Why Can’t There Be Infinite Descending Chain Of Quotient Representations? – Part 3



For a quiver Q, the category Rep(Q) of finite-dimensional representations of Q is abelian. A morphism f : V → W in the category Rep(Q) defined by a collection of morphisms fi : Vi → Wi is injective (respectively surjective, an isomorphism) precisely if each of the linear maps fi is.

There is a collection of simple objects in Rep(Q). Indeed, each vertex i ∈ Q0 determines a simple object Si of Rep(Q), the unique representation of Q up to isomorphism for which dim(Vj) = δij. If Q has no directed cycles, then these so-called vertex simples are the only simple objects of Rep(Q), but this is not the case in general.

If Q is a quiver, then the category Rep(Q) has finite length.

Given a representation E of a quiver Q, then either E is simple, or there is a nontrivial short exact sequence

0 → A → E → B → 0

Now if B is not simple, then we can break it up into pieces. This process must halt, as every representation of Q consists of finite-dimensional vector spaces. In the end, we will have found a simple object S and a surjection f : E → S. Take E1 ⊂ E to be the kernel of f and repeat the argument with E1. In this way we get a filtration

… ⊂ E3 ⊂ E2 ⊂ E1 ⊂ E

with each quotient object Ei−1/Ei simple. Once again, this filtration cannot continue indefinitely, so after a finite number of steps we get En = 0. Renumbering by setting Ei := En−i for 1 ≤ i ≤ n gives a Jordan-Hölder filtration for E. The basic reason for finiteness is the assumption that all representations of Q are finite-dimensional. This means that there can be no infinite descending chains of subrepresentations or quotient representations, since a proper subrepresentation or quotient representation has strictly smaller dimension.

In many geometric and algebraic contexts, what is of interest in representations of a quiver Q are morphisms associated to the arrows that satisfy certain relations. Formally, a quiver with relations (Q, R) is a quiver Q together with a set R = {ri} of elements of its path algebra, where each ri is contained in the subspace A(Q)aibi of A(Q) spanned by all paths p starting at vertex aiand finishing at vertex bi. Elements of R are called relations. A representation of (Q, R) is a representation of Q, where additionally each relation ri is satisfied in the sense that the corresponding linear combination of homomorphisms from Vai to Vbi is zero. Representations of (Q, R) form an abelian category Rep(Q, R).

A special class of relations on quivers comes from the following construction, inspired by the physics of supersymmetric gauge theories. Given a quiver Q, the path algebra A(Q) is non-commutative in all but the simplest examples, and hence the sub-vector space [A(Q), A(Q)] generated by all commutators is non-trivial. The vector space quotientA(Q)/[A(Q), A(Q)] is seen to have a basis consisting of the cyclic paths anan−1 · · · a1 of Q, formed by composable arrows ai of Q with h(an) = t(a1), up to cyclic permutation of such paths. By definition, a superpotential for the quiver Q is an element W ∈ A(Q)/[A(Q), A(Q)] of this vector space, a linear combination of cyclic paths up to cyclic permutation.

The Case of Morphisms of Representation Corresponding to A-Module Holomorphisms. Part 2


Representations of a quiver can be interpreted as modules over a non-commutative algebra A(Q) whose elements are linear combinations of paths in Q.

Let Q be a quiver. A non-trivial path in Q is a sequence of arrows am…a0 such that h(ai−1) = t(ai) for i = 1,…, m:


The path is p = am…a0. Writing t(p) = t(a0) and saying that p starts at t(a0) and, similarly, writing h(p) = h(am) and saying that p finishes at h(am). For each vertex i ∈ Q0, we denote by ei the trivial path which starts and finishes at i. Two paths p and q are compatible if t(p) = h(q) and, in this case, the composition pq can defined by juxtaposition of p and q. The length l(p) of a path is the number of arrows it contains; in particular, a trivial path has length zero.

The path algebra A(Q) of a quiver Q is the complex vector space with basis consisting of all paths in Q, equipped with the multiplication in which the product pq of paths p and q is defined to be the composition pq if t(p) = h(q), and 0 otherwise. Composition of paths is non-commutative; in most cases, if p and q can be composed one way, then they cannot be composed the other way, and even if they can, usually pq ≠ qp. Hence the path algebra is indeed non-commutative.

Let us define Al ⊂ A to be the subspace spanned by paths of length l. Then A = ⊕l≥0Al is a graded C-algebra. The subring A0 ⊂ A spanned by the trivial paths ei is a semisimple ring in which the elements ei are orthogonal idempotents, in other words eiej = ei when i = j, and 0 otherwise. The algebra A is finite-dimensional precisely if Q has no directed cycles.

The category of finite-dimensional representations of a quiver Q is isomorphic to the category of finitely generated left A(Q)-modules. Let (V, φ) be a representation of Q. We can then define a left module V over the algebra A = A(Q) as follows: as a vector space it is

V = ⊕i∈Q0 Vi

and the A-module structure is extended linearly from

eiv = v, v ∈ Mi

= 0, v ∈ Mj for j ≠ i

for i ∈ Qand

av = φa(vt(a)), v ∈ Vt(a)

= 0, v ∈ Vj for j ≠ t(a)

for a ∈ Q1. This construction can be inverted as follows: given a left A-module V, we set Vi = eiV for i ∈ Q0 and define the map φa: Vt(a) → Vh(a) by v ↦ a(v). Morphisms of representations of (Q, V) correspond to A-module homomorphisms.

Indecomposable Objects – Part 1

An object X in a category C with an initial object is called indecomposable if X is not the initial object and X is not isomorphic to a coproduct of two noninitial objects. A group G is called indecomposable if it cannot be expressed as the internal direct product of two proper normal subgroups of G. This is equivalent to saying that G is not isomorphic to the direct product of two nontrivial groups.

A quiver Q is a directed graph, specified by a set of vertices Q0, a set of arrows Q1, and head and tail maps

h, t : Q1 → Q0

We always assume that Q is finite, i.e., the sets Q0 and Q1 are finite.


A (complex) representation of a quiver Q consists of complex vector spaces Vi for i ∈ Qand linear maps

φa : Vt(a) → Vh(a)

for a ∈ Q1. A morphism between such representations (V, φ) and (W, ψ) is a collection of linear maps fi : Vi → Wi for i ∈ Q0 such that the diagram


commutes ∀ a ∈ Q1. A representation of Q is finite-dimensional if each vector space Vi is. The dimension vector of such a representation is just the tuple of non-negative integers (dim Vi)i∈Q0.

Rep(Q) is the category of finite-dimensional representations of Q. This category is additive; we can add morphisms by adding the corresponding linear maps fi, the trivial representation in which each Vi = 0 is a zero object, and the direct sum of two representations is obtained by taking the direct sums of the vector spaces associated to each vertex. If Q is the one-arrow quiver, • → •, then the classification of indecomposable objects of Rep(Q), yields the objects E ∈ Rep(Q) which do not have a non-trivial direct sum decomposition E = A ⊕ B. An object of Rep(Q) is just a linear map of finite-dimensional vector spaces f: V1 → V2. If W = im(f) is a nonzero proper subspace of V2, then the splitting V2 = U ⊕ W, and the corresponding object of Rep(Q) splits as a direct sum of the two representations

V1 →ƒ W and 0 → W

Thus if an object f: V1 → V2 of Rep(Q) is indecomposable, the map f must be surjective. Similarly, if ƒ is nonzero, then it must also be injective. Continuing in this way, one sees that Rep(Q) has exactly three indecomposable objects up to isomorphism:

C → 0, 0 → C, C →id C

Every other object of Rep(Q) is a direct sum of copies of these basic representations.

The Third Trichotomy. Thought of the Day 121.0


The decisive logical role is played by continuity in the third trichotomy which is Peirce’s generalization of the old distinction between term, proposition and argument in logic. In him, the technical notions are rhema, dicent and argument, and all of them may be represented by symbols. A crucial step in Peirce’s logic of relations (parallel to Frege) is the extension of the predicate from having only one possible subject in a proposition – to the possibility for a predicate to take potentially infinitely many subjects. Predicates so complicated may be reduced, however, to combination of (at most) three-subject predicates, according to Peirce’s reduction hypothesis. Let us consider the definitions from ‘Syllabus (The Essential Peirce Selected Philosophical Writings, Volume 2)’ in continuation of the earlier trichotomies:

According to the third trichotomy, a Sign may be termed a Rheme, a Dicisign or Dicent Sign (that is, a proposition or quasi-proposition), or an Argument.

A Rheme is a Sign which, for its Interpretant, is a Sign of qualitative possibility, that is, is understood as representing such and such a kind of possible Object. Any Rheme, perhaps, will afford some information; but it is not interpreted as doing so.

A Dicent Sign is a Sign, which, for its Interpretant, is a Sign of actual existence. It cannot, therefore, be an Icon, which affords no ground for an interpretation of it as referring to actual existence. A Dicisign necessarily involves, as a part of it, a Rheme, to describe the fact which it is interpreted as indicating. But this is a peculiar kind of Rheme; and while it is essential to the Dicisign, it by no means constitutes it.

An Argument is a Sign which, for its Interpretant, is a Sign of a law. Or we may say that a Rheme is a sign which is understood to represent its object in its characters merely; that a Dicisign is a sign which is understood to represent its object in respect to actual existence; and that an Argument is a Sign which is understood to represent its Object in its character as Sign. ( ) The proposition need not be asserted or judged. It may be contemplated as a sign capable of being asserted or denied. This sign itself retains its full meaning whether it be actually asserted or not. ( ) The proposition professes to be really affected by the actual existent or real law to which it refers. The argument makes the same pretension, but that is not the principal pretension of the argument. The rheme makes no such pretension.

The interpretant of the Argument represents it as an instance of a general class of Arguments, which class on the whole will always tend to the truth. It is this law, in some shape, which the argument urges; and this ‘urging’ is the mode of representation proper to Arguments.

Predicates being general is of course a standard logical notion; in Peirce’s version this generality is further emphasized by the fact that the simple predicate is seen as relational and containing up to three subject slots to be filled in; each of them may be occupied by a continuum of possible subjects. The predicate itself refers to a possible property, a possible relation between subjects; the empty – or partly satiated – predicate does not in itself constitute any claim that this relation does in fact hold. The information it contains is potential, because no single or general indication has yet been chosen to indicate which subjects among the continuum of possible subjects it refers to. The proposition, on the contrary, the dicisign, is a predicate where some of the empty slots have been filled in with indices (proper names, demonstrative pronomina, deixis, gesture, etc.), and is, in fact, asserted. It thus consists of an indexical part and an iconical part, corresponding to the usual distinction between subject and predicate, with its indexical part connecting it to some level of reference reality. This reality needs not, of course, be actual reality; the subject slots may be filled in with general subjects thus importing pieces of continuity into it – but the reality status of such subjects may vary, so it may equally be filled in with fictitious references of all sorts. Even if the dicisign, the proposition, is not an icon, it contains, via its rhematic core, iconical properties. Elsewhere, Peirce simply defines the dicisign as a sign making explicit its reference. Thus a portrait equipped with a sign indicating the portraitee will be a dicisign, just like a charicature draft with a pointing gesture towards the person it depicts will be a dicisign. Even such dicisigns may be general; the pointing gesture could single out a group or a representative for a whole class of objects. While the dicisign specifies its object, the argument is a sign specifying its interpretant – which is what is normally called the conclusion. The argument thus consists of two dicisigns, a premiss (which may be, in turn, composed of several dicisigns and is traditionally seen as consisting of two dicisigns) and a conclusion – a dicisign represented as ensuing from the premiss due to the power of some law. The argument is thus – just like the other thirdness signs in the trichotomies – in itself general. It is a legisign and a symbol – but adds to them the explicit specification of a general, lawlike interpretant. In the full-blown sign, the argument, the more primitive degenerate sign types are orchestrated together in a threefold generality where no less than three continua are evoked: first, the argument itself is a legisign with a halo of possible instantions of itself as a sign; second, it is a symbol referring to a general object, in turn with a halo of possible instantiations around it; third, the argument implies a general law which is represented by one instantiation (the premiss and the rule of inference) but which has a halo of other, related inferences as possible instantiations. As Peirce says, the argument persuades us that this lawlike connection holds for all other cases being of the same type.

Triadomania. Thought of the Day 117.0


Peirce’s famous ‘triadomania’ lets most of his decisive distinctions appear in threes, following the tripartition of his list of categories, the famous triad of First, Second, and Third, or Quality, Reaction, Representation, or Possibility, Actuality, Reality.

Firstness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, positively and without reference to anything else.

Secondness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, with respect to a second but regardless of any third.

Thirdness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, in bringing a second and third into relation to each other.

Firstness constitutes the quality of experience: in order for something to appear at all, it must do so due to a certain constellation of qualitative properties. Peirce often uses sensory qualities as examples, but it is important for the understanding of his thought that the examples may refer to phenomena very far from our standard conception of ‘sensory data’, e.g. forms or the ‘feeling’ of a whole melody or of a whole mathematical proof, not to be taken in a subjective sense but as a concept for the continuity of melody or proof as a whole, apart from the analytical steps and sequences in which it may be, subsequently, subdivided. In short, all sorts of simple and complex Gestalt qualities also qualify as Firstnesses. Firstness tend to form continua of possibilities such as the continua of shape, color, tone, etc. These qualities, however, are, taken in themselves, pure possibilities and must necessarily be incarnated in phenomena in order to appear. Secondness is the phenomenological category of ‘incarnation’ which makes this possible: it is the insistency, then, with which the individuated, actualized, existent phenomenon appears. Thus, Secondness necessarily forms discontinuous breaks in Firstness, allowing for particular qualities to enter into existence. The mind may imagine anything whatever in all sorts of quality combinations, but something appears with an irrefutable insisting power, reacting, actively, yielding resistance. Peirce’s favorite example is the resistance of the closed door – which might be imagined reduced to the quality of resistance feeling and thus degenerate to pure Firstness so that his theory imploded into a Hume-like solipsism – but to Peirce this resistance, surprise, event, this thisness, ‘haecceity’ as he calls it with a Scotist term, remains irreducible in the description of the phenomenon (a Kantian idea, at bottom: existence is no predicate). About Thirdness, Peirce may directly state that continuity represents it perfectly: ‘continuity and generality are two names of the same absence of distinction of individuals’. As against Secondness, Thirdness is general; it mediates between First and Second. The events of Secondness are never completely unique, such an event would be inexperiencable, but relates (3) to other events (2) due to certain features (1) in them; Thirdness is thus what facilitates understanding as well as pragmatic action, due to its continuous generality. With a famous example: if you dream about an apple pie, then the very qualities of that dream (taste, smell, warmth, crustiness, etc.) are pure Firstnesses, while the act of baking is composed of a series of actual Secondnesses. But their coordination is governed by a Thirdness: the recipe, being general, can never specify all properties in the individual apple pie, it has a schematic frame-character and subsumes an indefinite series – a whole continuum – of possible apple pies. Thirdness is thus necessarily general and vague. Of course, the recipe may be more or less precise, but no recipe exists which is able to determine each and every property in the cake, including date, hour, place, which tree the apples stem from, etc. – any recipe is necessarily general. In this case, the recipe (3) mediates between dream (1) and fulfilment (2) – its generality, symbolicity, relationality and future orientation are all characteristic for Thirdness. An important aspect of Peirce’s realism is that continuous generality may be experienced directly in perceptual judgments: ‘Generality, Thirdness, pours in upon us in our very perceptual judgments’.

All these determinations remain purely phenomenological, even if the later semiotic and metaphysical interpretations clearly shine through. In a more general, non-Peircean terminology, his phenomenology can be seen as the description of minimum aspects inherent in any imaginable possible world – for this reason it is imaginability which is the main argument, and this might point in the direction that Peirce could be open to critique for subjectivism, so often aimed at Husserl’s project, in some respects analogous. The concept of consciousness is invoked as the basis of imaginability: phenomenology is the study of invariant properties in any phenomenon appearing for a mind. Peirce’s answer would here be, on the one hand, the research community which according to him defines reality – an argument which structurally corresponds to Husserl’s reference to intersubjectivity as a necessary ingredient in objectivity (an object is a phenomenon which is intersubjectively accessible). Peirce, however, has a further argument here, namely his consequent refusal to delimit his concept of mind exclusively to human subjects (a category the use of which he obviously tries to minimize), mind-like processes may take place in nature without any subject being responsible. Peirce will, for continuity reasons, never accept any hard distinction between subject and object and remains extremely parsimonious in the employment of such terms.

From Peirce’s New Elements of Mathematics (The New Elements of Mathematics Vol. 4),

But just as the qualities, which as they are for themselves, are equally unrelated to one other, each being mere nothing for any other, yet form a continuum in which and because of their situation in which they acquire more or less resemblance and contrast with one another; and then this continuum is amplified in the continuum of possible feelings of quality, so the accidents of reaction, which are waking consciousnesses of pairs of qualities, may be expected to join themselves into a continuum. 

Since, then an accidental reaction is a combination or bringing into special connection of two qualities, and since further it is accidental and antigeneral or discontinuous, such an accidental reaction ought to be regarded as an adventitious singularity of the continuum of possible quality, just as two points of a sheet of paper might come into contact.

But although singularities are discontinuous, they may be continuous to a certain extent. Thus the sheet instead of touching itself in the union of two points may cut itself all along a line. Here there is a continuous line of singularity. In like manner, accidental reactions though they are breaches of generality may come to be generalized to a certain extent.

Secondness is now taken to actualize these quality possibilities based on an idea that any actual event involves a clash of qualities – in the ensuing argumentation Peirce underlines that the qualities involved in actualization need not be restrained to two but may be many, if they may only be ‘dissolved’ into pairs and hence do not break into the domain of Thirdness. This appearance of actuality, hence, has the property of singularities, spontaneously popping up in the space of possibilities and actualizing pairs of points in it. This transition from First to Second is conceived of along Aristotelian lines: as an actualization of a possibility – and this is expressed in the picture of a discontinuous singularity in the quality continuum. The topological fact that singularities must in general be defined with respect to the neighborhood of the manifold in which they appear, now becomes the argument for the fact that Secondness can never be completely discontinuous but still ‘inherits’ a certain small measure of continuity from the continuum of Firstness. Singularities, being discontinuous along certain dimensions, may be continuous in others, which provides the condition of possibility for Thirdness to exist as a tendency for Secondness to conform to a general law or regularity. As is evident, a completely pure Secondness is impossible in this continuous metaphysics – it remains a conceivable but unrealizable limit case, because a completely discon- tinuous event would amount to nothing. Thirdness already lies as a germ in the non-discontinuous aspects of the singularity. The occurrences of Secondness seem to be infinitesimal, then, rather than completely extensionless points.



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.

Reductionism of Numerical Complexity: A Wittgensteinian Excursion


Wittgenstein’s criticism of Russell’s logicist foundation of mathematics contained in (Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics) consists in saying that it is not the formalized version of mathematical deduction which vouches for the validity of the intuitive version but conversely.

If someone tries to shew that mathematics is not logic, what is he trying to shew? He is surely trying to say something like: If tables, chairs, cupboards, etc. are swathed in enough paper, certainly they will look spherical in the end.

He is not trying to shew that it is impossible that, for every mathematical proof, a Russellian proof can be constructed which (somehow) ‘corresponds’ to it, but rather that the acceptance of such a correspondence does not lean on logic.

Taking up Wittgenstein’s criticism, Hao Wang (Computation, Logic, Philosophy) discusses the view that mathematics “is” axiomatic set theory as one of several possible answers to the question “What is mathematics?”. Wang points out that this view is epistemologically worthless, at least as far as the task of understanding the feature of cognition guiding is concerned:

Mathematics is axiomatic set theory. In a definite sense, all mathematics can be derived from axiomatic set theory. [ . . . ] There are several objections to this identification. [ . . . ] This view leaves unexplained why, of all the possible consequences of set theory, we select only those which happen to be our mathematics today, and why certain mathematical concepts are more interesting than others. It does not help to give us an intuitive grasp of mathematics such as that possessed by a powerful mathematician. By burying, e.g., the individuality of natural numbers, it seeks to explain the more basic and the clearer by the more obscure. It is a little analogous to asserting that all physical objects, such as tables, chairs, etc., are spherical if we swathe them with enough stuff.

Reductionism is an age-old project; a close forerunner of its incarnation in set theory was the arithmetization program of the 19th century. It is interesting that one of its prominent representatives, Richard Dedekind (Essays on the Theory of Numbers), exhibited a quite distanced attitude towards a consequent carrying out of the program:

It appears as something self-evident and not new that every theorem of algebra and higher analysis, no matter how remote, can be expressed as a theorem about natural numbers [ . . . ] But I see nothing meritorious [ . . . ] in actually performing this wearisome circumlocution and insisting on the use and recognition of no other than rational numbers.

Perec wrote a detective novel without using the letter ‘e’ (La disparition, English A void), thus proving not only that such an enormous enterprise is indeed possible but also that formal constraints sometimes have great aesthetic appeal. The translation of mathematical propositions into a poorer linguistic framework can easily be compared with such painful lipogrammatical exercises. In principle all logical connectives can be simulated in a framework exclusively using Sheffer’s stroke, and all cuts (in Gentzen’s sense) can be eliminated; one can do without common language at all in mathematics and formalize everything and so on: in principle, one could leave out a whole lot of things. However, in doing so one would depart from the true way of thinking employed by the mathematician (who really uses “and” and “not” and cuts and who does not reduce many things to formal systems). Obviously, it is the proof theorist as a working mathematician who is interested in things like the reduction to Sheffer’s stroke since they allow for more concise proofs by induction in the analysis of a logical calculus. Hence this proof theorist has much the same motives as a mathematician working on other problems who avoids a completely formalized treatment of these problems since he is not interested in the proof-theoretical aspect.

There might be quite similar reasons for the interest of some set theorists in expressing usual mathematical constructions exclusively with the expressive means of ZF (i.e., in terms of ∈). But beyond this, is there any philosophical interpretation of such a reduction? In the last analysis, mathematicians always transform (and that means: change) their objects of study in order to make them accessible to certain mathematical treatments. If one considers a mathematical concept as a tool, one does not only use it in a way different from the one in which it would be used if it were considered as an object; moreover, in semiotical representation of it, it is given a form which is different in both cases. In this sense, the proof theorist has to “change” the mathematical proof (which is his or her object of study to be treated with mathematical tools). When stating that something is used as object or as tool, we have always to ask: in which situation, or: by whom.

A second observation is that the translation of propositional formulæ in terms of Sheffer’s stroke in general yields quite complicated new formulæ. What is “simple” here is the particularly small number of symbols needed; but neither the semantics becomes clearer (p|q means “not both p and q”; cognitively, this looks more complex than “p and q” and so on), nor are the formulæ you get “short”. What is looked for in this case, hence, is a reduction of numerical complexity, while the primitive basis attained by the reduction cognitively looks less “natural” than the original situation (or, as Peirce expressed it, “the consciousness in the determined cognition is more lively than in the cognition which determines it”); similarly in the case of cut elimination. In contrast to this, many philosophers are convinced that the primitive basis of operating with sets constitutes really a “natural” basis of mathematical thinking, i.e., such operations are seen as the “standard bricks” of which this thinking is actually made – while no one will reasonably claim that expressions of the type p|q play a similar role for propositional logic. And yet: reduction to set theory does not really have the task of “explanation”. It is true, one thus reduces propositions about “complex” objects to propositions about “simple” objects; the propositions themselves, however, thus become in general more complex. Couched in Fregean terms, one can perhaps more easily grasp their denotation (since the denotation of a proposition is its truth value) but not their meaning. A more involved conceptual framework, however, might lead to simpler propositions (and in most cases has actually just been introduced in order to do so). A parallel argument concerns deductions: in its totality, a deduction becomes more complex (and less intelligible) by a decomposition into elementary steps.

Now, it will be subject to discussion whether in the case of some set operations it is admissible at all to claim that they are basic for thinking (which is certainly true in the case of the connectives of propositional logic). It is perfectly possible that the common sense which organizes the acceptance of certain operations as a natural basis relies on something different, not having the character of some eternal laws of thought: it relies on training.

Is it possible to observe that a surface is coloured red and blue; and not to observe that it is red? Imagine a kind of colour adjective were used for things that are half red and half blue: they are said to be ‘bu’. Now might not someone to be trained to observe whether something is bu; and not to observe whether it is also red? Such a man would then only know how to report: “bu” or “not bu”. And from the first report we could draw the conclusion that the thing was partly red.

Category of a Quantum Groupoid


For a quantum groupoid H let Rep(H) be the category of representations of H, whose objects are finite-dimensional left H -modules and whose morphisms are H -linear homomorphisms. We shall show that Rep(H) has a natural structure of a monoidal category with duality.

For objects V, W of Rep(H) set

V ⊗ W = x ∈ V ⊗k W|x = ∆(1) · x ⊂ V ⊗k W —– (1)

with the obvious action of H via the comultiplication ∆ (here ⊗k denotes the usual tensor product of vector spaces). Note that ∆(1) is an idempotent and therefore V ⊗ W = ∆(1) × (V ⊗k W). The tensor product of morphisms is the restriction of usual tensor product of homomorphisms. The standard associativity isomorphisms (U ⊗ V ) ⊗ W → U ⊗ (V ⊗ W ) are functorial and satisfy the pentagon condition, since ∆ is coassociative. We will suppress these isomorphisms and write simply U ⊗ V ⊗ W.

The target counital subalgebra Ht ⊂ H has an H-module structure given by h · z = εt(hz),where h ∈ H, z ∈ Ht.

Ht is the unit object of Rep(H).

Define a k-linear homomorphism lV : Ht ⊗ V → V by lV(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = z · v, z ∈ Ht, v ∈ V.

This map is H-linear, since

lV h · (1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = lV(h(1) · z ⊗ h(2) · v) = εt(h(1)z)h(2) · v = hz · v = h · lV (1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v),

∀ h ∈ H. The inverse map l−1V: → Ht ⊗ V is given by V

l−1V(v) = S(1(1)) ⊗ (1(2) · v) = (1(1) · 1) ⊗ (1(2) · v)

The collection {lV}V gives a natural equivalence between the functor Ht ⊗ (·) and the identity functor. Indeed, for any H -linear homomorphism f : V → U we have:

lU ◦ (id ⊗ f)(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v) = lU 1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · f(v) = z · f(v) = f(z·v) = f ◦ lV(1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · v)

Similarly, the k-linear homomorphism rV : V ⊗ Ht → V defined by rV(1(1) · v ⊗ 1(2) · z) = S(z) · v, z ∈ Ht, v ∈ V, has the inverse r−1V(v) = 1(1) · v ⊗ 1(2) and satisfies the necessary properties.

Finally, we can check the triangle axiom idV ⊗ lW = rV ⊗ idW : V ⊗ Ht ⊗ W → V ⊗ W ∀ objects V, W of Rep(H). For v ∈ V, w ∈ W we have

(idV ⊗ lW)(1(1) · v ⊗ 1′(1)1(2) · z ⊗ 1′(2) · w)

= 1(1) · v ⊗ 1′(2)z · w) = 1(1)S(z) · v ⊗ 1(2) · w

=(rV ⊗ idW) (1′(1) · v ⊗ 1′(2) 1(1) · z ⊗ 1(2) · w),

therefore, idV ⊗ lW = rV ⊗ idW

Using the antipode S of H, we can provide Rep(H) with a duality. For any object V of Rep(H), define the action of H on V = Homk(V, k) by

(h · φ)(v) = φ S(h) · v —– (2)

where h ∈ H , v ∈ V , φ ∈ V. For any morphism f : V → W , let f: W → V be the morphism dual to f. For any V in Rep(H), we define the duality morphisms dV : V ⊗ V → Ht, bV : Ht → V ⊗ V∗ as follows. For ∑j φj ⊗ vj ∈ V* ⊗ V, set

dV(∑j φj ⊗ vj)  = ∑j φj (1(1) · vj) 1(2) —– (3)

Let {fi}i and {ξi}i be bases of V and V, respectively, dual to each other. The element ∑i fi ⊗ ξi does not depend on choice of these bases; moreover, ∀ v ∈ V, φ ∈ V one has φ = ∑i φ(fi) ξi and v = ∑i fi ξi (v). Set

bV(z) = z · (∑i fi ⊗ ξi) —– (4)

The category Rep(H) is a monoidal category with duality. We know already that Rep(H) is monoidal, it remains to prove that dV and bV are H-linear and satisfy the identities

(idV ⊗ dV)(bV ⊗ idV) = idV, (dV ⊗ idV)(idV ⊗ bV) = idV.

Take ∑j φj ⊗ vj ∈ V ⊗ V, z ∈ Ht, h ∈ H. Using the axioms of a quantum groupoid, we have

h · dV(∑j φj ⊗ vj) = ((∑j φj (1(1) · vj) εt(h1(2))

= (∑j φj ⊗ εs(1(1)h) · vj 1(2)j φj S(h(1))1(1)h(2) · vj 1(2)

= (∑j h(1) · φj )(1(1) · (h(2) · vj))1(2)

= (∑j dV(h(1) · φj  ⊗ h(2) · vj) = dV(h · ∑j φj ⊗ vj)

therefore, dV is H-linear. To check the H-linearity of bV we have to show that h · bV(z) =

bV (h · z), i.e., that

i h(1)z · fi ⊗ h(2) · ξi = ∑i 1(1) εt(hz) · fi ⊗ 1(2) · ξi

Since both sides of the above equality are elements of V ⊗k V, evaluating the second factor on v ∈ V, we get the equivalent condition

h(1)zS(h(2)) · v = 1(1)εt (hz)S(1(2)) · v, which is easy to check. Thus, bV is H-linear.

Using the isomorphisms lV and rV identifying Ht ⊗ V, V ⊗ Ht, and V, ∀ v ∈ V and φ ∈ V we have:

(idV ⊗ dV)(bV ⊗ idV)(v)

=(idV ⊗ dV)bV(1(1) · 1) ⊗ 1(2) · v

= (idV ⊗ dV)bV(1(2)) ⊗ S−1(1(1)) · v

= ∑i (idV ⊗ dV) 1(2) · fi ⊗ 1(3) · ξi ⊗ S−1 (1(1)) · v

= ∑1(2) · fi ⊗ 1(3) · ξi (1′(1)S-1 (1(1)) · v) 1′(2)

= 1(2) S(1(3)) 1′(1) S-1 (1(1)) · v ⊗ 1′(2) = v

(dV ⊗ idV)(idV ⊗ bV)(φ)

= (dV ⊗ idV) 1(1) · φ ⊗ bV(1(2))

= ∑i (dV ⊗ idV)(1(1) · φ ⊗ 1(2) · 1(2) · 1(3) · ξi )

= ∑i (1(1) · φ (1′(1)1(2) · fi)1′(2) ⊗ 1(3) · ξi

= 1′(2) ⊗ 1(3)1(1) S(1′(1)1(2)) · φ = φ,





Let k be an algebraically closed field. Given a superalgebra A we will denote with A0 the even part, with A1 the odd part and with IAodd the ideal generated by the odd part.

A superalgebra is said to be commutative (or supercommutative) if

xy = (−1)p(x)p(y)yx, ∀ homogeneous x, y

where p denotes the parity of an homogeneous element (p(x) = 0 if x ∈ A0, p(x) = 1 if x ∈ A1).

Let’s denote with A the category of affine superalgebras that is commutative superalgebras such that, modulo the ideal generated by their odd part, they are affine algebras (an affine algebra is a finitely generated reduced commutative algebra).

Define affine algebraic supervariety over k a representable functor V from the category A of affine superalgebras to the category S of sets. Let’s call k[V] the commutative k-superalgebra representing the functor V,

V (A) = Homk−superalg(k[V], A), A ∈ A

We will call V (A) the A-points of the variety V. A morphism of affine supervarieties is identified with a morphism between the representing objects, that is a morphism of affine superalgebras.

We also define the functor Vred associated to V from the category Ac of affine k-algebras to the category of sets:

Vred(Ac)= Homk−alg(k[V]/Ik[V]odd, Ac), Ac ∈ Ac

Vred is an affine algebraic variety and it is called the reduced variety associated to V. If the algebra k[V] representing the functor V has the additional structure of a commutative Hopf superalgebra, we say that V is an affine algebraic supergroup.

Let G be an affine algebraic supergroup. As in the classical setting, the condition k[G] being a commutative Hopf superalgebra makes the functor group valued, that is the product of two morphisms is still a morphism. In fact let A be a commutative superalgebra and let x, y ∈ Homk−superalg(k[G], A) be two points of G(A). The product of x and y is defined as:

x · y = defmA · x ⊗ y · ∆

where mA is the multiplication in A and ∆ the comultiplication in k[G]. One can find that x · y ∈ Homk−superalg(k[G], A), that is:

(x · y)(ab) = (x · y)(a)(x · y)(b)

The non commutativity of the Hopf algebra in the quantum setting does not allow to multiply morphisms(=points). In fact in the quantum (super)group setting the product of two morphisms is not in general a morphism.

Let V be an affine algebraic supervariety. Let k0 ⊂ k be a subfield of k. We say that V is a k0-variety if there exists a k0-superalgebra k0[V] such that k[V] ≅ k0[V] ⊗k0 k and

V(A) = Homk0 − superalg(k0[V], A) = Homk−superalg(k[V], A), A ∈ A.

We obtain a functor that we still denote by V from the category Ak0 of affine k0-superalgebras to the category of sets:

V(Ak0) = Homk0−superalg(k0[V], Ak0), A ∈ Ak0

thus opening up for consideration of rationality on supervariety.

Of Magnitudes, Metrization and Materiality of Abstracto-Concrete Objects.


The possibility of introducing magnitudes in a certain domain of concrete material objects is by no means immediate, granted or elementary. First of all, it is necessary to find a property of such objects that permits to compare them, so that a quasi-serial ordering be introduced in their set, that is a total linear ordering not excluding that more than one object may occupy the same position in the series. Such an ordering must then undergo a metrization, which depends on finding a fundamental measuring procedure permitting the determination of a standard sample to which the unit of measure can be bound. This also depends on the existence of an operation of physical composition, which behaves additively with respect to the quantity which we intend to measure. Only if all these conditions are satisfied will it be possible to introduce a magnitude in a proper sense, that is a function which assigns to each object of the material domain a real number. This real number represents the measure of the object with respect to the intended magnitude. This condition, by introducing an homomorphism between the domain of the material objects and that of the positive real numbers, transforms the language of analysis (that is of the concrete theory of real numbers) into a language capable of speaking faithfully and truly about those physical objects to which it is said that such a magnitude belongs.

Does the success of applying mathematics in the study of the physical world mean that this world has a mathematical structure in an ontological sense, or does it simply mean that we find in mathematics nothing but a convenient practical tool for putting order in our representations of the world? Neither of the answers to this question is right, and this is because the question itself is not correctly raised. Indeed it tacitly presupposes that the endeavour of our scientific investigations consists in facing the reality of “things” as it is, so to speak, in itself. But we know that any science is uniquely concerned with a limited “cut” operated in reality by adopting a particular point of view, that is concretely manifested by adopting a restricted number of predicates in the discourse on reality. Several skilful operational manipulations are needed in order to bring about a homomorphism with the structure of the positive real numbers. It is therefore clear that the objects that are studied by an empirical theory are by no means the rough things of everyday experience, but bundles of “attributes” (that is of properties, relations and functions), introduced through suitable operational procedures having often the explicit and declared goal of determining a concrete structure as isomorphic, or at least homomorphic, to the structure of real numbers or to some other mathematical structure. But now, if the objects of an empirical theory are entities of this kind, we are fully entitled to maintain that they are actually endowed with a mathematical structure: this is simply that structure which we have introduced through our operational procedures. However, this structure is objective and real and, with respect to it, the mathematized discourse is far from having a purely conventional and pragmatic function, with the goal of keeping our ideas in order: it is a faithful description of this structure. Of course, we could never pretend that such a discourse determines the structure of reality in a full and exhaustive way, and this for two distinct reasons: In the first place, reality (both in the sense of the totality of existing things, and of the ”whole” of any single thing), is much richer than the particular “slide” that it is possible to cut out by means of our operational manipulations. In the second place, we must be aware that a scientific object, defined as a structured set of attributes, is an abstract object, is a conceptual construction that is perfectly defined just because it is totally determined by a finite list of predicates. But concrete objects are by no means so: they are endowed with a great deal of attributes of an indefinite variety, so that they can at best exemplify with an acceptable approximation certain abstract objects that are totally encoding a given set of attributes through their corresponding predicates. The reason why such an exemplification can only be partial is that the different attributes that are simultaneously present in a concrete object are, in a way, mutually limiting themselves, so that this object does never fully exemplify anyone of them. This explains the correct sense of such common and obvious remarks as: “a rigid body, a perfect gas, an adiabatic transformation, a perfect elastic recoil, etc, do not exist in reality (or in Nature)”. Sometimes this remark is intended to vehiculate the thesis that these are nothing but intellectual fictions devoid of any correspondence with reality, but instrumentally used by scientists in order to organize their ideas. This interpretation is totally wrong, and is simply due to a confusion between encoding and exemplifying: no concrete thing encodes any finite and explicit number of characteristics that, on the contrary, can be appropriately encoded in a concept. Things can exemplify several concepts, while concepts (or abstract objects) do not exemplify the attributes they encode. Going back to the distinction between sense on the one hand, and reference or denotation on the other hand, we could also say that abstract objects belong to the level of sense, while their exemplifications belong to the level of reference, and constitute what is denoted by them. It is obvious that in the case of empirical sciences we try to construct conceptual structures (abstract objects) having empirical denotations (exemplified by concrete objects). If one has well understood this elementary but important distinction, one is in the position of correctly seeing how mathematics can concern physical objects. These objects are abstract objects, are structured sets of predicates, and there is absolutely nothing surprising in the fact that they could receive a mathematical structure (for example, a structure isomorphic to that of the positive real numbers, or to that of a given group, or of an abstract mathematical space, etc.). If it happens that these abstract objects are exemplified by concrete objects within a certain degree of approximation, we are entitled to say that the corresponding mathematical structure also holds true (with the same degree of approximation) for this domain of concrete objects. Now, in the case of physics, the abstract objects are constructed by isolating certain ontological attributes of things by means of concrete operations, so that they actually refer to things, and are exemplified by the concrete objects singled out by means of such operations up to a given degree of approximation or accuracy. In conclusion, one can maintain that mathematics constitutes at the same time the most exact language for speaking of the objects of the domain under consideration, and faithfully mirrors the concrete structure (in an ontological sense) of this domain of objects. Of course, it is very reasonable to recognize that other aspects of these things (or other attributes of them) might not be treatable by means of the particular mathematical language adopted, and this may imply either that these attributes could perhaps be handled through a different available mathematical language, or even that no mathematical language found as yet could be used for handling them.