The indeterminacy of computation

Synthese 199 (5-6):12753-12775 (2021)
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Do the dynamics of a physical system determine what function the system computes? Except in special cases, the answer is no: it is often indeterminate what function a given physical system computes. Accordingly, care should be taken when the question ‘What does a particular neuronal system do?’ is answered by hypothesising that the system computes a particular function. The phenomenon of the indeterminacy of computation has important implications for the development of computational explanations of biological systems. Additionally, the phenomenon lends some support to the idea that a single neuronal structure may perform multiple cognitive functions, each subserved by a different computation. We provide an overarching conceptual framework in order to further the philosophical debate on the nature of computational indeterminacy and computational explanation.



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Nir Fresco
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

References found in this work

Minds, brains, and programs.John Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology.Daniel C. Dennett (ed.) - 1978 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: Bradford Books.
Brainstorms.Daniel Dennett - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 47 (2):326-327.
Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2015 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

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