0
   

thought without language?

 
 
Reply Wed 27 Aug, 2008 03:17 pm
I have a question, here it is:

If a person is born deaf, never having heard anything, including a human voice, what happens when he thinks something "to himself." Without an inner monologue, what is the nature of his thought?


I think that all thoughts are nothing but the simulteineous existance of many more or less related sensations, of varying intensities, relative to their original intensity and their distance from the present. Does this mean that such a person as mentioned above would have an inner powerpoint, an inner kinesthesia. an inner tongue? I suppose that, for whatever reason, auditory sensation is the manner in which most information is stored in most people; and so, I suppose that some other sense would probably become dominant, probably vision.

Any thoughts?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 14,013 • Replies: 92
No top replies

 
Fairbanks
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Aug, 2008 05:11 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
I have a question, here it is:

If a person is born deaf, never having heard anything, including a human voice, what happens when he thinks something "to himself." Without an inner monologue, what is the nature of his thought? . . .


Smile

For a couple of examples there are Tesla and Einstein, although they were perfectly capable in language and sight. They thought visually, so they said. Both were capable of designing complete systems in their minds. That is probably typical of engineers who think in three dimensions, visualize solid space and maybe four dimensionally in some cases. Another is Helen Keller. If she had hearing and sight she lost it very early and her world was dark and soundless, yet she went far. How she thought, who knows, but she did.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Aug, 2008 10:58 pm
@Fairbanks,
Yes, it is very strange. I cannot see what the nature of Helen Keller's thoughts would be. Would she think primarily in kinetic terms, along with some taste and smell? I don't think that is comphrensible to someone not in that condition. You would think it would be an impedement (obviously, it is a delay, but apparently not a reduction in eventual thought capacity).
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 05:09 am
@BrightNoon,
Hmm, interesting question.

We think in the language of words that we know - memories are compartmentalized in our minds using the vocabulary we primarily use. How would one think without any basis for this compartmentalization?

I don't know; sounds a little disturbing to me - what that might be like - from birth to be without any structure (blind, deaf and dumb). I'd think ones mental existence would be a mass of unstructured feelings, sensations and chaos. Maybe not... Yea, there are a good-lot of examples of folks' perspectives who've been limited in their ability to communicate and perceive (and even more troublesome ones where folks lose it; ala "Johnny got his Gun").

... unless somehow the human mind has the ability to structure itself, absent of any external stimuli, to self-define. I'm going to have toss out a huge "I don't know" on this one.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 03:56 pm
@Khethil,
Agreed, I have no idea either. However, I will say this; I do not think the mind can structure itself or exist at all without sensation. Thought is the residue and exceedingly complex recombination of sensation. As long as this poor cripple can sense something, even if only his internal body movement, kinesthesia, he would have some kind of primitive thought I think. However, If someone were born completely paralyzed, blind, deaf, with no tongue and no nose, I think he would be a vegetable, without thoughts in any way at all, though his heart might still beat, etc.
Tyr
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 04:12 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
However, If someone were born completely paralyzed, blind, deaf, with no tongue and no nose, I think he would be a vegetable, without thoughts in any way at all, though his heart might still beat, etc.


An interesting question has arisen in my thinking about this. This man who has the absence of all his senses, if he was without thoughts, would he be considered as 'alive' at that point? Or would it be an organic mechanism designed to breathe and circulate blood unaided? Could he be considered 'human' if he could not and did not interact with society, his environment, or even with his own thoughts?

As to the original question so as not to diverge, I believe that thought can still be coherrent without the use of a language to communicate. Some theories are that unconscious thought is in no language and as it is not translated into our preferred language of understanding, we do not think in our own language, but consciously translate it so that these thoughts, if required to, can be verbally explained. Savants often have difficulty explaining themselves as the vast majority of them explain that they translate thoughts into pictures and shapes. They translate this into something unconsciously, for instance, a mathematical equation, then translate the answer back into something they can express that we can all understand. They cannot necessarily express how they achieved the answer or even know how themselves, because of the sub-conscious thought processes. So, to go back to the paralyzed man, would he still have the sub-conscious level of thought, which he could not express to us in any way?
Fairbanks
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 04:55 pm
@Tyr,
Tyr wrote:
An interesting question has arisen in my thinking about this. This man who has the absence of all his senses, if he was without thoughts, would he be considered as 'alive' at that point? . . .


Smile

The legal system tends to view brain function as indicative of life or not. Brain dead equals legally dead. However, there is some question for science and philosophy, not so much philosophy, which doesn't really care where thought is located, but for science which has a few data points that don't fit the brain or central nervous system as the seat of the mind. The mind might be a joint project of all 50 million cells in a human body, or it might exist in a single cell creature or in a plant. These cannot be counted out while there are scientists getting readings on their truth detectors from African violets.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 08:26 pm
@Fairbanks,
Tyr:

The short answer is No, I don't think the senseless man could have any subconcious thoughts, or thoughts in any of the other, rather arbitrarily divided, freudian category of thinking. I would have to ask, what would he think about? He could have no knowledge of anything, at all. I suppose one might say that the neurons in the brain itself might behave oddly and produce some kind of random 'sensation'. In that case I guess he might have a sort of hallucination composed of whatever odd sensory mix he received. No idea what that would be...
Fairbanks
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Aug, 2008 09:56 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Tyr:

The short answer is No, I don't think the senseless man could have any subconcious thoughts, or thoughts in any of the other, rather arbitrarily divided, freudian category of thinking. I would have to ask, what would he think about? He could have no knowledge of anything, at all. I suppose one might say that the neurons in the brain itself might behave oddly and produce some kind of random 'sensation'. In that case I guess he might have a sort of hallucination composed of whatever odd sensory mix he received. No idea what that would be...



Smile
We might wonder what we think about with all our senses intact. Seems like most of my neighbors are deep in hallucination most of the time as it is.
0 Replies
 
Deftil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 03:32 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon,

Great question; I'm enjoying your topics. By any chance have you ever read any Steven Pinker? By him I've read The Language Instinct (1994) and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) and in one or both of those books there is some discussion that I think is relevant to what you are touching on here.

I have a lot to say on this topic, but I'd rather contemplate it a bit more before I dive into a full on response. In the meantime, here's a wikipedia article I hope you'll look at about what's known as mentalese or Language of thought.

If I'm not mistaken (and I could be), this hypothesis could explain how a person born deaf and unable to use actual language could have thoughts, and possibly fairly complex ones at that.
A brief excerpt:
Quote:
The hypothesis describes that thoughts are represented in a "language" (sometimes known as mentalese) which allows complex thoughts to be built up by combining simpler thoughts in various ways. It is clear from the biology of the brain that these mental representations are not present in the same way as symbols written on paper; rather, the LOT is supposed to exist at the cognitive level, the level of thoughts and concepts. For example the thought that "John is tall" is clearly composed of at least two sub-parts: the concept of John (the person), and the concept of tallness.


Thought can occur as IDEAS and not necessarily WORDS. A person can tell if another person happens to be tall, in that the top of their head happens to be higher off the ground than most people when standing, without ever resorting to the use of words, right?

But another point I want to make real quick: would it help to make discussion more interesting if we discussed this in terms of a person who was not only born deaf, but also blind? A person that is deaf, but able to see can know language through the written word, and sign language, correct?

I think I disagree with the supposition that "auditory sensation is the manner in which most information is stored in most people", but more on that later (hopefully).
Tyr
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 05:39 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Tyr:

The short answer is No, I don't think the senseless man could have any subconcious thoughts, or thoughts in any of the other, rather arbitrarily divided, freudian category of thinking. I would have to ask, what would he think about? He could have no knowledge of anything, at all. I suppose one might say that the neurons in the brain itself might behave oddly and produce some kind of random 'sensation'. In that case I guess he might have a sort of hallucination composed of whatever odd sensory mix he received. No idea what that would be...


On some level, it seems like you are implying that without sensory evidence to affect thought, thought does not exit. Although the individual in question cannot communicate, there is a chance of him having thoughts, even if those thoughts are only questions, such as 'What am I? What is my purpose?' He may have even picked up some inherent thoughts from the parental DNA.

I understand where you're coming from, this is just my opinion on it. I understand that even our most primal thoughts are based off of experiences our senses have...well...experieced, such as the knowledge that if you put your head in a sabertooth's mouth, it'll bite it off.

Although, I have just noticed the semantic problem with this thread. The definition of language is not the same as the defiition for communication. So thought without language? Yes I believe that. You can have thoughts without telling someone them. Thought without communication however....

:Tyr:
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 06:44 am
@Tyr,
Yea... part-and-parcel to thought is language (or symbolism at the very least).[1] The "senseless man" referred to previously - as I understand the discussion - refers to someone who hasn't, nor has ever had sight or hearing and hasn't any language (or other symbolism) for communicating or organizing/compartmentalizing thought.

How might the questions, "What am I, what is my purpose" be phrased, thought or self-postulated by someone without any communicative means? How might they be structured in the head? How could they have even been conceived without the symbolism required to remember or learn what "what" is? In that frame of mind, how is the concept "purpose" known or isolated.

Trying to conceptualize what that might be like makes my head hurt :detective:


----------------
[1] Agree with those who've said thought concepts can exist without language, but without some sort of representative symbolism (such as pictures, language or other taught means) they'd be murky and without definition, methinks
0 Replies
 
Fairbanks
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 10:08 am
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
. . . a person who was not only born deaf, but also blind? A person that is deaf, but able to see can know language through the written word, and sign language, correct? . . .


Smile

Helen Keller somehow learned to read. Probably she did not think in terms of letters drawn on her hand, tactile. Morse code would have worked also. Rhythm as in Morse code, posture as in dance, or finger position in piano playing could also function as written language. Sight is not required, sight might even retard other forms of understanding.
Deftil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 11:17 am
@Fairbanks,
Fairbanks;23118 wrote:
Smile

Helen Keller somehow learned to read. Probably she did not think in terms of letters drawn on her hand, tactile. Morse code would have worked also. Rhythm as in Morse code, posture as in dance, or finger position in piano playing could also function as written language. Sight is not required, sight might even retard other forms of understanding.


Helen Keller was something else, wasn't she? :a-ok:

We know that deafblinds can be capable of communicating with language, which I find fascinating ( Deafblindness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) but it seems to be a big jump to say that sight might actually retard other forms of understanding. If a deaf person can see, then we can show them a written word, such as "lamp", and then point to a lamp to get them to understand that the written word "lamp" corresponds to the particular object. For a deafblind person, we must resort to much more indirect methods of teaching.
How do you feel that sight might be a hinderance in one's ability to understand?
Fairbanks
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 11:48 am
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
Helen Keller was something else, wasn't she? :a-ok:

We know that deafblinds can be capable of communicating with language, which I find fascinating ( Deafblindness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) but it seems to be a big jump to say that sight might actually retard other forms of understanding. If a deaf person can see, then we can show them a written word, such as "lamp", and then point to a lamp to get them to understand that the written word "lamp" corresponds to the particular object. For a deafblind person, we must resort to much more indirect methods of teaching.
How do you feel that sight might be a hinderance in one's ability to understand?


Smile

Schopenhauer, when he wasn't being grumpy, had some interesting tales of sleepwalkers who were walking around in total blackness or with eyes closed and reported seeing from the vicinity of their navels rather than their eyes. There is some doubt, not that we see with our eyes, but rather how the vision appears after the eyes. We can sometimes see things we have never seen, and with as much reality as the real thing.

As far as understanding, which has a specific meaning in philosophy, this ordinarily has little to do with vision. Eventually 'it' has to appear in words if it isn't to remain simply aesthetic, but the words as heard or read can't remain sounds or strings of tiny letters but must become signs of fairly abstract things. A deaf and blind person might not have distracting visual associations and could go directly to the category and specifics. Don't know if they necessarily do that, but Helen Keller found that Swedenborg made sense and that is evidence in itself.
sarathustrah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Sep, 2008 01:25 am
@Fairbanks,
yeah im thinkin that though most are thoughts are translations of what we absorb with the senses, i think that brain activity is enough to be called thought...

like none of us have memories of the womb and infancy... memory develops when language develops... but thoughts start right away... even if you dont have the word for it and the ability to remember it, doesnt mean that its not a thought...

if you only had the sense of touch, and felt something furry... but didnt know to call it furry, and no basis to imagine what it looks like... it doesnt mean that there can be no thought of it... even if running off instinct alone... you could decide if you like or dislike it... then seek it out, and even at the basic level, you would learn your bodies movements and explore even if only with the sense of touch... you would think to reach... even if you dont name it reach... and then youd have to think about feeling hunger, and what do about it... higher levels of thinking make life easier but that doesnt mean you cant call instincts alone thoughts right
Robert Drane
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Sep, 2008 05:17 am
@Deftil,
Well, I suppose the mess of pre-configured narratives we have still cause us to act in some way. Freud might call them unconscious motivations. According to Ricoeur, we configure those narratives with the cohesive force of language, and once we've configured them we can re-configure them. This is sort of homologous with Freud's three-storied structure for the human mind.
0 Replies
 
AtheistDeity
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 04:53 pm
@BrightNoon,
I believe that human beings think, and contemplate without the drawn-out use of an inner monologue, more often then they recall. For example, when I read your post I already knew my view, and opinion on the theory, without actually using words inside my mind to rehe**** them; only when I am typing this out, I am, of course, thinking of the way in which I will express the idea. Thoughts create words, words do not create thoughts.
Robert Drane
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 07:47 pm
@AtheistDeity,
Yep. There's nothing drawn out about our pre-configured narratives. They are not subject to the cohesive forces of time, form, words and sequence. But if they stay unconfigured, they can drive our behaviour anyway. The ability to configure and re-configure our narratives; to make imaginative variations to the ego and engage the world in different ways, separates us from the animals. Expressed another way, it's the capacity to self-reflect. Really, this is what counsellors or psychoanalists try to achieve in people who come to them with social or psychological issues: to restore the client's ability to reflect upon him/herself and his or her behaviour. Once this is achieved, choice is restored, and the restoration of choice in their behaviour is the ultimate aim.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 15 Oct, 2008 06:00 am
@Robert Drane,
Hi!!Smile

Einstein had the ability to think in the visual, indeed when he had worked out a problem it was problematic for him to communicate it in verbal language, he had his greatest sucess with visualizations, it has often been said pictures are the language of the soul. I think logically it must be the language of the first order without which there would be no verbal language.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
 
  1. Forums
  2. » thought without language?
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 08/02/2021 at 06:31:44