Why everything doesn't realize every computation

Minds and Machines 4 (4):403-420 (1994)
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Abstract

Some have suggested that there is no fact to the matter as to whether or not a particular physical system relaizes a particular computational description. This suggestion has been taken to 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 oneanything 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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Ron Chrisley
University of Sussex

Citations of this work

The dynamical hypothesis in cognitive science.Tim van Gelder - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (5):615-28.
The physics of implementing logic: Landauer's principle and the multiple-computations theorem.Meir Hemmo & Orly Shenker - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 68:90-105.

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References found in this work

Representation and Reality.Robert Stalnaker - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):359.
Is the brain a digital computer?John R. Searle - 1990 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 64 (3):21-37.
The owl and the electric encyclopedia.Brian Cantwell Smith - 1991 - Artificial Intelligence 47 (1-3):251-288.
The Rediscovery of the Mind by John Searle. [REVIEW]Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):193-205.

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