Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

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

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creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:03 am
So you and I have no shared meaning for 'grobmunf'. Is it language or not?
It is language if more than just you knows what it means.
TimeSeeker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by TimeSeeker »

creativesoul wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:06 am
TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:03 am
So you and I have no shared meaning for 'grobmunf'. Is it language or not?
It is language if more than just you knows what it means.
So you can't determine if it is language or not at present? Therefore you can't determine if it's meaningful?
TimeSeeker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by TimeSeeker »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:07 am
creativesoul wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:06 am
TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:03 am
So you and I have no shared meaning for 'grobmunf'. Is it language or not?
It is language if more than just you knows what it means.
So you can't determine if it is language or not at present? Therefore you can't determine if it's meaningful?
The point I am making is that if I am the one who invented the MEANING of the word 'grobmunf' (and I did!) then I am the only one who understands that meaning. Therefore it's not (yet) language. In order to make it language (by your own criteria) I have to TEACH at least one other person the MEANING of 'grobmunf'.

How?
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:06 am
I am saying that language (words) are meaningles in a vacuum. Words on paper contain no meaning!

Words can have intended meaning (from perspective of the person uttering them).
Words can have interpreted meaning (from the perspective of the person interpreting them).

Meaning is not IN the word.
Again... ok. So what?

Do you know what the difference is precisely between intended meaning and interpreted meaning? Do you know what all meaning consists in/of?

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:07 am So you can't determine if it is language or not at present? Therefore you can't determine if it's meaningful?
No.

As I just said, I do not know what it means. I do not know if anyone other than you knows what it means. I do know that if someone else does, then it is language.

It is meaningful if you have drawn a correlation between 'grobmunf' and something else.
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:11 am
The point I am making is that if I am the one who invented the MEANING of the word 'grobmunf' (and I did!) then I am the only one who understands that meaning. Therefore it's not (yet) language. In order to make it language (by your own criteria) I have to TEACH at least one other person the MEANING of 'grobmunf'.

How?
There are multiple ways to teach someone the meaning of a word. All of them involve correlations between the word and something else.
TimeSeeker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by TimeSeeker »

creativesoul wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:16 am As I just said, I do not know what it means. I do not know if anyone other than you knows what it means. I do know that if someone else does, then it is language.

It is meaningful if you have drawn a correlation between 'grobmunf' and something else.
So by the criterion of correlation what do you correlate the meaning of the word 'language' with?
What do you correlate the meaning of the word 'meaning' with?
TimeSeeker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by TimeSeeker »

You said: Inventing language allows expression.
You also said: Language requires shared meaning.
You also said: All language is meaningful.

I invented "grobmunf".

You admitted that you can't determine if it's language or not.

So - did I invent language or not? If 'grobmunf' is not language then what is it?
If 'grobmunf' is not language then am I expressing myself?
Walker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Walker »

Here’s a good example of knowing without language.

First the knowing which doesn't require language.
Then, the thinking about the knowing, which does require language.

You just know that something here is fishy.
Body language, the eyes, the chutzpah, the intellectual vacuity …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1HdDywCi6k
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:28 am You said: Inventing language allows expression.
You also said: Language requires shared meaning.
You also said: All language is meaningful.

I invented "grobmunf".

You admitted that you can't determine if it's language or not.

So - did I invent language or not? If 'grobmunf' is not language then what is it?
If 'grobmunf' is not language then am I expressing myself?
When I wrote "inventing language allows expression" I was following your lead. That's the first step in considering another's position. I was merely using what you had already invoked... the notion of inventing language. That said...

If "grobmunf" is a part of a correlation you've drawn between it and something else, then it is meaningful. I've said this already. If another person shares that meaning, then it is also the case that that person has drawn the same or a similar enough correlation between "grobmunf" and whatever else your correlation consists of.

If "grobmunf" is not part of a plurality of thinking/believing creatures' correlation(s), then it is not language. It can still be an elemental constituent of one's thought/belief. It can still be meaningful. If "grobmunf" is not language, then if you use it in a normal manner, you're still expressing your own thought/belief, for "grobmunf" is a part of that.

Here's the curious thing by my lights...

We are - here and now - involved in a metacognitive endeavor. There are some thought, some belief, some meaning. and some presupposition of correspondence that is prior to language, and thus cannot be existentially dependent upon neither language nor our account here.

What exactly is the difference between what you say meaning is, and how you say it works and your account thereof?

:mrgreen:
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:21 am
creativesoul wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:16 am As I just said, I do not know what it means. I do not know if anyone other than you knows what it means. I do know that if someone else does, then it is language.

It is meaningful if you have drawn a correlation between 'grobmunf' and something else.
So by the criterion of correlation what do you correlate the meaning of the word 'language' with?
What do you correlate the meaning of the word 'meaning' with?
The question is ill-formed. On my view, one does not correlate meaning. Meaningful thought/belief is the product of drawing correlation(s) between different things.
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:58 am
creativesoul wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:56 am What makes "X" meaningful. What makes "X" language? Let X be "grobmunf".

That's two questions, each with a different answer. The criterion for being meaningful is different than the criterion for being language.

What's your point here?
My point is that where you have drawn impermeable lines between the criteria for meaning and language I have not.
That's not true. I've drawn no such lines. There is a distinction to be drawn and maintained between meaning and language. The latter is always existentially dependent upon the former, but not the other way around. I've already been clearly arguing for exactly how that's the case.

TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:58 amIt needs to satisfy ALL those criteria! It needs to be communicable for it to be meaningful, for it to be language for it to be expression.
I reject this. In fact, you yourself have said that you've expressed "grobmunf" despite the fact that only you know what it means. So... you've reached incoherency. How do you reconcile this apparent self-contradiction?
creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

Walker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 12:45 pm Here’s a good example of knowing without language.

First the knowing which doesn't require language.
Then, the thinking about the knowing, which does require language.

You just know that something here is fishy.
Body language, the eyes, the chutzpah, the intellectual vacuity …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1HdDywCi6k
I do not think that this is relevant here. Some 'knowing' is nothing more than innate ability to do something or other. Therefore, some 'knowing' does not include nor require thinking...

The thread asks if it is possible to think without language.
Averroes
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by Averroes »

TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am Not sure where you study, but in my field (real-world problem solving) step 1 is conceptualising the problem. Step 2 is asking why it is a problem. And MAYBE step 3 is defining the problem. Definitions/language are not important until you start the collaborative process.
Much before that! I meant the beginning for all of us! So, I had said the following:
Averroes wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:49 am However, there is no problem in stating tautological propositions as they are always true. For example, all definitions are tautologies, and we all have to start with these in whatever field of study we might be in!
Before any of us learn how to read and write, we first learn how to speak. We come to know of the meaning of the names of objects (called nouns in language) through the ostensive definition.

Prof. Noam Chomsky has said something very interesting on that in an interview in 1989, which is available on YouTube. I have transcribed the important part that concern the subject I am addressing:

Excerpt of interview of Noam Chomsky interviewed by Al Page in 1989.
Prof. Noam Chomsky wrote:(...) But there is something about human children that gets them to grow the language that’s roughly that of their peers. It is a very rich system. (…) They [the children] don’t try, they cannot prevent themselves from doing it, and they cannot make it happen. The parents can enrich [that]. Anyone who has a two year old, knows that the kid is running around all over the place and trying to find out what the name of everything is. [The child asking:] what’s that, what’s that, what’s that! Then you [the parents] can help them and you can read to the children and show them pictures, and they are all fascinated with it.

There are periods of very rapid language growth [in children], where you just cannot satiate the curiosity fast enough. (Al page interjects: “it’s amazing” and Noam responds and continues) It is unbelievable in fact. What actually happens is really astonishing. Forget the structure of language which is complicated enough, but just take vocabulary acquisition, the simplest part. At peak periods of acquisition of vocabulary, i.e. learning new words, children are picking them up at may be the rate of 1 an hour or something. Which means that they are essentially learning a new word on one exposure!

(...)

But if you think what it means to learn a word on one exposure…! The way to understand how amazing an achievement this is, is to try to define a word. Suppose you have an organism that was not equipped to learn the words of human language and you really had to teach it those words by training. First you will have to define a word. What is the meaning of table, for instance? Nobody can do that.

(...)

But you see, what we call a definition are not definitions; they are just hints. If you take the Oxford English dictionary, the one you read with a magnifying glass. And they give you a long detail thing which they call a definition of a word. In fact, it is very far from the definition of a word. It is a few hints that a person who already knows the concept can use to understand what is going on. But remember that the child is picking that up, not from the Oxford dictionary with its whole array of hints. But the child is picking that up from seeing it used once or twice. Now that can only mean one thing, it can only mean that the concept itself, in all of its richness and complexities, is somehow sitting there, waiting to have a sound associated with it. Now it cannot be quite true but something very much like that is probably true. That’s why, you and I, will have essentially the same concept of table, and the same concept of person, and nation, and all sorts of things; and not complicated things, I mean really simple things like person for instance, or thing. We all have that, even though we all have very limited experience, because basically we started with those concepts.(End of interview)

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdUbIlwHRkY#t=23m00s

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TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am You are getting hung up on metaphysics.
This is just semantics and linguistics.
TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am
Averroes wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:49 am Essentially, both Kant and Wittgenstein were saying the same thing as quoted above even though they were speaking from different logical frameworks separated by about a century. Wittgenstein was speaking from the Fregean-Russellian logical framework and Kant was speaking from the Aristotelian logical framework. There are important differences between these logical frameworks. The Frege system is more powerful than the Aristotelian system. Modern logic is the logic developed by Frege and Russell. However, despite their differences, non of these logical frameworks made a thought a non-thought!
They were both trying to narrate metaphysics.
Was Kant and Wittgenstein trying to narrate metaphysics? I do not think so. They were openly against metaphysics. Moreover, for Wittgenstein, metaphysics was just sheer nonsense. And the aim of the Tractatus itself was an attempt to overcome by the analysis of language what he perceived as the nonsense of metaphysics. For Kant, below is an excerpt from an entry from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy wrote:A large part of Kant’s work addresses the question “What can we know?” The answer, if it can be stated simply, is that our knowledge is constrained to mathematics and the science of the natural, empirical world. It is impossible, Kant argues, to extend knowledge to the supersensible realm of speculative metaphysics. The reason that knowledge has these constraints, Kant argues, is that the mind plays an active role in constituting the features of experience and limiting the mind’s access only to the empirical realm of space and time. https://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/
Of all the philosophers, these two (along with Hume) are perhaps the most well-known anti-metaphysics! But anyway, I am not talking about metaphysics here, my aim on this thread was solely semantics and linguistics.

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TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 amThere are things that go on in my head which I cannot communicate to another human being.
Now, notice how you have phrased the quotation above itself. You said, “...things that go on in my head...”. You said “things” and not thoughts! And that is correct!

Not everything that goes on in our heads are necessarily thoughts! Thoughts are to be distinguished from word salads in that thoughts are articulate and meaningful. There is an analogy which I find quite insightful in that one can think of the word salad as the raw materials out of which the thought is carved! For me, when I experience such "things" in my head, it is a sign that I have to get to work and think hard to get those “things” sorted out so that they can become thoughts. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes it turns out to be just word salads or codings/algorithms that do not work. Thinking is hard work and thoughts are precious. For example, consider the Viterbi algorithm which made Andrew Viterbi into a billionaire. You must already know how important the Viterbi algorithm is nowadays. But if Andrew had just left it as a thing in his head and not worked it out, it would not have blossomed into such a beautiful thought which succeeded in reducing computational complexity for the task from O(T.N^T) to O(T.N^2). A great achievement, you may agree! And there are lots of examples like this which you must already know, and perhaps from your experience in computer science you may have your own examples.

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TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am And so what I am saying is that if everything that you want to say can be expressed - none of these ideas are yours.
I do not think that the above quotation is a wise statement. For again, if not a single thought that is expressed in language can be original, then that would imply that there would be no original thought that has been expressed throughout known human history! And among the consequences, that would make the laws on plagiarism absurd! I don’t think many people will agree with that either. But, anyway, I respect your opinion even though I do not share it.

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TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am
Averroes wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:49 am Can we think about something without having had direct experience of it?
Here is a simple example. Do you know how to count? Does the word/process of "counting" mean the same thing to both of us?
Apparently not: https://youtu.be/Cj4y0EUlU-Y
Interesting video. Dr Feynman says something very interesting in that video:
Dr Feynman wrote:You asked me if an ordinary person by studying hard, would get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine them? Of course. I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There is no miracle people. It just happened they got interested in these things, and they learned all this stuff. They are just people. There is no talent or special miracle or ability to understand quantum mechanics or miracle ability to imagine electromagnetic fields that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. So, if you say...you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time and study and work and thinking and mathematics and time then he’s become a scientist.
This is a beautiful speech. Thoughts, for ordinary people (like myself and Dr Feynman, according to himself), do not come out of our heads just like that! We have to work hard, think and study hard, and practice a lot to acquire knowledge in our fields. We do not become a scientist, an engineer, a mathematician or a philosopher by being lazy. That’s it! There is nothing more to add to that!

This is a great video. Thanks for sharing.
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TimeSeeker wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:07 am To demonstratee: try and Imagine a grobmunf. I saw one just 10 minutes ago.
So you wrote: “grobmunf,” and you could just as well have written some Chinese and it would not have made any difference to me! The interesting question now is: Is “grobmunf” a meaningful proposition for you? If yes, then you have expressed a thought which, however, I do not understand as I do not speak that language! If not, then it is just gibberish for both of us! Either way, you have not demonstrated the possibility of a thought that cannot be expressed in language! And, as I already demonstrated, a thought that cannot be expressed in language is a contradiction. And certainly you cannot show it’s possibility by writing something, gibberish or not!

It was nice philosophizing with you. Thanks for the exchange.

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creativesoul
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by creativesoul »

Averroes wrote: Sat Nov 03, 2018 5:41 am
...And, as I already demonstrated, a thought that cannot be expressed in language is a contradiction. And certainly you cannot show it’s possibility by writing something, gibberish or not!
Expressed - in language - by whom, the thinking/believing creature or someone else taking account of the thinking/believing creature's thought/belief?

:roll:
TimeSeeker
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Re: Is It Possible To Think Without Language?

Post by TimeSeeker »

creativesoul wrote: Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:55 am That's not true. I've drawn no such lines. There is a distinction to be drawn and maintained between meaning and language. The latter is always existentially dependent upon the former, but not the other way around. I've already been clearly arguing for exactly how that's the case.
So we can agree that meaning is subjective? I am good with that. It further means you are necessarily adopting the 1st person perspective. Which leaves us with the final problem. WHOSE 1st person perspective? Yours or mine?

You said this:

Inventing language allows expression.
All language is meaningful

Which necessarily leaves us with these questions:
1. Is 'grobmunf' language? By YOUR criterion of "shared meaning" the answer is No. Nobody else BUT me knows what it means!
2. If 'grobmunf' is not language, then I have failed to invent language? If I have failed to invent language then have I failed in expressing myself?


creativesoul wrote: Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:55 am
TimeSeeker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:58 amIt needs to satisfy ALL those criteria! It needs to be communicable for it to be meaningful, for it to be language for it to be expression.
I reject this. In fact, you yourself have said that you've expressed "grobmunf" despite the fact that only you know what it means. So... you've reached incoherency. How do you reconcile this apparent self-contradiction?
It's not contradictory from my perspective. It's contradictory from your perspective. So I think the onus is on you to explain why you think it's a contradiction? ;)

I have invented, and then uttered the word 'grobmunf' yes. Does that mean I have expressed myself? If being understood is not a pre-requisite of expression then sure. But then I think that proves my case for "thought being independent from language".

For I am thinking of a grobmunf. And 'grobmunf' is not language.
Last edited by TimeSeeker on Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:15 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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