Functional Programming in C#

Learn how to write better C# code

Functors and Monads

Functors are containers that have value(s) and if you apply a function to that value(s) you get the same kind of container with the value(s) inside of it transformed. Any type that has defined Map/Select function is a functor. We can generalize the signature of Map like:

Map: (C<T>, (T -> R)) -> C<R>

Map is a function that takes a generic container that wraps inner value of type T and a function f that transforms T to R and returns a container C<R> wrapping the value after applying f to the container's inner value.

List, Enumerable, Dictionary are just a few examples of functors in C#.

Functor laws:

Advantage of using functors is that the value is abstracted away in container. Also, you can chain Map calls, because the Map function returns another functor.

Monad is just a generic container C<T> that has two particular functions defined on it – Return and Bind.

Return function wraps a normal value lifting it into monadic value. Normal values are int, bool, string, etc., while elevated values are Option<T>, Enumerable<T>, Observable<T> etc.

For example, we can define Return for IEnumerable like:

public static IEnumerable<T> Return<T>(params T[] ts)
=> ts.ToList();

Bind takes a monadic value and a function that can transform the value, and returns a new monadic value. Another way to think of Bind is that it is a two parameter function that takes an elevated value M<T> and a function T -> C<R> and returns a new elevated value C<R>. This is done by unwrapping the value and running the function T -> C<R> against it.