Why do class methods always need 'self' as the first parameter?

Ian Kelly ian.g.kelly at gmail.com
Wed Aug 31 17:52:48 EDT 2011

On Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 11:12 AM, Prasad, Ramit
<ramit.prasad at jpmorgan.com> wrote:
> It seems to me that if I add a function to the list of class attributes it will automatically wrap with "self" but adding it to the object directly will not wrap the function as a method. Can somebody explain why? I would have thought that any function added to an object would be a method (unless decorated as a class method).

Because things stored on the class are generally viewed as part of the
class definition, whereas things stored on an instance are generally
viewed as data -- a function stored on an object instance is usually
just meant to be a function.  Consider the following code:

class Sorter(object):
    def __init__(self, keyfunc):
        self.keyfunc = keyfunc
    def sort(self, item_list):

sorter = Sorter(lambda x: x.id)

If adding keyfunc as an attribute to the object wrapped it up as a
method, it would break, since the function is not expecting a "self"

More technically, because descriptors are only invoked when they're
stored on the class.

> Hmm, or does the decoration just tell Python not to turn an object's function into a method? I.e. Is the decorator basically just the syntactic sugar for doing the above?

If you mean the staticmethod decorator, yes, it pretty much just wraps
the function as a "staticmethod" instance to prevent it from being
wrapped into an ordinary method when it's accessed.


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