[Python-ideas] Retire or reword the "Beautiful is better than ugly" Zen clause

Tim Peters tim.peters at gmail.com
Thu Sep 13 23:41:40 EDT 2018

> > I already made clear that I'm opposed to changing it.

[Terry Reedy <tjreedy at udel.edu>]

> To me, this settles the issues.  As author, you own the copyright on
> your work.  The CLA allows revision of contributions, but I don't think
> that contributed poetry should be treated the same as code and docs.

I don't care about legalities here.  If people want to change it into
something it never intended to say, so it goes.  It wouldn't be the first
time A Prophet's words were bastardized to suit political fashion ;-)

> The free verse form reminds me more of Hindu-Jain-Buddhist sutras, with
> a bit of Monty Python tossed in, rather than of Zen writing.  I presume
> that 'Zen' refers more to the method of composition, and the lack of
> post-production editing, than to the content.

As I noted before, "Zen" wasn't my word.  Somebody else dreamed up that to
give it "a title".  In real life, it was originally buried in a
comp.lang.python post talking about what guided Guido's _language_ design

I presume "Zen" came to their mind because it's brief, and a critical
reading reveals a number of seeming ambiguities and contradictions, yet it
nevertheless _appears_ to say _something_ ;-)  It has those aspects in
common with any number of (English translations of) Zen koans.

> If the text were up for grabs, I would want to change some periods to
> semi-colons and reconsider some of the other lines.

While I would not ;-)

> The 'beauty' line is one of multiple contrasts, and should be judged in
> that context, not in isolation.

FYI, that line came first because I channeled that what it said was truly
fundamental to Python's design:  Guido's ineffable sense of aesthetics.
Language design isn't a purely deductive science, and Guido never pretended
it was.  Back then, various proposals elicited encouragement or visceral
disgust very quickly.  Beautiful or ugly?

Indeed, the rest of the aphorisms can be viewed as elaborating on aspects
of what "beautiful" and "ugly" _mean_ in this context.

That "beautiful" and "ugly" are subjective is essential to the point it
intended.  Any objectively definable terms instead would miss that point
entirely.  At heart, Python's design emerged from Guido's sense of beauty
(and of its opposite in ordinary language:  ugliness).
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