A **distributivity pullback** is the data which encodes a particular exponentiation along a morphism in a category. In other words, it is a cofree object with respect to a pullback functor.

For morphisms $g:Z\to A$ and $f:A\to B$ in a category, a **pullback around $(f,g)$** is a diagram

$\array{ X & \xrightarrow{p} & Z & \xrightarrow{g} & A\\
^q\downarrow &&&& \downarrow^f\\
Y && \xrightarrow{r} && B}$

in which the outer rectangle is a pullback.

A morphism of pullbacks around $(f,g)$ consists of $s:X\to X'$ and $t:Y\to Y'$ such that $p's=p$, $q s=t q'$, and $r = r's$.

For $g:Z\to A$ and $f:A\to B$ as above, a **distributivity pullback** around $(f,g)$ is a terminal object of the category of pullbacks around $(f,g)$.

If the above diagram is a distributivity pullback, we say that it exhibits $r$ as a *distributivity pullback of $g$ along $f$*.

A morphism $f:A\to B$ is exponentiable if and only if all distributivity pullbacks along $f$ exist.

The universal property of a distributivity pullback says exactly that $Y\xrightarrow{r} B$ is the exponential of $g$ along $f$.

In a category with pullbacks, for any pullback around $(f,g)$ with $f$ and $q$ exponentiable, we have a canonical Beck-Chevalley isomorphism

$r^* f_* \xrightarrow{\cong} q_* p^* g^* .$

The mate of the inverse of this is a transformation

$\delta_{p,q,r}:r_! q_* p^* \to f_* g_!$

A pullback around $(f,g)$ with $f$ and $q$ exponentiable is a distributivity pullback if and only if $\delta_{p,q,r}$ is an isomorphism.

Invertibility of $\delta$ expresses that dependent products (the functors $f_*$ and $q_*$) distribute over dependent sums (the functors $g_!$ and $r_!$).

For instance, in the category of sets, if $(C_z)_{z\in Z}$ is a $Z$-indexed family of sets, then

$(f_* g_! C)_b = \prod_{f(a)=b} \sum_{g(z)=a} C_z$

while

$(r_! q_* p^* C)_b = \sum_{r(y)=b} \prod_{q(x)=y} C_{p(x)}$

As a very simple example, if $B=1$, $A=\{0,1\}$, and $Z=\{00,01,02,10,11\}$ with $g(i j) = i$, then $Y$ is the set of sections of $g$, $X$ the set of pairs of a section and an element of $A$, and $p$ the evaluation. Then if $C = (C_{00}, C_{01}, C_{02}, C_{10}, C_{11})$, we have

$f_* g_! C = (C_{00} + C_{01} + C_{02}) \times (C_{10} + C_{11})$

and

$r_! q_* p^* C = (C_{00}\times C_{10}) + (C_{00}\times C_{11}) +
(C_{01}\times C_{10}) + (C_{01}\times C_{11}) +
(C_{02}\times C_{10}) + (C_{02}\times C_{11}).$

In the internal dependent type theory of the ambient category, if we express $f$ and $g$ as dependent types

$b:B \vdash A(b) : Type \qquad and \qquad b:B, a:A(b) \vdash Z(b,a) : Type$

then the exponential $r$ of $g$ along $f$ in a distributivity pullback is the dependent product type

$b:B \vdash \prod_{a:A(b)} Z(b,a) : Type.$

and the distributivity isomorphism $\delta$ says that for any further dependent type

$b:B, a:A(b), z:Z(b,a) \vdash W(b,a,z) : Type$

in the context of $b:B$ we have an isomorphism

$\sum_{\phi:\prod_{a:A(b)} Z(b,a) } \prod_{a:A(b)} W(b,a,\phi(a)) \qquad \cong \qquad \prod_{a:A(b)} \sum_{z:Z(b,a)} W(b,a,z).$

This isomorphism (or more specifically the left-to-right map) has traditionally been called the “axiom of choice” in Martin-Lof type theory, since if $\sum$ and $\prod$ are interpreted according to propositions as types then it looks like the set-theoretic axiom of choice. However, this is not really appropriate, since this is a provable statement rather than an additional axiom, and does not have any of the usual strong consequences of the set-theoretic axiom of choice. See axiom of choice for further discussion.

If $p$ is an isomorphism, then a distributivity pullback is also a final pullback complement.

- Mark Weber, “Polynomials in categories with pullbacks”, arXiv, TAC

Last revised on April 28, 2021 at 15:00:52. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.