Oxford introduces BA in Computer Science and Philosophy
Thursday, 03 February 2011

Oxford University has announced details of a new degree in Computer Science and Philosophy that will encompass computability and artificial intelligence and other aspects the subjects have in common.

The University of Oxford is ranked 2nd in the world (behind New York University) as the place to study Philosophy and as the top place in Europe for Computer Science. The combination of the two subjects at undergraduate degree level is already well established but is a new departure for Oxford. Three years study will earn a BA - Oxford University does not award BSc degrees - and extending your study to a fourth year in which you can choose just Computer Science options one of which can be a project, leads to a Masters degree.  

The course website explains why it makes sense to study Computer Science and Philosophy together:

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.

It goes on to characterise the two subjects to draw parallels and point out synergy:

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.

The first year of the degree includes a "bridging course" studying Alan Turing's pioneering work on computability and artificial intelligence that is specific to this degree plus core material in both subjects. On the Computer Science side this means five modules: Functional Programming (using Haskell); Design and Analysis of Algorithms; Imperative Programming; Discrete Mathematics and Probability (to develop the concept if chance in a mathematical framework). This may seem like a tough introduction to Computer Science and if you don't program already Haskell is a difficult place to start.

More information:

Computer Sceince at Oxford

 

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