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Thread: Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form

  1. #1 Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form 
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    Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form

    Mammals evolved on this planet about 200 million years ago. One type of mammal, the hominid, began using audible signals to convey meaning about 4 million years ago. Language, as we comprehend that word, began much less than 4 million years ago.

    What is thought? The dictionary gives us various definitions of thought; I would guess that it is accurate to say that the actions of neural networks that control our sensorimotor actions can be regarded as thought. In other words, such things as memory, control of movements, and processing of sense inputs are all a process of thinking. Thinking produces thoughts. Thinking goes on all the time even while we sleep.

    I guess that we will agree that all mammals had to have the ability to think. This leads to the conclusion that thinking was been happening on this planet at least 200 million years before human language existed on this planet.

    Those individuals who accept the science of evolution must then conclude that humans may think in linguistic forms some small percentage of the time but that most thought is not in linguistic form.

    “It is the rule of thumb among cognitive scientists that unconscious thought is 95 percent of all thought—and that may be a serious underestimates.”

    What does all this mean to you? It means that most of the things that you think are true about thinking are pure non-sense. This also applies to many of the things we all believe that are based upon the philosophical attitudes that fills our life are likewise pure non-sense.

    How can we overcome this avalanche of pure nonsense that we learn from our culture via social osmosis?


    Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”—Lakoff and Johnson


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  3. #2 Re: Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form
    Well, duh.

    Personally I have an easy awareness of this. The linguistic part of me is a minor network woven into a much larger network. Because woven into it is wrong to say "some small percentage of the time" - thoughts operate simultaneously, intertwined, and frequently merge and mingle. It is kinda impossible to think "lion" without thinking it on many levels at once.

    Sometimes one encounters linguistic parts of people that insist they are the true exclusive consciousness. The "I". And all that other is wild subconscious. Too bad for them.


    How can we overcome this avalanche of pure nonsense that we learn from our culture via social osmosis?
    Who's "we"?


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  4. #3 Re: Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form
    Well, duh.

    Personally I have an easy awareness of this. The linguistic part of me is a minor network woven into a much larger network.

    Who's "we"?
    My experience indicates to me that most people think that we think in words. Evidently you are not one of them.

    We is us and they is them. We are generally correct and they are generall incorrect
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Thinking goes on all the time even while we sleep.
    If this is true, then the automatic motor control required to turn over in my sleep is the result of thought...

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    In other words, such things as memory, control of movements, and processing of sense inputs are all a process of thinking.
    ...and therefore, all motor control, even instinctive reactions like swatting a fly away from my face, are the result of thought.

    This doesn't sit well. How can an action I have not thought about, but which is purely instinctive and re-actionary in nature, be considered thought?

    Your definition also allows for input to memory to be considerd thought. This just doesn't seem right. I suggest that memory output, retrieving my memories, is thinking, they get input to memory automatically without any thought required, don't they?

    I therefore suggest that thought be re-defined to be the conscious motor control, sensory input translation, memory output and calculation functions.

    What I have said so far makes sense to me in that it just doesn't seem reasonable to call the motor instruction that causes me to fart, a thought, and then also call Plato a serious thinker! It seems reasonable to require me to have put some conscious effort into my thoughts, doesn't it?

    But there is an obvious contradiction here. If my interpretation is correct, then animals don't think. Mr. Lion sitting under the baobob tree doesn't think to himself, "Hmm, I think I'll have a fresh Eland for dinner today", he just ambles down to the water hole and takes the first catchable critter for lunch. Animals are responding, instinctively, to their environment, without what I am now considering thought to be.

    Am I wrong to think like this, do animals think?
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  6. #5  
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    it just doesn't seem reasonable to call the motor instruction that causes me to fart
    You don't always fart on purpose?

    But yeah, duh +1.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  7. #6  
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    numbers

    I think that you are allowing your common sense reactions to inhibit your ability to learn a new domain of knowledge. I suspect that we must turn off our common sense reactions until we learn some of the fundamentals of a new science or we will never make it.
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  8. #7 i beg your pardon 
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    language is to thought as thought is to mind, if the language is coded due to developmental stages in time, that doesn't make the language seperate from thought. just coded or conceptualized through a different medium then vocal speech.

    if a mammal through memory, or instinctivness conveys a knowing of its circumstances wouldn't that knowing(thought) be a form of communication which in turn is a language, which in turn is a thought.

    words is mind the arrangment of those words in mind are thought, cant have thought without a medium of language. if you truly believe that the one is independent of the other, please tell me what have you ever thought of without the benefit of language.

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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    I therefore suggest that thought be re-defined to be the conscious motor control, sensory input translation, memory output and calculation functions.
    That's not all of you talking. But all of you is thoughtful IMO. Never mind the "I".

    An illustration I like to use is the apparently unconscious tying of shoelaces. But since this is an internet forum and english is probably your mother tongue consider the printed word, say "lion". There "you" just read the word. Making sense of the shapes on screen required no thought on "your" part. Yet it did. You once tackled reading quite consciously with finger tracing the letters and mumbling the sounds. That part of you that was conscious then has not disappeared or changed. The thoughts remain, more or less resolved. In a way, the child who learned to read is still there buried under "you".

    What we experience as consciousness is just the leading edge of new thought. Why we say you can't step in the same river twice: because you are a different you with every step you take.

    Sometimes we leave thoughts unresolved for some reason. They're flawed, like maybe they conflict with some other thoughts. Then they may grow an active life of their own, apart from the main consciousness, and "they" later startle "us" as symbolic dreams or "subconscious thoughts" or nagging questions. If it's very far removed it may be strange, as in stranger. But most are just idle openings receptive to new thought, if new thought ever turns that way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    An illustration I like to use is the apparently unconscious tying of shoelaces.
    Things that I choose to do, like tying my shoelaces, or reading, even though I no longer think about how to do them, are covered under conscious motor control. I did not mean to imply that I have to think very carefully (or at all) about how to do it, merely that my decision to do it should be conscious.

    The things I wanted to exclude are those things I do, without choosing to do them, the things that just happen, like blinking, or rolling over in my sleep. It seems counter-intuitive to think of these as any kind of "thought" simply because some motor control is required to make it happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    Sometimes we leave thoughts unresolved for some reason.
    This whole paragraph is interesting, and very well written, but I'm afraid I don't see how it contributes to an answer to the question.

    Do animals think?

    This isn't just an idle question, it has consequences for me and I would like to resolve it.

    And I'm sorry if this sounds ungrateful or something, but I don't find "duh +1" to be a very informative response.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Things that I choose to do, like tying my shoelaces, or reading, even though I no longer think about how to do them, are covered under conscious motor control. I did not mean to imply that I have to think very carefully (or at all) about how to do it, merely that my decision to do it should be conscious.
    Have you ever followed a series of instructions? Are the instructions more conscious than you in this case? That's not a rhetorical question. I think the uncomfortable answer may shed some light into the origins of language, ego, religion. Remember being taught to put on your pajamas? Where was the consciousness?

    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    The things I wanted to exclude are those things I do, without choosing to do them, the things that just happen, like blinking, or rolling over in my sleep.
    You know nothing just happens. Even blinking, a newborn isn't very proficient, and learns better. That learning is thought, and conscious. It's funny you mentioned farting, because newborns always look most sagely introspective when they're about to toot. Their minds are occupied with digestion. Later, this "comes naturally". Years later you may drive home from work "on autopilot" and it's the same thing. What is conscious today will be unconscious tomorrow. Someday you may find yourself participating in a boring conversation, and your words "just happen".

    Just what are you, is a good question.

    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Do animals think?
    What's the problem? Moral?
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    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    You know nothing just happens.
    Yes, I knew you would pick up on that. I didn't mean it just happens, spontaneously, without any cause or reason; I meant that I did not decide to blink. There is some automatic response to the level of lubrication on my eyeball that causes a blink reflex when additional lubricant is required. This is taken care of for me, I do not have to think about it.

    If I am in a lift and I press the button to go down, this closes a switch which moves a relay which turns on a motor which winds a drum which unreels the cable and the lift goes down. I don't think about the switch, or the relay or the motor, I just press the button and go down. In this analogy, the switch, the relay, the motor, and the drum would all be included in my "thinking" because they are directly consequent upon my decision to go down. But the smoke detector in the ceiling is working the whole time, whether I go up or down, so this is not included in my "thinking". I'm not claiming the smoke detector just "happens" it is just not counted as "thinking".

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    What's the problem? Moral?
    Not moral, philosophical. My personal philosophy starts from a fundamental assumption that we are just animals, no different than the birds and the bees. From this, I arrive at the conclusion that we have no "higher" theological or ideological "purpose", there is no "point" to our lives, it just is. The objective is simply to participate in the process of evolution - which may or may not mean passing on my genes.

    Coberst's post has caused me to wonder about the validity of my basic assumption. If animals do not think then my assumption cannot be made. That, of course, would not imply that I do have a purpose, it just means that I can no longer rely on the assumption that we are the same as the other animal species.

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    Are the instructions more conscious than you in this case?
    I'm sorry, but I don't understand the concept of "more" conscious. I am either conscious or I am not. Some other thing is either conscious or it is not. But unless one is and the other is not conscious I have no way of comparing levels of consciousness between two things.

    I also have a bit of a problem just saying "I am conscious" without reference to something else. I am conscious of this, or that, but just claiming I am conscious doesn't make any sense to me. When I'm asleep I am not conscious.

    For the sake of having a discussion I will step around those semantics and say that the instructions are not conscious but since I am following them I must be conscious of them, and so yes, I am at that point and in that sense, more conscious than the instructions.

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    I think the uncomfortable answer may shed some light into the origins of language, ego, religion.
    The answer is not uncomfortable and I regret it sheds no light on anything. I am clearly missing the point here.

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    Remember being taught to put on your pajamas? Where was the consciousness?
    It had never occurred to me before that consciousness might have a "where". Even now you have asked the question I am struggling; I suppose if you forced me at the point of a gun to choose I would say that my consciousness is in my head. But so what?

    Ah, hang on a second. Consciousness is in my head, so being conscious of X is the same as thinking about X, and thinking about X is the same as being conscious of X. I can't determine if that implies they are the same or merely dependent but there clearly is a close relationship. Consciousness implies thinking and vice versa. Apart from the conclusion that conscious thought is a tautology I can't see this going anywhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    What is conscious today will be unconscious tomorrow.
    I used to be an athletics coach, the whole point of which is to teach the athlete to do automatically that which he currently finds impossible. How does this help me understand whether animals think?

    Hang on, you're saying that animals are conscious, and have learned behaviour, so therefore they do think. They don't have to be pondering the sequence of the primes to be thinking, the mere fact that they are conscious and have learned behaviour is sufficient.
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  13. #12  
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    Tuppence:

    1. 'Thought' can apply to a wide variety of defined phenomena - from anything a neuron does to only 'sophisticated' hard-problem-of-consciousness style stuff. Unless everyone concerned defines what they mean by thought, we might be arguing apples and oranges.

    2. The OP, by coberst, seems to suggest a very wide variety of activity being included under his conception of 'thought', by which token his premise is unarguable. Whether or not it is useful is a different matter, as he appears as a result of this proposition to be contemplating some 'higher mysticism' that is, IMO, a non sequitur: there is the basic fact of an inclusive definition of thought, and the fact that follows from it, that not all such thought is verbal, but this has nothing to do with whether or not there's a 'higher level of consciousness'. Then again, perhaps I'm just a spoilsport who prefers critical thinking.
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    I think that it is wise to set aside our common sense reactions when examining a new domain of knowledge until we have studied the matter sufficiently to have a considered opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I think that it is wise to set aside our common sense reactions when examining a new domain of knowledge until we have studied the matter sufficiently to have a considered opinion.
    I agree - hence the reference to critical thinking, not common sense.

    1. How do we now that this is a 'new domain of knowledge' and not:

    a. a scam intended eventually to lead to a subscription service;

    b. or someone simply trying to 'big himself up' in a largely uncritical arena

    amongst other possibilities?

    2. What will be considered sufficient study 'to have a considered opinion' is itself a matter of opinion. If you have a fair deal of knowledge in a field and someone comes up with an idea or theory, you may well be in a position to accept or reject it without examining its intricacies - it may be clear at the outset whether or not it will work. What is worth avoiding, therefore, is uncritical acceptance of the Jehovah's Witness quotation no 47: "You cannot talk about the Bible unless you have studied it as intensively as I have". It is unnecesary to have been an executioner to have an informed, considered and valid opinion on the death penalty. Similarly, if it looks like manure and smells like manure, sometimes it is necessary to give it the deserved name (substitute the word 'duck' for 'manure' if the latter seems offensive).
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    Common sense though ought to be the filter we use to select ideas for further evaluation, and every person's common sense is based on a different set of experiences and prejudices so our individual filtrates will look different. This, I think, is where consensus comes in. Certainly not infallible, but necessary to avoid a huge amount of time-wasting on spurious ideas.

    Congrats, sunshinewarrior on your appointment as policeman for this sub-forum. May all the posts be on topic and all the disagreements friendly.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Congrats, sunshinewarrior on your appointment as policeman for this sub-forum. May all the posts be on topic and all the disagreements friendly.
    Thank you for your good wishes. My best to you and yours too! And let us hope you get your wishes in these matters.
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  18. #17 Re: Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Most Thought is NOT in Linguistic Form
    I am very confused. Sunshine Warrior and one or two others have commented that the definition of 'thought' is critical to the discussion. It would be nice to read Coberst's definition.
    It seems to be - and this is a definition I am comfortable with - any form of brain activity related to brain function. So not the plumbing aspects of moving blood and around, but the action of neurons, etc.

    Given that, I have no problem at all with the observation that cognitive psychologists believe at least 90% of thought is unconscious. I think that is both a given and a commonplace piece of information.

    But this is where my confusion kicks in. Coberst you say " It means that most of the things that you think are true about thinking are pure non-sense." Could you give some examples? Most observations about thinking tend to be about the conscious part of thought. and I think they are typically valid for that part of thought. (I also accept that some people would prefer that the definition of thought was restricted to just this conscious portion. I'm happy with either definition, just as long as we stick to one or other in a particular discussion.) I am just not clear what ideas I have must be nonsense. Of course I realise you are not necessarily talking to me specifically, but I'm also having difficulty figuring out what sort of nonsense ideas others might have.
    The idea that we have wrong ideas about thinking just don't seem to flow naturally from the fact that most thought is unconscious. (Am I making an even bigger mistake by thinking that unconscious and non-linguistic are pretty much the same?)

    Help!!
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    First off, John Galt, a hearty welcome to these forums! I can already see you will provide lots of value to this site.

    I am also not sure where Coberst is getting this from. Personally, most of my conscious thoughts are conceptually based, second come visual and then linguistic. They are often combinations of these, but the prevailing portions are as above. I think there are people with different relative combinations though. As for the unconscious part, I'll have to ponder on that. :wink:
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    Thank you for your welcome. It seems an interesting and lively place.
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    In the 1970s a new body of empirical research began to introduce findings that questioned the traditional Anglo-American cognitive paradigm of AI (Artificial Intelligence), i.e. symbol manipulation.

    This research indicates that the neurological structures associated with sensorimotor activity are mapped directly to the higher cortical brain structures to form the foundation for subjective conceptualization in the human brain. In other words, our abstract ideas are constructed with copies of sensorimotor neurological structures as a foundation. “It is the rule of thumb among cognitive scientists that unconscious thought is 95 percent of all thought—and that may be a serious underestimate.”

    Categorization, the first level of abstraction from “Reality” is our first level of conceptualization and thus of knowing. Seeing is a process that includes categorization, we see something as an interaction between the seer and what is seen. “Seeing typically involves categorization.”

    Our categories are what we consider to be real in the world: tree, rock, animal…Our concepts are what we use to structure our reasoning about these categories. Concepts are neural structures that are the fundamental means by which we reason about categories.

    Human categories, the stuff of experience, are reasoned about in many different ways. These differing ways of reasoning, these different conceptualizations, are called prototypes and represent the second level of conceptualization

    Typical-case prototype conceptualization modes are “used in drawing inferences about category members in the absence of any special contextual information. Ideal-case prototypes allow us to evaluate category members relative to some conceptual standard…Social stereotypes are used to make snap judgments…Salient exemplars (well-known examples) are used for making probability judgments…Reasoning with prototypes is, indeed, so common that it is inconceivable that we could function for long without them.”

    When we conceptualize categories in this fashion we often envision them using spatial metaphors. Spatial relation metaphors form the heart of our ability to perceive, conceive, and to move about in space. We unconsciously form spatial relation contexts for entities: ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘about’, ‘across from’ some other entity are common relationships that make it possible for us to function in our normal manner.

    When we perceive a black cat and do not wish to cross its path our imagination conceives container shapes such that we do not penetrate the container space occupied by the cat at some time in its journey. We function in space and the container schema is a normal means we have for reasoning about action in space. Such imaginings are not conscious but most of our perception and conception is an automatic unconscious force for functioning in the world.

    Our manner of using language to explain experience provides us with an insight into our cognitive structuring process. Perceptual cues are mapped onto cognitive spaces wherein a representation of the experience is structured onto our spatial-relation contour. There is no direct connection between perception and language.

    The claim of cognitive science is “that the very properties of concepts are created as a result of the way the brain and the body are structured and the way they function in interpersonal relations and in the physical world.”


    Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson

    Questions for discussion

    Is all of this of any importance for ‘the man on the street’? I think so because if we comprehend these fundamental facts about human perception and motor movement we will better comprehend why we do the things we do.

    We live our lives by our abstract ideas, i.e. morality, flag, nation, patriotism, value, motive, good, right, fairness, etc.

    Do you think it is important for ‘the man on the street’ to comprehend how concepts are made?
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    Sorry Coberst. I am still lost. I'm not sure if that was partially an answer to my questions or not.
    To answer your question, I think all knowledge is potentially important to 'the man in the street', but we also need to know if it is relevant or practical. If you can help remove my confusion I can better answer whether or not this particular knowledge would be actually important to the average person.
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    We have preconceptual structures that await any new experience and perhaps the most fundamental of these is the container schema.[/b] This container schema has a boundary that distinguishes the container’s interior from the exterior.

    With a little thought we can find dozens of instances during the day when we distinguish in-out activities. We emerge out of a deep sleep and into the morning sunlight; we get out of bed and go to the kitchen to take the bread from the bread box and place the slices into the toaster.

    The CONTAINER SCHEMA:

    We conceptualize an enormous number of activities in CONTAINER terms. The container schema (a mental codification of experience that includes a particular organized way of perceiving cognitively) is a spatial-relations concept that all advanced neural creatures impose upon acts of perception and conception.

    There is a spatial logic inherent in the container schema; it is axiomatic that given two containers, A and B, and an object, X, if A is in B and X is in A, then X is in B. The container schema like all image schemas can be imposed on what we hear, on what we see, and on our motor movements; such schemas are cross-modal.

    The container schema is a fundamental spatial-relations concept that allows us to draw important inferences. This natural container format is the source for our logical inferences that are so obvious to us when we view Venn diagrams. If container A is in container B and B is in container C, then A is in C.

    A container schema is a gestalt (a functional unit) figure with an interior, an exterior, and a boundary—the parts make sense only as part of the whole. Container schemas are cross-modal—“we can impose a conceptual container schema on a visual scene…on something we hear, as when we conceptually separate out one part of a piece of music from another…This structure is topological in the sense that the boundary can be made larger, smaller, or distorted and still remain the boundary of a container schema…Image schemas have a special cognitive function: They are both perceptual and conceptual in nature. As such, they provide a bridge between language and reasoning on the one hand and vision on the other.”

    The PART-WHOLE Schema:

    We conceptualize our self as a whole with parts. Families are conceptualized as a whole with parts. “The general concept of structure itself is a metaphorical projection of the CONFIGURATION aspect of PART-WHOLE STRUCTURE. When we understand two things as being isomorphic, we mean that their parts stand in the same configuration to the whole.”

    Basic Logic: If the WHOLE exists then the PARTS exist. The PARTS can exist while the WHOLE may not exist. “We have evolved so that our basic-level perception can distinguish the fundamental PART-WHOLE structure that we need in order to function in our physical environment.”

    There are a few more but this gives you an idea of how SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) claims that we structure our reality.

    Quotes from “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind” by George Lakoff
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  24. #23  
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    Thank you for your further reply. I'm afraid you have completely lost me. Was this an attempt to answer my original questions or to help me understand your original point? If I can't understand your next reply I shall have to regretfully withdraw from the discussion.
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    I shall have to regretfully withdraw from the discussion.
    While I'll be conviced that Coberst has contributed almost nothing of his own thoughts.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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