263modernism/postmodernism, was Re: CL and modernism
- Aug 30, 2002"Logan, Patrick D" wrote:
>Yep, you're right. I have read the paper completely this morning and got
> >> I have found it strange that Common Lisp is considered a modern language.
> I would
> rather have classified it as a post-modern language. <<
> Common Lisp like Smalltalk *traditionally* have been available as large
> environments that are essentially operating systems unto themselves. This is
> opposed to the post-modern Perl, TCL, Python, Ruby, and JVM languages like
> Jacl, JPython, JScheme, SISC, etc. that combine a little of this with a
> little of that and can play off each other.
it. Common Lisp is modern in the sense that it is based on a simple
powerful concept that tells a "grand story".
However, I still think that Common Lisp is more post-modern than, say,
Scheme, in the sense that Common Lisp deliberately encourages you to use
whatever programming paradigm you would like to use, and provides ways
to combine these different paradigms (oo, imperative, functional, ...).
So, Common Lisp doesn't tell you how to program, but incorporates many
different programming styles and even allows you to "invent" new ones.
In this way, by using Noble's and Biddle's terminology, Common Lisp is
descriptive rather than prescriptive. (This is why I am so excited about
Common Lisp right now.)
Take for example the papers by Herbert Stoyan on the history of Lisp.
(http://www8.informatik.uni-erlangen.de/html/lisp-enter.html) He mainly
complains about the fact that people actually used Lisp. (!) Here is a
quote from one of the conclusions: "As things stand, he [John McCarthy]
must prefer SCHEME to CommonLISP -- a clear, understandable small
diamond, to a messy, incomprehensible clump." This should prove the
postmodern aspect of Common Lisp. ;-)
Is it acceptable that a language is not either modern or postmodern, but
somewhere in between? Noble and Biddle suggest that by mentioning PL/I
and the CLR as examples that have both modern and postmodern elements.
So, in order to get back on track again, my suggestion to base a truly
"universal virtual machine" on a Common Lisp core would be a postmodern
way to try to overcome the problems of today's computer science, by
seducing people. This would imitate current "trends", like Java and CLR,
and would offer fashionable languages to have a decent base, like Python
and Ruby. It could potentially spread usage of Common Lisp again,
although only under the hoods. (XML is another option: don't say
"S-expressions are better than XML", say "it's great that you use XML
and, by the way, here is a language that allows you to directly
manipulate XML by just doing a minor transformation into something
called S-expressions - don't mind the term"!)
I don't know how likely it is that something like this could work out.
However, another, totally different question is: do we actually want to
use "postmodern tricks" like that, or do we want to get the world back
on a "modern track" again?
My impression is that some of us in the Feyerabend community think that
"postmodernism" is one of the roots of the problem that needs to
changed. For example, a postmodern phenomenon is (like Noble and Biddle
show) that languages like Java or C# are not chosen because of their
expressive power or their technical merits but because of clever
advertising. (I do think they have social merits, but that's again
another topic.) We can change "the world" either by telling people "the
truth", or essentially by playing the same game. These are two different
It's probably obvious that I am more on the postmodern side of the
story. I think we can't get rid of postmodernism and its phenomena
anymore and we have to find ways to live with it. (And I think it's
possible - positively possible!)
What do the others think? Who of you is for or against telling the truth
and/or playing the same game?
P.S.: Yes, I think this is a valid Feyerabend topic...
Pascal Costanza University of Bonn
mailto:costanza@... Institute of Computer Science III
http://www.pascalcostanza.de Römerstr. 164, D-53117 Bonn (Germany)
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