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My Process of Thought

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My process of thought appears to operate as a functional machine of a specific nature. I notice the following, and assume that if you understand my meaning, you are also capable of noticing these things about how your own process of thought works:

1) It is functional, and requires input on which to operate, or if you prefer, context on which to build.

2) The specifics of the input are omitted, that is, I can initiate a course of thought with respect to any available context.

3) If I don't choose the course of my thought, it does not stop; it keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny, processing away on whatever input it picks up from its surroundings.

4) I can, with effort, gain and keep focus on a specific object of consideration, mentally examining what I am aware of with respect to the object; the longer I try to keep full awareness of a single object of consideration, the harder it gets. Eventually, my focus switches, even if only briefly. So all I can accomplish is a sequence of pairs {focus,duration}

5) There appears to be a minimum duration for which I can consider any particular object of thought, which corresponds to the time it takes to switch to another object of thought.

From these observations, I conclude that my process of thought is sequential with (approximately) fixed frequency of refocusing potential, so that it can be modeled as a finite sequence of objects, with the frequency telling the number of objects considered per unit time.

It may be somewhat more complex, due to the integration of sensory inputs to perceptions across modes, such as seeing and hearing; this may require two inter-related sequences to represent truly. But the essential "segment of thought" still consists of a sequence of considered objects being brought into focus with a specific revision frequency (the same object may be held for multiple beats).

I propose that, in the spirit of Objectivism, we discuss whether this model of the thought process, as a sequence of considerations occurring with a definite frequency, holds water.

I claim it does, as outlined above; I claim it is necessary and sufficient, and does not contradict Objectivist principles in any way.

I claim further that, because it is the essence of how thinking works (at least for me), one can gain conceptual leverage by basing and/or reducing the products of thought on such sequences.

What else do I have to work with?

- ico

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... whether this model of the thought process, as a sequence of considerations occurring with a definite frequency, holds water.
It seems like a reasonable model. From introspection, it would seem that to direct one's thought is somewhat like shining a torch on things one has in one's mind (and "doing stuff" -- e.g. comparing etc. -- with those mental "things") . It also seems that there's basically one main torch, or at least just one bright one with not-quite-in-focus sensory inputs coming in parallel but with lower intensity.

Harry Binswanger had some lectures where he explores various metaphors and models around this. For instance, he talks about (caveat: my paraphrase) a "standing instruction". Just as some sensory input (e.g. a blast from a car horn right behind us) can cause the torch to be pointed to a new area, it seems that we are able to give ourselves "standing instructions" (e.g. "I must remember to do XYZ in situation ABC"). It does not always work, yet it sometimes does: some input triggers an alert (like a reminder alarm popping up) and claims our focus, like someone shouting "Hey! shine your torch here".

I recommend getting "The Mind's best Work - D. N. Perkins". The author reports on a variety of experiments that try to figure out how we think. He even addresses Nate T.'s question. The book is mostly about "creative thinking", but also much more general.

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Thanks for the reference.

Corollaries that follow on: if two conceptual sequences contradict one another, then at least one of them cannot occur; if an imagined sequence cannot actually occur, it is unreal and must be rejected, in all honesty.

Also, there ought to be an implicative algebra of the relationships between such sequences.

I can already see how to express motion as such sequences, thinking only in terms of direction, duration, and intensity -- speed doesn't even enter into the fundamental picture, and velocity as macro-measurable falls out as a derivative that corresponds to the net temporal displacement of entropic bodies (some say "energetic bodies", I see that entropy/information is the basis, energy is just the "carrier wave").

- ico

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My process of thought appears to operate as a functional machine of a specific nature. I notice the following, and assume that if you understand my meaning, you are also capable of noticing these things about how your own process of thought works:

1) It is functional, and requires input on which to operate, or if you prefer, context on which to build.

2) The specifics of the input are omitted, that is, I can initiate a course of thought with respect to any available context.

3) If I don't choose the course of my thought, it does not stop; it keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny, processing away on whatever input it picks up from its surroundings.

3 does not hold for me.

If I do not bring attention to my surroundings, I can vegetate for quite some time.

4) I can, with effort, gain and keep focus on a specific object of consideration, mentally examining what I am aware of with respect to the object; the longer I try to keep full awareness of a single object of consideration, the harder it gets. Eventually, my focus switches, even if only briefly. So all I can accomplish is a sequence of pairs {focus,duration}

I can do that for about 50 minutes.

5) There appears to be a minimum duration for which I can consider any particular object of thought, which corresponds to the time it takes to switch to another object of thought.

I have never noticed a minimum for me. I will have to think about this.

From these observations, I conclude that my process of thought is sequential with (approximately) fixed frequency of refocusing potential, so that it can be modeled as a finite sequence of objects, with the frequency telling the number of objects considered per unit time.

I do not see how what you've stated necessarily leads you to the idea of sequence.

The only thing that's remotely linear to me is the model of: input, operations, output

But even that isn't always sequential. I can have feedback loops where I'm not even aware of the inputs until *after* I've done something with them. Also, ideas can came out of nowhere, without any relationship to the facts in conscious awareness.

I'm afraid your model is neither necessary nor sufficient for my experience of consciousness.

I should also warn you that I've thought about this type of stuff for nearly 20 years.

As for "compatibility", some aspects of conceptual thought aren't sequential. Logic is sequential only because we *arrange* content into a sequence. Consciousness is not a passive sequence of content. It is an active process. That process can be modified by attention, intention, etc.

If you want to build a model of what can be in your consciousness, start with simple attributes like content, format, action, intensity, intentionality, etc. You should separate these from the act of conscious attention to them (i.e. awareness of those attributes as "things")

Once you have a large vocabulary for yourself, you can start forming concepts about actions.

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I claim further that, because it is the essence of how thinking works (at least for me), one can gain conceptual leverage by basing and/or reducing the products of thought on such sequences.

What else do I have to work with?

- ico

That's mid-stream. What enabled you to apply the concept of "sequence"?

Start with the facts that lead you to self-awareness. That allowed you to bring attention to your own inner states and the nature of mental processes. Once you started noticing WHAT you were thinking about, you could identify HOW you were thinking about it.

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What else do I have to work with?

- ico

various kinds of thought processes

how you stimulate thought

what the mind throws away after thinking

how you "sit on" a problem until a solution becomes evident

domain of thought

how you frame that domain

content space

grasping reality by means of abstractions

generation of alternatives

approach

arrangements of content

...

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Exactly, all examples of considering sequences of objects ... and then, considering the relationships among the sequences, and sequences of sequences, and etc. recursively in each and every available direction of elocution.

- ico

Listen, many things are NOT sequential.

When you focus your consciousness on absorbing something, you get bits and pieces from various places. Eventually it "clicks". That "click" is an integration. There is nothing sequential about that. The scope of integration isn't sequential either. When you with play with a new object, trying to learn how it works, you're engaging in a type of exploration with the intention of integration. Scope of integration is not sequential.

When you explore similarities, analogies, metaphors and so on, you moving *laterally*, not sequentially.

When you associate fundamentals, you're thinking non-linearly.

Levels of abstraction aren't sequential.

The domain of thought is NOT sequential.

How you frame the domain is NOT sequential.

Measurement specification is NOT sequential.

Subdivision is not sequential.

Combination is not sequential.

You're treating a non-essential as universal.

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Listen, many things are NOT sequential.

When you focus your consciousness on absorbing something, you get bits and pieces from various places. Eventually it "clicks". That "click" is an integration. There is nothing sequential about that. The scope of integration isn't sequential either. When you with play with a new object, trying to learn how it works, you're engaging in a type of exploration with the intention of integration. Scope of integration is not sequential.

You are missing the recursive nature of objects as hierarchical containers, and the fact that the sequences themselves, and any collection or relationship among them, are also objects of consideration. For example, I can consider my coffee cup and its contents as a whole; or I can change the level of my focus, and consider the cup and its contents as a system of two parts interacting; or I can refocus on the coffee itself, and consider how it is a mixture of a particular nature; and etc.

At each step of consideration, there is an object in focus, which object can be multifaceted, i.e., a complex of lower-order objects. But I cannot simultaneously consider my coffee and your coffee as specifics; I can consider the two coffees as one item if I change focus to that level.

I am saying that the process of thought produces such sequences; I am not saying that the sequence format is necessarily the common means to represent the process, but that, implicitly at least, that is what is going on: a sequence of focus and then refocus.

When you explore similarities, analogies, metaphors and so on, you moving *laterally*, not sequentially.

The logic is lateral; the process of thought is still sequential, and each step of focus brings a new object into resolution and consideration. Objects are not points, they have structure and function, are containers of information, have size and shape (although in many cases size can be set aside, which is also the basis for thought of real thing as scale models in the mind).

When you associate fundamentals, you're thinking non-linearly.

When I associate any two objects, I am considering them as a whole system and examining specific relationships between them consistent with considering them as a whole. My focus shifts from one object, to another, to their interactions/relationships, to the net effect of the interactions as a whole. When I have been definitive about the association, I have explored and exhausted the available sequences, at least in principle if not necessary in fact (I may not need to know the details of each sequence to make the considered association).

Levels of abstraction aren't sequential.

True, levels of abstraction correspond to objects that contain other objects, and are contained by higher order objects. Objects are "state-ic", but the consideration of them over time is sequential. That is how time-perception works: by considering a sequence of related objects (like your images of a clock watched).

The domain of thought is NOT sequential.

How you frame the domain is NOT sequential.

True. It's object-oriented and complex. But the ACTION of thought is sequential, i.e., the process of cycling through the frames is a sequential process where the question "has it already been considered" can be answered definitively.

Measurement specification is NOT sequential.

But the process of measuring is sequential.

Subdivision is not sequential.

The process of subdivision is sequential, the results produced by the process are not.

Combination is not sequential.

The process of comparing can only occur in relation to sets of discretes, and is itself discrete, temporally executed, sequential.

You're treating a non-essential as universal.

Um, no. I am attempting to convert the concept "change" into something more specifically useful, mathematically and operationally.

Try thinking about something before you think about it. Not possible. Thought is sequential, and the objects of consideration are systemic, aggregatable, subdivisible, associatable, etc.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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You are missing the recursive nature of objects as hierarchical containers, and the fact that the sequences themselves, and any collection or relationship among them, are also objects of consideration. For example, I can consider my coffee cup and its contents as a whole; or I can change the level of my focus, and consider the cup and its contents as a system of two parts interacting; or I can refocus on the coffee itself, and consider how it is a mixture of a particular nature; and etc.

At each step of consideration, there is an object in focus, which object can be multifaceted, i.e., a complex of lower-order objects. But I cannot simultaneously consider my coffee and your coffee as specifics; I can consider the two coffees as one item if I change focus to that level.

I specifically pointed out that there are levels of abstraction, so I agree that you can shift your attention to a different level of abstraction or a different system level.

I am saying that the process of thought produces such sequences; I am not saying that the sequence format is necessarily the common means to represent the process, but that, implicitly at least, that is what is going on: a sequence of focus and then refocus.

Focus is certainly an attribute of at least some thought processes, but it isn't universal.

Earlier, I mentioned ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. I think that's far more revealing about the mind than the fact we experience a stream of consciousness.

The logic is lateral; the process of thought is still sequential, and each step of focus brings a new object into resolution and consideration. Objects are not points, they have structure and function, are containers of information, have size and shape (although in many cases size can be set aside, which is also the basis for thought of real thing as scale models in the mind).

It sounds like you're using the word "object" to refer to a type of "mental existent" bearing similarity to abstractions but having intention.

I am not sure what you are using "shape" to refer to.

When I associate any two objects, I am considering them as a whole system and examining specific relationships between them consistent with considering them as a whole. My focus shifts from one object, to another, to their interactions/relationships, to the net effect of the interactions as a whole. When I have been definitive about the association, I have explored and exhausted the available sequences, at least in principle if not necessary in fact (I may not need to know the details of each sequence to make the considered association).

Opposition between fact and principle is a variation of the analytic synthetic dichotomy.

I think what you're trying to grasp is that you get to a certain point when you think you have the essence of something and you can't learn any more at that time anyway because your mind is tired.

But you can always build on previous understanding. That process is effectively endless. Although there is a finite number of things you can do with something, that number is so large that you won't get through them all before you die.

True, levels of abstraction correspond to objects that contain other objects, and are contained by higher order objects. Objects are "state-ic", but the consideration of them over time is sequential. That is how time-perception works: by considering a sequence of related objects (like your images of a clock watched).

Your inner sense of time is not based on perceptual stimulation. Some work on cognitive science has been devoted to the subject, but that's not philosophy so I won't comment.

True. It's object-oriented and complex. But the ACTION of thought is sequential, i.e., the process of cycling through the frames is a sequential process where the question "has it already been considered" can be answered definitively.

Are you distinguishing "frames" on the basis of the intention behind it?

But the process of measuring is sequential.

Sometimes.

Picking up a ruler and putting it down again is sequential.

But ordinal measurement is not.

Neither is measurement of material properties such as strain.

Reread ch 1 of ITOE

The process of subdivision is sequential, the results produced by the process are not.

Subdivision can occur at random moments and doesn't have to be guided by a focus.

The process of comparing can only occur in relation to sets of discretes, and is itself discrete, temporally executed, sequential.

Read Ch 2 of ITOE.

Um, no. I am attempting to convert the concept "change" into something more specifically useful, mathematically and operationally.

So you want to talk about something else. Ok, start a new thread

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I specifically pointed out that there are levels of abstraction, so I agree that you can shift your attention to a different level of abstraction or a different system level.

Focus is certainly an attribute of at least some thought processes, but it isn't universal.

Earlier, I mentioned ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. I think that's far more revealing about the mind than the fact we experience a stream of consciousness.

True, one can operate in a more or less unfocused state of mind, and when one does so, thoughts can appear to come out of nowhere; however, I am not saying that intent is necessary, if you want to drift, you can; I am saying that, in any case, I can't hold two ideas in my mind at one time. Maybe I am deficient relative to some other persons who can multithread consciously, but I have yet to discover how to do it. If you can do it, then it seems a useful potential which I would like to learn how to do, assuming I am capable of it.

It sounds like you're using the word "object" to refer to a type of "mental existent" bearing similarity to abstractions but having intention.

No, I am using "object" to mean "the grasp of an existent by the mind", whether that existent be experienced as an external, physical, and entropic "point-to-able"; or as an internal, conceptual, and syntropic "considerable" with only indirect external referent(s).

Intention is the power that allows me to choose which objects of my experience (including concepts) to think about. But the process of applying intention is sequential, i.e., of choosing my considerable referents in various sequences, and also considering newly formed ideas induced by comparing sequences (i.e., looking at systems formed by inter-related sequences of experience, giving them a name, and then using them as a single object of consideration.

As an example, I can consider 2; I can consider 3; I can consider the addition operation 2+3; and I can consider the result of addition, i.e., 5. But I cannot consider all of these at the same time, I must choose which aspect of the situation I focus on in each instant (or let the ambient winds blow whatever detritus across my mind that comes along, without attempting to direct the process -- but whether undirected or not, the process is the same, but the value of the products of thought (concepts and hence actions) differs as a function of degree of deliberate focus.

The process is the same; the context/content/purpose of the process is variable. GIGO applies to assumptions and data, but the process of thought is the same independent of the content operated on. Or so it seems to me on extensive introspection. Is your experience contradictory to mine? How? Or, is it just a semantic impedance and we are thinking about the same ideas but using different framework objects to relate them?

I am not sure what you are using "shape" to refer to.

The usual meaning, as distinct and separable from "size". Shape is independent of size, which allows me to visualize shapes, and hence working models, in my mind without having to create an actual concrete working model (which wouldn't physically fit into my head).

I think what you're trying to grasp is that you get to a certain point when you think you have the essence of something and you can't learn any more at that time anyway because your mind is tired.

Nope. Not sure where you got that impression. Looks like an attempt by you to rationalize my pursuit of the nature of thought, my attempt to boil it down to essentials, because you don't agree with it but also don't want to be to severe in making me feel "rejected" by your attitude. If you genuinely desire to help me learn, then lose the patronizing attitude and stop looking for how I am "wrong" rather than understanding how I came to my conclusions (which method you can use for yourself simply by turning your focus inward and experience your own process of thought, instead of looking for others to define it for you).

But you can always build on previous understanding. That process is effectively endless. Although there is a finite number of things you can do with something, that number is so large that you won't get through them all before you die.

Right, "build on previous understanding". And that building is a process that occurs step by step in the mind. I am not disputing that the object of thought can be more or less involved and complex; I am saying something so simple it is almost self-evident: the process of building understanding is sequential, just like the process of building a skyscraper -- and you can't hire others to do it for you, if you want to really understand you must at least follow the logic of others for yourself. So it's like a skyscraper that only you can work on.

Your inner sense of time is not based on perceptual stimulation. Some work on cognitive science has been devoted to the subject, but that's not philosophy so I won't comment.

Really? That contradicts my own experience; have you validated that for yourself, or are you parroting? (see, I can be patronizing and sarcastic when I want to, too).

Are you distinguishing "frames" on the basis of the intention behind it?

No, I am saying that I can choose to refresh the frame of consideration, and there is a maximum rate at which I can switch frames.

Picking up a ruler and putting it down again is sequential.

But ordinal measurement is not.

Neither is measurement of material properties such as strain.

What do you mean by ordinal measurement? Counting how many copies of a unit will "fit" into a given commensurable quantity? Certainly it is sequential if you realize the shortcuts you use to frame it as anything more than, e.g., laying down units end to end to measure length.

Subdivision can occur at random moments and doesn't have to be guided by a focus.

Define random. Do you mean arbitrary moments? Subdivision of what, exactly. Division is also a sequential process, as is any programmable algorithm -- in fact, anything that can be programmed into a computer is sequential in nature, at the point of processing.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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