Lisp mentality vs. Python mentality

Carl Banks pavlovevidence at
Sat Apr 25 22:26:08 CEST 2009

On Apr 25, 12:36 am, John Yeung <gallium.arsen... at> wrote:
> On Apr 25, 2:06 am, Carl Banks <pavlovevide... at> wrote:
> > In answering the recent question by Mark Tarver, I think I finally hit
> > on why Lisp programmers are the way they are (in particular, why they
> > are often so hostile to the "There should only be one obvious way to
> > do it" Zen).
> I don't get that impression from Lisp programmers.  I suppose it's
> only fair that I disclose (1) I admire Lisp, especially Scheme, (2) I
> hardly know Lisp at all, and (3) I don't frequent any Lisp forums/
> newsgroups/etc.

No it doesn't really apply to Scheme.  (The Scheme programmer would
have stopped after implementing the new function.)

Some people seem to want to hypertarget everything.  Common Lisp seems
to attract these people in big numbers because it has powerful
metaprogramming facilities and expressivity on steroids, making
hypertargeting easy.  It's like the Ultimate Enabler language.

> I do get the impression that Lispers tend to feel Lisp is superior to
> all other languages, and I agree that in some ways it is.  I don't
> think most Lispers' main objection to Python is about "only one
> obvious way" but rather things like the limitations, compromises, and
> impurities in the language.

I totally disagree.  Scheme might be a pure language with no
compromises and impurities, but Common Lisp is certainly not.  The
"One Obvious Way" philosophy isn't their main objection so much as the
most emblematic difference.

> Certainly compared to Scheme, Python
> sacrifices a lot of purity for practicality.  (And I guess some fans
> of Scheme would argue that Common Lisp does the same!)
> Ultimately, Lisp is first and foremost academic (Scheme especially so)
> while Python is first and foremost practical.  I think Paul Graham's
> essays on Lisp exemplify the Lisp mentality.

I don't agree.  I agree that Lisp programmers think that's their
mentality; I doubt many can actually take fullest advantage of Lisp
the way Graham has.  I think Paul Graham is a freak of nature whose
brain is hardwired to notice patterns in places different from where
most peoeple see patterns.  Graham, for his part, doesn't seem to
appreciate that what he does is beyond hope for average people, and
that sometimes reality requires average people to write programs.

Carl Banks

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