Synopses & Reviews
Hailed as a "masterpiece" (Nature
) and as "the most important book in the sciences of language to have appeared in many years" (Steven Pinker), Ray Jackendoff's Foundations of Language
was widely acclaimed as a landmark work of scholarship that radically overturned our understanding of how language, the brain, and perception intermesh.
A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning is Jackendoff's most important book since his groundbreaking Foundations of Language. Written with an informality that belies the originality of its insights, it presents a radical new account of the relation between language, meaning, rationality, perception, consciousness, and thought, and, extraordinarily, does this in terms a non-specialist will grasp with ease. Jackendoff starts out by looking at languages and what the meanings of words and sentences actually do. Finding meanings to be more adaptive and complicated than they're commonly given credit for, 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? He shows that the organization of language, thought, and perception does not look much like the way we experience things, and that only a small part of what the brain does is conscious. He 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.
Ray Jackendoff's profound and arresting account will appeal to everyone interested in the workings of the mind, in how language links to the world, and in what understanding these means for the way we experience our lives.
Acclaim for Foundations of
"Ray Jackendoff is a monumental scholar in linguistics who, more than any scholar alive today, has shown how language can serve as a window into human nature. Combining theoretical depth with a love of revealing detail, Jackendoff illuminates human reason and consciousness in startling and insightful ways."--Steven Pinker, Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought
"This excellent book explains difficult topics accessibly. All readers interested in philosophy, from beginners to experienced professionals, will find it of value." --Library Journal
About the Author
is Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His books include Foundations of Language, Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure
, and Meaning and the Lexicon: The Parallel Architecture, 1975-2010
Table of Contents
1. Why do we need a User's Guide to thought and meaning?
Part One. Language, Words, and Meaning
2. What's a language?
3. Perspectives on English
4. Perspectives on sunsets, tigers, and puddles
5. What's a word?
6. What counts as the same word?
7. Some uses of mean and meaning
8. "Objective" and "subjective" meaning
9. What do meanings have to be able to do?
10. Meanings can't be visual images
11. Word meanings aren't cut and dried
12. Not all the meaning is in the words
13. Meanings, concepts, and thoughts
14. Does your language determine your thought?
Part Two. Consciousness and Perception
15. What's it like to be thinking?
16. Some phenomena that test the Unconscious Meaning Hypothesis
17. Conscious and unconscious
18. What does "What is consciousness?" mean?
19. Three cognitive correlates of conscious thought
20. Some prestigious theories of consciousness
21. What's it like to see things?
22. Two components of thought and meaning
23. See something as a fork
24. Other modalities of spatial perception
25. How do we see the world as "out there"?
26. Other "feels" in experience
Part Three. Reference, Truth, and Thought
27. How do we use language to talk about the world?
28. Mismatching reference in conversation
29. What kinds of things can we refer to? (Cognitive metaphysics, Lesson 1)
30. Referential files for pictures and thoughts
31. What's truth?
32. Problems for an ordinary perspective on truth
33. What's it like to judge a sentence true?
34. Noticing something's wrong
35. What's it like to be thinking rationally?
36. How much rational thinking do we actually do?
37. How rational thinking helps
38. Chamber music
39. Rational thinking as a craft
40. Some pitfalls of apparently rational thinking
Part Four. A Larger View
41. Some speculation on science and the arts
42. Ordinary and cognitive perspectives on morality
43. Ordinary and cognitive perspectives on religion
44. Learning to live with multiple perspectives