## A question concerning thought & fact

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### A question concerning thought & fact

Hello. Can anyone shed some light on a question that is bugging me - namely: Can a thought ever be a fact?

Concrescence
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence wrote:Hello. Can anyone shed some light on a question that is bugging me - namely: Can a thought ever be a fact?

One of the problems that strikes me about this question is that the concepts involved are not firm, so one could decide on definitions that excluded the possibility or included it. As such, what is needed is an analysis of the concepts involved, presumably in such a way that some bias toward the answer is removed.

First, on the concept of fact, it seems what we are requiring of a fact is one that would count as an empirical fact, namely one that was discovered empirically, as for example, that Darwin had his Origin of the Species book published in 1859. In a post-modern era one might quibble over this on the basis that history is all about interpretation and so this fact-claim is merely an interpreted one. However, assuming there is a distinction between truth and interpretation and that this falls more along the line of truth, I think it reasonably accurate to take it as fact. Likely it would be the correct question to some Jeopardy answer.

Notwithstanding this version of what a fact is, there are uses of the term that extend it beyond the empirical to include long-standing scientific theories that have failed to be overturned, such as Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. However, though this is deemed to be a fact for pedagogical or other purposes, it stretches its meaning to such an extent that it comes close to being considered dogma. The point here is that if it were put before a jury of citizens in a court case, the jury, thinking they were judging a fact (which, after all, is what their supposed to do) could come to a decision based on the preponderance of evidence presented falling on either side of the issue. This is because it is likely that the evidence presented will be sufficient to uphold or not the theory in the face of what jurors, generally, come to the table believing. Deliberation over the evidence would be more about interpretation than about its factual status.

And then there is the issue of intention being a fact. Jurors, for example, in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are often grappling over the issue of intention of an alleged perpetrator. I think it reasonable to suppose that despite the lack of being able to perceive an intent, sufficient empirical evidence of it can be inferred to justify that such and such a person had the intention of doing whatever it is they are alleged to have done. For example, it can be argued that someone is trying to do something by the plans they exhibit in their prior behavior. This all assumes that we can project our own intentions onto others, something psychologists have learned that we become adept at during a certain developmental age in childhood.

Now, as to the concept of 'thought', this too is tricky in that for many folks, a thought is just that which is voiced silently within us, while for others, the thought is what preceded it and subsequently formed by language. The reason for the latter is to allow for the possibility that a thought exists independently of the language used to express it.

However one comes down on this, though, once it becomes realized, though often in the form of language, it can arise in other activity, I think it fair to say that it could be subject being an empirical fact. But one area needs to be clarified. One might be able to say that a person having the thought perceived it. I'm not entirely comfortable with this, as it requires a kind of reflection that could clutter up such a perception, in a manner not unlike trying to figure out one's own intentions. It may seem clear to us that we know ourselves and what's on our mind better than others do, however reflection isn't always that definitive. It wouldn't be uncommon for us to say later that we must have had such and such on our mind, because the evidence points in that direction. The idea of the novel may have preceded the writing of the novel or may have developed as the novel was being written. However, the writing of the novel is sufficient evidence that the idea occurred at some point (at least to most folks). The theory of evolution by natural selection was independently arrived at by Darwin and Wallace. Not only is there evidence that the idea they each came up with is confirmed by evidence (they each had manuscripts that spelled it out), but also that the idea itself was independently arrived at is supported by evidence. Wallace sent his manuscript to Darwin, forcing Darwin to have his book published.

From this, I conclude in favor of thoughts (which include ideas, conceptions, theories, conjectures, and so forth) being subject to evidence supporting or not supporting their factual status.

James
owleye
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Hello Concrescence.

I find it most helpful in cases like these to distinguish between a thought — a mental state — and its content — what the mental state is about. Under a simplistic conception of facts, according to which a fact is an obtaining state of affairs, or alternatively a true truth-bearer or something akin, we may then postulate that the contents of certain thoughts that happen to meet such conditions of facthood are indeed facts. (It goes without saying that such thoughts would hopefully include true beliefs.) To suggest, however, that such thoughts are themselves facts, as opposed to being thoughts about facts, would betray the thought/content distinction.

Epistemological problems concerning how it is that our thoughts come to be about p (when p obtains) may serve to complicate this minimal supposition, for the simplistic ontology of facts I have adopted makes it a trivial case that to know that p is to have knowledge about facts, although this is not obviously the case. This section of an SEP article makes mention of this problem.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Zin5ki wrote:I find it most helpful in cases like these to distinguish between a thought — a mental state — and its content — what the mental state is about. Under a simplistic conception of facts, according to which a fact is an obtaining state of affairs, or alternatively a true truth-bearer or something akin, we may then postulate that the contents of certain thoughts that happen to meet such conditions of facthood are indeed facts. (It goes without saying that such thoughts would hopefully include true beliefs.) To suggest, however, that such thoughts are themselves facts, as opposed to being thoughts about facts, would betray the thought/content distinction.

This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Suppose I had the thought that money grows on trees, presumably with the idea of finding some tree with money growing on it, as fanciful as that might be. I don't claim it to be an original thought, but I think of it as something I rather had, something that, though it might be difficult to demonstrate if nothing came of it, I shouldn't think it wouldn't matter whether the content of that thought was true or not, as that's not the question under consideration. Though I read your SEP article, I can't say I followed it all that well and in any case, using your idea of an "obtaining state of affairs", it would seem to me that, however fleeting it might have been, such a thought occurred or didn't, i.e., the formed mental state either obtained or it didn't, seems to be all that's necessary to deem it a a fact-claim. And seeing as how the question of the OP amounted to whether or not thoughts could be facts, such mental states are what are in question, not whether or not their content is true.

James
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

If there is nothing relevant to the original question of whether a thought can be a fact beyond the matter of whether that thought occurs, i.e. whether it is true that such a thought is being thought, then the question seems quite trivially true.

If we continue to grant what I have postulated about the ontology of facts, however, then I believe this commits a category mistake of sorts. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let us state that S has the thought x. Whether the thought x is propositional in form or has an intentional object is irrelevant here. I must stress that x here denotes a mental state itself, as opposed to the content a mental state can possess.

We might write the following state of affairs: $Thinks(S,x)$. I pray that you permit my use of this locution, for I hold it to be as permissible as suggesting that S "is thinking a certain thought".

$Thinks(S,x)$ is quite clearly a state of affairs: Particulars (S and x) "come together" to instantiate a relation, specifically the relation held between a thinking subject and the mental state she entertains. If we are supposing that obtaining states of affairs are facts, then it follows that $Thinks(S,x)$ is a fact.

Now, let us consider x on its own. x is not a state of affairs but a particular. If x is not a state of affairs, then it is not a fact either — the thought itself isn't "in the business" of being a fact, even if its contents may be. To call x a fact is to confuse it with the state of affairs into which it enters, viz., with $Thinks(S,x)$. Literature by or regarding Armstrong will no doubt explicate this with greater formality than I have.

It would be naive of me to suppose this settles the matter, as I have said nothing of whether a linguistic report about S thinking x can report a fact, regardless of the truth-value of the content of x. (As seems natural, I hold this to be true.) Additionally, let us not forget that I have only been considering facts as obtaining states of affairs. Should facts be sui generis entities, my objection fails.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence wrote:Hello. Can anyone shed some light on a question that is bugging me - namely: Can a thought ever be a fact?

The only fact of a thought is the thought itself, in which only the subject can verify.

Isn't a fact is verified information? What may be confusing is that the same thought translated to another medium may then be a fact to others.
newyear
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Zin5ki wrote:It would be naive of me to suppose this settles the matter, as I have said nothing of whether a linguistic report about S thinking x can report a fact, regardless of the truth-value of the content of x. (As seems natural, I hold this to be true.) Additionally, let us not forget that I have only been considering facts as obtaining states of affairs. Should facts be sui generis entities, my objection fails.

I do not understand this paragraph. Firstly, the two parts I have bolded seem to be in conflict. Are you saying there may be grounds for holding it to be false? If so, what might they be?

Secondly, can you please clarify what you mean by the 'obtaining states of affairs'/'sui generis entities' distinction.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Thanks for the replies to my somewhat naïve question.

So can we say that a thought in an individual’s mind is a fact until there is an attempt to communicate it - via speech, the written word - at which point the thought becomes a belief/opinion/idea because it can then be doubted/questioned by others - ?

A thought in a thinker’s mind is always a fact - because it has an existence in reality.
The content of a thought is not a fact because - once communicated - it is open to doubt.

Or is this too simplistic?

Concrescence
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Zin5ki wrote:Now, let us consider x on its own. x is not a state of affairs but a particular. If x is not a state of affairs, then it is not a fact either — the thought itself isn't "in the business" of being a fact, even if its contents may be. To call x a fact is to confuse it with the state of affairs into which it enters, viz., with $Thinks(S,x)$. Literature by or regarding Armstrong will no doubt explicate this with greater formality than I have.

It would be naive of me to suppose this settles the matter, as I have said nothing of whether a linguistic report about S thinking x can report a fact, regardless of the truth-value of the content of x. (As seems natural, I hold this to be true.) Additionally, let us not forget that I have only been considering facts as obtaining states of affairs. Should facts be sui generis entities, my objection fails.

Let's see. When one removes the thought from the thinker, as some sort of floating ember, so to speak, then it vanishes and nothing could be said about it independent of minds. Thoughts are mental constructs. They move in a fashion that supporters of memes have it, picked up by those who understand them. Absent understanding agents, they vanish. If this is the sort of thing that eliminates it from being a fact then I think its use is unnecessarily limited.

Facts in their empirical sense vanish as well, only to be resurrected by investigative enquiry. And if mental states are physical, regarding them as particular brain states, something more or less validated by the ability of neuro-psychologists who, through brain probes, have been able to locate thoughts in the sense that given prior first person accounts, are able to predict (or to tell us) when (or that) it occurs and with some specificity what such a thought is about, then such a distinction as I'm making here could disappear altogether. As before, though, I may not have really understood what you're getting at, as, unfortunately, I'm not fluent in the language you use.

James
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

newyear wrote:The only fact of a thought is the thought itself, in which only the subject can verify.

Isn't a fact is verified information? What may be confusing is that the same thought translated to another medium may then be a fact to others.

I think you are unnecessarily limiting their ability to be verified. We can know a lot about what a person is thinking from what they are doing. It's true a lot of thoughts we have are fleeting never to manifest themselves in the actions we take, but in many, if not most cases we surely do this as a matter of course. We can be pretty sure some perpetrator intended to murder someone by the plans they make, or that someone who habitually follows someone has, or has had, certain thoughts about that person and is appropriately called a stalker. Indeed, it would be very difficult to follow what's going on in a baseball game if one didn't understand what was in the mind of the ball players.

James
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence wrote:Thanks for the replies to my somewhat naïve question.

So can we say that a thought in an individual’s mind is a fact until there is an attempt to communicate it - via speech, the written word - at which point the thought becomes a belief/opinion/idea because it can then be doubted/questioned by others - ?

A thought in a thinker’s mind is always a fact - because it has an existence in reality.
The content of a thought is not a fact because - once communicated - it is open to doubt.

Or is this too simplistic?

The way I see it, the content of the thought is intrinsic to the thought -- empty thoughts don't exist. If thoughts are what are being discussed then they exist either as an occurrence, if they are fleeting, or if they are retained in memory, allow their emergence by our ability to recall them at a later time. They are not the same thing as beliefs. Beliefs can be treated more or less as a disposition to act in certain ways. Alternatively they are something held by the believer, not in the sense of memory, but in terms of how we conduct ourselves in accordance with them. Ideas, however, are thoughts, and are typically retained in memory. Thoughts can be communicated in language and, perhaps, by artistry. Thoughts can be betrayed, so to speak, by our behavior, but not in the way that beliefs are. Beliefs affect behavior without any thought behind it. For example, we believe that walking on the pavement will not cause the pavement to give way. We know we believe this because we don't give any thought to it. We've learned that the pavement doesn't do this when we walk on it. Thoughts, however, demonstrate mental activity that rise above what we are prone to do, by making us aware of them, if only for a moment. Indeed, they often interfere with what we are doing.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Owleye, any thought is under observation, not categories of thoughts. The original question is quite succinct, Can a thought ever be a fact?

I would put all thoughts in the same bag, so to speak. I think I replied as succinctly as the question. All thoughts may be facts to the person doing the thinking. For example, our thinker may be thinking about their particular god. To this thinker, it may be a fact. However, if the thinker wishes to prove that this is a fact, the thought must be communicated some way, and verified.

owleye wrote:It's true a lot of thoughts we have are fleeting never to manifest themselves in the actions we take, but in many, if not most cases we surely do this as a matter of course.

I would prefer not to bring up my ideas about habbits, or what one does habitually, this seems a difficult cause to explain. However, those things that have become habits and require little or no thinking about, unless something happens to stop/pause/alter these thoughts, are facts that the thinker 'knows' and expects to happen again and again. Like catching the 7.30am train to get to one's place of work or study.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Positor wrote:
Zin5ki wrote:It would be naive of me to suppose this settles the matter, as I have said nothing of whether a linguistic report about S thinking x can report a fact, regardless of the truth-value of the content of x. (As seems natural, I hold this to be true.) Additionally, let us not forget that I have only been considering facts as obtaining states of affairs. Should facts be sui generis entities, my objection fails.

I do not understand this paragraph. Firstly, the two parts I have bolded seem to be in conflict. Are you saying there may be grounds for holding it to be false? If so, what might they be?

I like to remain silent on such matters to prevent committing myself to unseen errors. There may be reasons for denying that speech acts reporting one's mental states report facts, strictly speaking, though I know of no theories that explicitly commit such a denial. (That said, the theory according to which facts are sets of worlds may categorically prohibit reports of mental states as being suitable for reporting "facts".) I don't wish to be so bold as to follow this with the claim that a report of $thinks(S,x)$, if true, necessarily reports a fact. Doing so would be overstepping my bounds, hence my modally unspecific stance on such a matter.

Secondly, can you please clarify what you mean by the 'obtaining states of affairs'/'sui generis entities' distinction.

I draw this distinction through a vague awareness that there are ways of defining facts other than in terms of abstract objects with which we're already familiar, such as states of affairs or possible worlds. To identify the set of facts with the subset of states of affairs that obtain is a reductive move: it allows us to consider a basic ontology of the world that doesn't contain both facts and states of affairs as wholly distinct kinds of entity, this ontology instead containing only one such kind. Reductionism may not be appropriate here however, and as such there may be accounts of facts describing them as a kind of abstract object (in which objects exemplify properties) formally distinct from states of affairs, truth-makers or anything else. These would be the sui generis accounts of facts.

——

Owleye, I can happily grant you your claims on the inconceivability of a thought being "removed from its thinker", simply because this needn't prevent us from formally distinguishing a mental state from the state of affairs through which it exists, as I have done. If it is right to talk of mereology here, it seems reasonable to distinguish a sum from one of its parts, even if it is inconceivable (or indeed impossible) for the sum to become fragmented.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence -

Can a thought ever be a fact?

Thoughts are facts. Science can scan the brain and tell that thoughts are taking place.

If you mean is the content of a thought a fact that's a different matter. Let's say I think of an elephant. That picture in my mind isn't an actual elephant, of course, but it's real as a mentally created image which has a reality of its own.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

newyear wrote:Owleye, any thought is under observation, not categories of thoughts. The original question is quite succinct, Can a thought ever be a fact?

I would put all thoughts in the same bag, so to speak. I think I replied as succinctly as the question. All thoughts may be facts to the person doing the thinking. For example, our thinker may be thinking about their particular god. To this thinker, it may be a fact. However, if the thinker wishes to prove that this is a fact, the thought must be communicated some way, and verified.

I would agree that thoughts are facts and have argued it as such. The reason for my questioning your statement that they can't be verified is that facts, generally, can be the subject of dispute even in the absence of the thinker. They can yet be adjudicated if there is sufficient evidence of the thought provided. While we understand thoughts to be private (for the most part), our behavior can betray them and noticed by others. Indeed, it is not uncommon to ask of someone's behavior, what were they thinking, even hazarding a guess about it, relying on what that behavior reveals.

newyear wrote:I would prefer not to bring up my ideas about habbits, or what one does habitually, this seems a difficult cause to explain. However, those things that have become habits and require little or no thinking about, unless something happens to stop/pause/alter these thoughts, are facts that the thinker 'knows' and expects to happen again and again. Like catching the 7.30am train to get to one's place of work or study.

Well, the way I see it, what one does habitually is based not on thoughts, at least not at the time of the habitual behavior. Habitual behavior is done without thinking. Of course we can have thoughts about our habitual behavior. Just becoming aware that we have been doing something habitually, say grinding our teeth, is enough to put a stop to it. Thoughts are often like that. Your example of catching the 7:30 train can become a habit after we learn the regularity of the train, but this can be interrupted by a thought when we realize that the clock we've been using that ordinarily shows enough time to catch it hadn't been adjusted for the change due to daylight savings clock changes. Thoughts interfere with what we are doing, and the actions we take as a result of them betray them. Such a change in behavior can be noticed by others. Good cinematographers have a knack for revealing such thoughts to the audience, though admittedly they often resort to dialogue, less so these days compared to earlier years, sometimes adding a foil character to reveal them, or even in muttering to oneself when there is no others around. Or they give the job to a narrator. Or they add it to the commentary, or whatever. Language is definitely helpful, but even without it we can more or less tell what you're thinking by how you act -- which is to say we can differentiate habitual behavior from behavior based on realizations, when we become aware of what's going on. (Not all thoughts, of course, are like this. To get at those that are more private require getting involved with the person on a more intimate level. We might have to follow someone around all day, getting to know them more deeply and even after that much of our thoughts will remain private unknown to others.)

James
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Zin5ki wrote:Owleye, I can happily grant you your claims on the inconceivability of a thought being "removed from its thinker", simply because this needn't prevent us from formally distinguishing a mental state from the state of affairs through which it exists, as I have done. If it is right to talk of mereology here, it seems reasonable to distinguish a sum from one of its parts, even if it is inconceivable (or indeed impossible) for the sum to become fragmented.

I'm not quite sure of the relevance of this. So, let's see. The thinker, in thinking, produces a thought. Yes, the thinker has a specific relationship to the thought, and when considering them as facts, if there is a dispute about them, we investigate whether there is sufficient evidence that such a thinker claiming them or disclaiming them revealed it in some way. Notwithstanding, however, I agree that the thought part of the relationship can be separated out. Indeed, this is often done in cases where more than one individual is being credited with its origin compared to another or whether someone is likely to have come up with it independently of someone else. One aspect of this is to identify whether it is in fact the same thought. And, of course, this means whether the content of that thought is the same in both thinkers, if it is not in dispute that there is sufficient evidence of there being thoughts in both of them about it. And doing so means that the thought framework (though it requires some content to exist at all) is considered the same in all those who are capable of having them. (I think even this has been the subject of dispute in the sense that it at least has been alleged that different ways of thinking appear in different individuals.) In any case, then, it is not unreasonable to break it out for the purposes of determining a fact status. What is different about the factual status of thoughts is that they are attributed to persons capable of having them, rather than the universe in general. And this affects the way they are investigated and determined to be the case or not. (And, I suppose, this implies that we are capable of having thoughts whose content are thoughts, which I don't see as giving us much difficulty, though I suppose somewhere deep into mereology there may be.)

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

owleye

The thinker, in thinking, produces a thought. Yes, the thinker has a specific relationship to the thought

The question is which comes first, doesn't it? Does the thinker exist first and then produces a thought? Or does the brain generate thoughts which then produce the thinker?
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

charon wrote:owleye

The thinker, in thinking, produces a thought. Yes, the thinker has a specific relationship to the thought

The question is which comes first, doesn't it? Does the thinker exist first and then produces a thought? Or does the brain generate thoughts which then produce the thinker?

My experience in responding to your posts have convinced me that I'll never understand them.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

owleye -

Forget my posts, the issue is about the thinker and thought. The question is simple, which comes first?
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

charon wrote:Forget my posts, the issue is about the thinker and thought. The question is simple, which comes first?

They come simultaneously. If one came first, there would initially be either a thinker without a thought, or a thought without a thinker. A 'thinker without a thought' is a contradiction in terms (how could he/she be the thinker of a thought before he/she has had that thought?). And we are talking about a particular person's brain, so a 'thought without a thinker' is not right either.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Positor wrote:They come simultaneously. If one came first, there would initially be either a thinker without a thought, or a thought without a thinker. A 'thinker without a thought' is a contradiction in terms (how could he/she be the thinker of a thought before he/she has had that thought?). And we are talking about a particular person's brain, so a 'thought without a thinker' is not right either.

I'm not sure that's the case. A thinker can be mulling it over, so to speak, where the outcome of such might or might not come to fruition in a thought. It's why we have multiple verb forms and nouns to express such activity. However, I would tend to agree that a thought without there being a thinker, akin to how Descartes argued, doesn't make a lot of sense. This doesn't mean, however, that we can't isolate the thought, keeping it afloat, so to speak, passing it around among thinkers. Indeed, we might even enshrine a thought, depicting it on canvas, or other, perpetuating it across generations of thinkers.

Notwithstanding this orientation toward thoughts, I will acknowledge a great deal of indeterminacy over what they are, not just physically, in conformance with the framework I choose to think of mental activity and mental states as brain activity and brain states, but also conceptually. I tend to think of thoughts independent of their expression. Not only can they be fleeting, but we may not even recognize that we're having a particular thought. For example, we're walking along in a crowded area, not having any regard for who is around us, perhaps even lost in thought, whence we come to realize there's someone we know or are acquainted with just over there. I take this sudden realization as a thought. It was prompted by an awareness -- a recognition, which although might be put into language, isn't really necessary, as we respond in such a way that our behavior reflects that thought. In language, I might translate this verbally, possibly silently, as "I know that person." However, whether or not it was expressed in that form, I place it in the category of a thought.

(You might criticize the way I characterized a thought where I made use of 'lost in thought', however, I think this usage is a bit different than the one I've been using. Despite this, I grant that it might be a valid criticism and even concede that this might be the usage you had in mind when you expressed the idea that thinkers, in thinking, necessarily have thoughts.)

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

owleye wrote:Well, the way I see it, what one does habitually is based not on thoughts, at least not at the time of the habitual behavior. Habitual behavior is done without thinking. Of course we can have thoughts about our habitual behavior. Just becoming aware that we have been doing something habitually, say grinding our teeth, is enough to put a stop to it. Thoughts are often like that. Your example of catching the 7:30 train can become a habit after we learn the regularity of the train, but this can be interrupted by a thought when we realize that the clock we've been using that ordinarily shows enough time to catch it hadn't been adjusted for the change due to daylight savings clock changes.

I just gave an arbitrary example, Owleye. All the time one is conscious one is 'thinking' (even if this may not seem to be the case). The role habits have is that they let the mind think about something else, whilst knowing that the train at seven thirty will arrive and take them to work. That is, habitual actions frees the mind in such a way as it can do two or more things at once.

This is not the place to put it, but those thoughts that concern habitual actions are just those that cause human beings the greatest problems.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Positor -

If one came first, there would initially be either a thinker without a thought, or a thought without a thinker

I'd say that second one was right, that there's initially thought without a thinker. Surely it's thought that creates the thinker? The brain generates thought which then separates itself into the thinker and his thought.

All analysis, for example, is based on that, the separate 'I' who begins to dissect his thoughts and feelings according to some psychological knowledge. Or we could take the control of thought. How could there be control unless a part of thought first divided itself as a controller?

I'd say there is also thinking without a thinker. First thing in the morning, for example, one awakes and thinking is going on. At that stage there's no thinker directing thought, it's simply taking place. As we begin to come more into consciousness the thinker takes over.

This actually begs the question whether there's in reality a thinker at all or only thinking? If the thinker is the creation of thought then his being an apparently autonomous entity is an illusion.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

charon wrote:I'd say there is also thinking without a thinker. First thing in the morning, for example, one awakes and thinking is going on. At that stage there's no thinker directing thought, it's simply taking place. As we begin to come more into consciousness the thinker takes over.

Wouldn't it be better to say that in the above case you are initially a 'passive thinker' and later an 'active thinker'? There must be some link between the "thinking going on" and you as an individual. Otherwise, there is no way of distinguishing between the thoughts that are potentially yours and those that are potentially someone else's. All thoughts, however subconscious, are embodied in a particular individual; they don't just float around so that we all have equal access to them.
Positor
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Positor -

Wouldn't it be better to say that in the above case you are initially a 'passive thinker' and later an 'active thinker'?

I'd say there was no thinker. After all, it's the thinker who decides, chooses, and so on. If there's simply an awareness of thinking is any of that taking place? There's no directing entity.

I think it would be an assumption to say that there was a thinker passively lying dormant somewhere. I know what you mean but I wouldn't go with it. The thinker as the conscious directing entity isn't there. After all, is the thinker who directs and chooses separate from that activity? He is the activity of choosing and directing. He is choice and direction, but I'm not sure we see it that way.

There must be some link between the "thinking going on" and you as an individual

Again, you're saying we exist apart from our thoughts. Do we? If all thought disappeared completely are we there?

Otherwise, there is no way of distinguishing between the thoughts that are potentially yours and those that are potentially someone else's

I don't know what you mean by potentially.

Let's say I have many thoughts. Why should the idea that they're someone else's arise? I know we can often pick up on the moods and thoughts of others but they still occur within ourselves.

All thoughts, however subconscious, are embodied in a particular individual; they don't just float around so that we all have equal access to them

Well, they don't just float around but whether thought is actually embodied in the individual is debatable. It may be that consciousness is shared. It's highly arguable that thoughts are 'mine' or 'yours'. We may all be partaking in a mutual phenomenon.
charon
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

charon wrote:I'd say there is also thinking without a thinker. First thing in the morning, for example, one awakes and thinking is going on. At that stage there's no thinker directing thought, it's simply taking place. As we begin to come more into consciousness the thinker takes over.

Hey charon, thoughts only exist within consciousness, not automated unconsciousness. So, If the individual was conscious they did have thoughts, but if they were unconscious they did not have thoughts.

Also:
charon wrote:I'd say that second one was right, that there's initially thought without a thinker. Surely it's thought that creates the thinker? The brain generates thought which then separates itself into the thinker and his thought.

I agree with Positor, as a thought occurs, the being which has the thought simultaneously becomes a thinker. A thought cannot exist without a thinker, and a thinker cannot exist without thought. An unconscious being can have the potential for being a thinker (i.e. becoming a thinker at a later time), but they are not actually a thinker while they are unconscious.

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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

sillysmile -

If the individual was conscious they did have thoughts, but if they were unconscious they did not have thoughts

I know, I've posted a dozen times here that our consciousness is thought!

as a thought occurs, the being which has the thought simultaneously becomes a thinker. A thought cannot exist without a thinker, and a thinker cannot exist without thought

Haven't you ever found yourself just thinking without anyone directing it?

You say 'simultaneously becomes a thinker'. I don't agree. It may happen very quickly but it's not inevitable. If you observe yourself closely you'll see how it happens. The thinker only comes in when there's direction, choice, judgement, and so on, otherwise what need is there of a thinker?

When you need to make a choice or decision there's concentration, which is the thinker. He tries to decide what to do, which is effort, struggle. In the absence of that struggle there can still be thinking taking place but not with any entity directing it; it's just happening.

The real point here, I think, is to see that the thinker always comes second. There's a belief or philosphy that the thinker is something eternal, always existing, and thoughts come and go. Is that so or is the entity who says 'thoughts come and go but I remain' as impermanent as his thought? He too comes and goes; there's no permanent thinker.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence,

All thought has content. One cannot think about nothing, unless one is comatose or dead. Beliefs are thoughts (conscious mental states).

Facts do not depend upon beliefs. They are independent realities. Thus, if one believes that p is a fact, he has knowledge of p only if p is true. However, there is no infallible method of determining the truth of p when p is claimed to be a real condition of the world external to the central nervous system. The best we can hope for, in such a case, is that p is supported by the weight of the evidence. Indeed, facts are both stubborn and elusive.

But, to answer your question, a thought in the form of a belief about the external world does not itself become an incontrovertible fact solely because one may be justified in believing it. On the other hand, because we are included in the world, our thoughts are real conditions of the world about which we have immediate knowledge. Thus, whether or not p may be true or false, it still remains a fact that one believes that p is true, for that subjectively is undeniable. The problem lies in the fact that it cannot be fully determined objectively. This distinction is not trivial and has great importance in the law.

In order to convict a defendant of murder of the first degree, it must be established as a fact that he had fully formed the specific to kill before he took the life of his victim. In other words, the defendant’s mental state (his thoughts) must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. “Reasonable doubt” is justification, not certainty; for the law recognizes that a mental state cannot be objectively established beyond all doubt. Of course, the defendant himself would know with certainty if he had the requisite mental state. However, he has every reason not to be truthful about it.
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### Re: A question concerning thought & fact

Concrescence wrote:So can we say that a thought in an individual’s mind is a fact until there is an attempt to communicate it - via speech, the written word - at which point the thought becomes a belief/opinion/idea because it can then be doubted/questioned by others - ?

A thought in a thinker’s mind is always a fact - because it has an existence in reality.
The content of a thought is not a fact because - once communicated - it is open to doubt.

Or is this too simplistic?

One definition of a fact is:

1. a piece of information presented as having objective reality.

Actuality has no monopoly over the word fact and meaning depends on contexts.

If we would take the definition and take the context of relation between us and the world out there then it would be like in Alfred Korzybski's term "mapping the territory". In this relationship, the map has to match the territory it tries to represent in terms of structure, that is, the structure in the real event has to be captured by thought to be able to say that the thought is faithful to the actual events. If thought is faithful to the actual event, it then can be presented as piece of information having objective reality.

Now we focus on structure. Structure in this sense is, as the Merriam-Webster puts it:

1. something arranged in a definite pattern of organization, or aggregate of elements of an entity in their relationship to each other.

Therefore then, a piece of information having objective reality must necessarily have sets of elements in particular relationships that match that of actual events.

In this way, a thought as long as it matches the relationship of actual events has factual aspects.

For example say in your propositions:
A thought in a thinker’s mind is always a fact - because it has an existence in reality.
The content of a thought is not a fact because - once communicated - it is open to doubt.

These are also part of thoughts, if they match the actual events in relationships, then they have factual aspects. You will notice that the second proposition may not sustain the match because a thought can have a match with reality but still can be open to doubt once communicated. We can doubt facts and be proven wrong later.
Don Juan
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