transitive closure

The **transitive closure** of a binary relation $\sim$ on a set $S$ is the smallest transitive relation that contains $\sim$.

Often one wants the **reflexive-transitive closure** of $\sim$, which is the smallest transitive relation that contains $\sim$ and is also reflexive.

These can be defined explicitly as follows: $x \sim^* y$ if and only if, for some natural number $n$, there exists a sequence $(r_0, \ldots, r_n)$ such that

$x = r_0 \sim \cdots \sim r_n = y .$

If you accept $0$ as a natural number, then this defines the reflexive-transitive closure; if not, then this defines the transitive closure.

For the transitive closure, it's also possible to rephrase the above slightly (using only $r_1$ through $r_{n-1}$) to avoid any reference to equality. Thus prerelations have transitive closures but not necessarily reflexive-transitive closures.

In material set theory, the **transitive closure** of a pure set $X$ is the transitive set $X^*$ whose members are the elements of the downset of $X$ under the transitive closure (in the previous sense) of $\in$. That is, it consists of the members of $X$, their members, their members, and so on. The result is a transitive set, the smallest transitive set that contains $X$ as a subset.

Analogously, the **reflexive-transitive closure** of $X$ may be defined as the transitive closure of the successor $X \cup \{X\}$ of $X$, or equivalently the transitive closure of $\{X\}$ itself. Either way, this is the same as $X^* \cup \{X\}$. This is the smallest transitive set that contains $X$ as a member. (It is not, however, normally a reflexive set; that is, it does not belong to itself.)

Last revised on November 21, 2017 at 14:08:58. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.