[Haskell-cafe] Monads from Functors

Ryan Ingram ryani.spam at gmail.com
Thu Apr 9 12:59:22 EDT 2009

On Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 2:22 AM, Sebastian Fischer
<sebf at informatik.uni-kiel.de> wrote:
> Let's see whether I got your point here. If we have a computation
>    a :: Monad m => m a
> and we have a pointed functor `f`, then we can get the result of the
> computation `a` in our functor `f` because `runContT a :: f a`.

Sure, but you can also do the same much more simply:

mkPointed :: Pointed f => forall f a. (forall m. Monad m => m a) -> f a
mkPointed m = point $ runIdentity m

> Clearly, `runContT (lift b)` (or `b` itself) and `runContT b` may
> behave differently (even if they both (can) have the type `f b`)
> because `ContT` 'overwrites' the definition for `>>=` of `f` if `f`
> has one. So it depends on the application which of those behaviours is
> desired.

My point was slightly more general; what I was saying was there is not
a huge use for the "generic" MonadPlus using Alternative, because
without "lift", you have a hard time embedding any other effects from
the applicative into the continuation use.  You may as well do the

> data MPlus a = Zero | Pure a | Plus (MPlus a) (MPlus a)
> instance Monad MPlus where
>    return = Pure
>    Zero >>= k = Zero
>    Pure a >>= k = k a
>    Plus a b >>= k = Plus (a >>= k) (b >>= k)
> instance MonadPlus MPlus where
>    mzero = Zero
>    mplus = Plus

> mkAlternative :: forall f a. Alternative f => (forall m. MonadPlus m => m a) -> f a
> mkAlternative m = convertPlus m where
>    convertPlus :: forall b. MPlus b -> f b
>    convertPlus Zero = empty
>    convertPlus (Pure a) = pure a
>    convertPlus (Plus a b) = convertPlus a <|> convertPlus b

(all this code is really saying is that being polymorphic over
MonadPlus is kind of dumb, because you aren't really using Monad at

Without any way to lift other effects from the underlying functor into
ContT, I don't really see how the "generic" ContT MonadPlus instance
buys you much :)

> Ryan:
>  > The CPS transfrom in ContT also has the nice property that it makes
>  > most applications of >>= in the underlying monad be
>  > right-associative.
> Do you have a specific reason to say *most* (rather than *all*) here?

Yes, because
>  runContT ( (lift (a >>= f)) >>= g )
still has a left-associative >>=.

Now of course that looks silly, but things aren't as simple as they
seem; in particular I ran into this first when using
Control.Monad.Prompt[1] (which is really just a sophisticated Cont
monad with a nice interface)

> data MPlus m a = Zero | Plus (m a) (m a)
> instance MonadPlus (RecPrompt MPlus) where
>     mzero = prompt Zero
>     mplus x y = prompt (Plus x y)
> runPlus :: forall a. RecPrompt MPlus r -> [r]
> runPlus = runPromptC ret prm . unRecPrompt where
>    ret :: r -> [r]
>    ret x = [x]
>    prm :: forall a. MPlus (RecPrompt MPlus) a -> (a -> [r]) -> [r]
>    prm Zero k = []
>    prm (Plus a b) k = (runPlus a ++ runPlus b) >>= k
>        -- this >>= is in the list monad

Now, consider runPlus ((mplus mzero (a >>= f)) >>= g), which uses the
Plus "effect"; this will reduce to
(runPlus (a >>= f)) >>= k
where k is the continuation that runs g using "ret" and "prm" to
convert to a list; the result still may have a left-associated >>= in
it, depending on the value of "a" and "f".

However, you're limited to at most one left associative bind per
"recursive" lifted operation; the other binds will all be

I know this was a pretty in-depth example, so I hope I've made it clear :)

  -- ryan

[1] http://hackage.haskell.org/cgi-bin/hackage-scripts/package/MonadPrompt

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