MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Are there results in algebraic topology -- preferably relating to homology or homotopy or phraseable in simplicial sets -- that are not true in an intuitionistic logic?

In other words, are there results that crucially rely on a law of the excluded middle, or on the axiom of choice?

share|cite|improve this question
A related question:… – Evan Jenkins Nov 4 '13 at 22:31
The statement that discrete spaces have trivial cohomology! See… . – Qiaochu Yuan Nov 4 '13 at 22:32
There are even questions which are equivalent to the continuum hypothesis, to the generalized version, and to large cardinal axioms! – Fernando Muro Nov 4 '13 at 22:40
I've been thinking about the same question recently! Here's a very trivial thing that goes wrong in $\mathbf{sSet}$ when you don't have AC: not all monomorphisms have the left lifting property with respect to trivial Kan fibrations. See here. (But some may argue that it's the definition of trivial Kan fibration that should be changed when AC fails.) – Zhen Lin Nov 4 '13 at 23:02

Most of our computational tools in homological algebra break pretty badly if you don't assume surjections in $\operatorname{Set}$ split. Here's an illustration: given a group $G$ and a $G$-module $A$, we can identify (without using choice) $H^2(G; A)$ with extensions of $G$ by $A$. But $A$-valued 2-cocycles on $G$ only describe extensions $0 \to A \to E \to G \to 1$ where the surjection splits as a map of sets! In essence, removing choice adds another level to the problem of classification of extensions: first, we must classify extensions of $G$ by $A$ as sets, and then we must classify the compatible group structure to put on top of each such set extension. The same issue arises if you want to compute cohomology of Lie algebras over $\mathbb{Z}$: there are two extension problems that must be solved concurrently.

share|cite|improve this answer
What's the definition of $H^2$ you are using here? As you pointed out, previously equivalent definitions become inequivalent... – Zhen Lin Nov 4 '13 at 22:59
Sometimes it is sufficient to have enough projectives in the topos $Set$. In fact, removing LEM or AC means you probably want to work with analogues of sheaf cohomology. – David Roberts Nov 5 '13 at 2:06
The context I'm working on is, to be more exact, what happens if I do topology internal to a particular topos of sheaves. – Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson Nov 5 '13 at 21:51

Without AC, it is impossible to prove that every set is equipotent to an ordinal (in ZF !) and it is impossible to prove that a functor is an equivalence of categories if and only if it is full faithful and essentially surjective ; so I guess that a lot of things are wrong without AC, in particular concerning combinatorial model categories because very often we have to use transfinite cardinals. For example, "Implications of large-cardinal principles in homotopical localization" or "Definable orthogonality classes in accessible categories are small" for links between large cardinal axioms and Bousfield localization.

share|cite|improve this answer
" it is impossible to prove that a functor is an equivalence of categories if and only if it is full faithful and essentially surjective " - hence anafunctors :-) – David Roberts Nov 5 '13 at 22:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.