Linguistics/Cognitive Semiotics Seminar: "Language, Meaning, and Rational Thought" (Prof. Ray Jackendoff, Tufts University/MIT)
This joint Linguistics and Cognitive Semiotics seminar (made possible once again by our guest researcher Dr. Mehdi Sebzevari) will be given by the eminent linguist and philosopher Prof. Ray Jackendoff. As stated in the abstract, it will deal with the fascinating and controversial topic of language and thought, as well as the hard-defined border between consciousness and the unconscious. The talk will start at 3:15 and last about an hour, followed by up to 45 minutes discussion. Welcome to the open zoom link!
This talk, based on my 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. I make 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, I 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. I suggest 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.