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Philosophy of Computation (PH345-15)

Timing & CATS

This module is running in the Spring Term and is worth 15 CATS.

Module Description

The purpose of this module is to provide a non-technical introduction to theoretical computer science and philosophical issues about computation. Among the questions we will address are the following: is it possible to provide a mathematically precise analysis of the intuitive notion of a computable function? do there exist functions which are non-computable even in principle? what does it mean to say that one computational problem (e.g. determining if a number is prime) is harder or more complex then another (e.g. determining if a number is even)? what does it mean to say that sequence of natural numbers is random or incompressible by a computer? is the mind a computer and can mathematical results (e.g. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems) be used to confirm or disconfirm such a possibility? what does it mean for a physical system to realize a computer? do results from contemporary physics bear on this?

Learning Outcomes or Aims

By the end of the module the student should be able to: 1) demonstrate knowledge of topics about computation; 2) understand the significance these systems to problems in philosophy.

Contact Time

In this module students must attend 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of seminars per week.

Lectures for 2017-18
  • Monday 12pm to 2pm in S0.19
  • Monday 6pm to 7pm in MS.04

There will be no lectures during reading week (week 6)

Seminars for 2017-18

Seminars for this course start in week 2.

There will be no seminars during reading week (week 6)

Please sign up for a seminar group using Tabula.

Assessment Methods

This module will be assessed in the following way:

  • 15% assessed and 85% examined (2 hour exam)

The assessed component consists in fortnightly exercise sets, which are to be handed in directly to the module leader at the relevant lectures.

Background Reading & Textbooks

David Harel, Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing, 3rd edition, Addison-Wesley 2004.

Michael Sipser, Introduction to the theory of computation, 2nd edition, Thomson, 2006.

Course Materials

From October 2016 course materials will be available on Moodle. Simply sign in and select the module from your Moodle home page.