Category theory/Functor

Definition of a Functor

Given that $\mathcal{A}$ and $\mathcal{B}$ are categories, a functor $F:\mathcal{A}\to\mathcal{B}$ is a pair of mappings $(F_{objects}:\mathrm{Ob}(\mathcal{A})\to\mathrm{Ob}(\mathcal{B}), F_{arrows}:\mathrm{Ar}(\mathcal{A})\to\mathrm{Ar}(\mathcal{B}))$ (the subscripts are generally omitted in practice).

Axioms

1. If $f:A\to B$ in $\mathcal{A}$, then $F(f):F(A)\to F(B)$ in $\mathcal{B}$
2. If $f:B\to C$ in $\mathcal{A}$ and $g:A\to B$ in $\mathcal{A}$, then $F(f)\circ F(g) = F(f\circ g)$
3. For all objects $A$ in $\mathcal{A}$, $id_{F(A)}=F(id_A)$

Examples of functors

• $\mathrm{Free}:\mathrm{Set}\to\mathrm{Mon}$, the functor giving the free monoid over a set
• $\mathrm{Free}:\mathrm{Set}\to\mathrm{Grp}$, the functor giving the free group over a set
• Every monotone function is a functor, when the underlying partial orders are viewed as categories
• Every monoid homomorphism is a functor, when the underlying monoids are viewed as categories

Functor operations

• For all categories $\mathcal{C}$, there is an identity functor $Id_{\mathcal{C}}$ (again, the subscript is usually ommitted) given by the rule $F(a)=a$ for all objects and arrows $a$.
• If $F:\mathcal{B}\to\mathcal{C}$ and $G:\mathcal{A}\to\mathcal{B}$, then $F\circ G:\mathcal{A}\to\mathcal{C}$, with composition defined component-wise.

These operations will be important in the definition of a monad.

The category Cat

The existence of identity and composition functors implies that, for any well-defined collection of categories $E$, there exists a category $\mathrm{Cat}_E$ whose arrows are all functors between categories in $E$. Since no category can include itself as an object, there can be no category of all categories, but it is common and useful to designate a category small when the collection of objects is a set, and define Cat to be the category whose objects are all small categories and whose arrows are all functors on small categories.

class Functor f where