The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

42. What is "thinking'?
In Einstein's voluminous "Autobiographical Notes" there Is one small paragraph that every semanticist will cherish. Here It Is;
What, precisely, Is "thinking"? When, at the reception of sense-Impressions, memory-pictures emerge, this Is not yet "thinking." And when such pictures form series, each member of which calls forth another, this too is not yet "thinking" When, however, a certain picture turns up in many series, thenprecisely through such returnit becomes an ordering element for such series, in that it connects series which in themselves are unconnected. Such an element becomes an Instrument, a concept. I think that the transition from free association or "dreaming" to thinking is characterized by the more or less dominating role which the "concept" plays in it. (page 7)
When an element becomes an Instrument for order, we have a concept. When an element connects things which are not otherwise connected, we have a concept. When an element relates things which axe not otherwise related, we have a concept. And a concept characterizes thinking.
The emphasis upon relatedness In thinking has already been mentioned. We know that Ogden and Richards spoke of "uniting relations" and connections in psychological (as well as physical) contexts. We remember their phrase "hangs together," which, for them, symbolizes relatedness. In The Meaning of Meaning these authors used the word "determinative" in connection with contexts. A determinative context refers to a linkage in which at least one element must be determined given the others. Shallow water-diving-danger is a determinative context