Minds and Machines 17 (2):135-167 (2007)

Authors
Amnon Eden
University of Essex
Abstract
We examine the philosophical disputes among computer scientists concerning methodological, ontological, and epistemological questions: Is computer science a branch of mathematics, an engineering discipline, or a natural science? Should knowledge about the behaviour of programs proceed deductively or empirically? Are computer programs on a par with mathematical objects, with mere data, or with mental processes? We conclude that distinct positions taken in regard to these questions emanate from distinct sets of received beliefs or paradigms within the discipline: – The rationalist paradigm, which was common among theoretical computer scientists, defines computer science as a branch of mathematics, treats programs on a par with mathematical objects, and seeks certain, a priori knowledge about their ‘correctness’ by means of deductive reasoning. – The technocratic paradigm, promulgated mainly by software engineers and has come to dominate much of the discipline, defines computer science as an engineering discipline, treats programs as mere data, and seeks probable, a posteriori knowledge about their reliability empirically using testing suites. – The scientific paradigm, prevalent in the branches of artificial intelligence, defines computer science as a natural (empirical) science, takes programs to be entities on a par with mental processes, and seeks a priori and a posteriori knowledge about them by combining formal deduction and scientific experimentation. We demonstrate evidence corroborating the tenets of the scientific paradigm, in particular the claim that program-processes are on a par with mental processes. We conclude with a discussion in the influence that the technocratic paradigm has been having over computer science.
Keywords Ontology and epistemology of computer programs   Philosophy of computer science   Scientific paradigms
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DOI 10.1007/s11023-007-9060-8
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Computing Machinery and Intelligence.Alan M. Turing - 1950 - Mind 59 (October):433-60.

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Citations of this work BETA

What is a Simulation Model?Juan M. Durán - 2020 - Minds and Machines 30 (3):301-323.
The Philosophy of Computer Science.Raymond Turner - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Computer Science as Immaterial Formal Logic.Selmer Bringsjord - 2020 - Philosophy and Technology 33 (2):339-347.

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