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Future PastsThe Analytic Tradition in Twentieth Century Philosophy$
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Juliet Floyd and Sanford Shieh

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195139167

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019513916X.001.0001

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Language as Social Software

Language as Social Software

(p.339) 15 Language as Social Software
Future Pasts

Rohit Parikh

Oxford University Press

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

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