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Thought, language and concepts

Grant number: 17/02074-2
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 10, 2016
Effective date (End): June 09, 2017
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy
Principal researcher:João Vergílio Gallerani Cuter
Grantee:Raquel Albieri Krempel
Supervisor abroad: Peter Carruthers
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: University of Maryland, College Park, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:14/15037-0 - The relation between thought and language starting from Jerry Fodor, BP.DR


The main goal of my PhD research is to present and discuss some aspects of the language of thought hypothesis, as formulated by Jerry Fodor. In Fodor's view, the language of thought is a system of mental representations, which, just like sentences in a natural language, have syntactic constituent structure and compositional semantics. This hypothesis allows us to explain the productivity and the systematicity of thought, and it is presupposed by several theories that take mental processes to be computational processes. Its supporters usually argue that the language of thought cannot be identical to any natural language. One of the specific goals of this research abroad will be to investigate and evaluate the arguments for this idea, as well as its implications. In particular, I intend to investigate whether the idea that the vehicle of thought cannot be a natural language implies that natural languages do not play any role in our thinking. Part of the research will involve studying a view formulated by Peter Carruthers, according to which natural languages play a role in conscious thought. I also intend to study and evaluate Fodor's idea that the only semantic property of concepts is reference, as well as his idea that most lexical items express primitive concepts. I hope to be able to determine whether Fodor can maintain both of these views, as well as his idea that the semantics of thought is prior to the semantics of natural languages, if we accept what now seems to be an established fact: that different natural languages have different ways of categorizing certain events and objects, such as colors. (AU)

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