Thinking Without Words

Thinking Without Words

Paperback Philosophy of Mind

By (author) Jose Luis Bermudez


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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 231mm x 8mm | 295g
  • Publication date: 22 May 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0195341600
  • ISBN 13: 9780195341607
  • Sales rank: 470,132

Product description

Thinking without Words provides a challenging new theory of the nature of non-linguistic thought. Many scientific disciplines treat non-linguistic creatures as thinkers, explaining their behavior in terms of their thoughts about themselves and about the environment. But this theorizing has proceeded without any clear account of the types of thinking available to non-linguistic creatures. One consequence of this is that ascriptions of thoughts to non-linguistic creatures have frequently been held to be metaphorical and not to be taken at face value. Bermudez offers a conceptual framework for treating human infants and non-human animals as genuine thinkers. Whereas existing discussions of thought at the non-linguistic level have concentrated on how such thoughts might be physically realized, Bermudez approaches the problem by considering what is required in explaining behavior in psychological terms. In developing a positive account of non-linguistic thought he shows how the experimental tools used by developmental psychologists and students of animal behavior can be used to give a precise account of the way in which a human infant or non-human animal is representing the world. Much of the book is devoted to exploring the differences between thinking without words and language-based thinking. Bermudez argues that there are clear limits to the expressive power of non-linguistic thought. Nonetheless, he identifies primitive analogues at the non-linguistic level that can be used to explain sophisticated non-linguistic behaviors. Thinking Without Words is the first full-length philosophical study of this important topic. It is written with an interdisciplinary readership in mind and will appeal to philosophers, psychologists, and students of animal behavior.

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Author information

Jose Luis Bermudez is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.

Review quote

Bermudez does what has waited a long time to be done, namely, he widens the scope of non-linguistic thought in analytic philosophy. The case he builds is strong and highly interesting, and it lies on firm conceptual and empirical ground... The positive theory Bermudez develops in Thinking should vaporise the last doubts of the analytic philosophers concerning the possibility of non-linguistic thought. The book is excellent in this respect and that is why I recommend it to anyone still having doubts about the issue. Psyche Bermudez has done his homework; he has read a lot of psychology (and neurology; and anthropology) all of which he is prepared to mine for philosophical payoff. That's admirable, and you'll like the bibliography even if you don't like text. Jerry Fodor, Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University

Table of contents

1. The Problem of Thinking without Words ; 2. Two Approaches to the Nature of Thought ; 3. Minimalist Approaches to Nonlinguistic Thought ; 4. Ascribing Thoughts to Nonlinguistic Creatures: Toward and Ontology ; 5. Ascribing Thoughts to Nonlinguistic Creatures: Modes of Presentation ; 6. Rationality without Language ; 7. Practical Reasoning and Protologic ; 8. Language and Thinking about Thoughts ; 9. The Limits of Thinking without Words