I used to think that we needed language to think but then babies and animals can think and they don't have a language. I then came to the conclusion that they may not have a verbal language like ours but they use their other senses to have a language and that's why they can think. So would it be possible for a person who had none of the five senses to think? And if we use our senses to think, do plants think? Plants have senses so can they can think to some extent?

You raise a number of controversial questions about therelationship of language and thought and the possession of thought bynon-adult humans and non-humans. You suggest that babies and animalscan think. Do you think babies at any age can think, or just babieswho have reached a certain level of cognitive maturity? Do you thinkall animals can think, or just some? Do oysters think? It appearsthat you attribute thinking to any organism that can sense. But mostphilosophers think that there is a distinction to be made betweensensation and thought. An organism may be able to feel pain, forexample, when it has certain unfortunate interactions with itsenvironment. But it doesn't follow that that such an organism isthinking about it'senvironment. The sensation isn't a thought or a representation of theenvironment, but just a feelingcaused by the environmental stimulus. This is a difficultphilosophical distinction, one which has exercised many a greatphilosopher, and there's good reason to think that many philosopherswere not as aware of the distinction as they should have been. Soyou're in good company!

Plants are caused to be invarious states in response to environmental stimuli, but it's notclear that we should even attribute sensation to them. It's difficultto say what it is to have sensations, and to demonstrate that certainthings, such as rocks and plants don't have them, we certainlywouldn't want to attribute sensations to anything that is caused tochange its states in response to its interactions with itsenvironment. A rusting piece of metal has not sensed the humiditywhich caused it to rust. A plant's flowers may open in the sunlight,but it may not be correct to say that the plant sensesthe sunlight.

We haven't addressed the issue oflanguage and thought, which seems to have motivated your otherquestions. Here too, we can benefit from trying to be a bit moreprecise. What constitutes a language? You come close to suggestingthat babies and other animals have a non-verballanguage. It's true that young babies and other animals communicatewithout words, and they do so selectively in response to theirenvironments. But we might want to resist characterizing suchvocalizations as linguistic, pending an account of what contstitutesa language.

It is true that many types of things are repond in systematically recognizable and conistent ways to changes in their environment: including people, other animals, other types of organisms like plants, other living things like cells, and indeed non-living things like thermometers.

Philosophers have paid some attention to ways that things like these are sensitive to their environment. To consider the final example, on one epistemological line it is right to say that thermometers represent the temperature because they are sensitive in this manner to changes in temperature. I don't think this position is tantamount to saying that thermometers think, but I'll leave it to partisans of that perspective to say more.

One idea that rings true to me comes from the great 20th Century American philosoher Wilfrid Sellars, who drew a distinction between being "senstitive" to one's environment and being "aware" of it. In particular, it seems right to me to conclude that sensitivity plants and cells and thermometers and newborn babies show to their environments, this sensitivity is very much unlike the ways that you and I think about the world, which is based on a richer form of awareness than those other things are capable of manifesting.

By itself, this distinction does not imply that thought requires language. However, Sellars develpoed this insight in that direction. Likewise, Donald Davidson--another important 20th Century American philosopher--developed interesting arguments along a similar line, and I think arguments from Stoical philosophers about the dinstinctive nature of the sort of thought that you and I can manifest are also worth taking seriously. So, it strikes me that there are rich lines of thought that suggest, first, that babies and non-human animals and plants don't think in the way that you and I do and, second, that the way we think is intricately bound up with our linguistic abilities.

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