Examples of categories 

Before we go abtract, we’re going to look at some more concrete categories. This is actually a good thing, since we only saw one category yesterday.


The category of sets and total functions are denoted by Sets written in bold.


The category of all finite sets and total functions between them are called Setsfin. This is the category we have been looking at so far.



Another kind of example one often sees in mathematics is categories of structured sets, that is, sets with some further “structure” and functions that “preserve it,” where these notions are determined in some independent way.

A partially ordered set or poset is a set A equipped with a binary relation a ≤A b such that the following conditions hold for all a, b, c ∈ A:

  • reflexivity: a ≤A a
  • transitivity: if a ≤A b and b ≤A c, then a ≤A c
  • antisymmetry: if a ≤A b and b ≤A a, then a = b

An arrow from a poset A to a poset B is a function m: A => B that is monotone, in the sense that, for all a, a’ ∈ A,

  • a ≤A a’ implies m(a) ≤A m(a’).

As long as the functions are monotone, the objects will continue to be in the category, so the “structure” is preserved. The category of posets and monotone functions is denoted as Pos. Awodey likes posets, so it’s important we understand it.


Definition 1.2. A functor
F: C => D
between categories C and D is a mapping of objects to objects and arrows to arrows, in such a way that.

  • F(f: A => B) = F(f): F(A) => F(B)
  • F(1A) = 1F(A)
  • F(g ∘ f) = F(g) ∘ F(f)

That is, F, preserves domains and codomains, identity arrows, and composition.

Now we are talking. Functor is an arrow between two categories. Here’s the external diagram:


The fact that the positions of F(A), F(B), and F(C) are distorted is intentional. That’s what F is doing, slightly distorting the picture, but still preserving the composition.

This category of categories and functors is denoted as Cat.


A monoid (sometimes called a semigroup with unit) is a set M equipped with a binary operation ·: M × M => M and a distinguished “unit” element u ∈ M such that for all x, y, z ∈ M,

  • x · (y · z) = (x · y) · z
  • u · x = x = x · u

Equivalently, a monoid is a category with just one object. The arrows of the category are the elements of the monoid. In particular, the identity arrow is the unit element u. Composition of arrows is the binary operation m · n for the monoid.

The concept of monoid translates well into Scalaz. You can check out About those Monoids from day 3.

trait Monoid[A] extends Semigroup[A] { self =>
  /** The identity element for `append`. */
  def zero: A

trait Semigroup[A]  { self =>
  def append(a1: A, a2: => A): A

Here is addition of Int and 0:

scala> 10 |+| Monoid[Int].zero
res26: Int = 10

and multiplication of Int and 1:

scala>  Tags.Multiplication(10) |+| Monoid[Int @@ Tags.Multiplication].zero
res27: scalaz.@@[Int,scalaz.Tags.Multiplication] = 10

The idea that these monoids are categories with one object and that elements are arrows used to sound so alien to me, but now it’s understandable since we were exposed to singleton.


The category of monoids and functions that preserve the monoid structure is denoted by Mon. These arrows that preserve structure are called homomorphism.

In detail, a homomorphism from a monoid M to a monoid N is a function h: M => N such that for all m, n ∈ M,

  • h(m ·M n) = h(m) ·N h(n)
  • h(uM) = uN

Since a monoid is a category, a monoid homomorphism is a special case of functors.


Definition 1.4 A group G is a monoid with an inverse g-1 for every element g. Thus, G is a category with one object, in which every arrow is an isomorphism.

The category of groups and group homomorphisms is denoted as Groups.

Scalaz used to have groups, but it was removed about an year ago in #279, which says it’s removing duplication with Spire.