You can only think what You can say.

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posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:31 AM
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This subject might well be one that has research behind it. And I will seek it but this is something that I have believed for as long as I can remember so I wanted to share it with you.

To the degree that we use our brains to process what we sense, analyze it, think about it, and express it, we as humans cannot have a thought that does not have a word assigned to it.

Think of it this way. The human brain can only think what it can say. The human experience and feelings are infinite. But as far as thought is concerned we are restricted by our language.

This is why for example, some cultures are known for their philosophical prowess and others aren't. If the Greek language for example has 20 words do describe variations of let's say, love. And the english language has 10. It explains why different cultures have different levels of intellectual/philosophical development.

Again, this is not a measure of input. The fact is that we have mechanisms to express the infinite spaces between words that we cannot say. It's called art! Music, poetry, sculpture, etc, enables humans to point to all the places for which there are no words.

But if you really think about it, as far as the mind goes, it is unable to process any information for which it has no word.

The consequence, if you one is only of the mind, every experience will be an approximation to the nearest word.






[edit on 9/21/2008 by schrodingers dog]




posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:39 AM
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Not true at all.
I am thinking something right now about this post,
and I can not say it.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:41 AM
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Originally posted by cbass
Not true at all.
I am thinking something right now about this post,
and I can not say it.


I know that you're being funny, but the fact is that if you are aware of your thoughts it is only in a verbal context.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:42 AM
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Most of my thoughts are abstract, about a quarter of the time I don't even know how to put what I think into written word. When I do, I'm lucky if it's more than understandable.
So, brains are perfectly capable of working beyond words.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:44 AM
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reply to post by RuneSpider
 


But aren't they abstract because the words evoked and what they point to are disconnected. Some would say that that is the very definition of abstract.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:48 AM
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This is a fascinating subject, and I've done a lot of research on it.

The best book I've seen that addresses your premise (and actually refutes it) is Steven Pinker's book "The Language Instinct"

en.wikipedia.org...

In the book, he pretty much proves (to my satisfaction) the following:

#1. All languages on the planet are EXACTLY equivalent, have the same general structure, although there are actually two slightly different structures in use (Asian vs European) and humans can easily switch between the two of them. All languages follow one of these two main structures, including all African, Asian, European languages.

#2. Words come from our thoughts, and not the other way around. We will invent words, describe their meaning quite precisely, and these words will enter the population very easily.

#3. It appears that the ability to speak is instinctive in humans, and no other animals (including Gorillas or Apes) have this ability.

He shows, contrary to popular belief, even the most primitive societies on earth have highly sophisticated languages that are exactly equal (but never lag or exceed) all the other languages. He describes how "pidgin" languages, such as Creole, are actually syntactically and semantically equivalent to the Queen's English, no better or worse.

He also spends quite a bit of time discussing sign languages, which are completely capable of expressing the most abstract thought non-verbally. He states that sign language is exactly equivalent in power to verbal language.

Finally, he discusses the ability of humans to spontaneously develop languages, citing an example of a society in Brazil, composed completely of deaf people, who developed a completely unique language that was totally expressive.

So I think your premise is very good, but I think it has been refuted. You will coin a word for what you think -- define your word, and people will instinctively understand you.

Somehow.

#

I don't consider Steven Pinker the end-all to this discussion. I believe he is generally correct, but perhaps not 100% so. I'm interested in any other comments or opinions.

Edit: Fixed some spelling, as if that really matters.

[edit on 21-9-2008 by Buck Division]



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:49 AM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


I am only teasing. It was too good to pass up.

Actually, you have given me something to think about. It makes sense what you say. I think it would benefit all of us to try to trancend words in our thought life so that we might evolve. I have been reading a book called "A New Earth" and the author makes some very interesting points. Mainly that we all spend way too much time "thinking" anyway and that in order to experience peace we need to turn off the voices in our heads altogether and experience silence which is harder to do than one might think. Try it if you haven't already. Thought is what is holding us back as a human race. Unconcious thought anyway, which is what most thought is.

Great post. And great thoughts.lol.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:50 AM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


Actually, they generally are abstract 'cause my brain doesn't sem to use words to procces ideas. Most of my thoughts are in a shape or form, If I think about science I think about it in a sort of shape. it's not something I can really describe.
As for words not associating... it's more like trying to translate a 4-d idea into a 3-d rough sketch.Possible, but you'd have to be more skilled than I am to do it.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:52 AM
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I am currently reading Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tract on the Philosophy of Logic, he has this to say on the matter;

'There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.' (6.522, p89)

However he also states;

'Thought can never be of anything illogical, since if it were, we should have to think illogically.' (3.03, p 12)

and;

'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.' (7.0, p90)

Not entirely your point and perhaps seemingly contradictory but insightful all the same I think. I agree most though with the following;

'A thought contains the possibility of the situation of which it is the thought. What is thinkable is possible too.' (3.02, p12)

Though we may not be able to express in words that which we have thought, we can express it in other ways, as you say, through artistic expression or some other means. It is still expressed though, and perhaps it is a failing of modernity that we fail to recognise our ability to communicate without words.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 01:54 AM
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Originally posted by RuneSpider
reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


Actually, they generally are abstract 'cause my brain doesn't sem to use words to procces ideas. Most of my thoughts are in a shape or form, If I think about science I think about it in a sort of shape. it's not something I can really describe.
As for words not associating... it's more like trying to translate a 4-d idea into a 3-d rough sketch.Possible, but you'd have to be more skilled than I am to do it.


Look, I know it sounds like I'm saying something big. If you think about it it's just common sense. Right now as you are thinking you are using words. When you come across a feeling for which there is no word, you will either approximate and be imprecise, or you will use a creative artistic tool to convey it. Either way, the brain itself cannot have a thought without a word, no matter what the heart feels.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:24 AM
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The theory is called "linguistic determinism" by the way.
But I didn't really know that when I though of it.
Probably cause the words didn't come to me.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:26 AM
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Sounds like Orwell's 1984.
First they changed the vernacular of what people said. Then they refined and removed works to create Newspeak.

Control expression and you control thought is the basic principle.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:29 AM
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Originally posted by lordtyp0
Sounds like Orwell's 1984.
First they changed the vernacular of what people said. Then they refined and removed works to create Newspeak.

Control expression and you control thought is the basic principle.


What you are talking about is the potential manipulation and consequences that can be imposed onto a public unaware of the point I am making.
Hence the reason I am making it.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:42 AM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


This is a frickin' great subject. I have been having so much trouble explaining myself to people lately. There are, in my opinion, three different pieces of what makes a person a personality... the now moment, the collective experience of moments, and the linguistic (both spoken and expressed through body language) interpretation of the two. It's pretty basic. The first two pieces make up your base... and the third interprets your base for public consumption.

What is very interesting is that I am a musician...and I find myself getting lost in thought.... but it isn't words most of the time. It's music. I think of very strange music sometimes. A lot of it, I never produce because even I get disturbed by it haha. Why do I get disturbed by it? Most likely because I have been taught very subliminally through social structure that certain things belong in mental wards and certain things belong in king's chambers.
Our thoughts have many levels that ARE observable if you really concentrate. The linguistic piece of our thoughts has been programmed and it is basically our PR Department to the outside world. The outside world which we believe is much more important than us... so we shun the inside world because we've had this PR Department installed into our heads that believes that we must dumb it all down or rearrange it and make it look perfect for it to mean anything to anyone.

Well that's just not true. The inner and the outer are equal. Therefore, the need for equalization arises in the attempt to create new words and "buddy to buddy" secret languages, music, art, slang terms, movies, etc. Sometimes, two people can be so close that they can know each other's thoughts.... and people can be so tuned in that they can picture exactly what someone is thinking without words.

Words are definitely not the rule... they are the exception. All other animals use vocalization only for certain real time cues. The Darwinists cannot explain this thoroughly. There's no explanation for that...officially. Think about whales and especially dolphins. They use sound.... harmonics and such, very precisely... and it's not some indoctrinated course enforced over years of taught rhetoric... but through instinct.

I'm tired as heck, but hopefully these words might somehow convey my thought.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:50 AM
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reply to post by dunwichwitch
 


well said man.. as a musician I can relate to exactly what your talking/thinking about.



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 02:51 AM
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reply to post by dunwichwitch
 


Imagine you are sitting in a big busy restaurant having dinner. And you are sitting at the farthest table from the front door with your back to the door. Someone walks in and their energy is so strong that even though you don't see them walk in, you are compelled to turn around and look at that person. I speak four languages and none of them has a word for that. So your only recourse is either emote that wordless feeling through an artistic vehicle, or do like I did and spend a whole paragraph describing around it.
Make sense?



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 03:03 AM
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Originally posted by schrodingers dog
Imagine you are sitting in a big busy restaurant having dinner. And you are sitting at the farthest table from the front door with your back to the door. Someone walks in and their energy is so strong that even though you don't see them walk in, you are compelled to turn around and look at that person. I speak four languages and none of them has a word for that. So your only recourse is either emote that wordless feeling through an artistic vehicle, or do like I did and spend a whole paragraph describing around it.
Make sense?


But doesn't this story refute your premise that we can't think anything that we can't say? You thought of something that you couldn't say (except by writing an entire paragraph about it) because there is no word for it -- yet.

The argument that our thoughts are limited by our language is, then, incorrect as evidenced by your example, no?



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 03:08 AM
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I love this topic. It's been too long since I read it, but I remember thinking Pinker was full of poop.

Like RuneSpider, my thoughts often have no words to them. I'm not sure though what the difference is between that and what you're calling "emoting", neurologically or psychologically.

You (SDog) had the clear idea of this concept even before you had a word for it. It took you a paragraph to describe it, but was it really any less clear in your mind than, say, "conspiracy"?

I do remember absolutely fascinating studies comparing the color words of African tribal languages. Some tribes conflate what we think of as "blue" and "green" completely; they can't understand what we mean when we call them two different colors. Not the same way that we can imagine a spectrum from blue to green -- they think of it more as an unordered set of bluegreen than includes everything we'd call either one.

Great stuff


EDIT: I see you beat me to the punch, TuningSpork

EDIT: adding for reference purposes
Words and Meanings by Vivian May is an accessible article that covers some of the linguistics issues raised.

[edit on 9/21/08 by americandingbat]

[edit on 9/21/08 by americandingbat]



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 03:14 AM
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reply to post by Tuning Spork
 


Yes.
What I am trying to convey, and I'm not doing a good job of it, is this.
There are infinite ways that another person can move you. In any language, no matter how developed, there are only a finite amount of words to describe that movement. So as the mind thinks only in verbal terms, any interpretation or description is by definition going to be an approximation.
The only alternative is to try to capture and convey that movement through an artistic and creative mechanism.

edit: Guys, stop for a minute right now and observe your mind, every thought that passes has a word attached to it.




[edit on 9/21/2008 by schrodingers dog]



posted on Sep, 21 2008 @ 03:21 AM
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But it really really doesn't always.

Especially if I'm doing math or chemistry. Then it's just spatial relationships and I struggle consciously to dig up the words to attach to them.

EDIT: and what about linguistic determinism before you knew what it was called? Did you really think out the whole description when you were thinking about it?

EDIT AGAIN: maybe that's secondary though to what I'm starting to think is your real point. I'm not sure I'm not the right track, but I think you're saying that we can only communicate thoughts through agreed-upon symbols or via forms of communication (art, music, dance, ...) that reach past the verbal level.


[edit on 9/21/08 by americandingbat]

[edit on 9/21/08 by americandingbat]





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