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The College of Arts Sciences

The Philosophy of Language

By: Caitlin Hayes,  Cornell Research

Imagine two computers talking to each other, sending a program back and forth. As new information is received, the state of the machine changes. According to William B. Starr, Philosophy, it’s similar to what happens to people in conversation.

“But what I think is exciting and powerful is how humans and modern computers are different,” he says. “We have such rich connections with each other and the world. Language can be plugged into our lives and actions in much more complicated ways.”

Starr argues, for instance, that language is not merely an exact representation of the world. Rather, language represents the world indirectly through the way it influences our mental representations. “You can’t really understand how language works or how it provides us with information about the world,” he explains, “without understanding how the mind is mediating the whole process.”

Continue this article about his work on Cornell Research.