The term "foundations of mathematics" is all well and good when one has fixed a foundation to work with. But when you start trying to compare *different* foundations of mathematics, you quickly realize that the term "foundations of mathematics" requires a great deal of unpacking. I recall once reading a perspicuous article by Penelope Maddy [1] identifying on the order of a dozen different roles we implicitly expect a "foundations of mathematics" to play. This is a testament to the resounding successes of the most widely-used foundations of math, namely ZFC layered on top of (classical, finitary) first-order logic, and variations thereof.

Anyway, if the question is "What are the requirements for foundational objects in general?", then I'm not sure I can do better than pointing you to Maddy. I don't think the question has a simple answer.

Maybe I'll also point out that there are many different ways one might "use category theory as a foundations of mathematics".

One way would be to use Lawvere's ETCC (plus additional axioms as needed) in a similar way to the way ZFC (plus additional axioms as needed) is used by most mathematicians. That is, we write down a particular first-order theory (either ZFC or ETCC) and then just encode everything we want to do inside of it. This is perfectly doable, but I think most would agree it is awkward and doesn't really have any tangible benefits.

Another way would be to use ETCS, or perhaps the theory of an elementary topos with natural number object, or something like this, instead of ZFC. Again, this is perfectly doable. I think there are some who feel that this approach has merit.

Another way would be to back up, and decide that one isn't interested in just one foundational theory, but in comparing many different ones (note that even the usual foundations are open-ended in this way -- we always allow ourselves to extend ZFC by large cardinal hypotheses and whatnot when necessary). We might find a privileged role for category theory in deciding what is and isn't a "foundations of math", or in comparing different foundations of math. For instance, we might want to compare two different foundations by comparing what each of them says about "the category of sets".

We might also just use category theory as a tool in the foundations of mathematics. For instance, type theoretic foundations are often compared to classical foundations by building models of the former in the latter, and what a "model" is is often expressed in terms of some kind of category.

One might stick with ZFC or whatever, but emphasize that category theory plays a privileged role in comparing different types of mathematical objects, based on the empirical fact that mathematical objects often organize themselves naturally into categories, and such categories can be compared via functors, etc.

As an example of (3), different notions of constructivism can be fruitfully compared in terms of what properties they say the category of sets has (things like being an "exact category", a "pretopos", or whatnot). It's probably due to my ignorance, but I'm not aware of similarly enlightening concepts being more naturally formulated in terms of membership-based set theory. Moreover, *new* constructivist theories can be formulated and motivated starting from such categorical considerations.

In another direction, support for certain large cardinal principles, such as measurable cardinals or Vopenka's principle, can be given based on categorical formulations of these principles, and categorical considerations about these formulations. Conceivably, one might imagine formulating *new* large cardinal principles based primarily on categorical considerations, although I'm not sure this has been done much in practice, unless you count Vopenka's Principle or Weak Vopenka's Principle. I actually find it very suggestive that the strongest large cardinal principles (Reinhardt and Berkeley cardinals) are inconsistent with ZFC, so even classically most naturally retreats to ZF to study them. Although I don't have any evidence for the following scenario, I wouldn't be surprised if even stronger large cardinal principles might one day be found which are inconsistent with ZF, and instead most naturally studied in the context of topos theory or something like that.

And so forth.

[1] I'm not sure, but it may have been What do we want a Foundation to do? (non-paywalled link). Full citation: Maddy P. (2019) What Do We Want a Foundation to Do?. In: Centrone S., Kant D., Sarikaya D. (eds) Reflections on the Foundations of Mathematics. Synthese Library (Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science), vol 407. Springer, Cham

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