Language as Social Software

Rohit Parikh

in Future Pasts

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139167
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833214 | DOI:
 Language as Social Software

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  • History of Western Philosophy


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Parikh discusses recent developments in computer science, especially in the areas of program correctness, dynamic logic, and temporal logic. He then develops a meaning theory for a natural language versus the actual linguistic and nonlinguistic behavior of the members of a speech community, exploring three arguments concerned with the social character of language: Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation, Kripke’s skeptical paradox (derived from Wittgenstein) concerning the notion of following a rule, and John Searle’s Chinese room puzzle. Parikh argues that each of these apparently skeptical arguments is concretely realized in the programmer’s efforts to devise and apply a programming language. In thinking through the relation between high-level programming languages and the machine languages into which they must be translated in order to be implemented, computer scientists can offer significant insights into philosophical issues. A pragmatic approach to meaning theory in which uniformity in individual speakers’ usage of a communal language is not assumed, and in which there is no common underlying notion of truth—in which, ultimately, large portions of language are admitted which are not informational at all—is defended, with suggestions of applications to problems of vagueness.

Keywords: program correctness; indeterminacy of translation; skeptical paradox; Kripke; Searle; computer science; dynamic logic; temporal logic; vagueness; pragmatic theory of meaning; idiolect; externalism

Chapter.  7119 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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