© 2014

Physical Computation and Cognitive Science

  • Promotes a clear understanding of concrete digital computation

  • Establishes the fundamental role of computation in modern cognitive science, while rejecting the extrinsically representational nature of computation

  • Critically analyzes several accounts of digital computation and proposes for the first time the instructional information processing account

  • Makes a significant contribution to the fields of computational cognitive science and the philosophy of cognition


Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 12)

About this book


This book presents a study of digital computation in contemporary cognitive science. Digital computation is a highly ambiguous concept, as there is no common core definition for it in cognitive science. Since this concept plays a central role in cognitive theory, an adequate cognitive explanation requires an explicit account of digital computation. More specifically, it requires an account of how digital computation is implemented in physical systems. The main challenge is to deliver an account encompassing the multiple types of existing models of computation without ending up in pancomputationalism, that is, the view that every physical system is a digital computing system. This book shows that only two accounts, among the ones examined by the author, are adequate for explaining physical computation. One of them is the instructional information processing account, which is developed here for the first time.
“This book provides a thorough and timely analysis of differing accounts of computation while advancing the important role that information plays in understanding computation. Fresco’s two-pronged approach will appeal to philosophically inclined computer scientists who want to better understand common theoretical claims in cognitive science.”
Marty J. Wolf, Professor of Computer Science, Bemidji State University
“An original and admirably clear discussion of central issues in the
foundations of contemporary cognitive science.”
Frances Egan, Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey



Computation without semantics Computationalism Connectionism Information processing account of computation Neural networks Representational nature of computation Theory of computation Turing machine computation

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of Humanities & LanguagesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Physical Computation and Cognitive Science
  • Authors Nir Fresco
  • Series Title Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
  • Series Abbreviated Title Studies Applied Philosophy, Epistemology
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014
  • Publisher Name Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Engineering Engineering (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-642-41374-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-662-50943-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-642-41375-9
  • Series ISSN 2192-6255
  • Series E-ISSN 2192-6263
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXII, 229
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Computational Intelligence
    Philosophy of Mind
    Artificial Intelligence
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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