[Haskell-cafe] Free monoids in Haskell

Dan Doel dan.doel at gmail.com
Fri Feb 27 18:17:09 UTC 2015

Well, the answer is 'supposed' to be that Y is the identity monad. It might
not quite work out that way due to bottoms, though. Lots of stuff doesn't
work out in Haskell for that reason. In fact, it doesn't even form a
category because of the lifted function space:

    id . _|_ = \x -> id (_|_ x) = (\x -> _|_) /= _|_

This inequality is detectable by seq.

In the identity case, it is actually not true that the Identity commonly
used in Haskell is lifted, because it is defined with a newtype, and so:

    _|_ = Identity _|_

holds. You can check this with seq as well. Both ((undefined :: Identity
Int) `seq` ()) and ((Identity undefined :: Identity Int) `seq` ()) are

However, I think (removing seq from the equation) Y is actually be
equivalent to the lifted identity monad (or, it's probably not correct to
call it the "identity monad," but whatever its proper name is). Presumably
the isomorphism would go:

    data Z a = Z a

    toZ :: Y a -> Z a
    toZ (Y e) = e Z

    toY :: Z a -> Y a
    toY (Z x) = Y $ \k -> k x

Note that Y is also defined with newtype, so there is no lifting involved
except for the function space itself being lifted. And some equations to

    toZ _|_ = _|_ Z = _|_
    toY _|_ = _|_ -- because of the pattern match

    toY (toZ _|_) = _|_
    toZ (toY _|_) = _|_

    toY (Z _|_) = Y $ \k -> k _|_
    toZ (Y $ \k -> k _|_) = Z _|_

    toZ (toY (Z _|_)) = Z _|_
    toY (toZ (return _|_)) = return _|_

So this looks promising. The monkey wrench comes in when we consider:

    Y $ \_ -> _|_


    toZ (Y $ \_ -> _|_) = (\_ -> _|_) Z = _|_
    toY (toZ (Y $ \_ -> _|_)) = _|_

And as mentioned before, seq can detect this difference. However, seq is
the only way to detect this difference, as far as I know. So if seq on
functions were given a semantics that didn't distinguish `undefined` from
`const undefined` (which would make 'the category of Haskell types and
functions' an actual category), then it seems quite likely that Y would be
properly isomorphic to Z.

This is a rather expected result, too, because Y is how we Church (or
Boehm-Berarducci) encode things. And taking laziness and bottoms into
account, it's not surprising that it is the encoding of the lifted
definition Z instead of the unlifted definition Identity.

Hope that helps some.

-- Dan

On Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 11:43 AM, Dr. Olaf Klinke <
o.klinke at dkfz-heidelberg.de> wrote:

> Dear Dan,
> you posted an entry on the Comonad.Reader blog about free monoids in
> Haskell. I commented about FM being a monad, and meanwhile verified that
> indeed every monoid is an FM-algebra. The proofs are analogous to proving
> that the continuation (_ -> r) -> r for fixed r is a monad and that r is an
> algebra for it, respectively. Moreover, the FM-algebra stucture is a monoid
> homomorphism w.r.t. the monoid instance you gave for (FM a).
> I'd like to ask what happens when one omits the Monoid constraint. That
> is, what are the elements of
> newtype Y a = Y { runY :: forall b. (a -> b) -> b }
> (Y a) is like (Control.ForFree.Yoneda Identity a), that is, elements of (Y
> a) should be natural transformations from the reader functor ((->) a) to
> the identity functor. If that is true, then the Yoneda lemma tells us that
> (Y a) is isomorphic to (Identity a), but at least operationally that seems
> not to be the case:
>         u =  runY (return undefined)
> has different semantics than
>         u' = runY (Y undefined) as can be seen by applying both to const
> (). So return does not map ⊥ to (Y ⊥). I wonder whether one can exhibit
> other elements not equal to any return(x). Of course (Identity a) is
> actually the lifted a, since
>         ⊥≠I dentiyt ⊥.
> Yet this does not serve as an explanation for u vs. u', as both u and u'
> are of the form (Y _), but one function evaluates its argument while the
> other does not.
> Olaf
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