[Python-Dev] Enumeration items: `type(EnumClass.item) is EnumClass` ?

MRAB python at mrabarnett.plus.com
Mon Apr 29 21:02:50 CEST 2013

On 29/04/2013 19:24, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> On 30/04/13 03:01, Guido van Rossum wrote:
>> Oh dear, this is actually a mess. I don't want MoreColor.red and
>> Color.red to be distinct objects, but then the isinstance() checks
>> will become confusing. If we don't override isinstance(), we'll
>> get
>> not isinstance(Color.red, MoreColor) isinstance(MoreColor.yellow,
>> Color)
>> This would be pretty backwards.
> Why is that backwards? MoreColor is a subclass of Color, so instances
> of MoreColor are instances of Color, but instances of Color are not
> instances of MoreColor. That's normal behaviour for subclasses. (All
> cats are mammals, but not all mammals are cats.)
Let's say that Color is red, green, or blue.

Let's also say that MoreColor is superset of Color, in other words, any
of Color, plus cyan, magenta, or yellow.

Red is a Color and a MoreColor (member of Color and MoreColor).

Yellow is a MoreColor, but not a Color (member of MoreColor but not

That's the opposite of the rules of inheritance.

> The only "funny" thing about this is that enumeration values of a
> Enum are only instances of that Enum if they are declared inside that
> Enum, and as far as I'm concerned that's not especially funny at all.
> So:
> Color declares red, so Color.red is a Color.
> MoreColor does not declare red, it merely inherits it from Color, so
> MoreColor.red is Color.red which is not a MoreColor.
> This leads to a simple rule:
> Enum values are either instances of the enum they are defined in, or
> instances of the parent class they are inherited from.
> If the user doesn't like that, they're free to not subclass Enums
> :-)
>> I Ggoogled "enum subclassing" and found this StackOverflow article
>> explaining why you can't subclass enums in Java:
>> http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4604978/subclassing-an-enum
>> which refers to this more elaborate answer:
>> http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3427947/enumeration-inheritence-in-java/3428050#3428050
> The first link says:
> "And generally, a proper subclass is a specialization of its
> superclass."
> and gives the Liskov Substitution Principle as the reason for
> prohibiting subclassing. LSP is a very useful principle, but it is
> not the only model for subclassing. That's why it's called a
> *principle* and not the Liskov Substitution *Law*.
> (Yes, I stole that from Raymond Hettinger's talk on subclassing at
> PyCon.)
> I think that the ability to extend enums with new ones, without
> duplicating code, is more important for enums than satisfying LSP.
> The common use-cases for enums do not lend itself to subtyping in the
> Liskov sense.
> E.g. if I have a function that expects a Color red/blue/green enum,
> and I subclass it to give MoreColor yellow, I can't expect the
> function to suddenly recognise yellow. So I'm not going to use
> subclassing in this case, because it can't work.
> But I will use subclassing to reuse values: if I have a function that
> expects red/blue/green/yellow, and red/blue/green are already defined
> in Color, I'll want to reuse them rather than duplicate them. Hence I
> will subclass Color specifically to extend it, not to specialise it.
On the other hand, a function that expects MoreColor should also accept
Color, which is a subset.

> The second link quotes:
> "For the most part, extensibility of enums turns out to be a bad
> idea. It is confusing that elements of an extension type are
> instances of the base type and not vice versa."
> Confusing for who, and why?
> You're going to confuse *somebody* no matter what you do. Either:
> - confuse people who try to subclass enums, and can't; or
> - confuse people who try to subclass enums, and can, but then get
> confused by the result.

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