What can Programming Language Research Learn from the Philosophy of Science

Tomas Petricek

In Proceedings of AISB 2014

As a relatively recent discipline, computer science, and programming language research in particular, have so far eluded the eyes of philosophers of science. However, we can gain interesting insights by looking at classical works in philosophy of science and reconsidering their meaning from the perspective of programming language research.

This is exactly what I attempt to do in this essay – I will go through some of the most important theories of science and look what they can say about programming language research. Then I suggest how we can improve our scientific practice in the light of these observations.

First, I discuss how understanding the research programme is important for evaluating scientific contributions. Second, I argue that overemphasis on precise, mathematical models in early stage of research may limit the creativity. Thirdly, I propose how to design stand-alone (theory-independent) experiments in program- ming language research and how this can help to integrate the vast amount of knowledge gathered by software practitioners.

Paper and more information


If you want to cite the paper, you can use the following BibTeX information, or find more information at the AISB proceedings page.

  author    = {Petricek, Tomas},
  title     = {What can Programming Language Research Learn from the Philosophy of Science?},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 50th Anniversary Convention of the AISB},
  series    = {AISB 2014},
  location  = {London, UK},
  year      = {2014}

If you have any comments, suggestions or related ideas, I'll be happy to hear from you! Send me an email at or get in touch via Twitter at @tomaspetricek.

Published: Thursday, 10 April 2014, 12:00 AM
Author: Tomas Petricek
Typos: Send me a pull request!