Definitions
Transfors between 2-categories
Morphisms in 2-categories
Structures in 2-categories
Limits in 2-categories
Structures on 2-categories
There are many flavours of category:
and so on. In each flavour of category theory, one finds essentially the same definitions and theorems:
presheaves and the Yoneda lemma
theories of accessible and locally presentable categories and duality theorems
and so on. Rather than define these concepts and prove these theorems in each of the different flavours of category theory independently (as has been done traditionally), one would rather be able to define these concepts and prove these theorems abstractly, and then specialise to each of these flavours, obtaining for instance the statements for enriched category theory as a corollary of the more abstract version. This is the motivation for formal category theory.
Formal category theory may be thought of as applying the philosophy of category theory to category theory itself. Typically, this takes the form of applying 2-dimensional category theories (e.g. 2-category theory or double category theory) to study 1-dimensional category theory. This may be viewed as a synthetic approach to category theory.
This may be seen as a categorification of the approach of structural set theory, which is a synthetic approach to set theory. (In fact, just as a topos is intended as an axiomatisation of the logical nature of the archetypical topos Set, Street & Walters introduced Yoneda structures, one of the earliest approaches to formal category theory, as an axiomatisation of the “logical” nature of the archetypical 2-topos Cat.)
An important question is: what is the appropriate setting in which to study the formal theory of categories? There is not one obvious answer, and several approaches have been proposed in the literature.
Roughly speaking, there are four main approaches (listed in chronological order of the first time they were proposed).
2-categories with property-like structure
(cf. Gray 1974)
(cf. Street & Walters 1978)
proarrow equipments/framed bicategories/(augmented) virtual equipments
(cf. Wood 1982, 1985; Shulman 2008; Cruttwell & Shulman 2010; Koudenburg 2022)
(cf. Bunge & Funk 1999, Trimble’s epistemologies)
The relationship between the approaches, for the most part, is not laid out clearly in the literature, but a basic intuition is that:
2-categories may be equipped with various property-like structure possessed by the 2-category Cat, e.g. 2-limits and 2-colimits, exponentials, etc.
Yoneda structures are based on formalising the presheaf construction.
Proarrow equipments and related structures are based on formalising distributors/profunctors.
Lax-idempotent pseudomonads (also called KZ-doctrines) are based on formalising the free cocompletion-construction.
The first, purely 2-categorical, approach is unsufficient to capture enriched categories (though captures many aspects of ordinary and internal category theory), and is therefore not viable as a general approach to formal category theory.
On the other hand, in nice settings, e.g. in enriched category theory for a well-behaved base of enrichment (eg. a Bénabou cosmos), approaches (2 – 4) are all viable, and are distinguished primarily by their methodology. However, in weaker settings, some approaches are no longer viable.
For instance, one may not in general have a presheaf category-construction or free cocompletion, and so Yoneda structures and lax-idempotent pseudomonads are not applicable in general. Without enough coequalisers in the base, distributors do not compose, and so proarrow equipments and fibrant double categories are not applicable. For instance, for a general monoidal category $V$, only the formalisms of virtual equipments and augmented virtual equipments? capture the structure of $V$-enriched categories. These are thus the most general approaches to formal category theory. Here it is possible to formalise presheaves as in Koudenburg 2022, thus recovering Yoneda structure; as well as free cocompletions (though this had not been developed in the literature): these approaches consequently strictly subsume the others.
Below, we list some fundamental theorems in category theory that have been formulated in formal category theory.
General results about weighted limits and weighted colimits are developed in Street & Walters 1978 (for Yoneda structures); Wood 1982 (for proarrow equipments); Arkor & McDermott 2023a (for virtual equipments).
Adjoint functor theorems are proven in Proposition 21 of Street & Walters 1978; Corollary 10 of Wood 1982; Theorem 2.16 of Arkor, Di Liberti, Loregian.
An analogue of the bijective-on-objects/fully faithful factorisation system is established in Wood 1985.
General results about monads are developed in Street & Walters 1978 (for Yoneda structures); Wood 1985 (for proarrow equipments); Arkor & McDermott 2023a in the additional generality of relative monads (for virtual equipments).
The theory of total categories is developed in Street & Walters 1978 (for Yoneda structures); Koudenburg 2022 (for augmented virtual equipments?).
A general duality theorem subsuming Gabriel–Ulmer duality (and many others) is proven in Di Liberti & Loregian 2023 (for lax-idempotent pseudomonads).
General results about presheaves are developed in Koudenburg 2022 (for augmented virtual equipments?).
A (relative) monadicity theorem is proven in Arkor & McDermott 2023a (for virtual equipments).
A pullback theorem for monads and relative monads is proven in Arkor & McDermott 2024 (for virtual equipments).
For instance, one motivation for the development of this theory in the setting of (augmented) virtual equipments is to develop enriched category theory without the assumptions taken, for instance, by Kelly in Basic concepts of enriched category theory. This therefore gives a development of enriched category theory for categories enriched in a nonsymmetric monoidal category, a bicategory, or even a virtual double category.
There are two distinct aspects to the theory of categories. One aspect is concerned with the structure of an individual category, with regards to its objects and morphisms. For instance, the study of monomorphisms and epimorphisms, limits and colimits, and so on. We shall refer to this aspect as intramural category theory.
The other aspect is concerned with the relation between different categories, constructions on categories (e.g. product categories, functor categories, adjoint functors), and so on. In essence, this is the theory of the 2-category Cat. It is important to note that this latter aspect is not the more general theory of objects in an arbitrary 2-category (which would be the study of formal category theory). We shall refer to this aspect as extramural category theory.
In the same way, there are both intramural and extramural aspects to formal category theory. Intramural formal category theory is what we have meant by “formal category theory” above, i.e. developing category theory inside some 2-dimensional structure (e.g. a Yoneda structure or proarrow equipment). On the other hand, extramural category theory is the theory of such 2-dimensional structures, e.g. the theory of Yoneda structures, or the theory of proarrow equipments. Note that, just as extramural category theory is distinct from formal category theory, so too is extramural formal category theory distinct from what might be called “formal 2-category theory”, “formal 2-dimensional category theory”, or “formal formal category theory”.
Extramural formal category theory is motivated by formal category theory. For instance, an important construction in extramural formal category theory is the monads and bimodules construction, which constructs a new proarrow equipment $Mod(X)$ from an existing proarrow equipment (there are analogues for other approaches to formal category theory). This provides a family of new examples of formal category theories, in which one can perform intramural formal category theory. For instance, proarrow equipments of the form $Mod(X)$ are very well behaved, which equips them with a rich intramural category theory (as studied in Wood 1985): for instance, the existence of a factorisation system, and the existence of Kleisli objects and Eilenberg–Moore objects.
An axiomatization of (just) the (very large) 1-category of all categories, but fully in formal logic is the elementary theory of the category of categories (ETCC) due to:
The undertaking of laying these foundations instead for the 2-category of all categories is famously associated with:
Review and further discussion, including on the relationship between the different approaches:
Ivan Di Liberti, Simon Henry, Mike Lieberman, Fosco Loregian, Formal category theory, course notes (2017) [pdf, pdf]
Ivan Di Liberti, Fosco Loregian, On the unicity of formal category theories [arXiv:1901.01594]
The relation between lax-idempotent pseudomonads and Yoneda structures is due to:
Discussion in double category-theory:
Michael Shulman, Framed bicategories and monoidal fibrations.
Geoff Cruttwell and Mike Shulman, A unified framework for generalized multicategories, Theory Appl. Categ. 24 21 (2010) 580-655 [arxiv/0907.2460, TAC:24-21]
Seerp Roald Koudenburg, A double-dimensional approach to formal category theory (arXiv:1511.04070) 2015.
Seerp Roald Koudenburg, Augmented virtual double categories, Theory and Applications of Categories, Vol. 35, 2020, No. 10, pp 261-325 (arXiv:1910.11189, tac:35-10)
Seerp Roald Koudenburg, Formal category theory in augmented virtual double categories [arXiv:2205.04890]
(On augmented virtual double categories, a expanded version of Sec. 1-3 of the previous reference.)
A domain-specific type theory for formal category theory:
On the intuition for Yoneda structures as 2-toposes:
Papers developing general theorems in (intramural) formal category theory:
Ivan Di Liberti, Fosco Loregian, Accessibility and Presentability in 2-Categories, Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra 227.1 (2023)(arXiv:1804.08710)
Nathanael Arkor, Ivan Di Liberti, Fosco Loregian, Adjoint functor theorems for lax-idempotent pseudomonads, [arXiv:2306.10389]
Nathanael Arkor, Dylan McDermott, The formal theory of relative monads, Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra 107676. (2024) [arXiv:2302.14014]
Nathanael Arkor, Dylan McDermott, Relative monadicity (2023) [arXiv:2305.10405]
Nathanael Arkor, Dylan McDermott, The pullback theorem for relative monads (2024) [arXiv:2404.01281]
Papers developing general theorems in (extramural) formal category theory:
Ross Street, “Fibrations in bicategories”, Numdam, and correction.
Aurelio Carboni and Scott Johnson? and Ross Street and Dominic Verity, “Modulated bicategories” (MB) MR.
Bob Rosebrugh and Richard Wood, “Proarrows and cofibrations” (PC), MR
Bob Rosebrugh and Richard Wood, “Gamuts and cofibrations”. Cahiers de topologie et geometrie differentielle categoriques 31.3 (1990): 197-211. Numdam
Bob Rosebrugh and Richard Wood, “Pullback preserving functors”. Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra 73.1 (1991): 73-90.
Aurelio Carboni, Scott Johnson, Ross Street, and Dominic Verity, Modulated bicategories
Renato Betti, Aurelio Carboni, Ross Street, and Robert Walters, Variation through enrichment
Richard Garner and Mike Shulman, Enriched categories as a free cocompletion, arXiv
Another approach, related to Yoneda structures:
Last revised on April 6, 2024 at 09:25:54. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.