[Haskell-cafe] On the verge of ... giving up! [OT]

Richard A. O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Sun Oct 14 23:13:24 EDT 2007

On 15 Oct 2007, at 5:41 am, jerzy.karczmarczuk at info.unicaen.fr wrote:
> But, when J. Vimal "threateneds us" to throw away Haskell,  
> complained about
> monads, and most people confirmed that the underlying theory is  
> difficult,
> ugly, and useless, I began to read those postings with attention,  
> since
> I disagree with spreading such atmosphere. And A.C. additionally  
> wrote that
> all this theory has nothing to do with Haskell, and submitted three  
> more
> postings, one more dubious than the other, I found that a warning  
> seems
> suitable, not for him, but for his readers!

I hope we can agree on several things here:

(1) The mathematical background of Haskell is one of the things that
     makes Haskell a beautiful and useful programming language.  It
     may even be one of the most important factors.

(2) The mathematical background of Haskell is extremely important
     for implementations.  Some important data structures and
     techniques are practical in large part because of the kinds of
     optimisations that are only straightforward in a language that
     has such foundations.

(3) Beginners do not need to understand all the mathematics behind
     Haskell to use it.

I really really hope we can agree on the next two points:

(4) It is not unfair to describe "Category Theory" as "The mathematical
     study of sound analogies between mathematical structures"; it leads
     to concepts of great generality and power, and encourages a  
     use of terminology which makes it easier to transfer ideas and
     techniques from one area of mathematics to another.  It's about
     *consistently* pushing generality rather hard.

(5) Precisely because it seeks generality, category theory seems
     difficult to "concrete thinkers".  And books on category theory
     tend to be extremely fast-paced, so ideas which are not in  
     particularly esoteric (which may in fact be eminently practical)
     tend to be presented in a way which people trying to study by
     themselves have trouble with.  So people can be scared off by
     what _ought_ to be a big help to them.

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