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Two Arguments for the Language-Dependence of Thought

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This paper contrasts two ways of arguing that conceptual thought is language-dependent. One argument (due to Brandom) claims that conceptual content is fixed by inferential role, which is in turn fixed by inferential practices. The second argument (due to Bermúdez) claims that intentional ascent (thinking about thoughts) requires semantic ascent (thinking about words), because sentences are the only vehicles that reflect the canonical structure of a thought. The two lines of argument differ in how they view the relation between the internal structure of a thought and its inferential role. The paper argues that Brandom is mistaken in viewing inferential role as explanatorily prior to internal structure, but that seeing inferential role as fixed by internal structure is compatible both with the conclusion of his argument and with most of its premises.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010


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