How to Explain Miscomputation

Philosophers' Imprint 18:1-17 (2018)
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Just as theory of representation is deficient if it can’t explain how misrepresentation is possible, a theory of computation is deficient if it can’t explain how miscomputation is possible. Nonetheless, philosophers have generally ignored miscomputation. My primary goal in this paper is to clarify both what miscomputation is and how to adequately explain it. Miscomputation is a special kind of malfunction: a system miscomputes when it computes in a way that it shouldn’t. To explain miscomputation, you must provide accounts of computational behavior, computational norms, and how computational behavior can deviate from computational norms. A secondary goal of this paper is to defend an (quasi-)individualist, mechanistic theory of miscomputation. Computational behavior is narrowly individuated. Computational norms are widely individuated. A system miscomputes when its behavior manifests a narrow computational structure that the widely individuated norms say that it should not have.

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Chris Tucker
William & Mary


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