Conscious Thought

John Heil

in The Universe As We Find It

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199596201
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741876 | DOI:
Conscious Thought

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The relation of thought to language is discussed and the thesis that a capacity for thought, or for some kinds of thought, requires the possession of a natural language assessed. The thesis, defended by Davidson, that a capacity for thought involves both linguistic competence and a capacity for higher-order thought, and Bermúdez’s contention that higher-order thought is inevitably linguistic are discussed. A conception of conscious thinking as the deployment of imagery is explained and defended. Mental images — verbal or ‘pictorial’ — owe their significance, not to their intrinsic character, but to the use to which they are put by intelligent creatures. Thus the question whether a creature lacking language could entertain a particular kind of thought turns on the question whether the creature has a use for thoughts of that kind. The importance of use is illustrated by reference to what Martin calls proto-language. Non-conscious thinking is explained dispositionally.

Keywords: thought; language; higher-order thought; image; non-conscious thought; disposition; proto-language; Davidson; Bermúdez; Martin

Chapter.  9001 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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