The nature of unsymbolized thinking

Philosophical Explorations 19 (2):173-187 (2016)
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Using the method of Descriptive Experience Sampling, some subjects report experiences of thinking that do not involve words or any other symbols [Hurlburt, R. T., and C. L. Heavey. 2006. Exploring Inner Experience. Amsterdam: John Benjamins; Hurlburt, R. T., and S. A. Akhter. 2008. “Unsymbolized Thinking.” Consciousness and Cognition 17 : 1364–1374]. Even though the possibility of this unsymbolized thinking has consequences for the debate on the phenomenological status of cognitive states, the phenomenon is still insufficiently examined. This paper analyzes the main properties of unsymbolized thinking and advances an explanation of its origin. According to our analysis, unsymbolized thoughts appear as propositional states, that is, they are experienced as compositional conceptual phenomena, with semantic and syntactic features analogous to those of the contents of utterances. Based on this characterization, we hypothesize that UT is continuous with the activity of inner speech, in particular, it i...
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