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Physical ComputationA Mechanistic Account$
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Gualtiero Piccinini

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658855

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658855.001.0001

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The Bold Physical Church-Turing Thesis

The Bold Physical Church-Turing Thesis

(p.244) 15 The Bold Physical Church-Turing Thesis
Physical Computation

Gualtiero Piccinini

Oxford University Press

This chapter distinguishes between the Mathematical Church-Turing thesis—the thesis supported by the original arguments for the Church-Turing thesis—and the Physical Church-Turing thesis (Physical CT). It then distinguishes between bold formulations of Physical CT, according to which any physical process—anything doable by a physical system—is computable by a Turing machine, and modest formulations, according to which any function that is computable by a physical system is computable by a Turing machine. It explicates the notion of physical computability in terms of a usability constraint, according to which for a process to count as relevant to Physical CT, it must be usable by a finite observer to obtain the desired values of a function. Finally, it argues that Bold Physical CT is not relevant to the epistemological concerns that motivate CT and hence not suitable as a physical analogue of Mathematical CT.

Keywords:   mathematical Church-Turing thesis, physical Church-Turing thesis, usability, Turing-computability

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