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Why Is Thought Linguistic? Ockham’s Two Conceptions Of The Intellect

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Chapter Summary

One of Ockhams fundamental tenets about the human intellect is that its acts constitute a mental language. Although this language of thought shares some of the features of conventional language, thought is commonly considered as prior to conventional language. This chapter shows that this consensus is seriously challenged in Ockham's early writings. One of the central questions that William of Ockham tackled throughout his academic writings is how the human intellect works, or more precisely, what we have to assume about the intellect in order to explain cognition and thought. As is well-known, Ockham could appeal to long-standing traditions according to which thought is like language, since it is by means of language that we communicate our thoughts. The kind of mental language that Ockham depicts in his early theory is not one underlying our cognitive processes, rather it grants the availability of representations that we use in thinking.

Keywords: conventional language; human intellect; mental language; William of Ockham

10.1163/ej.9789004173675.i-240.31
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