Why is adding attributes to an already instantiated object allowed?

A leading principle is that there is no such thing as a declaration. That is, you never declare “this class has a method foo” or “instances of this class have an attribute bar”, let alone making a statement about the types of objects to be stored there. You simply define a method, attribute, class, etc. and it’s added. As JBernardo points out, any __init__ method does the very same thing. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to arbitrarily restrict creation of new attributes to methods with the name __init__. And it’s sometimes useful to store a function as __init__ which don’t actually have that name (e.g. decorators), and such a restriction would break that.

Now, this isn’t universally true. Builtin types omit this capability as an optimization. Via __slots__, you can also prevent this on user-defined classes. But this is merely a space optimization (no need for a dictionary for every object), not a correctness thing.

If you want a safety net, well, too bad. Python does not offer one, and you cannot reasonably add one, and most importantly, it would be shunned by Python programmers who embrace the language (read: almost all of those you want to work with). Testing and discipline, still go a long way to ensuring correctness. Don’t use the liberty to make up attributes outside of __init__ if it can be avoided, and do automated testing. I very rarely have an AttributeError or a logical error due to trickery like this, and of those that happen, almost all are caught by tests.

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