Long-arm functional individuation of computation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A single physical process may often be described equally well as computing several different mathematical functions—none of which is explanatorily privileged. How, then, should the computational identity of a physical system be determined? Some computational mechanists hold that computation is individuated only by either narrow physical or functional properties. Even if some individuative role is attributed to environmental factors, it is rather limited. The computational semanticist holds that computation is individuated, at least in part, by semantic properties. She claims that the mechanistic account lacks the resources to individuate the computations performed by some systems, thereby leaving interesting cases of computational indeterminacy unaddressed. This article examines some of these views, and claims that more cases of computational indeterminacy can be addressed, if the system-environment interaction plays a greater role in individuating computations. A new, long-arm functional strategy for individuating computation is advanced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13993-14016
Number of pages24
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Cognitive science
  • Computation
  • Computational explanation
  • Indeterminacy
  • Individuation
  • Mathematical function
  • Mechanism
  • Semantics
  • Teleological function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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