Language, perception and action: Philosophical issues

In [Book Chapter] (2001)
Abstract
The earlier part of this book has been concerned with very specific questions arising in the field of linguistics (phonetics, semantics and syntax), with the results of research into visual perception (physiological and neurological) and with rather wider speculation about the organisation of bodily action and the relation between the bodily processes underlying action, vision and speech. The hypotheses, arguments, evidence and conclusions reached have not depended to any significant extent on philosophical doctrine or concepts and the question may be asked why should a book essentially concerned with linguistics conclude with a chapter devoted to philosophy. To this question there is a broad answer and a more specific one; the broad answer is that there has been prolonged and difficult discussion between philosophers over many centuries of the subjects dealt with earlier in this book, the origin and nature of language, the relation of language to reality, perception as based on sense-experience and providing the main basis for veridical knowledge, and voluntary human action (the notions of free will and determinism, of reasons and causes of action). The narrower answer, as an occasion and justification for having a philosophical chapter, is that in some respects totally new broad and specific hypotheses are presented about the functioning of language, perception and action, and particularly about their interrelation in human behaviour, and it is worth considering what implications these hypotheses, if true, may have for traditional or current philosophical views. It may be that they ought to involve some radical review of current theory but, in any case, it would be unsatisfactory simply to present a whole range of ideas bearing on language, perception and action without having regard to what relevant to these subjects has been said by philosophers (as in the same way it would be unsatisfactory not to have regard to work that has been done on these subjects by experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence).
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