Does the Principle of Computational Equivalence Overcome the Objections against Computationalism?

  • Alberto Hernández-Espinosa
  • Francisco Hernández-Quiroz
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 7)


Computationalism has been variously defined as the idea that the human mind can be modelled by means of mechanisms broadly equivalent to Turing Machines. Computationalism’s claims have been hotly debated and arguments against and for have drawn extensively from mathematics, cognitive sciences and philosophy, although the debate is hardly settled. On the other hand, in his 2002 book New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram advanced what he called the Principle of Computational Equivalence (PCE), whose main contention is that fairly simple systems can easily reach very complex behaviour and become as powerful as any possible system based on rules (that is, they are computationally equivalent). He also claimed that any natural (and even human) phenomenon can be explained as the interaction of very simple rules. Of course, given the universality of Turing Machine-like mechanisms, PCE could be considered simply a particular brand of computationalism, subject to the same objections as previous attempts. In this paper we analyse in depth if this view of PCE is justified or not and hence if PCE can overcome some criticisms and be a different and better model of the human mind.


Computationalism Computational Theory of Mind Representationalism Principle of Computational Equivalence 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Hernández-Espinosa
    • 1
  • Francisco Hernández-Quiroz
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Matemáticas, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad UniversitariaMexico

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