Computing Philosophy

I present superficially here a small selection of philosophical debates connected with computing. The debates associated with Searle and Fetzer are similar in character. They are both cases where philosophers have intervened to advise computer science researchers that what they are attempting to do is impossible, and they are both cases where the nub of the case is not a scientific point but a verbal one. That whatever behaviour a digital computer may exhibit it cannot properly be described as intelligent (in the case of Searle) or that no correct mathematical proof can properly claim to be a proof that a computer program is correct (Fetzer).

Penrose is not a professional philosopher, and so his contribution fails to be merely a point about words, and the debate about his books is more enduring, perhaps because there is some real science in what he is discussing.

AI Searle's Chinese Room

Penrose's new suit.

Formal methods
Fetzer's Folly
Knowledge Engineering - The above topics seem to me uninteresting and unimportant. The important issue in the confrontation of Philosophy and Computer Science concerns what knowledge is and what we should expect to get from a theory of knowledge. Computer science may force philosophy into a role similar to that of mathematics in science and engineering throughout history. Philosophy, if it has any real understanding of knowledge, must contribute tangibly to the realisation of machine intelligence. Failing that contribution philosophy will be discredited and displaced by any theory of knowledge which can be shown to work. As computers become intelligent and knowledgable, the value of theories about knowledge should become tangible, just as older engineering disciplines tangibly demonstrated the utility of mathematics.

Epistemology is an area where non-philosophers often feel obliged to do their own thing (see epistemological connections).

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