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Computing Mechanisms
Philosophy of Science
  • Gualtiero Piccinini, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Document Type
This paper offers an account of what it is for a physical system to be a computing mechanism—a system that performs computations. A computing mechanism is a mechanism whose function is to generate output strings from input strings and (possibly) internal states, in accordance with a general rule that applies to all relevant strings and depends on the input strings and (possibly) internal states for its application. This account is motivated by reasons endogenous to the philosophy of computing, namely, doing justice to the practices of computer scientists and computability theorists. It is also an application of recent literature on mechanisms, because it assimilates computational explanation to mechanistic explanation. The account can be used to individuate computing mechanisms and the functions they compute and to taxonomize computing mechanisms based on their computing power.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Gualtiero Piccinini, "Computing Mechanisms," Philosophy of Science 74, no. 4 (October 2007): 501-526.