Foundations of Cognitive Science: The Essential Readings

By Jay L. Garfield | Go to book overview

JAY L. GARFIELD


CONVENTION, CONTEXT, AND MEANING: CONDITIONS ON NATURAL LANGUAGE UNDERSTANDING

I

Convention -- social agreement -- determines linguistic meaning and practice at countless levels, including the fixation of lexical meaning; the adoption of particular syntactic options from among those permitted by universal grammar; the determination of politeness and felicity conditions; and most broadly, the determination of the character of the background of human activities and purposes against which most discourse takes place, and in the context of which it is intended to be interpreted. In assigning meaning to, or understanding, a particular utterance or inscription, it is frequently, if not always, the case that convention insinuates itself into the process at each of these levels, or so many philosophers of language and linguists have imagined. This view has, however, been recently challenged by theoreticians in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) community, who, under the banner of "Procedural Semantics" have argued, sometimes explicitly ( Moore and Hendrix 1982, Miller and Johnson-Laird 1976), and sometimes merely implicitly ( Winograd 1973) that the meanings of natural language expressions are to be identified with the computational procedures to which they give rise in successful artificial or biological interpreters, and that understanding an expression just constitutes executing the appropriate procedure in its presence. On this view, a language understander could be ignorant of and isolated from any social conventions ostensibly relevant to the semantics of the expressions upon which it operates.

The semantic ideology embodied by procedural semantics and the success of artificial intelligence research in understanding natural language have often been taken to be mutually supporting (see e.g., Winograd, op. cit., Fodor 1978). After all, if the meanings of words just are the programs they call, and if the compositional rules for computing the meanings of larger expressions just are rules for composing programs into larger programs, then, since computers are program runners and composers par excellence, there would be good reason to hope that computers could compute the meanings of any

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Foundations of Cognitive Science: The Essential Readings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page vii
  • Contents xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Preface xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Part One - Critical Distinctions 1
  • Convention, Context, and Meaning: Conditions on Natural Language Understanding 3
  • Computation and Cognition: Issues in the Foundations of Cognitive Science 18
  • Acknowledgments 74
  • Epistemics: the Regulative Theory of Cognition 75
  • Notes 86
  • Three Kinds of Intentional Psychology 88
  • Notes 108
  • Part Two - Computation Theory in Cognitive Science 111
  • Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search 113
  • The Four-Color Problem and Its Philosophical Significance 139
  • Notes 161
  • Lucas' Number is Finally Up 163
  • Appendix 167
  • Why I Am Not a Turing Machine: Gödel's Theorems and the Philosophy of Mind 170
  • Notes 184
  • Part Three - Artificial Intelligence 187
  • Minds, Brains, and Programs 189
  • Acknowledgments 208
  • Notes 208
  • Selected Replies to Searle from Behavioral and Briin Science 209
  • Notes 216
  • Notes 219
  • Notes 228
  • Notes 234
  • Modules, Frames, Fridgeons, Sleeping Dogs, and the Music of the Spheres 235
  • Notes 246
  • Artificial Intelligence as Philosophy and as Psychology 247
  • Notes 262
  • Part Four - Human Intelligence 265
  • Ecological Optics 267
  • How Direct is Visual Perception? Some Reflections on Gibson's "Ecological Approach" 279
  • Notes 311
  • Grammar, Psychology, and Indeterminacy 314
  • Notes 330
  • What the Linguist is Talking About1 332
  • Notes 349
  • Part Five - New Frontiers 351
  • $Restaurant Revisited or "Lunch with Boris" 353
  • Notes 359
  • Acknowledgments 359
  • The Role of Taus in Narratives 360
  • Notes 367
  • Moving the Semantic Fulcrum 368
  • An Introduction to Connectionism 381
  • Notes 395
  • Understanding Natural Language 398
  • Notes 409
  • References 411
  • Index 423
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