Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Here is a proof I saw somewhere of the fact $R/I$ is a field if and only if $I$ is maximal:

$\implies$ Suppose that $R/I$ is a field and $B$ is an ideal of $R$ that properly contains $I$. Let $b \in B$ but $b \notin I$. Then $b + I$ is a nonzero element of $R/I$ and therefore there exists an element $c + I$ such that $(c + I)(b + I) = 1 + I$. Since $b \in B$ we have $bc \in B$. Because $1 + I = (c + I)(b + I) = bc + I$ we have $1 - bc \in I \subset B$. So $1 = (1-bc) + bc \in B$. Hence $B = R$.

$\Longleftarrow$ Now suppose $I$ is maximal and let $b \in R$ but $b \notin I$. Consider $B = \{br + a \mid r \in R, a \in I \}$. This is an ideal properly containing $I$. Since $I$ is maximal, $B = R$. Thus $1 = bc + a^\prime$ for some $a^\prime \in I$. Then $1 + I = bc + a^\prime + I = bc + I = (b + I)(c + I)$.

I thought this was fairly long so I tried to come up with a shorter proof. Can you tell me if this is right:

$\implies$ Assume that $R/I$ is a field and $I$ is not maximal. Then there exists an $x \in R - I = I^c$ that is not a unit (otherwise $I$ would be maximal). Then $x + I$ does not have an inverse hence $R/I$ is not a field.

$\Longleftarrow$ Assume $I$ is maximal and $R/I$ is not a field. Then there is an $x$ such that $x + I \neq 0 + I$ does not have an inverse. This $x$ is not in $I$ and $x$ is not a unit. Hence $I \subsetneq I + (x) \subsetneq R$. Which contradicts $I$ being maximal.

share|improve this question
4  
For a shorter proof, you could use the correspondence theorem for rings. If $J$ is an ideal such that $I \subseteq J \subseteq R$, then $J/I$ is an ideal of $R/I$. Conversely, any ideal of $R/I$ is of the form $J/I$ with $I \subseteq J \subseteq R$, where $J$ is an ideal of $R$. –  Mikko Korhonen May 19 '12 at 14:23
    
@m.k. Thank you! –  Matt N. May 19 '12 at 20:27
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Both directions of your proof are wrong. If $x$ is not a unit in $R$, it's still possible for $x+I$ to be a unit in $R/I$. If $x$ is not in $I$ and not a unit, it's possible for $I+(x)$ to be $R$. In both cases, you can take $R=\mathbb{Z}$, $I=2\mathbb{Z}$, and $x=3$.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think m.k.'s comment is right on the money: assuming you can prove that a commutative unitary ring is a field iff it has no non-trivial ideals (when by "trivial ideal" here we understand the whole ring and the zero ideal.):

$R/I\,$ is a field $\,\Longleftrightarrow \nexists\,\,\text{non-trivial}\,\, J/I\leq R/I\Longleftrightarrow \nexists\,\,\text{non-trivial}\,\,I\lneq J\lneq R\Longleftrightarrow I\, $ is a maximal ideal.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.