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Philosophy; Programming; the Same?

My two great loves are philosophy and mathematics — in particular, programming. As such, I would love to find a way to combine these two interests.

My first thought regarding this was, what about a computer program that manipulates philosophical topics? How would this work? And then I realized: programming already is a sort of philosophy, just a very different sort. Philosophy involves the manipulation of ideas; programming involves the manipulation of data. But when it comes down to it, is there really all that much difference between ideas and data?

How is it possible to write programs regarding philosophical topics? Or, how can we metaphorically represent a philosophical concept in terms of a computer program? Let’s take a fairly common example: “I think, therefore I am.” The computer would need to have the concept of “I”, which is fairly complicated in and of itself. It would then have to have some sort of mechanism which could be called thinking. But then what? The mechanics of such a thing would be a nightmare. Or would it?

This is a concept that may lead somewhere. Finding where it is headed, or even getting started down that path, is a large, maybe even insurmountable problem. I haven’t put all that much thought into it, but from where I’m standing it looks tricky. Think, though, of what the implications of a philosophical computer program could be!

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  1. Matt
    February 13, 2010 at 6:30 am

    How about the philosophy of AI?

  2. barbara
    September 25, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I was just reading an article about this question today by Theodore Roszak, PhD and prof. of History at California State U. He says the computer operates at a very minimal level of thinking and is inadequate when you get to the level of great judgments. In politics, law, social policy what you need is a fully developed human mind capable of much more than a computer can do. He believes the reason we are not solving some of the world’s problems (hunger, war, overpopulation,etc.) is because we are not focusing on the basic values and “losing ourselves in a sea of information.” (Consider the large amount of intelligence information prior to 9/11 which got lost for lack of good judgment.)
    B.Dickens

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