Contents

topos theory

category theory

# Contents

## Idea

In category theory and specifically in topos theory, the notion of inhabited object in a general topos is a generalization of the notion of inhabited set from the archetypal topos Set. It is the semantics of an inhabited type in type theory.

## Definition

An object $X$ in a topos $\mathcal{T}$ is said to be internally inhabited if in the internal logic of the topos it is true that

$\exists x \in X.$

This is equivalent to saying that the unique map $X \to 1$ is an epimorphism. More generally, we can make the same definition in any regular category, in which case it is equivalent to $X\to 1$ being a regular epimorphism.

The term well-supported is also used for this notion (in general, the support of $X$ is the image of $X\to 1$).

In terms of (∞,1)-category theory, internally inhabited means (-1)-connected.

On the other hand, $X$ is said to be externally or globally inhabited if there exists a morphism $1\to X$, i.e. a global element. The adjective “externally” is perhaps misleading, since this notion can also be expressed in the internal type theory of the topos (as having an element/term $x:X$), though not in its more usual internal higher-order logic. The internal assertion “every internally inhabited object is globally inhabited” is a version of the propositional axiom of choice (PAC).

Every globally inhabited object is internally inhabited, since every split epimorphism is a regular epimorphism. The converse is true if $1$ is projective, as is the case in a well-pointed topos (such as Set). (This may seem to contradict the above, since PAC can fail even in (constructively) well-pointed toposes, but the point is that PAC also says something about families of inhabited objects rather than single “globally defined” objects.)

Some sources use “$X$ is inhabited” in the global sense, while others use the term “inhabited” only internally. Regardless, a pointed object always means one equipped with a global element $1\to X$ (which is the same whether interpreted internally or externally), and the terms “global element” and “well-supported” are always unambiguous.

## Examples

For sheaf toposes with enough points, in which epimorphisms are stalkwise epimorphisms, an object is (internally) inhabited if the germ of $X$ over every stalk is an inhabited set.

One situation where this plays a role is in the study of certain smooth toposes with objects $\mathbb{I}$ of invertible infinitesimals . There is an immediate definition of such a topos, the topos called $\mathcal{Z}$ at Models for Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis, for which this object exists, but is not inhabited. Only the weaker internal statement $\not \not \exists x \in \mathbb{I}$ is true.

But for some useful constructions in these toposes, such as for giving an internal definition of distributions as genuine functions (internally), it is desirable to have $\mathbb{I}$ be inhabited. In the above situation this is achieved by forcing the existence of invertible infinitesimal elements. The result is the refined topos denoted $\mathcal{B}$ at Models for Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis.

## In a well-pointed topos

The category Set is a very special sort of topos. A generally useful principle in formulating categorical properties of Set is that “external” and “internal” notions should coincide. A general default understanding across the nLab is that $Set$ is a well-pointed topos whose terminal object $1$ is projective and indecomposable. These latter properties of the terminal object hold for any well-pointed topos if the metalogic is classical; for purposes of constructive mathematics, we usually agree to add them in.

As remarked above, projectivity of $1$ easily makes internal and external inhabitedness agree. We also present a constructive/intuitionistic proof of the following result about emptiness.

###### Proposition

In a well-pointed topos, an object $X$ which is not internally inhabited is empty (is an initial object).

Note that the negation “not” in this statement is an external one, which is what makes it nontrivial. If an object is internally “not inhabited”, then it is empty essentially by definition.

###### Proof

Let $X \to U \hookrightarrow 1$ be the epi-mono factorization of the unique map $X \to 1$. Here $m: U \hookrightarrow 1$ is monic but not epic if $X \to 1$ is not epic, and we use this to prove $U \cong 0$. In that case, we have a map $X \to 0$, whence $X \cong 0$ since in a topos initial objects are strict. (For given $X \to 0$, the projection $\pi_1: X \times 0 \to X$ has a section, and it follows that $X \cong 0$ since $X \times 0 \cong 0$ and retracts of initial objects are initial. This also implies that for any $V$ the map $i: 0 \to V$ is monic: for it is obviously true that for any pair of maps $h, k: A \to 0$ we have that $i h = i k$ implies $h = k$, as $A$ is initial by strictness and this makes $h = k$ automatic.)

Let $f: U \to \Omega$ be the classifying map of the mono $1_U: U \to U$, and let $g: U \to \Omega$ be the classifying map of the mono $0 \to U$. There is no map $1 \to U$, else $m: U \to 1$ would retract it and hence be epic. Hence it is vacuously true that $f x = g x$ for all $x: 1 \to U$, and so $f = g$ by well-pointedness. Hence the subobjects $1_U$ and $0$ coincide, forcing $U \cong 0$. (In other words, the presence of a subobject classifier causes any generator to be a strong generator.)

Last revised on October 11, 2020 at 09:23:01. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.