Is it possible to think without language?

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

  1. alain du hast mich Registered Senior Member

    animals and deaf people manage it (or it might be more accurate to say that deaf people managed it before the advent of sign language
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  3. Absane Rocket Surgeon Valued Senior Member

    From what my friends tell me, yes. You'll experience a whole bunch of shit. I mean, in reality you cannot smell music.. but if you can at least get a sense of what this means.. it's like that under LSD... but strong. Just ask yourself what Mozart's music smells like. lol.
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  5. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

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  7. The Devil Inside Banned Banned

    i tasted punk rock music once, while on 5 microdots of mescaline.

    then i figured out it was tape hiss that i was listening to.... i dont take hallucinogens anymore

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  8. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

  9. Victor E Registered Senior Member

    I wrote a thread about this long ago on this forum. I actually based it on the thing that many people users here sees as an argument against the fact that babies do not think.. Yeah, you heard.. I don't believe babies can think..

    Definition of thinking:
    "Thinking is when you come to a conclusion by putting togheter different things that you know."

    A baby has to learn a lot of words before they can put them togheter for example...

    So no, you can't think without some kind of language or at least not without some kind of knowledge

    It doesn't neccesarily have to be a language.

    Good example, they looked around, learned by watching other people, they learned that if you did XX then XX would be the result, then they can put things together "thinking".

    Thinking without knowledge is impossible, and that generally means thinking with out language is impossible to, but not always.

    (now I'm of course just speculating, I have no evidence, etc.)
  10. kpnv Registered Member

    does thought come before language?
    how do you define both?

    if language is simply english, french, german... then i'd assume its definite that anyone can think without it. otherwise, how did we first come up with language? we'd have to surely imagine a concept before arbitrarily deciding to put it into words.

    but thought is formed through some form of language, be it words, pictures, sounds smells, feelings, emotions... so without these... perhaps we aren't thinking at all? or rather what would we use to think?
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  11. Victor E Registered Senior Member

    Well, a lot of people confuse thinking with free will.. Not realising we have no free will...

    All thinking are conlusions of impressions...
  12. Novacane Registered Senior Member

    I think you can 'think' by making up your own personal language. GWB does it everyday.

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  13. Ogmios Must. learn. to. punctuate! Registered Senior Member

    Pattern Recongnition Skill

    If we think with words, how come words can have two meanings? Think, for example, of Forum; the obvious one is the one were in; the second becomes of "A forum to voice your opinions", in which case it would mean a "mean" or "possibility". Yeah, Mean too. It could also mean "kinda malicious".

    wow, way too much talk to actually respond or converse. Instead I will launch into a ramble of my own opinion (or theory).

    edit: MEIN GOTT! I forgot to define thinking: Thinking is any process of problemsolving or learning (not by listening, but in the process of thinking; Musing, wondering, dreaming etc.), use of brain.

    We assume that Chathas definition is correct; that is, that all thinking is requires that two braincells communicate with each other. Unless you argue that individual braincells think on their own accord, this seems pretty logical. No single cell is capable of thinking; Thinking occurs through communication.

    Then, in order to have thoughts that diffrentiate from each other, we must assume that the (brain)cell-chain forms a certain pattern, and that certain type of patterns mean either an action, or an experience; also opinions, or logical "roadmaps", like a+b=c (some patterns would work as a blueprint for the formation of other patterns). I use the word pattern, as you could imagine the braincells forming a literal chain in the brain; form into an order, or create a PATTERN.

    The best way to understand patterns is think of sentences. Sentence is a pattern of words. Word is a pattern of letters. And letters are a pattern of soundwaves. The sound is created in the mouth of the one, wanting to transmit data; the data is formed form one pattern into another, so that the mouth can say it in voice.

    So someone said a word, and now someone has to hear it. It hits the ear, transmittes through the ear and hits the sensitive hearing-cells, which begin to transfer the signal through neural network to the brain. But here comes the intressting part. How does the brain screen some noise from the background noise?

    I call it the Pattern Recognizion Skill (PRS). I have assumed it must be a centre, that views all incoming data and then sends it to be processed in whatever part of the brain it's needed (linguicial sections, in this case), but it just occured that there might not be any CENTRE, that associations themself could handle it. But THAT doesn't really matter.

    What matters is that PRS screens all incoming sense data, in order to recognize anything. What makes a cat a cat? That we define it as thus, mostly through our experience. We make a pattern, and when PRS screens through sense data, it sends the sensation of cat (we see it, hopefully) thorugh memory banks, and recognize it as thus. Ever had a sensation that the world was just STRANGE for a moment, that you couldn't recognize anything? (I once did, don't know if it's common)

    Hence, we sense. What's funny is that PRS can sometimes turn to observe the brain itself!

    For example when you sleep, your mind basically makes changes in the brain, making new associations (writes things into the memory); then it appearently checks to see the connections work. But sometimes (or often, whatever) PRS interprets the checks as sense data, and starts to send it to other sections. Hence the brain thinks it's seeing something, and starts to piece together a scenery. Often we dream about our past day, but sometimes odd associations get in the circulation, and weird stuff occurs. But since PRS is basically reading the same data that it sent out, it's possible to take control of your dreams (explaining off that weird thing). Also, the memory is linked all around (cats remind us of cats, and if we keep such a pet, it would remind us of him too. But also about cat food, which brings bills, bills bring up the car and so on), so some stuff might just randomly get in the dream. And real sense data, too.

    Or, more to the point, the brain can observe itself, and change itself based on nothing but data already gathered. Making us pretty smart.

    The diffrence between us and animals is mostly this, not language, as almost every teacher seems to think. Language (like English) is a predefined set of fixed patterns, but not the best set of patterns. Personally I just use freeform patterns, that are not really attached to any outside stimuli (see, hear, smell etc.). Language is just so crude, formed of too big patterns. Using big clumps of patterns make thinking FASTER (imagine making a chair out of molecules, one at a time, versus pieceing together ready legs and planks), but less accurate, so more mistakes occur. Even on this thread two persons argued for two pages, because of their definition of words weren't the same. I'm a slow thinker, but I think really well.

    Also language makes it possible to separate from here-and-now. Animals often only associate from things around them, but man can associate an occurance that isn't occuring by merely hearing a word. This doesn't mean animals can't remember, rather that they have less experience at it, and hence, are less skilled in it.

    But mostly the success of man is not the superior thinking tool. Language just makes it possible to TEACH. So that every generation does not have to learn everything on their own. Even if they cannot comprehend the concept given at childhood, when such patterns (such as injustice) are later experienced, the PRS recognizes it, and the child can either learn it the first time, or react to an unknown situation with foresight ("injustice must be stopped" or "If you see a robbery, call the cops" or anything). This is why it's easier for us to form complex, or abstract thoughts better than your friendly neighbourhood dog.

    As a final thought, some animals posses the ability to observe their own thoughts. Cats, for example, can learn how to open doors (by jumping and grabbing the doorknob). A simple association "turning the knob opens the door" does not quite suffice. He would also have to think "I must jump and catch.." and so on. Unless cats normally just jump around, untill, by luck, they hit and grab the knob

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    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  14. Ogmios Must. learn. to. punctuate! Registered Senior Member

    Meaningless trivia

    Oh, a couple of points I picked up from reading the prev. posts..

    I'm a native Finnish, but at the age of seven I started learning english. But since everything (worth watching) over hear comes from US or UK, I learned how to understand it pretty well (also I read a LOT of books in English). I can think pretty fluently in English, and having spoken something I can't remember whether I said it in English or Finnish. I can switch between them in a instant, and sometimes switch language between sentences.
    Every language has their own words, which correlate into certain thought-patterns, and hence having two languages basically gives you twice the concepts. This certainly gives an advantage in thinking. But most languages assimilate words from each other; English, for example, got Karma from India (or some other place?). We need more words to explain all the new concepts we're making up. And I like English because it has been collecting words from all over for quite a while, now (as opposed to, say, French). I don't think with words unless I try to know what I already understand, or to figure out how to say something out loud, so I don't see how it would effect my thining much.

    Also, there was intresting talk about how people talking diffrent language hear animals diffrently (in Japan, frogs say "kero kero"), and by my theory it would be because the PRS interprets the frogs noices diffrently, or in the terms of their language. And as Kant says, everything we see (or sense) is interpreted; hence our bias affects how we see. Or hear, or read, what someone is saying (or typing..)

    And as meaningless trivia: I think the mind sometimes just makes totally random patterns, in an attempt to invent something new. Most of the times it's so random we complitely ignore it, but sometimes it comes up with a pattern that actually works (the PRS sees it as a better match for the ideal). Oh, and the mind also stores ideals, what we imagine, or have been taught to consider, as a perfection of some sort. For example, perfect person, God, Heaven and so forth. And we can compare other patterns against this ideal to figure out it's inperfections.
    This is, of course, doubly infected by bias (The ideas themselves, and also the world we see), but also clouded by the persons awareness. People who think with big concepts tend to be bad at noticing details, and make many mistakes.

    Yeah, I'm finished, fire at will.

    edit: I think I just figured what's my graduation article, thanks.

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    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  15. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

    This seems pertinent, The emphasis is mine:

    Rosemary A. Varley et al "Agrammatic but numerate" PNAS | March 1, 2005 | vol. 102 | no. 9 | 3519-3524

    A central question in cognitive neuroscience concerns the extent to which language enables other higher cognitive functions. In the case of mathematics, the resources of the language faculty, both lexical and syntactic, have been claimed to be important for exact calculation, and some functional brain imaging studies have shown that calculation is associated with activation of a network of left-hemisphere language regions, such as the angular gyrus and the banks of the intraparietal sulcus. We investigate the integrity of mathematical calculations in three men with large left-hemisphere perisylvian lesions. Despite severe grammatical impairment and some difficulty in processing phonological and orthographic number words, all basic computational procedures were intact across patients. All three patients solved mathematical problems involving recursiveness and structure-dependent operations (for example, in generating solutions to bracket equations). To our knowledge, these results demonstrate for the first time the remarkable independence of mathematical calculations from language grammar in the mature cognitive system.
  16. Ogmios Must. learn. to. punctuate! Registered Senior Member

    It's always seemed to me, that math was made imitating the thinking process, not the language. Although I thought of math as just another language, as well...
  17. Kaiduorkhon Registered Senior Member

    There are countless documented examples of animal thought and reasoning - yes, they have a vocabulary but it's extermely limited regarding vocalizations. They communicate through body language a lot. They also do some very high reasoning by way of imaging remembered 'pictures'. The numbers of examples of penned in animals figuring a way out - or penned out animals figuring a way in - are also commonplace.
  18. emerson Registered Member

    I was considering this the other day:

    The basis of language is emotion - without language, emotion still remains. Animals and such, think in emotions and primal urges. When they are hungry, all that is in there mind is the idea of food, and so on.

    Is emotion thoughts? This is important. If I cannot speak or hear, I can feel hatred, malice, love and joy; Am I thinking? Yes I am, I have experienced circumstances which makes me feel a certain way, and to feel that way, I have to know what is causing me to feel that way.

    Sorry, a bit of a ramble, I couldn't nail down what I was trying to describe.
  19. Yorda Registered Senior Member

    Sure it's possible to think without language, but with language you can think much better.

    these kinds of letters are not the only language, there are other languages. if we didn't have any kind of language... then we probably couldn't think. but even animals have some kind of language (communication).

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