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Title: Thinking and its relationship to action
Author: Dower, Nigel
ISNI:       0000 0001 3431 169X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1977
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My account of thinking, apart from being a piece of analysis in its own right, serves two purposes: (i) It prepares the ground for the later discussion of the relationship between thinking and action. For (a) the activity of answering questions or solving problems ( whether it is primarily reasoning or not) is often necessary before the agent can decide what to do, and (b) if an action is to be rational, it must in principle be capable of being supported by a pattern of expository reasoning which the agent can endorse and give ( whether or not the action is actually preceded by such reasoning or the deliberation which may precede such reasoning). (ii) My account also supports the claim that the activity of thinking is a genuine and indeed central member of the "action-family'1, though it occupies a special position in which it is complementary to other kinds of action. Chapter 1 s Introduction. After considering various possible interpretations of a work with this title, I indicate the issues which I have chosen to discuss ( and which are partly indicated in the previous paragraph), and I add a brief summary of the themes of each chapter. Chapter 2 s Varieties of Thinking. In this general survey of what comes under the label "thought", I draw a number of distinctions, both between thinking as an activity and other things indicated by the verb "to think", and between different kinds of thinking as an activity : of particular significance is the distinction between the two strands in the concept which I note above and their overlap. I argue against the idea that thinking is essentially "private", and in particular against the idea that it consists in a succession of images ( though I note that much thinking has an "experiential" dimension). I also reject the idea that the occurrence, of "thoughts" can, in general, be distinguished from the occurrence or production of words/symbols or images, and the idea that thinking can usefully be regarded as a succession of thoughts. Chapter 5 * Cognition in Absence. I consider briefly Price's approach in Thinking and Experience, namely, that thinking can be thought of as "cognition in absence". X make two criticisms of this: (i) So far as the "objects'1 of thought are concerned, there is such variety and complexity in these that some objects can be perceptually "present" when they are thought about, and others are such that it makes no sense to say that they are present or absent. ' (ii) The variety in the objects of thought is linked with the fact that thinking is essentially active and is something which we do, whereas the term "cognition" has a quasi-perceptual ring to it. On the other hand, Price's discussion is useful, inter alia, because (i) he brings out one "liberating" capacity of thought, namely, our capacity to think of objects and ideas quite unrelated to our present perceptions and situation, and.(ii) he stresses the contrast between what is thought of/about and the activity itself. Chapter 4 s Thinking to some Purpose. This idea is introduced through a discussion of Ryle's view on the x*elation between " autonomous " thinking and " thinking what one is doing 'l. Whilst his particular analysis is not wholly accepted, the general conceptual connection between ordinary intelligent activity and autonomous thinking directed to an outcome is stressed* there are no sharp dividing lines between adaptive behaviour, practical problem solving, context-bound reasoning and working out answers to general questions. All these forms of thinking have the common feature, namely, that there is some uncertainty, d.oubt, question or problem to be resolved, and the aim of the thinking is to resolve them. Furthermore, on the "enquirer's conception of thinking", any kind of activity which is relevant to resolving the question or problem is either part of the thinking or a subordinate means. Chapter 5 * Thinking, Reasoning and Inference. In this chapter I am mainly concerned with drawing a distinction between reasoning as an activity of searching for or working out arguments or rationally supported conclusions and reasoning as an activity of presenting arguments, and between inferring as an activity of presenting arguments (i.e. as a form of reasoning in the second sense) and inferring as an act of mind or transition in the mind to a "new" thought or idea. Rational inference in the latter sense, though distinct from reasoning as an activity, nevertheless presupposes the latter in its analysis. Reasoning, whether exploratory or expository, is essentially "norm-guided" one significant aspect of this is the fact that one can correct and criticise one*s previously accepted arguments.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available