Aims and Scope


This Symposium follows the organization of the International Conference on History and Philosophy of Computing, held at the University of Ghent from 7 to 10 November 2011. A historical awareness of the evolution of computing not only helps to clarify the complex structure of the computing sciences, but it also provides an insight in what computing was, is and maybe could be in the future. Philosophy, on the other hand, helps to tackle some of the fundamental problems of computing. The aim of this conference is to zoom into one fundamental aspect of computing, namely the foundational and the historical problems and developments related to the science of programming. Alan Turing himself was driven by the fundamental question of "what are the possible processes which can be carried out in computing a number" [Turing, 1936]. His answer today is well-known, and today we understand a program as a rather complex instance of what became known as the Turing Machine. What is less well-known, is that Turing also wrote one of the first programming manuals ever for the Ferranti Mark I, where one feels the symbolic machine hiding on the back of the Manchester hardware. This was only the beginning of a large research area that today involves logicians, programmers and engineers in the design, understanding and realization of programming languages. That a logico-mathematical-physical object called 'program' is so controversial, even though its very nature is mostly hidden away, is rooted in the range of problems, processes and objects that can be solved, simulated, approximated and generated by way of its execution. Given its widespread impact on our lives, it becomes a responsibility of the philosopher and the historian to study the science of programming.


The historical and philosophical reflection on the science of programming is the main topic at the core of this Symposium and we expect contributions about the following topics and their intersections:

1. The history of computational systems, machines and programs

2. Foundational issues and paradigms of programming (programming logics, semantics and proof-theories for distributed, secure, cloud, functional, object-oriented, etc.)

Our wish is to bring forth to the scientific community a deep understanding and critical view of the problems related to the scientific paradigm represented by the science of programming. Possible and in no way exclusive questions that might be of relevance to this Symposium are:

  • What was and is the significance of hardware developments for the development of software (and vice versa)?
  • In how far can the analogue and special-purpose machines built before the 40s programs and what does this mean for our conception of "program" today?
  • How important has been the hands-off vs. the hands-on approach for the development of programming?
  • What is the influence of models of computability like Church's lambda-calculus on the development of programming languages?
  • Which case studies from the history of programming can tell us today something about future directions?
  • Is programming a science or a technology?
  • In how far does it make sense to speak about programming paradigms in the sense of Kuhn?
  • What are the novel and most interesting approaches to the design of programs?
  • What are the most interesting formal properties of procedural semantics, typed systems, etc?
  • What is correctness for a program? Issues in Type-checking, Model-checking, etc.
  • What is the common structure of Proofs and Programs? Logic of Proofs and Curry-Howard Isomorphism.
  • What are the current logical issues in programming?
  • How do we understand programs as syntactical-semantical objects?
  • What is the nature of the relation between algorithms and programs?
  • What is a program?
  • Which problems are the most pressing ones and why are they relevant to more than just programmers?
  • How can epistemology profit from the understanding of programs' behavior and structure?
  • What legal and socio-economical issues are involved in the creation, patenting or free-distribution of programs?