Publication 5783

Winograd T. & Flores F. (1987) The rationalistic tradition. Chapter 2 in: Understanding computers and cognition: A new foundation for design. Addison-Wesley, Reading MA: 14–26. Fulltext at
Excerpt: Current thinking about computers and their impact on society has been shaped by a rationalistic tradition that needs to be re-examined and challenged as a source of understanding, As a first step we will characterize the tradition of rationalism and logical empiricism that can be traced back at least to Plato. This tradition has been the mainspring of Western science and technology, and has demonstrated its effectiveness most clearly in the ‘hard sciences’ – those that explain the operation of deterministic mechanisms whose principles can be captured in formal systems. The tradition finds its highest expression in mathematics and logic, and has greatly influenced the development of linguistics and cognitive psychology. We will make no attempt to provide a full historical account of this tradition, or to situate it on some kind of intellectual map Instead, we have chosen to concentrate on understanding its effects on current discourse and practice, especially in relation to the development and impact of computers. The purpose of this chapter is to outline its major points and illustrate their embodiment in current theories of language, mind, and action.

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