Philosophy of the Information and Computing Sciences

8 - 12 February 2010

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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Description and aim of the workshop


The strong societal need for ICT is causing the ‘science’ of computer science (informatics) to branch out to any field of scientific, industrial, business and societal relevance. Yet, in debates on the status and future course of computer science/informatics research it is increasingly apparent that, after many years of great technological development, the nature of computer science as a science is far from understood. 


Do we have a good picture of the field, as a science? What is its scientific core?  What are the fundamental questions the field is addressing? If they are part of a discovery process, then what is the field aiming to discover? What are the key paradigms of the field and how are they developing? What is the role of computing, software, and information technology in this process? How far has the philosophy of computer science (informatics) progressed in addressing these issues? These questions and many more, are crucial for understanding the position of computer science among the sciences and for an assessment of its methodologies. 

The purpose of the workshop is to discuss the state-of-the art in the philosophy of computer science (informatics) and to contribute to the ongoing philosophical studies and research, in the unique workshop format of the Lorentz Center. This format combines (i) presenting recent research and (ii) doing (joint) research. The workshop is expected to lead to a number of new papers and/or initiatives, and is a chance to work on ongoing projects with colleagues within and across the boundaries of the discipline.

The workshop intends to bring researchers together who work in different parts of the relevant disciplines, in philosophy and/or the foundations of computer science or closely related fields, so viewpoints can be shared and new ideas stimulated.


Philosophical investigations of informatics are known from the viewpoints of e.g. logic, computability, information, and artificial intelligence. It has inspired new studies of notions like knowledge, awareness and other human qualities (`can the computer be made to have them?'), new investigations of extended notions of computation like agent-based computing and hypercomputation, and new methodologies of research in the sciences as well as in the humanities. Also, there is an ongoing interest to apply insights from the philosophy of science, the philosophy of technology and ‘general’ philosophy to explore the essence of the computing field.

It is generally acknowledged that the core philosophy of computer science is not as well-developed as it is for other sciences. We have progressed far beyond the adage of Newell, Perlis, and Simon that `computer science is the study of the phenomena surrounding computers’, but where do we stand? Is computer science a natural science, an engineering science, a science of the artificial? What questions should we be addressing?

Several important directions are pursued in the philosophy of informatics. For example, the computation-oriented stream is focused on the nature and mechanisms of computational processes and their omnipresence in the sciences, with deep ramifications in mathematics but also in e.g. biology and quantum physics. The information-oriented stream is mostly applied in process- and human-centered contexts, with deep ramifications in philosophy and e.g. in the humanities. Other streams (e.g. the design-oriented stream) focus on other aspects of the field, inspired by deep understandings of its development over the years. Meanwhile, the field develops into many exciting new directions. For example, until a year ago, few realized the extent of the whole body of knowledge and technologies now called Web Science. What does this mean for the philosophical investigation of the field?

Examples of concrete issues and research questions to be discussed and studied during the workshop are listed below.



The aim of the workshop is to bring the most recent viewpoints and insights together, and to work on advancing the field. Ideally new results will emerge, leading to several new (joint) studies or further initiatives. Some 20 scientists coming from relevant disciplines within the sciences and the humanities will be invited to present and debate their viewpoints on the issues. A tangible outcome of the workshop should also be an agreed research agenda for the field that can be publicized widely.

There will be room for only a limited number of invited oral presentations. Posters about one’s ongoing research may be contributed by all other participants, so there can be optimal research cooperation during the workshop. Presentations should take into account that the workshop should be accessible for all researchers from the various target disciplines.

Other researchers with expertise in the field are welcome to participate, as are those with a more general computer science or philosophy background interested in learning about these topics, at the discretion of the scientific committee. Applications for participation can be submitted through the registration page of the Workshop. Participation to the workshop is limited to 45 participants in total.


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