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The Absurdity of 'Thinking in Language'
the author's site ^ | 1972 | Dallas Willard

Posted on 05/23/2003 3:59:51 PM PDT by unspun

The Absurdity of 'Thinking in Language'
This paper has been read to the University of Southern California philosophy group and the Boston 1972 meeting of the American Philosophical Association, as well as to the Houston meeting of the Southwestern Philosophical Society. Appeared in The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy, IV(1973), pp. 125-132. Numbers in "<>" refer to this journal.

Among the principal assumptions of major portions of philosophy in recent decades have been: (1) That philosophy somehow consists of (some sort of) logic, and (2) that logic is a study of and theory about (some sort of) language. There, of course, follows from these a third assumption: (3) That philosophy is a study of and theory about (some sort of) language--though this implication should not be taken as representing any phase of the historical development of recent philosophizing. Instead of listing these three points as assumptions, it would probably be more correct to regard them as categories or complexes of assumptions; or perhaps, more vaguely still, as 'tendencies' or proclivities of recent philosophical thinking. But precision of these points need not be put in issue here, as this paper does not seek any large-scale resolution of the problem area in question.

The aim here is to examine only one proposition which plays a role in the clearly existent tendencies referred to: Namely, the proposition that we think in or with language. I hope to show, first, that we do not always think in or with language; and then, second, that the very conception of thinking in or with language involves an absurdity. What implications this has for broader philosophical assumptions or tendencies will not be dealt with here, though the implications in question seem to me to be extremely important ones.

That human beings think in language is explicitly stated in such diverse places as ordinary newspapers, the more sophisticated popular magazines and journals, and serious discourse in the humanities and the social sciences, as well as in the technical writings of philosophers. To prove this broad range of consensus would be idle; but, in order to have the philosophical context clearly before us, we may give a few brief quotations. <126> 

     (1) Man, like every living creature, thinks unceasingly, but does not know it: the thinking which becomes conscious of itself is only the smallest part thereof. And, we may say, the worst part:--for this conscious thinking alone is done in words, that is to say, in the symbols for communication, by means of which the origin of consciousness is revealed. (Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom, sub-sec. # 354)

     (2) Let no one be contemptuous of symbols! A good deal depends upon a practical selection of them. Furthermore, their value is not diminished by the fact that after much practice, we no longer really need to call forth a symbol, we do not need to speak out loud in order to think. The fact remains that we think in words or, when not in words, then in mathematical or other symbols. (Frege, Mind, Vol. 73, p. 156)

     (3) It is misleading then to talk of thinking as of a 'mental activity'. We may say that thinking is essentially the activity of operating with signs. This activity is performed by the hand, when we think by writing; by the mouth and larynx, when we think by speaking; and if we think by imagining signs or pictures, I can give you no agent that thinks. If then you say that in such cases the mind thinks, I would only draw your attention to the fact that you are using a metaphor, that here the mind is an agent in a different sense from that in which the hand can be said to be an agent in writing. (Wittgenstein, Blue Book, pp. 6-7)

     (4) ... The woof and warp of all thought and all research is symbols, and the life of thought and science is the life inherent in symbols; so that it is wrong to say that a good language is important to good thought, merely; for it is of the essence of it. (C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, II, p. 129)

     (5) Words only matter because words are what we think with. (H. H. Price, Aristotelian Society, Suppl. Vol. XIX, p. 7)

     (6) Theorizing is an activity which most people can and normally do conduct in silence. They articulate in sentences the theories that they construct, but they do not most of the time speak these sentences out loud. They say them to themselves.... Much of our ordinary thinking is conducted in internal monologue or silent soliloquy, usually accompanied by an internal cinematograph-show of visual imagery.... This trick of talking to oneself in silence is acquired neither quickly nor without effort.... (Ryle, Concept of Mind, p. 27. See also pp. 282-83 and 296-97) <127>

     (7)This helps to elucidate the well-known difficulty of thinking without words. Certain kinds of thinking are pieces of intelligent talking to oneself. Consider the way in which I 'thinkingly' wrote the last sentence. I can no more do the 'thinking' part without the talking (or writing) part than a man can do the being graceful part of walking apart from the walking (or some equivalent activity). (J.J.C. Smart, Philosophy and Scientific Realism, p. 89)

These quotations will suffice to establish the context within which philosophers speak of thinking in language (or with language). Many other quotations could be added from the literature.1 It is not assumed here that the persons quoted all occupy the same position with reference to the relationship between thought and language. Yet it would be interesting to see what any of these thinkers, or others who suppose that human beings think in language, could save of their position from the critique which follows.

Uneasiness about the conception of thinking in or with language has been expressed by a number of writers, but only over limited aspects of it.2 Here we shall consider arguments which purport to call the conception into question entirely and in principle. First, consider a reason for rejecting the view that we always think in language. It consists in the fact that thinking often occurs without the production, manipulation, or perception of sense-perceptible signs, without which there is no use of language. Such occurrences often provoke offers of 'A penny for your thoughts.'

Thinking: Whatever we may decide to call them, and however it is that we are conscious of them, there are intentional states of persons, more or less fixed or fleeting, which do not require for their obtaining that what they are about or of be perceived by, or be impinging causally upon, the person involved. In order to think of3 Henry the Eighth, <128> of the first auto one owned, of the Pythagorean theorem, or of the Mississippi River, it is not required that they should disturb my nervous system. Such states (t-states) of persons are often called 'thoughts', especially in contrast with 'perceptions', and being in such a state is one of the things more commonly called 'thinking'. One no more needs to be going through a change of such states in order to be thinking, than he needs to be changing his bodily position in order to be sitting or lying or sleeping. Rarely if ever--as is alleged in the case of mystic contemplation--are these t-states unchanging. Usually they flow, at varying rates, intermingled with person states of many sorts, governed by such transitional structures as inference, goal orientation, objective structures given in perception or in other ways, and elemental association of 'ideas', among others. In what follows, we shall use 'thinking' to cover both the single t-state and the flow of such states, without regard to how intermingled with other person states.

Language: Sense perceptible signs or symbols are an essential constituent of language. It is always false to say that language is present or in use where no signs are present or in use. And, whatever else a sign may be, it is something which is apprehendable via its sensible qualities. That is, it is something which can be either seen, heard, felt, tasted or smelled. Moreover, the use of language requires some level of actual sensuous apprehension of the signs which are in use on the occasion. (Confusion or distortion of this sensuous feedback can render a subject incapable of writing or speaking; and, of course, without perception of the sign-sequences emitted, one cannot understand the person emitting language.)

Now cases can be produced almost at will where thinking occurs without language being present or in use. This, of course, is something which everyone--including the proponent of thinking-in-language--very well knows. It is these cases which, together with the assumption that we always think in language, create what in (7) was called "the well-known difficulty of thinking without words." If, as in (3), "thinking is essentially the activity of operating with signs," then when there are no signs--and when, consequently, the means by which we produce, manipulate, or perceive signs are not functioning--we do have a difficulty. In fact, a difficulty so severe that it amounts to a proof that thinking is not essentially the activity of operating with signs, and that often we think entirely without language. One cannot operate with signs where there are no signs. <129> 

As the above quotations indicate, the most common move made to save 'thinking in language' at this point is the shift to 'silent soliloquy,' as in (6), or to 'pieces of intelligent talking to oneself,' as in (7). These are latter-day shades of John Watson's 'sub-vocal language.' Of course one can talk to oneself or write to onself. But talking and writing to oneself require the production and perception of sensuous signs just as much as talking and writing to another. The realization of this is what drives the thinking-in-language advocate to silent soliloquy or to nonvocal speaking--the written counterpart of which would be invisible writing. That is, they are driven to flat absurdities. A silent soliloquy--that is, silent speaking--is precisely on a par with a silent trumpet solo, for example, or silent thunder. A poet may say:

       Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

            Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

       Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,

            Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone;...

               (Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn)

But there are in fact no unhearable melodies, no ears other than the "sensual," no ditties of no tone.

What those who speak of silent discourse have in mind is, no doubt, the fact that interlaced with our thinking of or about things is a great deal of imaging of linguistic entities. (This is especially true of academics or intellectuals in general, because of their great concern with expression of thought. Probably an adequate phenomenology of thinking would exhibit great contrast between them and other classes of persons precisely at the relation between thinking and degree of activity in imaging linguistic entities and events.) But imaging a word is not using a word, any more than imaging a horse is using a horse. Moreover, imaging a word, phrase, or sentence is not producing or perceiving a word, phrase, or sentence any more than imaging a horse is producing or perceiving--or otherwise 'having'--a horse. To image a linguistic sequence is not to have it in a special sort of place--the mind--nor is it to have a special sort of linguistic sequence. To image is to exemplify a certain sort of thinking or intentional state, and a sort which does have interesting relationships with other kinds of thinking. But there is no reason at all to suppose that all kinds of thinking necessarily involve or are accompanied by this kind of thinking (imaging) directed upon language segments. And if there were, it still would not follow that all thinking requires language, since this kind of thinking about language segments is not itself language at all. Nor does it require any <130> language present in order for it to come to pass, since intentional inexistence applies to mental events when language segments are the objects, as well as when sticks and stones and animals are.

Having considered a reason for rejecting the proposition that human beings always think in language, let us now consider whether they ever do. In fact, the difficulty is not, as Smart (above) and others have thought, in seeing how one can think without language, but in seeing how one would think with it. Thinking with or in language must consist in doing something with symbols, and so necessarily involves doing something to them--e.g., producing, altering, or perceiving them. If we would do something with the knife (e.g., cut the bread), we must do something to the knife, (e.g., clasp it in our hands). But, as we have seen, thinking occurs where nothing at all is being done to or with signs, there not being any signs in these cases. The power or act of having or changing t-states--that is, the power or act of thinking--is, then, not a power or act of having or altering linguistic symbols. (It is not, in fact, a power of doing anything with or in anything at all. The profound difference in kinds of powers and acts involved here is what Wittgenstein calls attention to in the last sentence of (3) above.) Thought is, of course, practical, in that it exercises an influence upon, or makes some difference in, the world of sense particulars. But it alone is not capable of acting with the sorts of particulars used in linguistic behavior as its immediate instruments. It is just this incapacity which makes it impossible for the advocates of thinking-in-language to give any account of the mechanisms or the 'how' by which the words in which we, allegedly, think are produced, manipulated, and gotten rid of--though they must be produced (or stored and hauled out), manipulated, and, in some sense, gotten rid of, if we are to think with and in them as our tools or instruments.

Merely to ask the question of how, in detail, this is done in the course of thinking reveals, I believe, the absurdity of 'thinking in language'. Mere thinking can do nothing to signs which might be used in a language, and hence it can do nothing with such signs, or in the act of modifying the conditions of such signs. It is absurd to suppose that one can do x with y without in some way bringing about a change in the condition, state, relations, or properties of y. It is this and only this that I put by saying that it is absurd to suppose that one can do something with y while doing nothing to y.

If it is replied that, of course, the mind or thought does not do these things, but that when we write, speak, hear, see, and otherwise relate to actual words in the actual employment of language, we then are thinking, with bodily parts managing the symbols involved, then it <131> must be pointed out that, while we may indeed also be thinking in such cases, we are not simply thinking. The total event here, to which language certainly is essential, is not thinking. Correct use of language can even occur, as has been pointed out by Wittgenstein, without the occurrence of any peculiarly relevant t-states. On the other hand, thinking does occur without the use of hands, mouth, ears, eyes, fingers in any appropriately relevant manner. Hence, what can only occur by the use of these is not the same as thinking, though it may somehow involve or influence thinking.

Smart remarks in (7) that, when he thinkingly wrote the sentence, "Certain kinds of thinking are pieces of intelligent talking to oneself," he could "no more do the 'thinking' part without the talking (or writing) part than a man can do the being graceful part of walking apart from the walking." This may be true of thinkingly writing the sentence (whatever that means). But it does not follow that one cannot think that certain kinds of thinking are pieces of intelligent talking to oneself without the use of language, though Smart clearly thinks that it does. Of course one cannot thinkingly write without writing. But that is nothing to the point of whether or not we can and do think with or without words. Also, the comparison to graceful walking is not apt. We do, as above shown, sometimes think without words or symbols, while no cases of grace without behavior are known.

Now it is very certainly true that some processes clearly involving thinking as described above depend for their occurrence upon linguistic behavior and the sensible signs which it involves, for example, the processes of learning algebra or the history of the Basques, or learning how to counsel emotionally upset persons. But it is to be noted that these are not themselves processes of thinking, but rather are extremely complex processes involving all kinds of events and entities other than language and other than thinking--e.g., feelings, perceptions, buildings, other persons, days and nights, books, and so on. None of these processes is a process of thinking; and for that reason alone it is invalid to infer from them that thinking is linguistic behavior, or that one thinks with language. What is essential to things or events of a certain sort must be shown essential to them taken by themselves, not in combination with many other things. With reference to the involved processes in question, it might be more appropriate (though it would still be wrong) to say--as some have said in recent years--that we live in or with language. Nevertheless, it is certain that some kind of dependence relation--probably similar to feedback mechanisms--exists between linguistic processes and their sensuous signs, on the one hand, and certain sequences of t-states on the other. What, exactly, this relation <132> of dependence is continues to be veiled by, among other things, a priori assumptions about what thinking and language must be and do. One such assumption is that which holds thinking essentially to be an operation with signs or symbols, or doing something with--or in--linguistic processes or entities.

The view that we (necessarily) think without language is, today, regarded as so outlandish as not to merit serious consideration. But this is not due to a lack of arguments to support it. My object here has been to focus upon certain arguments purporting to show the absurdity of thinking in language. The main points in these arguments are: Thinking does occur without any accompanying language whatsoever, and thus shows itself not to be a power or act of managing linguistic signs, once it is clear what such a sign is. Thinking, as distinct from behavioral processes involving it, can do nothing to signs or symbols, and hence can do nothing with them.


NOTES

  1. See for example, Ramsey's Foundations of Mathematics, p. 138, and Kneale's remarks in Feigl and Sellars, Readings in Philosophical Analysis, p. 42. Return to text.
  2. See S. Morris Engel, "Thought and Language," Dialogue, Vol. 3, 1964, 160-170; Jerome Shaffer, "Recent Work on the Mind-Body Problem," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. II, 1965, esp. p. 83; R. Kirk, "Rationality Without Language," Mind, 1967, pp. 369-368; G. Ryle, "A Puzzling Element in the Notion of Thinking," in Studies in the Philosophy of Thought and Action, P. F. Strawson, ed., (Oxford: 1968), pp. 7-23. Interesting remarks on the issues here are also found in Bruce Aune's Knowledge, Mind and Nature, chap. VIII and H. H. Price's Thinking and Experience, Chap. X.  See also Wm. James, "Thought Before Language; A Deaf Mute's Recollections," Mind, Vol. I, 1892; and see Wittgenstein's comments on this in Philosophical Investigations, No. 342. Return to text.
  3. I use only think here, for simplicity; but think that and other structures of such intentional states (and sequences thereof) might also be mentioned. Specifically, I would also wish to hold that instances of thinking that, in the sense of inferring or puzzling something out, occur in the absence of appropriate linguistic entities or activities. Return to text.


TOPICS: Philosophy
KEYWORDS: consciousness; dallaswillard; epistemology; faithandphilosophy; godsgravesglyphs; intelligence; intention; intentionality; language; linguistics; metaphysics; mind; ontology; psychology; semantics; semasiology; semiotics; sense; thinking; thought; willard
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To: unspun
the generation, maintenance and correlation of our "concepts" by "intentions, as Dr. Willard would say (first the intention to regard the things we regard, then the intention to do somthing further about it)? We don't need metaphorical symbology for that,"

Ohh,? You don't need metaphoric symbology for that? The 'intention' to 'do' something isn't a metaphoric construct from past experience that a given 'cause' resulted in a given 'effect' and that 'metaphorically' such cause and effect will be implied, by metaphor, to the next 'intention'?

The very concept of 'intention' requires metaphor. Only by analogy can such intention be considered valid, 'it worked before, THEREFORE it will work again.'

If A then B
A Therefore B

1,251 posted on 01/18/2004 11:12:20 PM PST by LogicWings
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To: unspun
Furthermore, one can consider states/conditions such as "warmth," or "harm," or "goodness," or "love," without the engagements of either words or other symbols (although we are often very quick to attach such symbols to them).

Depends upon what you mean by 'consider.' If you mean "recollect" "recall" "remember" "conceptualize" "recept" "think about" "examine" "contemplate" or any host of other regurgitations, then no, you cannot do this without symbols.

The human mind can not be demonstrated to operate without symbols, metaphors, concepts, maps. One cannot prove such, without resorting to them, thus proving the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept.

1,252 posted on 01/18/2004 11:19:06 PM PST by LogicWings
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To: RightWhale
Language means, in its etymological root, tongue, which means spoken.

I will grant you the narrow meaning. But think for a moment of deaf people (of which I have no meager experience.) They communicate by a physical expression that is not 'tongue.'

The movie "The Miracle Worker" about Helen Keller makes this so very clear. It is the metaphoric hand movement, W-A-T-E-R -- that is a symbol for the actual experience that makes Helen a "human being" and not an animal. It began, and required, a single symbol.

And what of mathematics? That represents sub-atomic realities that cannot be described in words? Yet are symbolically represented in mathematical symbols.

But dance, music, architecture, drama in itself, are art and not articulate forms of expression but aesthetic forms.

And this is not correct. Every movement in Hula corresponds to a spoken word. This is true of many other dances, they are, in the true sense, 'languages.'

To say that architecture is not an "articulate form" when it is responsible for the building you sit in at this very moment is to completely miss the power of the art.

Think of all the words required to carry out the directions of this 'art' and you might understand your error here.

Architecture, like so many things, is a high level abstraction, thus it seems divorced from language, symbology, metaphor and conceptual development, but it is not.

It is a language, as is dance, as is some art, as is martial arts, as is so many non-verbal practices.

This is the real problem. The ability to understand the relationship to the underlying concepts subsumed by higher level abstractions. Sometimes abstractions are many times removed from their basic conceptual roots.

I was watching one of those "America's Funniest Videos" because my wife loves to watch them. There was this little kid. His first fruit must have been an apple.

Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana
Kid: Apple
Dad: Banana

and this went on and on. I remember my sister, for months, everything that had 4 legs was a 'dog.'

We forget the endless repetition that was required to get us to understand the simplest concepts, the simplest symbols.

How much harder is it to understand a second or third or fourth level abstract like 'drama?' That isn't separate from language - dude! It is utterly dependent upon it. An aesthetic form is no less a language than the spoken word, because it is utterly dependent upon it.

1,253 posted on 01/18/2004 11:49:23 PM PST by LogicWings
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To: js1138
Noam Chomsky would probably buy it.

Noam Chomsky couldn't understand the concept of logic it requires.

If it was written down it must be true.

You know, I try to just talk about stuff, and I get so tired of smart asses. Like those that accuse me of being arrogant FIRST and then complain when I call them clowns.

I never initiate insults. This was uncalled for. All kinds of people say all kinds of stuff here, it is for mutual enlightenment.

Actually, I have long believed that logic is imposed by reality. I was just heartened to see someone else express the idea. It is a fact that cannot be refuted without resorting to it in the refutation, thus proving it true.

Setting aside sarcasm

little late for that.

1,254 posted on 01/18/2004 11:59:16 PM PST by LogicWings
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To: LogicWings
Drama is the highest form of art. Art is play, and so it could include play with language. Drama would also include dance, music, chorale, architecture, and representative arts. The source of language is the spoken word. How it then becomes represented in symbols such as arrangements of ink and ASCII code is a matter for linguists. There are two sides to experience--the rational and the aesthetic. Art by nature is heavily aesthetic. Is language then a heavily rational complement to art? Does logic have anything to do with language?

Does language have anything to do with logic? At this point I would say language uses logic as drama uses painted backdrops--it's incidental to the main presentation.

1,255 posted on 01/19/2004 10:54:50 AM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: LogicWings
Interesting that you think I should refrain from criticizing you, but you accuse Chomsky of being deficient in logic -- one of the few areas in which he is universally acknowledged to be an expert.

The article starting the thread could have been written by Chomsky.

As for your response to my sarcasm, I can only hope you get a life someday. Sarcasm is a reasoned response. It take a premise and extends it to the necessary conclusion.
1,256 posted on 01/19/2004 11:14:46 AM PST by js1138
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To: js1138
Sarcasm is a reasoned response.

A-ha, I knew it!

1,257 posted on 01/19/2004 12:34:18 PM PST by balrog666 (Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.)
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To: balrog666; js1138
Sarcasm is a reasoned response.

A-ha, I knew it!

As citizens we are required to be reasonable. This is a distinction from being rational. Reasonable and rational are now divided and are not totally synonymical. We must always be reasonable; sometimes we could be rational and unreasonable but should not be so in the interests of agreeable society.

1,258 posted on 01/19/2004 2:16:41 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: VadeRetro
When all the terms in a long paragraph have some very broad range of interpretation, the whole thing essentially doesn't mean anything at all.

I hate to be found agreeing with an empiricist, but amen to this. I couldn't read past the first paragraph.

1,259 posted on 01/19/2004 2:30:08 PM PST by Taliesan
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To: Taliesan
I hate to be found agreeing with an empiricist, but amen to this.

Stuff happens. And once again, old threads never die.

1,260 posted on 01/19/2004 3:47:47 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RightWhale

Drama is the highest form of art. Art is play, and so it could include play with language. Drama would also include dance, music, chorale, architecture, and representative arts.

Ok, we have a series of opinions here. Drama could include all those things but doesn’t necessarily. Even if it does, doesn’t mean that it is the highest form, if it is dependent upon other elements, such a logic.

The source of language is the spoken word.

Actually, not so. The source of language is the ability to create metaphors. The mind’s ability to represent one ‘thing’ with another symbolic ‘thing’ is the true source of language. The result is language which is symbolic metaphor.

How it then becomes represented in symbols such as arrangements of ink and ASCII code is a matter for linguists.

You can kiss it off to that field if you wish but I‘m not so lazy. Many other philosophers and economists also have addressed this field because it has more importance than you relegate it here. It is a matter of how our minds work, processes information, and I’m not leaving that to anybody else. Epistemology is one of the most important fields there is. Try and explain anything without relying upon it. Or upon logic.

There are two sides to experience--the rational and the aesthetic.

False dichotomy. There are many facets to experience, more than just those two sides. And I admit no separation among any of them. Anymore than there is any separation of a single diamond simply because it splits the white light of the sun’s spirit into a rainbow of colors. I incorporate the rational, the emotional, the aesthetic and the spiritual all in my being and consciousness all at the same time. If others can’t do this, that is their problem.

Art by nature is heavily aesthetic.

Ok, (I don’t agree, I don’t even know what you mean by ’heavily’, but if I accept your premise) follow the next sentences.

Is language then a heavily rational complement to art? Does logic have anything to do with language?

Now, I ask you, define aesthetic without resorting to logic. Identify the concept in a manner that is in common so that anyone can understand it, without resorting to the A is A requirements of logic.

So the answer is, of course it does, it is the basis of language.

Without the A is A metaphor that relates the word aesthetic to the high level abstract represented by that word, it would have no meaning. The A that is represented by all the elements you described: dance, music, chorale, architecture, (and you forgot language)

is all represented by the A that is the word drama.

At this point I would say language uses logic as drama uses painted backdrops--it's incidental to the main presentation.

Without logic there would be no main presentation at all. None of it would have any meaning since all meaning is metaphor and all metaphor is logic. In other words, there would be NoThing. There would be no drama.

Thus logic is the stage, the curtains, the words, the script, the backdrop, the notes that make up the score, the position of the dancers, the number of steps they take for each bar of music, the placement of the nails that holds up the backdrop so it doesn’t fall down, and more important than anything you mentioned - the timing, moment by moment, of the script, of who walks on and says what when that requires a complete identity of each player, part, tune and moment to properly construct the ultimate production.

1,261 posted on 01/22/2004 12:46:21 AM PST by LogicWings
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Bump for reading later... when I wake up...
1,262 posted on 01/22/2004 12:51:41 AM PST by Bon mots
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To: js1138
you accuse Chomsky of being deficient in logic -- one of the few areas in which he is universally acknowledged to be an expert.

Depends upon you who ask. Chomsky is not universally acknowledged by many to be anything but a socialist idiot. Try the former socialist, now conservative, David Horowitz for an example.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/

As for your response to my sarcasm, I can only hope you get a life someday. Sarcasm is a reasoned response.

The last year of my life has been absolutely incredible, which is why none of you have the least affect on me. If you knew what my life currently was, you would be embarrased by this comment.

As a young man I was very sarcastic and lost many friends because of it. It is a mark of insecurity. I have gladly given it up and am far better off for it, and I would recommend the same to you. You will be much happier for it, please believe me.

1,263 posted on 01/22/2004 1:00:35 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: LogicWings
Ohh,? You don't need metaphoric symbology for that? The 'intention' to 'do' something isn't a metaphoric construct from past experience that a given 'cause' resulted in a given 'effect' and that 'metaphorically' such cause and effect will be implied, by metaphor, to the next 'intention'?

You stretch the definition of metaphor. "Ouch! Hot!" has no necessity to be a metaphor. It is sense, hopefully sense of reality.

1,264 posted on 01/24/2004 6:15:02 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: LogicWings
See prior comment. I do not take the bait of being required to have the burden of proof.
1,265 posted on 01/24/2004 6:16:18 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: LogicWings; RightWhale
Even if all our thoughts would require symbols to reflect upon "things" and we use a kind of "language" for all complex thoughts, that does not mean we think in language.

A juggler juggles objects outside of himself. His juggling is of them, not in them. What he does he does in himself.

So our intentions are made in one's intentional self, while they apply themselves to considerations, including all senses and concepts.
1,266 posted on 01/24/2004 6:23:40 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
Philosophy is nothing more than the art of talking people into believing something whether it be true or not. It is how we were cowed into accepting the argument of global warming. The conclusions drawn from an argument are only as good as the supporting statements or facts that go into the argument. As with Democrat spin, leave out the classified information the public is unaware of and the public can be led one way. Include classified data that democrats are aware of, and it shows them for the liars they are - as has been displayed since Bush took office. There are philosophers and there are sophists. And largely the two can't discern between themselves as there isn't much difference to be had among them. Boil it all down and it comes to this: Philosophy is the way that men artfully wrap their theories in flowery language to make people buy their conclusions without the benefit of any facts on which to stand - or from the philosopher's standpoint with the benefit of no facts to confront them and show them a liar.

One thing that Hitler used to great advantage is the notion that given a complex truth or a simple lie, it is easier to pass off the simple lie as people won't think hard enough to consider the complex truth. The bolder the lie, the more likely it is to be believed. And all walks fall prey to it out of laziness among other things. Civil law, religious doctrine, scientific theory.. sophistry. Kill all the lawyers? No. The point is lost - the aim was at sophistry and the lawyers were just good example of it. Get the sophists and you may still find some lawyers about - they'll be the ones you could trust with your wife and your money. Ok, maybe just your money. I'm with my cousin in that regard, I'll trust a man with my money or my life but never with my wife. lol
1,267 posted on 01/24/2004 6:38:59 PM PST by Havoc ("Alright; but, that only counts as one..")
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To: Havoc
Philosophy, properly applied is exactly that which eliminates lies, provided one maintains true fundamentals. The scientific process subsumes it.
1,268 posted on 01/25/2004 10:22:55 AM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
That is the argument from philosophers. The truth is demonstrably different in that religion is philosophy, There are thousands of different religious theories out their competing and, given their conclusions, they cannot and are not all correct. Yet their philosophies, well argued though they may be, all claim to be true. To these people just as in science and politics, truth is in the eye of the beholder. And no truth is more sacred than the one they agreed to and decided to believe. When blind belief is the ultimate driving force, factual certainty is not relevant. Global warming, the assumption of Mary, devotions to Budha, little winged men on the moon, Prosperity through taxation... these are all philosophical theory and the only thing that differentiates one from another for believability is the approach and the mindset.
One is about as believeable as the next as they all lack any real foundation other than opinion. Yet they are all sacred cows in one way or another. One can name these things off readily and near infinitely. These just popped right off the top of my head. We can all generate endless lists of these things that are believed, but have no real basis in fact. They are "holy" opinion which cannot be so readily dismissed by the groups that believe them. And that is the travesty of which we are warned about of the sophists. "learned opinion" can be sold to anyone lazy enough not to bother with details and the facts on the ground. This is why hitler got by with as much as he did.


1,269 posted on 01/25/2004 2:56:36 PM PST by Havoc ("Alright; but, that only counts as one..")
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To: Havoc
Thanks for your concern. I'll go by what was "seen by our own eyes," as John the son of Zebedee said.

Falsities hardly disprove a truth, by their conflicting statements.
1,270 posted on 01/25/2004 3:08:37 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
When supposition is the basis for calling something truth, it is not truth, it is supposition. Whatever opposes it at that level nee not arise any higher than supposition in order to beg the level of believability. Any fact opposing said supposition would become the immoveable force by which said supposition could not pass into believeability; but, often does anyway through repeating the supposition as fact and ignoring opposing facts or suppositions. This is called fallacy. But the art of raising fallacy to be regarded as truth is the modality of philosophy and thusly termed sophistry. I realize that pees on your wheaties; but, that's not my problem.
1,271 posted on 01/25/2004 5:27:29 PM PST by Havoc ("Alright; but, that only counts as one..")
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To: Havoc
Don't worry H, I'm a toasted oats man. Here, someone with your interests might enjoy the books listed here.
1,272 posted on 01/25/2004 5:43:07 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
Don't need Arguments for Christianity. Already have that settled in my life. We're talking about philosophy. Christianity and philosophical thought are incompatible. Something the errant are too blind and rebellious to see or understand. Oh well, enjoy the oats, I like 'em too with a little Sorgum Molasses ;)
1,273 posted on 01/25/2004 8:51:31 PM PST by Havoc ("Alright; but, that only counts as one..")
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To: Havoc
We agree on oats and sorgum. Christianity provides a metaphysical basis for the logic and observation of philosophy. I'll grant you philosophy as used throughout the ages (especially the modern age) on the other hand provides many means of conflicting sound premeses and logic both.
1,274 posted on 01/26/2004 8:23:01 AM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
You stretch the definition of metaphor. "Ouch! Hot!" has no necessity to be a metaphor. It is sense, hopefully sense of reality.

No, I don't stretch it at all. You don't understand how your own mind works. It is all metaphor, everything you think you know is a metaphor mapping of reality by your brain - to the reality that is 'out there.'

The 'concept' of "ouch" and "hot" IS a metaphor for the experience of sensation. THAT is the point. You cannot deny this without relying upon the very concepts, the very same metaphors, that are needed to assert the denial. THINK ABOUT THAT!!!

All concepts of "cause and effect" are, by definition, metaphors. And there is no action that you, as an individual, can take, that doesn't imply reliance upon this metaphor.

This is Absolute, and Absolutely dependent upon logic.

If I drink water I will survive,
If I don't I will die,
Therefore, to survive I will drink water.

Every day of your life, every decision you make, implies both the metaphor of concept and logic. If you step in front of the truck you die, If you ask the girl out - you might get laid, If you ask the boss for a raise you might get more money, If you pray to God He might save your soul, If you quit your job you might become homeless.

If Then, If Then, If Then,
All metaphors, all logic.

To use your example

Why do I care if anything is "hot" or "ouch"?

That means that I have prior experience that contacting such a thing will result in "hot" or "ouch".

The cause and effect metaphor comes into play, (since the prior experience didnt' kill you,) and I postulate that,

This is "hot"
Hot things make me "ouch"
Therefore, If I touch this, I will "ouch"

This is all metaphor.

In the final analysis, the subject is epistemology. It is the most important, and neglected, branch of science, and philosophy.
How we know what we know, and this is most of what you miss.

That, is the problem.

1,275 posted on 02/03/2004 4:03:28 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: LogicWings
No, I don't stretch it at all. You don't understand how your own mind works. It is all metaphor, everything you think you know is a metaphor mapping of reality by your brain - to the reality that is 'out there.'

That gets to be an ontological question as well as epistemologic. I don't agree that one can make the inductive leap that you make and call it a law of knowledge.

Knowledge is relational and I believe it may be shown that relationships and the knowledge involved in them run beyond what we understand as the physical functioning of the brain.

But, thank you for spelling out your own belief about knowledge.

1,276 posted on 02/03/2004 7:33:03 AM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
Thinking is basically 'consideration' in action.
1,277 posted on 02/03/2004 7:38:37 AM PST by GigaDittos (Bumper sticker: "Vote Democrat, it's easier than getting a job.")
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To: Mike Darancette
Maybe the language which he may have thought in, were pictures of the words he was thinking of.
1,278 posted on 02/03/2004 7:41:24 AM PST by GigaDittos (Bumper sticker: "Vote Democrat, it's easier than getting a job.")
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To: LogicWings
How about sexy! Hot!
1,279 posted on 02/03/2004 7:43:22 AM PST by GigaDittos (Bumper sticker: "Vote Democrat, it's easier than getting a job.")
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To: RightWhale
I believe f.Christian is no longer exploring semantic creativity on FR

Nobody by that name.



1,280 posted on 02/03/2004 8:27:21 AM PST by TigerTale (From the streets of Tehran to the Gulf of Oman, let freedom ring.)
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To: TigerTale
Thanks. Things happen fast in the modern world, and even faster on FR.
1,281 posted on 02/03/2004 9:10:43 AM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: unspun
That gets to be an ontological question as well as epistemologic. I don't agree that one can make the inductive leap that you make and call it a law of knowledge.

Not accurate at all. I don't rely on induction hardly at all, only in specific cases. In this case I am relying almost totally on deduction. But, granting your point, if you reject the argument, then the word "believe" has no meaning. If you don't exist, there is no one to "believe" anything (ontology). And if you don't have an epistemology, then you don't "know" anything, including what you "believe."

Knowledge is relational

This statement is an absolute, which is dependent upon "Epistemology." So, if what you say is true, then this statement is invalid, since all knowledge is "relational" and the knowledge about "Knowledge is relational" is also relational. Your premise refutes itself.

I believe it may be shown that relationships and the knowledge involved in them run beyond what we understand as the physical functioning of the brain.

I don't care what you "believe." I especially don't want public policy being instituted according to what you "believe." And it isn't possible to demonstrate that anything you understand "runs beyond the physical functioning of the brain." It is not possible to demonstrate that any thought is "beyond the physical funtioning of the brain" - and for you, with your physical brain, to think it.

You have no right to demand that the rest of us live by what you "believe." Especially since none of this can be demonstrated to be "true."

But, thank you for spelling out your own belief about knowledge.

And thank you for spelling out what you don't.

1,282 posted on 02/05/2004 12:01:43 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: LogicWings
And thank you for spelling out what you don't.

Exactly! And, you're welcome.

1,283 posted on 02/05/2004 9:07:17 AM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: LogicWings; betty boop; Alamo-Girl; logos; Heartlander; Anybody; All; spirit
Knowledge is relational....

This statement is an absolute, which is dependent upon "Epistemology." So, if what you say is true, then this statement is invalid, since all knowledge is "relational" and the knowledge about "Knowledge is relational" is also relational. Your premise refutes itself.

Hardly true, because the relationality of knowledge need not occur soley within a closed loop physical universe. (But of course, you've heard that over and over again, so this is an exercise for amusement.) In fact, I'm told by the source of all, with whom all is either aptly related or dead, that none of us occur solely within a closed loop physical universe. That source Himself is The Premise of course, not that "all knowldedge is relational." All knowledge is simply, like everything else, an effect of what is (or has been) related to God.

I can't take credit for my; you do me much too much honor, LW, no, please don't worship me....

1,284 posted on 02/05/2004 2:51:42 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: LogicWings; Anybody; All; spirit; betty boop; Alamo-Girl; GigaDittos; Havoc; Bon mots; js1138; ...
Knowledge is relational....

This statement is an absolute, which is dependent upon "Epistemology." So, if what you say is true, then this statement is invalid, since all knowledge is "relational" and the knowledge about "Knowledge is relational" is also relational. Your premise refutes itself.

Oh fiddle dee dee -- because the relationality of knowledge need not occur soley within a closed loop physical universe. (But of course, you've heard that over and over again, so this is an exercise in our amusement.) In fact, lean closer... I'm told by the source of all, with whom all is either aptly related or dead, that none of us occur solely within a closed loop physical universe. That source Himself is The Premise of course, not that "all knowldedge is relational." All knowledge is simply, like everything else, an effect of what is (or has been) related to God.

I can't take credit for my premise; you do me much too much honor, LW, no, please don't worship me....

Neither do I suggest that one imposes the rules of {the order he knows} upon that which very effectively demonstrates that He has fashioned the place we call "order" and as is His want, sets His feet upon that stool. You can ask Him about it, though.

Forgive my metaphor if you will, FRiend.

Hi everybody... though our "tongues will cease," apparently our thinking goes on.

1,285 posted on 02/05/2004 3:06:52 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: unspun
Thank you so very much for the ping to your excellent post!

Neither do I suggest that one imposes the rules of {the order he knows} upon that which very effectively demonstrates that He has fashioned the place we call "order" and as is His want, sets His feet upon that stool. You can ask Him about it, though.

Beautiful, unspun! So very true.

1,286 posted on 02/05/2004 9:16:52 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

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Note: this topic is from May 23, 2003. Thanks unspun.

Blast from the Past.

Not just adding to the catalog, pinging everyone as well. 2003 people.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
 

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· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·


1,287 posted on 10/01/2010 6:49:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Democratic Underground... matters are worse, as their latest fund drive has come up short...)
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To: Servant of the Nine

The map is not the territory.


1,288 posted on 10/01/2010 11:46:12 PM PDT by 1010RD (First Do No Harm)
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To: unspun
the very conception of thinking in or with language involves an absurdity.

The verbalization of the statement destroys its own hypothesis.

Of course we often think in language. Some people have very great difficulty thinking abstractly, i.e. nonverbally. The difficulty that is common among English students with mathematics or physics or representational arts (architectural design) is exactly because some folks have difficulty thinking other than verbally. I knew an English major who could only do mathematics by reducing it first to English.

1,289 posted on 10/02/2010 4:57:09 AM PDT by AndyJackson
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To: AndyJackson
Thanks for the ping. I wouldn't minimize your observations.

I "think" though, that the author would distinguish thinking in language from thinking by the use of language. Analogy: to move from room to room, one naturally and even subconsciously walks there. But in fact, there are many other ways to motivate one's body, to get to the next room. It is the "intentional state" of desiring to move, that causes, directs, integrates, and guides the motion.

He is saying that the basic process of thinking is by its nature, not a process of semiotics and tongue -- that thinking has more dimensions than linguistics and is a process of its own at the core.

"I think, therefore I..." use language.

To press the point further, I'm confident he is arguing for the human soul -- and doing a good job of it.

1,290 posted on 10/02/2010 8:21:30 AM PDT by unspun (It's the Sovereignty, Stu... um... art. | WE ARE GULAG BOUND)
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To: unspun
I am a physicist and one of the most abstract and "intuitive" thinkers that I know. Much of what I think, is not verbalized when I think it. But, once I try to express it in language I will apply different throught processes, using language, than I had originally used, and in the process, the content of the thought changes and needs to change because much of what I intuited was actually quit wrong which I discover when I subject it to linguistic reasoning.

Moreover, much of what I think I would not have thought without language. The concepts of the US Constitution are not expressible without words. Judicial reasoning, at least traditionally sound judicial reasoning before left wing whiners took charge, is verbal reasoning.

1,291 posted on 10/02/2010 9:35:49 AM PDT by AndyJackson
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To: AndyJackson

Thank you, AJ.

You are describing thinking using the discipline of logic, most conveniently applied through using language.

And when you did so, you thought to use it.

Perhaps that was subconsciously conceived, but that also is a clue to that which thought, in essence, is, at its core: reflection, impetus, and intention, based upon observation.


1,292 posted on 10/03/2010 8:39:32 AM PDT by unspun (It's the Sovereignty, Stu... um... art. | WE ARE GULAG BOUND)
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To: Servant of the Nine
"If you want objective, read " Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics" by Alfred Korzybski. This paper is nothing but subjective twaddle."

There is also a good volume calledl "Thinking As A Science," by Henry Hazlitt. I got my copy from the Mises Institute Website.

1,293 posted on 10/03/2010 12:22:39 PM PDT by redhead (Abortion: The number one killer of human beings. Period.)
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