Philosophies of Rust and Haskell

Rust is a systems programming language following fairly standard imperative approaches and a C-style syntax. Haskell is a purely functional programming language, innovating in areas such as type theory and effect management. Viewed that way, these languages are polar opposites.

And yet, these two languages attract many of the same people, including the engineering team at FP Complete. Putting on a different set of lenses, both languages provide powerful abstractions, enforce different kinds of correctness via static analysis in the compiler, and favor powerful features over quick adoption.

In this post, I want to look at some of the philosophical underpinnings that explain some of the similarities and differences in the languages. Some of these are inherent. Rust’s status as a systems programming language essentially requires some different approaches to Haskell’s purely functional nature. But some of these are not. It wasn’t strictly necessary for both languages to converge on similar systems for Algebraic Data Types (ADTs) and ad hoc polymorphism (via traits/type classes).

Keep in mind that in writing this post, I’m viewing it as a consumer of the languages, not a designer. The designers themselves may have different motivations than those I describe. It would certainly be interesting to see if others have different takes on this topic.

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