use the notations

x ≤ y ⇐⇒ ∣HomC(x,y)∣ = 1

x ≤/ y ⇐⇒ ∣HomC(x,y)∣ = 0

Thus if C and D are posets, we can rephrase the definition of a poset adjunction L ∶ C ⇄ D ∶ R by stating that ∀ objects c ∈ C and d ∈ D there exists a bijection of hom sets:

HomC (c, R(d)) ←→ HomD (L(d), c)

In this form the definition now applies to any pair of functors between categories.

However, if we want to preserve the important theorems (uniqueness of adjoints and RAPL) then we need to impose some “naturality” condition on the family of bijections between hom sets. This condition is automatic for posets, so we will have to look elsewhere for motivation.

Adjoint Functors: 

Let C and D be categories. We say that a pair of functors L ∶ C ⇄ D ∶ R is an adjunction if for all objects c ∈ C and d ∈ D there exists a bijection of hom sets

HomC (c, R(d)) ←→ HomD (L(d), c)

Furthermore, we require that these bijections fit together in the following “natural” way. For each arrow γ ∶ c2 → c1 in C and each arrow δ ∶ d1 → d2 in D we require that the following cube of functions commutes:


Natural Transformation: 

Let C and D be categories and consider two parallel functors F1,F2 ∶ C → D. A natural transformation Φ ∶ F ⇒ G consists of a family of arrows Φc ∶F(c) → R(c), one for each object c ∈ C, such that for each arrow γ ∶ c1 → c2 in C the following square commutes:


The figure below the square is called a “2-cell diagram”. It hints at the close relationship between category theory and topology.

Let DC denote the collection of all functors from C to D and natural transformations between them. One can check that this forms a category (called a functor category). Given F1, F2 ∈ DC we say that F1 and F2 are naturally isomorphic if they are isomorphic in DC, i.e., if there exists a pair of natural transformations Φ ∶ F1 ⇒ F2 and Ψ ∶ F2 ⇒ F1 such that Ψ ○ Φ = idF1 and Ψ ○ Φ = idF2 are the identity natural transformations. In this case we will write F1 ≅ F2 and we will say that Φ and Φ−1 ∶= Ψ are natural isomorphisms.

To develop some intuition for this definition, let I be a small category and let C be any category. We have previously referred to functors D ∶ I → C as “diagrams of shape I in C“. Now we can think of CI as a category of diagrams. Given two such diagrams D1, D2 ∈ CI , we visualize a natural transformation Φ ∶ D1 ⇒ D2 as a “cylinder”:


The diagrams D1 and D2 need not be commutative, but if they are then the whole cylinder is commutative.


Consider a diagram D ∶ I → C. The limit of D, if it exists, consists of an object limID ∈ C and a canonical natural transformation Λ ∶ (limID)I ⇒ D such that for each object c ∈ C and natural transformation Φ ∶ cI ⇒ D there exists a unique natural transformation υI ∶ cI ⇒ (limID)I making the following diagram in CI commute:


Hom Functors:

Let C be a category. For each object c ∈ C the mapping d ↦ HomC(c, d) defines a functor from C to the category of sets Set. We denote it by

Hc ∶= HomC(c,−) ∶ C → Set

To define the action of Hc on arrows, consider any δ ∶ d1 → d2 in C. Then we must have a function Hc(δ) ∶ Hc(d1) → Hc(d2), i.e., a function Hc(δ) ∶ HomC(c,d1) → HomC(c,d2). There is only one way to define this:

H(δ) (φ) ∶= δ ○ φ

Similarly, for each arrow δ ∶ c1 → c2 we can define a function Hc(δ) ∶ HomC(d2,c) → HomC(d1,c) by H(δ) (φ) ∶= φ ○ δ. This again defines a functor into sets, but this time it is from the opposite category Cop (which is defined by reversing all arrows in C):

Hc ∶= HomC(−,c) ∶ Cop → Set

Finally, we can put these two functors together to obtain the hom bifunctor

HomC(−,−)∶ Cop ×C →Set 

which sends each pair of arrows (γ ∶ c2 → c1, δ ∶ d1 → d2) to the function

HomC(γ,δ) ∶ HomC(c1,d1) → HomC(c2,d2)

defined by φ ↦ δ ○ φ ○ γ. The product category Cop × C is defined in the most obvious way.

Adjoint Functors: 

Let C, D be categories and consider a pair of functors L ∶ C ⇄ D ∶ R. By composing these with the hom bifunctors HomC (−, −) and HomD (−, −) we obtain two parallel bifunctors:

HomC(−,R(−))∶ Cop × D → Set and HomD(L(−),−)∶ Cop × D → Set 

We say that L ∶ C ⇄ D ∶ R is an adjunction if the two bifunctors are naturally isomorphic:

HomC (−, R(−))HomD (L(−), −)……..


Marching Along Categories, Groups and Rings. Part 2

A category C consists of the following data:

A collection Obj(C) of objects. We will write “x ∈ C” to mean that “x ∈ Obj(C)

For each ordered pair x, y ∈ C there is a collection HomC (x, y) of arrows. We will write α∶x→y to mean that α ∈ HomC(x,y). Each collection HomC(x,x) has a special element called the identity arrow idx ∶ x → x. We let Arr(C) denote the collection of all arrows in C.

For each ordered triple of objects x, y, z ∈ C there is a function

○ ∶ HomC (x, y) × HomC(y, z) → HomC (x, z), which is called composition of  arrows. If  α ∶ x → y and β ∶ y → z then we denote the composite arrow by β ○ α ∶ x → z.

If each collection of arrows HomC(x,y) is a set then we say that the category C is locally small. If in addition the collection Obj(C) is a set then we say that C is small.

Identitiy: For each arrow α ∶ x → y the following diagram commutes:


Associative: For all arrows α ∶ x → y, β ∶ y → z, γ ∶ z → w, the following diagram commutes:


We say that C′ ⊆ C is a subcategory if Obj(C′) ⊆ Obj(C) and if ∀ x,y ∈ Obj(C′) we have HomC′(x,y) ⊆ HomC(x,y). We say that the subcategory is full if each inclusion of hom sets is an equality.

Let C be a category. A diagram D ⊆ C is a collection of objects in C with some arrows between them. Repetition of objects and arrows is allowed. OR. Let I be any small category, which we think of as an “index category”. Then any functor D ∶ I → C is called a diagram of shape I in C. In either case, we say that the diagram D commutes if for all pairs of objects x,y in D, any two directed paths in D from x to y yield the same arrow under composition.

Identity arrows generalize the reflexive property of posets, and composition of arrows generalizes the transitive property of posets. But whatever happened to the antisymmetric property? Well, it’s the same issue we had before: we should really define equivalence of objects in terms of antisymmetry.

Isomorphism: Let C be a category. We say that two objects x,y ∈ C are isomorphic in C if there exist arrows α ∶ x → y and β ∶ y → x such that the following diagram commutes:


In this case we write x ≅C y, or just x ≅ y if the category is understood.

If γ ∶ y → x is any other arrow satisfying the same diagram as β, then by the axioms of identity and associativity we must have

γ = γ ○ idy = γ ○ (α ○ β) = (γ ○ α) ○ β = idx ○ β = β

This allows us to refer to β as the inverse of the arrow α. We use the notations β = α−1 and

β−1 = α.

A category with one object is called a monoid. A monoid in which each arrow is invertible is called a group. A small category in which each arrow is invertible is called a groupoid.

Subcategories of Set are called concrete categories. Given a concrete category C ⊆ Set we can think of its objects as special kinds of sets and its arrows as special kinds of functions. Some famous examples of conrete categories are:

• Grp = groups & homomorphisms
• Ab = abelian groups & homomorphisms
• Rng = rings & homomorphisms
• CRng = commutative rings & homomorphisms

Note that Ab ⊆ Grp and CRng ⊆ Rng are both full subcategories. In general, the arrows of a concrete category are called morphisms or homomorphisms. This explains our notation of HomC.

Homotopy: The most famous example of a non-concrete category is the fundamental groupoid π1(X) of a topological space X. Here the objects are points and the arrows are homotopy classes of continuous directed paths. The skeleton is the set π0(X) of path components (really a discrete category, i.e., in which the only arrows are the identities). Categories like this are the reason we prefer the name “arrow” instead of “morphism”.

Limit/Colimit: Let D ∶ I → C be a diagram in a category C (thus D is a functor and I is a small “index” category). A cone under D consists of

• an object c ∈ C,

• a collection of arrows αi ∶ x → D(i), one for each index i ∈ I,

such that for each arrow δ ∶ i → j in I we have αj = D(δ) ○ α

In visualizing this:


The cone (c,(αi)i∈I) is called a limit of the diagram D if, for any cone (z,(βi)i∈I) under D, the following picture holds:


[This picture means that there exists a unique arrow υ ∶ z → c such that, for each arrow δ ∶ i → j in I (including the identity arrows), the following diagram commutes:


When δ = idi this diagram just says that βi = αi ○ υ. We do not assume that D itself is commutative. Dually, a cone over D consists of an object c ∈ C and a set of arrows αi ∶ D(i) → c satisfying αi = αj ○ D(δ) for each arrow δ ∶ i → j in I. This cone is called a colimit of the diagram D if, for any cone (z,(βi)i∈I) over D, the following picture holds:


When the (unique) limit or colimit of the diagram D ∶ I → C exists, we denote it by (limI D, (φi)i∈I) or (colimI D, (φi)i∈I), respectively. Sometimes we omit the canonical arrows φi from the notation and refer to the object limID ∈ C as “the limit of D”. However, we should not forget that the arrows are part of the structure, i.e., the limit is really a cone.

Posets: Let P be a poset. We have already seen that the product/coproduct in P (if they exist) are the meet/join, respectively, and that the final/initial objects in P (if they exist) are the top/bottom elements, respectively. The only poset with a zero object is the one element poset.

Sets: The empty set ∅ ∈ Set is an initial object and the one point set ∗ ∈ Set is a final object. Note that two sets are isomorphic in Set precisely when there is a bijection between them, i.e., when they have the same cardinality. Since initial/final objects are unique up to isomorphism, we can identify the initial object with the cardinal number 0 and the final object with the cardinal number 1. There is no zero object in Set.

Products and coproducts exist in Set. The product of S,T ∈ Set consists of the Cartesian product S × T together with the canonical projections πS ∶ S × T → S and πT ∶ S × T → T. The coproduct of S, T ∈ Set consists of the disjoint union S ∐ T together with the canonical injections ιS ∶ S → S ∐ T and ιT ∶ T → S ∐ T. After passing to the skeleton, the product and coproduct of sets become the product and sum of cardinal numbers.

[Note: The “external disjoint union” S ∐ T is a formal concept. The familiar “internal disjoint union” S ⊔ T is only defined when there exists a set U containing both S and T as subsets. Then the union S ∪ T is the join operation in the Boolean lattice 2U ; we call the union “disjoint” when S ∩ T = ∅.]

Groups: The trivial group 1 ∈ Grp is a zero object, and for any groups G, H ∈ Grp the zero homomorphism 1 ∶ G → H sends all elements of G to the identity element 1H ∈ H. The product of groups G, H ∈ Grp is their direct product G × H and the coproduct is their free product G ∗ H, along with the usual canonical morphisms.

Let Ab ⊆ Grp be the full subcategory of abelian groups. The zero object and product are inherited from Grp, but we give them new names: we denote the zero object by 0 ∈ Ab and for any A, B ∈ Ab we denote the zero arrow by 0 ∶ A → B. We denote the Cartesian product by A ⊕ B and we rename it the direct sum. The big difference between Grp and Ab appears when we consider coproducts: it turns out that the product group A ⊕ B is also the coproduct group. We emphasize this fact by calling A ⊕ B the biproduct in Ab. It comes equipped with four canonical homomorphisms πA, πB, ιA, ιB satisfying the usual properties, as well as the following commutative diagram:


This diagram is the ultimate reason for matrix notation. The universal properties of product and coproduct tell us that each endomorphism φ ∶ A ⊕ B → A ⊕ B is uniquely determined by its four components φij ∶= πi ○ φ ○ ιj for i, j ∈ {A,B},so we can represent it as a matrix:


Then the composition of endomorphisms becomes matrix multiplication.

Rings. We let Rng denote the category of rings with unity, together with their homomorphisms. The initial object is the ring of integers Z ∈ Rng and the final object is the zero ring 0 ∈ Rng, i.e., the unique ring in which 0R = 1R. There is no zero object. The product of two rings R, S ∈ Rng is the direct product R × S ∈ Rng with component wise addition and multiplication. Let CRng ⊆ Rng be the full subcategory of commutative rings. The initial/final objects and product in CRng are inherited from Rng. The difference between Rng and CRng again appears when considering coproducts. The coproduct of R,S ∈ CRng is denoted by R ⊗Z S and is called the tensor product over Z…..

From Posets to Categories. Part 1

A poset (partially ordered set) is a pair (P, ≤), where

P is a set,

is a binary relation on P satisfying the three axioms of partial order:

(i) Reflexive: ∀x ∈ P, x ≤ x

(ii) Antisymmetric: ∀x ,y ∈ P, x ≤ y & y ≤ x ⇒ x = y

(iii) Transitive: ∀x, y, z ∈ P, x ≤ y & y ≤ z ⇒ x ≤ z.

And what does this have to do with category theory?

“x ≤ y” ⇐⇒ “ x → y” “x = y” ⇐⇒ “ x ↔ y”

Given x, y ∈ P,

we say that u ∈ P is a least upper bound of x, y ∈ P if we have x → u & y → u, and for all z ∈ P satisfying x → z & y → z we must have u → z. It is more convenient to express this definition with a picture. We say that u ∈ P is a least upper bound of x, y if for all z ∈ P the following picture holds:


Dually, we say that l ∈ P is a greatest lower bound of x, y if for all z ∈ P the following picture holds:


Now suppose that u1, u2 ∈ P are two least upper bounds for x, y. Applying the defininition in both directions gives

u1 → u2 and u2 → u1,

and then from antisymmetry it follows that u1 = u2, which just means that u1 and u2 are indistinguishable within the structure of P. For this reason we can speak of the least upper bound (or “join”) of x, y. If it exists, we denote it by

x ∨ y

Dually, if it exists, we denote the greatest lower bound (or “meet”) by

x ∧ y

The definitions of meet and join are called “universal properties”. Whenever an object defined by a universal property exists, it is automatically unique in a certain canonical sense. However, since the object might not exist, maybe it is better to refer to a universal property as a “characterization,” or a “prescription,” rather than a “definition.”

Let P be a poset. We say that t ∈ P is a top element

if for all z ∈ P the following picture holds:

z —> t

Dually, we say that b ∈ P is a bottom element if for all z ∈ P the following picture holds:

b —> z

For any subset of elements of a poset S ⊆ P we say that the element ⋁ S ∈ P is its join if for all z ∈ P the following diagram is satisfied:


Dually, we say that ⋀ S ∈ P is the meet of S if for all z ∈ P the following diagram is satisfied:


If the objects ⋁ S and ⋀ S exist then they are uniquely characterized by their universal properties.

The universal properties in these diagrams will be called the “limit” and “colimit” properties when we move from posets to categories. Note that a limit/colimit diagram looks like a “cone over S”. This is one example of the link between category theory and topology.

Note that all definitions so far are included in this single (pair of) definition(s):

⋁ {x, y} = x∨ y & ⋀ {x, y} = x ∧ y

⋁∅ = 0 & ⋀ ∅ = 1.