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3. Thinking As A Means Of Forming A View Of The World

Revised 10/17/17

3. Thinking As A Means Of Forming A View Of The World

Compare Thinking with Observation

"Observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all human spiritual striving, insofar as one is consciously striving. Everyday common sense as well as the most complicated scientific research, rest on these two fundamental pillars of our mind." TPOF 3.0

Spectator Watches
Observation: As a spectator, I remain completely without influence over the course of an observed event. The event takes place independent of me. As long as I remain a mere spectator, I cannot tell in advance what will happen. I must wait to see what will happen, and can only follow it with my eyes.

Thinker Predicts
Thinking: The situation is different when I begin to reflect on my observation. The purpose of my reflection is to establish concepts of the event. The conceptual process depends on me. It requires my active involvement for it to take place. After I discover the concepts that correspond to the event, I can predict what will happen.

Observation And Thinking
Forming A View: Thought plays the leading role in forming a view of events.
Observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all human spiritual striving, insofar as one is consciously striving. Everyday common sense as well as the most complicated scientific research, rest on these two fundamental pillars of our mind: observation and thinking. Whatever principle we wish to establish, we must either prove we have observed it somewhere, or we must express it in the form of clear thought that can be rethought by others.

STEP #49 (3.1)
Compare Everyday State with Exceptional State

Everyday State (observation of world object)
Observation: The observation of a table or a tree occurs as soon as these objects enter the horizon of my experience. Yet I do not, at the same time, observe my thought about these things. I observe the table, and I carry on a process of thought about the table, but I do not at the same moment observe this thought-process.
Involuntary Thought-Chain
Free flowing thought-chains are involuntary memories and associations that may fill the mind in everyday life. They are not sought or consciously directed.


Exceptional State (observation of thought)
Thinking: While the observation of things and events, and thinking about them, is the everyday state that occupies my normal life, the observation of the thoughts themselves require entering an exceptional state..

Same Method Used To Study World And Thought
Forming A View: When observing our thought-process, we must be sure to apply the same method we use to study any other object in the world. But in the normal course of our study of other things, we do not usually reflect upon our thought-processes as well.

STEP #50 (3.2)
Compare Passive Feeling with Active Thinking

Passive Feeling
Observation: While observing an object, such as a rose, a feeling of pleasure is kindled. We remain passive as the feeling just happens to us. A feeling of pleasure is given in the same way as the observed event. When I know the feeling an event arouses in me, I learn about my personality.

Active Thinking
Thinking: To form thoughts about the table, I must be active. I am definitely aware that forming concepts requires my activity. Concepts and ideas are brought forth by our attentive thinking effort. By knowing the concepts that correspond to an event I learn about the event.
Involuntary Thought-Chain
Free flowing thought-chains are involuntary memories and associations that may fill the mind in everyday life. They are not sought or consciously directed. This is not thinking.

Learn About Event, Not Myself
Forming A View: When I am reflecting on an event, I am not concerned with how it affects me. I learn nothing about myself by knowing the concepts that correspond to an event. But I learn a great deal about my personality when I know the feeling that an event arouses in me.

STEP #51 (3.3)
Compare Personal Reaction with Selfless Observation

Personal Reaction To Event
Observation: It is part of the unique nature of thinking that it is an activity directed solely on the observed object, and not on the personality who is engaged in the thinking. I am not interested in expressing my personal reaction to the object; how I feel about it or how I will act.

Selfless Observation
Thinking: Rather than drawing attention to myself, my selfless attention is fully directed on the object. The unique nature of thought is that the thinker forgets thinking when actually doing it. What occupies his attention is not thought, but rather the object he is observing while he is thinking. The first thing we notice about thought is that it is the unobserved element in our mental life.

Thinking Observation (thinking contemplation)
Forming A View: What I do not originate appears as something ‘objectively there’ in my field of observation. I see myself before something that is not of my doing. I confront it. I must accept it before I begin my thinking-process. While I am reflecting on the object, I am absorbed in it, my attention is focused on it. To focus the attention on the object is to contemplate it by thought. This is thinking contemplation.

STEP #52 (3.4)
Compare Confront Thought with Think About Thought

Confront 'Past' Thought
Observation: We use the same method of selfless observation for the study of thought that we use for the study of objects in the world. The difference is that to study thought we must enter the exceptional state to confront our past thought. If I want to observe my present thought-process, I would have to split myself into two persons: one to think, and the other to observe this thinking. This I cannot do. I can only accomplish it in two separate acts.

Think About Thought
Thinking: I can never observe my present thinking while it is taking place. Only afterward can the past experience of my thought-process be made into the object of fresh thoughts. For fresh thinking to take place my full attention must remain on the object I am thinking about. So to think about thinking I must recall to mind what is now a past thought and place my full attention on it. It is the same whether I observe my own earlier thoughts, or follow the thought-process of another person, or set up an imaginary thought-process in the conceptual sphere.

Create, then contemplate
Forming A View: To think about our thinking requires two steps. First, I create a thought-process. Next, I become immersed in it with my full attention. There are two things that do not go together: productive activity and confronting this activity in contemplation. It is not possible to create and contemplate at the same time. This is why we cannot contemplate our current thinking while it is taking place. Thought must first be there before we can contemplate it.

STEP #53 (3.5)
Compare Present Thought-Process with Known Thought-Process

Observation Of Present Thought-Process
Observation: The reason why it is impossible to observe the thought-process while it is presently taking place is because producing thought is a creative activity.

Known Thought-Process
Thinking: It is just because we produce the thought-process through our own creative activity, that we know the characteristic features of its course, and the details of how the process has taken place. What can be discovered only indirectly in all other fields of observation,— the factually corresponding context and the connection between the single objects—in the case of thought is known to us in an absolutely direct way.

Know Conceptual Connections
Forming A View: Without going beyond the observed phenomena, I cannot know why thunder follows lightning. But I know immediately, from the content of the two concepts, why my thought connects the concept of thunder with the concept of lightning. The point being made here does not depend on whether I have the correct concepts of lightning and thunder. The connection between those concepts that I do have is clear to me, and is so through the concepts themselves.

STEP #54 (3.6)
Compare Brain Physiology with Pure Thinking

Brain Physiology
Observation: The transparent clarity of thinking becomes known to us by observing our thought. It does not require any knowledge of the physiological basis of thought. How one physical process in my brain causes or influences another while I am carrying on a thought-process is irrelevant. In our Materialistic age, it is necessary to point out that we can discuss thinking without entering the field of brain physiology.

Pure Thinking - Pure Reason
Thinking: Most people find it difficult to grasp the concept of pure thinking such as occurs in mathematics and philosophy. What I observe in studying a thought-process is not what process in my brain connects the concept lightning with the concept thunder. What I observe is my "reason" for bringing these two concepts into a certain relationship. Observation shows that in linking thought with thought, I am guided by the content of my thoughts. I am not guided by physical processes in the brain.

Willingness To Enter The Exceptional State
Forming A View: Whoever is unable to enter the exceptional state I have described cannot transcend Materialism and become conscious of what in all other mental activity remains unconscious. If someone lacks the willingness to look at thought from this position, then one can no more discuss thought with him than one can discuss color with someone born blind.

STEP #55 (3.7)
Compare Uncertainty Of Observation with Certainty Of Thought

Uncertainty Of Observation
Observation: All other things, all other events, are there independent of me. I do not know whether they are truth, or illusion, or dream.

The observation of thought is different. Every normal person, if they are willing, has the ability to observe thought. This observation is the most important that can be made. What I observe is my own creation. All other things and events are there independent of me and are, at first, unfamiliar. With thought I know how it comes about and clearly see its conditions and relationships. All other things, all other events, are there independent of me. I do not know whether they are truth, or illusion, or dream.

Certainty Of Thought
Thinking: There is only one thing I know with absolute certainty, for I myself bring it to its sure and undisputed existence: my thought. Perhaps it has another ultimate source. Perhaps it comes from God or from somewhere else, I cannot be sure. I am sure of one thing, it exists because I produced it myself. It is only in thinking that I grasp myself, standing within the world-whole, in the activity that is the most my own

Certainty Of Existence
Forming A View: As a thinker, I define my reason for existence with the self-supporting content of my thought activity. From this firm point of knowing why I exist, I can ask: "Do other things exist in the same, or in some other way?

STEP #56 (3.8)
Compare Remain Within Observation with Remain Within Thought

Remain Within Observation
Observation: When we observe things in the world a process is overlooked. Two processes are involved in observing the world, the observation-process and the thinking-process. We may not notice it, but the thinking-process mingles with our observation of world-events and even intermixes with the observation process itself. 

It is different when we observe thought. Thought normally escapes our notice. When we observe thought we use the same method of observation that we use for other things. By observing thought we increase the number of observed objects, but not the number of methods.

Remain Within Thought
Thinking: But when I observe my thinking, there ceases to be an unnoticed element present. For what hovers in the background is, again, nothing but thought. The observed object is qualitatively the same as the activity directed upon it. We can remain within the same element; the realm of thought.

Remain Within Thinking About Thinking 
Forming A View: When I weave a web of thoughts around an object given independently of me, I go beyond my observation. Then the question becomes: How is it possible for my thought to be related to the object? The question vanishes when we think about thinking itself. We then add nothing unfamiliar to our thought, and so there is no need to justify such an addition.

STEP #57 (3.9)
Compare Know Then Create with Create Then Know

Know Nature, Then Create
Observer: Nature already exists. If we want to create it again, we first have to know the principles of Nature. We have to observe the Nature that already exists to gain the knowledge needed to create it a second time. We copy the conditions of Nature’s existence in order to produce it again. We know Nature before we create it again.

Create Thought, Then Know
Thinker: What is impossible with nature—creating before knowing—we achieve with an act of thinking. We first create thought, then gain knowledge of it. If we wait to think until we already have knowledge, we would never think at all. We must resolutely dive straight into thinking and only afterward, by reflecting on our new insight, gain knowledge of what it all means.

Start With Thinking
Forming A View: The reason why things seem so puzzling is because I am so uninvolved in their coming about. I simply find them before me. But with thought I know how it is brought about. This is why there can be no more fundamental starting-point for the study of any world-event than thinking.

STEP #58 (3.10)
Compare Unconscious Thought with Independent Thought

Unconscious Thought
Observation: When we observe an object or event, thought unconsciously connects our observations with one another by weaving them together with a network of concepts. These unconscious thoughts are not the same as the conscious thoughts our analysis later extracts from the observed objects after we study them. What we first unconsciously weave into things is something entirely different from what we then consciously draw back out.

Independent Thought
Thinking: I can imagine that a being with different sense organs and a differently functioning intelligence would have a very different idea of a horse than mine. We are not discussing how my thought appears to an intelligence other than mine, but how it appears to me. I can see no reason why I should consider my thought from any other point of view than my own.

Self-Supporting View
Forming A View: When Archimedes invented the lever, he thought he could use it to lift the whole cosmos out of its hinges, if he could only find a secure point of support to set his instrument. He needed something that was self-supporting, not dependent on anything else. In thought we have a principle of self-subsistence, it is composed by means of itself. From this principle we can attempt to understand the world. Thought can be grasped by thought. The only question is whether we can grasp anything else by means of thought.

STEP #59 (3.11)
Compare Start With Observation with Start With Thinking

Start With Observation
Observation: The researcher turns immediately to the objects he wishes to understand. Certainly we need to consciously observe the object of our study before thoughts about it arise. But what good does it do to start with the object and subject it to our thinking, without first knowing whether our thoughts will offer insight into things?

Start With Thinking
Thinking: What is the starting-point for understanding the world? We must first examine thinking in a completely impartial way, without reference to a thinking subject or a thought object. Does our thinking contain preconceptions, cognitive bias and so on? There is no denying that thinking must be understood before anything else can be understood.

Last In Time, First In Theory
Forming A View: A philosophy will go nowhere as long as it is based on all kinds of principles, ism’s and ideology. It will remain suspended in the air. The starting-point must be what comes into existence last. And the absolutely last thing produced in the world-process is thought.

STEP #60 (3.12)
Compare Rightness Of Thought with Application Of Thought

Rightness Of Thought
Observation: Some say the problem with knowing the world by means of thinking is that we cannot be sure whether our thought is right or wrong. They argue over what thought is the correct thought.

Application Of Thought
Thinking: It is understandable that some will have doubts whether we can know the world by means of thought. But it does not make sense to doubt the rightness of thought, when the thought is considered by itself. Thought is a fact and it is meaningless to speak of a fact as being right or wrong. At most I can have doubts about whether thought is rightly applied. 

Study Of The Philosophy Of Freedom
Forming A View: It is the task of The Philosophy Of Freedom to show us how far the application of thought to the world is a right application or a wrong one.

Next Chapter
In this chapter we learned how thought, as an object of observation, is different than all other activities of the mind and why it is a secure foundation for knowing the world. In the following chapters we will learn to what extent our application of thought to the world is right or wrong.

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© Tom Last 2017