1 The problem
The base library currently contains (essentially) the following classes:
class Monoid a where mempty :: a mappend :: a -> a -> a class MonadPlus m where mzero :: m a mplus :: m a -> m a -> m a class ArrowPlus c where arrowZero :: c a b arrowPlus :: c a b -> c a b -> c a b class Alternative f where empty :: f a (<|>) :: f a -> f a -> f a
If you look closely these are all the same. The only difference is in the superclasses and in the arity of the argument. You will find that any class that is an instance of MonadPlus can be made an instance of Monoid. In fact, some types such as lists, are indeed instances of both classes.
This leads to duplication of code and of extra names for what is essentially the same thing.When should you use
class Typeable a where typeOf :: a -> TypeRep class Typeable1 t where typeOf1 :: t a -> TypeRep class Typeable2 t where typeOf2 :: t a b -> TypeRep -- etc.
2 Chained instances
This Typeable library comes with instances
instance (Typeable2 t, Typeable a) => Typable (t a) instance (Typeable3 t, Typeable a) => Typable2 (t a) -- etc.
class Monoid2 t where mempty2 :: t a mappend2 :: t a -> t a -> t a class Monoid3 t where mempty3 :: t a b mappend3 :: t a b -> t a b -> t a b instance Monoid2 t => Monoid (t a) where mempty = mempty2 mappend = mappend2
class (Monad m, Monoid2 m) => MonadPlus m
A big disadvantage of these instances is that it is an all or nothing aproach.It is no longer possible to declare an
For example there is currently an instance
instance Ord k => Monoid (Map k v)
This would become imposible, because the instance would need be
instance Monoid2 Map -- we need Ord
3 Quantified contexts
An alternative would be a small extension of the Haskell language to allow quantifiers in contexts. Where we now write
function :: (Class a, Another (t a)) => Type a
We would also allow
function :: (forall b. Ctx => SomeClass b) => Type
The meaning is simple, to satisfy this context, an instance
instance Ctx => SomeClass b
is needed (or a more general one).We can use these quantified contexts in the
class (Monad m, forall a. Monoid (m a)) => MonadPlus m
or without the superflous extra class, for example
guard :: (Monad m, forall a. Monoid (m a)) => Bool -> m ()
The compiler will never infer a quantified context; the above type is not the most general type of guard. If you gave no type signature the compiler would infer
guard :: (Monad m, Monoid (m ())) => Bool -> m ()
4 Response from SimonPJ
I didn't see how Section 3 addressed the issues raised in Sections 1 and 2. For example, to avoid the cascade of `Typeable2`, `Typeable3` etc classes the solution is presumably polymorphism at the kind level. (Tim Sheard's language Omega has this.)
Still, I recognise the merit of quantification in contexts. Indeed, Ralf Hinze and I suggested it back in 2000 in Section 7 of [[http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/simonpj/papers/derive.htm Derivable type classes]]. (This section is rather independent of the rest of the paper.)
However, attractive as it is, it's quite a big step to add something akin to local instance declarations. Our ICFP'08 paper [[http://research.microsoft.com/~simonpj/papers/assoc-types/index.htm Type checking with open type functions]] relies rather crucially on not having such local instances. (We've managed to simplify the algorithm quite a bit since then, but it still relies on that assumption.)
So I'm not sure I see how to make quantified contexts compatible with type functions, and all the other stuff in Haskell. But their lack is clearly a wart, and one that may become more pressing.
Meanwhile, clarifying the proposal would be a good thing, even if it's not adopted right away.