I have a bachelor's degree in philosophy (from way back) and a bachelor's and master's degree in computer science (just graduated). Now I am exploring going back into philosophy for my PhD. In what fields of philosophy would a philosopher benefit from a strong background in computer science, especially theoretical computer science (complexity theory and cryptography)?

I was mainly drawn to computer science because of my affinity for mathematics. But at the same time I am deeply curious about questions in ethics and epistemology, which is why I would like to go back into philosophy.


5 Answers 5


AI is the total no-brainer. Some universities already have projects studying the ethics of AI, from the perspective both of the AI and human society. Questions of AI and consciousness also arise, as for example in Integrated Information theory (IIT).

Another crossover area is human consciousness, aka theory of mind. Despite the fact that many computing paradigms were ripped off from the theory of mind - memory, sensors, neural networks, etc. the philosophical community can be slow in picking up on discoveries and ideas flowing back the other way.

Information theory also springs to mind. What are the commonalities and differences between information manipulated by a dumb data system and the symbolic meanings manipulated by the human mind?


Having gone the "other direction" (from philosophy, into programming), I found my background in logic to have been most directly applicable. I imagine the same is true in reverse. Computer logic, after all, developed originally from philosophical logic. You'll also find logic to have a lot of overlap with your interest in mathematics, particularly if you study Russell, Turing or Godel.


By definition any PhD involves an element of philosophical study! Have you considered looking directly at topics in computer science and applying a philosophical lens to them? For example, the epistemology and ethics of human-facing learning algorithms would be hugely timely.


It depends on what your interests are. I think it's important to choose a Phd program to work on something that appeals to you.

Given your background, perhaps something related to philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology applied to computing, or questions of ethics might be something interesting to work on.


Formal epistemology would be a natural field to go into from the perspective of your technical skills. Something like the ethics of AI and computing more broadly would be a natural field to go into from the perspective of your broader knowledge. You might also look at programs in CS & Philosophy, e.g. at Oxford and Stanford, to see what they do there, or search for people who are professors in both CS and Philosophy.

In any case, most important is to pick something you're passionate enough to work on for your Ph.D. and possibly your career!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .