Course syllabus

Computer science originated in certain logical problems to do with the notion of an algorithmic procedure, resulting in the attempt to make this notion mathematically rigorous and, later, in the attempt to let machines implement such procedures.  Since the heyday of this early work in the 1930s, especially Alan Turing’s account of computability, philosophy has continued to engage with computer science at various levels.  This course covers a range of issues that arise from this engagement.  The course covers Turing’s analysis of computation; the Church-Turing thesis [according to which any problem for which there is an algorithmic solution can be solved by Turing machines]; universal Turing machines; the undecidability of the halting problem; the limits of computation; Hilbert’s programme and the limits of provability; proving vs programming; prospects and problems of data science; philosophical issues around autonomous vehicles and other autonomous systems; issues around the computational implementation of intelligence (AI) (in particular: Can computers think?  Does AI pose an existential risk to humanity?)

The course assumes a certain amount of mathematical background and this will be covered in the first lecture; the relevant background can be found in chapter 0 of Michael Sipser's Introduction to the Theory of Computation (any edition). 



Course Coordinator

Professor Frederick (Fred) Kroon, 
Room 443, Arts 1 (Building 206), DDI: (09) 923 7609

Office hour: Mondays 1-2pm


Class rep



Tuesday 2-4 in 206-201 (Arts 1, room 201).


Thursday 9-10 in 207-303 (Arts 2, room 303)


Assessment, Coursework, Final Examination

Assessment will be determined as follows:        

COURSEWORK:       Coursework consists of one test worth 20%, and two assignments worth 10% each.  The coursework thus contributes 40% of the final mark.

The test will be held in class on Thursday April 26 from 9-10am (Arts 2, room 303).

Due dates for Assignments: Assignment 1 will be due on Thursday,19 April, and assignment 2 on Thursday, 24 May.  Both assignments must be prepared using an appropriate word-processing application [diagrams may be hand-drawn], converted to PDF format, and uploaded.

There is also a final 2-hour examination, worth 60% of the final mark.



J. Barrow, Impossibility—The limits of science and the science of limits, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Available as an electronic resource.

J. Boolos, R. Jeffrey, and J. P. Burgess, Computability and logic. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

C.S. Calude, Information and randomness –an algorithmic perspective.  Springer, 2002. 

J. Copeland, Artificial Intelligence: a philosophical introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

L. Floridi, Philosophy and computing: an introduction. Routledge, 1999. Available as an electronic resource.

J. Haugeland, Artificial intelligence: the very idea. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1985.

S. Shapiro, Thinking about mathematics: the philosophy of mathematics, Oxford University Press, 2000.

J. Weizenbaum, Computer power and human reason: from judgment to calculation. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1976.




Sources of information and assistance

This course will make reasonably heavy use of Canvas.  Among other things, lecturers will use Canvas to provide you with lecture notes and useful readings.

General assistance: Student Learning Services offers help to students in developing effective academic learning and performance skills, and helps those who encounter difficulties in their studies.  One of the services on offer is English Language Enrichment (ELE), which offers students support in their English language development.



Course summary:

Date Details