Second thoughts: A reply to mr Ginnane's thoughts

Mind 70 (July):405-411 (1961)
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In his article "Thoughts" (MIND, July 1960) William Ginnane argues that "thought is pure intentionality," and that our thoughts are not embodied essentially in the mental imagery and other elements of phenomenology that cross our minds along with the thoughts. Such images merely illustrate out thoughts. In my discussion I resist this claim pointing out that our thoughts are often embodied in events that can be described in phenomenological terms, especially when our reports of our thinking are introduced by the colorful phrases that Ginnane himself suggests, such as "It crossed my mind that.." or "It occurred to me that…" It is true that we also have a mode of speech in which we report what we have thought in well-formed sentences. Sometimes the very utterance of such sentences is what we call thinking out loud. More often than not, however, our thoughts are fragmentary enough so that if someone asks us what we were thinking, we must stop and rather carefully formulate the expression of those thoughts. In this case there has been nothing running through our minds which can be phenomenologically described as complete sentences, yet in formulating the significance of what has been passing through our minds we do use complete sentences. It is true that one of the confusions we have been bothered by in the past is the idea that in describing the contents of our minds we must somehow find there a proto-type of the report we give in propositional form. The philosopher's phrase "entertaining a proposition" only encourages this confusion, as it looks like an attempt to describe one's mental history phenomenologically. Nevertheless, the successive phenomenological events that occur in our minds often seem to be not merely illustrations accompanying our thoughts, but to embody what we say occurred to us.
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