William Ockham held that, in addition to written and spoken language, there exists a mentallanguage, a structured representational system common to all thinking beings. Here I present and evaluate an argument found in several places across Ockham's corpus, wherein he argues that positing a mentallanguage is necessary for the nominalist to meet certain ontological constraints imposed by Aristotle’s account of scientific demonstration.
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)
Christopher Maloney offers an explanation of the fundamental nature of thought. He 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 upon 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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
In my previous work on Ockham’s theory of supposition, I have argued that it is best understood as a theory of sentential meaning, i.e., as an apparatus for the interpretation of sentences. In this paper, I address the challenge posed to this interpretation of Ockham’s theory by the existence of different kinds of supposition in mentallanguage through the lenses of Ockham’s theory of angelic communication. I identify two potentially problematic implications of Ockham’s account of mental (...) class='Hi'>language as allowing for different kinds of supposition: the existence of non-significative supposition in mentallanguage; and the possibility of ambiguous mental sentences. I then turn to angelic communication and examine these two issues from that point of view, concluding that there cannot be non-significative supposition in mentallanguage, but also that there may still be room for sentential ambiguity in mentallanguage. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Humans routinely transmit and interpret subtle information about their mental states through the language they use, even when only the language text is available. This suggests humans can utilize the linguistic signature of a mental state, comprised of features in the text. Once the relevant features are identified, mindprints can be used to automatically identify mental states communicated via language. We focus on the mindprints of eight mental states resulting from intentions, attitudes, and (...) emotions, and present a mindprint-based machine learning technique to automatically identify these mental states in realistic language data. By using linguistic features that leverage available semantic, syntactic, and valence information, our approach achieves near-human performance on average and even exceeds human performance on occasion. Given this, we believe mindprints could be very valuable for intelligent systems interacting linguistically with humans. Keywords: mental state; linguistic features; mindprint; natural language processing; information extraction. (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)
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)
In this dissertation I argue for a broadly Chomskian account of all natural language linguistic properties, including semantic properties. But the dissertation is as much concerned with methodological issues as with this substantive question. ;In chapter one, I argue that the standard motivation for Naturalistic accounts of language and mind is misguided. Rather such accounts should be motivated by the potential explanatory gains afforded by successful Naturalistic accounts. Accordingly, we should seek accounts that increase the science's evidentiary basis (...) and explain the central explanatory roles of its kinds. My account of linguistic kinds is based on and illustrates this account of Naturalism. ;Following a brief introduction to current syntactic theory , I argue that, in the less philosophically loaded domain of syntactic properties, a broadly Chomskian account is superior, on empirical and methodological grounds, to a number of alternative accounts . I then extend the Chomskian view to cover semantic properties, treating semantic properties of natural language utterances as inherited from semantic properties of mental representations tokened in language processing . I argue for this extended account over the standard, Convention-based account of natural language semantic properties. ;Like Convention-based accounts in the Gricean tradition, the Chomskian account proceeds via a two step reduction. Natural language properties are first reduced to properties of psychological states or mental representations; then an account of the nature of these mental representations fills out the account. In my view there is quite a strong case for the Chomskian account of the first step in this reduction. I don't think there is an similarly powerful case for any particular theory of mental representation at this point. The various theoretical pressures on such theories and their ranking are not yet sufficiently clear. In chapter six I discuss Fodor's asymmetric dependence theory, arguing that a variety of cases suggest that asymmetric dependence theory puts too much emphasis on recognition. I suggest a way of amending the theory by introducing a further counterfactual component to it. (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)
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 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 mental discourse seem to be connected primarily because consciousness is 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 mental discourse to conclusions about the nature of consciousness. (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)
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 1999 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)