on "What Is Computation?"

Last Update: 26 April 2007
Note: or material is highlighted |

Smith, Brian Cantwell (2002), "The Foundations of Computing", in
Scheutz, Matthias (ed.), *Computationalism: New Directions* (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press): 23-58.

- The major question in the philosophy of computer science is:
- What is computation?

and the answer is that it is a lot more than the theory of Turing machines.

- CS is an empirical endeavor.
- 9 Theses about Computation:
- (C2) CS needs a full theory of semantics and intentionality.
- (C1) Therefore (because none of the following provide such
a theory), none of the current & different theories
of computation succeed:
- formal symbol manipulation
- effective computability
- execution of algorithms, or rule following
- calculation of functions
- digital state machines
- information processing
- physical symbol systems

- (C3) Formal symbol manipulation's separation of the syntactic and semantic domains
is misleading;

they are "participatory" (i.e., they intersect) - (C4) TMs don't use marks to represent numbers;

they use numbers to represent marks!- Corollary:
- The theory of computation is "a theory
of how...patches of the world in one physical
configuration [can] change into another
physical configuration" (p.42)

- Corollary:
- (C5) I.e., the mathematical theory of computation is a mathematical thoery of the flow of causality
- (C6) Computation is not formal in any of the following
senses of "formal":
- anti-semantic
- syntactic
- deterministic, or well-defined (i.e., not vague)
- mathematical
- analytic method

- (C7) CS needs a full theory of ontology
- For a beginning, see:

Smith, Brian Cantwell (1996),*On the Origin of Objects*(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

- For a beginning, see:
- (C8) Computers are not natural kinds

& there can be no theory of computation - (C9) Therefore, the existence of computation is
extremely important,

because any theory of it will be a theory of intentional artifacts, hence a theory of everything!

Copyright © 2004-2007 by William J. Rapaport ( rapaport@cse.buffalo.edu)

http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/~rapaport/584/S07/smith02.html-20070426