Minds and Machines

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 391–402 | Cite as

On implementing a computation

  • David J. Chalmers
General Articles


To clarify the notion of computation and its role in cognitive science, we need an account of implementation, the nexus between abstract computations and physical systems. I provide such an account, based on the idea that a physical system implements a computation if the causal structure of the system mirrors the formal structure of the computation. The account is developed for the class of combinatorial-state automata, but is sufficiently general to cover all other discrete computational formalisms. The implementation relation is non-vacuous, so that criticisms by Searle and others fail. This account of computation can be extended to justify the foundational role of computation in artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

Key words

Computation implementation artificial intelligence cognition Turing machines 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Chalmers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington UniversitySt. LouisU.S.A.

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