nLab set-level foundations

Set-level foundations




The basis of it all

 Set theory

set theory

Foundational axioms

foundational axiom

Removing axioms


Set-level foundations


By set-level foundations we mean any foundation of mathematics in which all the basic objects are, or behave like, sets. This includes:

By contrast, “set-level foundations” does not include foundations of mathematics such as homotopy type theory in which there are basic objects of higher h-level, which behave like groupoids or infinity-groupoids (or even categories or infinity-categories). We call these higher-level foundations.

Characteristic axiom

Even though all the basic objects in a set-level foundation are sets, it’s of course possible to talk about objects of higher h-level (e.g., via Kan complexes, model categories, quasicategories, etc.). However, as compared to a higher-level foundation, in any set-level foundation, these objects will satisfy the principle that sets cover. For example, in a set-level foundation, every homotopy type admits a surjection from a set and every (∞,1)-category admits a surjection from a set to its core ∞-groupoid.

The axiom of “sets cover” is not equivalent to being set-level, however. Even if we add this axiom to a higher foundation it remains “higher”, since it still has basic objects of higher h-level, even if they are each covered by some set.

Last revised on September 2, 2022 at 22:25:57. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.