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- Why is it that we cannot think everything at once but are forced to have one thought after another? Our memories exist together, yet we cannot call them to mind all at once, but only one at a time.
- Why is it that when we consciously characterize a concept, we try to do so in a cold-blooded, cut-and-dried fashion like lawyers defining a tort, whereas, as Wittgenstein pointed out, if we are prepared to look and see how ideas are used in daily life, we often find nothing so clear-cut, only indefinite and open-ended concepts?
- What is the meaning of the word possible? You are familiar with it, and have no difficulty in using or understanding it in a typical sentence. But, now that you are asked what it means, you are tongue-tied for a moment and then can only offer a synonym rather than an analytical definition. (p. ix)
- How is it possible for you to make a valid deduction even if you have not learned logic? Is there an innate mental logic? Or have you somehow picked up rules of inference from other people? If so, how did they acquire them?
- ... the central idea [is] that human beings construct mental models of the world, and that they do so by employing tacit mental processes.
This idea is not new. Many years ago Kenneth Craik (1943) proposed that thinking is the manipulation of internal representations of the world. This deceptively simple notion has rarely been taken sufficiently seriously by psychologists, particularly by those studying language and thought. They certainly argue that there are mental representations -- images, or strings of symbols -- and that information in them is processed by the mind; but they ignore a crucial issue: what it is that makes a mental entity a representation of something. In consequence, psychological theories of meaning almost invariably fail to deal satisfactorily with referential phenomena. A similar neglect or the subtleties of mental representation has led to psychological theories of reasoning that almost invariably assume, either explicitly or implicitly, the existence of a mental logic.
The assumption that there is some system of logic in the mind may seem innocuous; in fact, it runs the risk of paradox, for how could such a logic be acquired by someone who was not already able to reason soundly? A variety of answers have been given to this question, but, as we shall see, none of them will do. (p. x)
Related works 
- Philip N. Johnson-Laird (1983). Mental Models: Toward a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference and Consciousness. Harvard University Press. [+]
- Gentner, Dedre & Albert L. Stevens, eds. (1983). Mental Models. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-89859-242-9. [+]
- Johnson-Laird, Philip N. & Peter Cathcart Wason eds. (1977). Thinking: Readings in Cognitive Science. Cambridge University Press. [+]
- Miller, George A. & Philip N. Johnson-Laird (1976). Language and Perception. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. [+]
- Craik, Kenneth (1943). The Nature of Explanation. Cambridge University Press. [+]