HugoNikanors blogg‽

A blog about nothing, but mostly itself.

Hugo Hörnquist 10 Apr 2019
Lästid: 4 minut(er)

A Monad is a Monoid in the Category of Endofunctors

I have recently tried to get a better grip on how Monads in Haskell actually work. Mostly I was perplexed by the state monad; so I decided to go ahead and implement some of it in scheme.

Full source code available at my git server


I took bind, (>>=) as a base, giving some basic definitions for it.

(define-method (>>= (this <null>) proc) '())
(define-method (>>= (this <pair>)
                    (proc <procedure>))
  (apply append (map proc this)))

Binding on a list is simple mapping the function over the list, and concatenating together the results. Which is a way to model calculations with multiple return values. For example:

(>>= '(1 2) (lambda (x) (list x (1+ x))))
;; ⇒ '(1 2 2 3)

We also give the default binding of the sequence operator (>>) as

(define-method (>> (a <top>) (b <top>))
  (>>= a (lambda args b)))

Which is a direct match to Haskells default implementation:

m >> k = m >>= \_ -> k


I could from there go back to map. Since a Monad is Monoid in the category of Endofunctors (whatever that means) everything that is a monad must also be a functor, something that can be mapped over. Leading to the very simple implementation of fmap, (<$>):

(define (<$> f m_)
  (>>= m_ (lambda (m) ((return m_) (f m)))))

Assorted bindings

As a quick side mark, I also implemented the do notation from Haskell with the simple macro

(define-syntax do
  (syntax-rules (<- let =)
    ((_ let ptrn = val rest ...)
     (match val
       (ptrn (do rest ...))))
    ((_ ptrn <- val rest ...)
     (>>= val (match-lambda (ptrn (do rest ...)))))
    ((_ a) a) ; Base case
    ((_ token rest ...)
     (>> token (do rest ...)))))

allowing forms such as the one used in implementing functor application

(define (<*> f_ i_)
  (do f <- f_
      i <- i_
      ((return f_) (f i))))

Other Fun Monads

From this I implemented a few different monads. Some trivial, like optional (maybe)

(define (div d)
  (if (zero? d)
      (just (/ d))))

(mapM div '(0 1 2 3))
;; ⇒ [Nothing]

(mapM div '(1 2 3))
;; ⇒ [Just (1 1/2 1/3)]

and writer

  (do "Hello, "
      (return-writer 10))))
;; ⇒ '(10 "Hello, World")

The interesting one, which prompted this whole project, is however:


To start of, an example:

  (do let y = 7
      (modify (lambda (x) (+ x y)))

The state monad requires at least the get and put procedures which works "inside" it, along with run-state, which runs a composition of "stateful"* procedures and returns a "regular" value.

The interesting parts are however how it is implemented. State is internally created in two parts. One is the <state> type, which simply is a procedure which maps state pairs to state pairs. And the other is (thankfully) state pairs.

The implementation both uses the define-stateful macro, which creates functions that creates functions which take state pairs as a secondary argument, and returns state mappers.

(define-syntax-rule (define-stateful ((proc args ...) st) body ...)
  (define (proc args ...)
    (make-state ; creates <state> objects
     (lambda (st) body ...))))

From there get and put are trivially implementable as

(define-stateful ((get) st-list)
  "Sets the return value of state to st."
  (match st-list
    ((_ st)
     (list st st))))


(define-stateful ((put v) st-list)
  "Sets st to v."
  (list '() v))

From here we can then build up further abstraction without ever caring about how state actually is implemented. for example, a simple (and probably buggy) stack implementation:

(define (pop)
  (do st <- (get)
      let top = (car st)
      (put (cdr st))
      (return-state top)))

(define (peek)
  (do st <- (get)
      (return-state (car st))))

(define (push v)
  (do st <- (get)
      (put (cons v st))))

* The whole point of the state monad is to emulate state, without actually modyfying anything

Everything is a Monad

I also realized that we can give a definition for bind for all types which lack their own.

(define-method (>>= (a <top>) (proc <procedure>))
  (proc a))

This has the fun effect that it allows all values to act as belonging to the same monad, the monad of the primitive scheme type. So expressions such as (>>= 1+ 10) ; ⇒ 11, and (<$> 1+ 5) ; ⇒ 6 suddenly work.

About Monoids

I however still don't understand why a Monad is a Monoid. A Monoid (ℝ, ×) is as known just pair between a group ℝ, and a binary operation ×, which is closed under application of the operator, is associative, and have a "0" element which any applied together with any other object results in the other object.

I do see that monads have many of these characteristics, with >> sort of acting like ×, but I'm missing at least one piece for understanding the whole puzzle.


Further Reading

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