Philosophy of Computer Science
Brian Cantwell Smith
on "What Is Computation?"
Last Update: 26 April 2007
material is highlighted
Smith, Brian Cantwell (2002), "The Foundations of Computing", in
Scheutz, Matthias (ed.), Computationalism: New Directions (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press): 23-58.
- 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
- CS is an empirical endeavor.
- 9 Theses about Computation:
- (C2) CS needs a full theory of semantics and intentionality.
- (C1) Therefore (because none of the following provide such
a theory), none of the current & different theories
of computation succeed:
- formal symbol manipulation
- effective computability
- execution of algorithms, or rule following
- calculation of functions
- digital state machines
- information processing
- physical symbol systems
- (C3) Formal symbol manipulation's separation of the syntactic and semantic domains
they are "participatory" (i.e., they intersect)
- (C4) TMs don't use marks to represent numbers;
they use numbers to represent marks!
The theory of computation is "a theory
of how...patches of the world in one physical
configuration [can] change into another
physical configuration" (p.42)
- (C5) I.e., the mathematical theory of computation is a
mathematical thoery of the flow of causality
- (C6) Computation is not formal in any of the following
senses of "formal":
- deterministic, or well-defined (i.e., not vague)
- analytic method
- (C7) CS needs a full theory of ontology
- For a beginning, see:
Smith, Brian Cantwell (1996), On the Origin of Objects
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
- (C8) Computers are not natural kinds
& there can be no theory of computation
- (C9) Therefore, the existence of computation is
because any theory of it will be a theory of intentional
artifacts, hence a theory of everything!
Copyright © 2004-2007 by
William J. Rapaport