Abstract Procedures and the Physical World

Paul Schweizer, Piotr Jablonski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The paper examines some central issues concerning the notion of implementing abstract formal structures, including effective procedures and dynamical systems, in the realm of physical space-time. We address the view originally put forward by Putnam and Searle, that virtually any physical system can be interpreted as implementing virtually any computational formalism, and defend the general conclusion that realizing an abstract procedural structure is not an intrinsic property of physical systems, but rather is a purely observer-dependent ascription. In a parallel manner, the 'trivialization' arguments originally put forward against computationalism are extended to dynamical systems theory, an alternative abstract framework that has also been advocated as providing the theoretical foundation for mentality in the natural world. Rather than attempting to distinguish 'true' from 'false' cases of implementation, we distinguish pragmatically useful ascriptions from those that serve no epistemic purpose. 1the
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the AISB'13 Symposium on Computing and Philosophy
PublisherThe Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)978-1-908187-31-4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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