This volume collects eighteen essays presented at the fifth annual European Conference on Computing and Philosophy (ECAP) held June 21–23, 2007, at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. It represents some of the best of the more than eighty papers delivered at the conference. The theme of ECAP 2007 was the multi-faceted “computational turn” that is occurring through the interaction of the disciplines of philosophy and computing . It was organized under the supervision of the International Association of Computing and Philosophy (IACAP). IACAP promotes scholarly dialogue and research on all aspects of the computational and informational turn, and on the use of information and communication technologies in the service of philosophy.
There are good reasons for both computer and information scientists and philosophers to do research at the intersection of computing and philosophy. In computer and information science, there are significant conceptual and methodological questions that require reflection and analysis. What, for example, is information? What are good methods in computer science, and can computer science be a genuine science? Is true artificial intelligence possible? These are questions asked by computer scientists and philosophers alike. Moreover, digital and information and communication technologies have had tremendous impact on society, which raises further philosophical questions. How, for example, are digital technologies changing our conception of reality, or of knowledge and information? How is the Internet changing human life, and is it creating a digital existence for us next to a physical existence? What are the ethical questions that both computer scientists and users of information technology are facing?
ECAP 2007, with over a hundred participants, has left us, the editors, with a sense that the multidisciplinary constellation of computing and philosophy is a vibrant and dynamic field, which has its best days still ahead of it. The manifold explorations at the intersection of computing and philosophy are yielding insights of both intrinsic interest and societal value. Yet, this multidisciplinary endeavor also presents a challenge. Like other such endeavors, it must continuously work to ensure that its diversity of perspectives and methods proves a source of strength and collaboration rather than a source of instability and disintegration. In short, we must always strive to communicate across boundaries.
It is our hope that the present volume facilitates this task. This raises a more specific challenge facing us as editors. Regrettably, we simply could not include all of the papers presented at ECAP. In making our selection, our guiding ambition was to create a snapshot of the field that would be of interest to an audience as diverse as ECAP itself. With that goal in mind, we have compiled top quality, accessible essays representing many of the most important areas of inquiry in the field.
In organizing the essays, we have taken a topical approach. The first three contributions explore the phenomenon of virtual worlds. The essays discuss ethical, anthropological, and ontological issues regarding such worlds and the avatars that inhabit them. The next four chapters focus on robots and artificial agents. They cover issues regarding human-robot interaction, agency in robots, and the social and ethical aspects of robotics, including military applications. The next group of chapters discusses the relation between human mentality and information processing in computers. The essays consider the nature of representations in digital systems, the relations between data, information and knowledge, the relationships between computers and their users, and the nature of synthetic emotions. The final section covers a broad range of issues at the interface of computers and society. The cases discussed here include the educational potential of an intelligent tutoring system and a novel computer programming language, the integration of ethical principles into software design, the underrepresentation of women in computer science studies, and the way Internet users assess the trustworthiness of the information they encounter online.
We would like to thank IACAP and the ECAP steering committee for giving us the opportunity to organize the conference in 2007 and for helping us in publishing this volume. For guaranteeing high scientific quality, all contributions of this volume have been read by several referees. Here, we would like to thank them for their time and their vital contribution to this volume. Special thanks go to our Master student Maurice Liebregt who put a substantial amount of time and effort into the layout of the chapters and who very patiently incorporated all last minute corrections.
 L. Burkholder (ed). Philosophy and the Computer. Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press 1992.