Embodied thoughts. Concepts and compositionality without language

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Abstract
Is thinking necessarily linguistic? Do we _think with words_, to use Bermudez’s (2003) phrase? Or does thinking occur in some other, yet to be determined, representational format? Or again do we think in various formats, switching from one to the other as tasks demand? In virtue perhaps of the ambiguous nature of first-person introspective data on the matter, philosophers have traditionally disagreed on this question, some thinking that thought had to be pictorial, other insisting that it could not be but linguistic. When any problem divides a community of otherwise intelligent rational thinkers, one suspects some deep conceptual confusion is at play. Indeed, we believe that the conceptual categories used to frame these and related questions are so hopelessly muddled that one could honestly answer “both simultaneously”, or “neither”, depending one what is meant by the alternatives. But let’s get our priorities straight. This paper first and foremost aims at defending what we believe to be a step in that direction of the proper view of thinking, a view we call the spatial-motor view. In order to do so, however, we have found it essential to start by address the conceptual confusion just alluded to. Accordingly, the paper proceeds in two steps. First a conceptual step, in which we reconsider some of the traditional categories brought into play when thinking about thinking. Then an empirical step, in which we offer empirical evidence for one of the views conceptually isolated during the first part of the work. Future version of this collaborative work will include a speculative step in which we spin out an evolutionary and developmental scenario whose function it is justify the spatial-motor view by showing how it fits into current evolutionary and developmental theories
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 2 (2015-11-21)
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2009-01-28

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