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Thinking without language?

Etaoin Shrdlu cooper17.spamless at xs4all.nl
Fri Nov 26 05:57:02 EST 1999

> 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.

Good point! I paint, and for hours at a time I'll be deciding how best to
bring out the shadows on the fence, or wondering why the cat still looks
flat, or thinking the mouse in the corner should be an umbrella after all,
or placing a very fine line along the edge of a complex shape, or even
considering that maybe I should have done this one as a pen and ink, but
very rarely does an actual word cross my mind in relation to all  this. I'm
just thinking about it; I don't need to spell it all out to myself by taking
the lengthy option of applying lingual structures to it. Why would I go
beyond the realization that I need yellow in some spot to actually
verbalizing this to myself? I certainly don't need to think the words "I
need yellow" to realize it in the first place, so why add a step after that?

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