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Aspect-oriented Clojure(script) `def` forms
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Morphe (μορφή)

"Thus if we regard objects independently of their attributes and investigate any aspect of them as so regarded, we shall not be guilty of any error on this account, any more than when we draw a diagram on the ground and say that a line is a foot long when it is not; because the error is not in the premises. The best way to conduct an investigation in every case is to take that which does not exist in separation and consider it separately; which is just what the arithmetician or the geometrician does."

Aristotle, Metaphysics

Clojars Project

Morphe is a Clojure(script) library for writing aspect-oriented code without compromising on other language features (such as function metadata), by fully exploiting Lisp's "code as data" philosophy.

If you are new to the concept of AOP, read this walkthrough of a motivating example. If, on the other hand, you wonder when or why you might want to use this library rather than any number of perfectly reasonable and common Clojure idioms, read this comparison. Unlike the excellent Robert Hooke library, morphe does not enable dynamic modifications to functions, attaching and unattaching advice; here, aspects are statically applied at compile time.

(m/defn ^{::m/aspects [timed (logged :info) traced]} do-a-thing
  "do-a-thing has nice documentation, obviously"
  [pojo stuff]
  (.doThatThing pojo stuff))


In this library, I have forked clojure.core/defn, splitting it into its two fundamental components: the parser and writer. The new parser outputs a FnDef record which is consumed by the writer. But between being parsed and being compiled, this record can easily be examined and/or modified by aspect-defining functions.

If you wish to fully exploit these capabilities, then use morphe.core. Every "aspect" is a function applied during the macro-expansion of morphe.core/defn that accepts a FnDef and returns a FnDef. But bear in mind that unless you're doing something very fancy, you won't need to know anything about what a FnDef looks like, because morphe.core provides several very handy utilities for defining aspect functions. Read more about morphe.core here.

If you already are using traditional functional advice, or if you simply prefer higher-order functions, or rather disfavor writing macros, or for any other reason: morphe.functional uses higher-order functions to modify the function you are defining. This is very similar in concept to test fixtures in clojure.test. See example of morphe.functional in use here.

Finally, if you think this is all very great, but you want to define aspect-oriented Records, Types, Gubbins, or Whatnots, this library has you covered. The definition of morphe.core/defn is simply:

(defmacro defn
  [fn-name & fdecl]
      {:parser impl/parse-defn
       :->aspects impl/fn-def->aspects
       :compiler impl/fn-def->defn
       :&form &form
       :&env &env
       :def-name fn-name
       :decl fdecl}))

In short, you need to define a parsing function and a writing function, and you need to specify how to find the aspects in the parsed form (morphe's parser looks at the :morphe.core/aspects keyword in the def'ed symbol's metadata, but you could do whatever you want).

The main benefit, if it is a benefit, to re-using morphe.impl.core's utilities is that it does what it can to ensure your new def form is Clojurescript-friendly.

Clojurescript support

When compiling to Clojurescript, the library should "just work" as long as you follow this rule: every aspect must be defined in a cljc file, and (if you don't want Clojurescript warnings) must be visible to the Clojurescript reader.

;; Clojurescript compiler will complain whenever you use this aspect:
#?(:clj (defn my-aspect [fn-def] ...))

;; Do this instead to appease it:
(defn my-aspect [fn-def]
  #?(:clj ...))

The reason for the above rule is that aspects are run at compile-time, and so are executed as Clojure functions; however, references to them occur in Clojurescript code, so the compiler must examine the Clojurescript analyzer's context in order successfully to discover the Clojure version of the aspect.

I am brand new to Clojurescript and I encountered some interesting issues getting this working, so there could be problems. Please do submit any bugs you discover.

As far as I know (I have not tested), morphe will not work in self-hosted Clojurescript. I suspect it may not take much work to make that happen, but I have not prioritized looking into this.

Project History

This project began in 2016 as a personal library I called defdef, a silly experiment in abstracting the creation of all def forms. I came up with nothing remotely satisfying until I narrowed my focus to defn modifiers, at which point I realized it seemed very useful indeed. At that point I copied the library into a Clojure project at Workiva, where I developed it further as defmodfn, eventually open-sourcing it under the current name. I have since left Workiva, and that library is unmaintained, so now it lives here.


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