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The argument is that macros have non-local effects; they interact with the code in which they are applied. This means that the macro definition and the code surrounding the macro invocation can't necessarily be understood in isolation.

This is also essentially the argument against global variables.




A function definition is, in general, far away from the function call. If you think this problem is more severe for macros than for functions, then you should articulate why. You may well have a very valid point in your mind but I think it needs to be expressed somewhat more specifically.


For non-hygienic macros, it's essentially the variable capture problem.

For hygienic macros, I don't know of a good argument that they are inherently more difficult to understand separately from their invocation than a function.

(I'm not personally arguing against macros - or global variables for that matter - just trying to state the argument).


I think it should be obvious that you use programming constructs only when difficulty of understanding it is less than the difficulty of understanding code without it (over the whole program). This applies to functions, classes, macros, frameworks etc.

Full macros (like in CL where they are just functions that don't evaluate their arguments) give the programmer same power as compiler writer or programming language designer.

ps. To really get benefit from Lisp macros, you would need to standardize code walker. Without code walker, macros can't reach their full potential.


What is code walker?


If you want local reasoning you will have to reject Turing completeness, otherwise you could implement a language with global variables and eval a bunch of code in that language.

I think we shouldn't be limiting our tools. We should instead limit their use. Global variables can be nasty, but it's nice to have them when your code is best expressed with global variables. Same for macros.




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