Notes (CTFP 05/31): Products and Coproducts

5 Products and Coproducts

5.1 Initial Object

initial object: The initial object is the object that has one and only one morphism going to any object in the category.

This is like Void.

5.2 Terminal Object

terminal object: The terminal object is the object with one and only one morphism coming to it from any object in the category.

This is like ()

poset: A partially ordered set.

5.3 Duality

opposite category: For any category C, the opposite or dual category C^op is C with all the arrows reversed. If f and g are arrows in C, then

g . f = f^(op) . g^(op)

5.4 Isomorphisms

inverse: If for two objects A and B there are two arrows f :: A -> B and g :: A -> B, such that:

f . g = id_A
g . f = id_B

f and g are inverses, or isomorphisms, and A and B are said to be isomorphic.

Theorem: Any category has at most one initial object (up to isomorphism)


Suppose a category C has two initial objects I1 and I2. Then by definition it has the identity arrows:

id_I1 :: I1 -> I1
id_I2 :: I2 -> I2

And because I1 and I2 are initial objects, there must be only one arrow from I1 to I2, and only one arrow from I2 to I1:

f :: I1 -> I2
g :: I2 -> I1

But if f and g are arrows in C then so are

(f . g) :: I2 -> I2
(g . f) :: I1 -> 11

And since an initial object has only one arrow to every other object in the category, including itself:

(f . g) = id_I2 :: I2 -> I2
(g . f) = id_I1 :: I1 -> 11

And therefore f and g are inverses, so I1 and I2 are isomorphic.

Furthermore, since I1 and I2 are initial objects, f and g are the only arrows between them, and therefore are unique isomorphism.

5.5 Products

product: A product of two objects X1 and X2 in a category C is an object X with two arrows

p1 :: X -> X1, p2 :: X -> X2

with the property that for all objects Y in C with arrows

f1 :: Y -> X1, f2 :: Y -> X2

there is a unique morphism f :: Y -> X such that

f . p1 = f1, f . p2 = f2

One way to think about this is whenever a product of X1 and X2 exists, all the objects that have arrows to X1 and X2 have arrows to the product object X. In other words, X is the most “downwind” or terminal-like object in the collection of objects that have morphisms to X1 and X2

5.6 Coproduct

coproduct: The dual of the product. Take the definition of the product and reverse the arrows. In other words, the coproduct X of X1 and X2 is the object that has arrows to every object that both X1 and X2 have arrows to. It is the most “upwind”, or initial-like object in the collection of objects that have arrows from both X1 and X2.

5.8 Challenges

  1. See Theorem in 5.4

  2. Okay, so the arrows in a poset represent the less-than-or-equal operator <=, so for any object in the poset A, all objects B such that A <= B have an arrow from B to A.

    For the product of two objects X and Y, let’s consider all the objects Z_n that have arrows to both X and Y.

    So any two objects in Z_n, Z1, Z2 have arrows:

    Z1 -> X, Z1 -> Y
    Z2 -> X, Z2 -> Y

    Now since the poset is a partial order, we cannot assume that there are arrows between any objects in Z_n. (Nor can we assume there are arrows X -> Y, or Y <- X.) Because of this in some posetal categories, the product may be undefined for two objects, for example, in the category:

    Objects: X, Y, Z1, Z2
    Z1 -> X, Z1 -> Y, Z1 -> Z1
    Z2 -> X, Z2 -> Y, Z2 -> Z2
    X -> X
    Y -> Y
    Z1 -> X
    |     ^
    v     |
    Y <- Z2

    This satisfies the category properties of composition and identity (since arrows in the above category can only be composed with identity arrows) and the partial order properties, but there is no defined product of Y and X

    For the product of X and Y to exist, there must be some element Z of Z_n such that all objects Z_i in Z_n have arrows Z_i -> Z. In other words, if arrows in a posetal category represent “less-than-or-equal”, the product of X and Y is the greatest of all objects less than or equal to X and Y, or the greatest lower bound of X and Y.

    Interestingly, if e.g. X -> Y then X is in Z_n because of X -> X. And by definition is the greatest lower bound (because all Z_i have Z_i -> X). So if there is an arrow between X and Y, the product is simply the minimum of the two.

  3. The coproduct of two objects X and Y in a posetal category is the least upper bound of X and Y, that is, the smalllest object that is greater than or equal to both. It’s exactly like the product, but with the arrows reversed.

  4. I have no favorite languages other than Haskell.

  5. So despite the C++ code, I think I can translate this problem into something

    I can do:

    i :: Int -> Int
    i x = x
    j :: Bool -> Int
    j x = if x then 1 else 0

    Either in Haskell is:

    Either a b = Left a | Right b
    Left :: a -> Either a b
    Right :: b -> Either a b

    Either Int Bool is a “better” coproduct of Int and Bool than Int if there is a unique arrow unleft from Either Int Bool to Int such that:

    (unleft . Left) = id_Int

    This function exists:

    unleft (Left x) = x
    unleft _ = 0

    Note that while (unleft . Left) = id_x, (Left . unleft) \= id_Either, because Left (unleft (Right True) = Left 0. If both composition equalled identity, then the two types would be isomorphic, but they are not. Either Int Bool is epimorphic (surjective) on Int, and Int is monomorphic (injective) on Either Int Bool.

    One thing that confuses me though, is that it seems like unleft isn’t unique, because we could replace whatever number gets produced from a Right with any Int… So I’m clearly missing something here.

    Oh I see! The morphism from Either Int Bool -> Int is unique given two injections from Int -> Int and Bool -> Int. So the morphism shouldn’t be named unleft at all, but actually embed, because it embeds an Either in Int space.

    Let’s look at our category:

    Int, Int, Bool, Either Int Bool
    i :: Int -> Int
    i n = n
    j :: Bool -> Int
    j True = 1
    j False = 0
    Left :: Int -> Either Int Bool
    Left n = Left n
    Right :: Bool -> Either Int Bool
    Right b = Right b
    embed :: Either Int Bool -> Int
    embed (Left n) = i n
    embed (Right b) = j b

    embed is unique for any i and j because it’s just applying i and j based on which side of the Either we’re on.

    And that’s how we get the factorizer from the text:

    factorizer :: (a -> c) -> (b -> c) -> Either a b -> c
    factorizer i j (Left a) = i a
    factorizer i j (Right b) = j b
  6. id_Int = embed . Left, but id_Either \= Left . embed, because (Left . embed) (Right True) = Left 1

    So there is an Either Int Bool -> Int arrow that factorizes Int -> Int but not anInt -> Either Int Boolthat factorizesEither Int Bool -> Either Int Bool`

    Another way to look at this is that if we try to treat Int as an Either, we don’t know if any given integer is supposed to be a Left or a Right.

    Like, if j sends True, False to 1, 0 and i sends 1, 0 to 1, 0 we don’t know if applying m :: Int -> Either Int Bool to 1 should be a Left 1 or a Right True.

  7. Our Category:

    i :: Int -> Int
    i n
      | n < 0 = n
      | otherwise = n + 2
    j :: Bool -> Int
    j b = if b then 1 else 0
    Left :: Int -> Either Int Bool
    Right :: Bool -> Either Int Bool

    Suppose Int is a “better” coproduct of Int and Bool with injections i and j than Either Int Bool. Then there must be a unique morphism m :: Int -> Either Int Bool such that:

    m . i = Left
    m . j = Right

    If on the other hand there is another morphism m' :: Int -> Either Int Bool, m /= m' such that

    m' . i = Left
    m' . j = Right

    Then m would not be a unique factorizing morphism and therefore Int could not be a better coproduct of Int and Bool than Either Int Bool

    Here’s a candidate for m:

    m :: Int -> Either Int Bool
    m n
     | n == 0 = Right False
     | n == 1 = Right True
     | n < 0 = Left n
     | otherwise = Left (n - 2)

    This looks pretty unique at first glance.


    We can show that there is a unique morphism f = (factorize i j) :: Either Int Bool -> Int:

    factorize :: (Int -> Int) -> (Bool -> Int) -> Either Int Bool -> Int
    factorize i j (Left n)  = i n
    factorize i j (Right b) = j b

    such that

    f . Left = i
    f . Right = j

    So if both m and f are unique morphisms, then

    f . Left = f . (m . i) = (f . m) . i = i
    f . Right = f . (m . j) = (f . m) . j = j
    => (f . m) = id_Int
    m . i = m . (f . Left) = (m . f) . Left = Left
    m . j = m . (f . Right) = (m . f) . Right = Right
    => (m . f) = id_EitherIntBool

    which implies that m and f are isomorphisms. And since m and f are unique morphisms that fit the above conditions, m and f are unique isomorphisms. Which means Either Int Bool and Int are uniquely isomorphic, and are equivalent up to unique isomorphism. In which case Int cannot be a better coproduct that Either Int Bool.

    On the other hand, if m is not unique, there must be another m' :: Int -> Either Int Bool, in which case Int does not satisfy the universal property of coproducts.

    Actually, I think this is a general argument which applies to any possible candidate coproduct. If we already know that there is a coproduct in the category that satisfies the universal property, then any other other coproduct that satisfies the property must be uniquely isomorphic to the first, since their isomorphisms uniquely factorize their injections.

    Wow. That’s a mathy paragraph. I begin to see why math explanations sound as impenetrable as they usually do…

  8. () is an inferior coproduct of Int and Bool than Either Int Bool, because there is only one unique morphism unit :: Either Int Bool -> (), but no morphisms from () -> Either Int Bool that factorize injections from unit :: Int -> () and unit :: Bool -> ().

    But the question is asking for an inferior candidate that admits multiple morphisms between it and Either Int Bool.

    Int is an inferior coproduct of Int and Bool. Suppose we have the morphisms:

    Left :: Int -> Either Int Bool
    Right :: Bool -> Either Int Bool
    p :: Int -> Int
    p = (+3)
    q :: Bool -> Int
    q True = 1
    q False = 0

    Is there a unique morphism

    m :: Int -> Either Int Bool

    such that

    m . p = Left
    m . q = Right

    No! Because p and q don’t map any values to 2 :: Int, we can have

    m :: Int -> Either Int Bool
    m 0 = Right False
    m 1 = Right True
    m 2 = (a :: Either Int Bool)
    m n = n - 3

    We can return any Either Int Bool for m 2 and m will still factorize, so we actually have infinite morphisms that satisfy the property. Therefore, Int is a very bad coproduct for Either Int Bool.

    On the other hand, the fact that we can use Int as a coproduct at all (even an inferior one) is convenient, because it lets use model coproducts (and other GADTs) on computers that only know about discrete quantites.