Laura E. Weed
The Structure of Thinking

A Process-Oriented Account of the Mind
Imprint Academic 2003

We believe that the cognitive sciences have reached a situation in which they have been frozen into one narrow form by the machine metaphor. There is a need to thaw that form and move from a reductionist, atemporal, disembodied, static, rationalist, emotion‑ and culture-free view, to fundamentally richer understandings that include the primacy of action, intention, emotion, culture, real‑time constraints, real-world opportunities, and the peculiarities of living bodies.

...the proponents of strong AI are concentrating on the products of thinking; the propositionally structured mental representations that might be said to be the objects of a knower's knowledge. I will concentrate, instead, on the processes whereby knowledge is generated by a knower. Thinking is, after all, an activity.

Thinking is an activity.

the process by which one acquires knowledge of particular existent things is quite different from the process by which one acquires knowledge of concepts and universals. Propositions combine these processes into products, as Aristotle himself does when he declares that all basic knowledge is of the form 'x is y'.

In this formula, the 'x' represents some subject, and the 'y', some property or concept being attributed to the subject. I adopt Aristotle's formula for basic knowledge, and his distinction between the two types of knowledge in this book in order to adapt his insights to my analysis of the structure of thinking.

The object-positing capacity of mind is an identifying and recognizing capacity, that deals with particulars in thought. Cases of immediate perception or direct experience are the chief types of knower-known relationships in which we would find the object-positing capacity operating relatively independently. It is an empiricist's direct hold on experience as reality.

The property-attributing capacity of mind is a sorting, qualifying and quantifying capacity, which deals mainly with universals in thinking. Apprehension of second or third order relations might rate as the types of knower-known relationships in which we would find the property-attributing capacity operating relatively independently.

pg 9
....two types of mental process by which people generate for themselves mental interpretations of the way the world is; object positing, and property attributing. I'm claiming only that humans have two distinct methods by which they characterize their experience for themselves, and therefore, two quite differently organized types of experiences of mental data can be presented to the mind for thought.

The end products of the processes will be objects and properties. These, in turn, in combination, will yield facts, expressible as Fregian propositions. Once full-blown propositions are in place, computational processes may operate on them, as I see the situation. But this occars many steps beyond the basic operations of the mind that I am arguing are the gronnd-floor operations.

As I am presenting the situation, the dispute between Plato and Parmenides, or between Quine and Goodman, is a question of preference for method of thinking. Whether by nature or nurture, I don't wish to argue here. But, it seems to me rather apparent that some people are property-thinkers and others are object-thinkers, to a greater extent.

This analysis is not a proposal that there is no external world, or that there are no objects or properties. It is only a proposal that more productive results might be accomplished in philosophical inquiry by examining mental processes, first.

pg 26
Summary: In this chapter, I have argued that there are non-computational mental processes that must be considered if one is to understand thinking. I have argued that, in addition to the computationally based platonic mental processes, there are also experientially based, object-positing processes. The object-positing processes deal with data of an unclassified sort which may be sensory or perceptual and is always intentional, private, singalar, immediate and indexical. The object-positing process produces knowledge by acquaintance or recognition, and produces the 'x' that occurs in propositions as a 'this something'.

By contrast, the computational property-attributing process is a quantifying and qualifying process, used by the mind to sort and classify data offered by the object-positing process for classification. The distinctive marks of this process are syntactic order, and use of concepts or categories. Property-attributing produces eternal, truth-functional propositions, and well-structured concepts. Computers, as syntactic engines, can mimic most of the mind's property­attributing processes. But as John Searle has argued, in the case of human thinking, this is only part of the story.

The two processes are interactive, both with each other and with the thinker's environment. Replacing the current static view of knowledge, that represents knowledge of a proposition as a mind having apprehended an isomorphic structure of the world, with this, more dynamic view of thinking, will open new doors for research on the mind. This dynamic, interactive, operational view of mental processes provides an inherently more complex view of human thinking, that does a better job of accounting for the range and subtlety of thinking that humans actually do. On this view, an active human mind interacts constantly with a dynamic environ­ment, both manipulating it through thought, and manipulated by it in sensation and experience.

Knowledge: Knowledge in my analysis, as in Hume's and Aristotle's accounts, will consist of two types of known products.

From the x-type thinking processes, people acquire knowledge by acquaintance, de re knowledge of sensory, intellectual, or other experiential data. This type of data can be imagistic, auditory, conceptual, kinesthetic, or in other ways immediately experienced. It gives people direct, immediate contact with reality. But it is always intentional, in several senses. One, if someone isn't paying attention to it, they will miss it. Two, via the naming process, people can project their own, antecedent expectations on it, if they have any, and three, their ability to understand what they are experiencing is limited by what they do or do not know about it. Further, this type of data is always kausal. The kause may be a mouse, a stomach rumble, a dream, a burst of intellectual insight or a tidal wave. In each case, the experiential bit of data is having a direct, intentional impact on someone on the world-to-mind side of the x-type thinking process, and the person is responding with attention and a name on the mind-to-world side of the process.

What people get from y-type reasoning processes are scenarios about what the world could be like, but little or no information about what it is like. There are no objects in the y realm, only structures and relationships. These can be used to sort, organize, categorize, or structure experiences. But in the absence of experiences that will fill them in they are only elegant fantasies.

People are inclined to generate cosmologies and grand all-encompassing schemes about experience out of their y-type reasoning processes. But the measure of the value of these schemes will always be how adequate they are to explain experience. In the history of philosophy, all too often philosophers have slaughtered the experiential data to force them to fit an abstract scheme, rather than adjusting the scheme to make it fit the data.