Philosophy of Computer Science

Brian Cantwell Smith
on "What Is Computing?"

Last Update: 22 April 2010

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

Smith, Brian Cantwell (2002), "The Foundations of Computing", in Scheutz, Matthias (ed.), Computationalism: New Directions (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press): 23–58. (*)

  1. The major question in the philosophy of computer science is:

    and the answer is that it is a lot more than the theory of Turing machines.

  2. Computing is:

    1. empirical

      • "computation in the wild" includes every aspect of the nature and use of computing and computers
      • [including things like iPads and Facebook]

    2. conceptual

      • computing and computers are intimately related to issues in semantics (interpretation, representation)
      • [TMs probably fit in here]

    3. cognitive

      • theory of computation must provide a foundation for theory of mind (computational cognitive science)
      • [TT & CRA fit in here]

  3. 9 Theses about Computation:

(*) For a critique of Smith 2002, see: DeJohn, Jerry; & Dietrich, Eric (2003), "Editorial: Subvert the Dominant Paradigm! A Review of Computationalism: New Directions, edited by Matthias Scheutz", Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 15(4) (October-December): 375–382, esp. §3.1, pp. 378–379. [back to top]

Copyright © 2004–2010 by William J. Rapaport (