A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning

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OUP Oxford, Feb 23, 2012 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 288 pages
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A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning presents a profound and arresting integration of the faculties of the mind - of how we think, speak, and see the world. Ray Jackendoff starts out by looking at languages and what the meanings of words and sentences actually do. He shows that meanings are more adaptive and complicated than they're commonly given credit for, and he is led to some basic questions: How do we perceive and act in the world? How do we talk about it? And how can the collection of neurons in the brain give rise to conscious experience? As it turns out, the organization of language, thought, and perception does not look much like the way we experience things, and only a small part of what the brain does is conscious. Jackendoff concludes that thought and meaning must be almost completely unconscious. What we experience as rational conscious thought - which we prize as setting us apart from the animals - in fact rides on a foundation of unconscious intuition. Rationality amounts to intuition enhanced by language. Written with an informality that belies both the originality of its insights and the radical nature of its conclusions, A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning is the author's most important book since the groundbreaking Foundations of Language in 2002.

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User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

A relatively short and simple presentation of what the author assures us could have been a dense 1000-page treatise. According to him: the semantics component of the human language faculty lies below ... Read full review


Part OneLanguage Words and Meaning
1Why do we need a Users Guide to thought and meaning?
2Whats a language?
3Perspectives on English
4Perspectives on sunsets tigers and puddles
5Whats a word?
6What counts as the same word?
24Other modalities of spatial perception
25How do we see the world as out there?
26Other feels in experience
Part ThreeReference and Truth
27How do we use language to talk about the world?
28Mismatching reference in conversation
29What kinds of things can we refer to? Cognitive metaphysics Lesson 1
30Reference files for pictures and thoughts

7Some uses of mean and meaning
8Objective and subjective meaning
9What do meanings have to be able to do?
10Meanings cant be visual images
11Word meanings arent cut and dried You cant avoid the slippery slope
12Not all the meaning is in the words
13Meanings concepts and thoughts
14Does your language determine your thought?
Part TwoConsciousness and Perception
15Whats it like to be thinking?
16Some phenomena that test the Unconscious Meaning Hypothesis
17Conscious and unconscious
18What does What is consciousness? mean?
19Three cognitive correlates of conscious thought
20Some prestigious theories of consciousness
21Whats it like to see things?
22Two components of thought and meaning
23Seeing something as a fork
32Whats truth?
33Problems for an ordinary perspective on truth
34Whats it like to judge a sentence true?
35Noticing somethings wrong
Part FourRationality and Intuition
36Whats it like to be thinking rationally?
37How much rational thinking do we actually do?
38How rational thinking helps
39Some pitfalls of apparently rational thinking
40Chamber music
41Rational thinking as a craft
42Some speculation on science and the arts
43Learning to live with multiple perspectives
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About the author (2012)

Ray Jackendoff is Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His books include Semantics and Cognition (MIT 1983), Consciousness and the Computational Mind (MIT 1987), The Architecture of the Language Faculty (MIT 1997), Foundations of Language (OUP 2002), Simpler Syntax (with Peter Culicover, OUP 2005), Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure (MIT 2007), and Meaning and the Lexicon: The Parallel Architecture, 1975-2010 (OUP, 2010). He is the 2014 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize, the premier award in the field of cognitive science.

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