Philosophy of Computer Science
CSE/PHI 484/584, Spring 2010
3 May 2010
Do any 3 of the following. Write about 250–500 words for each answer.
Put each answer in a separate blue book. Please put
(1) your name, (2) today's
date, and (3) the number of the question on the cover of each blue book.
This is a closed-book, closed-notes, closed-neighbor, open-mind exam.
No books, notebooks, food, beverages, or electronic devices of any kind
are permitted in the exam room.
- Evaluate the following argument (note that it is similar to, but
not exactly the same as, the argument in Position Paper #1):
Natural science is the systematic observation, description,
experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of
natural phenomena. Computer science is the study of
computers and computing. Therefore, computer science is
not a natural science.
- Evaluate the following argument:
Suppose that computers running certain computer
programs can make rational decisions (at least in the sense of
outputting values of functions that serve as a basis for decision
making). That is, suppose that they can
determine the validity of arguments and ascertain the
probable truth-values of the premises of the arguments, and
that they can consider the relative advantages and disadvantages
of different courses of action, in order to determine the best possible
choices. (For example, there are computers and computer
programs that can diagnose
certain diseases and (presumably) recommend appropriate medical
treatments; there are computers and computer programs that can prove and verify proofs
of mathematical theorems; and there are computers and computer programs that can play winning chess.)
Suppose for the sake of argument that some of these
computers and computer programs can make decisions (and recommendations) on certain
important matters concerning human welfare. Suppose further
that they can regularly make better recommendations than human
experts on these matters. Therefore, these computers should
make decisions on these important matters concerning human welfare.
- What is computer science?
- Can computers think?
- Choose either (a) or (b):
- In your opinion, what is the most fundamental or important question in
the philosophy of computer science?
- What is a
question that interests you in the philosophy of computer science that we
did not discuss this semester?
Pose the question, explain why
think it is important or interesting, and present your answer to it.
Copyright © 2010 by
William J. Rapaport