inheritance problem with 2 cooperative methods

Dan Perl danperl at
Thu Dec 2 22:00:59 CET 2004

Here is a problem I am having trouble with and I hope someone in this group 
will suggest a solution.  First, some code that works.  3 classes that are 
derived from each other (A->B->C), each one implementing only 2 methods, 
__init__ and setConfig.
class A (object):
   def __init__(self):
      super(A, self).__init__()
      self.x = 0
   def setConfig(self, config):
      self.x += config['x']

class B (A):
   def __init__(self):
      super(B, self).__init__()
      self.y = 0
   def setConfig(self, config):
      super(B, self).setConfig(config)
      self.y += config['y']

class C (B):
   def __init__(self):
      super(C, self).__init__()
      self.z = 0
   def setConfig(self, config):
      super(C, self).setConfig(config)
      self.z += config['z']

config = {'x':1, 'y':2, 'z':3}
alpha = A()
print alpha.x
beta = B()
print beta.x, beta.y
print beta.x, beta.y
gamma = C()
print gamma.x, gamma.y, gamma.z
print gamma.x, gamma.y, gamma.z

The output from that code is:
1 2
2 4
1 2 3
2 4 6

So far, so good!  But let's assume that I want to change the __init__ 
methods so that they take a configuration as an argument so the objects are 
created and configured in one step, like this:
alpha = A(config)

How can the code be changed to implement this?  It is tempting to modify the 
__init__ methods like this:
class A (object):
   def __init__(self, config):
      super(A, self).__init__(config)
      self.x = 0
      A.setConfig(self, config)

However, if implemented this way, the output is:
2 2
3 4
3 4 3
4 6 6

This shows that setConfig gets called more than once because both __init__ 
and setConfig are cooperative methods.

I have been thinking about this for a day now and I cannot find a good 
solution.  I imagine this would be a common problem and that there would be 
a recipe somewhere, but I couldn't find one (I looked in the Python 
Cookbook).  I've thought of creating 2 separate methods instead of 
setConfig, one that does the "local" configuration and another one that 
takes care of invoking super.  But I don't like the idea of creating 2 
methods in each class and I haven't been able to think of a way to solve the 
problem with just one change in the base class that would be inherited by 
all the subclasses.

Anyone has any ideas?  Thanks.


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