•  2007
    Cognitive and Computer Systems for Understanding Narrative Text
    with Erwin M. Segal, Stuart C. Shapiro, David A. Zubin, Gail A. Bruder, Judith Felson Duchan, and David M. Mark
    This project continues our interdisciplinary research into computational and cognitive aspects of narrative comprehension. Our ultimate goal is the development of a computational theory of how humans understand narrative texts. The theory will be informed by joint research from the viewpoints of linguistics, cognitive psychology, the study of language acquisition, literary theory, geography, philosophy, and artificial intelligence. The linguists, literary theorists, and geographers in our group a…Read more
  •  1789
    What Is the “Context” for Contextual Vocabulary Acquisition?
    Proceedings of the 4th Joint International Conference on Cognitive Science/7th Australasian Society for Cognitive Science Conference 2 547-552. 2003.
    “Contextual” vocabulary acquisition is the active, deliberate acquisition of a meaning for a word in a text by reasoning from textual clues and prior knowledge, including language knowledge and hypotheses developed from prior encounters with the word, but without external sources of help such as dictionaries or people. But what is “context”? Is it just the surrounding text? Does it include the reader’s background knowledge? I argue that the appropriate context for contextual vocabulary acquisiti…Read more
  •  1080
    Syntactic semantics: Foundations of computational natural language understanding
    In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Aspects of AI, Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1988.
    This essay considers what it means to understand natural language and whether a computer running an artificial-intelligence program designed to understand natural language does in fact do so. It is argued that a certain kind of semantics is needed to understand natural language, that this kind of semantics is mere symbol manipulation (i.e., syntax), and that, hence, it is available to AI systems. Recent arguments by Searle and Dretske to the effect that computers cannot understand natural langua…Read more
  •  1067
    Philosophy of Computer Science: An Introductory Course
    Teaching Philosophy 28 (4): 319-341. 2005.
    There are many branches of philosophy called “the philosophy of X,” where X = disciplines ranging from history to physics. The philosophy of artificial intelligence has a long history, and there are many courses and texts with that title. Surprisingly, the philosophy of computer science is not nearly as well-developed. This article proposes topics that might constitute the philosophy of computer science and describes a course covering those topics, along with suggested readings and assignments.
  •  966
    Contextual Vocabulary Acquisition: A Computational Theory and Educational Curriculum
    with Michael W. Kibby
    In Nagib Callaos, Ana Breda & Ma Yolanda Fernandez J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 6th World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, International Institute of Informatics and Systemics. 2002.
    We discuss a research project that develops and applies algorithms for computational contextual vocabulary acquisition (CVA): learning the meaning of unknown words from context. We try to unify a disparate literature on the topic of CVA from psychology, first- and secondlanguage acquisition, and reading science, in order to help develop these algorithms: We use the knowledge gained from the computational CVA system to build an educational curriculum for enhancing students’ abilities to use CVA st…Read more
  •  863
    A computer can come to understand natural language the same way Helen Keller did: by using “syntactic semantics”—a theory of how syntax can suffice for semantics, i.e., how semantics for natural language can be provided by means of computational symbol manipulation. This essay considers real-life approximations of Chinese Rooms, focusing on Helen Keller’s experiences growing up deaf and blind, locked in a sort of Chinese Room yet learning how to communicate with the outside world. Using the SNeP…Read more
  •  767
    Semiotic Systems, Computers, and the Mind: How Cognition Could Be Computing
    International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems 2 (1): 32-71. 2012.
    In this reply to James H. Fetzer’s “Minds and Machines: Limits to Simulations of Thought and Action”, I argue that computationalism should not be the view that (human) cognition is computation, but that it should be the view that cognition (simpliciter) is computable. It follows that computationalism can be true even if (human) cognition is not the result of computations in the brain. I also argue that, if semiotic systems are systems that interpret signs, then both humans and computers are s…Read more
  •  754
    Non-Existent Objects and Epistemological Ontology
    Grazer Philosophische Studien 25 (1): 61-95. 1985.
    This essay examines the role of non-existent objects in "epistemological ontology" — the study of the entities that make thinking possible. An earlier revision of Meinong's Theory of Objects is reviewed, Meinong's notions of Quasisein and Außersein are discussed, and a theory of Meinongian objects as "combinatorially possible" entities is presented.
  •  741
    Narrative passages told from a character's perspective convey the character's thoughts and perceptions. We present a discourse process that recognizes characters'.
  •  708
    Ford’s Helen Keller Was Never in a Chinese Room claims that my argument in How Helen Keller Used Syntactic Semantics to Escape from a Chinese Room fails because Searle and I use the terms ‘syntax’ and ‘semantics’ differently, hence are at cross purposes. Ford has misunderstood me; this reply clarifies my theory
  •  691
    Models and minds
    with Stuart C. Shapiro
    In Robert E. Cummins & John L. Pollock (eds.), Philosophy and AI, Mit Press. pp. 215--259. 1991.
    Cognitive agents, whether human or computer, that engage in natural-language discourse and that have beliefs about the beliefs of other cognitive agents must be able to represent objects the way they believe them to be and the way they believe others believe them to be. They must be able to represent other cognitive agents both as objects of beliefs and as agents of beliefs. They must be able to represent their own beliefs, and they must be able to represent beliefs as objects of beliefs. These …Read more
  •  674
    Deliberate contextual vocabulary acquisition (CVA) is a reader’s ability to figure out a (not the) meaning for an unknown word from its “context”, without external sources of help such as dictionaries or people. The appropriate context for such CVA is the “belief-revised integration” of the reader’s prior knowledge with the reader’s “internalization” of the text. We discuss unwarranted assumptions behind some classic objections to CVA, and present and defend a computational theory of CVA that we…Read more
  •  641
    John Searle once said: "The Chinese room shows what we knew all along: syntax by itself is not sufficient for semantics. (Does anyone actually deny this point, I mean straight out? Is anyone actually willing to say, straight out, that they think that syntax, in the sense of formal symbols, is really the same as semantic content, in the sense of meanings, thought contents, understanding, etc.?)." I say: "Yes". Stuart C. Shapiro has said: "Does that make any sense? Yes: Everything makes sense. The…Read more
  •  618
    This essay presents and defends a triage theory of grading: An item to be graded should get full credit if and only if it is clearly or substantially correct, minimal credit if and only if it is clearly or substantially incorrect, and partial credit if and only if it is neither of the above; no other (intermediate) grades should be given. Details on how to implement this are provided, and further issues in the philosophy of grading (reasons for and against grading, grading on a curve, and the su…Read more
  •  613
    Ethical Issues in the Use of Computers
    Teaching Philosophy 9 (3): 275-278. 1986.
    Review of Johnson & Snapper 1985
  •  566
    In Defense of Contextual Vocabulary Acquisition: How to Do Things with Words in Context
    In Anind Dey, Boicho Kokinov, David Leake & Roy Turner (eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Modeling and Using Context, Springer-verlag Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 3554. pp. 396--409. 2005.
    Contextual vocabulary acquisition (CVA) is the deliberate acquisition of a meaning for a word in a text by reasoning from context, where “context” includes: (1) the reader’s “internalization” of the surrounding text, i.e., the reader’s “mental model” of the word’s “textual context” (hereafter, “co-text” [3]) integrated with (2) the reader’s prior knowledge (PK), but it excludes (3) external sources such as dictionaries or people. CVA is what you do when you come across an unfamiliar word in your…Read more
  •  501
    It is well known that people from other disciplines have made significant contributions to philosophy and have influenced philosophers. It is also true (though perhaps not often realized, since philosophers are not on the receiving end, so to speak) that philosophers have made significant contributions to other disciplines and have influenced researchers in these other disciplines, sometimes more so than they have influenced philosophy itself. But what is perhaps not as well known as it ought to…Read more
  •  468
    Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: A Course Outline
    Teaching Philosophy 9 (2): 103-120. 1986.
    In the Fall of 1983, I offered a junior/senior-level course in Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, in the Department of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, after returning there from a year’s leave to study and do research in computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) at SUNY Buffalo. Of the 30 students enrolled, most were computerscience majors, about a third had no computer background, and only a handful had studied any philosophy. (I might note that enrollments have subsequently increased …Read more
  •  463
    The SNePS Family
    with Stuart C. Shapiro
    Computers and Mathematics with Applications 23 243-275. 1992.
    SNePS, the Semantic Network Processing System 45, 54], has been designed to be a system for representing the beliefs of a natural-language-using intelligent system (a \cognitive agent"). It has always been the intention that a SNePS-based \knowledge base" would ultimatelybe built, not by a programmeror knowledge engineer entering representations of knowledge in some formallanguage or data entry system, but by a human informing it using a natural language (NL) (generally supposed to be English), …Read more
  •  456
    Hauser argues that his pocket calculator (Cal) has certain arithmetical abilities: it seems Cal calculates. That calculating is thinking seems equally untendentious. Yet these two claims together provide premises for a seemingly valid syllogism whose conclusion - Cal thinks - most would deny. He considers several ways to avoid this conclusion, and finds them mostly wanting. Either we ourselves can't be said to think or calculate if our calculation-like performances are judged by the standard…Read more
  •  429
    To think or not to think
    Noûs 22 (4): 585-609. 1988.
    A critical study of John Searle's Minds, Brains and Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).
  •  347
    Meinong, Alexius; I: Meinongian Semantics
    In Hans Burkhardt & Barry Smith (eds.), Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology, Philosophia Verlag. pp. 516-519. 1991.
    A brief introduction to Meinong, his theory of objects, and modern interpretations of it. Sections include: The Theory of Objects, Castañeda's Theory of Guises, Parsons,'s Theory of Nonexistent Objects, Rapaport's Theory of Meinongian Objects, Routley's Theory of Items.
  •  317
    Review of Karel Lambert, Meinong and the Principle of Independence: Its Place in Meinong's Theory of Objects and Its Significance in Contemporary Philosophical Logic
  •  295
    Holism, conceptual-role semantics, and syntactic semantics
    Minds and Machines 12 (1): 3-59. 2002.
    This essay continues my investigation of `syntactic semantics': the theory that, pace Searle's Chinese-Room Argument, syntax does suffice for semantics (in particular, for the semantics needed for a computational cognitive theory of natural-language understanding). Here, I argue that syntactic semantics (which is internal and first-person) is what has been called a conceptual-role semantics: The meaning of any expression is the role that it plays in the complete system of expressions. Such a `na…Read more
  •  291
    On cogito propositions
    Philosophical Studies 29 (1): 63-68. 1976.
    I argue that George Nakhnikian's analysis of the logic of cogito propositions (roughly, Descartes's 'cogito' and 'sum') is incomplete. The incompleteness is rectified by showing that disjunctions of cogito propositions with contingent, non-cogito propositions satisfy conditions of incorrigibility, self-certifyingness, and pragmatic consistency; hence, they belong to the class of propositions with whose help a complete characterization of cogito propositions is made possible.
  •  284
    On Epistemic Logic and Logical Omniscience
    with Moshe Y. Vardi
    Journal of Symbolic Logic 53 (2): 668. 1988.
    Review of Joseph Y. Halpern (ed.), Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the 1986 Conference (Los Altos, CA: Morgan Kaufmann, 1986),
  •  257
    Syntactic semantics is a holistic, conceptual-role-semantic theory of how computers can think. But Fodor and Lepore have mounted a sustained attack on holistic semantic theories. However, their major problem with holism (that, if holism is true, then no two people can understand each other) can be fixed by means of negotiating meanings. Syntactic semantics and Fodor and Lepore’s objections to holism are outlined; the nature of communication, miscommunication, and negotiation is discussed; Brun…Read more
  •  250
    Logical foundations for belief representation
    Cognitive Science 10 (4): 371-422. 1986.
    This essay presents a philosophical and computational theory of the representation of de re, de dicto, nested, and quasi-indexical belief reports expressed in natural language. The propositional Semantic Network Processing System (SNePS) is used for representing and reasoning about these reports. In particular, quasi-indicators (indexical expressions occurring in intentional contexts and representing uses of indicators by another speaker) pose problems for natural-language representation and rea…Read more
  •  250
    Quasi‐Indexicals and Knowledge Reports
    with Stuart C. Shapiro and Janyce M. Wiebe
    Cognitive Science 21 (1): 63-107. 1997.
    We present a computational analysis of de re, de dicto, and de se belief and knowledge reports. Our analysis solves a problem first observed by Hector-Neri Castañeda, namely, that the simple rule `(A knows that P) implies P' apparently does not hold if P contains a quasi-indexical. We present a single rule, in the context of a knowledge-representation and reasoning system, that holds for all P, including those containing quasi-indexicals. In so doing, we explore the difference between reasoning …Read more
  •  248
    The purpose of this essay is to exhibit in detail the setting for the version of the Cogito Argument that appears in Descartes’s Meditations. I believe that a close reading of the text can shed new light on the nature and role of the “evil demon”, on the nature of God as he appears in the first few Meditations, and on the place of the Cogito Argument in Descartes’s overall scheme.