Tag Archives: Moliere

Past vitalism in extreme functional programming

In Vitalism everything is a function.  Just like in lambda calculus with eta reduction.


With chemlambda we are someplace corresponding to The Sceptycal Chymist: or Chymico-Physical Doubts and Paradoxes, by Boyle.

Recall that chemlambda (and GLC) rejects extensionality, because it is a global move, not a local one.

Therefore, chemlambda and GLC are not functional, properly speaking. Which is good, actually, for a variety of reasons, kind of the same as the ones why chemistry is better than vitalism.

In another post, this way of seeing was called “extreme functional programming“.

I hope this might help the understanding of distributed GLC model of computation and the reasons behind choices which were made in the model.



1. Criticism of vitalism  supports the view that functional programming with extensionality is an reenactment of vitalism.

Vitalism has sometimes been criticized as begging the question by inventing a name. Molière had famously parodied this fallacy in Le Malade imaginaire, where a quack “answers” the question of “Why does opium cause sleep?” with “Because of its soporific power.”[29] Thomas Henry Huxley compared vitalism to stating that water is the way it is because of its “aquosity”.[30] His grandson Julian Huxley in 1926 compared “vital force” or élan vital to explaining a railroad locomotive’s operation by its élan locomotif (“locomotive force”). [quote from the wiki source on vitalism]

2. From the wiki source:

The Sceptical Chymist: or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes is the title of Robert Boyle‘s masterpiece of scientific literature, published in London in 1661. In the form of a dialogue, the Sceptical Chymist presented Boyle’s hypothesis that matter consisted of atoms and clusters of atoms in motion and that every phenomenon was the result of collisions of particles in motion. For these reasons Robert Boyle has been called the founder of modern chemistry by J. R. Partington.[1]


3. Chemlamba is based on a chemical metaphor. The initial name of the formalism is “chemical concrete machine”, in contrast with the “chemical abstract machine” of Berry and Boudol.