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Leeuwen, J. van

Jan van Leeuwen, born in Waddinxveen, the Netherlands, in 1946. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Professor of Informatics at Utrecht University.

Distinguished Lorentz Fellow (1 March 2009 – 31 March 2010)


Computer science (informatics) is a relative newcomer among the sciences. Its development has lead to many sub-disciplines, and leaving the field in search for an identity. It has been torn by the ‘science versus application’ question. The leading questions in the project have been to make sense of the development and nature of computer science as a science, and to create an overall philosophy of computer science.

Using insights from both the philosophy of science and the discipline itself, we developed

a first framework for a philosophy of informatics, using an ensemble of perspectives which characterise the field. We explored the possibility of applying the framework to a unified structuring of computer science. We also re-examined the philosophy of computation and the understanding of computational systems. We developed a theory of computation as an unbounded process which unifies many earlier attempts from the past 40 years.

The project has progressed in a vast and highly relevant domain of research. We were successful in bringing the quest for a philosophy of informatics to the foreground, through various print media (e.g. in NRC Handelsblad) and interviews. A very successful NIAS-Lorentz Center workshop (including a public lecture by L. Floridi) concluded the project, presenting an exclusive view of current research in the philosophy of computer science, from the philosophy of information to ethics in game design.