Specifications are necessarily informal or: some more myths of formal methods

Date
1998
Authors
Le Charlier, B.
Flener, P.
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Source Title
Journal of Systems and Software
Print ISSN
0164-1212
Electronic ISSN
1873-1228
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
40
Issue
3
Pages
275 - 296
Language
English
Type
Article
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Abstract

We reconsider the concept of specification in order to bring new insights into the debate of formal versus non-formal methods in computer science. In our view, the correctness of a useful program corresponds to an objective fact, which must have a simple, precise, and understandable formulation. As a consequence, a specification can (and must) only make precise the link existing between the program (formality) and its purpose (informality). Moreover, program correctness can be argued only by means of non-formal reasonings, which should be as explicit as possible. This allows us to explain why specifications cannot be written in a strictly formal language. Our view of specifications does not imply a rejection of all ideas put forward in the literature on formal methods. On the contrary, we agree with the proponents of formal methods on most of their arguments, except on those following from the assumption that specifications could (or should) be formal. Finally, we examine why the role and nature of specifications are so often misunderstood. © 1998 Elsevier Science Inc.

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Keywords
Computer Hardware Description Languages, Computer Science, Computer Software, Formal Languages, Non Formal Methods, Formal Logic
Citation
Published Version (Please cite this version)