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The Philosophy of Computer Science (Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy)

Raymond Turner, Amnon H. EdenStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

The Philosophy of Computer Science (PCS) is concerned with philosophical issues that arise from reflection upon the nature and practice of the academic discipline of computer science. But what is the latter? It is certainly not just programming. After all, many people who write programs are not computer scientists. For example, physicists, accountants and chemists do. Indeed, computer science would be better described as being concerned with the meta-activity that is associated with programming. More generally, and more precisely, it is occupied with the design, development and investigation of the concepts and methodologies that facilitate and aid the specification, development, implementation and analysis of computational systems. Examples of this activity might include the design and analysis of programming, specification and architectural description languages; the construction and optimisation of compilers, interpreters, theorem provers and type inference systems; the invention of logical frameworks and the design of embedded systems, and much more. 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. However, in the end, computer science is what computer scientists do, and no exact formulaic definition can act as more than a guide to the discussion that follows. Indeed, the hope is that PCS will eventually contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of computer science.

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