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Thinking Without Words (Philosophy of Mind) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 17. Oktober 2007

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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


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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A paradigm shift 21. September 2007
Von Willem A. Labuschagne - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
"Thinking without words" would have been construed as an oxymoron as little as 30 years ago. Philosophers assumed that thinking occurs in, and therefore requires, language. (Indeed, the Sapir-Whorf thesis suggested that language shaped thought.) One consequence of the identification of thought with language was that early work in artificial intelligence focused on symbolic representations and inference rules (e.g. the Logic Theorist of Newell and Simon).

As AI, cognitive psychology and philosophy grew together to form a newly identifiable and coherent area known as cognitive science, it became clear that there was something lacking -- symbols needed to be grounded, to have semantics. This need was articulated by people like Searle and Harnad, and has caused a paradigm shift in AI, where it is now accepted that an intelligent agent needs to be embodied. The idea is that the iconic representations (nonverbal images) produced by sensory probes (perception) form the semantic grounding of symbolic representations (language) that arise subsequently. Thinking may now proceed either at the symbolic level (in terms of language) or in terms of the iconic representations (thinking without words). This book looks at what we know about the latter.

Some will find the book of interest because it is obviously relevant for research in artificial intelligence. Others will find it of interest because it allows us to understand our (nonhuman) fellow creatures better. Yet others will appreciate the light it casts on the thinking of infant humans and our prehistoric and prelinguistic ancestors.

The author constructs meticulous prose, sometimes quite dense but always unambiguous and often memorably felicitous in its phrasing. The book is logically organised and has a fairly decent index. The references are extensive, from the standpoint of psychology, although those interested in AI would benefit by supplementing this with Clancey's "Situated Cognition: On Human Knowledge and Computer Representations". The content is accessible to anyone who has been sufficiently interested in thinking to read some of the literature in cognitive or developmental psychology or artificial intelligence or philosophy of mind.

A previous reviewer criticised "Thinking without Words" for shedding no light on what it is to be like a nonlinguistic creature. Frankly, I think that this constitutes a most unfair summation. The book tells us where we are, scientifically speaking, now that thinking is no longer seen as merely the other face of language. The book does not promise to answer, in one fell swoop, all the questions we may have on the topic. It is surely enough that it gives us a sense of what questions have been answered.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
the way out of words 24. September 2008
Von Lester M. Stacey - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Thinking in words was a solution to a problem at a time in the evolution of our species. This solution has become a problem. We cannot stop using words. We misuse and abuse words.

This book provides a means of shifting attention back to biological needs. Precisely where thinking in words originated, in the first place.

When words run wild; when one's mind races; such a shift can be a welcome relief.

The way forward, now, is back to where words emerged.
Five Stars 4. August 2014
Von José Monserrat Neto - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
12 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A misleading effort 31. August 2007
Von Louis Berger - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This work appears to promise to illuminate the highly problematic matter of understanding how behaviors that seem rational although performed by non-linguistic creatures (animals, infants) can be possible--what might such apparent "thinking" without language be like?

Unfortunately, the author, a dedicated cognitivist, addresses the issue entirely within a cognitivist framework, and thus can only come to a cognitivist's solution. (He omits even acknowledging other, drastically different approaches such as those based on existential-phenomenological thinking [see, e.g., Fred Olafson's "What is a human being?"}, or one based on ontogenetic thinking [e.g., my own "The Unboundaried Self"].)

What does he do with this question, then? He shifts the focus. He says, eventually, in several places, that the aim really is to gain "insight" into those behaviors, but that that does not mean gaining any understanding of "what it is like" to be a non-linguistic creature that exhibits apparently reason-based behavior. What this amounts to is that his effort is to find a viable logical-rational, computer-like MODEL that "explains" (i.e., rationalizes, puts into an orthodox scientific framework) the behaviors of interest (so as to be able to predict, etc.). In fact, at the very end of the book he plainly states "the fact of the matter... is that we have little idea of what the vehicle of nonlinguistic thought might be" (p. 192). "Little idea"? I would say, no idea at all. The book sheds absolutely no light on "what it is to be like" (Thomas Nagel) a nonlinguistic creature.

The reason I rated the book as high as I did is that I presume many of those who are as dedicated to cognitive frameworks as is the author will find it valuable and interesting.
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