Language, Meaning, and Rational Thought




7:30 PM - 7:30 PM


Rawles Hall 100


This talk, based on Jackendoff's forthcoming book A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning, explores the experience of thought as inner speech, the Joycean stream of consciousness. The paradox is that thinking cannot be dependent on language, since (a) the same thought can be expressed in different languages, and (b) nonlinguistic organisms such as apes and babies do manage to think. He makes the case that thought itself is mostly unconscious, and that the conscious experience of inner speech is determined largely by the handles provided by the pronunciation linked to the thought.

In addition, Professor Jackendoff will show that it is impossible to achieve the ideal of rational thinking, in which every step of reasoning is explicit, because the logical connections among statements ultimately rest on an intuitive (i.e. unconscious) judgment of conviction. He suggests that, nevertheless, the handles on thought provided by language enhance thought in important ways, and that a better ideal involves sensitivity to an appropriate balance between linguistically expressed rational reasoning and intuitive judgment.

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