Complete lattice

Partially ordered set in which all subsets have both a supremum and infimum

More implications of the above definition are discussed in the article on completeness properties in order theory.

In order theory, arbitrary meets can be expressed in terms of arbitrary joins and vice versa (for details, see completeness (order theory)). In effect, this means that it is sufficient to require the existence of either all meets or all joins to obtain the class of all complete lattices.

This property in itself is not a problem: as the case of free complete semilattices above shows, it can well be that the solution of the word problem leaves only a set of equivalence classes. In other words, it is possible that proper classes of the class of all terms have the same meaning and are thus identified in the free construction. However, the equivalence classes for the word problem of complete lattices are "too small", such that the free complete lattice would still be a proper class, which is not allowed.

Now one might still hope that there are some useful cases where the set of generators is sufficiently small for a free complete lattice to exist. Unfortunately, the size limit is very low and we have the following theorem:

The free complete lattice on three generators does not exist; it is a proper class.

The aforementioned result that free complete lattices do not exist entails that an according free construction from a poset is not possible either. This is easily seen by considering posets with a discrete order, where every element only relates to itself. These are exactly the free posets on an underlying set. Would there be a free construction of complete lattices from posets, then both constructions could be composed, which contradicts the negative result above.

Another representation is obtained as follows: A subset of a complete lattice is itself a complete lattice (when ordered with the induced order) if and only if it is the image of an increasing and idempotent (but not necessarily extensive) self-map. The identity mapping obviously has these two properties. Thus all complete lattices occur.