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Does a rock implement every finite-state automaton?


Hilary Putnam has argued that computational functionalism cannot serve as a foundation for the study of the mind, as every ordinary open physical system implements every finite-state automaton. I argue that Putnam's argument fails, but that it points out the need for a better understanding of the bridge between the theory of computation and the theory of physical systems: the relation of implementation. It also raises questions about the class of automata that can serve as a basis for understanding the mind. I develop an account of implementation, linked to an appropriate class of automata, such that the requirement that a system implement a given automaton places a very strong constraint on the system. This clears the way for computation to play a central role in the analysis of mind.

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Chalmers, D.J. Does a rock implement every finite-state automaton?. Synthese 108, 309–333 (1996).

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  • Physical System
  • Strong Constraint
  • Computational Functionalism
  • Open Physical System