Thought Loop refers to the process an organism goes through in order to generate its map of the world. It is a Neuro-Linguistic process. This process is called concept formation by some, epistemology by others, and even other things by somebody else. It generally involves processes of sensation, perception and cognition. It is also somewhat related to Robert Anton Wilson's concept of strange loops, mathematical limits and recursive loops. Douglas Hofstadter has a discussion of such loops in his discussions on social dilemmas and self-referential sentences in Metamagical Themas. Ayn Rand talks about it in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as "Abstractions from abstractions." In Neurolinguistic Programming there is evidence of thought loops in the concepts of logical levels, meta-states and intent of behavior. The General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski also hints at thought loops, as does the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

In short, thought loops are how an organism makes generalizations and beliefs about the world.

You can attain a much better understanding of this phenomenon by doing the following thought experiment adapted from The Sourcebook of Magic (Crown House Publishing Limited, 1999) by L. Michael Hall.

  • Step One: Identify a specific behavior that you do.
  • Step Two: Ask yourself of this behavior: "What am I attempting to accomplish by engaging in this behavior?"
  • Step Three: Once you have your answer(s), ask yourself of the answer: "What am I attemping to accomplish by answer from previous step?"
  • Step Four: Repeat step three until you begin to loop. Once you start to loop, this means you are either at or approaching the end of your experience of reality.
  • Step Five: Ask yourself of the loop from the previous step: "What am I attempting to accomplish here that is more important?"
  • Step Six: Repeat step 5 until you begin to loop. Once you begin to loop here is where you have reached the end of the world, so don't fall off.
You can also do the above exercise asking questions like "How do I know that X is true?" or "How do I know that Y is true?"

Now that you have an experiential understanding of the phenomenon of thought loops, you can probably see a little bit better how some subjectivists claim that you make up your own reality.

(c) 2002 Martin Kretzmann

See Also: Aristotle, What the thinker thinks, the prover proves, Meme complex, manipulation, propaganda

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