Physics and Computation: The Statues of Landauer's Principle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

4 Citations (Scopus)


Realism about computation is the view that whether or not a particular physical system is performing a particular computation is at least sometimes a mindindependent feature of reality. The caveat ’at least sometimes’ is necessary here because a realist about computation need not believe that all instances of computation should be realistically construed. The computational theory of mind presupposes realism about computation. If whether or not the human nervous system implements particular computations is not a natural fact about the world that is independent of whether we represent it as doing so, then the computational theory of mind fails to naturalise the mind. Realism about computation is also presupposed by attempts to use computational principles such as Landauer’s Principle to dispel Maxwell’s Demon. Realism about computation has been challenged by Hilary Putnam and John Searle among others. Various arguments have been put forward purporting to show that any physical system of sufficient complexity trivially implements all computations. Ladyman et al. (2007) offer a precisification and general proof Landauer’s Principle. In order to do this they present an analysis of what it is for a physical process to implement a logical transformation. In this paper, their analysis is explained and its implications for realism about computation and the use of Landauer’s Principle in foundational debates is assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputation and Logic in the Real World
Subtitle of host publicationThird Conference on Computability in Europe, CiE 2007, Siena, Italy, June 18-12, 2007. Proceedings.
EditorsBarry S. Cooper, Benedikt Löwe, Andrea Sorbi
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-540-73001-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-540-73000-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Science and Philosophy
  • Centre_for_science_and_philosophy


  • Landauer's Principle
  • realism about computation
  • physics


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