Digital Reflective Judgement: A Kantian Perspective on Software

  • Luca M. Possati


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.


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How to Cite
Possati, L. (2020). Digital Reflective Judgement: A Kantian Perspective on Software. Critical Hermeneutics, 4(1), 1-34.