Minds and Machines

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 227–237 | Cite as

Computers Are Syntax All the Way Down: Reply to Bozşahin

  • William J. RapaportEmail author


A response to a recent critique by Cem Bozşahin of the theory of syntactic semantics as it applies to Helen Keller, and some applications of the theory to the philosophy of computer science.


Chinese Room Argument Helen Keller Philosophy of computer science Semantics Syntactic semantics Syntax 



  1. Bozşahin, C. (2018). Computers aren’t syntax all the waydown or content all the way up. Minds and Machines, 28(3), 543–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cleland, C. E. (1993). Is the Church-Turing thesis true? Minds and Machines, 3(3), 283–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dennett, D. C. (2009). Darwin’s ‘strange inversion of reasoning’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 106(suppl. 1), 10061–10065. (see also Dennett 2013).
  4. Dennett, D. C. (2013). Turing’s ‘strange inversion of reasoning’. In S. B. Cooper & J. van Leeuwen (Eds.), Alan Turing: His work and impact (pp. 569–573). Amsterdam: Elsevier (see also Dennett 2009).Google Scholar
  5. Ehrlich, K. (1995). Automatic vocabulary expansion through narrative context. Technical report 95-09, SUNY Buffalo Dept. of Computer Science, Buffalo, NY.Google Scholar
  6. Fodor, J. A. (1978). Tom Swift and his procedural grandmother. Cognition 6, 229–247.
  7. Fodor, J. A. (1980). Methodological solipsism considered as a research strategy in cognitive psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 63–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Harnad, S. (1990). The symbol grounding problem. Physica D, 42, 335–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hill, R. K. (2016). What an algorithm is. Philosophy and Technology, 29, 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hill, R. K., & Rapaport, W. J. (2018). Exploring the territory: The logicist way and other paths into the philosophy of computer science. American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers, 18(1), 34–37.
  11. Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn’t know. Journal of Philosophy, 83, 291–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Keller, H. (1905). The story of my life (p. 1954). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  13. Malory, S. T. (1470). Le Morte Darthur. New York: Collier Books, 1982. Ed. and trans. by R. M. Lumiansky.Google Scholar
  14. Moor, J. H. (Ed.). (2003). The Turing test: The elusive standard of artificial intelligence. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  15. Rapaport, W. J. (1986). Searle’s experiments with thought. Philosophy of Science, 53, 271–279.
  16. Rapaport, W. J. (1988). Syntactic semantics: Foundations of computational natural-language understanding. In J. H. Fetzer (Ed.), Aspects of artificial intelligence (pp. 81–131). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.; reprinted with numerous errors in Eric Dietrich (ed.) (1994), Thinking machines and virtual persons: Essays on the intentionality of machines (San Diego: Academic Press) (pp. 225–273).
  17. Rapaport, W. J. (1995). Understanding understanding: Syntactic semantics and computational cognition. In J. E. Tomberlin (Ed.), AI, connectionism, and philosophical psychology (Philosophical perspectives, Vol. 9, pp. 49–88). Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview. Reprinted in Toribio, Josefa, & Clark, Andy (eds.) (1998), Language and meaning in cognitive science: Cognitive issues and semantic theory (Artificial intelligence and cognitive science: Conceptual issues, Vol. 4) (New York: Garland).
  18. Rapaport, W. J. (2000). How to pass a Turing test: Syntactic semantics, natural-language understanding, and first-person cognition. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, 9(4), 467–490. Reprinted in Moor, 2003, 161–184.
  19. Rapaport, W. J. (2002). Holism, conceptual-role semantics, and syntactic semantics. Minds and Machines, 12(1), 3–59.
  20. Rapaport, W. J. (2003). What is the ‘context’ for contextual vocabulary acquisition? In P. P. Slezak (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th international conference on cognitive science/7th Australasian Society for cognitive science conference (ICCS/ASCS-2003; Sydney, Australia) (Vol. 2, pp. 547–552). Sydney: University of New South Wales.
  21. Rapaport, W. J. (2005). In defense of contextual vocabulary acquisition: How to do things with words in context. In A. Dey, B. Kokinov, D. Leake, & R. Turner (Eds.), Modeling and using context: 5th international and interdisciplinary conference, CONTEXT 05, Paris, France, July 2005, Proceedings (pp. 396–409). Berlin: Springer-Verlag Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 3554.
  22. Rapaport, W. J. (2006). How Helen Keller used syntactic semantics to escape from a Chinese room. Minds and Machines, 16, 381–436. (see reply to comments, in Rapaport 2011).
  23. Rapaport, W. J. (2011). Yes, she was! Reply to Ford’s ‘Helen Keller was never in a Chinese room’. Minds and Machines, 21(1), 3–17.
  24. Rapaport, W. J. (2012). Semiotic systems, computers, and the mind: How cognition could be computing. International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems, 2(1), 32–71.,_Computers,_and_the_Mind.pdf. Revised version published as Rapaport 2018.
  25. Rapaport, W. J. (2017a). On the relation of computing to the world. In T. M. Powers (Ed.), Philosophy and computing: Essays in epistemology, philosophy of mind, logic, and ethics (pp. 29–64). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Paper based on 2015 IACAP Covey Award talk; preprint at
  26. Rapaport, W. J. (2017b). Semantics as syntax. American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers, 17(1), 2–11.
  27. Rapaport, W. J. (2018). Syntactic semantics and the proper treatment of computationalism. In M. Danesi (Ed.), Empirical research on semiotics and visual rhetoric (pp. 128–176). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. References on pp. 273–307; Revised version of Rapaport 2012.
  28. Rapaport, W. J. (2019). Philosophy of computer science. Current draft in progress at
  29. Rapaport, W. J., & Kibby, M. W. (2002). Contextual vocabulary acquisition: A computational theory and educational curriculum. In N. Callaos, A. Breda, & M. Y. Fernandez J. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 6th world multiconference on systemics, cybernetics and informatics (SCI 2002; Orlando, FL), Vol. II: Concepts and applications of systemics, cybernetics, and informatics I (pp. 261–266). Orlando: International Institute of Informatics and Systemics.
  30. Rapaport, W. J., & Kibby, M. W. (2007). Contextual vocabulary acquisition as computational philosophy and as philosophical computation. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 19(1), 1–17.
  31. Rapaport, W. J., & Kibby, M. W. (2010). Contextual vocabulary acquisition: From algorithm to curriculum.
  32. Rapaport, W. J., & Kibby, M. W. (2014). Contextual vocabulary acquisition: From algorithm to curriculum. In A. Palma (Ed.), Castañeda and His Guises: Essays on the work of Hector-Neri Castañeda (pp. 107–150). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
  33. Rescorla, M. (2012). Are computational transitions sensitive to semantics? Australian Journal of Philosophy, 90(4), 703–721.
  34. Rescorla, M. (2014). The causal relevance of content to computation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 88(1), 173–208.
  35. Searle, J. R. (1990). Is the brain a digital computer? Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 64(3), 21–37. Reprinted in slightly revised form as Searle 1992, Ch. 9.Google Scholar
  36. Searle, J. R. (1992). The rediscovery of the mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Shapiro, S.C., & Rapaport, W. J. (1987). SNePS considered as a fully intensional propositional semantic network. In N. Cercone and G. McCalla (Eds.), The knowledge frontier: Essays in the representation of knowledge (pp. 262–315). New York: Springer.
  38. Shapiro, S.C., & Rapaport, W. J. (1992). The SNePS family. Computers and Mathematics with Applications, 23, 243–275. Reprinted in F. Lehmann (ed.), Semantic networks in artificial intelligence (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1992): 243–275;
  39. Shapiro, S.C., & Rapaport, W. J. (1995). An introduction to a computational reader of narratives. In J. F. Duchan, G. A. Bruder, and L. E. Hewitt (Eds.), Deixis in narrative: A cognitive science perspective (pp. 79–105). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  40. Smith, B. C. (1987). The correspondence continuum. Technical report CSLI-87-71, Center for the Study of Language & Information, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Computer Science and Engineering, Philosophy and Linguistics, Center for Cognitive ScienceUniversity at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations