Category theory in two sentences

Tom Leinster’s book Basic Category Theory  arrived today on the new book shelves at the CUP bookshop.  I just love the opening two sentences, which seem about as good a minimal sketch of what category theory is up to as you could hope for:

Category theory takes a bird’s eye view of mathematics. From high in the sky, details become invisible, but we can spot patterns that were impossible to detect from ground level.

That’s a brilliantly promising start: and thirty pages in, the book is still proving a really good, if moderately taxing, read.

5 thoughts on “Category theory in two sentences”

  1. At CUP’s website, the book is listed as unavailable (it’ll be available in July); similarly for Amazon. Did you get the book directly from the bookstore?

  2. Yes, it was in the Press bookshop in the latest batch of newly published books. Books often turn up there before the official publication day — in fact the first time I’d seen a printed copy of one of my books was on their new books shelves a week or more before my author’s copies arrived! So I could well have had a copy even before Tom Leinster whose own website still says that Basic Category Theory is yet to be published!

  3. I envy your proximity to the CUP bookshop.

    The way it seems to work — I’ve just gone through this with another recent CUP book, The Logic of Infinity by Barnaby Sheppard (which looks like an interesting introduction to set theory, btw) — is that CUP books come out on a Tuesday, and some shops that sell via Amazon start looking like they have it, while Amazon is still saying 1 to 2 weeks. However, it’s not clear that they actually do have it, because it takes them a suspiciously long time before they actually dispatch the book. While you’re waiting around for them to send it, Amazon gets it in, sends it out, and customers receive it.

    Anyway, I’ve ordered Tom Leinster’s book from Amazon, and the current delivery estimate is Wednesday, 6 August 2014. I suspect (and hope) I’ll get it before then.

    1. Rather late to the get-together, but a follow-up with your — or anyone’s, really — impression of The Logic of Infinity would be appreciated. It is only now that Amazon US has announced domestic availability of the book; although of course it can be ordered directly from the UK.


  4. Re the two sentences, how does that idea of Category Theory as a high level view of patterns fit with the idea that Category Theory is an alternative to Set Theory as a mathematical foundation?

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