In defense of the semantic view of computation

Synthese:1-26 (forthcoming)

Authors
Oron Shagrir
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Abstract
The semantic view of computation is the claim that semantic properties play an essential role in the individuation of physical computing systems such as laptops and brains. The main argument for the semantic view rests on the fact that some physical systems simultaneously implement different automata at the same time, in the same space, and even in the very same physical properties. Recently, several authors have challenged this argument. They accept the premise of simultaneous implementation but reject the semantic conclusion. In this paper, I aim to explicate the semantic view and to address these objections. I first characterize the semantic view and distinguish it from other, closely related views. Then, I contend that the master argument for the semantic view survives the counter-arguments against it. One counter-argument is that computational individuation is not forced to choose between the implemented automata but rather always picks out a more basic computational structure. My response is that this move might undermine the notion of computational equivalence. Another counter-argument is that while computational individuation is forced to rely on extrinsic features, these features need not be semantic. My reply is that the semantic view better accounts for these extrinsic features than the proposed non-semantic alternatives.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-01921-z
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References found in this work BETA

The Rediscovery of the Mind by John Searle. [REVIEW]Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):193-205.
Explaining Behaviour: Reasons in a World of Causes.Andy Clark - 1988 - Philosophical Quarterly 40 (158):95-102.

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Citations of this work BETA

Syntax, Semantics, and Computer Programs.William J. Rapaport - forthcoming - Philosophy and Technology:1-13.
Mechanistic Computational Individuation Without Biting the Bullet.Nir Fresco & Marcin Miłkowski - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz005.
The role of the environment in computational explanations.Jens Harbecke & Oron Shagrir - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (3):1-19.

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