So why is the restriction imposed? The reasoning behind it is fairly subtle, and is fully explained in the Haskell 98 report. Basically, it solves one practical problem (without the restriction, there would be some ambiguous types) and one semantic problem (without the restriction, there would be some repeated evaluation where a programmer might expect the evaluation to be shared). Those who are for the restriction argue that these cases should be dealt with correctly. Those who are against the restriction argue that these cases are so rare that it's not worth sacrificing the type-independence of eta reduction.