hout: Non-interactive proof assistant monad for first-order logic.

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Hout is an in-Haskell non-interactive proof assistant for intuitionistic first-order logic, using Haskell's type system. If a proof written in Hout compiles, it is correct.

Alternatively, Hout provides an indexed monad which, combined with Haskell's do notation, allows for writing Haskell code in the style of proof assistants.

The main part of Hout's value is found in Hout.Prover.Tactics, which defines the Tactic monad and several proof tactics similar to those found in Coq. Other useful defintions for using Hout can be found in Hout.Prover.Proofs.

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Dependencies base (>=4.7 && <5), indexed [details]
License BSD-3-Clause
Copyright 2020 Isaac van Bakel
Author Isaac van Bakel
Maintainer ivb@vanbakel.io
Category Type System, Logic
Home page https://github.com/ivanbakel/hout-prover#readme
Source repo head: git clone https://github.com/ivanbakel/hout-prover
Uploaded by ivanbakel at 2020-04-11T22:04:39Z
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hout - a non-interactive proof assistant for first-order logic, in Haskell

hout is an in-Haskell non-interactive proof assistant for intuitionistic first-order logic.

Alternatively, hout provides a monad that allows you to write functions in the style of proof-assistant proofs, which are then computable Haskell terms.

This is possible thanks to the Curry-Howard isomorphism.


Have a look at examples/Hout/Examples.hs for some examples.


If you know about the CHI and intuitionistic logic, skip this section.

The Curry-Howard isomorphism

The Curry-Howard isomorphism (or correspondence) is a pattern between intuitionistic logic and type theory, which says that propositions correspond to types, and proofs correspond to terms.

The basis of this correspondence is that an inhabitant of a type is a proof that the type is inhabited. For example, the term 3 :: Int is a proof that you can construct some terminating value of type Int.

What about types with no inhabitant? Taking some type known to have no inhabitants, like Void, you can show that a type a is uninhabited by producing a terminating term of type a -> Void. Why? Because a -> Void is inhabited only if a is uninhabited, and a term of type a -> Void is a proof that a -> Void is inhabited!

This also has implications for function types - a term with type a -> b is a function from terms of type a to terms of type b. You can equally consider it as a function from proofs of the proposition a to proofs of the proposition b - in other words, the function itself is a proof that a implies b, because if you have a proof that a is true, you can obtain a proof that b is true.

Other logical connectives also have equivalents in Haskell types. False is Void, because you can't construct a proof for it; a /\ b is the tuple (or product) (a, b); a \/ b is (the sum) Either a b; and Not a - the claim that a is uninhabited - is precisely a -> False. True can be any inhabited type, but it's helpful to have a type with a canonical construction, so True is normally (), the empty tuple, which has the unique constructor ().

You can see the correspondence in these types - (a, b) is inhabited if and only if both a and b are inhabited. Similarly, Either a b is inhabited if and only if at least one of a, b is inhabited. Phrasing it in terms of proofs, if you have a proof of a and a proof of b, you can construct a proof of a /\ b (and vice-versa) - and with a proof of a, you can construct a proof of a \/ b. With a proof of a \/ b, you can destruct the proof to get either a proof for a (Left a) or a proof for b (Right b).

For notation's sake, we write a <-> b for the type (a -> b) /\ (b -> a).

Intuistionistic logic

Intuistionistic (or constructive) logic is a subset of classical logic (the kind of logic you normally learn in a CS or Maths course). It behaves exactly like classical logic, but with one caveat - you can only construct proofs of a proposition.

To see what that means, consider the type of the law of the excluded middle - forall a. a \/ Not a. For every type a, one of these two terms must be constructable - either a is inhabited, so you can construct a value of type a, or a is uninhabited, so you can construct a function of type a -> Void.

But you can't write a terminating Haskell function with type forall a. a \/ Not a - because it would require you to somehow decide if a is inhabited, and then get a value of type a if it was. In other words, you have to construct either a Left a or a Right (Not a), and you have no way to do either of those things.

There are lots of other consequences of this caveat: the following implications do not hold in intuitionistic logic - and similarly, you cannot write a terminating Haskell term for their type.

  • Not (Not a) -> a
  • (a -> b) -> (Not a \/ b)
  • Not (Not a /\ Not b) -> a \/ b

Proofs and the Tactic monad

The Tactic monad is an indexed monad for which the monad state is the current proof goal, and the type argument is an additional hypothesis introduced at that proof step. Looking at its definition

data Tactic from to a = Tactic ((a -> to) -> from)

A Tactic term represents a valid goal transformation - you are allowed to change a proof of from into a proof of to, and introduce the additional hypothesis a, if you can use a proof of a -> to to prove from.

For example, the apply function has the signature

apply :: (a -> b) -> Tactic b a ()

Given a function a -> b, it allows you to transform the goal from proving b to proving a - because once you prove a, it will be possible to use the given function to produce a proof of b.

Some tactics introduce additional hypotheses - such as intro

intro :: Tactic (a -> b) b a

intro allows you to transform a goal of a -> b to a goal of b, giving you the hypothesis of type a to bind into a variable. If you can use the proof of a to construct a proof of b, then the resulting function term is indeed a proof of a -> b.

Available tactics

hout provides some tactics based on those used in Coq - for example, you can apply hypotheses to a goal; you can split the proof a conjunction into proofs of its conjuncts; you can intro a variable; you can exists the witness of an existential goal; you can rewrite propositions with equality; you can even assert hypothesis and produce subgoals.

The full list of tactics is given in Hout.Prover.Tactics, and it is possible to write your own using the type signature of the Tactic monad.

Proofs in do notation

Because Tactic is an indexed monad, you can use the do-notation package to write proofs in do notation, which end up looking quite similar to proofs in interactive proof assistants. Some advice for doing this is:

  • use pattern-matching in binds, particularly when working with existential types. GHC has some unfortunate behaviour when trying to use let in do notation when working with existential type arguments.
  • Enable block arguments, and use do notation for subgoals
  • If your final statement is a tactic that introduces a hypothesis, but the new goal is trivial (), use qed to end your proof.


The use of Forall is limited by Haskell's lack of support for impredicative polymorphism - the instantiation of type variables with higher-ranked types. This makes it basically impossible to prove a Forall using the Tactic monad, since under the hood Forall is just a Haskell type-level forall.

Computations written in the proof style

hout also has the nice property of intuitionistic proof assistants that proofs are themselves terms, and can be run as Haskell code. This gives hout the alternative use of writing functions in a proof-y syntax using the Tactic monad. For example, the identity function can be written as

identity :: a -> a
identity :: runProof $ Proof do
  a <- intro
  exact a