Ian Bogost – Computers are Systems, not Languages. Posted here to flag up dimensions of debate. Sometimes I feel right out of my depth, then I remind myself that I am just as competent to understand philosophical debate and note difficulties even if I’m ‘rustic and untutored’ (Tolkien). Both these bloggers and commentators on each other’s blog note the actual arbitrariness of assumed authoritativeness in the PhD requirement to learn another language, as an artefact of philosophy’s linguistic turn. One seems to acknowledge some sort of legitimacy in that requirement, the other argues against it. They articulate their grounds for asserting and arguing that the two sorts of languages as systems are or are not commensurable for the purposes of a humanities PhD. The decoding-competence issue in itself seems clear enough, as so much philosophy is written so coded in other languages as complete systems of meaning in themselves, as well as means of conveying other systems of meaning like particular philosophies; given correlation, correspondence, and confirmation among several systems of philosophical representation, it is useful competently to be able to decode in both sorts of systems, that is, in both languages and philosophies expressed by means of them. But that seems that perhaps that need is taken for granted so not required to articulate here. Except: “It is and it isn’t separate. If the argument is proceeding from difference, then we could collapse some of these distinctions in short order, and if we do that, then as best as i can tell the only argument we have is that humans with language currently have cultures and it is the link between the language-culture and the ways of knowing/thinking that is important in learning other languages. But if that is the case then a computer language like lisp or haskell as embodying a mode of thought might be something to consider, whereas a more generic language might not.” This guy has it, I think: language expresses culture, in several senses of ‘expresses’; and as Terry Pratchett makes clear, codes and coding also constitute their own culture (on the clacks, in Going Postal).
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