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Several years ago, while studying philosophy, I recall reading in numerous sources that Dennett believed (or was interpreted as believing - by either Clark or Churchland [or Fodor?]) that it was language that basically transformed the brain into a symbolic machine (to loosely paraphrase - the point was that language had a massively transformative effect on the brain [or mind, I don't care which he referred to]).

Unfortunately, I no longer have any of the books/articles that I was reading back then, so I can't go back and check them all. I've been searching online for a day now and have been unable to track down any of these sources.

Does this ring a bell for anyone?

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I found it. It was Clark paraphrasing him, in (at least) two articles:

As Rex Kerr suggested, it was indeed from Consciousness Explained. For instance, here is a quote from Clark's 1996 paper:

"Dennett depicts our exposure to linguistic bombardment (in the context of some small and subtle differences in initial hardware) as causing the development of a special kind of on-board computational device viz. a kind of classical serial processor implemented in the substrate of massively parallel, broadly connectionist, neural machinery."

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Not exactly. I recall reading Dennett advocating or at least open to the idea that language structures the brain's other workings to a significant extent, though. One example is posted here.

I do not recall reading anything by Churchland that was paraphrasing this, and I haven't read enough Fodor or Clark to know if they would have.

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  • Hmmm, this is very frustrating. I'm positive he was more explicit at some point, but I dunno why I can't find it. It must have been someone paraphrasing him... perhaps it was somewhere in the connectionist vs. computational debate. Anyhow, thanks for the suggestion! Mar 18, 2014 at 1:49

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