Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

What did you say? And what did you mean by it?

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Wyman
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Wyman » Wed May 20, 2020 2:07 am

Absolutely. Einstein developed his theories only to later painstakingly put them into words.

Belinda
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Belinda » Wed May 20, 2020 8:57 am

Wyman wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 2:07 am
Absolutely. Einstein developed his theories only to later painstakingly put them into words.
But mathematics is linguistic The symbols of maths, unlike those in everyday social language, have fixed meanings. It's nevertheless a form of language which enables you to sort ideas and express ideas as formulas arrived at by deduction.

seeds
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by seeds » Thu May 21, 2020 1:16 am

_______

As it pertains to the topic of this thread, I kind of like what I once heard Terrence McKenna say in one of his recorded lectures:
Terrence McKenna wrote:“Thought cannot go where the roads of language have not been built.”
However, there does seem to be a loose exception to that rule.

For instance, the endless parade of random mental objects that, for no specific reason, are constantly appearing before the eye my mind,...

(the image or “thought” of a basketball, for example)

...do not seem to require any form of language to initiate their appearance.

They (the mental images) simply appear out of nowhere first, to which I then employ the use of language to identify what I am looking at.

So, apparently, at least in that particular situation, thinking (or being consciously aware of individual mental objects) may not require language.
_______

Belinda
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Belinda » Thu May 21, 2020 1:05 pm

Seeds, I think when you think "Basketball" you think of a set of concepts, of attributes of basketball that you have been taught by way of language. My personal concept of basketball is impoverished compared with someone who is interested in the game or something, and I immediately conceive of who I used to know who played basketball long ago. I could not do this train of consciousness without symbols linguistic symbols to represent visual memories and affects.

A dog can be taught 'basketball' when that sound causes the dog to react to the sound. But humans, although sometimes we react to stimuli, can not only react but also reflect to a high degree of complex abstraction.Reflecting on some matter to a high degree of abstraction is impossible without a really good symbolic system to mediate the ideas.

commonsense
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by commonsense » Thu May 21, 2020 7:26 pm

seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 1:16 am
They (the mental images) simply appear out of nowhere first, to which I then employ the use of language to identify what I am looking at.
The images are symbols for the real object. As such, these symbols are elements of language that have already been assigned to the real object to begin with. In other words, even before one “applies language” to identify the object, the language used to make the identification must already be in place.

seeds
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by seeds » Thu May 21, 2020 9:16 pm

Belinda wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 1:05 pm
Seeds, I think when you think "Basketball" you think of a set of concepts, of attributes of basketball that you have been taught by way of language.
Belinda, yes, I can agree with that.

When you purposely “think” of the word “basketball,” a virtual flood of associated (learned) information can come pouring in.

However, in the example I used, I wasn’t thinking of a basketball prior to its appearance.

In the example, the singular image of a basketball simply appears - for no reason - in my inner field of vision. In which case, the set of associated concepts (taught to me by way of language) comes after the ball is already encountered.

The point is (as it applies to the thread title), a “thought”...

(i.e., the holographic-like mental image of a basketball, or an apple, or a car, etc.)

...can randomly appear before the mind’s eye without using language to summon (or create) the thought.

Let’s take a quick look at the commonly understood definition of the word “language”:
The Dictionary wrote: lan•guage
noun
  • 1. the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Now with that highly specific definition in mind, then another way of approaching this issue is in how the image of a young mother’s face is imprinted upon the mind of an infant. Does the infant require “language” (as strictly defined above) in order to think of (or dream of) its mother’s image?
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Last edited by seeds on Thu May 21, 2020 10:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

commonsense
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by commonsense » Thu May 21, 2020 9:29 pm

seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 9:16 pm
However, in the example I used, I wasn’t thinking of a basketball prior to its appearance.
Fair enough. I am retracting my previous post.

commonsense
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by commonsense » Thu May 21, 2020 9:42 pm

commonsense wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 7:26 pm
seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 1:16 am
They (the mental images) simply appear out of nowhere first, to which I then employ the use of language to identify what I am looking at.
The images are symbols for the real object. As such, these symbols are elements of language that have already been assigned to the real object to begin with. In other words, even before one “applies language” to identify the object, the language used to make the identification must already be in place.
On second thought: the fact that language exists doesn’t mean that it must be used in order to think. So, language is not necessary for thoughts to occur.

seeds
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by seeds » Thu May 21, 2020 10:49 pm

commonsense wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 9:42 pm
commonsense wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 7:26 pm
seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 1:16 am
They (the mental images) simply appear out of nowhere first, to which I then employ the use of language to identify what I am looking at.
The images are symbols for the real object. As such, these symbols are elements of language that have already been assigned to the real object to begin with. In other words, even before one “applies language” to identify the object, the language used to make the identification must already be in place.
On second thought: the fact that language exists doesn’t mean that it must be used in order to think. So, language is not necessary for thoughts to occur.
Hi commonsense,

Yes, that's kind of what I was getting at.

However, you did make some excellent counter-points.
_______

AlexW
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by AlexW » Fri May 22, 2020 2:58 am

seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 9:16 pm
When you purposely “think” of the word “basketball,” a virtual flood of associated (learned) information can come pouring in.

However, in the example I used, I wasn’t thinking of a basketball prior to its appearance.

In the example, the singular image of a basketball simply appears - for no reason - in my inner field of vision. In which case, the set of associated concepts (taught to me by way of language) comes after the ball is already encountered.
I agree, thoughts are not limited to language, only conceptual thought is - there are other thoughts, e.g. the image of a basketball etc...

What I find even more interesting is the realisation that there actually is no separate controlling entity that makes "you purposely “think” of the word “basketball”.
If you actually investigate thought, you will find that there is no such controller, there is only more and more thought talking about such an entity.

To think "basketball" - in language or as an image - simply happens naturally, not because there is a "you" deciding to think the thought, but because the current situation/moment simply "leads to" this thought arising. There is no option - there is no one making a decision to think or not to think a thought - it's simply a conditioned stream of thoughts (and yes, of course this stream is based on past experiences, knowledge, conditioning etc etc... but this stream of thoughts is not under any ones control).

Belinda
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Belinda » Fri May 22, 2020 7:42 am

seeds wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 9:16 pm
Belinda wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 1:05 pm
Seeds, I think when you think "Basketball" you think of a set of concepts, of attributes of basketball that you have been taught by way of language.
Belinda, yes, I can agree with that.

When you purposely “think” of the word “basketball,” a virtual flood of associated (learned) information can come pouring in.

However, in the example I used, I wasn’t thinking of a basketball prior to its appearance.

In the example, the singular image of a basketball simply appears - for no reason - in my inner field of vision. In which case, the set of associated concepts (taught to me by way of language) comes after the ball is already encountered.

The point is (as it applies to the thread title), a “thought”...

(i.e., the holographic-like mental image of a basketball, or an apple, or a car, etc.)

...can randomly appear before the mind’s eye without using language to summon (or create) the thought.


Let’s take a quick look at the commonly understood definition of the word “language”:
The Dictionary wrote: lan•guage
noun
  • 1. the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Now with that highly specific definition in mind, then another way of approaching this issue is in how the image of a young mother’s face is imprinted upon the mind of an infant. Does the infant require “language” (as strictly defined above) in order to think of (or dream of) its mother’s image?
_______
(Holograph! Thanks that's a word I was searching for in order to illustrate some idea but did not even know enough to Google a question.)

"the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way." slides imperceptibly into language as an ideom like music. Poetry depends on similarity of sounds, regularity of rhythm, imagery, sometimes symbolism, and all these are appropriated to express and convey feelings. Everyday sociable language includes, besides the structured and conventional, also sudden swearwords, the tones of a mother to a baby, the disconnected ramblings of somebody in grief or sexual passion, shopping lists, and religious devotional material that often makes no sense.

The mother's face to her baby does seem to be prelinguistic i.e. needs no intervening symbol.I don't know the causal explanation which I guess has a everything to do with neurons and the brain stem.It has been claimed and I think it's true that when the two eyes are added to a previously eyeless picture or sculpture it immediately represents the life form, as if the two eyes is a prelinguistic quale. There is also inherent fear of spiders.

A spontaneous image like your un-called-for basketball is probably caused by involuntary association of ideas.

So while there are activities that can be called not linguistic, use of language while not determining thought's existence does enable thought to be expressed and communicated much better.

seeds
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by seeds » Fri May 22, 2020 9:24 pm

AlexW wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:58 am
I agree, thoughts are not limited to language, only conceptual thought is - there are other thoughts, e.g. the image of a basketball etc...

What I find even more interesting is the realisation that there actually is no separate controlling entity that makes "you purposely “think” of the word “basketball”.
If you actually investigate thought, you will find that there is no such controller, there is only more and more thought talking about such an entity....
Hi AlexW, considering our past conversations, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I completely disagree with that last part.

For example, not only can I purposely create my own (personally autographed) mental image of a basketball, but I can also cover it in green Granny Smith apple skin.

I can then spin that green basketball on the tip of an inwardly created pinky finger just before I slam-dunk it (Michael Jordan style) after running and leaping from the free-throw line.

After that, I can then peel the apple skin from its surface to reveal what appears to be the color and texture of apple pulp, of which I immediately take a bite of, only to discover that it tastes like a banana,...

...to which the old “Chiquita Banana” commercial theme song begins playing in the background, accompanied by a suddenly appearing flash mob of animated bananas and apples who then hoist me up and pass me around like in a mosh pit of a rock concert.

The point is that all of that was designed and orchestrated by me (the “controller”) of the infinitely malleable mental fabric of my own personal mind from which that bizarre scenario was (just now) created for the sake of this reply back to you.

Now if you continue to insist that the preceding (intentional and purposeful) manipulation of thought was simply a situation where, as you stated:
AlexW wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:58 am
...there is no one making a decision to think or not to think a thought - it's simply a conditioned stream of thoughts (and yes, of course this stream is based on past experiences, knowledge, conditioning etc etc... but this stream of thoughts is not under any ones control).
(Bolding mine)

...then I, in turn, will insist that you are merely (and ironically) demonstrating how another “controller” of thoughts (you) is “making a decision” to use your own personal control over thoughts to convince yourself that there is no controller of thoughts.
_______

commonsense
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by commonsense » Fri May 22, 2020 10:25 pm

seeds wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 9:24 pm
AlexW wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:58 am
I agree, thoughts are not limited to language, only conceptual thought is - there are other thoughts, e.g. the image of a basketball etc...

What I find even more interesting is the realisation that there actually is no separate controlling entity that makes "you purposely “think” of the word “basketball”.
If you actually investigate thought, you will find that there is no such controller, there is only more and more thought talking about such an entity....
Hi AlexW, considering our past conversations, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I completely disagree with that last part.

For example, not only can I purposely create my own (personally autographed) mental image of a basketball, but I can also cover it in green Granny Smith apple skin.

I can then spin that green basketball on the tip of an inwardly created pinky finger just before I slam-dunk it (Michael Jordan style) after running and leaping from the free-throw line.

After that, I can then peel the apple skin from its surface to reveal what appears to be the color and texture of apple pulp, of which I immediately take a bite of, only to discover that it tastes like a banana,...

...to which the old “Chiquita Banana” commercial theme song begins playing in the background, accompanied by a suddenly appearing flash mob of animated bananas and apples who then hoist me up and pass me around like in a mosh pit of a rock concert.

The point is that all of that was designed and orchestrated by me (the “controller”) of the infinitely malleable mental fabric of my own personal mind from which that bizarre scenario was (just now) created for the sake of this reply back to you.

Now if you continue to insist that the preceding (intentional and purposeful) manipulation of thought was simply a situation where, as you stated:
AlexW wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:58 am
...there is no one making a decision to think or not to think a thought - it's simply a conditioned stream of thoughts (and yes, of course this stream is based on past experiences, knowledge, conditioning etc etc... but this stream of thoughts is not under any ones control).
(Bolding mine)

...then I, in turn, will insist that you are merely (and ironically) demonstrating how another “controller” of thoughts (you) is “making a decision” to use your own personal control over thoughts to convince yourself that there is no controller of thoughts.
_______
Alex & Seeds, I agree with you both!

Consider this: there is a controller called mind but it is not always necessary for thought to occur.

Such a scenario as the one described can certainly be produced as a result of intentional control.

However, it can also arise from the quiet mind, say, during mindfulness or meditation or when calming the mind at bedtime.

seeds
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by seeds » Fri May 22, 2020 11:23 pm

commonsense wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:25 pm
Alex & Seeds, I agree with you both!

Consider this: there is a controller called mind but it is not always necessary for thought to occur.
That’s true, however, to me, a “mind” is simply the spatial “arena” (or the living ethereal “emulsion,” if you will) where the holographic-like, three-dimensional features of our thoughts and dreams are rendered and displayed.

In which case, the “controller” of thought is something other than the arena.
commonsense wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:25 pm
Such a scenario as the one described can certainly be produced as a result of intentional control.
Not according to AlexW. I mean, if he has already made it quite clear that he dismisses the existence of a “controller” of thought, then what, pray tell, would be the source of “intention”?
commonsense wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:25 pm
However, it can also arise from the quiet mind, say, during mindfulness or meditation or when calming the mind at bedtime.
Agreed.
_______

commonsense
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by commonsense » Fri May 22, 2020 11:57 pm

seeds wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 11:23 pm
commonsense wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:25 pm
Such a scenario as the one described can certainly be produced as a result of intentional control.
Not according to AlexW. I mean, if he has already made it quite clear that he dismisses the existence of a “controller” of thought, then what, pray tell, would be the source of “intention”?
I understand Alex’s position on a controller as well as yours on the mind as arena.

Respectfully I submit that there is a controller, the mind, which by my interpretation is an immaterial but functioning entity.

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