[Haskell-cafe] Why do I need UndecidableInstances?

adam vogt vogt.adam at gmail.com
Thu Oct 24 17:23:25 UTC 2013

On Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM, Stijn van Drongelen <rhymoid at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> As far as I know, you're referring to the Paterson Conditions. Condition 'b'
> kind of corresponds to "at least one of the types is shrinking", while
> condition 'a' corresponds to "all the other are not growing", so the rules
> are already formulated in the way you suggest. The Paterson Conditions are
> also not the issue here; the Coverage Condition is.
>> The equivalent code using type families doesn't need
>> undecidable instances in my ghc-7.6.2.
> This is because (I think) type family instances are not subject to the
> Coverage Condition. In principle, type families are to type classes as
> functions are to relations. Functional dependencies may be used to make type
> classes more 'function-like'. I guess(!) the Coverage Condition is trying to
> capture this notion.
> I don't know why it's formulated in this way, because in Alejandro's
> example, the classes really look 'function-like'.
> Kind regards,
> Stijn van Drongelen

Hi Stijn,

Thanks for clarifying the issue.

There is an example of why the coverage condition is needed on line
512 of (github doesn't handle line numbers in lhs correctly


It doesn't seem possible to write a type for that function with just a
type family; you need a class Mul to get into an infinite loop while
looking for instances. So it seems appropriate that the coverage
condition does not apply to type families.


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