Philosophy for the software engineer

The weekend is here. You now have the time to sit back and think about what you are doing with your life. How much of your time is spent pondering this important question?

“The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected.”

– Bertrand Russell, The Value of Philosophy

The reason why I’m asking is because you have this remarkable skill that nearly everyone wants to put to use in their organisations. But so much of our potential is wasted on work that, in my mind, doesn’t make the world a better place.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads”

Jeff Hammerbacher

“To be true to yourself, in this problem-resolving business, you must consider moral questions before you get close to a solution, or even a definition, and thereby begin to lose your sensibility”

– Gerald M Weinberg and Donald C. Gause, Are Your Lights On?

As a software engineer, you have a unique possibility of creating something out of pure thought. Of going almost anywhere and doing almost anything you want. Are you?

10 thoughts on “Philosophy for the software engineer

  1. Kepa Sakolegi

    I would like to add: “earn a proper Engineering degree so that I do not look ridiculous calling myself Engineer when I am actually a Technician or a Technologist”.


    1. Simon Tewsi

      It’s a fact of life you’ll have to get used to. For some reason everyone wants to call themselves an engineer. In the US locomotive drivers call themselves engineers. In Chile accountants call themselves commercial engineers. In New Zealand fitters and turners call themselves engineers. You can hardly blame software developers for wanting to jump on the bandwagon.

  2. Jay

    This is absolutely correct, and deserves more attention. Every problem has a solution that lies within the scope of our ability. We simply need to choose it.

  3. Marten Sytema

    I am! 🙂

    I have realized this exact point a while ago, and it’s one of the reasons why I am not an employee somewhere, but run my own shop.

  4. Fredrik Rubensson

    There is a divide between what I could do and what I am told to do. I am not getting paid to think outside of the box – unfortunately. The larger the organisation – the greater the divide.

    On the other hand – I am not an engineer! 🙂 I never finished! To be honest it doesn’t seem to matter much in the software engineering profession.

  5. Pingback: John Dorsainvil

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