Mechanistic Miscomputation: a Reply to Fresco and Primiero

Joe Dewhurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Fresco and Primiero’s recent article, ‘Miscomputation’ (Philosophy & Technology online first, doi:10.1007/s13347-013-0112-0), provides a useful framework with which to think about miscomputation, as well as an admirably broad taxonomy of different kinds of miscomputation. However, it also misconstrues the mechanistic approach to miscomputation, which I will argue should not recognise design errors as miscomputations per se. I argue that a computing mechanism, if it is functioning correctly in the physical sense, cannot miscompute on the basis of an error made by an external agent, such as a programmer. This is partially acknowledged in the distinction that Fresco and Primiero make between errors of functioning and errors of design, but they go on to describe both as cases of miscomputation, which I will argue is a mistake, at least with regard to the analysis made by the mechanistic account.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy & Technology
Early online date23 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Agent
  • Computation
  • Error
  • Malfunction
  • Mechanistic explanation
  • Miscomputation


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