CFP: What Is a Computer?

Call for Papers for Minds & Machines’ special issue on What is a computer?


István S. N. Berkeley, Ph.D.
Philosophy, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette


Computers have become almost ubiquitous. We find them at our places of work, and even on our persons, in the form of ‘smart phones’ and tablets. Around twenty years ago, The Monist published the contributions from several philosophers on the question, “What is a computer?”. Yet a robust, philosophically adequate conception of what actually constitutes a computer still remains lacking. The purpose of this special issue is to address this question and explore closely related topics.

This is an important task, as a robust and nuanced idea (or ideas) of what a computer is will help inform the development of laws and regulations concerning computational technology. It will also shed light upon questions about whether certain biological artifacts, like the human brain, should be considered computational. A philosophically sophisticated analysis of the issues will also help with the evaluation of future technological developments and assessing their potential risks and benefits. Thus, papers on a broad range of relevant topics are welcome.


The main topics of interest include, but are not restricted to:

  • What are the necessary and sufficient conditions that a system must satisfy to count as a computer?
  • What architectural features are required for something to count as a genuine computer?
  • Are there any features that would rule an artifact out as being a computer?
  • Can computers be usefully considered as a natural kind?
  • Can, or should, computing devices be usefully arranged into a taxonomy?
  • Do we need to have multiple conceptions of what constitutes computing?
  • What tools can usefully be deployed to define ‘computing’?
  • Do so called “hypercomputers” count as computers?
  • What effect has massive connectivity had upon our ideas about computers?
  • Is the human brain a computer?
  • What important effects have computers had upon the discipline of philosophy?
  • How far down the photogenic scale of organisms can reliable evidence be found of genuine computing taking place?


  • Deadline for paper submissions: 30 September 2017
  • Deadline for paper reviewing: 30 October 2017
  • Deadline for submission of revised papers: 15 November 2017
  • Deadline for reviewing revised papers: 2 November 2017
  • Papers will be published in 2018


To submit a paper for this special issue, authors should go to the journal’s Editorial Manager

The author (or a corresponding author for each submission in case of co- authored papers) must register into EM.

The author must then select the special article type: ” What is a computer?” from the selection provided in the submission process. This is needed in order to assign the submissions to the Guest Editor.

Submissions will then be assessed according to the following procedure:

New Submission => Journal Editorial Office => Guest Editor(s) => Reviewers => Reviewers’ Recommendations => Guest Editor(s)’ Recommendation => Editor-in-Chief’s Final Decision => Author Notification of the Decision.

The process will be reiterated in case of requests for revisions.

For any further information please contact:


István S. N. Berkeley, Ph.D. (, The Department of History, Geography and Philosophy, P.O. Box 42531, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA, 70504, USA. +(337) 230-3851 (t) +(337) 482-6809 (f).

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