• Ken Edwards
    115
    I am going to describe here a known fact about Thoughts and Thinking that must have important Philosophical Ramifications even though I can't think of any.

    Here it is the Puzzling Fact. "A person cannot think verbal thoughts without speaking those thoughts aloud." This fact is a well known fact among psychologists and might be known to you.

    If you are willing to cooperate I can partially demonstrate this fact by performing a simple experiment. Not a thought experiment but a real one.

    As follows:

    First, Repeat this thought out loud several times:

    "The father handed the baby to the mother".

    Ignore the meaning. The meaning is irrelevant.

    Now think those very same words again silently. Think them again BUT WITOUT READING THEM. Close your eyes or something.

    Notice how easily and smoothly these thoughts roll out.

    Now open your mouth very wide, as wide as you can.

    Now think those words again. Don't read them

    Do you notice an awkwardness in your thinking? Awkwardness almost to the the point of an inability to think the words at all?

    Let me enlarge on this.

    One can easily buy speech detecters. These are ordinary motion detectors that can be clamped onto a subjects's lips and tongue and laid against a person's vocal chords (in the adam's apple) during a scientific experiment and speech movements can be detected.

    Many such experiments have been carried out wherein the subject is asked to think silently and speech has always been detected.
  • Banno
    11.7k
    Do you notice an awkwardness in your thinking? Awkwardness almost to the the point of an inability to think the words at all?Ken Edwards

    No.
  • bert1
    672
    Do you notice an awkwardness in your thinking? Awkwardness almost to the the point of an inability to think the words at all?Ken Edwards

    A little, yes.
  • Mww
    2.3k
    Do you notice an awkwardness in your thinking?Ken Edwards

    Not even a little.
  • Pantagruel
    1.5k
    I have long known that if I read aloud, or at least mouth the words, I comprehend almost effortlessly, and far faster and better than if I have to read and re-read a paragraph mentally.

    Interestingly, I was on Unemployment insurance in 1990, just after I graduated from university, and they paid for me to take a test to enter a Systems Analysis program, which was a pretty new field at the time. It was a three-hour test that I finished after an hour. Early the next day, Saturday, they called me, and told me I had gotten the second highest score in verbal reasoning they had ever seen.

    Spoken words definitely possess a magic all their own.
  • creativesoul
    9.8k


    Funny thing is that I read the entire OP without ever speaking aloud.
  • Ken Edwards
    115

    Exciting to know! You might have an important new, time saving reading aidand teaching aid that should be widely know.

    What did you think about my basic contention? That verbal thoughts must always be spoken? I predict you don't think anything about it at all. I don't either.
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    You don't know that because you were speaking super softly. But you were twitching the speaking muscles. You could only cofirm that eith a movement detector.

    You may have been reading at the same time.
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    Was your mouth wide open? Were you reading at the same time?
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    Was your mouth wide open? Were you reading at the same time?
  • Ken Edwards
    115

    Was your mouth wide open? Were you reading at the same time?
  • Banno
    11.7k
    Yes - I will happily add that I read out loud when proofreading difficult paragraphs or when there is considerable background noise or other distraction.

    But isn't that a puzzle about reading, rather than thinking?
  • Pantagruel
    1.5k
    But isn't that a puzzle about reading, rather than thinking?Banno

    Is thinking mental reading, or is reading verbalized thinking?
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    No, reading does not enter into it, the phrase that you are thinking might be taken from the memory or simply invented or a phrase from the default mind.

    The words: "The father handed the baby to the mother" were chosen because the consonants in that phrase are all pronounced with the mouth almost closed. Th, tongue against lips, f, lips against teeth, , h tongue against the front of the palate, b and m lips against lips. Therefore they would impossible to read aloud with the mouth wide open and slightly difficult to read silently.
  • Mww
    2.3k
    What did you think about my basic contention? That verbal thoughts must always be spoken?Ken Edwards

    I think your basic contention is mistaken. That which seems like internal vocalizing, is still merely thinking, and nothing I think requires speech. It is true, on the other hand, that what is spoken must first be thought. Therefore, I think your contention is mistaken because I think it is backwards.

    I predict you don't think anything about it at all.Ken Edwards

    I wouldn’t normally, but you asked what I thought about something, which requires I think something, iff I intend to respond.

    Was your mouth wide open? Were you reading at the same time?Ken Edwards

    Yes. No. I followed directions. Not much difference in thinking the words with my eyes closed and thinking them with my mouth open. I don’t think with either one, actually, so why would it matter what they’re doing when I’m thinking?
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    Lets see uh. . Both thinking and reading are mental but so is everything else. For example: fearing and hating etc. and I don't like the word mental because it includes all 3 minds plus memories.

    Everything in the conscious mind is verbaized by definition and the reverse is true: if is not verbalized it can't enter the conscious mind. We might prefer to call it: "the word mind or the semantic mind".
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    It doesn't matter.
  • Pantagruel
    1.5k
    Right, so we can't really differentiate between our personal use of concepts and the cultural-collective heritage within which those concepts evolved and were transmitted.
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    MWW Your words: "I think your basic contention is mistaken. That which seems like internal vocalizing, is still merely thinking, and nothing I think requires speech. It is true, on the other hand, that what is spoken must first be thought. Therefore, I think your contention is mistaken because I think it is backwards.
    It is not mistaken but it is almost impossible to beleive and not at all even slightly reasonable and can only be confirmed with a movement detecter.
  • Mww
    2.3k


    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying there is no movement as shown by a detector. I don’t know anything about that, except what you just told me. But even if there is detectable movement, it doesn't change the rest of what I said. And just leaves me to ask......so what? Is this just a matter of interest to certain psychological/anthropological disciplines, or is there some benefit to mankind in knowing about it?
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    Re your words: "our personal use of concepts and the cultural-collective heritage within which those concepts evolved and were transmitted."
    I agree. I would gues that: "the cultural-collective heritage within which those concepts evolved" includes and contains "our personal use of concepts"
  • Pantagruel
    1.5k
    I don't think it's circular. The cultural "milieux" precedes and is not dependent on the minds which it subsequently affects.....
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    I agree, In the beginning I said: "have important Philosophical Ramifications even though I can't think of any.
    We are wallowing in trivia.
  • Mww
    2.3k


    If we’re wallowing in trivia, and if the whole thing is not at all even slightly reasonable, doesn't seem like fertile ground for important philosophical ramifications.

    It would be fun to learn a puzzling fact about thinking, though.
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    No I dont think it moves backwards but it does move forwards in time.
    our personal use of concepts derives from the cultural-collective heritage
  • Ken Edwards
    115
    You just did. Go buy a Movement detecter.
  • Possibility
    2k
    Here it is the Puzzling Fact. "A person cannot think verbal thoughts without speaking those thoughts aloud." This fact is a well known fact among psychologists and might be known to you.Ken Edwards

    I don’t think the conclusion drawn from the experiment is accurate. I will accept that there is a relation between thinking about words and actions required to speak those words, and that often when our attention and effort is concentrated on thinking about the words, we tend to also go through the motions at a minimal level.

    But I don’t think it follows that a person cannot think about words without speaking them, and certainly not aloud. I think the movements help to focus attention (I think @Banno alluded to this), but they aren’t necessary.
  • unenlightened
    5.6k
    We call it 'embodied cognition'. It connects with the notion that one can improve one's physical performance in say tennis by visualising practice. Memory jocks commonly visualise a familiar journey and mentally 'place' the information they want to recall along the route. Philosophers all too frequently forget that they are embodied to the great frustration of their wives if any. "All talk and no trousers."

    However, visualisation is not verbal but still thinking. Do I need to draw you a diagram?
  • frank
    6.7k

    I've been thinking about the idea that remembering is healing, as if every memory is a little lesion in the brain, a little wound in the mind, a little sore in the soul, a little launchpad in the embodiment that sends thoughts on a hero's journey.
  • khaled
    2.6k
    I don't think it's so much puzzling as interesting. Our minds are embodied. It would not be so surprising to posit that thinking causes movements outside of just the brain (at the tongue for example) and that it is more difficult to think when these movements are forcefully inhibited. Just like it would be harder to run with your arms and shoulders locked in place.

    What's the significance of this though?
  • Ken Edwards
    115

    Participating in this discussion I have become convinced that I have been on the wrong track.

    I stated: "Here it is a Puzzling Fact. A person cannot think verbal thoughts without speaking those thoughts aloud." This fact is a well known fact among psychologists and might be known to you.

    MWW suggested that I might have it backwards and I think he is correct.

    I now think speech itself is only one aspect of a complex gestalt.
    Consider: Without a conscious mind there could be no speech. Without speech there could be no conscious mind.

    Without vocal chords there could be neither.

    Those thoughts provoke new perplexities. Why are humans the only animals that have conscious minds? That is an astonishing statement. How could that be true?

    The logical question that arises is: Where did the conscious mind come from?

    A possible answer is that evolution evolved speech in human beings slowly over a very long period of time, perhaps 300,000 years.

    But that merely delays the question. Why did evolution evolve speech only in humans?

    Speech requires a brain that contains very large numbers of brain cells.

    Early man had more brain cells than any other animal on earth. He also had vocal chords. So the bones of the human skull expanded and the prefrontal lobes were created just above the eyes.

    Only in humans.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.