Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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James Morris

Functional languages are are unnatural to use; but so are knives and forks, diplomatic protocols, double-entry bookkeeping, and a host of other things modern civilization has found useful. Any discipline is unnatural, in that it takes a while to master, and can break down in extreme situations. That is no reason to reject a particular discipline. The important question is whether functional prgramming in unnatural the way Haiku is unnatural or the way Karate is unnatural.

Haiku is a rigid form poetry in which each poem must have precisely three lines and seventeen syllables. As with poetry, writing a purely functional program often gives one a feeling of great aesthetic pleasure. It is often very enlightening to read or write such a program. These are undoubted benefits, but real programmers are more results-oriented and are not interested in laboring over a program that already works.

They will not acccept a language discipline unless it can be used to write program to solve problems the first time – just as Karate is occasionally used to deal with real problems as they present themselves. A person who has learned the discipline of Karate finds it directly applicable even in bar-room brawls where no one else knows Karate. Can the same be said of the functional programmer in today’s computing environments? No.

(Via Dan Luu).