Morphism of Complexes Induces Corresponding Morphisms on Cohomology Objects – Thought of the Day 146.0

Let A = Mod(R) be an abelian category. A complex in A is a sequence of objects and morphisms in A

… → Mi-1 →di-1 Mi →di → Mi+1 → …

such that di ◦ di-1 = 0 ∀ i. We denote such a complex by M.

A morphism of complexes f : M → N is a sequence of morphisms fi : Mi → Ni in A, making the following diagram commute, where diM, diN denote the respective differentials:


We let C(A) denote the category whose objects are complexes in A and whose morphisms are morphisms of complexes.

Given a complex M of objects of A, the ith cohomology object is the quotient

Hi(M) = ker(di)/im(di−1)

This operation of taking cohomology at the ith place defines a functor

Hi(−) : C(A) → A,

since a morphism of complexes induces corresponding morphisms on cohomology objects.

Put another way, an object of C(A) is a Z-graded object

M = ⊕i Mi

of A, equipped with a differential, in other words an endomorphism d: M → M satisfying d2 = 0. The occurrence of differential graded objects in physics is well-known. In mathematics they are also extremely common. In topology one associates to a space X a complex of free abelian groups whose cohomology objects are the cohomology groups of X. In algebra it is often convenient to replace a module over a ring by resolutions of various kinds.

A topological space X may have many triangulations and these lead to different chain complexes. Associating to X a unique equivalence class of complexes, resolutions of a fixed module of a given type will not usually be unique and one would like to consider all these resolutions on an equal footing.

A morphism of complexes f: M → N is a quasi-isomorphism if the induced morphisms on cohomology

Hi(f): Hi(M) → Hi(N) are isomorphisms ∀ i.

Two complexes M and N are said to be quasi-isomorphic if they are related by a chain of quasi-isomorphisms. In fact, it is sufficient to consider chains of length one, so that two complexes M and N are quasi-isomorphic iff there are quasi-isomorphisms

M ← P → N

For example, the chain complex of a topological space is well-defined up to quasi-isomorphism because any two triangulations have a common resolution. Similarly, all possible resolutions of a given module are quasi-isomorphic. Indeed, if

0 → S →f M0 →d0 M1 →d1 M2 → …

is a resolution of a module S, then by definition the morphism of complexes


is a quasi-isomorphism.

The objects of the derived category D(A) of our abelian category A will just be complexes of objects of A, but morphisms will be such that quasi-isomorphic complexes become isomorphic in D(A). In fact we can formally invert the quasi-isomorphisms in C(A) as follows:

There is a category D(A) and a functor Q: C(A) → D(A)

with the following two properties:

(a) Q inverts quasi-isomorphisms: if s: a → b is a quasi-isomorphism, then Q(s): Q(a) → Q(b) is an isomorphism.

(b) Q is universal with this property: if Q′ : C(A) → D′ is another functor which inverts quasi-isomorphisms, then there is a functor F : D(A) → D′ and an isomorphism of functors Q′ ≅ F ◦ Q.

First, consider the category C(A) as an oriented graph Γ, with the objects lying at the vertices and the morphisms being directed edges. Let Γ∗ be the graph obtained from Γ by adding in one extra edge s−1: b → a for each quasi-isomorphism s: a → b. Thus a finite path in Γ∗ is a sequence of the form f1 · f2 ·· · ·· fr−1 · fr where each fi is either a morphism of C(A), or is of the form s−1 for some quasi-isomorphism s of C(A). There is a unique minimal equivalence relation ∼ on the set of finite paths in Γ∗ generated by the following relations:

(a) s · s−1 ∼ idb and s−1 · s ∼ ida for each quasi-isomorphism s: a → b in C(A).

(b) g · f ∼ g ◦ f for composable morphisms f: a → b and g: b → c of C(A).

Define D(A) to be the category whose objects are the vertices of Γ∗ (these are the same as the objects of C(A)) and whose morphisms are given by equivalence classes of finite paths in Γ∗. Define a functor Q: C(A) → D(A) by using the identity morphism on objects, and by sending a morphism f of C(A) to the length one path in Γ∗ defined by f. The resulting functor Q satisfies the conditions of the above lemma.

The second property ensures that the category D(A) of the Lemma is unique up to equivalence of categories. We define the derived category of A to be any of these equivalent categories. The functor Q: C(A) → D(A) is called the localisation functor. Observe that there is a fully faithful functor

J: A → C(A)

which sends an object M to the trivial complex with M in the zeroth position, and a morphism F: M → N to the morphism of complexes


Composing with Q we obtain a functor A → D(A) which we denote by J. This functor J is fully faithful, and so defines an embedding A → D(A). By definition the functor Hi(−): C(A) → A inverts quasi-isomorphisms and so descends to a functor

Hi(−): D(A) → A

establishing that composite functor H0(−) ◦ J is isomorphic to the identity functor on A.

Breakdown of Lorentz Invariance: The Order of Quantum Gravity Phenomenology. Thought of the Day 132.0


The purpose of quantum gravity phenomenology is to analyze the physical consequences arising from various models of quantum gravity. One hope for obtaining an experimental grasp on quantum gravity is the generic prediction arising in many (but not all) quantum gravity models that ultraviolet physics at or near the Planck scale, MPlanck = 1.2 × 1019 GeV/c2, (or in some models the string scale), typically induces violations of Lorentz invariance at lower scales. Interestingly most investigations, even if they arise from quite different fundamental physics, seem to converge on the prediction that the breakdown of Lorentz invariance can generically become manifest in the form of modified dispersion relations

ω2 = ω02 + (1 + η2) c2k2 + η4(ħ/MLorentz violation)2 + k4 + ….

where the coefficients ηn are dimensionless (and possibly dependent on the particle species under consideration). The particular inertial frame for these dispersion relations is generally specified to be the frame set by cosmological microwave background, and MLorentz violation is the scale of Lorentz symmetry breaking which furthermore is generally assumed to be of the order of MPlanck.

Although several alternative scenarios have been considered to justify the modified kinematics,the most commonly explored avenue is an effective field theory (EFT) approach. Here, the focus is explicitly on the class of non-renormalizable EFTs with Lorentz violations associated to dispersion relations. Even if this framework as a “test theory” is successful, it is interesting to note that there are still significant open issues concerning its theoretical foundations. Perhaps the most pressing one is the so called naturalness problem which can be expressed in the following way: The lowest-order correction, proportional to η2, is not explicitly Planck suppressed. This implies that such a term would always be dominant with respect to the higher-order ones and grossly incompatible with observations (given that we have very good constraints on the universality of the speed of light for different elementary particles). If one were to take cues from observational leads, it is assumed either that some symmetry (other than Lorentz invariance) enforces the η2 coefficients to be exactly zero, or that the presence of some other characteristic EFT mass scale μ ≪ MPlanck (e.g., some particle physics mass scale) associated with the Lorentz symmetry breaking might enter in the lowest order dimensionless coefficient η2, which will be then generically suppressed by appropriate ratios of this characteristic mass to the Planck mass: η2 ∝ (μ/MPlanck)σ where σ ≥ 1 is some positive power (often taken as one or two). If this is the case then one has two distinct regimes: For low momenta p/(MPlanckc) ≪ (μ/MPlanck)σ the lower-order (quadratic in the momentum) deviations will dominate over the higher-order ones, while at high energies p/(MPlanckc) ≫ (μ/MPlanck)σ the higher order terms will be dominant.

The naturalness problem arises because such a scenario is not well justified within an EFT framework; in other words there is no natural suppression of the low-order modifications. EFT cannot justify why only the dimensionless coefficients of the n ≤ 2 terms should be suppressed by powers of the small ratio μ/MPlanck. Even worse, renormalization group arguments seem to imply that a similar mass ratio, μ/MPlanck would implicitly be present also in all the dimensionless n > 2 coefficients, hence suppressing them even further, to the point of complete undetectability. Furthermore, without some protecting symmetry, it is generic that radiative corrections due to particle interactions in an EFT with only Lorentz violations of order n > 2 for the free particles, will generate n = 2 Lorentz violating terms in the dispersion relation, which will then be dominant. Naturalness in EFT would then imply that the higher order terms are at least as suppressed as this, and hence beyond observational reach.

A second issue is that of universality, which is not so much a problem, as an issue of debate as to the best strategy to adopt. In dealing with situations with multiple particles one has to choose between the case of universal (particle-independent) Lorentz violating coefficients ηn, or instead go for a more general ansatz and allow for particle-dependent coefficients; hence allowing different magnitudes of Lorentz symmetry violation for different particles even when considering the same order terms (same n) in regards to momentum. Any violation of Lorentz invariance should be due to the microscopic structure of the effective space-time. This implies that one has to tune the system in order to cancel exactly all those violations of Lorentz invariance which are solely due to mode-mixing interactions in the hydrodynamic limit.

Fallibilist a priori. Thought of the Day 127.0


Kant’s ‘transcendental subject’ is pragmatized in this notion in Peirce, transcending any delimitation of reason to the human mind: the ‘anybody’ is operational and refers to anything which is able to undertake reasoning’s formal procedures. In the same way, Kant’s synthetic a priori notion is pragmatized in Peirce’s account:

Kant declares that the question of his great work is ‘How are synthetical judgments a priori possible?’ By a priori he means universal; by synthetical, experiential (i.e., relating to experience, not necessarily derived wholly from experience). The true question for him should have been, ‘How are universal propositions relating to experience to be justified?’ But let me not be understood to speak with anything less than profound and almost unparalleled admiration for that wonderful achievement, that indispensable stepping-stone of philosophy. (The Essential Peirce Selected Philosophical Writings)

Synthetic a priori is interpreted as experiential and universal, or, to put it another way, observational and general – thus Peirce’s rationalism in demanding rational relations is connected to his scholastic realism posing the existence of real universals.

But we do not make a diagram simply to represent the relation of killer to killed, though it would not be impossible to represent this relation in a Graph-Instance; and the reason why we do not is that there is little or nothing in that relation that is rationally comprehensible. It is known as a fact, and that is all. I believe I may venture to affirm that an intelligible relation, that is, a relation of thought, is created only by the act of representing it. I do not mean to say that if we should some day find out the metaphysical nature of the relation of killing, that intelligible relation would thereby be created. [ ] No, for the intelligible relation has been signified, though not read by man, since the first killing was done, if not long before. (The New Elements of Mathematics)

Peirce’s pragmatizing Kant enables him to escape the threatening subjectivism: rational relations are inherent in the universe and are not our inventions, but we must know (some of) them in order to think. The relation of killer to killed, is not, however, given our present knowledge, one of those rational relations, even if we might later become able to produce a rational diagram of aspects of it. Yet, such a relation is, as Peirce says, a mere fact. On the other hand, rational relations are – even if inherent in the universe – not only facts. Their extension is rather that of mathematics as such, which can be seen from the fact that the rational relations are what make necessary reasoning possible – at the same time as Peirce subscribes to his father’s mathematics definition: Mathematics is the science that draws necessary conclusions – with Peirce’s addendum that these conclusions are always hypothetical. This conforms to Kant’s idea that the result of synthetic a priori judgments comprised mathematics as well as the sciences built on applied mathematics. Thus, in constructing diagrams, we have all the possible relations in mathematics (which is inexhaustible, following Gödel’s 1931 incompleteness theorem) at our disposal. Moreover, the idea that we might later learn about the rational relations involved in killing entails a historical, fallibilist rendering of the a priori notion. Unlike the case in Kant, the a priori is thus removed from a privileged connection to the knowing subject and its transcendental faculties. Thus, Peirce rather anticipates a fallibilist notion of the a priori.

The First Trichotomy. Thought of the Day 119.0


As the sign consists of three components it comes hardly as a surprise that it may be analyzed in nine aspects – every one of the sign’s three components may be viewed under each of the three fundamental phenomenological categories. The least discussed of these so-called trichotomies is probably the first, concerning which property in the sign it is that functions, in fact, to make it a sign. It gives rise to the trichotomy qualisign, sinsign, legisign, or, in a little more sexy terminology, tone, token, type.

The oftenmost quoted definition is from ‘Syllabus’ (Charles S. Peirce, The Essential Peirce Selected Philosophical Writings, Volume 2):

According to the first division, a Sign may be termed a Qualisign, a Sinsign, or a Legisign.

A Qualisign is a quality which is a Sign. It cannot actually act as a sign until it is embodied; but the embodiment has nothing to do with its character as a sign.

A Sinsign (where the syllable sin is taken as meaning ‘being only once’, as in single, simple, Latin semel, etc.) is an actual existent thing or event which is a sign. It can only be so through its qualities; so that it involves a qualisign, or rather, several qualisigns. But these qualisigns are of a peculiar kind and only form a sign through being actually embodied.

A Legisign is a law that is a Sign. This law is usually [sic] established by men. Every conventional sign is a legisign. It is not a single object, but a general type which, it has been agreed, shall be significant. Every legisign signifies through an instance of its application, which may be termed a Replica of it. Thus, the word ‘the’ will usually occur from fifteen to twenty-five times on a page. It is in all these occurrences one and the same word, the same legisign. Each single instance of it is a Replica. The Replica is a Sinsign. Thus, every Legisign requires Sinsigns. But these are not ordinary Sinsigns, such as are peculiar occurrences that are regarded as significant. Nor would the Replica be significant if it were not for the law which renders it so.

In some sense, it is a strange fact that this first and basic trichotomy has not been widely discussed in relation to the continuity concept in Peirce, because it is crucial. It is evident from the second noticeable locus where this trichotomy is discussed, the letters to Lady Welby – here Peirce continues (after an introduction which brings less news):

The difference between a legisign and a qualisign, neither of which is an individual thing, is that a legisign has a definite identity, though usually admitting a great variety of appearances. Thus, &, and, and the sound are all one word. The qualisign, on the other hand, has no identity. It is the mere quality of an appearance and is not exactly the same throughout a second. Instead of identity, it has great similarity, and cannot differ much without being called quite another qualisign.

The legisign or type is distinguished as being general which is, in turn, defined by continuity: the type has a ‘great variety of appearances’; as a matter of fact, a continuous variation of appearances. In many cases even several continua of appearances (as &, and, and the spoken sound of ‘and’). Each continuity of appearances is gathered into one identity thanks to the type, making possible the repetition of identical signs. Reference is not yet discussed (it concerns the sign’s relation to its object), nor is meaning (referring to its relation to its interpretant) – what is at stake is merely the possibility for a type to incarnate a continuum of possible actualizations, however this be possible, and so repeatedly appear as one and the same sign despite other differences. Thus the reality of the type is the very foundation for Peirce’s ‘extreme realism’, and this for two reasons. First, seen from the side of the sign, the type provides the possibility of stable, repeatable signs: the type may – opposed to qualisigns and those sinsigns not being replicas of a type – be repeated as a self-identical occurrence, and this is what in the first place provides the stability which renders repeated sign use possible. Second, seen from the side of reality: because types, legisigns, are realized without reference to human subjectivity, the existence of types is the condition of possibility for a sign, in turn, to stably refer to stably occurring entities and objects. Here, the importance of the irreducible continuity in philosophy of mathematics appears for semiotics: it is that which grants the possibility of collecting a continuum in one identity, the special characteristic of the type concept. The opposition to the type is the qualisign or tone lacking the stability of the type – they are not self-identical even through a second, as Peirce says – they have, of course, the character of being infinitesimal entities, about which the principle of contradiction does not hold. The transformation from tone to type is thus the transformation from unstable pre-logic to stable logic – it covers, to phrase it in a Husserlian way, the phenomenology of logic. The legisign thus exerts its law over specific qualisigns and sinsigns – like in all Peirce’s trichotomies the higher sign types contain and govern specific instances of the lower types. The legisign is incarnated in singular, actual sinsigns representing the type – they are tokens of the type – and what they have in common are certain sets of qualities or qualisigns – tones – selected from continua delimited by the legisign. The amount of possible sinsigns, tokens, are summed up by a type, a stable and self-identical sign. Peirce’s despised nominalists would to some degree agree here: the universal as a type is indeed a ‘mere word’ – but the strong counterargument which Peirce’s position makes possible says that if ‘mere words’ may possess universality, then the world must contain it as well, because words are worldly phenomena like everything else. Here, nominalists will typically exclude words from the world and make them privileges of the subject, but for Peirce’s welding of idealism and naturalism nothing can be truly separated from the world – all what basically is in the mind must also exist in the world. Thus the synthetical continuum, which may, in some respects, be treated as one entity, becomes the very condition of possibility for the existence of types.

Whether some types or legisigns now refer to existing general objects or not is not a matter for the first trichotomy to decide; legisigns may be part of any number of false or nonsensical propositions, and not all legisigns are symbols, just like arguments, in turn, are only a subset of symbols – but all of them are legisigns because they must in themselves be general in order to provide the condition of possibility of identical repetition, of reference to general objects and of signifying general interpretants.



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.

Quantifier – Ontological Commitment: The Case for an Agnostic. Note Quote.


What about the mathematical objects that, according to the platonist, exist independently of any description one may offer of them in terms of comprehension principles? Do these objects exist on the fictionalist view? Now, the fictionalist is not committed to the existence of such mathematical objects, although this doesn’t mean that the fictionalist is committed to the non-existence of these objects. The fictionalist is ultimately agnostic about the issue. Here is why.

There are two types of commitment: quantifier commitment and ontological commitment. We incur quantifier commitment to the objects that are in the range of our quantifiers. We incur ontological commitment when we are committed to the existence of certain objects. However, despite Quine’s view, quantifier commitment doesn’t entail ontological commitment. Fictional discourse (e.g. in literature) and mathematical discourse illustrate that. Suppose that there’s no way of making sense of our practice with fiction but to quantify over fictional objects. Still, people would strongly resist the claim that they are therefore committed to the existence of these objects. The same point applies to mathematical objects.

This move can also be made by invoking a distinction between partial quantifiers and the existence predicate. The idea here is to resist reading the existential quantifier as carrying any ontological commitment. Rather, the existential quantifier only indicates that the objects that fall under a concept (or have certain properties) are less than the whole domain of discourse. To indicate that the whole domain is invoked (e.g. that every object in the domain have a certain property), we use a universal quantifier. So, two different functions are clumped together in the traditional, Quinean reading of the existential quantifier: (i) to assert the existence of something, on the one hand, and (ii) to indicate that not the whole domain of quantification is considered, on the other. These functions are best kept apart. We should use a partial quantifier (that is, an existential quantifier free of ontological commitment) to convey that only some of the objects in the domain are referred to, and introduce an existence predicate in the language in order to express existence claims.

By distinguishing these two roles of the quantifier, we also gain expressive resources. Consider, for instance, the sentence:

(∗) Some fictional detectives don’t exist.

Can this expression be translated in the usual formalism of classical first-order logic with the Quinean interpretation of the existential quantifier? Prima facie, that doesn’t seem to be possible. The sentence would be contradictory! It would state that ∃ fictional detectives who don’t exist. The obvious consistent translation here would be: ¬∃x Fx, where F is the predicate is a fictional detective. But this states that fictional detectives don’t exist. Clearly, this is a different claim from the one expressed in (∗). By declaring that some fictional detectives don’t exist, (∗) is still compatible with the existence of some fictional detectives. The regimented sentence denies this possibility.

However, it’s perfectly straightforward to express (∗) using the resources of partial quantification and the existence predicate. Suppose that “∃” stands for the partial quantifier and “E” stands for the existence predicate. In this case, we have: ∃x (Fx ∧¬Ex), which expresses precisely what we need to state.

Now, under what conditions is the fictionalist entitled to conclude that certain objects exist? In order to avoid begging the question against the platonist, the fictionalist cannot insist that only objects that we can causally interact with exist. So, the fictionalist only offers sufficient conditions for us to be entitled to conclude that certain objects exist. Conditions such as the following seem to be uncontroversial. Suppose we have access to certain objects that is such that (i) it’s robust (e.g. we blink, we move away, and the objects are still there); (ii) the access to these objects can be refined (e.g. we can get closer for a better look); (iii) the access allows us to track the objects in space and time; and (iv) the access is such that if the objects weren’t there, we wouldn’t believe that they were. In this case, having this form of access to these objects gives us good grounds to claim that these objects exist. In fact, it’s in virtue of conditions of this sort that we believe that tables, chairs, and so many observable entities exist.

But recall that these are only sufficient, and not necessary, conditions. Thus, the resulting view turns out to be agnostic about the existence of the mathematical entities the platonist takes to exist – independently of any description. The fact that mathematical objects fail to satisfy some of these conditions doesn’t entail that these objects don’t exist. Perhaps these entities do exist after all; perhaps they don’t. What matters for the fictionalist is that it’s possible to make sense of significant features of mathematics without settling this issue.

Now what would happen if the agnostic fictionalist used the partial quantifier in the context of comprehension principles? Suppose that a vector space is introduced via suitable principles, and that we establish that there are vectors satisfying certain conditions. Would this entail that we are now committed to the existence of these vectors? It would if the vectors in question satisfied the existence predicate. Otherwise, the issue would remain open, given that the existence predicate only provides sufficient, but not necessary, conditions for us to believe that the vectors in question exist. As a result, the fictionalist would then remain agnostic about the existence of even the objects introduced via comprehension principles!

The Concern for Historical Materialism. Thought of the Day 53.0


The concern for historical materialism, in spite of Marx’s differentiation between history and pre-history, is that totalisation might not be historically groundable after all, and must instead be constituted in other ways: whether logically, transcendentally or naturally. The ‘Consciousness’ chapter of the Phenomenology, a blend of all three, becomes a transcendent(al) logic of phenomena – individual, universal, particular – and ceases to provide any genuine phenomenology of ‘the experience of consciousness’. Natural consciousness is not strictly speaking a standpoint (no real opposition), so it can offer no critical grounds of itself to confer synthetic unity upon the universal, that which is taken to a higher level in ‘Self-Consciousness’ (only to be retrospectively confirmed). Yet Hegel does just this from the outset. In ‘Perception’, we read that, ‘[o]n account of the universality [Allgemeinheit] of the property, I must … take the objective essence to be on the whole a community [Gemeinschaft]’. Universality always sides with community, the Allgemeine with the Gemeinschaft, as if the synthetic operation had taken place prior to its very operability. Unfortunately for Hegel, the ‘free matters’ of all possible properties paves the way for the ‘interchange of forces’ in ‘Force and the Understanding’, and hence infinity, life and – spirit. In the midst of the master-slave dialectic, Hegel admits that, ‘[i]n this movement we see repeated the process which represented itself as the play of forces, but repeated now in consciousness [sic].

Category Theory of a Sketch. Thought of the Day 50.0


If a sketch can be thought of as an abstract concept, a model of a sketch is not so much an interpretation of a sketch, but a concrete or particular instantiation or realization of it. It is tempting to adopt a Kantian terminology here and say that a sketch is an abstract concept, a functor between a sketch and a category C a schema and the models of a sketch the constructions in the “intuition” of the concept.

The schema is not unique since a sketch can be realized in many different categories by many different functors. What varies from one category to the other is not the basic structure of the realizations, but the types of morphisms of the underlying category, e.g., arbitrary functions, continuous maps, etc. Thus, even though a sketch captures essential structural ingredients, others are given by the “environment” in which this structure will be realized, which can be thought of as being itself another structure. Hence, the “meaning” of some concepts cannot be uniquely given by a sketch, which is not to say that it cannot be given in a structuralist fashion.

We now distinguish the group as a structure, given by the sketch for the theory of groups, from the structure of groups, given by a category of groups, that is the category of models of the sketch for groups in a given category, be it Set or another category, e.g., the category of topological spaces with continuous maps. In the latter case, the structure is given by the exactness properties of the category, e.g., Cartesian closed, etc. This is an important improvement over the traditional framework in which one was unable to say whether we should talk about the structure common to all groups, usually taken to be given by the group axioms, or the structure generated by “all” groups. Indeed, one can now ask in a precise manner whether a category C of structures, e.g., the category of (small) groups, is sketchable, that is, whether there exists a sketch S such that Mod(S, Set) is equivalent as a category to C.

There is another category associated to a sketch, namely the theory of that sketch. The theory of a sketch S, denoted by Th(S), is in a sense “freely” constructed from S : the arrows of the underlying graph are freely composed and the diagrams are imposed as equations, and so are the cones and the cocones. Th(S) is in fact a model of S in the previous sense with the following universal property: for any other model M of S in a category C there is a unique functor F: Th(S) → C such that FU = M, where U: S → Th(S). Thus, for instance, the theory of groups is a category with a group object, the generic group, “freely” constructed from the sketch for groups. It is in a way the “universal” group in the sense that any other group in any category can be constructed from it. This is possible since it contains all possible arrows, i.e., all definable operations, obtained in a purely internal or abstract manner. It is debatable whether this category should be called the theory of the sketch. But that may be more a matter of terminology than anything else, since it is clear that the “free” category called the theory is there to stay in one way or another.

Hegel and Topos Theory. Thought of the Day 46.0


The intellectual feat of Lawvere is as important as Gödel’s formal undecidability theorem, perhaps even more. But there is a difference between both results: whereas Gödel led to a blind alley, Lawvere has displayed a new and fascinating panorama to be explored by mathematicians and philosophers. Referring to the positive results of topos theory, Lawvere says:

A science student naively enrolling in a course styled “Foundations of Mathematics” is more likely to receive sermons about unknowability… than to receive the needed philosophical guide to a systematic understanding of the concrete richness of pure and applied mathematics as it has been and will be developed. (Categories of space and quantity)

One of the major philosophical results of elementary topos theory, is that the way Hegel looked at logic was, after all, in the good track. According to Hegel, formal mathematical logic was but a superficial tautologous script. True logic was dialectical, and this logic ruled the gigantic process of the development of the Idea. Inasmuch as the Idea was autorealizing itself through the opposition of theses and antitheses, logic was changing but not in an arbitrary change of inferential rules. Briefly, in the dialectical system of Hegel logic was content-dependent.

Now, the fact that every topos has a corresponding internal logic shows that logic is, in quite a precise way, content-dependent; it depends on the structure of the topos. Every topos has its own internal logic, and this logic is materially dependent on the characterization of the topos. This correspondence throws new light on the relation of logic to ontology. Classically, logic was considered as ontologically aseptic. There could be a multitude of different ontologies, but there was only one logic: the classical. Of course, there were some mathematicians that proposed a different logic: the intuitionists. But this proposal was due to not very clear speculative epistemic reasons: they said they could not understand the meaning of the attributive expression “actual infinite”. These mathematicians integrated a minority within the professional mathematical community. They were seen as outsiders that had queer ideas about the exact sciences. However, as soon as intuitionistic logic was recognized as the universal internal logic of topoi, its importance became astronomical. Because it provided, for the first time, a new vision of the interplay of logic with mathematics. Something had definitively changed in the philosophical panorama.



Let us introduce the concept of space using the notion of reflexive action (or reflex action) between two things. Intuitively, a thing x acts on another thing y if the presence of x disturbs the history of y. Events in the real world seem to happen in such a way that it takes some time for the action of x to propagate up to y. This fact can be used to construct a relational theory of space à la Leibniz, that is, by taking space as a set of equitemporal things. It is necessary then to define the relation of simultaneity between states of things.

Let x and y be two things with histories h(xτ) and h(yτ), respectively, and let us suppose that the action of x on y starts at τx0. The history of y will be modified starting from τy0. The proper times are still not related but we can introduce the reflex action to define the notion of simultaneity. The action of y on x, started at τy0, will modify x from τx1 on. The relation “the action of x on y is reflected to x” is the reflex action. Historically, Galileo introduced the reflection of a light pulse on a mirror to measure the speed of light. With this relation we will define the concept of simultaneity of events that happen on different basic things.


Besides we have a second important fact: observation and experiment suggest that gravitation, whose source is energy, is a universal interaction, carried by the gravitational field.

Let us now state the above hypothesis axiomatically.

Axiom 1 (Universal interaction): Any pair of basic things interact. This extremely strong axiom states not only that there exist no completely isolated things but that all things are interconnected.

This universal interconnection of things should not be confused with “universal interconnection” claimed by several mystical schools. The present interconnection is possible only through physical agents, with no mystical content. It is possible to model two noninteracting things in Minkowski space assuming they are accelerated during an infinite proper time. It is easy to see that an infinite energy is necessary to keep a constant acceleration, so the model does not represent real things, with limited energy supply.

Now consider the time interval (τx1 − τx0). Special Relativity suggests that it is nonzero, since any action propagates with a finite speed. We then state

Axiom 2 (Finite speed axiom): Given two different and separated basic things x and y, such as in the above figure, there exists a minimum positive bound for the interval (τx1 − τx0) defined by the reflex action.

Now we can define Simultaneity as τy0 is simultaneous with τx1/2 =Df (1/2)(τx1 + τx0)

The local times on x and y can be synchronized by the simultaneity relation. However, as we know from General Relativity, the simultaneity relation is transitive only in special reference frames called synchronous, thus prompting us to include the following axiom:

Axiom 3 (Synchronizability): Given a set of separated basic things {xi} there is an assignment of proper times τi such that the relation of simultaneity is transitive.

With this axiom, the simultaneity relation is an equivalence relation. Now we can define a first approximation to physical space, which is the ontic space as the equivalence class of states defined by the relation of simultaneity on the set of things is the ontic space EO.

The notion of simultaneity allows the analysis of the notion of clock. A thing y ∈ Θ is a clock for the thing x if there exists an injective function ψ : SL(y) → SL(x), such that τ < τ′ ⇒ ψ(τ) < ψ(τ′). i.e.: the proper time of the clock grows in the same way as the time of things. The name Universal time applies to the proper time of a reference thing that is also a clock. From this we see that “universal time” is frame dependent in agreement with the results of Special Relativity.