A Puzzle

Are there quotation marks in the language of thought? Do we have a mental equivalent of quotation? It seems clear that we can have metalinguistic thoughts, as when I think that “five” has four letters; but can thought contain mental scare-quotes? Suppose I doubt that there are inner processes: can I think that “inner processes” need outward criteria? Can I think that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron? Are these attributions really attributions of a thought that lacks quotation marks? Compare the question of whether there are genuinely metaphorical thoughts.

2 replies
  1. Jarrod Brown
    Jarrod Brown says:

    I’m not sure. There are plenty of languages that are absent of quotations, and use a complementizer to indicate indirect speech (something along the lines of “thus” or “that” as in: He spoke thus, or, she said that). So in Sanskrit, for example, गच्छामि गजम् इति मन्यते uses इति to indicate something is being said (“I go to to the elephant,” he thought). Thus to represent what we might with scare-quotes actually requires a fair bit of explication. Just think about how to make explicit the information that is being communicated through the use of such scare-quotes.


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