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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 Ontology of Functional Mechanisms

The Ontology of Functional Mechanisms

(p.100) 6 The Ontology of Functional Mechanisms
Physical Computation

Gualtiero Piccinini

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers an account of the teleological functions of functional mechanisms. Existing accounts of functions are discussed and are found to be unsatisfactory, and a new unified account is proposed. The account applies to both biological traits and artifacts. Teleological functions are stable causal contributions to the goals of organisms. The paradigmatic objective goals of organisms are survival and inclusive fitness, although organisms may have additional (subjective) goals due to sentience and sapience. Such subjective goals may align, oppose, or be completely orthogonal to objective goals. Truthmakers for claims about teleological functions are non-teleological features of the world. The account provides the foundations for a mechanistic account of computation.

Keywords:   function, mechanism, teleological functions, teleology, goal

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