Last night, I got to thinking. Then I realized, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm thinking in English," and that got me to thinking.

Now, I've never experienced it myself, but I'd assume that, for a person whose native language is a language other than English, thoughts don't occur in English (correct me if I'm wrong).

What, then, for a person who has never been exposed to any sort of verbal language? How would his/her thoughts be arranged individually, let alone combined/compared/etc. with each other? And how does this system compare to linguistic thought? Is one dramatically more productive than the other? Can Enlightenment only be attained through this non-linguistic form of thought? Is it still possible for me to have thoughts without language, and be consciously aware of them, even with English as internal to me as it has become? If so, how? Is there anything besides language which can have such an effect (that is, the effect of causing someone to switch from using true(?) thought to using some other form of thought, i.e. linguistic thought) on thought?

Your thoughts are welcomed.

I did a quick search, and there are a few web pages about this... My only reservation to posting a 'researched' version of this node is that this is a philosophical subject and could likely yield good discussions...
This is interesting to me, and I've thought about it a little bit, but I have no special knowledge or training in this area.

I've discussed this with one other person, and that person argues that thought is a linguistic operation -- linguistic in the broad sense, meaning the manipulation of symbols to which meaning has been ascribed. So in this view, the act of ascribing meaning is not thought, but the use of those symbols so endowed to express ideas, ask questions, draw conclusions, etc., would be thought.

This fits pretty tidily with my world view, but it is still difficult to completely accept, simply because I don't have any other sort of experience to test it against. I can't remember a time I was without language. One thing I have noticed is how readily a new way of thinking can push out an old one: When I was young and had just learned to read well, I had the experience, for a time, of all my thoughts appearing in my head as words. I visualized these words as black text on a white background. When this was happening, I couldn't imagine that thinking had ever been different, even though I knew, logically, that only a few months before I wouldn't have understood the words. So I wonder if this equating of thought with linguistic phenomena is similar: something people can accept because they can't imagine anything else.

In order to investigate this further, it might be useful to examine the reasoning ability of people with various types of aphasia, and of people who never learned to communicate with language (e.g., Hellen Keller types, or feral children). Certain drugs (e.g., LSD) can render someone temporarily aphasic.

Undeniably thought can be used to manipulate language. But the vision of thought as being linguistic manipulation is, IMHO, flawed. vivid's friend presents a view which suffers from an infinite regression in much the same way as theories of Mentalese.

Basically, if thought itself consists in linguistic manipulation, or manipulation of 'words' with meaning attached, then the meaning, being an aspect of thought, must consist of linguistic manipulation. et cetera ad infinitum.

For meaning to be so 'attached' to words, I think it has to be an essentially non-linguistic thingy (technical term!).

This line of thought came to me when I was thinking about the representation of meaning by physical systems. Take a computer, for example. Say you want to give it the ability to actually understand stuff. Machine consciousness and all. People have tried to do this sort of thing by programming gigantic databases, laden with all relevant concepts, so that the computer can 'understand' statements by referring to all the necessary concepts. But guess what those concepts are defined in terms of? Yes, other concepts.

Assuming physicalism (big if, I know, but even dualists have to accept that there is a correspondence between physical states and states of mind), sensations, states of mind, the connection with meaning, are coincident with a definite physical state. This state is not linguistic - neural nets, for example, tend to make no syntactic sense, even to their creators. It is simply brute.

And beyond that, I really can't say. But at least it means that Everything won't become conscious. per se.

I was thinking about something similar recently. Thought is a manipulation of something, yes, but not only of symbols. Thought is basically a manipulation of qualia (basic sensations, such as red, the sound of a french horn playing a specific note, anger, or pain). Words are sets of qualia. For me, at least, they are linear strings of various sounds. When I think, I hear the words in my mind. It is possible that others may think differently- perhaps they see the words instead. The point is, that language, sounds standing for meanings, is not the basic mode of thought. The most basic way of looking at thought is that it is the manipulation of sets of qualia which can possibly represent other sets of qualia. This is crucial: there is no such thing as abstract meaning. The only things a person can experience are qualia. A mind cannot perceive meaning as anything other than a set of interrelated experiences. As it relates to the topic of this node, first, mental symbols are sets of qualia, and second, if these symbols are dereferenced, they lead, not to some intangible meaning, but to more sets of qualia.

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