Calculate (co)limits as (co)equalisers (two examples)

There is a general formulation for constructing limits as equalisers: see Theorem 1 in Section V.2, Maclane. For the dual version, see Theorem A.2.1 in Appendix A written by me.

The constructions look like these (see the links above for details):


But in practice, these diagrams may not be helpful to see what the equalisers should be. Now I give proofs for the (co)equalisers in two examples: the connected component of a simplicial set and the sheaf condition.

The connected components [Background]

For definitions and other backgrounds, see Subsection 00G5. For the record, see [P12, DLOR07] for the cosimplicial identities and Tag 000G for simplicial identities. (These identities are used in my proofs.)

Two examples of (co)limits as (co)equalisers

Pdf here: Two examples of (co)limits as (co)equalisers


[Soft Question] Why higher category theory?

Here is a MO post asking a question that I’ve had in mind for a while: Why higher category theory?

Having studied some elementary topos before, I have been interested in higher topos since I attended a summer school lecture last year. Besides formal generalisations, I expect to see applications which provide new results or meaningful insights. Though the meaning of “new” and “useful” very much diverse between different mathematical cultures.

Here are some important applications of higher categories in K-theory (added on Mar 05, 2020), suggested by my supervisor Schlichting.

Dustin-Mathew-Morrow, Algebraic K-theory and descent for blow-ups

Nikolaus-Scholze, On topological cyclic homology

Clausen-Mathew-Morrow, K-theory and topological cyclic homology of henselian pairs

Antieau-Gepner-Heller, K-theoretic obstructions to bounded t-structures

Blumberg-Gepner-Tabuada, A universal characterization of higher algebraic K-theory

Barwick, On exact infinity-categories and the Theorem of the Heart

Topos as A Model for Set Theory and Independence Proof


Part 1:  For any elementary topos, its internal logic, considered as propositional calculus, is a Heyting algebra. Some constructions are required to make a topos a suitable model of set theory, where the propositional calculus needs to be Boolean and two-valued.  We discuss some properties of topos desired for a suitable model: the existence of a natural number object (NNO), being Boolean, satisfying the axiom of choice (AC) and well-pointedness. I gave some proofs for some exercises in [1] and organise them into a thread.

Part 2: We sketch the construction of a Cohen topos, which is Boolean and satisfies the axiom of choice, where the continuum hypothesis (CH) fails [1, pp. 277-290]. After that, we improve the result by a filter-quotient construction for obtaining a well-pointed topos satisfying AC with an NNO, where CH fails. Such a filter-quotient construction indeed provides a stronger model than the Cohen topos, with the four properties mentioned above satisfied.

Full Article

Here is the article Topos as A Model for Set Theory and Independence Proof which is an excerpt from my previous work (2018) [2]. It discusses some desired properties of topos as a suitable model of set theory and ideas on the independence proof of the axiom of choice. I gave detailed proofs for some exercises in [1] and organise them into a thread. I have also cited necessary definitions and propositions for completeness (I omitted the proofs for propositions that can be directly found in [1]). Assuming basic familiarity with category theory,  this article should be self-contained.  Here is an appendix for quick reference: Appendix.

Note: there are some missing cross-references which should not affect reading.


To show the foundation aspects of topos, we have clarified the differences and connections between external and internal concepts and discussed the properties required for a topos as a suitable model of set theory, that is, the existence of a natural number object (NNO), being Boolean, satisfying the axiom of choice (AC) and well-pointedness.

The universality of the NNO was discussed and we showed how the recursion, addition, multiplication and the partial order can be defined from the NNO and how they correspond to that for sets. The propositional calculus, the Heyting algebra and some equivalent conditions for a topos being Boolean were discussed. The presheaf topos and sheaf topos, as special examples, were illustrated for the Heyting algebras and the equivalent conditions for being Boolean. Some propositions about external and internal projective objects were proved and related to the external and internal axiom of choice (AC and IAC). We proved the equivalent conditions for a presheaf topos satisfying AC or IAC, thus had an example of a presheaf topos satisfying IAC but not AC.
We also proved the equivalence of AC and IAC for a well-pointed topos and some equivalent conditions for well-pointedness.

To show an application of the foundation aspect of topos, we sketched the process of construction of the Cohen topos, which is Boolean and satisfies AC, where the continuum hypothesis (CH) fails, with some details examined. We then proved that the filter-quotient construction on the Cohen topos preserves the cardinal inequality and the NNO. We also proved that the filter-quotient topos constructed from a Boolean topos satisfying AC is well-pointed and again satisfies AC. Together with the fact that a well-pointed topos is both Boolean and two-valued, we concluded that the filter-quotient topos constructed from the Cohen topos satisfies all the properties for sets and violates CH, thus is an improved model in the independence proof.

Further Remark

Later in the book [1], the Mitchell-Benabou language, as a first-order language for topos, is constructed, and then the relation to set theory will become clear. The internal properties we have discussed can be expressed by some formulas that correspond to the formulas expressing related properties in set theory. For example, a topos is Boolean iff the formula  \forall p( p\vee \neg p)  holds; a topos satisfies IAC iff the formula for AC holds. Also, the geometric construction for the independence proof can be translated to the language of forcing. On the other hand, we can say that the symbols in logic can be interpreted diagrammatically through categories. In this way, we see the symbolic and diagrammatic aspects of logic. Topos theory provides a diagrammatic view of logic, which is particularly good when dealing with structures. Though the idea in the independence proof is actually equivalent to that in set theory, the diagrammatic view and by topos theory gives us a different viewpoint.


[1] MacLane, S., & Moerdijk, I. (2012). Sheaves in geometry and logic: A first introduction to topos theory. Springer Science & Business Media.

[2] Likun Xie. (2018). Topos Foundation for Set Theory. Unpublished Bachelor Thesis. The University of Manchester, UK.

Categorical Construction of Fibre Product of Schemes

Following our discussion of glueing schemes: Categorical descriptions for glueing sheaves and schemes. We now discuss the construction of the fibre product of schemes by glueing.

Given arbitrary schemes X,Y,S, let q:X\to S and r: Y\to S be the given morphisms. Let \{S_i\} be an open affine cover of S. Let X_i=q^{-1}(S_i), Y_i=r^{-1}(S_i), choose an affine open cover X_{ij} for X_i and an affine open cover Y_{jk} for Y_k. The fibre product is constructed by glueing various X_i\times_{S_i} Y_i  together.

We rewrite the glueing construction of fibre product in a more categorical way as follows. Note that the colimit here is glueing construction and the consequences of the two pullback squares should be clear thinking in terms of schemes.

View as pdf: Construction of fibre product

Theorem[Thm 3.3, [1]/ Thm 9.1.1, [2]] For any two schemes X and Y over a scheme S, the fibre product X\times _S Y exists and is unique up to unique isomorphism.



Variations of Yoneda Lemma; Monos, Epis and Isomorphisms of (Pre)sheaves

The first part is my work on a variation of Yoneda Lemma. The second part is my work on Exercises 2.4A, 2.4.C-2.4.D of section 2.4 in Vakil’s notes.

1.  Variations of Yoneda Lemmas (Monos, Epis and Isomorphisms of Presheaves)

Here are a few variations of Yoneda Lemma I played around a few years ago, which bear similar ideas of Yoneda Lemma. Recently I have been dealing with sheaves again, so I just reviewed some old stuff here. I used these variations to show that a morphism of presheaves is monic resp. epic if and only if it’s injective resp. surjective on the level of sections (For another proof see here

Here are the variations and proofs for presheaves: (pdf version: Variations of Yoneda lemma)



2.  Monos, Epis and Isomorphisms of Sheaves 

Here we give a detailed discussion for sheaves, following exercises in Section 2.4 of Vakil’s notes: (pdf version: Monos, epis and isomorphisms of sheaves)mono0


Categorical descriptions for glueing sheaves and schemes

In this post, we give a categorical proof of Lemma 33.2 (Tag 00AK) by showing that a glued sheaf is defined as an equaliser. This equaliser provides a tool for calculating global sections of glued schemes. We later present some examples for calculating global sections and glueing constructions using (co)limits descriptions. (Sometimes people say they may lose insights about the details and the real maths behind abstraction. But it really depends on one’s approach and ways of thinking. ) The goal of this post is to give a structured summary of glueing constructions of schemes after meditating on explicit constructions, using categorical language. It is not meant to replace explicit arguments for schemes, but to give some ideas on how general a construction is and whether it can be transferred to a different setting. For example, we will know what to do if we are working on a site with a different Grothendieck topology instead of the Zariski topology. Note that some consequences of the categorical facts we use are indeed straightforward for schemes, for example, the two pullback squares in Example 4. This post is open-ended and more examples of glueing will be added. 

Remark. Note that for a sheaf \mathcal {F} on a topological space and an open cover U=\bigcup U_i,

\displaystyle \mathcal {F}(U) =\mathrm{lim}_J \mathcal{F}(U_i),

where J is the covering sieve generated by the covering \{U_i\}, namely, J is the collection of all those V\subset U with V\subset U_i for some i. This limit is equivalent to the following equaliser diagram in the usual sheaf definition:


where for t\in FU, e(t)=\{t|_{U_i} \mid i\in I\} and for a family t_i\in FU_i, p\{t_i\}=\{t_i| _{U_i\cap U_j}\},  q\{t_i\}=\{t_j| _{U_i\cap U_j}\}.

For a scheme X=\bigcup X_i with an open cover \{X_i\} in the Zariski topology, X is the colimit indexed over the covering sieve generated by the covering \{X_i\}. This colimit can also be simplified to be a coequaliser diagram.

First, we include the explicit constructions for glueing sheaves and some sources for details check of these constructions. The categorical proof we are going to show is a categorical rephrasing by meditating on these constructions, which gives a more structured presentation.

Glueing Morphisms

Proposition A.1  [Tag 00AK] Let X be a topological space. Let X=\cup U_i be an open covering. Let \mathcal{F},\mathcal{G} be sheaves of sets on X. Given a collection

\phi_i:\mathcal{F}|_{U_i}\to \mathcal {G}|_{U_i}

of maps of sheaves such that for all i,j\in I the maps \phi_i,\phi_j restrict to the same map \mathcal {F}_{U_i\cap U_j}\to \mathcal{G}_{U_i\cap U_j}, then there exists a unique map of sheaves

\phi: \mathcal {F}\to \mathcal{G}

whose restriction to  each U_i agrees with \phi_i.

Proof. Take any s\in \mathcal{F}(V), where V\subset X is open, and let V_i=U_i\cap V. Then we have an element \phi_i (s| _{V_i})\in \mathcal{F}(V_i) and \phi_i (s| _{V_{ij}})=\phi_j (s| _{V_{ij}}) by the glueing condition. Thus by the sheaf condition for G, the sections \phi_i(s|_{V_i})\in G(V_i) patch together to give a section in G(V), define this section to be \phi(s). (We omitted the checking details. )                                                   \square

Glueing Sheaves

Explicit construction of glueing sheaves is given in Lemma 6.33.2, Tag 00AK, but the details of checking have been omitted.  For some details of a reality check,  see this post.

glueing dataglueing morphism

Proof of Lemma 6.33.2: (Pdf version: Proof of sheaf glueing)

glueing sheavesglueing sheaves2

Glueing Schemes

To glue schemes, one needs to define the glued topological spaces which will be a quotient space of the disjoint union of the glued spaces and then verify the structure sheaves of the glued schemes satisfy the condition of Lemma 6.33.2 [see Tag 01JA].

Example 1. (The affine line with doubled origin is not affine).   Let k be a field. Let X= \text{Spec} (k[t]), Y= \text{Spec}(k[u]). Let U=D(t) =\text{Spec}k[t,1/t]\subset X \text{ and } V= D(u)=\text{Spec}k[u,1/u]\subset Y.  Consider the ismorphism U\cong V given by t\leftrightarrow u.  Let Z be the glued scheme, from the equaliser diagram in the proof of Lemma 6.33.2,  we see that the structure sheaf \mathcal{O}_Z is given by

\mathcal{O}_{Z}(W) = \mathcal{O}_X(W \cap X) \times_{\mathcal{O}_{X(W \cap X \cap Y)} \cong \mathcal{O}_{Y}(W \cap X \cap Y)} \mathcal{O}_Y(W \cap Y).

Thus the global section \mathcal{O}_Z(Z) \text{ is } k[t] \times_{k[t,t^{-1}] \cong k[u,u^{-1}]} k[u] \cong k[t]. From this we see that Z is not affine, since  Z=\text{Spec}(k[t]) which is not the case: the underlying topological space Z has one more point- the doubled origin.

Added on 21/01/2020

Example 2. (Quasiseparated scheme is glued from affine schemes). Note that every scheme is a colimit of affine schemes. This is true in general by the fact that every sheaf is a colimit of representables and that the Zariski topology is subcanonical (see here for more details).

For the case that a scheme X is separated (for which the intersection
of any two affine open sets is affine), take an affine open cover \bigcup U_i=X such that each intersection U_{ij} is affine, then X is just the coequaliser of the diagram \coprod_{i,j} U_{ij} \rightrightarrows \coprod_{i} U_i. This is the glueing construction as we described above.

If X is not separated, one can still write X as a colimit of affines but not with the same diagram as we used for glueing, see here for a description of the diagram.

Remark. One implication of viewing X as a colimit is: let Sch and Rings be the categories of schemes and rings respectively, given that \text{Hom}_{\textbf{Rings}}(A,B)\cong \text{Hom}_{\textbf{Sch}}(\text{spec}(B),\text{spec}(A)), one can deduce that for any scheme X\text{Hom}_{\textbf{Rings}}(R,\Gamma(X,\mathcal{O}_x))\cong \text{Hom}_{\textbf{Sch}}(X,\text{spec}(R)) by the fact Hom-functor preserves (co)limits.

Added on 01/02/2020

Example 3 (Proj construction). [Section 4.5.7, Vakil]

Let S_\bullet=\oplus _{n\in \mathbb{Z}} S_n be a \mathbb{Z}-graded ring and S_+=\oplus_{i>0} S_i be the irrevalant ideal. Suppose f\in S_+  is homogeneous, there is a bijection between the prime ideals of ((S_\bullet)_f)_0 and the homogeneous prime ideal of (S_\bullet)_f. The projective distinguished open set D(f)= \mathrm{Proj} S_\bullet \setminus V(f) is identified with \mathrm{Spec}((S_\bullet)_{f})_0. If f,g\in S_{+} are homogeneous and nonzero, D(f)\cap D(g)= \mathrm{Spec} ((S_\bullet)_{fg})_0) is isomorphic to the distinguished open subset D(g^{\mathrm{deg} f}/f^{\mathrm{deg}g}) of \mathrm{Spec} ((S_\bullet)_f)_0, similarly for \mathrm{Spec} ((S_\bullet)_g)_0. \mathrm{Proj}S_\bullet is glued from various \mathrm{Spec}((S_\bullet)_{f})_0 along the pairwise intersections \mathrm{Spec}((S_\bullet)_{fg})_0.

Example 4. (Fibre product of schemes)[For detailes of a categorical proof of this construction, see the post: Construction of Fibre Product of Schemes or the pdf here: Construction of fibre product.]

Given arbitrary schemes X,Y,S, let q:X\to S and r: Y\to S be the given morphisms. Let \{S_i\} be an open affine cover of S. Let X_i=q^{-1}(S_i), Y_i=r^{-1}(S_i), choose an affine open cover X_{ij} for X_i and an affine open cover Y_{jk} for Y_k. The fibre product is constructed by glueing various X_i\times_{S_i} Y_i  together.