What’s New and Exciting About Computationalism?

I’m about to start writing a review article on “Computationalism in the Philosophy of Mind,” for Philosophy Compass, due in two months.  It should cover new and interesting stuff that pertains to computationalism.  By “new”, I would say we should consider mostly literature from the last 15 years or so.

Of course I have plenty of opinions about what should go in such an article.  Still, in the interest of fairness and balance, I’m interested in other opinions.  Plus, I might have missed something

What should I write about?  What do you think are the most exciting developments/recent publications on computationalism?  This is your chance to set me straight.  Feel free to advertise your own work.

(Of course, although I welcome your advice, I cannot promise that I will follow it.  The available space and time and attention span are finite, as always.)


  1. I would like, after having read such an article, to come a way with a grasp of the state of the art regarding how the following three kinds of explanations of intelligent behavior relate: mechanistic explanations, intentional explanations, and computational explanations.

  2. What is to me the most exciting thing about “computationalism” in the broad sense, is the idea that all human experience is in principle computable, and the newest in this effort is the attempt to compute even emotions and subjective feelings!
    (i don´t know if some philosopher of mind is doing some related stuff bu i think falls under the heading of computationalism)

  3. Some (for example Matthias Scheutz and Ron Chrisley) say that Brian Cantwell Smith’s work on computationalism and ontology is a huge advancement over prior theories. I’m not sure if his 6-volume work for MIT is already out, but you seem to generally ignore BCS in your papers, so you have an occasion to look at it.

  4. Anonymous

    Gualtiero, hello! These questions are rooted in concerns over 15-years-old, but they are partially inspired by a recent look at a sort of recent book by Peter Carruthers.

    What’s the status of concepts in computational psychology? There are computational paradigms (are they computational?) in the psychology of concepts research. But is the term ‘concept’ too tightly wrapped up in other folk-psychological notions to serve rigorous scientific purposes? Who cares(I mean this as a genuine question)?

    Carruthers, for one instance of why it might matter, makes liberal use of the language of thought paradigm from Fodor to underwrite an argument for massive modularity. I don’t mean to target this project; the explanandum for Carruthers is not immediately related to the question of what constitutes the psychological states he posits. Still, there is a quick route from classical computation to representational states, and from there to compositional intentional states, and concepts are purported to be the constituents of those states (and nothing more?).

  5. How about recent interest in unconventional kinds of physical computers (DNA, molecular, optical, billiard ball). Quantum computation, and counterfactual computation are also fun. Relatedly, the recent trend to explain a huge range of natural systems as if they were computing, like DNA protein synthesis and large-scale behaviour of ecosystems.

    The journal of Natural Computing has lots of interesting stuff:


  6. John Dilworth

    The Irrelevance of Computationalism to the Philosophy of Mind

    Since any review article on computationalism–or anything else–should include at least one provocative opposing view, here’s one. My just-published Minds and Machines article
    “Semantic Naturalization Via Interactive Perceptual Causality”, available online at


    or on my website at


    provides a comprehensive alternative approach to the philos of mind. It
    combines a broadly dispositional view of meaning and perceptual content
    with a broadly realist abstract propositionalism about scientific theories.
    On this account, as long as a creature can come up with appropriate
    dispositional outputs that are propositionally indexable in standard
    scientific experiments, it matters not at all–whether computationally
    or otherwise–what went on in the creature in its causal processing
    of inputs. (See also other relevant papers on my website).

    John Dilworth, Dept of Philosophy, Western Michigan University

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