Overdetermined recursion


While the previous example (Underdetermined recursion) was concerned with recursive type definitions that have multiple valid interpretations, here the problem is recursive type definitions that have no valid interpretations at all.

When type systems allow constraints on type parameters, type declarations must be checked to see that the constraints are valid. For instance, Scala correctly rejects the following type declaration:

type A >: String <: Int
// Error: lower bound String does not conform to upper bound Int

This purports to declare a type A which is both a subtype of Int and a supertype of String, but this would incorrectly imply that String was a subtype of Int.

However, a similar example is accepted1, if the invalid declaration is split across two recursive definitions:

// Counterexample by Nada Amin
trait O { type A >: Any <: B; type B >: A <: Nothing }
val o = new O {}
def id(a: Any): Nothing = (a: o.B)

The Any <: B check that is required by the declaration of A passes, because Any <: A (by the declaration of A) and A <: B (by the declaration of B). In effect, circular reasoning occurs here, where each half of the recursive definition is used to justify the other.