In Defense of Wordless Thoughts About Thoughts


  • I wish to thank Jonathan Adler, Uriah Kriegel, Saam Trivedi, Matthew Moore, Abe Witonsky, Wayne Wright, audience members at the Pacific APA, and the anonymous referees for Mind & Language for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Department of Philosophy, Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210.


Abstract: Bermúdez (2003) argues that (T1) nonlinguistic creatures can think thoughts about protocausal conditional states of affairs and engage in rudimentary forms of reasoning, but (T2) they cannot ‘in principle’ think thoughts about thoughts (propositions)—in particular, they cannot have higher-order propositional attitudes (PAs). I reconstruct Bermúdez’s argument for T2 and show that it rests upon an implausible empirical assumption and is, therefore, not a threat to current empirical research into nonlinguistic higher-order PAs. I argue that even on an interpretation of the argument that would pose a threat to this research, a parallel argument would seem to disprove T1. Finally, I argue that on an interpretation of Bermúdez’s argument that would not pose a threat to the above empirical research but would still present a significant philosophical thesis about thought and language, the argument either appears to confuse thoughts with their representational vehicles or the representational vehicles of thoughts with those representations used to hold thoughts in mind.