Category Theory for Programmers Chapter 12: Limits and Colimits


  1. How would you describe a pushout in the category of C++ classes?

    C++ classes as a category where morphisms connect subclasses to superclasses, eg, in java we have,

    class A {}
    class B extends A {}
    class C extends A {}

    which would represent the span $B \leftarrow A \to C$.

    The pushout would be a class $P$ and arrows $B \to P \leftarrow C$, such that for any other $Q$ and arrows $B \to Q \leftarrow C$, there exists an arrow $P \to Q$.

    Specifically, it would look something like

    class P extends B, C {}

    And so any other class $Q$ that also extends both $B$ and $C$, we would have that $P \to Q$, or that class Q extends P {}.

  2. Show that the limit of the identity functor Id :: C -> C is the initial object.

    Reminder: initial objects are an object $i$ such for every $x$ in $C$, there exists exactly one morphism $i \to x$.

    To find the limit of the identity functor, we need to construct cones, so a functor $\Delta_c$ just maps any object $a \in C$ to $c$, and thus natural transformation from $\Delta_c \to Id$ looks like an initial object.

    If we can find such a $c$, we need to show that it is initial. In the comments it was hinted that what is unique is the morphism from any cone to the limiting cone.

  3. Subsets of a given set form a category. A morphism in that category is defined to be an arrow connecting two sets if the first is the subset of the second. What is a pullback of two sets in such a category? What’s a pushout? What are the initial and terminal objects?

    $A \to B$ means $A \subset B$.

    A pullback of two morphisms $X \to Z \leftarrow Y$ is an object $P$ and morphisms $X \leftarrow P \to Y$ such that for any other object $Q$ and morphisms $X \leftarrow Q \to Y$, we have there exists a unique morphism, the mediating morphism, such that $Q \to P$.

    Translating $\to$ to $\subset$ gives the following: A pullback of two sets, $X, Y$ such that both are subsets of $Z$, is a set $P$ such that $P$ is a subset of both $X$ and $Y$. For any other set $Q$ that is a subset of $X$ and $Y$, we have that $Q$ is a subset of $P$. So we have that the pullback of $X$ and $Y$ is the intersection of $X$ and $Y$.

    The pushout of would be the union of $X$ and $Y$. So any other set $Q$ that $X$ and $Y$ are both subsets of, $P$ would also be a subset.

    The initial object would be the empty set and the terminal object would be the union of all sets.

  4. Can you guess what a coequalizer is?

    Creates a categorical equivalence relation between outputs of two morphisms. The equalizer reduces inputs so the results are the same.

  5. Show that, in a category with a terminal object, a pullback towards the terminal object is a product.

    The terminal object has an arrow from each object, so the object we pullback towards has a sort of “global” presence.

  6. Similarly, show that a pushout from an initial object (if one exists) is the coproduct.

    Similarly, every object has an arrow from the initial object.