In a number of important works, Jerry Fodor has wrestled with the problem of how mental representation can be accounted for within a physicalist framework. His favored response has attempted to identify nonintentional conditions for intentionality, relying on a nexus of casual relations between symbols and what they represent. I examine Fodor's theory and argue that it fails to meet its own conditions for adequacy insofar as it presupposes the very phenomenon that it purports to account for. I conclude, however, (...) that the ontological commitments of intentional psychology survive within a broader conception of naturalism than the one adopted by Fodor. (shrink)
Stephen Pinker sets out over a dozen arguments in The language instinct (Morrow, New York, 1994) for his widely shared view that natural language is inadequate as a medium for thought. Thus he argues we must suppose that the primary medium of thought and inference is an innate propositional representation system, mentalese. I reply to the various arguments and so defend the view that some thought essentially involves natural language. I argue mentalese doesn't solve any of the problems (...) Pinker cites for the view that we think in natural language. So I don't think I think the way he thinks I think. (shrink)
thought and problem solving in persons lacking natural language altogether would be a decisive challenge, but there is no clear evidence of any abstract thinking capabilities similar to those evinced by the scientists. Pinker cites languageless persons rebuilding broken locks - this is evidence of perhaps visual imagery, but not mentalese (at least not without quite a bit more detail and argument than we are given). Spiders, e.g., build marvelous things, but no inference to spiderese appears to be warranted. (...) There simply is much we don. (shrink)
Carruthers’ “mentalese expressions” take the form of English sentences, thus suggesting an isomorphism between thought and language that ignores linguistic diversity. Furthermore, complex syntax is not the only linguistic means of combining information from various domain-specific modules into domain-general expressions, nor is such syntax the preferred means of encoding basic experiences in all languages. The analysis seems to rest on an unacknowledged version of linguistic determinism.
Language of thought theories fall primarily into two views. The first view sees the language of thought as an innate language known as mentalese, which is hypothesized to operate at a level below conscious awareness while at the same time operating at a higher level than the neural events in the brain. The second view supposes that the language of thought is not innate. Rather, the language of thought is natural language. So, as an English speaker, my language of (...) thought would be English. My goal is to defend the second view. My methodology will see the project broken down into three major areas. First I will show that human thinking requires a language of thought, after which I will highlight some problems with assuming that this language is innate and hidden. Included in this section will be a small introduction to the compatibility problem. The compatibility problem offers some obvious difficulties for mentalese theories and these will be discussed. The next stage of the project will focus on evidence that can be put forward in support of the claim that natural language is the language of thought. Our most direct source of evidence comes from introspection, and this will play a dominant role in the discussion. The final part of the thesis will involve an examination of the principle arguments that have been put forward against the idea that natural language is the language of thought. My goal will be to show that these arguments do not entail the existence of mentalese, nor do they show that natural language is not the language of thought. I will provide answers to the arguments, and will explain the phenomena they point to in terms of natural language being the language of thought. (shrink)
Hauser defends the proposition that our languages of thought are public languages. One group of arguments points to the coincidence of clearly productive (novel, unbounded) cognitive competence with overt possession of recursive symbol systems. Another group relies on phenomenological experience. A third group cites practical and methodological considerations: Occam's razor and the "streetlight principle" (other things being equal, look under the lamp) that motivate looking for instantiations of outer languages in thought first.
Hauser defends the proposition that public languages are our languages of thought. One argument for this proposition is coincidence of productive (i.e., novel, unbounded) cognitive competence with overt possession of recursive symbol systems. Another is phenomenological experience. A third is Occam's razor and the "streetlight principle.".
Classical computational modellers of mind urge that the mind is something like a von Neumann computer operating over a system of symbols constituting a language of thought. Such an architecture, they argue, presents us with the best explanation of the compositionality, systematicity and productivity of thought. The language of thought hypothesis is supported by additional independent arguments made popular by Jerry Fodor. Paul Smolensky has developed a connectionist architecture he claims adequately explains compositionality, systematicity and productivity without positing any language (...) of thought, and without positing any operations over a set of symbols. This architecture encodes the information represented in linguistic trees without explicitly representing those trees or their constituents, and indeed without employing any representational vehicles with constituent structure. In a recent article, Fodor (1997; Connectionism and systematicity, Cognition , 62, 109-119) argues that Smolensky's proposal does not work. I defend Smolensky against Fodor's attack, and use this interchange as a vehicle for exploring and criticising the “Language of Thought” hypothesis more generally and the arguments Fodor adduces on its behalf. (shrink)
Will our everyday account of ourselves be vindicated by a new science? Or,will our self-understanding remain untouched by such developments? This book argues that beliefs and desires have a legitimate place in the explanation of action. Eliminativist arguments mistakenly focus on the vehicles of content not content itself. This book asks whether a naturalistic theory of content is possible. It is argued that a modest biosemantic theory of intentional, but nonconceptual, content is the naturalist’s best bet. A theory of this (...) kind complements connectionism and recent work on embodied and embedded cognition. But intentional content is not equivalent to propositional content. In order to understand propositional content we must rely on Davidsonian radical interpretation. However, radical interpretation is shown to be at odds with physicalism. But if the best naturalised theory of content we are likely to get from cognitive science is only a theory of intentional content, then a naturalistic explanation of scientific theorising is not possible. It is concluded that cognitive science alone cannot explain the nature of our minds and that eliminativism is intellectually incoherent. (shrink)
Sense-perceptions do not have to be deciphered if their contents are to be uploaded, the reason being that they are presentations, not representations. Linguistic expressions do have to be deciphered if their contents are to be uploaded, the reason being that they are representations, not presentations. It is viciously regressive to suppose that information-bearing mental entities are categorically in the nature of representations, as opposed to presentations, and it is therefore incoherent to suppose that thought is mediated by expressions or, (...) therefore, by linguistic entities. Attempts to neutralize this criticism inevitably overextend the concept of what it is to be a linguistic symbol, the result being that such attempts eviscerate the very position that it is their purpose to defend. Also, it is inherent in the nature of such attempts that they assume the truth of the view that for a given mental entity to bear this as opposed to that information is for that entity to have this as opposed to that causal role. This view is demonstrably false, dooming to failure the just-mentioned attempts to defend the contention that thought is in all cases mediated by linguistic symbols. (shrink)
How can the human mind represent the external world? What is thought, and can it be studied scientifically? Does it help to think of the mind as a kind of machine? Tim Crane sets out to answer questions like these in a lively and straightforward way, presuming no prior knowledge of philosophy or related disciplines. Since its first publication in 1995, The Mechanical Mind has introduced thousands of people to some of the most important ideas in contemporary philosophy of mind. (...) Tim Crane explains some fundamental ideas that cut across philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence and cognitive science: what the mind-body problem is; what a computer is and how it works; what thoughts are and how computers and minds might have them. He examines different models of the mind from dualist to eliminativist, and questions whether there can be thought without language and whether the mind is subject to the same causal lsaws as natural phenomena. The result is a fascinating exploration of the theories and arguments surrounding the notions of thought and representation. The edition has been fully revised and updated, and includes a new chapter on consciousness and new sections on modularity and evolutionary psychology. There are also guides for further reading, a chronology and a new glossary of terms such as mentalese, connectionism and the homonculus fallacy. The Mechanical Mind is accessible to the general reader as well as students, and anyone interested in the mechanism of our minds. (shrink)
1 *Common Sense Conception of Beliefs and Other Propositional Attitudes2 What is the Language of Thought Hypothesis?3 Status of LOTH4 Scope of LOTH5 *Natural Language as Mentalese?6 *Nativism and LOTH7 Naturalism and LOTH.
Fodor advocates a view of cognitive processes as computations defined over the language of thought (or Mentalese). Even among those who endorse Mentalese, considerable controversy surrounds its representational format. What semantically relevant structure should scientific psychology attribute to Mentalese symbols? Researchers commonly emphasize logical structure, akin to that displayed by predicate calculus sentences. To counteract this tendency, I discuss computational models of navigation drawn from probabilistic robotics. These models involve computations defined over cognitive maps, which have geometric (...) rather than logical structure. They thereby demonstrate the possibility of rational cognitive processes in an exclusively non-logical representational medium. Furthermore, they offer much promise for the empirical study of animal navigation. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. Fodor characterizes concepts as consisting of two dimensions: one is content, which is purely denotational/broad, the other the Mentalese vehicle bearing that content, which Fodor calls the Mode of Presentation (MOP), understood "syntactically." I argue that, so understood, concepts are not interpersonally sharable; so Fodor's own account violates what he calls the Publicity Constraint in his (1998) book. Furthermore, I argue that Fodor's non-semantic, or "syntactic," solution to Frege cases succumbs to the problem of providing interpersonally applicable functional (...) roles for MOPs. This is a serious problem because Fodor himself has argued extensively that if Fregean senses or meanings are understood as functional/conceptual roles, then they can't be public, since, according to Fodor, there are no interpersonally applicable functional roles in the relevant senses. I elaborate on these relevant senses in the paper. (shrink)
Quine (1960, "Word and object". Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ch. 2) claims that there are a variety of equally good schemes for translating or interpreting ordinary talk. 'Rabbit' might be taken to divide its reference over rabbits, over temporal slices of rabbits, or undetached parts of rabbits, without significantly affecting which sentences get classified as true and which as false. This is the basis of his famous 'argument from below' to the conclusion that there can be no fact of the (...) matter as to how reference is to be divided. Putative counterexamples to Quine's claim have been put forward in the past (see especially Evans (1975, "Journal of Philosophy", LXXII(13), 343-362. Reprinted in McDowell (Ed.), "Gareth Evans: Collected papers." Oxford: Clarendon Press.), Fodor (1993, "The elm and the expert: Mentalese and its semantics." Cambridge, MA: Bradford)), and various patches have been suggested (e. g. Wright (1997, The indeterminacy of translation. In C. Wright & B. Hale (Eds.), "A companion to the philosophy of language" (pp. 397-426). Oxford: Blackwell)). One lacuna in this literature is that one does not find any detailed presentation of what exactly these interpretations are supposed to be. Drawing on contemporary literature on persistence, the present paper sets out detailed semantic treatments for fragments of English, whereby predicates such as 'rabbit' divide their reference over four-dimensional continuants (Quine's rabbits), instantaneous temporal slices of those continuants (Quine's rabbitslices) and the simple elements which compose those slices (undetached rabbit parts) respectively. Once we have the systematic interpretations on the table, we can get to work evaluating them. (shrink)
The principal temptation toward substance dualisms, or otherwise incorporating a question begging homunculus into our psychologies, arises not from the problem of consciousness in general, nor from the problem of intentionality, but from the question of our awareness and understanding of our own mental contents, and the control of the deliberate, conscious thinking in which we employ them. Dennett has called this "Hume's problem". Cognitivist philosophers have generally either denied the experiential reality of thought, as did the Behaviorists, or have (...) taken an implicitly epiphenomenalist stance, a form of dualism. Some sort of mental duality may indeed be required to meet this problem, but not one that is metaphysical or question begging. I argue that it can be solved in the light of Paivio's "Dual Coding" theory of mental representation. This theory, which is strikingly simple and intuitive (perhaps too much so to have caught the imagination of philosophers) has demonstrated impressive empirical power and scope. It posits two distinct systems of potentially conscious representations in the human mind: mental imagery and verbal representation (which is not to be confused with 'propositional' or "mentalese" representation). I defend, on conceptual grounds, Paivio's assertion of precisely two codes against interpretations which would either multiply image codes to match sense modes, or collapse the two, admittedly interacting, systems into one. On this basis I argue that the inference that a conscious agent would be needed to read such mental representations and to manipulate them in the light of their contents can be pre-empted by an account of how the two systems interact, each registering, affecting and being affected by developing associative processes within the other. (shrink)
According to Jerry Fodor’s atomistic theory of content, subjects’ dispositions to token mentalese terms in counterfactual circumstances fix the contents of those terms. I argue that the pattern of counterfactual tokenings alone does not satisfactorily fix content; if Fodor’s appeal to patterns of counterfactual tokenings has any chance of assigning correct extensions, Fodor must take into account the contents of subjects’ various mental states at the times of those tokenings. However, to do so, Fodor must abandon his semantic atomism. (...) And while Fodor has recently qualified his atomism, the cognitively holistic nature of dispositions continues to undermine his view. (shrink)
A central claim of Paul Horwich’s 1998 book Meaning was that meaning properties reduce to acceptance properties, where a meaning property is a property of the form e means m for x, e being “a word or phrase—whether it be spoken, written, signed, or merely thought (i.e. an item of ‘mentalese’)” (44); an acceptance property for an expression e relative to a person x is a relation of the form x is disposed to accept an e-containing sentence (...) of kind … in circumstances of kind …. (shrink)
If we think in a lingua mentis, questions about relations between linguistic meaning and propositional-attitude content become questions about relations between meaning in a public language (p-meaning) and meaning in a language of thought (t-meaning). Whether or not the neo-Gricean is correct that p-meaning can be defined in terms of t-meaning and then t-meaning defined in terms of the causal-functional roles of mentalese expressions, it's apt to seem obvious that separate accounts are needed of p-meaning and t-meaning, since p-meaning, (...) unlike t-meaning, must be understood at least partly in terms of communication. Paul Horwich, however, claims that his ‘use theory of meaning’ provides a uniform account of all meaning in terms of ‘acceptance properties’ that, surprisingly, implicate nothing about use in communication. But it turns out that the details of his theory belie his claim about it. (shrink)
A major obstacle to formulating a broad-content intentional psychology is the occurrence of ''Frege cases'' - cases in which a person apparently believes or desires Fa but not Fb and acts accordingly, even though "a" and "b" have the same broad content. Frege cases seem to demand narrow-content distinctions to explain actions by the contents of beliefs and desires. Jerry Fodor ( The elm and the expert: Mentalese and its semantics , Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994) argues that an (...) explanatorily adequate broad-content psychology is nonetheless possible because Frege cases rarely occur in intentional-explanatory contexts, and they are not systematically linked to intentional laws in a way that demands intentional explanation. Thus, he claims, behaviors associated with Frege cases can be considered ceteris-paribus exceptions to broad-content intentional laws without significantly decreasing the explanatory power of intentional psychology. I argue that Frege cases are plentiful and systematically linked to intentional laws in a way that requires intentional explanation, specifically in the explanation of why certain actions are not performed. Consequently, Frege-case behaviors cannot be construed as ceteris-paribus exceptions to intentional laws without significantly eroding the explanatory power of intentional psychology and reducing the rationality of the agent. Fodor thus fails to save broad-content psychology from the prima facie objections against it based on Frege cases. (shrink)
In this paper I challenge the common wisdom (see Dummett and Davidson) that sentences are the minimal units with which one can perform a speech act or make a move in the language game. I thus sit with Perry and Stainton in arguing that subsentences can be used to perform full-fledged speech acts. In my discussion I assume the traditional framework which distinguishes between the proposition expressed and the thought or mental state (possibly a sentence in Mentalese) one comes (...) to grasp when using/understanding an utterance (or sentence-in-a-context) expressing a proposition. Unlike Stainton, I will argue that the proposition expressed by a subsentential assertion and its corresponding thought are not the end product of a pragmatic process of free enrichment. I shall defend the view that a thought may concern something without the thinker having to represent that very thing. This should help us to resist the view that with the utterance of a subsentence enrichment is mandatory. I will further argue that subsentences and their corresponding thoughts are situated. Because of that we can successfully interact and engage in joint ventures using subsentences and be guided by thoughts without having to enrich them. The fact that the actors’ unenriched thoughts are co-situated may suffice to explain the positive outcome of their joint project. Last but not least, I will also show how the picture I propose gains further support by taking on board Perry’s distinction between reflexive truth conditions and incremental truth conditions (or official content). Since competent speakers can grasp an utterance’s reflexive truth conditions without having to grasp its official content (roughly, the proposition expressed) they can successfully interact without their thoughts having to undergo a process of free enrichment. Moreover, if I’m right in arguing that an utterance’s reflexive truth conditions are the best tool to classify the semantic features of one’s mental state (or sentence in Mentalese), we can further explain mental causation and linguistic communication without appealing to free enrichment. (shrink)
In "Understanding the Language of Thought," John Pollock offers a semantics for Mentalese. Along the way, he raises many deep issues concerning, among other things, the indexicality of thought, the relations between thought and communication, the function of 'that'-clauses and the nature of introspection. Regrettably, I must pass over these issues here. Instead, I shall focus on Pollock's views on the nature of appearance and its role in interpreting the language of thought.' I shall examine two aspects of Pollock's (...) views: (i) the distinction between comparative and noncomparative senses of 'red,' and (ii) the construal of narrow content in terms of input states and rational architecture. Consideration of the former will call into question the coherence of the distinction; consideration of the latter will suggest that comparative appearance states cannot play the theoretical role that Pollock assigns to them. (shrink)
Peter Carruthers correctly argues for a cognitive conception of the role of language. But such a story need not include the excess baggage of compositional inner codes, mental modules, mentalese, or translation into logical form (LF).
I distinguish between being cognisant and being able to perform intelligent operations. The former, but not the latter, minimally involves the capacity to make adequate judgements about one's relation to objects in the environment. The referential nature of cognisance entails that the mental states of cognisant systems must be inter-related holistically, such that an individual thought becomes possible because of its relation to a system of potential thoughts. I use Gareth Evans' 'Generality Constraint' as a means of describing how the (...) reference and holism of mental states in cognisant systems are mutually dependent. Next, I describe attempts to deny the relevance of holism and reference by positing a mentalese. These attempts fail because the meanings of symbols are under determined, with there being no principled means of distinguishing between the mental tokening of a symbol and its disambiguation. I argue that the connectionist meta-theory does not encounter this problem because it is able to encompass the holism of the mental. Recent attempts to show that symbol processing theories of thought must be preferred to connectionist theories do not work. Despite appearances to the contrary, the Generality Constraint favours connectionist not symbol-processing theories. (shrink)
In (1990), Jerry Fodor has defended a naturalized conception of meaning for Mentalese expressions which relies on the notion of asymmetric dependence. According to this conception, any naturalized theory of meaning must be able to account for the fact that meaning is robust, namely that any token of a certain Mentalese expression “x” retains the expression’s meaning, X, for any Y (≠ X) which happens to cause it. Now, this robustness of “x”‘s meaning can precisely be explained in (...) terms of the subsistence of an asymmetric dependence of any nomic connection between Ys and “x”‘s tokens on another nomic connection between Xs and “x”‘s tokens. According to Fodor, then, this relation between nomic connections can account in perfectly naturalistic terms for “x” meaning X, by providing a sufficient condition for such a meaning. In what follows, however, I will try to show, first, that the subsistence of asymmetric dependencies of the kind envisaged by Fodor is not enough for assigning meaning to a certain expression. Indeed, there are dependencies of this kind which are meaning-irrelevant. Secondly, I will claim that asymmetric dependence relations are not able even to support for the robustness of meaning. For there are cases in which according to the structure of these relations we would have to conclude that meaning is altered although robustness would require to have it unchanged. (shrink)
An attempt is first made to clarify why Stephen Schiffer may legitimately claim that his noncompositional account of meaning differs from other non-compositional semantic doctrines such as the hidden-indexical theory of propositional attitudes. Subsequently, however, doubt is cast upon Schiffer's main contention that, as far as language of thought is concerned, a compositional supervenience theory can adequately satisfy all the desiderata a compositional meaning theory is traditionally called upon for. This doubt basically depends on the fact that, once a physical (...) property is assigned by the compositional supervenience theory to the relevant nominal constituent of a Mentalese attitude report as the basic element on which the physical property assigned to the whole report depends, such a property precisely plays the role of a mode of presentation of the referent of that constituent. Finally, the following dilemma is arisen: in order to account for the meaning of attitude reports either the dismissal of modes of presentation or the rejection of compositionality is to be given up. (shrink)