Dieter Sturma

The Language of Thought - On Brain-Reading and Linguistic Behaviour

Language is a central tool of science. But how does this tool look like? Do we think in our native language, or is there a language, which we use to develop our thoughts, before we are actually phrasing them in our native language? The idea of "Mentalese", the Language of Thought is discussed controversially. Are there thoughts without language? What happens, if language is lost or not developed? Can we think without language? If so, why are human languages so different? To what extent does language shape our way to think? These are only some of the philosophical questions that are stimulated by the debate on a Language of Thought. On a more general level, this debate hits the core of the relationship between Science and Reality. Can there be Science without Reality, and to what extent is Reality shaped by Science?

The formal structure of thoughts is based on syntactic and semantic rules. These rules are different from the laws which govern neural micro-mechanisms. This difference raises the question how something physical can turn into something mental–and vice versa. Correspondingly, we are talking about the understanding of linguistic behaviour in the space of reasons and the realm of causes when we address neurotechnological approaches to brain-reading. The possibilities and limits of theses approaches are analyzed on the basis of a thick description of linguistic behaviour which follows original insights of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, and Wilfrid Sellars.



After studying philosophy, germanistics, and history in Hannover and Göttingen, Dieter Sturma did his Ph.D. in Hannover before working as assistant professor in Lüneburg. After a full professor position in Essen, he moved in 2007 to Bonn for the chair of philosophy in ethics (focus on ethics of life sciences), where he also became the head of the Institute of Science and Ethics. In 2009, he founded the Institute for Ethics in the Neurosciences at the Research Centre Jülich. His research focus is on philosophical anthropology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of neuro sciences, ethics and applied ethics, French philosophy of the 18th century, classical German philosophy, and the philosophy of the 20. and 21. century.