Offering an explanation of the fundamental nature of thought, this book posits the idea that thinking involves the processing of mental representations that take the form of sentences in a covert language encoded in the mind. The theory relies on traditional categories of psychology, including such notions as belief and desire. It also draws upon and thus inherits some of the problems of artificial intelligence which it attempts to answer, including what bestows meaning or content upon a thought (...) and what distinguishes genuine from simulated thought. (shrink)
William of Ockham's semantic theory was founded on the idea that thought takes place in a language not unlike the languages in which spoken and written communication occur. This mentallanguage was held to have a number of features in common with everyday languages. For example, mentallanguage has simple terms, not unlike words, out of which complex expressions can be constructed. As with words, each of these terms has some meaning, or signification; in fact (...) Ockham held that the signification of everyday words derives precisely from the signification of mental terms. Furthermore, the meaning of a mental expression depends directly on the meaning of its constituent terms, as is the case with expressions in more familiar languages. (shrink)
Medieval philosophy is often presented as the outcome of a large scale encounter between the Christian tradition and the Greek philosophical one. This picture, however, inappropriately tends to leave out the active role played by the medieval authors themselves and their institutional contexts. The theme of the mentallanguage provides us with an interesting case study in such matters. The paper first introduces a few technical notions—'theme', 'tradition', 'textual chain' and 'textual borrowing'—, and then focuses on precise passages (...) about mentallanguage from Anselm of Canterbury, Albert the Great and William of Ockham. All three authors in effect identify some relevant Augustinian idea (that of 'mental word', most saliently) with some traditional philosophical one (such as that of 'concept' or that of 'logos endiathetos'). But the gist of the operation widely varies along the line and the tradition encounter is staged in each case with specific goals and interests in view. The use of ancient authoritative texts with respect to mentallanguage is thus shown to be radically transformed from the eleventh to the fourteenth century. (shrink)
In this paper, Ockham's theory of an ideal language of thought is used to illuminate problems of interpretation of his theory of truth. The twentieth century idea of logical form is used for finding out what kinds of atomic sentences there are in OckhamÕs mentallanguage. It turns out that not only the theory of modes of supposition, but also the theory of supposition in general is insufficient as a full theory of truth. Rather, the theory of (...) supposition is a theory of reference, which can help in the determination of truth values within the scope of simple predications. Outside this area, there are interesting types of sentences, whose truth does not depend on whether the terms supposit for the same things or not for the same things. (shrink)
In these comments I am going to argue that Yiwei Zheng's paper, by postulating an imaginary mentallanguage in a proposed new interpretation of Ockham's conception of mentallanguage, provides us with an imaginary solution to what turns out to be an imaginary problem. Having said this, however, I hasten to add that the paper has undeniable merits in pointing us in the right direction for revealing the imaginary character of the problem.
A textual and philosophical study of the claim that according to ockham there is no synonymy or equivocation in mentallanguage. It is argued that ockham is committed to both claims, Either explicitly or in virtue of other features of his doctrine. Nevertheless, Both claims lead to difficulties for ockham's theory.
There is a tension within Ockham's theory of mentallanguage between its claim to being a semantics for conventional languages and its claim to being a model of concept acquisition and thought. In particular, the commitment to a redundancy-free mentallanguage which serves to explain important semantic relations such as synonymy and ambiguity conflicts, _prima facie, with the possibility of opaque belief contexts. I argue that it is preferable to treat the theory of mental (...) class='Hi'>language as an idealized theory of cognitive competence than to forfeit, as Jerry Fodor does, the commitment to conceptual parsimony. (shrink)
I argue that Abelard was the author of the first theory of mentallanguage in the Middle Ages, devising a “language of thought” to provide the semanticsfor ordinary languages, based on the idea that thoughts have linguistic character. I examine Abelard’s semantic framework with special attention to his principleof compositionality (the meaning of a whole is a function of the meanings of the parts); the results are then applied to Abelard’s distinction between complete andincomplete expressions, as well (...) as the distinction between sentences and the statements which the sentences are used to make. Abelard’s theory of mentallanguage is shown to be subtle and sophisticated, the forerunner of the great theories of the fourteenth century. (shrink)
The article describes the evolution of Ockham's theory of mentallanguage and its impact on three of his dominican contemporaries at oxford: Hugh Lawton, William Crathorn and Robert Holcot, and its impact at Paris on the works of Gregory of Rimini and Pierre d'Ailly. Hugh Lawton's critical response to Ockham relied on a liar-like paradox to show that mentallanguage would preclude the ability to lie. Crathorn devised an alternative to Ockham's theory in reaction, whereas Holcot (...) defended Ockham's views. At Paris, the debate suggested a solution to the liar paradox to Gregory of Rimini. (shrink)
Originally motivated by a sophism, Pardo's discussion about the unity of mental propositions allows him to elaborate on his ideas about the nature of propositions. His option for a non-composite character of mental propositions is grounded in an original view about syncategorems: propositions have a syncategorematic signification, which allows them to signify aliquid aliqualiter, just by virtue of the mental copula, without the need of any added categorematic element. Pardo's general claim about the simplicity of mental (...) propositions is developed into several specific thesis about mental propositions: a) it is not judgement which gives its unity to mental propositions, but judicative acts always follow some previous apprehensive act that is simple in its own right; b) this simplicity is compatible with a certain kind of complexity, that can be explained in terms of the "causal history" of the acts of knowing; c) traditional conceptions about subject and predicate must be recast, while keeping their usual explicative power concerning logical properties; d) of course, the traditional conception about the copula has been modified, giving rise to a fully innovative conception of the nature of mental propositions. Nevertheless, this innovative conception of mentallanguage seems still infected by certain "common sense" prejudices, which lead Pardo to propose also a provocative conception of vocal language, which I consider unnecessary. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is two?fold. I start by contrasting three versions of externalist arguments based on etiological considerations, whose differences are not often appreciated. My purpose in doing so is to isolate one of these versions of externalism as most supportive of current anti?individualist attitudes toward the mental. My second aim is to show that this version, which I call (for reasons soon to be clear) Dialectal Etiology , is marred to a greater extent than the other (...) two by an important problem of language individuation.ii.. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's private language argument in his philosophical investigations is explained and critically evaluated. The implications of Wittgenstein's conclusion that there can be no private sensation language are examined, in light of claims that Wittgenstein by the private language argument also proves that there can also be no private mental objects. The concept of a criterion of correctness is discussed as the key to Wittgenstein's reflections, and counterexamples are considered that raise doubts about the soundness of the (...) private language argument. Difficulties identified in standard interpretations of Wittgenstein's argument indicate that the rejection of private sensation languages does not automatically imply a third-person hard psychological theory, such as logical behaviorism, nor does the argument effectively support reductivist or anti-intentionalist philosophy of mind. (shrink)
According to the mental continuity claim (MCC), human mental faculties are physical and beneficial to human survival, so they must have evolved gradually from ancestral forms and we should expect to see their precursors across species. Materialism of mind coupled with Darwin’s evolutionary theory leads directly to such claims and even today arguments for animal mental properties are often presented with the MCC as a premise. However, the MCC has been often challenged among contemporary scholars. It is (...) usually argued that only humans use language and that language as such has no precursors in the animal kingdom. Moreover, language is quite often understood as a necessary tool for having representations and forming beliefs. As a consequence, by lacking language animals could not have developed representational systems or beliefs. In response to these worries, we aim to mount a limited defense of the MCC as an empirical hypothesis. First, we will provide a short historical overview of the origins of the MCC and examine some of the motives behind traditional arguments for and against it. Second, we will focus on one particular question, namely whether language as such is necessary for having beliefs. Our goal is to show that there is little reason to think language is necessary for belief. In doing so, we will challenge a view of belief that is widely accepted by those working in animal cognition, namely representational belief, and we will argue that if belief is non-representational, then different research questions and methods are required. We will conclude with an argument that to study the evolution of belief across species, it is essential to begin the study of subjects in their social and ecological environment rather than in contexts that are not ecologically valid along the social and ecological dimensions. Thus, rather than serving as a premise in an argument 3 in favor of animal minds, the MCC can only be defended by empirical investigation, but importantly, empirical investigation of the right sort.. (shrink)
We propose that to understand the biological and neurophysiological processes that give rise to human mental phenomena it is necessary to consider them as behavioral relational phenomena. In particular, we propose that: a) these phenomena take place in the relational manner of living that human language constitutes, and b) that they arise as recursive operations in such behavioral domain. Accordingly, we maintain that these phenomena do not take place in the brain, nor are they the result of a (...) unique operation of a human brain, but arise with the participation of the brain as it generates the behavioral relational dynamics that constitutes language. (shrink)
Mental Spaces is the classic introduction to the study of mental spaces and conceptual projection, as revealed through the structure and use of language. It examines in detail the dynamic construction of connected domains as discourse unfolds. The discovery of mental space organization has modified our conception of language and thought: powerful and uniform accounts of superficially disparate phenomena have become available in the areas of reference, presupposition projection, counterfactual and analogical reasoning, metaphor and metonymy, (...) and time and aspect in discourse. The present work lays the foundation for this research. It uncovers simple and general principles that lie behind the awesome complexity of everyday logic. (shrink)
This paper studies the doctrinal and historical relations between the augustinian theme of the inner word as it was understood in Thirteenth-century thought --especially by Thomas Aquinas -- and William of Ockham's idea of mental discourse. The differences are shown to be deeply significant and are replaced in the context of a crucial shift that occurred in the decades between Aquinas and Ockham: the shift from theology to logic as providing the main inputs and stimulations for the development, on (...) an aristotelian basis, of a radically new sort of philosophy of mind. (shrink)
According to Chomsky, creativity is a critical property of human language, particularly the aspect of ?the creative use of language? concerning the appropriateness to a situation. How language can be creative but appropriate to a situation is an unsolvable mystery from the Chomskyan point of view. We propose that language appropriateness can be explained by considering the role of the human capacity for Mental Time Travel at its foundation, together with social and ecological intelligences within (...) a triadic language-grounding system. Our proposal is based on the change of perspective from the analysis of individual sentences to the flux of speech in which the temporal dimension of language is much more relevant. (shrink)
The fact that we can engage in first-person discourse about our own mental states seems, intuitively, to be bound up with consciousness. David Rosenthal draws upon this intuition in arguing for his higher-order thought theory of consciousness. Rosenthal's argument relies upon the assumption that the truth-conditions for "p" and "I think that p" differ. It is argued here that the truth-conditional schema debars "I think" from playing one of its (expressive) roles and thus is not a good test (...) for what is asserted when "I think" is employed in making an assertoric utterance. The critique of Rosenthal's argument allows us to make explicit the intuitions which shape higher-order representation theories of consciousness in general. Consciousness and first-person mentaldiscourse seem to be connected primarily because consciousness is (and was) an epistemic term, used to denote first-person knowledge of minds. Higher-order thought theories of consciousness draw upon this epistemic notion of consciousness, and because self-knowledge seems to involve higher-order representation, the higher-order theorist can deploy what is in effect an "error theory" about conscious experience disguised as a kind of conceptual analysis of our ordinary concept of a conscious mental state. The conclusion reached is that there is unlikely to be a simple or direct path from considerations about mentaldiscourse to conclusions about the nature of consciousness. (shrink)
The interaction between brain and language has been investigated by a vast amount of research and different approaches, which however do not offer a comprehensive and unified theoretical framework to analyze how brain functioning performs the mental processes we use in producing language and in understanding speech. This Special Issue addresses the need to develop such a general theoretical framework, by fostering an interaction among the various scientific disciplines and methodologies, which centres on investigating the functional architecture (...) of brain, mind and language, and is articulated along the following main dimensions of research: (a) Language as a regulatory contour of brain and mental processes; (b) Language as a unique human phenomenon; (c) Language as a governor of human behaviour and brain operations; (d) Language as an organizational factor of ontogenesis of mentation and behaviour. (shrink)
Tyler Burge's critique of individualistic conceptions of mental content is well known.This paper employs a novel strategy to defend a strong form of Burge's conclusion. The division of epistemic labor rests on the possibility of language-mediated transactions, such as asking for something in a store and getting it. The paper shows that any individualistic conception of content will render such transactions unintelligible.
Embedded and embodied approaches to cognition urge that (1) complicated internal representations may be avoided by letting features of the environment drive behavior, and (2) environmental structures can play an enabling role in cognition, allowing prior cognitive processes to solve novel tasks. Such approaches are thus in a natural position to oppose the ‘thesis of linguistic structuring’: The claim that the ability to use language results in a wholesale recapitulation of linguistic structure in onboard mental representation. Prominent examples (...) of researchers adopting this critical stance include Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, and Mark Rowlands. But is such opposition warranted? Since each of these authors advocate accounts of mental representation that are broadly connectionist, I survey research on formal language computation in artificial neural networks, and argue that results indicate a strong form of the linguistic structuring thesis is true: Internal representational systems recapitulate significant linguistic structure, even on a connectionist account of mental representation. I conclude by sketching how my conclusion can nonetheless be viewed as consistent with and complimentary to an embedded/embodied account of the role of linguistic structure in cognition. (shrink)
In her landmark book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories (Millikan1984),1 Ruth Garrett Millikan utilizes the idea of a biological function to solve philosophical problems associated with the phenomena of language, thought, and meaning. Language and thought are activities of biological organisms, according to Millikan, and we should treat them as such when trying to answer related philosophical questions. Of special interest is Millikan’s treatment of intentionality. Here Millikan employs the notion of a biological function to explain (...) what it is for one thing in nature, a bee dance (43), for example, to be about another, in this case, the location of a nectar source. My concern in this paper is to understand whether Millikan’s account of intentionality adequately explains how humans achieve reference, in language or thought, to individuals and groups in their environment. In bringing her theory of intentional content to bear on human activities, Millikan focuses largely on natural language. Thus, in what follows, I begin by laying out the biology-based principles that underlie Millikan’s theory of content, then proceed with an explanation of how the theory is to apply to natural language. As it appears, Millikan’s account of how content is determined for natural language terms and sentences rests on the determinacy of intentional content at the psychological level. This leads me to take a careful look at what Millikan says about the content of mental representations, in hopes of finding a sufficient basis there for the application of Millikan’s theory of content to natural language. Ultimately, I conclude that Millikan’s theory faces a problem of vacuity. If we approach the theory as a theory of intentional content, intended to explain the nature of reference, the theory is lacking in an extremely important respect: Millikan explains how it could be one of the biological functions of a mental or natural language term to refer, without telling us precisely what in the natural order constitutes the reference relation.. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against the view, defended by some philosophers, that it is part of the meaning of mental that being mental is incompatible with being physical. I call this outlook metalinguistic dualism (MLD for short), and I distinguish it from metaphysical theories of the mind-body relation such as Cartesian dualism. I argue that MLD is mistaken, but I don't try to defend the contrary view that mentalistic terms can be definitionally reduced to nonmental (...) ones. After criticizing arguments by certain philosophers which purport to establish MLD, I formulate a criterion for a phenomenon's being mental. I then show that this criterion is neutral between monistic and dualistic theories of the mind-body relation. Since if MLD were true it should be impossible to construct such a criterion, I conclude that it is false (i.e., if it is intended as a descriptive thesis about our language). The significance of my paper is that if I am right then I remove one important type of objection to aposteriori, noneliminative forms of the identity theory of mind, namely that such theories ought to be rejected merely on the basis of semantical considerations about the word mental. Beyond that, I believe that my criterion of mental phenomena correctly captures our intuitions about the nature of the distinction between mental and nonmental phenomena. (shrink)
Wilhelm von Humboldt's classic study of human language was first published in 1836, as a general introduction to his three-volume treatise on the Kawi language of Java. It is the final statement of his lifelong study of the nature of language, exploring its universal structures and its relation to mind and culture. Empirically wide-ranging - Humboldt goes far beyond the Indo-European family of languages - it remains one of the most interesting and important attempts to draw philosophical (...) conclusions from comparative linguistics. This volume presents a translation by Peter Heath, together with an introduction by Michael Losonsky that places Humboldt's work in its historical context and discusses its relevance to contemporary work in philosophy, linguistics, cognitive science, and psychology. (shrink)
This is an entirely new translation of one of the fundamental works in the development of the study of language. Published in 1836, it formed the general introduction to Wilhelm von Humboldt's three-volume treatise on the Kawi language of Java. It is the final statement of his lifelong study of the nature of language, and presents a survey of a great many languages, exploring ways in which their various grammatical structures make them more or less suitable as (...) vehicles of thought and cultural development. Empirically wide-ranging - von Humboldt goes far beyond the Indo-European family of languages - it remains one of the most interesting and important attempts to draw philosophical conclusions from comparative linguistics. (shrink)
[Supposition of Mental Term according to William of Ockham:] This paper investigates Ockham’s claim that there is a diversity of suppositions of a mental term. First, it summarizes the hitherto research in Ockham’s theory of concepts (understood as natural signs) and the theory of mentallanguage ascribed to him (Part 1–2). Secondly, it describes his theory of supposition, focusing on the interpretation of this theory which describes it as a device for interpretation of propositions (Part 3). (...) Thirdly, the paper examines the problems which arise from combining Ockham’s theory concepts and his theory of supposition (Part 4–7) – namely, the problems concerning the nature of mental proposition, the question of mental syncategoremata, and of equivocation in mentallanguage. Part 8 then reveals the absurdity of understanding the supposition of a mental term as an instrument for interpretation of mental propositions. Finally, I propose a new interpretation of the whole issue, based on Ockham’s early commentary on the Sentences (Part 9). According to this interpretation, the diversity of supposition of a mental term is not triggered by the need of distinguishing various meanings of a mental propositions, but by Ockham’s nominalistic theory of science. (shrink)
Human brain is a highly evolved coordinating mechanism in the species Homo sapiens. It is only in the last 100 years that extensive knowledge of the intricate structure and complex functioning of the human brain has been acquired, though a lot is yet to be known. However, from the beginning of civilisation, people have been conscious of a 'mind' which has been considered the origin of all scientific and cultural development. Philosophers have discussed at length the various attributes of consciousness. (...) At the same time, most of the philosophical or scientific frameworks have directly or indirectly implied mind-body duality. It is now imperative that we develop an integrated approach to understand the interconnection between mind and consciousness on one hand and brain on the other. This paper begins with the proposition that the structure of the brain is analogous, at least to certain extent, to that of the computer system. Of course, it is much more sophisticated and complex. The second proposition is that the Chomskyean concept of 'mental organs' is a good working hypothesis that tries to characterise this complexity in terms of an innate cognitive framework. By following this dual approach, brain as a data processing system and brain as a superstructure of intricately linked mental organs, we can move toward a better understanding of 'mind' within the framework of empirical science. The one 'mental organ' studied extensively in Chomskyean terms is 'language faculty' which is unique in its relation to brain, mind and consciousness. (shrink)
Using neoPiagetian theory of mental attention (or working memory), I task-analyze two complex performances of great apes and one symbolic performance (funeral burials) of early Homo sapiens. Relating results to brain size growth data, I derive estimates of mental attention for great apes, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and modern Homo sapiens, and use children's cognitive development as reference. This heuristic model seems consistent with research.
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)
At least since Locke, philosophers and psychologists have usually held that concepts arise out of sensory perceptions, thoughts are built from concepts, and language enables speakers to convey their thoughts to hearers. Christopher Gauker holds that this tradition is mistaken about both concepts and language. The mind cannot abstract the building blocks of thoughts from perceptual representations. More generally, we have no account of the origin of concepts that grants them the requisite independence from language. Gauker's alternative (...) is to show that much of cognition consists in thinking by means of mental imagery, without the help of concepts, and that language is a tool by which interlocutors coordinate their actions in pursuit of shared goals. Imagistic cognition supports the acquisition and use of this tool, and when the use of this tool is internalized, it becomes the very medium of conceptual thought. (shrink)
The Language of Thought Hypothesis is often taken to have the fatal flaw that it generates an explanatory regress. The language of thought is invoked to explain certain features of natural language (e.g., that it is learned, understood, and is meaningful), but, according to the regress argument, the language of thought itself has these same features and hence no explanatory progress has been made. We argue that such arguments rely on the tacit assumption that the entire (...) motivation for the language of thought consists in explaining the explanandum that allegedly generates the regress. But this tacit assumption is simply false. The Language of Thought Hypothesis is a cogent view and one with considerable explanatory advantages. (shrink)
In philosophy the term intentionality refers to the feature possessed by mental states of beingabout things others than themselves. A serious question has been how to explain the intentionality of mental states. This paper starts with linguistic representations, and explores how an organism might use linguistic symbols to represent other things. Two research projects of Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, one explicity teaching twopan troglodytes to use lexigrams intentionally, and the other exploring the ability of several members ofpan paniscus to learn (...) lexigram use and comprehension of English speech spontaneously when raised in an appropriate environment, are examined to explore the acquisition process. Although it is controversial whether intentionality of mental states or linguistic symbols is primary, it is argued that the intentionality of linguistic symbols is primary and that studying how organisms learn to use linguistic symbols provides an avenue to understanding how intentionality is acquired by cognitive systems. (shrink)