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Thinking without language?

Larisa Migachyov lvm at leland.Stanford.EDU
Tue Nov 23 16:25:42 EST 1999

John Turnbull wrote:
>  In article <7fogco83qq.fsf at faith.csis.hku.hk>,
>  Lee Sau Dan 李守敦 <sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk> wrote:
>  >>>>>> "John" == John Turnbull <john at turnbull.org> writes:
>  >    John> I guess it depends what you call thinking.  I wouldn't
>  >    John> consider reacting to be thinking.  
>  >Driving may  be a  complicated set of  reflex reactions.  But  I won't
>  >agree that Tetris is also simple reactions.
>  I don't see how it can be anything but, especially as the pace picks up.
>  Feels more like acting without thinking.  What do you consider thinking?
>  No, but I don't consider humming a familiar melody to be thinking.  I am
>  likely to think verbally of the name of the tune though.

What about performing a musical work?  Especially when playing in an
ensemble without a conductor (quartet, quintet, whatever) - there is quite
a lot of mental activity involved.  For me at least, most of the mental
activity is not verbal - it is musical.  I am, for example, likely to
think about how the notes I play fit in with the notes that everyone else
is playing, or about how I need to play a little louder to bring out the
melody, etc. - mostly, without words. 

And if you still say that performing a memorized work requires no thought
- a contention that I will violently disagree with - what about
improvising?  You would have to say that improvisation involves some kind
of thinking.  And yet, even when I'm improvising together with some
people, I don't think verbally.

Larisa Migachyov                            
Quaternion Press Publishing House
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