Magic words: How language augments human computation

In Peter Carruthers & Jill Boucher (eds.), Language and Thought: Interdisciplinary Themes. Cambridge 162-183 (1998)
Of course, words aren’t magic. Neither are sextants, compasses, maps, slide rules and all the other paraphenelia which have accreted around the basic biological brains of homo sapiens. In the case of these other tools and props, however, it is transparently clear that they function so as to either carry out or to facilitate computational operations important to various human projects. The slide rule transforms complex mathematical problems (ones that would baffle or tax the unaided subject) into simple tasks of perceptual recognition. The map provides geographical information in a format well-suited to aid complex planning and strategic military operations. The compass gathers and displays a kind of information that (most) unaided human subjects do not seem to command. These various tools and props thus act to generate information, or to store it, or to transform it, or some combination of the three. In so doing, they impact our individual and collective problem- solving capacities in much the same dramatic ways as various software packages impact the performance of a simple pc
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,890
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Spyridon Orestis Palermos (2011). Belief-Forming Processes, Extended. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (4):741-765.
Andy Clark (2006). Material Symbols. Philosophical Psychology 19 (3):291-307.
Andy Clark (1999). An Embodied Cognitive Science? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 3 (9):345-351.

View all 29 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

121 ( #18,034 of 1,725,297 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

36 ( #30,859 of 1,725,297 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.