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The Publicity Of Thought And Language

3820 words - 16 pages

I try to clarify the ways in which one would seek to hold that language and/or thought are public. For each of these theses, I distinguish four forms in which they can be framed, and two ways of establishing them. The first will try to make the publicity of thought follow from that of language; the second will try to make the publicity of language follow from that of thought. I show that none of these strategies can do without the thesis that language and thought are interdependent, and that even while admitting this thesis, the second strategy presents more difficulties than the first.

The sceptical problem of Kripkenstein pertains to both the notions of content of thought and ...view middle of the document...

Hence, there seems to be at least three different ways in which one could try to reach the two desired conclusions. However, the foregoing remarks hide a few difficulties that can partly be disclosed by stating more precisely what the publicity of language and thought is supposed to consists in.

For the case of thought, one can distinguish at least the following four theses:

(1) strong publicity of thought: if an agent has the capacity to think T, then there is another agent who also has the capacity to think T,

(2) moderate publicity of thought: if an agent X has the capacity to think T, then it is possible that another agent also has the capacity to think T (or, more accurately, that X is not alone in having the capacity to think T),

(3) weak publicity of thought: if an agent X has the capacity to think, then there is another agent who has the capacity of having at least one of the thoughts that X is able to have,

(4) anatomicity of thought: if an agent has the capacity to think, then there is another agent who also has the capacity to think.

And for the case of language we have the four corresponding theses:

(5) strong publicity of language: if an agent speaks a language L, then there is another agent who also speaks L,

(6) moderate publicity of language: if an agent X speaks a language L, then it is possible that another agent also speaks L (or, more accurately, that X is not alone in speaking L),

(7) weak publicity of language: if an agent X speaks a language, then there is another agent who speaks at least one of the languages spoken by X,

(8) anatomicity of language: if an agent speaks a language, then there is another agent who also speaks a language.

It will be noted that the weak publicity thesis (i.e., (3) or (7)) presents the advantage of not excluding (as strong publicity does) the existence of a private language or thought, while the moderate publicity thesis (i.e., (2) or (6)) presents the advantage of excluding (as weak publicity does not) the possibility of a private language or thought being necessarily private.

Let us now return to the three strategies that could lead us to the desired conclusions (in one form or another). Two of these rely on a specific thesis regarding the relation between thought and language. The first (call it "the L-to-T strategy") aims to show that thought is public (anatomic) by relying on a prior proof of the publicity (anatomicity) of language and of the thesis that thought depends on (and thus implies) language. The second (call it "the T-to-L strategy") aims to show that language is public (anatomic) by relying on a prior proof of the publicity (anatomicity) of thought and of the thesis that language depends on (and thus implies) thought. Since the dependence of thought on language is more controversial than the dependence of language on thought, and since the T-to-L strategy claims to dispense with the first thesis, while the L-to-T strategy claims only to...

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