# nLab 2-functor

Contents

### Context

#### 2-Category theory

2-category theory

# Contents

## Idea

A $2$-functor is the categorification of the notion of a functor to the setting of 2-categories. At the 2-categorical level there are several possible versions of this notion one might want depending on the given setting, some of which collapse to the standard definition of a functor between categories when considered on $2$-categories with discrete hom-categories (viewed as $1$-categories). The least restrictive of these is a lax functor, and the strictest is (appropriately) called a strict 2-functor.

For the various separate definitions that do collapse to standard functors, see:

There is also a notion of ‘lax functor’, however this notion does not necessarily yield a standard functor when considered on discrete hom-categories.

For the generalisation of this to higher categories, see semistrict higher category.

## Definition

Here we present explicitly the definition for the middling notion of a pseudofunctor, and comment on alterations that yield the stronger and weaker notions.

#### Pseudofunctor

Let $\mathfrak{C}$ and $\mathfrak{D}$ be 2-categories. A pseudofunctor $F:\mathfrak{C}\to\mathfrak{D}$ consists of

• A function $P:Ob_\mathfrak{C}\to Ob_\mathfrak{D}$, and for each pair of objects $A,B\in Ob_\mathfrak{C}$ a functor
$P_{A,B}:\mathfrak{C}(A,B)\to\mathfrak{D}(P(A),P(B)).$

We will generally write the function and functors as $P$.

• For each pair of horizontally composable 1-cells $(f,g)\in Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(B,C)}\times Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(A,B)}$, a $2$-cell isomorphism $\gamma_{f,g}:P(g\circ f)\Rightarrow P(g)\circ P(f)$ called the associator as below
• For each object object $A\in Ob_\mathfrak{C}$, a $2$-cell isomorphism $\iota_A:P(1_A)\Rightarrow1_{P(A)}$ called the unitor as below

These are subject to the following two axioms:

1. For any composable triplet of $1$-cells $(f,g,h)\in Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(C,D)}\times Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(B,C)}\times Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(A,B)}$ we have that
$\gamma_{f\circ g,h}\circ(\gamma_{f,g}\star 1_{P(h)})=\gamma_{f,g\circ h}\circ(1_{P(f)}\star\gamma_{g,h}),$

where $\circ$ denotes vertical composition and $\star$ denotes horizontal composition, as illustrated by the following commutative $2$-cell diagram in $\mathfrak{D}(P(A),P(D))$:

1. For any composable $1$-cells $(f,g)\in Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(B,C)}\times Ob_{\mathfrak{C}(A,B)}$ we have that
$\iota_B\star 1_{P(g)}=\gamma_{1_B,g},$
$1_{P(f)}\star\iota_B=\gamma_{f,1_B},$

as illustrated by the commutative $2$-cell diagrams below

#### Lax Functor

To obtain the notion of a lax functor we only require that the associators $\gamma_{f,g}$ and unitors $\iota_A$ be $2$-cells, not necessarily $2$-cell isomorphisms – this prevents us from going back and forth between preimages and images of identity $1$-cells and horizontally composed $1$-cells/$2$-cells.

#### Strict 2-Functor

To obtain the notion of a strict $2$-functor we require that the associators $\gamma_{f,g}$ and unitors $\iota_A$ be identity arrows, so horizontal composition and $1$-cell identities literally factor through each functor in the same way vertical composition and $2$-cell identities do.

### Discussion

There is a notion of a ‘weak 2-category’, however it usually doesn't make sense to speak of strict $2$-functors between weak $2$-categories1, but it does make sense to speak of lax (or ‘weak’) $2$-functors between strict $2$-categories. Indeed, the weak $3$-category Bicat of bicategories, pseudofunctors, pseudonatural transformations, and modifications is equivalent to its full sub-3-category spanned by the strict 2-categories. However, it is not equivalent to the $3$-category Str2Cat? of strict $2$-categories, strict $2$-functors, transformations, and modifications. (For discussion of the terminological choice “$2$-functor” and $n$-functor in general, see higher functor.)

1. Although there are certain contexts in which it does. For instance, there is a model structure on the category of bicategories and strict 2-functors between them, which models the homotopy theory of bicategories and weak 2-functors.

Last revised on July 29, 2019 at 03:27:11. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.