Universal coalgebra: A theory of systems. (English) Zbl 0951.68038

In the semantics of programming, finite data types such as finite lists, have traditionally been modelled by initial algebras. Later final coalgebras were used in order to deal with infinite data types. Coalgebras, which are the dual of algebras, turned out to be suited, moreover, as models for certain types of automata and more generally, for (transition and dynamical) systems. An important property of initial algebras is that they satisfy the familiar principle of induction. Such a principle was missing for coalgebras until the work of P. Aczel [Non-Well-Founded sets, CSLI Lecture Notes, Vol. 14, center for the study of Languages and information, Stanford (1988)] on a theory of non-wellfounded sets, in which he introduced a proof principle nowadays called coinduction. It was formulated in terms of bisimulation, a notion originally stemming from the world of concurrent programming languages. Using the notion of coalgebra homomorphism, the definition of bisimulation on coalgebras can be shown to be formally dual to that of congruence on algebras. Thus, the three basic notions of universal algebra: algebra, homomorphism of algebras, and congruence, turn out to correspond to coalgebra, homomorphism of coalgebras, and bisimulation, respectively. In this paper, the latter are taken as the basic ingredients of a theory called universal coalgebra. Some standard results from universal algebra are reformulated (using the aforementioned correspondence) and proved for a large class of coalgebras, leading to a series of results on, e.g., the lattices of subcoalgebras and bisimulations, simple coalgebras and coinduction, and a covariety theorem for coalgebras similar to Birkhoff’s variety theorem.


68Q10 Modes of computation (nondeterministic, parallel, interactive, probabilistic, etc.)
68Q55 Semantics in the theory of computing
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