David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (4):733 - 769 (2011)
This article defends a modest version of the Physical Church-Turing thesis (CT). Following an established recent trend, I distinguish between what I call Mathematical CT—the thesis supported by the original arguments for CT—and Physical CT. I then distinguish between bold formulations of Physical CT, according to which any physical process—anything doable by a physical system—is computable by a Turing machine, and modest formulations, according to which any function that is computable by a physical system is computable by a Turing machine. I argue that Bold Physical CT is not relevant to the epistemological concerns that motivate CT and hence not suitable as a physical analog of Mathematical CT. The correct physical analog of Mathematical CT is Modest Physical CT. I propose to explicate the notion of physical computability in terms of a usability constraint, according to which for a process to count as relevant to Physical CT, it must be usable by a finite observer to obtain the desired values of a function. Finally, I suggest that proposed counterexamples to Physical CT are still far from falsifying it because they have not been shown to satisfy the usability constraint
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