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Situating language and consciousness

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dc.contributor.advisor Robert C. Stalnaker. en_US Almotahari, Mahrad en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US 2012-01-30T17:02:26Z 2012-01-30T17:02:26Z 2011 en_US 2011 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2011. en_US
dc.description Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 98-104). en_US
dc.description.abstract Language and consciousness enrich our lives. But they are rare commodities; most creatures are language-less and unconscious. This dissertation is about the conditions that distinguish the haves from the have-nots. The semantic properties of a natural language expression are determined by conventions governing the way speakers use the expression to communicate information. The capacity to speak a language involves highly specialized (perhaps even modular) cognition. Some authors think that one cannot consistently accept both views. In Chapter 1 ('Content and Competence') I explain why one can. According to the convention-based theory of content determination, propositions are fit to be the contents of both thought and speech. Recently, this view has been challenged. The challenge exploits a series of observations about what it takes to understand semantically incomplete sentences. In Chapter 2 ('Speaker Meaning in Context'), I explain how the challenge can be met. Physicalists seem to owe an explanatory debt. Why should psychophysical relations appear contingent? In Chapter 3 ('There Couldn't Have Been Zombies, but it's a Lucky Coincidence That There Aren't') I pay the debt on their behalf. My explanation proceeds in three steps. First, I observe that there are necessary coincidences, or accidents. Second, I show that traditional epistemological arguments for dualism merely establish that phenomenal states and corresponding physical states are accidentally, or coincidentally, related. Finally, I suggest that inattention to the distinction between coincidence/accidentality and contingency results in frequent equivocation. Thus the disposition to (correctly) judge that psychophysical relations are coincidences manifests itself as a disposition to (incorrectly) judge that psychophysical relations are contingent. In Chapter 4 ('Zombies are Inconceivable') I deny that psychophysical relations appear contingent. The chapter begins with an argument to the effect that zombies cannot be coherently conceived. I then consider and reject various ways of resisting the argument. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Mahrad Almotahari. en_US
dc.format.extent 104 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US
dc.title Situating language and consciousness en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Ph.D. en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 773612688 en_US

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