**97**

votes

**10**answers

11k views

### Is there an introduction to probability theory from a structuralist/categorical perspective?

The title really is the question, but allow me to explain.
I am a pure mathematician working outside of probability theory, but the concepts and techniques of probability theory (in the sense of ...

**91**

votes

**9**answers

5k views

### What non-categorical applications are there of homotopical algebra?

(To be honest, I actually mean something more general than 'homotopical algebra' - topos theory, $\infty$-categories, operads, anything that sounds like its natural home would be on the nLab.)
More ...

**58**

votes

**9**answers

6k views

### How do I check if a functor has a (left/right) adjoint?

Because adjoint functors are just cool, and knowing that a pair of functors is an adjoint pair gives you a bunch of information from generalized abstract nonsense, I often find myself saying, "Hey, ...

**57**

votes

**11**answers

10k views

### “Philosophical” meaning of the Yoneda Lemma

The Yoneda Lemma is a simple result of category theory, and its proof is very straightforward.
Yet I feel like I do not truly understand what it is about; I have seen a few comments here mentioning ...

**53**

votes

**10**answers

5k views

### Why do Groups and Abelian Groups feel so different?

Groups are naturally "the symmetries of an object". To me, the group axioms are just a way of codifying what the symmetries of an object can be so we can study it abstractly.
However, this heuristic ...

**53**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Does linearization of categories reflect isomorphism?

Given a category $C$ and a commutative ring $R$, denote by $RC$ the $R$-linearization: this is the category enriched over $R$-modules which has the same objects as $C$, but the morphism module between ...

**53**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Rigidity of the category of schemes

Call a category $C$ rigid if every equivalence $C \to C$ is isomorphic to the identity. I don't know if this is standard terminology. Many of the usual algebraic categories are rigid, for example ...

**51**

votes

**11**answers

3k views

### Why is Set, and not Rel, so ubiquitous in mathematics?

The concept of relation in the history of mathematics, either consciously or not, has always been important: think of order relations or equivalence relations.
Why was there the necessity of singling ...

**48**

votes

**9**answers

3k views

### What are some examples of interesting uses of the theory of combinatorial species?

This is a question I've asked myself a couple of times before, but its appearance on MO is somewhat motivated by this thread, and sigfpe's comment to Pete Clark's answer.
I've often heard it claimed ...

**48**

votes

**1**answer

3k views

### Derived Functors Versus Spectral Sequences

Let $A{\buildrel F\over\rightarrow}B{\buildrel G\over\rightarrow}C$ be additive functors between abelian categories.
Hartshorne, in Proposition 5.4 of Residues and Duality, constructs the obvious ...

**47**

votes

**9**answers

11k views

### Relating Category Theory to Programming Language Theory

I'm wondering what the relation of category theory to programming language theory is.
I've been reading some books on category theory and topos theory, but if someone happens to know what the ...

**46**

votes

**28**answers

4k views

### Examples where it's useful to know that a mathematical object belongs to some family of objects

For an expository piece I'm writing, it would be useful to have good examples of the following phenomenon:
(1) ${\cal X}$ is a parameterized family of somethings. (Varieties, schemes, manifolds, ...

**46**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### When does Cantor-Bernstein hold?

The Cantor-Bernstein theorem in the category of sets (A injects in B, B injects in A => A, B equivalent) holds in other categories such as vector spaces, compact metric spaces, Noetherian topological ...

**45**

votes

**11**answers

11k views

### Most striking applications of category theory?

What are the most striking applications of category theory? I'm trying to motivate deeper study of category theory and I have only come across the following significant examples:
Joyals ...

**44**

votes

**11**answers

5k views

### What precisely Is “Categorification”?

(And what's it good for.)
Related MO questions (with some very nice answers): examples-of-categorification; can-we-categorify-the-equation $(1-t)(1+t+t^2+\dots)=1$?; categorification-request.

**44**

votes

**2**answers

5k views

### Lawvere's “Some thoughts on the future of category theory.”

In Lecture Notes in Mathematics 1488, Lawvere writes the introduction to the Proceedings for a 1990 conference in Como.
In this article, Lawvere, the inventor of Toposes and Algebraic Theories, ...

**43**

votes

**8**answers

4k views

### Natural transformations as categorical homotopies

Every text book I've ever read about Category Theory gives the definition of natural transformation as a collection of morphisms which make the well known diagrams commute.
There is another possible ...

**43**

votes

**7**answers

4k views

### The main theorems of category theory and their applications

This question first arose as I wrote an answer for the question: Is there a nice application of category theory to functional/complex/harmonic analysis?; it can also be regarded as a (hopefully) more ...

**41**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### A bestiary of topologies on Sch

The category of schemes has a large (and to me, slightly bewildering) number of what seem like different Grothendieck (pre)topologies. Zariski, ok, I get. Etale, that's alright, I think. Nisnevich? ...

**40**

votes

**7**answers

12k views

### Is Mac Lane still the best place to learn category theory?

For a student embarking on a study of algebraic topology, requiring a knowledge of basic category theory, with a long-term view toward higher/stable/derived category theory, ...
Is Mac Lane still ...

**39**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Why higher category theory?

This is a soft question.
I am an undergrad and is currently seriously considering the field of math I am going into in grad school. (perhaps a little bit late, but it's better late then never.) I ...

**37**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### What is the source of this famous Grothendieck quote?

I've seen the following quote many times on the internet, and have used it myself. It is usually attributed to Grothendieck.
It is better to have a good category with bad objects than a bad category ...

**36**

votes

**15**answers

7k views

### Is there a nice application of category theory to functional/complex/harmonic analysis?

[Title changed, and wording of question tweaked, by YC, because the original title asked a question which seems different from the one people want to answer.]
I've read looked at the examples in ...

**36**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Is there an accepted definition of $(\infty,\infty)$ category?

For probably twenty years, category theorists have known of some objects in the Platonic universe called "(weak) $\infty$-categories", in which there are $k$-morphisms for all $k\in \mathbb N$, with ...

**36**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### What is Yoneda's Lemma a generalization of?

What is Yoneda's Lemma a generalization of?
I am looking for examples that were known before category theory entered the stage resp. can be known by students before they start with category theory.
...

**36**

votes

**0**answers

1k views

### a naive question about the second dual of a vector space

Let $K$ be a field. Are there non-scalar endomorphisms of the endofunctor
$$
V\mapsto V^{**}/V
$$
of the category of $K$-vector spaces?
I asked a related question on Mathematics Stackexchange, but ...

**34**

votes

**13**answers

2k views

### Equality vs. isomorphism vs. specific isomorphism

This question prompted a reformulation:
What is a really good example of a situation where keeping track of isomorphisms leads to tangible benefit?
I believe this to be a serious question because ...

**34**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### What does “quantization is not a functor” really mean?

The answers to this question do a good job of exploring, at a heuristic level, what "quantization" should be. From my perspective, quantization involves replacing a (commutative) Poisson algebra by ...

**34**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### What algebraic group does Tannaka-Krein reconstruct when fed the category of modules of a non-algebraic Lie algebra?

Let $\mathfrak g$ be a finite-dimensional Lie algebra over $\mathbb C$, and let $\mathfrak g \text{-rep}$ be its category of finite-dimensional modules. Then $\mathfrak g\text{-rep}$ comes equipped ...

**33**

votes

**7**answers

4k views

### What is DAG and what has it to do with the ideas of Voevodsky?

In Toen's and Vezzosi's article From HAG to DAG: derived moduli stacks a kind of definition of DAG is given. I am not an expert and can't see what's the relation between DAG and the motivic cohomology ...

**33**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Can the Lawvere fixed point theorem be used to prove the Brouwer fixed point theorem?

The Lawvere fixed point theorem asserts that if $X, Y$ are objects in a category with finite products such that the exponential $Y^X$ exists, and if $f : X \to Y^X$ is a morphism which is surjective ...

**33**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Why do filtered colimits commute with finite limits?

It's not hard to show that this is true in the category Set, and proofs have been written down in many places. But all the ones I know are a bit fiddly.
Question 1: is there a soft proof of this ...

**33**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Categorical definition of the ideal product within the category of rings

This is an extension of this question. Let $I,J$ be ideals of a ring $R$; every ring is commutative and unital here. Is it possible to define $R \to R/(I*J)$ out of $R \to R/I$ and $R \to R/J$ in ...

**32**

votes

**7**answers

2k views

### Is the ultraproduct concept fundamentally category-theoretic?

Once again, I would like to take advantage of the large number of knowledgable category theorists on this site for a question I have about category-theoretic aspects of a fundamental logic concept.
...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Which colimits commute with which limits in the category of sets?

Given two categories $I$ and $J$ we say that colimits of shape $I$ commute with limits of shape $J$ in the category of sets, if for any functor $F : I \times J \to \text{Set}$ the canonical map ...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Category Theoretic Interpretation of Matroids?

Hello everyone! First time poster, long time lurker here. I have a really basic question that has been bugging me for sometime. Specifically, I'm not exactly sure what the 'correct' category ...

**31**

votes

**10**answers

3k views

### Example of an unnatural isomorphism

Can anyone give an example of an unnatural isomorphism? Or, maybe, somebody can explain why unnatural isomorphisms do not exist.
Consider two functors $F,G: {\mathcal C} \rightarrow {\mathcal D}$. We ...

**31**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Why is there no Cayley's Theorem for rings?

Cayley's theorem makes groups nice: a closed set of bijections is a group and a group is a closed set of bijections- beautiful, natural and understandable canonically as symmetry. It is not so much a ...

**31**

votes

**3**answers

7k views

### What is Koszul duality?

Okay, let's make sure I'm on the same page with those who know homological algebra.
What is Koszul duality in general?
What does it mean that categories are Koszul dual (I guess representations of ...

**31**

votes

**7**answers

3k views

### Why forgetful functors usually have LEFT adjoint?

for forgetful functors, we can usually find their left adjoint as some "free objects", e.g. the forgetful functor: AbGp -> Set, its left adjoint sends a set to the "free ab. gp gen. by it". This ...

**31**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Cocomplete but not complete abelian category

This is a duplicate of the following question to which I did not receive any answer: http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/238247/complete-but-not-cocomplete-category
Let $\mathfrak C$ be an ...

**30**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### Non-examples of model structures, that fail for subtle/surprising reasons?

An often-cited principle of good mathematical exposition is that a definition should always come with a few examples and a few non-examples to help the learner get an intuition for where the concept's ...

**30**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### What is the classifying space of “G-bundles with connections”

Let $G$ be a (maybe Lie) group, and $M$ a space (perhaps a manifold). Then a principal $G$-bundle over $M$ is a bundle $P \to M$ on which $G$ acts (by fiber-preserving maps), so that each fiber is a ...

**29**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Why do categorical foundationalists want to escape set theory?

This is a question that I have seen asked passively in comments relating to the separation of category theory from set theory, but I haven't seen it addressed in full.
I know that it's possible to ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### “Softness” vs “rigidity” in Geometry

According to common wisdom, there are structures in Geometry that have a more "topological" flavor, others that are more "geometrical", and others that are halfway between. Usually, geometries${}^*$ ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### The set-theoretic multiverse as a (bi)category

Joel Hamkin's The set-theoretic multiverse has featured in MO questions before, e.g., here and here. But I was wondering about the best category theoretic angle to take on it.
In the paper Joel ...

**28**

votes

**8**answers

1k views

### Natural examples of sequences of adjoint functors

I am looking for examples of sequences of adjoint functors. That are (possibly bounded) sequences
$$(...,F_{-1}, F_{0}, F_1, F_2,...)$$
such that each $F_n$ is left adjoint to $F_{n+1}$. We call such ...

**28**

votes

**8**answers

3k views

### What is a metric space?

According to categorical lore, objects in a category are just a way of separating morphisms. The objects themselves are considered slightly disparagingly. In particular, if I can't distinguish ...

**28**

votes

**5**answers

5k views

### Categorical foundations without set theory

Can there be a foundations of mathematics using only category theory, i.e. no set theory? More precisely, the definition of a category is a class/set of objects and a class/set of arrows, satisfying ...

**28**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### What is an intuitive view of adjoints? (version 1: category theory)

In trying to think of an intuitive answer to a question on adjoints, I realised that I didn't have a nice conceptual understanding of what an adjoint pair actually is.
I know the definition (several ...