Against Structuralist Theories of Computational Implementation

Under what conditions does a physical system implement or realize a computation? Structuralism about computational implementation, espoused by Chalmers and others, holds that a physical system realizes a computation just in case the system instantiates a pattern of causal organization isomorphic to the computation’s formal structure. I argue against structuralism through counter-examples drawn from computer science. On my opposing view, computational implementation sometimes requires instantiating semantic properties that outstrip any relevant pattern of causal organization. In developing my argument, I defend anti-individualism about computational implementation: relations to the social environment sometimes help determine whether a physical system realizes a computation. 1 The Physical Realization Relation2 Semantics and Computational Implementation3 Conforming to Instructions4 Implementing a Computer Program4.1 The denotational semantics of Scheme4.2 Worries about intentionality4.3 Worries about the natural numbers5 Implementing a Machine Model6 Bounded Structuralism7 Triviality Arguments8 Anti-individualism about Computational Implementation
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axs017
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Thomas D. Bontly (1998). Individualism and the Nature of Syntactic States. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):557-574.

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