Thursday, July 23, 2015

In fact, actual thought is *never* linguistic

One picks up in this learning a second language, precisely when one realizes that it is only when one stops translating words into other words that one is really "thinking in the new language."

A friend once told me, "I could read Hebrew very well, without knowing it." When asked what he meant, it turns out that he could pronounce Hebrew just fine, when required to do so at synagogue, without having any idea what he was pronouncing meant. But he was saying all the words correctly, and if language is thought, he must have been thinking! Clearly, there is something else behind the words one "gets" once one understands the language. And that can't be just more words, or we have an infinite regress. That something else is what Frege called the sense of an expression.

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