Computer Science and Philosophy

Computer Science and Philosophy

Some of the greatest thinkers of the past – including Aristotle, Hobbes, Leibniz, Frege, and Turing – dreamed of automating reasoning and what this might achieve; the computer has now made it a reality for those with the necessary skills, providing a wonderful tool for extending our speculation and understanding.

Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual reality: fascinating areas where Computer Science and Philosophy meet. But there are also many others, since the two disciplines share a broad focus on the representation of information and rational inference, embracing common interests in algorithms, cognition, intelligence, language, models, proof, and verification. Computer Scientists need to be able to reflect critically and philosophically about these, as they push forward into novel domains. Philosophers need to understand them within a world increasingly shaped by computer technology, in which a whole new range of enquiry has opened up, from the philosophy of AI, artificial life and computation, to the ethics of privacy and intellectual property, to the epistemology of computer models (e.g. of global warming). For many more examples, see www.philocomp.net.

The study of Philosophy develops analytical, critical and logical rigour, and the ability to think through the consequences of novel ideas and speculations. It opens and stretches the mind by considering a wide range of thought and thinkers, on subjects as fundamental as the limits of knowledge, the nature of reality and our place in it, and the basis of morality.

Computer Science is about understanding computer systems at a deep level. Computers and the programs they run are among the most complex products ever created by humans; designing and using them effectively presents immense challenges. Facing these challenges is the aim of Computer Science as a practical discipline.

Both disciplines are intellectually exciting and creative; the degree combines analytical and technical knowledge with rhetorical and literary skills. This course offers you the chance to study within two academic departments, both recognised to be international leaders in their respective fields.

Computer Science and Philosophy can be studied for three years (a BA), or four years (Master of Computer Science and Philosophy). You choose at the beginning of your third year whether to stay on for the additional fourth year.

The first year of the degree covers core material in both subjects, including a bridging course studying Alan Turing’s pioneering work on computability and artificial intelligence. Later years include a wide range of options, with an emphasis on courses near the interface between the two subjects. The fourth year provides you with the opportunity to study advanced topics and to undertake a more in-depth research project.

Graduates of this degree will have highly marketable skills. Computer Science teaches you how to program computers, and how to design processes that are effective and efficient. Philosophy teaches you how to analyse complex concepts and the interconnections between them and – crucially – how to express this analysis, elegantly and precisely, in written form. You will be able to program, to reason logically and formally, to analyse complex issues both technical and discursive, and to write clear and coherent prose. You will have the intellectual equipment needed for technical leadership and high-level positions in today’s highly complex world.

Admissions criteria

Candidates sit a written Mathematics test in schools before being shortlisted for interview. Conditional offers: usually A*AA at A-level (or equivalent), including A* in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics or Computing.

Oxford University Department Website
Department of Computer Science

For more information contact the admissions office:

Email: admissions@oriel.ox.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 276522