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4 The Homotopy Theory of $\infty $-Categories

Let $q: X \rightarrow S$ be a morphism of simplicial sets. Recall that $q$ is a Kan fibration if and only if it is weakly right orthogonal to every horn inclusion $\Lambda ^{n}_{i} \hookrightarrow \Delta ^ n$ for $n > 0$ and $0 \leq i \leq n$. The theory of Kan fibrations can be viewed as a relativization of the theory of Kan complexes, which plays an essential role in the classical homotopy theory of simplicial sets (as in Chapter 3). In this chapter, we study several weaker notions of fibration, which will play an analogous role in the study of $\infty $-categories:

  • We say that a morphism of simplicial sets $q: X \rightarrow S$ is an inner fibration if it is weakly right orthogonal to every inner horn inclusion $\Lambda ^{n}_{i} \hookrightarrow \Delta ^ n$, $0 < i < n$ (Definition If this condition is satisfied, then for each vertex $s \in S$, the fiber $X_{s} = \{ s\} \times _{S} X$ is an $\infty $-category (Remark Consequently, the theory of inner fibrations can be regarded as a relative version of the theory of $\infty $-categories, which we study in §4.1.

  • We say that a morphism of simplicial sets $q: X \rightarrow S$ is a left fibration if it is weakly right orthogonal to the horn inclusions $\Lambda ^{n}_{i} \hookrightarrow \Delta ^ n$ for $0 \leq i < n$, and a right fibration if it is weakly right orthogonal to the horn inclusions $\Lambda ^{n}_{i} \hookrightarrow \Delta ^ n$ for $0 < i \leq n$ (Definition If either of these conditions are satisfied, then the fiber $X_{s} = \{ s\} \times _{S} X$ is a Kan complex for each vertex $s \in S$ (Corollary We will see later that the construction $s \mapsto X_{s}$ is covariantly functorial when $q$ is a left fibration, and contravariantly functorial when $q$ is a right fibration (see §5.2.2). In §4.2, we develop some basic formal properties of left and right fibrations; we will carry out a more detailed analysis in Chapter 5.

  • We say that a morphism of simplicial sets $q: X \rightarrow S$ is an isofibration if it is weakly right orthogonal to every inclusion of simplicial sets $A \hookrightarrow B$ which is a categorical equivalence (Definition This condition is primarily useful in the case where $X$ and $S$ are $\infty $-categories, in which case it is equivalent to the requirement that $q$ is an inner fibration which satisfies a lifting property with respect to isomorphisms (Proposition We study isofibrations between $\infty $-categories in §4.4, and between general simplicial sets in §4.5.5).

If $q: X \rightarrow S$ is a morphism of simplicial sets, we have the following diagram of implications:

\[ \xymatrix@R =50pt@C=40pt{ & \txt { $q$ is a trivial Kan fibration} \ar@ {=>}[d] & \\ & \txt { $q$ is a Kan fibration} \ar@ {=>}[dr] \ar@ {=>}[dl] & \\ \txt { $q$ is a left fibration} \ar@ {=>}[dr] & & \txt { $q$ is a right fibration} \ar@ {=>}[dl] \\ & \txt { $q$ is an isofibration } \ar@ {=>}[d] & \\ & \txt { $q$ is an inner fibration. } & } \]

Beware that, in general, none of these implications is reversible.

In §4.3, we consider some prototypical examples of left and right fibrations which arise frequently in practice. Let $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ be an $\infty $-category. To each object $X \in \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$, one can associate a simplicial set $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{/X}$, whose $n$-simplices are given by maps $\sigma : \Delta ^{n+1} \rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ which carry the final vertex of $\Delta ^{n+1}$ to the object $X \in \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$. In particular, vertices of $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{/X}$ can be identified with morphisms $f: Y \rightarrow X$ in $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ having target $X$, and edges of $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{/X}$ can be identified with commutative diagrams

\[ \xymatrix@R =50pt@C=50pt{ Z \ar [rr] \ar [dr] & & Y \ar [dl] \\ & X. & } \]

in the $\infty $-category $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ (see Notation for a precise definition). The simplicial set $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{/X}$ is itself an $\infty $-category, which we will refer to as the slice $\infty $-category of $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ over the object $X$. Moreover, the evident forgetful functor $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{/X} \rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ (given on objects by the construction $(f: Y \rightarrow X) \mapsto Y$) is a right fibration (Proposition A dual version of this construction produces another $\infty $-category $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}_{X/}$ whose objects are morphisms $f: X \rightarrow Y$ in the $\infty $-category $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$, which we refer to as the coslice $\infty $-category of $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ under the object $X$. The slice and coslice constructions (and generalizations thereof) provide a rich supply of right and left fibrations between simplicial sets, and will play an essential role throughout this book.

Recall that an equivalence of categories is a functor $F: \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ which admits a homotopy inverse: that is, for which there exists another functor $G: \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ such that $G \circ F$ and $F \circ G$ are isomorphic to the identity functors $\operatorname{id}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}}$ and $\operatorname{id}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{D}}}$, respectively. In §4.5, we study the $\infty $-categorical counterpart of this notion. We say that a morphism of simplicial sets $F: \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ is a categorical equivalence if, for every $\infty $-category $\operatorname{\mathcal{E}}$, precomposition with $F$ induces a bijection

\[ \{ \text{Isomorphism classes of diagrams $\operatorname{\mathcal{D}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{E}}$} \} \rightarrow \{ \text{Isomorphism classes of diagrams $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{E}}$} \} ; \]

see Definition If $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ and $\operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ are $\infty $-categories, then this is equivalent to the requirement that $F$ admits a homotopy inverse $G: \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ in the sense described above (see Example In this case, we say that $F$ is an equivalence of $\infty $-categories (Definition

A functor $F: \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ between ordinary categories is an equivalence if and only if it satisfies the following pair of conditions:


The functor $F$ is fully faithful. That is, for every pair of objects $X,Y \in \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$, the functor $F$ induces a bijection $\operatorname{Hom}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}}(X,Y) \rightarrow \operatorname{Hom}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{D}}}( F(X), F(Y) )$.


The functor $F$ is essentially surjective: that is, every object $Y \in \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ is isomorphic to $F(X)$, for some object $X \in \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$.

This characterization is quite useful: in practice, it is often easier to verify conditions $(1)$ and $(2)$ than to explicitly describe a homotopy inverse of the functor $F$ (which might require some auxiliary choices). In §4.6, we establish an analogue of this characterization in the $\infty $-categorical setting. To every pair of objects $X$ and $Y$ of an $\infty $-category $\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$, we associate a Kan complex $\operatorname{Hom}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}}(X,Y)$ which we refer to as the space of morphisms from $X$ to $Y$ (Construction We say that a functor of $\infty $-categories $F: \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}\rightarrow \operatorname{\mathcal{D}}$ is fully faithful if it induces a homotopy equivalence $\operatorname{Hom}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{C}}}(X,Y) \rightarrow \operatorname{Hom}_{\operatorname{\mathcal{D}}}( F(X), F(Y) )$ for every pair of objects $X,Y \in \operatorname{\mathcal{C}}$ (Definition In §4.6.2, we show that $F$ is an equivalence of $\infty $-categories if and only if it is fully faithful and essentially surjective at the level of homotopy categories (Theorem


  • Section 4.1: Inner Fibrations
    • Subsection 4.1.1: Inner Fibrations of Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.1.2: Subcategories of $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.1.3: Inner Anodyne Morphisms
    • Subsection 4.1.4: Exponentiation for Inner Fibrations
    • Subsection 4.1.5: Inner Covering Maps
  • Section 4.2: Left and Right Fibrations
    • Subsection 4.2.1: Left and Right Fibrations of Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.2.2: Fibrations in Groupoids
    • Subsection 4.2.3: Left and Right Covering Maps
    • Subsection 4.2.4: Left Anodyne and Right Anodyne Morphisms
    • Subsection 4.2.5: Exponentiation for Left and Right Fibrations
    • Subsection 4.2.6: The Homotopy Extension Lifting Property
  • Section 4.3: The Slice and Join Constructions
    • Subsection 4.3.1: Slices of Categories
    • Subsection 4.3.2: Joins of Categories
    • Subsection 4.3.3: Joins of Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.3.4: Joins of Topological Spaces
    • Subsection 4.3.5: Slices of Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.3.6: Slices of $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.3.7: Slices of Left and Right Fibrations
  • Section 4.4: Isomorphisms and Isofibrations
    • Subsection 4.4.1: Isofibrations of $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.4.2: Isomorphisms and Lifting Properties
    • Subsection 4.4.3: The Core of an $\infty $-Category
    • Subsection 4.4.4: Natural Isomorphisms
    • Subsection 4.4.5: Exponentiation for Isofibrations
  • Section 4.5: Equivalence
    • Subsection 4.5.1: Equivalences of $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.5.2: Categorical Pullback Squares
    • Subsection 4.5.3: Categorical Equivalence
    • Subsection 4.5.4: Categorical Pushout Squares
    • Subsection 4.5.5: Isofibrations of Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.5.6: Isofibrant Diagrams
    • Subsection 4.5.7: Detecting Equivalences of $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.5.8: Application: Universal Property of the Join
    • Subsection 4.5.9: Relative Exponentiation
  • Section 4.6: Morphism Spaces
    • Subsection 4.6.1: Morphism Spaces
    • Subsection 4.6.2: Fully Faithful and Essentially Surjective Functors
    • Subsection 4.6.3: Digression: Categorical Mapping Cylinders
    • Subsection 4.6.4: Oriented Fiber Products
    • Subsection 4.6.5: Pinched Morphism Spaces
    • Subsection 4.6.6: Digression: Diagrams in Slice $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.6.7: Initial and Final Objects
    • Subsection 4.6.8: Morphism Spaces in the Homotopy Coherent Nerve
    • Subsection 4.6.9: Composition of Morphisms
  • Section 4.7: Size Conditions on $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.7.1: Ordinals and Well-Orderings
    • Subsection 4.7.2: Cardinals and Cardinality
    • Subsection 4.7.3: Small Sets
    • Subsection 4.7.4: Small Simplicial Sets
    • Subsection 4.7.5: Essential Smallness
    • Subsection 4.7.6: Minimal $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.7.7: Small Kan Complexes
    • Subsection 4.7.8: Local Smallness
    • Subsection 4.7.9: Small Fibrations
  • Section 4.8: Truncations in Higher Category Theory
    • Subsection 4.8.1: $(n,1)$-Categories
    • Subsection 4.8.2: Locally Truncated $\infty $-Categories
    • Subsection 4.8.3: Minimality Conditions
    • Subsection 4.8.4: Higher Homotopy Categories
    • Subsection 4.8.5: Full and Faithful Functors
    • Subsection 4.8.6: Essentially Categorical Functors
    • Subsection 4.8.7: Categorically Connective Functors
    • Subsection 4.8.8: Relative Higher Homotopy Categories
    • Subsection 4.8.9: Categorically Connective Morphisms of Simplicial Sets