How To Think

While I am sure that brain research will revolutionize our understanding of ourselves during the course of this century I presume to predict one of its key findings will be the ways in which we are taught to think, that stay with us for our whole lives and become almost second nature. Because as children we learn in order to survive, these ways of thinking bind us to a culture, cement us to a community and become part of our personality.

So automatic are these ways of thinking that we rarely question them and they go far deeper than we may expect; loosed from the realms of eating, drinking, sleeping and finding shelter they prefigure concepts that explain ourselves to each other. Having a name, for example, it utterly unimportant except to give us a place and sew us into the pattern of the community. We constantly need reference points to be able to communicate in our languages and to this extent languages confine us. Language is to our brains what money is to our society, the former is the apparent liberation of our thoughts the latter the freedom of our activity.

But in both there are chains for just as there are more activities we could do if we lived without charging for those activities, so there are thoughts we find hard if not impossible to express in our languages. When we fully understand how the brain makes connections and lays down trains of thought, we may find new ways of thinking.

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August 2018
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