Synthese 195 (8):3477-3497 (2018)

Dimitri Coelho Mollo
Humboldt-University, Berlin
I examine a major objection to the mechanistic view of concrete computation, stemming from an apparent tension between the abstract nature of computational explanation and the tenets of the mechanistic framework: while computational explanation is medium-independent, the mechanistic framework insists on the importance of providing some degree of structural detail about the systems target of the explanation. I show that a common reply to the objection, i.e. that mechanistic explanation of computational systems involves only weak structural constraints, is not enough to save the standard mechanistic view of computation—it trivialises the appeal to mechanism, and thus makes the account collapse into a purely functional view. I claim, however, that the objection can be put to rest once the account is appropriately amended: computational individuation is indeed functional, while mechanistic explanation plays a role in accounting for computational implementation. Since individuation and implementation are crucial elements in a satisfying account of computation in physical systems, mechanism keeps its central importance in the theory of concrete computation. Finally, I argue that my version of the mechanistic view helps to provide a convincing reply to a powerful objection against non-semantic theories of concrete computation: the argument from the multiplicity of computations.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-017-1380-5
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References found in this work BETA

Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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Citations of this work BETA

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How to Explain Miscomputation.Chris Tucker - 2018 - Philosophers' Imprint 18:1-17.
Mechanisms, Wide Functions, and Content: Towards a Computational Pluralism.Jonny Lee - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):221-244.

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