Language and consciousness: what can we learn about feral children?

Butler, Terry J. V. (2003) Language and consciousness: what can we learn about feral children? Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

We are all intimately aware of what is meant by the term consciousness; it is something that is at the core of our very being yet it remains a puzzle to many thinkers. Relying largely on the work of contemporary philosophers Daniel Dennett and David Rosenthal I argue that our current notions of consciousness are rooted in a misguided Cartesian tradition. Both philosophers claim to advocate the dissolution of our traditional Cartesian notions of consciousness but Rosenthal ultimately fails to fully exorcize his Cartesian ghosts. Therefore we must look toward Dennett for a better way to explain consciousness. Dennett's multiple drafts model, heterophenomenological method, and intentional stance form the basis of his theory of consciousness. Dennett's intentional stance provides us with a powerful strategy for interpreting behaviour, since it allows us to attribute a mental life to an entity without necessarily attributing consciousness to that same entity. Dennett's heterophenomenological method is intrinsically linguistic and thus gives us a hint as to what is required for consciousness. -- Exploring this linguistic connection to consciousness we notice that language is unique to the human mind. As a linking example I will use the case of feral children, Kamala and Amala, to illustrate a number of points about consciousness and language. Counter-intuitive to our common understanding of language production Dennett argues that language is produced unconsciously allowing us to avoid traditional Cartesian ghosts. Dennett's theory of language production posits an anti-private language argument and as a consequence implies a public arena where language must take place. The main thrust of my thesis then argues that language is required for consciousness. On the surface this may also seem like a very counter-intuitive claim however language is the only way a third-person observer can determine if an entity is conscious and also the only way a first-person experiencer can determine if he or she is a conscious entity.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10241
Item ID: 10241
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 88-89.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2003
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Children--Language; Consciousness; Feral children.

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