The Resilience of Computationalism

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Piccinini, Gualtiero
conference paper description
Computationalism – the view that cognition is computation – has been controversial from the start. It faces insufficiency objections and objections from neural realization. According to insufficiency objections, computation is insufficient for some cognitive phenomenon X. According to objections from neural realization, biological computations are realized by neural processes, but neural processes have feature Y and having Y is incompatible with being (or realizing) a computation. In this paper, I explain why computationalism has survived these objections. Insufficiency objections are at best partial: for all they establish, computation may be sufficient for cognitive phenomena other than X, may be part of the explanation for X, or both. Objections from neural realization are based either on a false contrast between feature Y and computation or on an account of computation that is too vague to yield the desired conclusion. To adjudicate the dispute between computationalism and its foes, I will conclude that we need a more precise account of computation.