Is it possible to think without language?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by nicklwj, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. nicklwj Guest

    Is it possible to think without language? Personally, I don't think so because thinking requires your thoughts to take some form.
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  3. redarmy11 Registered Senior Member

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  5. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Assuredly yes, albeit simplistically. Language simply provides us with the means to take a short cut in our thought patterns, shortening the time spent in considering our actions through allowing complex notions to remain complex as opposed to being forced to be simplified, as well allowing for the understanding of certain concepts which would prove intensely elusive in a non-language enviroment.

    In order to test this: Think of how you might go to the store and find what you want entirely through usage of picture-thoughts as opposed to word-thoughts. It is difficult but possible. Similarly, all imagining propelled by conscious thought is a type of this thinking without language.
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  7. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned


    There are many people who don't have language for one reason or another, are you suggesting they do not think? I can recall my early thoughts before I had language and they were in terms of 'feelings' and impressions of what was occurring. I don't speak to my self either when I think, I think now without language. Thinking with language is extraordinarily slow.
  8. Chatha big brown was screwed up Registered Senior Member


    Language comes in many forms- symbols, numbers,letters, you name it. Its basically a representation of pattern. Thinking without language is NOT even thinking at all. Anybody that manages to think without language is chaotic and belongs in the Psychiatry ward.
  9. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned

    Have you ever heard of hellen keller

    "Helen Keller
    the deafblind woman who became a role model for millions of people"

    "Political activities
    Helen went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for the handicapped, as well as numerous causes. She was a suffragist, a pacifist and a birth control supporter. In 1915 she founded Helen Keller International, a non-profit organization for preventing blindness. Helen and Anne Sullivan traveled all over the world to over 39 countries, and made several trips to Japan, becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Helen Keller met every U.S. President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain.

    Helen Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency. Her political views were reinforced by visiting workers. In her words, "I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums. If I could not see it, I could smell it."
  10. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned


    Do you think that babies do not think? How do they learn language in the first place without thinking? They assimilate information, interpret that information, learn and absorb that information, all the time their emotions are providing a commentary of sorts about how they 'feel' about that information and how it is appropriate for them to respond. This is the process of thought.

    Hellen keller was blind and deaf but she learned how to talk and better still how to write, she possessed grammatical skills that put me to shame, how did she manage this without seeing a written word or hearing a sentance constructed WITHOUT thinking?

    When we feel pain and respond to that pain, we don't need a 'word' to explain to us what happened and how we feel about it, yet a process of understanding takes place and that is 'thought'.
  11. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned

    The jury is out:

    CHATHA s view:
    ".....cognitive conception of language which maintains that language is crucially implicated in thought – as well as being used for purposes of communication"


    my view:
    " communicative conception of language which maintains that language is not essentially implicated in thinking, but rather serves only to facilitate the communication of thought"

    Latest thinking I think supportive of mine

    PINKER 1994

    "The constructive Instinct
    The positive picture that Pinker gives of the workings of human cognition is believeable, even common-sensical. Everyday experience indicates that people have innate abilities ("modules") for many mental tasks like face recognition and verbal fluency, just as they do for physical tasks. Much of the book consists of fleshing out the wonderful details of the language module, with all its related skills such as the production and decoding of speech.

    Pinker quite reasonably emphasizes commonalities rather than differences being innate. This is particularly important given that most of us only notice such innateness when we attempt to overcome God-given aptitudes (often our own) for certain tasks such as mathematics. The modules can be amusingly independent: there are mathematicians who are almost inarticulate, fluent writers who never pick up the pronunciation of foreign words, and so on. The hard-wiring of certain specific talents (and character traits) must be obvious to anyone who has had to teach or to raise a child. It also seems scientifically plausible that natural selection has played a large role in the formation of these skills"
  12. Absane Rocket Surgeon Valued Senior Member

    Yes. I do it all the time. I have no internal dialog. It's visual/spatial. Lanuage is just a conversion tool I use to express my thoughts. However, I find it hard to do. But, I have no other way.
  13. Absane Rocket Surgeon Valued Senior Member

    That is, if you mean language like English, German, Japanese... ect.
  14. RubiksMaster Real eyes realize real lies Registered Senior Member

    A thought can come in numerous forms. It doens't have to be a "verbal" thought. Some of my thoughts are just a string of pictures or abstract ideas (sort of a low level awareness, really). Also, how can dogs or monkeys think, if they can't speak? Do they simply exist like machines? I think not.

    This is where you are wrong. It is the conveyance of a thought or idea that requires language. Simply having a thought requires no language.
  15. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

    TR: Heller wasn't born blind and deaf; that makes a big difference.

    However, people who are born deaf can still think, and they obviously do it in a way which doesn't involve verbal language. The grammar of sign language is completely different, utilising spatial cues in a way that's impossible with linear (spoken) language. It's apparently very difficult for hearing people to learn to sign fluently.

    And as Absane shows, even hearing people can use
  16. Absane Rocket Surgeon Valued Senior Member

    Yea.. very few people are strictly verbal or picture thinking... most are in between. I happen to be on the extreme end of picture/spatial thinking. A blessing and a curse.
  17. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned

    She went blind and deaf around 19 months, so her incredible story is no less incredible.
  18. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

    It is incredible, but I'd imagine a lot of critical development can take place in the first 1.5 years. I haven't heard of what happens to people born blind and deaf; presumably they utilise neither language nor pictures for thinking...
  19. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned


    How does that make her case any less effective in demonstrating that we can think without language? You think that after going deaf and blind at 19 months she thought to herself with a full use of grammar/sentances? If she did then she could do more than any able bodied child at that age.
  20. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned

    Presumably they do what the rest of us do.


    those that answered No to this question possibly cannot think without language and thus are slower and less intelligent than those that can think without language.
  21. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member


    They learn Braille and use touch. Most people who are born deaf also find it difficult to learn speech, however, they can be taught sounds using vibrations and touch.

    I suppose their concept formation is different; based on touch and texture
  22. Theoryofrelativity Banned Banned


    Not every blind person in the world has the opportunity to learn braille, and I doubt those that did would then use braille as a means of thinking. (ie thinking in terms of raised dots

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    I am thinking while I am typing and it does not relate to what I type and as my language skills are occupied with this activity thus the other thoughts are not concerned with language.

    meanwhile I found this on web:

    "If you are very interested in this kind of cognitive development - it would be an excellent idea to find a copy of "The Wild Boy of Aveyron". Harlan Lane / Paperback / Published 1979. This boy was deprived of social contact from birth and survived for years in the wild. It became apparent that he acted and behaved as an animal. His ability to acquire and use language was irreversibly destroyed, and yet he possessed many characteristics which suggested a high level of intelligence. It's a thought provoking account."
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2006
  23. leopold Valued Senior Member

    i have been looking for an answer online but so far i have found no conclusive evidence for or against.

    but in my opinion yes you can have thought without language.
    my reasoning is thus:
    the earliest cavemen had no language but yet they were able to hunt and trap and snare their own food, these actions require reasoned thought.

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