Joyal, André; Kock, Joachim

Coherence for weak units

Doc. Math., J. DMV 18, 71-110 (2013)


Summary: We define weak units in a semi-monoidal 2-category $\CC$ as cancellable pseudo-idempotents: they are pairs $(I,\alpha)$ where $I$ is an object such that tensoring with $I$ from either side constitutes a biequivalence of $\CC$, and $\alpha: I \tensor I \to I$ is an equivalence in $\CC$. We show that this notion of weak unit has coherence built in: Theorem refthmA: $\alpha$ has a canonical associator 2-cell, which automatically satisfies the pentagon equation. Theorem refthmB: every morphism of weak units is automatically compatible with those associators. Theorem refthmC: the 2-category of weak units is contractible if non-empty. Finally we show (Theorem refthmE) that the notion of weak unit is equivalent to the notion obtained from the definition of tricategory: $\alpha$ alone induces the whole family of left and right maps (indexed by the objects), as well as the whole family of Kelly 2-cells (one for each pair of objects), satisfying the relevant coherence axioms.

Mathematics Subject Classification

18D05, 18D10


monoidal 2-categories, units, coherence