Subject: Lisp per se
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1997/04/19
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

[discussion limited to comp.lang.lisp.]

* Paul Wilson in <5ja35t$>
| (And by the way, generic functions are not part of Lisp per se, they're
| part of Common Lisp with CLOS and some other languages that adopted the
| idea, including some OOP languages.)

I have seen this argument a few times around, which I take to mean that
there is some ideal notion of "Lisp" that refuses manifestation in the real
world.  while one can easily that Common Lisp the Standard (ANSI X3.226) is
not "Lisp per se", but equally easily iterate through all specifications
and implementations with the identical outcome, one has to ask: what _is_
this "Lisp per se" that it is useful to talk about?

one problem with this "Lisp per se" concept (if it be valid) is that it is
very easy for someone to argue against something in some Lisp that "ah, but
that's not Lisp _per se_".  take lexical scope.  some diehard critics still
believe that "Lisp per se" has dynamic scope and claim that arguments to
the effect that almost all Lisp implementations use lexical scope by
default are irrelevant.

to me, "Lisp per se" appears as a gateway for just such invalid arguments.
perhaps this "Lisp per se" is also the Lisp "idea" that people object to.
now, if "Lisp" means "dynamic scope", I would have serious trouble arguing
for its use myself, and I would understand those who argue against Lisp if
this is their argument.  indeed, I have often had to convince people that
the version of Lisp described in their textbooks is as outdated as if their
electronics textbooks would not even discuss transistors.  I wonder why
people don't think they need to know what "Lisp" is _today_, and I think
maybe this "Lisp per se" argument is the cause of that unwillingness.

can we help the Lisp image by upgrading the "Lisp per se" idea?  how many
serious players would we offend by equating "Lisp" with ANSI Common Lisp?

I'm no longer young enough to know everything.