Measurement and Computational Skepticism

Noûs 51 (4):832-854 (2017)
Putnam and Searle famously argue against computational theories of mind on the skeptical ground that there is no fact of the matter as to what mathematical function a physical system is computing: both conclude that virtually any physical object computes every computable function, implements every program or automaton. There has been considerable discussion of Putnam's and Searle's arguments, though as yet there is little consensus as to what, if anything, is wrong with these arguments. In the present paper we show that an analogous line of reasoning can be raised against the numerical measurement of physical magnitudes, and we argue that this result is a reductio ad absurdum of the challenge to computational skepticism. We then use this reductio to get clearer about both what's wrong with Putnam's and Searle's arguments against computationalism, and what can be learned about both computational implementation and numerical measurement from the shortcomings of both sorts of skeptical argument
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DOI 10.1111/nous.12142
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References found in this work BETA
Computing Mechanisms.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (4):501-526.
Imagistic Representation.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - In Ned Block (ed.), The Language of Thought. Harvard University Press. pp. 63--86.
Is the Brain a Digital Computer?John R. Searle - 1990 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 64 (3):21-37.

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