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Curry-Howard-Lambek correspondence

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Revision as of 19:31, 2 November 2006

The Curry-Howard isomorphism is an isomorphism between types (in programming languages) and propositions (in logic). Interestingly, the isomorphism maps programs (functions in Haskell) to (constructive) proofs (and vice versa). (Note there is also a third part to this correspondance, sometimes called the Curry-Howard-Lambek correspondance, that shows an equivalance to Cartesian closed categories)


1 The Answer

As is well established by now,

theAnswer :: Integer
theAnswer = 42
The logical interpretation of the program is that the type
is inhibited (by the value
), so the existence of this program proves the proposition
(a type without any value is the "bottom" type, a proposition with no proof).

2 Inference

A (non-trivial) Haskell function maps a value (of type
, say) to another value (of type
), therefore, given a value of type
(a proof of
), it constructs a value of type
(so the proof is transformed into a proof of
)! So
is inhibited if
is, and a proof of
a -> b
is established (hence the notation, in case you were wondering).
representation :: Bool -> Integer
representation False = 0
representation True = 1
says, for example, if
is inhibited, so is
(well, the point here is demonstration, not discovery).

3 Connectives

Of course, atomic propositions contribute little towards knowledge, and the Haskell type system incorporates the logical connectives \and and \or, though heavily disguised. Haskell handles \or conjuction in the manner described by Intuitionistic Logic. When a program has type a \or b, the value returned itself indicates which one. The algebraic data types in Haskell has a tag on each alternative, the constructor, to indicate the injections:

data Message a = OK a | Warning a | Error a
p2pShare :: Integer -> Message String
p2pShare n | n == 0 = Warning "Share! Freeloading hurts your peers."
           | n < 0 = Error "You cannot possibly share a negative number of files!"
           | n > 0 = OK ("You are sharing " ++ show n ++ " files."
So any one of
OK String
Warning String
Error String
proves the proposition
Message String
, leaving out any two constructors would not invalidate the program. At the same time, a proof of
Message String
can be pattern matched against the constructors to see which one it proves. On the other hand, to prove
is inhibited from the proposition
Message String
, it has to be proven that you can prove
from any of the alternatives...
show :: Message String -> String
show (OK s) = s
show (Warning s) = "Warning: " ++ s
show (Error s) = "ERROR! " ++ s

The \and conjuction is handled via an isomorphism in Closed Cartesian Categories in general (Haskell types belong to this category): \mathrm{Hom}(X\times Y,Z) \cong \mathrm{Hom}(X,Z^Y).

4 Theorems for free!

Things get interesting when polymorphism comes in. The composition operator in Haskell proves a very simple theorem.

(.) :: (a -> b) -> (b -> c) -> (a -> c)
(.) f g x = f (g x)
The type is, actually,
forall a b c. (a -> b) -> (b -> c) -> (a -> c)
, to be a bit verbose, which says, logically speaking, for all propositions
a, b
, if from
can be proven, and if from
can be proven, then from
can be proven (the program says how to go about proving: just compose the given proofs!)