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Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

I argue that the "postmodern" understanding of language that has developed over the last few decades in Anglo-American philosophy provides the basis for a useful critique of artificial intelligence. This postmodern view corrects an error in the traditional Western conception of language that has led many researchers in AI and cognitive science into taking a rule-based or information-processing approach. Wittgenstein's view that language does not receive its meaning through definition, and Quine's view that neither words nor sentences but only discourse as a whole is the proper unit of meaning, argue against an attempt to formulate rules for understanding language, which is an essential part of "strong" AI. AI researchers are already beginning to correct this mistake, but an understanding of its true extent and depth can lead to the sort of radical rethinking that is necessary.