Publication Details

Fresco, N. (2013). A critical survey of some competing accounts of concrete digital computation. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 7070 155-173.


This paper deals with the question: what are the key requirements for a physical system to perform digital computation? Oftentimes, cognitive scientists are quick to employ the notion of computation simpliciter when asserting basically that cognitive activities are computational. They employ this notion as if there is a consensus on just what it takes for a physical system to compute. Some cognitive scientists in referring to digital computation simply adhere to Turing computability. But if cognition is indeed computational, then it is concrete computation that is required for explaining cognition as an embodied phenomenon. Three accounts of computation are examined here: 1. Formal Symbol Manipulation. 2. Physical Symbol Systems and 3.The Mechanistic account. I argue that the differing requirements implied by these accounts justify the demand that one commits to a particular account when employing the notion of digital computation in regard to physical systems, rather than use these accounts interchangeably.



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