Recursion on Lambda Function
Dig deep down into the functional programming, one might ask
At first glance it seems impossible. Since functions defined via lambda are anonymous, but to recurse we need them to have names – to be recallable. Well, ditch the recursion aspect for now and take a look at this very simple function that take a number and return its square.
(lambda x: x**2)(5)
This is the simplest form of a function. Now, how about adding an unused parameter to the function.
(lambda w, x: x**2)(999, 5)
In this case, we just simply ignore the number 999
that stored as an argument for w
… And it is the end of the road if we aren’t notice that w
can be anything, not only a number (as a data point). That is we can feed another lambda function in to it.^{1}
(lambda w, x: x**2)(lambda u: 42, 5)
So, lambda function need not to be anonymous. Yes, it might be anonymous in some scope. But for a larger scope than itself, we can give it a name! Here, lets consider a slightly different version with altered parameter name such that we feed in the square function as the first argument.
(lambda g, y: y**2)(lambda x: x**2, 5)
We’ll see that the number 5
is stored at y
. We then find y**2
from the outer function, failing to utilize lambda x: x**2
yet. To use lambda x: x**2
, observe that it is now called g
, so we can apply 5
to the lambda x: x**2
, like this.
(lambda g, y: g(y))(lambda x: x**2, 5)
Yes. We did it. We can use lambda x: x**2
in the larger scope now. However, it is still not useful in the aspect of recursion. Since recursion required a function to call itself in the same scope. One way to do it is to pass lambda x: x**2
on and on, keeping it alive.
(lambda g, y: g(g, y))(lambda f, x: x**2, 5)
And just this, the scope of lambda f, x: x**2
is now populated with the name of itself (name f
). So we can try writing a recursive function. Maybe a simple factorial function.
(lambda g, y: g(g, y))(lambda f, x: 1 if x == 0 else x * f(f, x1), 5)
Observe that to write a recursion with this lambda technique, we have to pass its name as an argument to its own parameter.
P.S. this is the first entry, the next one is in tomorrow post.

In functional programming, a function is firstclass, that is we can pass the function around anywhere anytime. Unlike the antique C that we cannot directly feed a function as an argument to other function. ↩
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