A lax monoidal category is a monoidal category in which the associativity and isomorphisms are replaced by not-necessarily-invertible transformations. An oplax monoidal category is similar except that the transformations go in the other direction.
For ordinary monoidal categories, the biased and unbiased definitions coincide up to equivalence (though this is a nontrivial coherence theorem), but in the lax and oplax cases this is no longer true. Moreover, in the biased cases we can make independent choices of the directions of various of the morphisms. This yields the following variations (in all cases we omit the coherence axioms for now):
An unbiased lax monoidal category has $n$-ary tensor products $(a_1\otimes \cdots\otimes a_n)$ for all $n\ge 0$, including a 0-ary unit $I = ()$, and generalized associativity maps such as
and a unit map $a\to (a)$. It is (strictly) normal if the later is an isomorphism (identity). It is a special case of a lax algebra for a 2-monad.
Dually, an unbiased oplax monoidal category has generalized associativity maps in the opposite direction
and a unit map $(a) \to a$. It is a special case of an oplax algebra for a 2-monad.
A right-biased lax monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
A left-biased lax monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
A right-biased oplax monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
A left-biased oplax monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
A right-skew monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
A left-skew monoidal category has a binary tensor product $a\otimes b$, a unit $I$, and constraints
There are two other possibilities, but they seem not to have been studied; we could call them “coskew” to have a name. Terminologically, note that we use “right” and “left” to indicate the direction of the biased associator, while the direction of the unitors is indicated by “lax” or “oplax” (if they are in the same direction) or “skew” (if they are in different directions).
This use of “lax” and “oplax” in the biased case is justified by the fact that biased (op)lax monoidal categories are a special case of unbiased ones, with the $n$-ary tensor products defined in terms of the binary one by left- or right-associativity. The unbiased structures arising in this way can be characterized as those in which certain generalized associativities are identities (or, up to equivalence, isomorphisms).
The above definitions are complete except for the coherence axioms. In the unbiased case these can be deduced from the general notion of lax algebra. In the biased cases, the axioms are roughly the same as those in MacLane’s original definition of monoidal category: one pentagon, three unit triangles, and one unit-unit axiom. (Kelly’s later reduction of these to one pentagon and one unit triangle relies on invertibility of the constraints.) In all cases it is possible to orient all of these axioms so as to make sense.
First note that all kinds of lax monoidal categories can be generalized to lax monoids in a monoidal bicategory. Using this generalization, we can make connections to many other kinds of monoidal structures:
Oplax monoidal categories (i.e. oplax monoids in Cat) can be identified with multicategories that are “weakly representable”.
Multicategories themselves are precisely lax monoids in Span, and also normal lax monoids in Prof.
We obtain various kinds of lax promonoidal category by working in Prof instead of Cat.
In particular, non-unital closed categories can be defined as biased lax monoids in Prof whose multiplication is corepresentable in the first argument and whose left unitor is invertible. If the identity is also representable, we obtain a (unital) closed category. The identification of biased lax monoids with particular unbiased ones thereby specializes to the identification of closed categories with closed multicategories.
Last revised on August 3, 2022 at 10:04:57. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.