Why the computational account of rule-following cannot rule out the grammatical account

European Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):82-104 (2001)
Abstract
In recent works, Chomsky has once more endorsed a computational view of rulefollowing, whereby to follow a rule is to operate certain computations on a subject’s mental representations. As is well known, this picture does not conform to what we may call the grammatical conception of rule-following outlined by Wittgenstein, whereby an elucidation of the concept of rule-following is aimed at by isolating grammatical statements regarding the phrase ‘to follow a rule’. As a result, Chomskyan and Wittgensteinian treatments of topics immediately connected with rule-following, namely linguistic competence and understanding, are utterly different from one another. There are two possible stances that computationalists like Chomsky may adopt with regard to the discrepancy between the two aforementioned modes of dealing with rule-following, namely a conciliatory and a non-conciliatory attitude. According to the former attitude, grammatical remarks on and computationallyoriented theories of rule-following investigate one and the same topic although admittedly at different levels, namely a conceptual and an empirical one. According to the latter attitude, grammatical remarks are just a preliminary step in the investigation of rule-following which scientific advancement, presently represented by computationally-oriented theories on this matter, is well entitled to put aside. In what follows, however, I will try to show that both stances are problematic. The conciliatory attitude simply does not work, for it hardly copes with the fact that the concept of rule-following does not supervene, even weakly, on the property of rule-following, namely the property instantiated in the mental/cerebral phenomena that computationally-oriented theories of rule-following study. To take the contrary attitude, on the other hand, is to end up with another disappointing result, namely that the computational treatment of rule-following ultimately deals with something different from that which we wished to gain knowledge of when we began our inquiry into rule-following..
Keywords Computation  Grammar  Language  Rule  Semantics  Chomsky, N
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DOI 10.1111/1468-0378.00131
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