Thinking out loud


#1

I tweeted tonight that I’m

That is, whatever I’m thinking about feels way too amorphous in my head, and “writing it down” (either with actual words, or drawing/designing it, or coding, or even talking about it) makes me feel like I’m “properly” thinking about it (maybe properly isn’t the right word, it’s cloudy).

@pat mentioned this book as interesting / related material, which also reminded me of discussions he and I had a while back on Twitter about “thinking out loud.”

I’ve written about it a bit before on my website and I definitely need to read up on this subject more because, well, thinking about thinking is kind of fascinating!


#2

Yeah! So I’ve been really influenced in the past six months or so by some stuff I’ve read on extended cognition, which is basically the idea that what we call “cognition” is not something confined to our brains. I think the best introduction that I’ve read is this: http://postcog.ucd.ie/files/TheExtendedMind.pdf. I recently learned about the term “enacted cognition”, which I think is similar to what you’re describing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enactivism.

Also, after reading Metaphors We Live By, I’ve totally realized how much of our language reinforces the idea that thoughts are “things” that are constructed in our heads, and that writing/talking about something is a process of extracting those things from the brain. This now seems totally wrong to me.


#3

Very interesting, thanks for those references!

Just to clarify, are you saying “the idea that thoughts are “things” that are constructed in our heads, and that writing/talking about something is a process of extracting those things from the brain.” now seems totally wrong to you? And that instead, the “ideas” aren’t really things in our heads, but processes (or something?) that happen due to cognition? (I really need to read up on this :slight_smile: )


#4

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant.

I think that what we call “communicating an idea” is really more like, say, improvising a meal. You begin with a vague notion of what you are making (e.g., a stew), but the final outcome depends on a lot of decisions that you make in response to the environment (“Hmm, we have no more chili powder, I’ll use some harissa instead…”). Whereas, a lot of our language around ideas and thoughts is more like “an idea is a complete recipe”.

Does that make any sense?

Another analogy is to activities like dancing or skiing…you can imagine dancing, but actual dancing is not simply a matter of executing the plan that’s in your head. The entire process is an interaction with the environment.


#5

Makes a lot of sense!

Do you think it might be useful for us to have different metaphors for ideas, then? Spitballing here, instead of “I have an idea” maybe more like “I’m making an idea”? (I guess that’s still kind of “idea is a tangible thing” vs “idea is a thing you do”).

Iiiiinteresting