Is there a translation between unit/bind and fmap/join in monads?


gives a partial one:

bind f m = join (fmap f m)


join x = bind x id

but can we express fmap in terms of unit and bind

and unit in terms of fmap and join?


2 Answers 2


You can express fmap in terms of unit and bind:

fmap f xs = bind xs (\x -> unit (f x))

You cannot express unit in terms of fmap and join. Intuitively, both fmap and join "take" a monad as one of their arguments, which means that neither of those functions, even in combination, give you a way to manufacture a monad from a non-monad.


Pseudonym's answer is correct, but it might be useful to some people to look at this from a categorical point of view so that we can give a proof using the monad rules.

The Haskell function bind, or >>=, has signature m a -> (a -> m b) -> m b, and the related Kleisli composition >=> is (a -> m b) -> (b -> m c) -> (a -> m c), where m is a monad. The relationships between these are that (f >=> g) x = (f x) >>= g) and (p >>= f) = (id >=> f) p.

The usual category-theoretical definition of monad is that it is an endofunctor equipped with natural transformations $\mu : T^2 \to T$ and $\eta : I \to T$ (the unit, or return in Haskell), satisfying associativity and unit conditions. The Kleisli composite of $f : a \to T b$ and $g : b \to T c$ is $$g \circ _K f := \mu_c \circ T(g) \circ f,$$ a morphism $a \to T c$. In this language it is more natural to swap the arguments of bind around so that it has signature (a -> m b) -> (m a -> m b), and on doing so given $f : a \to T b$ we would have $$\operatorname{bind}(f) := f \circ_K \operatorname{id}_{T a} = \mu_b \circ T(f)$$ and $$g \circ _K f = \operatorname{bind}(g) \circ f.$$

We then have, for $h : a \to b$, that $$\operatorname{bind}(\eta_b \circ h) = \mu_b \circ T(\eta_b h) = \mu_b \circ T(\eta_b) \circ T h$$ which is equal to $T h$ because $\mu_b \circ T(\eta_b) = \operatorname{id} _b$ by one of the unit laws for the monad $T$. This shows that the action of $T$ on morphisms, fmap in Haskell language, can be expressed using bind.

As an example, consider the list monad [] on the category Hask of Haskell types and programs. If $f : a \to b$ then $\eta_b \circ f : a \to [b]$ is $x \mapsto [f(x)]$. The multiplication $\mu$ for [] is concatenation of lists, so \begin{align*}\operatorname{bind}(\eta_b \circ f) ([x_1, x_2, \ldots]) &= \mu_b \circ [\eta_b \circ f] ([x_1, x_2, \ldots])\\ & = \operatorname{concat}([[f(x_1)], [f(x_2)], \ldots])\\ & = [f(x_1), f(x_2), \ldots]\end{align*} which is exactly $[f]([x_1, x_2, \ldots])$.


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