Digital Reflective Judgement: A Kantian Perspective on Software
In this paper, I formulate an analysis of software from a Kantian perspective. The central thesis is that software is a form of reflective judgment, namely, “digital reflective judgement”. This transcendental approach allows us to overcome the limitations of an overly dualistic and over-intellectualized conception of software. The paper is structured as follows. In section 2, I develop a series of criticisms of Turner’s (2018) approach. Turner defines software as a computational artifact and distinguishes two series of its properties: functional and structural. I argue that this distinction cannot be applied to software and that Turner’s approach cannot explain the essence of software, namely, its twofold nature—abstract and concrete—at the same time. Moreover, Turner’s perspective is characterized by some philosophical limitations. In sections 3 and 4, I present a proposed definition of software from a transcendental Kantian perspective, that is, by using the concept of reflective judgment. In section 5, I explain why and how we can consider software as a new form of reflective judgment. This judgement is based on a specific type of imaginative act that mediates between physical implementations and mathematical structures. In section 6, through a parallelism between software and the Kantian judgment of taste, I hold that the condition of possibility of software is the principle of finality, which is shown in the design. Software is, above all, a design act. In the conclusion, I show why this approach overcomes Turner’s limitations and is much closer to how programmers conceive their work.
Adams, R. (1983). An Early History of Recursive Functions and Com-putability. From Gödel to Turing. Boston: Docent Press.
Bachimont, B. (1996). Signes formels at computation numérique. http://www.utc.fr/~bachimon/Publications_attachments/Bachimont.pdf (accessed: October 2, 2020).
Bender, J., and M. Marrinan. (2010). The Culture of Diagram. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Bertin J. (1983). Semiology of Graphics. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Boolos, G., J. Burgess, and Richard C. Jeffrey. (2007). Computability and Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1st ed. 1974).
Callanan, J. (2008). Kant on Analogy. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (4): 747–772.
Chun, W. (2013). Programmed Visions. Software and Memory. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Colburn, Timothy R. (1999. Software, Abstraction, and Ontology. The Monist 82: 3–19.
Copeland, Jack B., Carl J. Posy, and Oron Shagrir. eds. (2013). Computability. Turing, Gödel Church, and Beyond. London-Cambridge: MIT Press.
Denning, P., and P. Dargan. (1996). Action-centered Design. In Bringing Design to Software, edited by T. Winograd, 105–120. New York: ACM Press.
Eisler, R. (1994). Kant Lexicon. Translated by A.-D. Balmès and P. Osmo. Paris: Gallimard.
Findeli, A. (2010). Searching for Design Research Questions: Some Conceptual Clarifications. In Questions, Hypotheses & Conjectures: Discussions on Projects by Early Stage and Senior Design Researchers, edited by R. Chow, W. Jonas, G. Joost, pp. 23-36. London: Bloomington.
Folkmann, M. N. (2013). The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Ginsborg, H. (2006). Empirical Concepts and the Content of Experience. European Journal of Philosophy 14: 349–372.
Goody, J. (1977). The Domestication of the Savage Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hanna, R. (2001). Kant and the Foundations of Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford University Press.
Hanna, R. (2005). Kant and Nonconceptual Content. European Journal of Philosophy 13: 247–290.
Hanna, R. (2006). Rationality and Logic, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hanna, R. (2017). Kant’s Theory of Judgement. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-judgment/supplement4.html
Heidegger, M. (1990). Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. Translated by R. Taft. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ihde, D. (1990). Technology and the Lifeworld. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Immerman, Neil. (2011). Computability and Complexity. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/computability/ (accessed: October 2, 2020).
Indurkhya, B. (2017). Some philosophical observations on the nature of software and their implications for requirement engineering. https://www.academia.edu/7817075/ (accessed: October 2, 2020).
Land, T. (2011). Kantian Conceptualism. In Rethinking Epistemology, edited by G. Abel et al., 197–239. Berlin: DeGruyter.
Land, T. (2015), Nonconceptualist Readings of Kant and the Transcendental Deduction. Kantian Review 20: 25–51.
Land, T. (2016), Moderate Conceptualism and Spatial Representation. In Kantian Nonconceptualism, edited by D. Schulting, pp. 145–170. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Longuenesse, B. (1993). Kant et le pouvoir de juger. Paris: Puf.
Kant, I. (2016). The Critique of Judgement. Translated by J. Creed Meredith. Scotts Valley: CreateSpace.
Kapor, M. (1996). A Software Design Manifesto. In Bringing Design to Software, edited by T. Winograd, 1–9. New York: ACM Press.
Kroes, P., and A. Meijers. (2002). The Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts – Presentation of a New Research Programme, in Technè: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 6: 23–46.
Peirce, C. S. (1992). The Essential Peirce, vol I. (1867–1893) (eds. N. Houser and C. Kloesel). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Peirce, C. S. (1998). The Essential Peirce, vol II. (1893–1913) (eds. N. Houser and C. Kloesel). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Sack, W. (2019). The Software Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Sellars, W. (1978). The Role of the Imagination in Kant’s Theory of Experience. In Categories: A Colloquium, edited by H. W. Johnstone Jr. Pennsylvania State University, 120–144.
Stjernfelt, F. 2007. Diagrammatology. Berlin: Springer.
Turing, A. M. 1936. On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, 42: 230–265.
Turner, R. 2018. Computational Artifacts. Towards a Philosophy of Computer Science. Berlin: Springer.
Vial, S. 2010. Court traité du design. Paris: Puf.
Copyrights for articles published in Critical Hermeneutics are retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the journal.
Critical Hermeneutics is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY 3.0
. With the licence CC-BY, authors retain the copyright, allowing anyone to download, reuse, re-print, modify, distribute and/or copy the contribution (edited version), on condition that credit is properly attributed to its author and that Critical Hermeneutics is mentioned as its first venue of publication.