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Thinking Without Words (Philosophy of Mind) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0195341607 ISBN-10: 0195341600

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy of Mind
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195341600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195341607
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.4 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Bermúdez 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 Bermúdez 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

"Bermúdez 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

About the Author

José Luis Bermúdez is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Willem A. Labuschagne on September 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lester M. Stacey on September 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Louis Berger on August 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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