Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 85–113 | Cite as

Towards a Philosophy of Software Development: 40 Years after the Birth of Software Engineering

  • Mandy Northover
  • Derrick G. Kourie
  • Andrew Boake
  • Stefan GrunerEmail author
  • Alan Northover


Over the past four decades, software engineering has emerged as a discipline in its own right, though it has roots both in computer science and in classical engineering. Its philosophical foundations and premises are not yet well understood. In recent times, members of the software engineering community have started to search for such foundations. In particular, the philosophies of Kuhn and Popper have been used by philosophically-minded software engineers in search of a deeper understanding of their discipline. It seems, however, that professional philosophers of science are not yet aware of this new discourse within the field of software engineering. Therefore, this article aims to reflect critically upon recent software engineers’ attempts towards a philosophy of software engineering and to introduce our own philosophical thoughts in this context. Finally, we invite the professional philosophers of science to participate in this interesting new discourse.


Philosophy of technology Philosophy of software development Software science versus software engineering Development process Change Evolution Revolution Paradigm shift Popper Kuhn Feyerabend 



Thanks to our colleagues Morkel Theunissen and Markus Roggenbach for inspiring discussions about ‘Software Engineering versus Software Science’. Thanks to our colleague Tim Grant for directing our attention to Smith (1997). Elaine Byrne is acknowledged for providing a copy of Lyytinen and Klein (1985), and Judith Bishop for a copy of Bishop (1991). Many thanks also to Gert König, Helmut Pulte and Lutz Geldsetzer, editors, as well as the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their helpful remarks and comments on various draft versions of the manuscript; their hints have been taken into account for this published version of our essay. Moreover we would like to thank the editors for sending us a copy of Arageorgis and Baltas (1989). Last but not least thanks to Marlene Fischer at the editorial office for friendly communications and efficient handling of the manuscripts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mandy Northover
    • 1
  • Derrick G. Kourie
    • 1
  • Andrew Boake
    • 1
  • Stefan Gruner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan Northover
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaRepublic of South Africa
  2. 2.Department of EnglishUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaRepublic of South Africa

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