callNextMethod {methods}R Documentation

Call an Inherited Method


A call to callNextMethod can only appear inside a method definition. It then results in a call to the first inherited method after the current method, with the arguments to the current method passed down to the next method. The value of that method call is the value of callNextMethod.




... Optionally, the arguments to the function in its next call (but note that the dispatch is as in the detailed description below; the arguments have no effect on selecting the next method.)
If no arguments are included in the call to callNextMethod, the effect is to call the method with the current arguments. See the detailed description for what this really means.
Calling with no arguments is often the natural way to use callNextMethod; see the examples.


The “next” method (i.e., the first inherited method) is defined to be that method which would have been called if the current method did not exist. This is more-or-less literally what happens: The current method (to be precise, the method with signature given by the defined slot of the method from which callNextMethod is called) is deleted from a copy of the methods for the current generic, and selectMethod is called to find the next method (the result is cached in a special object, so the search only typically happens once per session per combination of argument classes).

Note that the preceding definition means that the next method is defined uniquely when setMethod inserts the method containing the callNextMethod call, given the definitions of the classes in the signature. The choice does not depend on the path that gets us to that method (for example, through inheritance or from another callNextMethod call). This definition was not enforced in versions of R prior to 2.3.0, where the method was selected based on the target signature, and so could vary depending on the actual arguments.

It is also legal, and often useful, for the method called by callNextMethod to itself have a call to callNextMethod. This generally works as you would expect, but for completeness be aware that it is possible to have ambiguous inheritance in the S structure, in the sense that the same two classes can appear as superclasses in the opposite order in two other class definitions. In this case the effect of a nested instance of callNextMethod is not well defined. Such inconsistent class hierarchies are both rare and nearly always the result of bad design, but they are possible, and currently undetected.

The statement that the method is called with the current arguments is more precisely as follows. Arguments that were missing in the current call are still missing (remember that "missing" is a valid class in a method signature). For a formal argument, say x, that appears in the original call, there is a corresponding argument in the next method call equivalent to “x = x”. In effect, this means that the next method sees the same actual arguments, but arguments are evaluated only once.


The value returned by the selected method.


The R package methods implements, with a few exceptions, the programming interface for classes and methods in the book Programming with Data (John M. Chambers, Springer, 1998), in particular sections 1.6, 2.7, 2.8, and chapters 7 and 8.

While the programming interface for the methods package follows the reference, the R software is an original implementation, so details in the reference that reflect the S4 implementation may appear differently in R. Also, there are extensions to the programming interface developed more recently than the reference. For a discussion of details see ?Methods and the links from that documentation.

See Also

Methods for the general behavior of method dispatch


## some class definitions with simple inheritance
setClass("B0" , representation(b0 = "numeric"))

setClass("B1", representation(b1 = "character"), contains = "B0")

setClass("B2", representation(b2 = "logical"), contains = "B1")

## and a rather silly function to illustrate callNextMethod

f <- function(x) class(x)

setMethod("f", "B0", function(x) c(x@b0^2, callNextMethod()))
setMethod("f", "B1", function(x) c(paste(x@b1,":"), callNextMethod()))
setMethod("f", "B2", function(x) c(x@b2, callNextMethod()))

b1 <- new("B1", b0 = 2, b1 = "Testing")

b2 <- new("B2", b2 = FALSE, b1 = "More testing", b0 = 10)



[Package methods version 2.5.0 Index]