MonadFail proposal (MFP): Moving fail out of Monad

Wolfgang Jeltsch g9ks157k at
Thu Jun 11 15:08:58 UTC 2015

Hi David,

thank you very much for this proposal. I think having fail in Monad is
just plain wrong, and I am therefore very happy to see it being moved

I have some remarks, though:

> A class of patterns that are conditionally failable are `newtype`s,
> and single constructor `data` types, which are unfailable by
> themselves, but may fail if matching on their fields is done with
> failable paterns.

The part about single-constructor data types is not true. A
single-constructor data type has a value ⊥ that is different from
applying the data constructor to ⊥’s. For example, ⊥ and (⊥, ⊥) are two
different values. Matching ⊥ against the pattern (_, _) fails, matching
(⊥, ⊥) against (_, _) succeeds. So single-constructor data types are not
different from all other data types in this respect. The dividing line
really runs between data types and newtypes. So only matches against
patterns C p where C is a newtype constructor and p is unfailable should
be considered unfailable.

>   - Applicative `do` notation is coming sooner or later, `fail` might
>     be useful in this more general scenario. Due to the AMP, it is
>     trivial to change the `MonadFail` superclass to `Applicative`
>     later. (The name will be a bit misleading, but it's a very small
>     price to pay.)

I think it would be very misleading having a MonadFail class that might
have instances that are not monads, and that this is a price we should
not pay. So we should not name the class MonadFail. Maybe, Fail would be
a good name.

> I think we should keep the `Monad` superclass for three main reasons:
>   - We don't want to see `(Monad m, MonadFail m) =>` all over the place.

But exactly this will happen if we change the superclass of (Monad)Fail
from Monad to Applicative. So it might be better to impose a more
light-weight constraint in the first place. Functor m might be a good

All the best,

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