mathlib documentation


Documentation of the algebraic hierarchy #

A library note giving advice on modifying the algebraic hierarchy. (It is not intended as a "tour".)

TODO: Add sections about interactions with topological typeclasses, and order typeclasses.

The algebraic hierarchy #

In any theorem proving environment, there are difficult decisions surrounding the design of the "algebraic hierarchy".

There is a danger of exponential explosion in the number of gadgets, especially once interactions between algebraic and order/topological/etc structures are considered.

In mathlib, we try to avoid this by only introducing new algebraic typeclasses either

  1. when there is "real mathematics" to be done with them, or
  2. when there is a meaninful gain in simplicity by factoring out a common substructure.

(As examples, at this point we don't have loop, or unital_magma, but we do have lie_submodule and topological_field! We also have group_with_zero, as an exemplar of point 2.)

Generally in mathlib we use the extension mechanism (so comm_ring extends ring) rather than mixins (e.g. with separate ring and comm_mul classes), in part because of the potential blow-up in term sizes described at However there is tension here, as it results in considerable duplication in the API, particularly in the interaction with order structures.

This library note is not intended as a design document justifying and explaining the history of mathlib's algebraic hierarchy! Instead it is intended as a developer's guide, for contributors wanting to extend (either new leaves, or new intermediate classes) the algebraic hierarchy as it exists.

(Ideally we would have both a tour guide to the existing hierarchy, and an account of the design choices. See for an overview of mathlib as a whole, with some attention to the algebraic hierarchy and for a summary of what is in mathlib today.)

Instances #

When adding a new typeclass Z to the algebraic hierarchy one should attempt to add the following constructions and results, when applicable:

  • Instances transferred elementwise to products, like prod.monoid. See for more examples.
    instance prod.Z [Z M] [Z N] : Z (M × N) := ...
  • Instances transferred elementwise to pi types, like pi.monoid. See for more examples.
    instance pi.Z [ i, Z $ f i] : Z (Π i : I, f i) := ...
  • Instances transferred to mul_opposite M, like mul_opposite.monoid. See algebra.opposites for more examples.
    instance mul_opposite.Z [Z M] : Z (mul_opposite M) := ...
  • Instances transferred to ulift M, like ulift.monoid. See for more examples.
    instance ulift.Z [Z M] : Z (ulift M) := ...
  • Definitions for transferring the proof fields of instances along injective or surjective functions that agree on the data fields, like function.injective.monoid and function.surjective.monoid. We make these definitions @[reducible], see note [reducible non-instances]. See for more examples.
    def function.injective.Z [Z M₂] (f : M₁  M₂) (hf : injective f)
      (one : f 1 = 1) (mul :  x y, f (x * y) = f x * f y) : Z M₁ := ...
    def function.surjective.Z [Z M₁] (f : M₁  M₂) (hf : surjective f)
      (one : f 1 = 1) (mul :  x y, f (x * y) = f x * f y) : Z M₂ := ...
  • Instances transferred elementwise to finsupps, like finsupp.semigroup. See data.finsupp.pointwise for more examples.
    instance finsupp.Z [Z β] : Z (α →₀ β) := ...
  • Instances transferred elementwise to sets, like set.monoid. See algebra.pointwise for more examples.
    instance set.Z [Z α] : Z (set α) := ...
  • Definitions for transferring the entire structure across an equivalence, like equiv.monoid. See data.equiv.transfer_instance for more examples. See also the transport tactic.
    def equiv.Z (e : α  β) [Z β] : Z α := ...
    /- When there is a new notion of `Z`-equiv: -/
    def equiv.Z_equiv (e : α  β) [Z β] : by { letI := equiv.Z e, exact α Z β } := ...

Subobjects #

When a new typeclass Z adds new data fields, you should also create a new sub_Z structure with a carrier field.

This can be a lot of work; for now try to closely follow the existing examples (e.g. submonoid, subring, subalgebra). We would very much like to provide some automation here, but a prerequisite will be making all the existing APIs more uniform.

If Z extends Y, then sub_Z should usually extend sub_Y.

When Z adds only new proof fields to an existing structure Y, you should provide instances transferring Z α to Z (sub_Y α), like submonoid.to_comm_monoid. Typically this is done using the function.injective.Z definition mentioned above.

instance sub_Y.to_Z [Z α] : Z (sub_Y α) :=
coe_injective.Z coe ...

Morphisms and equivalences #

Category theory #

For many algebraic structures, particularly ones used in representation theory, algebraic geometry, etc., we also define "bundled" versions, which carry category instances.

These bundled versions are usually named in camel case, so for example we have AddCommGroup as a bundled add_comm_group, and TopCommRing (which bundles together comm_ring, topological_space, and topological_ring).

These bundled versions have many appealing features:

  • a uniform notation for morphisms X ⟶ Y
  • a uniform notation (and definition) for isomorphisms X ≅ Y
  • a uniform API for subobjects, via the partial order subobject X
  • interoperability with unbundled structures, via coercions to Type (so if G : AddCommGroup, you can treat G as a type, and it automatically has an add_comm_group instance) and lifting maps AddCommGroup.of G, when G is a type with an add_comm_group instance.

If, for example you do the work of proving that a typeclass Z has a good notion of tensor product, you are strongly encouraged to provide the corresponding monoidal_category instance on a bundled version. This ensures that the API for tensor products is complete, and enables use of general machinery. Similarly if you prove universal properties, or adjunctions, you are encouraged to state these using categorical language!

One disadvantage of the bundled approach is that we can only speak of morphisms between objects living in the same type-theoretic universe. In practice this is rarely a problem.

Making a pull request #

With so many moving parts, how do you actually go about changing the algebraic hierarchy?

We're still evolving how to handle this, but the current suggestion is:

  • If you're adding a new "leaf" class, the requirements are lower, and an initial PR can just add whatever is immediately needed.
  • A new "intermediate" class, especially low down in the hierarchy, needs to be careful about leaving gaps.

In a perfect world, there would be a group of simultaneous PRs that basically cover everything! (Or at least an expectation that PRs may not be merged immediately while waiting on other PRs that fill out the API.)

However "perfect is the enemy of good", and it would also be completely reasonable to add a TODO list in the main module doc-string for the new class, briefly listing the parts of the API which still need to be provided. Hopefully this document makes it easy to assemble this list.

Another alternative to a TODO list in the doc-strings is adding github issues.

Some definitions that define objects of a class cannot be instances, because they have an explicit argument that does not occur in the conclusion. An example is preorder.lift that has a function f : α → β as an explicit argument to lift a preorder on β to a preorder on α.

If these definitions are used to define instances of this class and this class is an argument to some other type-class so that type-class inference will have to unfold these instances to check for definitional equality, then these definitions should be marked @[reducible].

For example, preorder.lift is used to define units.preorder and partial_order.lift is used to define units.partial_order. In some cases it is important that type-class inference can recognize that units.preorder and units.partial_order give rise to the same has_le instance. For example, you might have another class that takes [has_le α] as an argument, and this argument sometimes comes from units.preorder and sometimes from units.partial_order. Therefore, preorder.lift and partial_order.lift are marked @[reducible].