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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

(p.249) Chapter 12 Conscious Thought
The Universe As We Find It

John Heil

Oxford University Press

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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