Phil 473/673: Introduction


The problem

The basic question is: How can thought parcels mean anything? The analogy with spoken or written symbols is no help here, since the meanings of these are already derivative from the meanings of thoughts. That is, the meaningfulness of words depends on the prior meaningfulness of our thinking: if a sound (or sequence of letters) 'horse' happens to mean a certain kind of animal, that's only because we (English speakers) mean that by it. Now obviously the meaningfulness of thoughts themselves cannot be explained in the same way; for that would be to say that the meanings of our thoughts derive from the meanings of our thoughts, which is circular. Hence some independent account is required.


Some history of mental representation(s)

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