Thought and speech are intimately bound up. Although not everyone does this, I think entirely in an ‘inner dialogue’ – that is, the process of thinking is just the process of talking to myself. Ideas like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis* suggest that thought is either totally, or largely, the manipulation of language.
So, how do we go about reasoning with language?
Well, one way is to write. We start writing about a subject not to expound on it, but to explore it. We don’t know at the top of the paragraph what we’re going to say at the end.
For a while, I’ve used a journal or computer as a supplement to my memory and as a thinking aid. I find I can reason further with a pen and paper than I can just talking to myself. The act of writing something down is an act of clarification; stuff on the page often makes more sense than stuff in my head because I have to use decent grammar and finish sentences and paragraphs. Things get interesting when you want to see how lots of your ideas work together. Let’s say, for example, that I’ve written a bunch of stuff on philosophy and on games. Imagine that I have written notes entitled
- Why I am a utilitarian*
- Why I am an existentialist*
- Ain’t games fun?
And let’s say I’ve recognised some possible connections between those notes; the fun from games relates the the ‘greatest happiness’ principle of utilitarianism, and fun games to sportsmanship, and sportsmanship to the responsibility of existentialism. F’r’instance.
How can I connect these up? Maybe these might form the basis for a larger piece of thought, if these atomic pieces of thought could be bound up into ‘molecular’ essays.
Anyway, I’ve rambled from one subject straight into another. Damn language.
- Sapir-Whorf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir-Whorf_Hypothesis
- Utilitarianism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism
- Existentialism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism