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3.1 The Homotopy Theory of Kan Complexes

Let $X_{}$ and $Y_{}$ be simplicial sets, and suppose we are given a pair of maps $f_0, f_1: X_{} \rightarrow Y_{}$. A homotopy from $f_0$ to $f_1$ is a morphism of simplicial sets $h: \Delta ^1 \times X_{} \rightarrow Y_{}$ satisfying $f_0 = h|_{ \{ 0\} \times X_{} }$ and $f_1 = h|_{ \{ 1\} \times X_{} }$ (Definition Beware that, for general simplicial sets, this terminology can be misleading: for example, the existence of a homotopy from $f_0$ to $f_1$ need not imply the existence of a homotopy from $f_1$ to $f_0$. However, the situation is better in the case if we assume that $Y_{\bullet }$ is a Kan complex. In general, we can identify morphisms from $X_{}$ to $Y_{}$ as vertices of the simplicial set $\operatorname{Fun}( X_{}, Y_{} )$ of Construction, and homotopies with edges of the simplicial set $\operatorname{Fun}( X_{}, Y_{} )$. In §3.1.3, we will show that when $Y_{}$ is a Kan complex, then $\operatorname{Fun}( X_{}, Y_{} )$ is also a Kan complex (Corollary

Our approach to Corollary is somewhat indirect. We begin in §3.1.1 by introducing the notion of a Kan fibration between simplicial sets. Roughly speaking, a Kan fibration $f: X_{} \rightarrow S_{}$ can be viewed as a family of Kan complexes parametrized by $S_{}$: in particular, if $f$ is a Kan fibration, then each fiber $X_{s} = \{ s\} \times _{ S_{} } X_{}$ is a Kan complex (Remark In §3.1.3, we will deduce Corollary as a consequence of a more general stability result for Kan fibrations under exponentiation (Theorem Our proof of this result will make use of the Gabriel-Zisman calculus of anodyne morphisms, which we review in §3.1.2.

We say that a morphism of Kan complexes $f: X_{} \rightarrow Y_{}$ is a homotopy equivalence if its image in the homotopy category $\mathrm{h} \mathit{\operatorname{Kan}}$ is an isomorphism: that is, if $f$ admits a homotopy inverse $g: Y_{} \rightarrow X_{}$. This definition makes sense for more general simplicial sets (Definition, but is of somewhat limited utility. When working with simplicial sets which are not Kan complexes, it is often better to consider the more liberal notion of weak homotopy equivalence (Definition, which we introduce and study in §3.1.6. In §3.1.7, we show that every simplicial set $X_{\bullet }$ admits an anodyne morphism $f: X_{\bullet } \rightarrow Q_{\bullet }$ where $Q_{\bullet }$ is a Kan complex (Corollary, using a simple incarnation of Quillen's “small object argument.”


  • Subsection 3.1.1: Kan Fibrations
  • Subsection 3.1.2: Anodyne Morphisms
  • Subsection 3.1.3: Exponentiation for Kan Fibrations
  • Subsection 3.1.4: Covering Maps
  • Subsection 3.1.5: The Homotopy Category of Kan Complexes
  • Subsection 3.1.6: Homotopy Equivalences and Weak Homotopy Equivalences
  • Subsection 3.1.7: Fibrant Replacement