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Thinking without language?

John Turnbull john at turnbull.org
Wed Nov 24 21:24:11 EST 1999

In article <7fvh6r751r.fsf at faith.csis.hku.hk>,
Lee Sau Dan 李守敦 <sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk> wrote:

>I do have the "Oh no!   I missed that note!"  thought when playing the
>piano, but that thought comes  in a completely NON-VERBAL way.  Again,
>that though  flashings in my  mind in a language-independent  way, and
>there is too little  time for me to put the thought  into words of any
>language I'm fluent in.

Why would it take time to put into words.  If you think the thought the
words are there.  They may not be top-most to your attention.  It is a
mere shift in mental focus to have the words present.  How sure are you
the words are not there?

>I don't know why you MUST  tie each thought with some words.  Yes, you
>need the words  to describe it to us, but that  doesn't means that you
>MUST use those words when you  think about it.  Have you ever had some
>"strange"  feelings that  you  find it  hard  to describe  it to  your
>friends verbally?   Have you ever  had some bright theories  which you
>find it hard to explain to your friends verbally (but pretty easy when
>you use diagrams)?

The verbal part of your mind is not idle.  It is generating words with
each thought.  You may choose to ignore them.  Maybe a strange feeling
can't be described because we don't know anymore than it is a strange
feeling.  Explaining bright theories should be done in the most
appropriate manner.  If you are a musician playing the music may be the
best way of communicating it, and for some things a diagram will be
useful.  Usually there is verbiage to go along with the other styles
of communicating.  It may be tough to explain without words in many


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