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The Universe As We Find It$
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John Heil

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199596201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596201.001.0001

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Conscious Thought

Conscious Thought

Chapter:
(p.249) Chapter 12 Conscious Thought
Source:
The Universe As We Find It
Author(s):

John Heil

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596201.003.0012

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

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