[Haskell-cafe] Mozart versus Beethoven (was: Writing "Haskell For Dummies ...)

Patrick Mulder pemulder at yahoo.de
Thu Dec 14 05:24:36 EST 2006

> Another difference with music that strikes me is the
> level of
> abstraction : a note is a note. A line of code
> (especially in a
> imperative setting) is much more than a line of
> code.

But this is exactly what "semantics" is about, or not?
It is the question, when you have a set of symbols or
abstractions, what sort of things do they represent.
Interesting to think that the old greeks and chinese
basically used only 4-5 sort of abstractions to
explain the different forms of matter in the universe
whereas now we use at least 100 sort of atoms, and
millions of sort of molecules. And without the simple
abstractions by Euclid (point and lines), we could not
evolve mathematics and most of modern sciences. And my
point is, that abstractions (concepts) change over
time depending on the tools or instruments we use.
Without piano's, there would be no Bach, Mozart or
Beethoven. And in general, music would have been far
less differentiated without the introduction of new
tools (compare the differences in compositions between
Palestrina, Telemann, Corelli, Bach, Haydn, Mozart,
Beethoven, Wagner, Schoenberg). Also, in painting you
see the emergence of many new idea's by having better
ways to make paint and colors, and by the uses of
lenses. Similarly, Von Neumann machines allows us to
think about programming in a certain way, i.e.
step-by-step-by-step-by-step.... but it seems that we
start to learn that the amount of steps we can execute
per second is not really relevant for many sort of
problems. Ok, there are still many area's where we can
profit from better algorithms and machines that would
improve the calculation of some FFT, but what counts
more is often the WAY we think about our abstractions.
I think this is why functional programming is

This discussion on programming approaches reminds me
as well on the fight between empiricism and
rationalism. The former philosophers tried to learn
and generalize by experience (maybe the "hacker"
idea), while the latter tried to improve ways of
deductive reasoning (the mathematical approach). I
think only later philosophers such as Kant could merge
concepts from both worlds (from the senses and ideas),
but to my knowledge, this had more impact on politics
and ethics, rather than science or mathematics. (The
source codes by Kant are quite difficult to read. It
seems he wanted to write this way to increase the
level of thinking.)

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