The Limits of Thinking without Words

Jose Luis Bermudez

in Thinking without Words

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195159691
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849598 | DOI:

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

The Limits of Thinking without Words

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Forms of thinking that involve thinking about thought are only available to creatures participating in a public language. Thoughts can only be the objects of further thoughts if they have suitable vehicle and the only suitable vehicle is public language sentences. These language-dependent cognitive abilities range from second-order reflection on one's own beliefs and desires and the capacity to attribute thoughts to others to the ability to entertain tensed thoughts and to deploy logical concepts. Many of these language-dependent cognitive abilities, however, have primitive analogues that do not involve intentional ascent and hence are available at the nonlinguistic level. This chapter considers the practical implications this has for the scope and limits of nonlinguistic thought. The chapter explores the question: what types of thinking are in principle unavailable to nonlinguistic creatures? There are two types of intentional ascent, which might be termed explicit and implicit intentional ascent respectively.

Keywords: public language; Intentional ascent; implicit intentional ascent; semantic ascent; nonlinguistic thought

Chapter.  12750 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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