Why Philosophy?

Often times when someone finds out I’m studying philosophy in addition to computer science, they ask, “why?” Generally, this means one or both of the following:

  1. Philosophy is a very different discipline from Computer Science; why give yourself extra work?

  2. It has no practical application, so why study it in the first place?

Like any good philosopher, I have a laundry list of reasons, but my answer could be summarized into three major points:

  1. The Fun - most of all, I enjoy it. For me, a good exercise in philosophy leaves me either completely amazed at new possibilities or utterly baffled at a particular worldview - the latter usually transforming into the former with time - which leaves me entertained for days.

  2. The Learned - I learned to value rhetoric early on. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a close, stable, and loving extended family on both sides, but suffice it to say that I come from a very opinionated people. From an early age, constructively defending my points and persuading others to my side quickly became a reaction to any sort of challenge. Given this, I have a natural inclination towards the argumentative style in philosophy.

  3. The Practical - contrary to [what seems to be] popular belief, there’s a surprising amount of overlap between computer science and philosophy:

    • Logic and problem solving - At its core, computer science involves logic and logical instructions. The logicians/mathematicians of the late 19th and early 20th century - such as Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel - are directly responsible for the inclusion of concepts such as Boolean algebra, control flow, recursion, computability, et al. In addition to pure logic, many of the key practices in software design are similarly key in philosophy, such as accurate translation/classification/identification of goals, deconstruction of problems into component issues, and exhaustive approach to proofs.
    • Ethics - The purpose of software is to facilitate other modes of work. Thus, the ethical concerns in other parts of society - privacy [banking], value of life [autonomous vehicles], accessibility [design] - often seep into consideration in software engineering. Therefore, I feel an understanding of how to tackle ethical questions - informed by work in other fields - is more valuable than a class in specifically “computer ethics.” That’s not to say the latter in unimportant; there are concerns that arise because of computer science (classification/treatment of intelligence because of AI) that need to be addressed as they present themselves. In the end, however, I feel better equipped with a hollistic and “versatile” understanding than a categorically specific one.

Course Highlights

  • (PHIL:2603) - Symbolic Logic
    • An introduction to Frege and Russelian Logic
  • (PHIL:2442) - Epistemology
    • Studied various epistemic accounts and principles
  • (PHIL:2114) - 17th Century Philosophy
    • Introduction to early modern philosophers, such as Descartes, Leibniz ,Spinoza, and Locke
  • (PHIL:2111) - Ancient Philosophy
    • Ancient Greek Philosophers