The Act of Thinking

Derek Melser

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A resource for students and researchers in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, or others of the humanities or social sciences, or any lay person, interested in the nature of verbal communication and/or the nature of thinking. The site relates mainly to the theory of thinking proposed in Derek Melser's The Act of Thinking (MIT Press 2004).

The gist of the theory is that thinking is not a process that goes on inside the head — in the ‘mind’ or the brain — but a learned and voluntary action of the person. The child learns how to do something by being shown how, by learning to perform the action in concert with a teacher. Mime, verbal communication and thinking are all streamlinings of this prototype demonstration-and-imitation procedure. Mime and speech are very abbreviated forms of it, in which gestures or vocal sounds substitute for an actual demonstration. Thinking is an even more abbreviated form. In thinking, the individual is rehearsing a session of this educative doing-in-concert by himself, and in an extremely subtle and minimal, hence ‘private’, way. Thus, as well as being susceptible to being readied by others for doing new things — via actual demonstration-and-imitation, or mime or speech — the child gradually masters this method, called ‘thinking’, by which he can ready himself.

Introduction  to The Act of Thinking.

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The position Melser defends... flouts all received doctrine in philosophy of mind and cognitive psychology... it is entirely original, and his case for it highly so. He argues that all... mental talk is metaphorical, and even provides an illuminating general essay on metaphor to back up that claim. An extraordinary work, and well argued too.

William G. Lycan, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of numerous books and papers on mind and language, and editor of the pre-eminent cognitive science text, Mind and Cognition: An Anthology.

The Act of Thinking is... no academic cliché but the work of a mature, sophisticated and profound thinker who may just have written the most original and important book in philosophy of mind to have appeared in over a decade. ...It is an impressive piece of philosophy.”

Max Hocutt, Ph.D., (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Alabama, former editor of Behavior and Philosophy) in Metapsychology.

The Act of Thinking is a pivotal book and a significant contribution to the ‘second cognitive revolution.’”

Andy Lock, Professor of Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand.

Plaudits  continued



Last updated: Saturday, 25 June 2016.