Programming as Theory Building

published on 2024/01/09

The present discussion is a contribution to the understanding of what programming is. It suggests that programming properly should be regarded as an activity by which the programmers form or achieve a certain kind of insight, a theory, of the matters at hand. This suggestion is in contrast to what appears to be a more common notion, that programming should be regarded as a production of a program and certain other texts.

Some of the background of the views presented here is to be found in certain observations of what actually happens to programs and the teams of programmers dealing with them, particularly in situations arising from unexpected and perhaps erroneous program executions or reactions, and on the occasion of modifications of programs. The difficulty of accommodating such observations in a production view of programming suggests that this view is misleading. The theory building view is presented as an alternative.


This is why programmers are not just mere cogs in the machine.