Monday, May 18, 2009



Although language occupies a position of special importance in philosophy, the 'linguistic turn' of the discipline, i presume, need not by itself predispose those who make it in favor of the earlier schools. indeed, a primary interest in the kinds of logical issues that occupy language-centric philosophers tends to have just the opposite effect. i'm just trying to draw some general conclusions: and as it happens with such broader plans, here, i talk about things as i have learnt them - as in, the way i was taught them. exceptions and debates will therefore find plenty of room.

Originally, philosophers interested in the workings of one's mind tended to think that it should be possible largely to bypass the utterances in which the mental functions are expressed and to concentrate attention on what directly takes place in the mind when we percieve or remember or whatever. however, this assumption was soon challenged in the history of the discourse, philosophers and psychologists expressed grave dissatisfaction with the outcomes thereof. questions were raised and doubts expressed about the reliability of the kind of introspection such inquiries appeared to rely on. It seemed like it is time to account the 'spoken truths'. the apparent accessibility factor of language and language use effectively contrasted the elusive and private nature of most mental functions. what someone says, unlike what someone thinks, is not hidden from public view; it is expressed in words that anyone can hear or, if they are written, see. as such a public fact, moreover, language lends itself to joint, cooperative inquiry as introspection hardly does.

Thus, language soon occupied a privileged place among the topics that come under the general rubric of 'the mental'. and in the consequent developments of psychology in general, the language one used for talking about mental functions altogether displaced those functions themselves. for example, it is quite in this spirit that a philosopher would propose that dreams be simply dismissed as mental episodes and that the stories people tell when they wake up be substituted for them. as speech or writing, these stories apparently were not thought to be problematic in a philosophical way, as dreams are. and this is where i think one should be able to see through the incontrovertible space that language has come to command in the discourse (regarding the mental).

Speech as a form of behaviour is a form of objective inquiry, it is also a vehicle of truth: it has a semantic character that other forms of human behaviour do not have. it is possible to apply the concept of truth and falsity to what is said, as can hardly be done in the case of other bodily processes. nevertheless, truth-value on the basis of mere objectivity is equally illusory. the Naturalistic assumption of bypassing the speech to locate mental functionings relied on an illusion - but substituting the truth of utterance does not change the basic nebulous nature of the inquiry much; we still are already-believing in a non-objective privilege.

As such, speech does perform an essential function of mind - without generating any of the puzzles usually associated with mental functions, at that. nonetheless, an approach to the philosophy of mind through language and speech merits far less than what it has been made out to be.


this was written months back. i shelved it then. the write-up felt incomplete and abrupt. when i checked now, i thought i might as well post: the way i would have completed it, has totally slipped me. and i dont feel like adding on any new fancy endings either. i'd rather go for a newer trail in the same direction, a second part, sometime.