Without Words (Philosophy of Mind)

Thinking Without Words (Philosophy of Mind)


Have any philosophers examined the nature of thought?
Thinking without Words provides a challenging new theory of the nature of non-linguistic thought. Many scientific disciplines treat non-linguistic creatures as thinkers, explaining their behavior in terms of their thoughts about themselves and about the environment. But this theorizing has proceeded without any clear account of the types of thinking available to non-linguistic creatures. One consequence of this is that ascriptions of thoughts to non-linguistic creatures have frequently been h… more about book…

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Have any philosophers examined the nature of thought?(r/philosophy)

The relationship between thought and language is a really cool and interesting and vibrant subject area in philosophy!

There are two general ways to construe the idea that ‘thought is primarily about using language.’ One is that thought in general is syntactically structured in a language-like way, but is not identical to any particular ‘natural’ language. You can look at the SEP article here or read Fodor’s first book on the subject.

Alternatively, you might be thinking that all thinking is done ‘through’ or ‘in’ some natural language like English or whatever the agent’s native language happens to be. In it’s strongest form, this looks something like Whorfianism which most likely isn’t true (see Bermudez’s book on non-linguistic non-human cognition, for example). However, more constrained hypotheses in this area are possible and sometimes plausible. Carruthers, for example, thinks that all present, conscious thought has to be done through the medium of some natural language or other.

Like I said, this is a broad topic – my citation manager is full of stuff in this area, so if you have a particular question I can probably find you something relevant (if you’re willing to read academic stuff – I have not so much popular press material.)


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José Luis Bermúdez

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Oxford University Press

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Thinking Without Words (Philosophy of Mind)

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