[Python-Dev] type categories
Guido van Rossum
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 02:44:27 -0400
> If we don't have the separate interface concept, the language just
> isn't as expressive. We would have to establish a convention to
> sacrifice one of -- a) being able to inherit from a class just for
> implementation purposes or b) being able to reason about interfaces
> using isinstance(). a) is error prone, because the language
> wouldn't prevent anyone from making the mistake. b) is unfortunate,
> because we'd have interfaces but no formal way to reason about them.
So the point is that it's possible to have a class D that picks up
interface I somewhere in its inheritance chain, by inheriting from a
class C that implements I, where D doesn't actually satisfy the
invariants of I (or of C, probably).
I can see that that is a useful feature. But it shouldn't have to
preclude us from using inheritance for interfaces, if there was a way
to "shut off" inheritance as far as isinstance() (or issubclass())
testing is concerned. C++ does this using private inheritance. Maybe
we can add a similar convention to Python for denying inheritance from
a given class or interface.
Why do keep arguing for inheritance? (a) the need to deny inheritance
from an interface, while essential, is relatively rare IMO, and in
*most* cases the inheritance rules work just fine; (b) having two
separate but similar mechanisms makes the language larger.
For example, if we ever are going to add argument type declarations to
Python, it will probably look like this:
def foo(a: classA, b: classB):
It would be convenient if this could be *defined* as
assert isinstance(a, classA) and isinstance(b, classB)
so that programs that have a simple class hierarchy can use their
classes directly as argument types, without having to go through the
trouble of declaring a parallel set of interfaces.
I also think that it should be possible to come up with a set of
standard "abstract" classes representing concepts like number,
sequence, etc., in which the standard built-in types are nicely
--Guido van Rossum (home page: http://www.python.org/~guido/)