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Thinking without language?

Lee Sau Dan ~{ at nJX6X~} sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk
Mon Nov 22 20:49:17 EST 1999

>>>>> "John" == John Turnbull <john at turnbull.org> writes:

    >> Driving may be a complicated set of reflex reactions.  But I
    >> won't agree that Tetris is also simple reactions.

    John> I don't see how it can be anything but, especially as the
    John> pace picks up.  Feels more like acting without thinking.
    John> What do you consider thinking?

Yes, I consider that "thinking".

    >> No, I didn't.  Did you really say those words to yourself when
    >> you first tried Tetris?  I didn't at all!!!  Yes, the idea
    >> "that piece will fit there" does come to my mind, but NOT
    >> VERBALLY.  It's only an abstract idea that I have in my mind,
    >> without any words or sentences.

    John> When I was conciously thinking, yes.  That phase didn't last
    John> long, and transferred to a planning level, where I would be
    John> thinking what to do with various shapes.  I would be
    John> thinking the long shape would fit here really well, and then
    John> if it appeared it would require no thought to follow that
    John> plan.  Unless the thought is verbalized to the concious part
    John> of my brain, I don't know I'm having it.

I see...  to you :
	Axiom 1) consciousness = presence of verbal thinking  
	Axiom 2) no consciousness = not thinking.

    >> So, you're that kind of person who think predominantly in
    >> words.  But there are still times that you don't: Hum a
    >> familiar melody.  Did you do it verbally?

    John> No, but I don't consider humming a familiar melody to be
    John> thinking.  I am likely to think verbally of the name of the
    John> tune though.

That's what I  don't agree on.  As  long as I know what  I'm doing and
feeling, that's consciousness --  even without the intervention of any

    John> I would argue that any thinking that takes a long time, and
    John> can be interrupted requires at least some verbal thinking to
    John> keep on track, and communicate between the different parts
    John> of the brain.

So, "thinking must be verbal" is a direct consequence of your axioms.

    John> Are there no problems you could not solve without a pen and
    John> paper to take notes, and help you think?

No.  Sometimes, I do need a pen and a paper, but only to draw pictures
because my temp.  memory can't hold  that much drawings all in my mind
at once.   I don't  have to  take notes.  Taking  notes does  not help
much.   Rather, I  find  drawing organizational  charts, flow  charts,
plotting curves,  etc.  help  much more than  simply jotting  notes in
point form.  Talking to oneself is so much slower and inefficient than
visualizing the concepts and thinking.

Lee Sau Dan                     $(0,X)wAV(B(Big5)                    ~{@nJX6X~}(HZ) 
| http://www.cs.hku.hk/~sdlee                      e-mail: sdlee at csis.hku.hk |

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