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Philosophy of Computer Science

Online and offline resources


Call for papers: Philosophy of Computer Science: Minds and Machines special issue (submission deadline: 1 Dec. 2009)

See also: Seminar series: The Philosophy of Computer Science

Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don't know.
-- Bertrand Russell

From Stanford Enc. of Philosophy:

Sranford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyThe Philosophy of Computer Science is concerned with philosophical issues that arise from reflection upon the nature and practice of the academic discipline of computer science. Computer science can be described as being concerned with the meta-activity that is associated with programming: the design, development and investigation of the concepts and methodologies that facilitate and aid the specification, development, implementation and analysis of computational systems. Many of the central philosophical questions of computer science surround and underpin these activities, and many of them centre upon the logical, ontological and epistemological issues that concern it. Analogies and similarities from many branches of philosophy should prove helpful in identifying and clarifying some of the central philosophical concerns of computer science. [Read on...]

  • Timothy R. Colburn. “Philosophy of Computer Science.” Part III, in: Philosophy and Computer Science, pp. 127–210. Armonk, USA: M.E. Sharpe, 2000.
  • Raymond Turner, Amnon H. Eden. “Philosophy of computer science.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  • Bill Rapaport. “Philosophy of Computer Science: What I Think It Is, What I Teach, & How I Teach It.” Herbert A. Simon Keynote Address, NA-CAP 2006 [video]
Philosophy and Computer Science The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information Minds and Machines Journal of Applied Logic 

Special issues



Academic programs

  • “Philosophy of Computer Science” (CSE 410/510 & PHI 498). Bill Rapaport, Department of computer science and engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo, USA
    • William J. Rapaport. “Philosophy of Computer Science: An Introductory Course.” Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 28, No. 4, (Dec. 2005), pp. 319–341 [syllabus and experience]
  • “Philosophy of Computer Science” (175616). Matti Tedre, Department of Computer Science and Statistics, University of Joensuu, Finland
  • “Philosophy of Computer Science” (PHI4962). Konstantine Arkoudas, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, USA

Mailing lists


  • Alan M. Turing. “On computable numbers, with an application to the entscheidungsproblem.” Proc. London Math. Soc., Ser. 2, Vol. 43,. No. 2198. Reprinted in: Alan M. Turing, B. Jack Copeland (ed.) The Essential Turing: Seminal Writings in Computing, Logic, Philosophy, Artificial Intelligence, and Artificial Life plus The Secrets of Enigma. Oxford, USA: Oxford University Press.
  • B. Jack Copeland. “Computation”. Ch. in: Luciano Floridi (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Computing and Information. Malden: Blackwell, 2004, pp. 3–17.
  • B. Jack Copeland. “The Church-Turing Thesis.” In: Edward N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2002 Edition).
  • B. Jack Copeland. “Hypercomputation.” Theoretical Computer Science, Vol. 317, No. 1–3 (Jun. 2004), pp. 251–267.
    • See also: B. Jack Copeland. “Accelerating Turing Machines.” Minds and Machines, Vol. 12 (2002), pp. 281–301.

Paradigms of Computer Science

  • Peter Wegner. “Research paradigms in computer science.” Proc. 2nd Int'l Conf. Software Engineering—ICSE 1976, San Francisco, CA, pp. 322–330.
  • Allen Newell, Herbert A. Simon. “Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search.” Communications of the ACM, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Mar. 1976), pp. 113–126.
  • Donald E. Knuth. “Computer science and its relation to mathematics.” The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 81, No. 4. (Apr. 1974), pp. 323–343.
  • Michael S. Mahoney. “Software as Science—Science as Software.” in: Ulf Hashagen, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, Arthur Norberg (eds.) History of Computing: Software Issues. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2002. [History of software science]
  • Amnon H Eden. “Three Paradigms of Computer Science.” Minds and Machines, Special issue on the Philosophy of Computer Science, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jul. 2007), pp. 135–167. London: Springer.

Program verification

  • Richard A. DeMillo, Richard J. Lipton, Alan J. Perlis. “Social Processes and Proofs of Theorems and Programs.” Communications of the ACM, Vol. 22, No. 5 (May 1979), pp. 271–280.
  • James H. Fetzer. “Program verification: the very idea.” Communications of the ACM, Vol. 31, No. 9 (Sep. 1988), pp. 1048–1063.
  • Timothy R. Colburn, James H. Fetzer, Terry L. Rankin (eds.) Program Verification: Fundamental Issues in Computer Science. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers (1993).
  • Avra Cohn. “The notion of proof in hardware verification.” J. Automated Reasoning Vol. 5, No. 2 (Jun. 1989), pp. 127–139.

Ontology & metaphysics

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
-- Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Barry Smith. “Ontology.” Ch. in: Luciano Floridi (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Computing and Information, pp. 155–166. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.
What ontological category would computer generated organisms belong to? Are they supposed to be material objects? Events or processes? Platonic complexes of pure information? Or are the traditional ontological categories of the philosophers adequate to account for this new phenomenon?
-- Eric T. Olson (1997)

Software ontology, abstraction/implementation

  • Timothy Colburn. "Software, Abstraction, and Ontology." Ch. in: Timothy R. Colburn. Philosophy and Computer Science, pp. 198–210. Armonk, USA: M.E. Sharpe, 2000
  • James H. Moor. “Three myths of computer science.” British Journal of Philosophy of Science, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Sep. 1978), pp. 213–222.
  • Amnon H. Eden, Raymond Turner. “Problems in the ontology of computer programs.” Applied Ontology Vol. 2, No. 1 (2007), pp. 13–36. Amsterdam: IOS Press.
  • William Rapaport. "Implementation is semantic interpretation: further thoughts." J. Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Dec. 2005), pp. 385–417.
  • Raymond Turner, Amnon H. Eden. “Towards a Programming Language Ontology.” Ch. 10 in: Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic, Susan Stuart (eds.) Computation, Information, Cognition—The Nexus and the Liminal, pp. 147–159. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007.

General ontology & metaphysics

  • Willard van Orman Quine. “On what there is.” Ch. in: From a Logical Point of View, pp. 1–19. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.
  • Brian Carr. Metaphysics: An Introduction. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1987.
  • Roberto Poli. “Descriptive, Formal and Formalized Ontologies.” Ch. in: D. Fisette (Ed.) Husserl's Logical Investigations Reconsidered. Berlin: Springer, 2003.
  • Roman Ingarden. The Ontology of the Work of Art. Translated by R. Meyer ,John T. Goldthwait. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989.

Related subjects

  • Amit Hagar. "Quantum Algorithms: Philosophical Lessons." Minds and Machines, Special issue on the Philosophy of Computer Science, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jul. 2007), pp. 135–167. London: Springer.

Philosophy of programming languages (separate page)

History of computing: B. Jack Copeland. A Brief History of Computing (

Phil. of Information

Until recently, information was regarded as unphysical, a mere record of the tangible, material universe, existing beyond and essentially decoupled from the domain governed by the laws of physics, This view is no longer tenable.
-- Wojciech Zurek, in [Siegfried 2000, p. 57]
  • Luciano Floridi. “Information”. Ch. in: Luciano Floridi (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Computing and Information, pp. 40–62. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.
  • John Archibald Wheeler. “Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search for links.” In: W.H. Zurek (ed.) Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information. Redwood: Addison-Wesley, 1990.
  • See also:
    • David Deutsch. “It From Qubit.” In: John Barrow, Paul Davies, Charles Harper (eds.) Science & Ultimate Reality. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
    • Tom Siegfried. The Bit and the Pendulum. New York, USA: Wiley, 2000.

Phil. of Mind/Minds and Machines

  • Alan M. Turing. “Computing machinery and intelligence”. Mind 59 (1950), pp. 433–460. [“Turing Test”]
  • B. Jack Copeland. “Narrow Versus Wide Mechanism: Including a Re-Examination of Turing's Views on the Mind-Machine Issue.” Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 97, No. 1 (Jan., 2000) , pp. 5–32
  • James H. Fetzer. “The Philosophy of AI and its critique.” Ch. in: Luciano Floridi (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Computing and Information, pp. 119–134. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. (Turing, Searle, and weaknesses of Weak/Strong AI)
  • Brian McLaughlin. “Computationalism, Connectionism, and the Philosophy of Mind”. Ch. in: Luciano Floridi (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Computing and Information, pp. 135–152. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.
  • Eric Steinhart. “Supermachines and superminds”. Minds and Machines Vol. 13, No. 1 (Feb. 2003), pp. 155–186.



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Online reference

History of computing reference


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