RE: Clearing a symbol known only through a definition

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg66683] RE: [mg66658] Clearing a symbol known only through a definition*From*: Andrew Moylan <andrew.j.moylan at gmail.com>*Date*: Sat, 27 May 2006 03:51:11 -0400 (EDT)*Reply-to*: <andrew.moylan at anu.edu.au>*Sender*: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

Thanks Carl. The function "OwnValues" does allow me to easily solve my problem; but I can't find any documentation for this function. Do you know why it doesn't appear in the help system together with e.g. UpValues and DownValues? I realised a little while after posting this question that my "particular problem" had that simple recursive solution. (I became interested in the solution to the first problem while trying to write a (more convoluted) solution to the "particular" problem.) -----Original Message----- From: Carl K. Woll [mailto:carlw at wolfram.com] To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net Subject: [mg66683] Re: [mg66658] Clearing a symbol known only through a definition Andrew Moylan wrote: > Suppose I have a symbol "a" that is defined to be equal to another > symbol. (E.g. It might be that a := b.) How can I clear the value of > the symbol 'pointed to' by "a", without knowing explicity what symbol that is? > > Clear[a] won't do, of course. > Clear[Evaluate[a]] won't do, because that will evaluate to > Clear[Evaluate[b]], which will in turn (in general) evalulate to > Clear["whatever b evalulates to"]. > In this case, the function OwnValues is useful. For example: a:=b In[42]:= OwnValues[a] Out[42]= {HoldPattern[a] :> b} So, a function to clear the symbol pointed to by a could be: SetAttributes[clearownsymbol, HoldFirst]; clearownsymbol[x_] := Module[{own}, own = OwnValues[x]; If[MatchQ[own, {_ :> _Symbol}], Clear @@ Extract[own, {1, 2}, Hold] ] ] For your example: a:=b b=3; In[48]:= b Out[48]= 3 In[49]:= clearownsymbol[a] In[50]:= b Out[50]= b > ---- > Alternatively, here is the particular problem I want to solve: > > For any expression e, either e is a symbol, or Head[e] is, or > Head[Head[e]] is, etc. Call this the "topmost symbol" in the expression. > Thus, the topmost symbol in f[x][y][z] is f. > > I want to write a function that takes an expression and calls Clear[] > on its topmost symbol. Can anyone think of a simple way to write such > a function? Unless there is more going on here, I don't see how your first issue relates to this problem. At any rate, here is a function that does what you want: SetAttributes[tophead, HoldFirst] topheadclear[a_Symbol] := Clear[a] topheadclear[b_[___]] := topheadclear[b] f=g; In[57]:= f Out[57]= g In[58]:= topheadclear[f[x][y][z]] In[59]:= f Out[59]= f Of course, f[x][y][z] without a hold gets evaluated to g[x][y][z] and there is no way to clear f based on the input g[x][y][z]. Carl Woll Wolfram Research