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Category theory, introduction to

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Y075-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

A ‘category’, in the mathematical sense, is a universe of structures and transformations. Category theory treats such a universe simply in terms of the network of transformations. For example, categorical set theory deals with the universe of sets and functions without saying what is in any set, or what any function ‘does to’ anything in its domain; it only talks about the patterns of functions that occur between sets.

This stress on patterns of functions originally served to clarify certain working techniques in topology. Grothendieck extended those techniques to number theory, in part by defining a kind of category which could itself represent a space. He called such a category a ‘topos’. It turned out that a topos could also be seen as a category rich enough to do all the usual constructions of set-theoretic mathematics, but that may get very different results from standard set theory.

Citing this article:
McLarty, Colin. Category theory, introduction to, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Y075-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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