Thought

Thought

Gilbert Harman
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x14j7
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  • Book Info
    Thought
    Book Description:

    Thoughts and other mental states are defined by their role in a functional system. Since it is easier to determine when we have knowledge than when reasoning has occurred, Gilbert Harman attempts to answer the latter question by seeing what assumptions about reasoning would best account for when we have knowledge and when not. He describes induction as inference to the best explanation, or more precisely as a modification of beliefs that seeks to minimize change and maximize explanatory coherence.

    Originally published in 1975.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6899-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    Much of current epistemology (the theory of knowledge) in philosophy is best seen as a response to the thesis that we never have the slightest reason to believe anything. This radical skepticism must be distinguished from the more commonsensical idea that nothing can be known forcertainand that we can never beabsolutely sureof anything. Common sense assumes that practical certainty is possible even if absolute certainty is not. Radical skepticism departs from common sense and denies that even practical certainty is ever attainable. Indeed, it denies that anything is ever even the slightest bit more likely to...

  5. Chapter 2 Reasons and Reasoning
    (pp. 24-33)

    Let us begin by considering when reasons would ordinarily be said to give a person knowledge. Consider the following example. Albert believes that he will not pass his ethics course. He has excellent reasons for believing this, because he failed the midterm examination, he has not been able to understand the lectures for several weeks, and the instructor is known to fail a high percentage of his students. Despite the fact that, like many other students, Albert does not appreciate the force of such reasons, he is influenced by something else. During a class discussion early in the term, he...

  6. Chapter 3 Mental Processes
    (pp. 34-53)

    In order to say more about thinking and reasoning I must now sketch a general theory of mental processes. This will make it clearer why what is mental is not at all the same as what is conscious. It will also permit me to say more about psychological explanation so that I can show how reasons can figure in the explanation of belief. I will defend a kind of functionalism which defines mental states and processes in terms of their roles in a functional system.

    As far as inference is concerned, its function in giving us knowledge proves all important....

  7. Chapter 4 Thought and Meaning
    (pp. 54-66)

    In this chapter I will discuss the way in which the representational character of mental states is determined by function. I will speak of a “language of thought” and will speculate on the relations between the inner language of thought and the outer language we speak. In particular I will try to say how the meaning of the outer sentence can be in part a matter of the representational character of the inner sentence. This speculation prepares the ground for the theory, developed in the next two chapters, that we sometimes think in words. The suggestion forms the basis of...

  8. Chapter 5 Truth and Structure
    (pp. 67-83)

    An account of the nature of thought must attempt to explain the relationship between thought and language, how thought is expressed in language, and how language molds thought. In chapter six I will argue that language provides not only a vehicle of communication but equally importantly a medium of thought, for I will suggest that in learning language we learn to think in words. But thoughts cannot be construed as simply strings of words; they must be taken to have the structure of sentences under analysis. That is why in the present chapter I will try to say something about...

  9. Chapter 6 Thought and Language
    (pp. 84-111)

    Language makes thought possible. Learning a language is not just learning a new way to put our thoughts into words; it is also learning a new way to think. In learning our first language we acquire a vast array of conceptual resources we did not have before. And learning a second language is not just learning to translate between it and the first language. We have not fully learned a language until we can think in it so that such translation is no longer necessary.

    Not all mental states involve the language we speak; not all thought is in words....

  10. Chapter 7 Knowledge and Probability
    (pp. 112-125)

    Recall that one response to skepticism assumes the validity of certain principles of justification and then tries to use those principles to refute the skeptic by arguing that we are justified in believing many of the things we ordinarily suppose we know. The major problem with any such response is that it merely transfers the skeptical challenge to the assumed principles of justification (chapter one, sections 1-3). A better idea does not attempt to “answer” skepticism at all. Instead the idea is to turn skepticism on its head and use intuitive judgments about when people know things to discover when...

  11. Chapter 8 Knowledge and Explanation
    (pp. 126-141)

    Goldman suggests that we know only if there is the proper sort of causal connection between our belief and what we know. For example, we perceive that there has been an automobile accident only if the accident is relevantly causally responsible, by way of our sense organs, for our belief that there has been an accident. Similarly, we remember doing something only if having done it is relevantly causally responsible for our current memory of having done it. Although in some cases the fact that we know thus simply begins a causal chain that leads to our belief, in other...

  12. Chapter 9 Evidence One Does Not Possess
    (pp. 142-154)

    Example (I ). While I am watching him, Tom takes a library book from the shelf and conceals it beneath his coat. Since I am the library detective, I follow him as he walks brazenly past the guard at the front door. Outside I see him take out the book and smile. As I approach he notices me and suddenly runs away. But I am sure that it was Tom, for I know him well. I saw Tom steal a book from the library and that is the testimony I give before the University Judicial Council. After testifying, I leave...

  13. Chapter 10 Conclusions as Total Views
    (pp. 155-172)

    In chapter eight we saw that we could use principlePto account for many Gettier examples if we were willing to suppose that induction always has an explanatory statement as its conclusion. On that supposition reasoning would have to take the form of a series of inductive and deductive steps to appropriate intermediate conclusions that therefore become essential to our inference. However, certain difficulties indicate that this conception of inference is seriously oversimplified and that our account of Gettier examples must be modified.

    Chapter nine has already mentioned a minor complication. There is a self-referential aspect to inductive conclusions....

  14. Chapter 11 Inference in Perception
    (pp. 173-188)

    A friend, Jones, enters the room and you recognize him immediately. It seems natural to say that you do not need to infer that Jones has just come in, since you can directly see who it is. Even so your knowledge is based on inference.

    If you are to know that Jones has come in, it is not enough that seeing him come in causes you to believe that he has come in. Your belief must be a reasonable one, and it is reasonable only if it is part of a reasonable conclusion, given your background beliefs along with information...

  15. Chapter 12 Inference in Memory
    (pp. 189-194)

    Finally I want to suggest that knowledge of the past is based on reasoning concerning the best explanation of present memories. The best explanation of its seeming to you that certain things occurred in the past is that they did occur and you remember them. However, knowledge based on reasoning is based on actual reasoning (chapter two, section 3; chapter three, section 6); and it may seem implausible to suppose that you constantly reinfer all of your beliefs about the past from present memory data. It is true that, since inference is inference to the best total account, all your...

  16. References
    (pp. 195-196)
  17. Index
    (pp. 197-199)