What is a thought?

In this Radiolab podcast about Einstein’s brain is an interview with a neurologist named Sebastian Song (spelling?). He says forget about relativity we cannot even explain what a thought is. We can point to where a thought occurs in the brain but we cannot say how a thought is made there.

If a thought is a thing then something should remain and dissipate at death. But nothing “dissipates”. Only the process called thinking and life ends. The body remains without the process of thought, that is, when thinking ends we are no longer alive.

26 thoughts on “What is a thought?

  1. landzek

    I think there are some invisible givens in there.

    Does thought end at death? I think it only ends as a thin which another thing has a relation with. For, indeed there is still thought: the thought of me thinking its ends.

    I think there might be a “thicker” way of voicing your situation.

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    1. signature103 Post author

      I don’t think a thought is a thing. It is no more a thing than running is a thing. This, to me, is categorical mistake, and therefore a perceptual mistake.

      A determiner (a/an/the) does not make “a thought” a thing. It only makes a thought an object in the mind.

      Everything said will necessarily have unsaid parts as well. Mine no more or less than yours. That is the nature of language and thought.

      I do appreciate this conversation. If we agree upon anything, there wouldn’t be a need to talk, just a lot if self-congratulatory back patting.

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      1. landzek

        “We can point to where a thought occurs in the brain but we cannot say how a thought is made there.”

        For example: in the brain. You are asking into thought, and then assume it can be found somewhere.

        This is my “hard problem” of consciousness:

        Less the link between thought and what is observed; this one is actually what is call “the very difficult problem”, despite what’s his name who coined it the hard problem; it’s only very difficult.

        The hard problem is why we see neurology, say, and figure it’s talking about what is actually occurring with the view upon it? specifically “me”. Like a brain surgeon opens up a skull while a patient is awake, and we see all the things that happen when they mess with the grey matter. Even if it was me under that scalpel, The is no reason why I shoul see the images relating “brain-me”. Why do I see all the “brain” stuff and figure it also has to do with what my “thinking material” is doing? Even if I hook a scanner of any type to a media, say, such that i could watch in real time, say, what my brain was doing, there is no reason why I should “know” it is referencing anything about my “knowing” of the scan/picture and my actual knowing of it.

        This is a different problem that just thought-object reference.

        It is the ‘hard’ problem because not only is it very very difficult, but also Because it references an absolute limit: it is hard; solid; substantial; dense…

        So it appears like your statement is saying something consistent (givens accounted for) but there is an invisible given that is the hard problem.

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      2. landzek

        Those questions have to do with the hard question.

        I’d say the question of thought is logistical. “How do you know” less an epistemological question. Like, how do you do that?

        How do you write the letter “a”? How do you build a house? How do you predict the weather?

        Those have answers that arise specific to themselves and give us very definite practical answers.

        Somehow when we ask that same kind of question of thought, we shift gears and say that the category we must answer for thought is different. Yet we get the answer as though it is the same mechanism, as though the operation of the brain answers in the same way as how to build a house, like, “you start by nailing two 2×6 boards together with a nail by a swinging motion of a hammer…”

        In some instances yes, thought can be discerned by referring to brains. But I am not sure if I would say thought is independent or cosmic or something like that. As to how it where thoughts are made, I’d say that has to do with the hard question, not only the very difficult question.

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      3. signature103 Post author

        Interesting. Logic before epistemology before ontology.

        The order is reversed for me. Ontology > epistemology > logistics.

        And I have no problem with thought to be reflexive of itself. We have no recourse but to thought from thought.

        We always start from “part-way through the story”, never at the beginning. No one can be there. And I am fine with that.

        The logistical startpoint is to me a trick, much like my version of the “invisible given” that I find troubling. There is no logic in the reality, only a mind that “sees” it.

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      4. landzek

        I think starting in the middle as a ubiquitous condition of humanity refers to the One Route. It is possible to start at the beginning.

        I think seeing thought in a brain is different than knowing of something through thought.

        Of course, I am not denying that indeed I get a MRI and it comes back that there’s a tumor in my brain, I’m not going to behave as if it’s a fantasy, I mean unless I’m totally afraid of dying or something which I will never know until I get in that situation how I will act. . Lol. .

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      5. signature103 Post author

        I agree. This is the anti-realist argument.

        To start at the beginning would be to assume thought is independent of matter, and all supervenes to thought (mind). Is this where you are going?

        Again, isn’t that assuming an invisible given?

        In the end, this is an ontological question, not a logistical one. And it comes down to which stance we take – the material, ideal, dual, or plural view of the existence.

        From the material point of view there is no possibly of starting at the beginning only to inductively/abductively know it.

        I can only term this suspension you describe as anxiety, in the normal as well as the existential sense.

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      6. landzek

        To start at the beginning might be assuming an invisible given. To point out that whatever method assumes an invisible given is not suggesting that it is incorrect. I am describing a situation .

        If I say the table is wood, do you take it as me suggesting that wood is an incorrect way for the table to be?

        I’m not sure anything we can know arises without something about it that we are missing. Even the idea that we are getting somewhere is missing something, just as the idea that we are getting nowhere. Are they missing the same things? Anything we say about it is also missing something. Is this something missing a same component? Is it different? Whatever I would argue would be missing as much.

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      7. signature103 Post author

        Anti-realist argument is one that believes that realism (the reality being independent of conceptualisation) is “colourless reductionism” (Michael Dummett).

        I agree with Dummett but only that it is precisely that we observe the reality that we “colour” and “reduce” it with our thoughts.

        If thoughts exist as ideal form than reality is already coloured and reduced by it.

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      8. signature103 Post author

        “I think seeing thought in a brain is different than knowing of something through thought.”

        I agree. Seeing is perceiving. Knowing through thought is all we have.

        But I can guess OOO and phenomenology will beg to differ and come to the rescue on this.

        This I cannot agree upon. Again, knowing through thought is all we can have.

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      9. landzek

        From one stand point, Thought is not a ubiquitous entity; Thought, from this view (way of seeing) does not communicate across a common category to encapsulate or dictate what things are any more than a desk encapsulates a guitar, or a pastry encapsulates a stock market, but no less either.

        Likewise, There is not a stable single essence that is “thought” that all humans have or do. Just like “lamp” does not have substance across many instances of lamp to indicate of single thing, so lamp does not communicate across all lamps. It is an ideal form, a tenant of faith, I’d say.

        So similarly “knowing through thought is all we have” is a thought. But it is not the same thought that I come across. Nor the same thought which drywall comes across. Knowing is likewise not contained in thought nor in the drywall.

        In this certain manner through which I begin, thought has no more primacy than lamp, or sun, universe, shit or amoeba. But they do have a sensible relationship.

        This is thus a certain way of knowing which notices that there is a way of knowing which is not Being able (not Being used) to get outside of itself (correlation). A thought which is not correlational, and yet can be communicated and have use under specific conditions, rather than a ubiquitous thought which pervades all other things which then become subjects of thought: Thought ‘uses’ everything else. I am suggesting that thought is no different than any other thing which exists in the universe in its Being used. (Tool Being).

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      10. signature103 Post author

        Your first point then is one of platonic ideal forms, which are real. The real physical world is the non-ideal form.

        Second point, I never claimed your thought is the same as my thought. Nor can thoughts be shared like things. And thought is neither a thing nor an immaterial thing (this is an oxymoron).

        I can see why thoughts have no primacy to sun or lamp. But that is to assume an invisible given. Next thing you will tell me is God takes no primacy over other objects as well.

        So is the decision to go against correlationism, which is no less a decision than any of mine.

        I do not see any different from your decisions to my decisions.

        While I am happy with an imperfect world, ideal forms (in both meaning of “idea” and “perfect”) seems to be what is to satisfy you. I do not mean it disparagingly but rather as an observation.

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      11. landzek

        I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I am saying that the only way for there to be a thought that all human beings have is to have a category that behaves as though it is an ideal form. I am not making a judgment as to its ontological status. I am describing what must be the case given the situation.

        Of course I say lamp. And can talk about all lamps. Such a meaning relies upon an ideal form. What else can it rely upon? Meaning? That also (meaning) used in that way, to stretch out over all existence, a category which supposes in its use to be able to addrsss a whole, Relies upon an ideal.

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      12. landzek

        Ah yes. Let’s see…Ideal form, as I’m
        Using it there is similar to Plato’s forms. I’m not posting that there are “actual” forms though. I am saying that if I say tree with a meaning that encompasses “all trees” then I am using that term in its ideal form, as though there is indeed an ideal form.

        It makes no difference whether or not there is some “actual“ form out there that is an ideal form, what matters is that I say tree and you know exactly what I’m talking about. It exists as an ideal form.

        Thought behaves in this manner. This is how thought functions to grant a true reality.

        I wouldn’t say it is epistemology because I’m not talking about “ways of knowing”. I would not say it is ontological because I’m not saying anything about what might be “actually true” of a thing. I say it is logistical because it involves the operation of knowing what is ontological.

        The reason why I say that what I’m describing is a dynamic process is because it’s like a rainbow, for example, if you go and chase one side of the rainbow as soon as you get there you look yonder and the rainbow leg has come down at the other way, and so then you run after that end of the rainbow.

        But I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a category called “trees“ that don’t indicate something that we all know very well. Neither am I saying that there is not such a true category.

        I am describing what is occurring.

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      13. landzek

        God can take primacy. But so can Thought. If they both can, without dispute, then something else is going on.

        And.

        How is a thought different than, say, a brick?

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      14. signature103 Post author

        This is where we differ. You seem to be talking about epistemology. I am talking ontology.

        The existence of thought in the mind does not make it exist in the real world. This comes down to Idealism or realism. We have drawn two different conclusions from the same reality.

        I don’t doubt thought as a process but to place equal to a brick in real status is to take the ideal for the reality.

        I take the ideal for the illusion.

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      15. landzek

        …. but yet without that illusion you would have nothing to say about what is not an illusion. And this particular manner by which we are proclaiming upon the universe what is true or false or right or wrong or illusion or not illusion is completely arbitrary.

        What would be the purpose of saying that what is ideal is an illusion? It seems to me that you are relying upon an idea of what an illusion is in order to even make a statement that what a ideal is is illusionary.

        And I ask, how are you capable, how are you able to make a distinction between the illusion that is it south essentially ideal, as an actual matter of fact he sensual illusion, and the thing it’s self that is illusionary because it is an ideal?

        I simply say that we all know what we mean when I say ideals and we define it in various ways. And how we define it does not make it any less substantial except that we’re believing or we are somehow investing within our thought towards definition as if it is true and false. It doesn’t matter whether there is an actual truth or an actual files that we are referencing, or whether the argument that we are making is supposing to be talking about what is actually true or false.

        The fact of making these statements is implicit to a substance that we rely on which is true or false. The arguments did not matter at all, and less we think that what we are investing in our argument is actually getting to some truth of the matter of existence.

        Now, I’m not saying that because I am making this description somehow I have a better way that things will occur. I’m not describing the situation as though it were incorrect and that there is a better way to formulate it. I am simply saying look at this tree it has bark it is 25 feet tall it has leaves.

        Similarly I am saying that if I say I believe that ideal categories are an allusion, then I am relying upon the essential component or capability of my thought to be able to discern what is essentially true; in this case, that what is ideal is an illusion. So if the illusion, if that statement that you’re saying to me is true, then it is a contradiction in terms.

        Now instead of posing this is some universal oddity of all thinking beings all human beings that think, namely in this situation you and I are thinkers, I simply say that such statements don’t get us anywhere. That may be interesting to talk about or assert things that somehow seem like they’re logically true, but it really doesn’t get us anywhere so far is what might be actually occurring.

        I can ride in my car all day long and drive it until the gas runs out, but when it does run out if I don’t understand that the reason why the car stopped is because I didn’t put gas in it , then I might think that it is inherent to the car functioning that at times it just stops. Whereas if I actually admit to myself why the car continues to run, that is to say if I understand that the reason why the car runs is because I put gas in it, then my perception of riding in the car and the car is functioning is totally different.

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      16. landzek

        Ok. This one instead: That’s fine to be talking ontologically. But I do not see what I am saying as epistemological. I see it as logistical: how supply chains function. Not “logically” necessarily, but how resources move along chains to supply the juncture that we call reality, or. How ontology functions.

        Maybe that’s a better way of putting it. It does not argue against ontological arguments, as itemized per say, but it does tend to show how ontology functions along determined lines.

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