Section (category theory)
In category theory, a branch of mathematics, a section is a right inverse of some morphism. Dually, a retraction is a left inverse of some morphism. In other words, if f : X → Y and g : Y → X are morphisms whose composition f o g : Y → Y is the identity morphism on Y, then g is a section of f, and f is a retraction of g.
In algebra, sections are also called split monomorphisms and retractions are also called split epimorphisms. In an abelian category, if f : X → Y is a split epimorphism with split monomorphism g : Y → X, then X is isomorphic to the direct sum of Y and the kernel of f.
In the category of sets, every monomorphism (injective function) with a non-empty domain is a section, and every epimorphism (surjective function) is a retraction; the latter statement is equivalent to the axiom of choice.
In the category of vector spaces over a field K, every monomorphism and every epimorphism splits; this follows from the fact that linear maps can be uniquely defined by specifying their values on a basis.
In the category of abelian groups, the epimorphism Z → Z/2Z which sends every integer to its remainder modulo 2 does not split; in fact the only morphism Z/2Z → Z is the zero map. Similarly, the natural monomorphism Z/2Z → Z/4Z doesn't split even though there is a non-trivial morphism Z/4Z → Z/2Z.
The categorical concept of a section is important in homological algebra, and is also closely related to the notion of a section of a fiber bundle in topology: in the latter case, a section of a fiber bundle is a section of the bundle projection map of the fiber bundle.