What is a thought?

November 16, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

What is a thought?

An elementary thought – not a thought made up of other thoughts.

  • What is the nature of a thought?
  • What is it made of?
  • What is an example of the most basic thought?

As an image is to visual sense, and a sound is to auditory sense, a thought is a unit of cognitive sense. The difference between perceptual senses and cognitive senses is that cognitive senses are directly participatory. While we can imagine a sound or image, the experience resembles a request that is fulfilled behind the curtain, by some faculty of imagination. With thinking, we feel that we ourselves are directly expressing ourselves rather than passively watching a presentation of thought in the mind’s eye.

To me, this suggests that the cognitive level of awareness is a meta-level of perception. It specializes in abstracting sub-personal levels of sensation into a communicable form, and in the rehearsal of hypothetical experiences. In this way, the base level sensory-motive interactions of the body-world experience are extended. Senses can be interpreted with more perspective and intelligence, while motives can be executed with more strategic forethought. Thinking is a way of making an enriched present and future by distilling from the past. The distilling process is inherently sequential, as the oceanic nature of experiential aesthetics is reduced to a sequence of gestures and symbols which can be projected and received not only as sensory-motive presentations, but also as information-theoretic representations.

If a feeling were a cube that is full of some kind of juice of experiential significance, a thought would dehydrate the juice, leaving the cube with just the residue of its former significance. The empty cube can now contain other thoughts and feelings – stacks of them. What thought lacks in experiential qualities, it makes up for in versatility.

What is the nature of a thought? Metaphor. The etymology of metaphor has to do with carrying over, and the root word ‘phor’ is also found as ‘fer’, as in euphoria and inference. If a feeling is an aesthetic quality which we carry (or ferry), then meta-phor implies a stepping outside of the system – a carrying of carrying itself. This is what thought allows us to do – to pick up fragments of our feeling and experience as if we had a mental thumb and forefinger which we can use to arrange into larger re-fer-ences with larger or smaller application. Without the basic capacity to isolate some significant sense from experience and to apply it to another experience as if they were related independently of our intent, there could be no thought. Thought is pretending.

What is it made of? In my view, all things are ‘made of’ what I call sense. The power to perceive and participate in perception. Thought seems different from electromagnetism or mass-energy because we are directly within it. Physics presents our body with features of other experiences as external bodies. The results of that exteriorized view, are, in my view, responsible for the alienation that we encounter when we try to re-absorb our own subjectivity after we have objectified it as physical forms and functions. In particular, thoughts are made, as far as we know, of the experiences of Homo sapiens or perhaps earlier hominids as well. Honey is made of bees sense and motive, thought is made of human sense and motive.

What is an example of the most basic thought? If we look at what infants seem to be thinking about, “mama” seems popular. They seem to want a lot of help and attention. When we wake up in the morning, there seems to be a sense of remembering where we are and what has been going on. Likewise, before falling asleep, our hynagogic state of consciousness seems to hinge on dissolving our sense of locality and memory. We can slip in and out of fragmented dream states until the figure-ground relation seems to tessellate us into a less thoughtful and more relaxed mode of being. Thought then, like a birds tweet, may begin as a localizing beacon. To think is to encapsulate your experience and to consider whether to alert others about it. We weave a web of memories within ourselves and our social group – externalizing, perhaps, the process which is represented by our own neurology.

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  1. November 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    It’s important to note that although thought seems more direct to us as human beings, I think that has to do with the nature of human psychology rather than the ontology of thought. A device which simulates thought without the roots of felt experience is like a screen which simulates images without knowing what images even are. As humans, our personal awareness is specialized to identify with thought, but it is actually the more primitive, aesthetic kinds of sensation which consciousness itself is composed of.

  2. samaya
    November 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Samaya's Wisdom Web.

  3. December 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I never thought of this like this before!

  4. Frans
    December 23, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Every thought can contain nonsense… to be unthought now or later.

    • December 23, 2013 at 4:36 am

      I think that when we say ‘nonsense’ all that we mean is sense which fails to meet our expectation of what is sensible in a given context. The phrase “furious blue smoothing” fails to meet a different frame of sense than “igfgorgoj sig wrfjpgjp”, which also fails in fewer frames than “..:%#.”’#@”. Everything is either the presence of sense or the sense of presence. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘unthought’.

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