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.



Nach dem Studium der Philosophie, Germanistik und Geschichte in Hannover und Göttingen promovierte Dieter Sturma in Hannover und war Hochschulassistent in Lüneburg, dann Professor in Essen, bevor er 2007 eine Professur für Philosophie in Ethik (Schwerpunkt Ethik der Biowissenschaften) in Bonn annahm, wo er ebenfalls Direktor des Instituts für Wissenschaft und Ethik wurde und 2009 das Institut für Ethik in den Neurowissenschaften am FZ Jülich begründete. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Philosophische Anthropologie, Philosophie des Geistes, Philosophie der Neurowissenschaften, Ethik und Angewandte Ethik, Französische Philosophie des 18. Jahrhunderts, Klassische Deutsche Philosophie und die Philosophie des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts.