I remember someone saying that language is the software to the hardware of our brains. Something to that effect. Does anyone know who that was?

  • 1
    It's worth pointing out that much of the brain simply does not work in a linear, language-based fashion. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 20:25
  • Note that in computers language is not software. Software is written using a particular language, or processors are designed to execute particular instructions, but that design or that language is not the software itself.
    – nir
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 21:02
  • @nir I would say you're right if you add to the definition of language that is must have a threshold of complexity to it to be defined as such. Because otherwise, the software, in machine-language form, still is refered in literature as a language. it is binary and flat, and stateless by Chomsky definition, but still a language.
    – v.oddou
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 1:41
  • Language is actually a sub-system for I/O, like USB on a computer. It's function is to convert the highly cross-linked network of memory into a form (narrative) that works with sound, which is serial (one dimensional).
    – amI
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 20:24

2 Answers 2


I can't point you to an exact name, but what you are referring to is the computational theory of the mind: The idea that the brain is a computer, and mental states and entities (language, thoughts, beliefs, etc...) are software installed on this device. The computational theory of mind is itself a type of functionalist theory of the mind.

The way you phrased the statement, the closest philosopher to that position is probably Jerry Fodor, with his language of thought (LOT) theory. He believes that there is a language of thought hardwired into the brain, the way assembly language is hardwired into a specific processor, and that mental processes constitute computations using this language of thought.

Other notable notable functionalists who argue for the mind as a computer are Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter, and at one point in his career, Hilary Putnam.


Because you weren't exactly sure what the quote was, in addition to the answer already provided here are a few possibilities with varying degrees of similarity to your given sentence:

Ned Block:

The mind as the software of the brain.

Fernando Ilharco:

Language is the software that activates the mind, but it doesn't come pre-installed.

Michio Sugeno:

The human brain consists of a neural system as hardware and a language system as software.

Richard Rorty:

The brain as hardware, culture as software.

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