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Thinking Without Language. A Phenomenological Argument for Its Possibility and Existence

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The view is defended that the mere lack of language in a creature does not justify doubts about its capacity for genuine and complex thinking. Thinking is understood as a mental occurrent activity that belongs to phenomenal consciousness. Specific kinds of thinking are characterized by active or passive attending to the contents present to the subject, by the thinking being goal-directed, guided by standards of rationality or other standards of adequacy, and finally by being a case of critical reflection upon one's own thinking. It is argued that none of these properties of thinking introduce the necessity that the thinking subject has a language except for, probably, the last one. There is reason to believe that the capacity to critically reflect upon one's own thought requires internal verbalization of the thoughts being criticized. The view that emerges is that we might share larger parts of our cognitive phenomenally conscious life with non-linguistic creatures than is commonly assumed.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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