The humans are on a research visit to Edinburgh. Yesterday they took me to see a statue of another dog.
I'm sure this dog, who was called Bobby, was very nice. But he was almost certainly one of those dogs who didn't know how to speak or write (unlike me).
It must have been one of those dogs the human philosopher Wittgenstein was thinking about when we wrote,
When I first read this I found it strange, because although I can speak I have never felt anything called remorse. In fact my humans shouted at me once after I'd stolen some cheese, "do you have no remorse?" Then they told me about the difference between things called necessary conditions and other things called sufficient conditions, that language is a necessary but not sufficient condition for feeling remorse (they mentioned Tony Blair in this context), and explained to me what Wittgenstein was going on about.
Wittgenstein is writing about the relationship between language and thought. There is a temptation for humans to think that when they speak they are somehow making something private from an inner, mental, world. This sits very naturally with the idea that the capacity for speech is dependent on the capacity for thought. In his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein challenged this picture of the relationship between language and thought.
What if things were the other way around, as Wittgenstein hints in the quote above (which is from his Zettel)? What if thought depended on language? This view has gone out of fashion in recent years, and one reason given for this is that it can't explain the thought of non-linguistic animals, like Bobby and my friend Poppy.
But perhaps this is too quick. Thought, in the sense of being able to believe (or hope, or fear) propositions - the meanings of whole sentences, like 'Lola ought not to have eaten an entire round of stilton' - is not the only type of mental state there is. There are mental states directed not towards propositions but towards objects: Poppy desires the food, Bobby misses his master. In fact, this distinction is exactly what Wittgenstein is drawing our attention to in the passage from Zettel. It might be that language is necessary for propositional states but not for object-directed ones, which are somehow built into our lives as animals. Given how important propositional states are in philosophy, this would still be important.
Mental walkies with Lola,