David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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imply that computational states are not "real", and cannot, for example, provide a foundation for the cognitive sciences. In particular, Putnam has argued that every ordinary open physical system realizes every abstract finite automaton, implying that the fact that a particular computational characterization applies to a physical system does not tell one anything about the nature of that system. Putnam's argument is scrutinized, and found inadequate because, among other things, it employs a notion of causation that is too weak. I argue that if one's view of computation involves embeddedness (inputs and outputs) and full causality, one can avoid the universal realizability results. Therefore, the fact that a particular system realizes a particular automaton is not a vacuous one, and is often explanatory. Furthermore, I claim that computation would not necessarily be an explanatorily vacuous notion even if it were universally realizable.
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