A question is perplexing me recently: whether our thoughts are dependent on voices , or in another word, can we have any thoughts without voices?

Hegel remarks:'The voice comes very close to thought.' So, what is further required to let voices in our mind qualified as thoughts?

Are there some related books or articles I can refer to?

  • 1
    Mystical experiences are mental states without words, but whether they are thoughts or not might be debatable. – Dave Jun 9 '14 at 13:11
  • Are you trying to understand what Hegel means or are you trying to do something with the words Hegel uses? I can help you with the former. The current answer is more of the latter. – virmaior Jun 10 '14 at 7:37
  • @virmaior yes! I do want to know what Hegel means. I would be grateful for your help. – Melpomene Jun 10 '14 at 11:32
  • Everything in our minds what is being NOTICED is thought. They can be anything they want. – Asphir Dom Jun 10 '14 at 23:46
  • 1
    @Melpomene can you give me a reference to where in Hegel you read this? – virmaior Jun 11 '14 at 8:58

Interesting question. I don't have any books or references for you - apart from general pointers to Lacans Mirror; and Buddist dependent co-arising.

Lacan would probably say that it is through his Mirror mechanism. That is one has mirrored the voice(s) speaking to you, and internalised it.

By this, to think of the voice within us, as itself; as I; without how we became is probably the wrong approach; we should look to our own personal genealogy;

corollary: hearing voices as in forms of psychosis is a loosening or weakening of this mechanism; the mirroring dialectic without an external voice to condition it; the voice of the Mother, the voice of compassion; that is the voice of the world. Solitary confinement, as a form of punishment, is exactly this.

One can speculate, that the world is also mirrored in us physically; we open our eyes, we see; we see a world that is but what is there; this mirror is in our genealogy, not personally, as such, but in our evolutionary genealogy; the mirroring occurring through millenia.

Corollary: Visual hallucinations are a loosening of this mirroring; the world, that is nature, our second womb, becomes alien & strange; it withdraws; or is forced to withdraw - again the regime of punishment that is solitary confinement.

In Mahayana Buddhism, which denies essences (svabhava); would deny that the voice within us, is an essence; that is wholly itself without dependence; it is a 'nothing' in this sense; it is itself through dependent co-rising (Pratītyasamutpāda -प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद); and thus our voice is the trace of all voices before us, if not the future.

(Both readings, are on only the slightest of acquaintences with either philosophy).

  • 1
    I'd be curious if you could you explore this a little further? --It's an evocative remark! I'd also be curious (think it would be interesting) to hear a little bit what you think about the formulation of the mirror stage given in L versus Hegel's logic of subjectivity, if you feel like indulging me :) – Joseph Weissman Jun 10 '14 at 0:16
  • I'm not sure that I can :) I don't know, unfortunately anything about Hegels logic of subjectivity, but I agree its an interesting suggestion; I would imagine though, that its crucial that there is there a dialectic that shapes subjectivity (voice); speaking personally though - it was through Buddhist ideas that I'd originally approached this, and then translated it into Lacans idiom; perhaps you could explain how you find this evocative - and perhaps where you see consonances with Hegel? :) – Mozibur Ullah Jun 10 '14 at 0:40
  • Well, it's Zizek's sort of on-and-off reading/identification of Hegel with Lacan that I'd try to weaponize here, and extrude a 'hard definition' of consciousness that they share; this would be the kernel of the rationalist AI project also known as analytic philosophy! It's always interesting to me that Lacan relies so heavily on mathematics, formal systems, "structural" paradoxes about the consistency of linguistic/social/subjective systems. Hegel's "negative dialectics" mapping the "weaving of spirit" could be mapped point to point with Lacan; I think this is probably what's going on in LTN. – Joseph Weissman Jun 10 '14 at 0:44
  • The weirder stuff in Less than Nothing about quantum systems and so on; if anything, this crazy fusional space is required for Zizek's recipe to really take form -- and again I think that cybernetics/AI would really be an interesting vein for reading the question (a question of psychoanalysis as reverse-engineering.) But it's funny, I'd be tempted to immediately turn to Guattari and Simondon and so on, rather than Lacan/Zizek/Freud/Badiou/Hegel/ugh. – Joseph Weissman Jun 10 '14 at 0:46
  • Anyway thanks for building out the answer, would love to dig into this in chat at some point maybe (sorry for the very condensed response; to be clear I'm nowhere near enough of a Hegel scholar to give a lot of very precise references for consideration here -- though Science of Logic and Phenomenology would not be the worst places to start of course -- so I'm relying very heavily on what are undoubtedly somewhat slanted accounts like Ž and Badiou; it would be interesting to start a reading group to think through some of these texts together) – Joseph Weissman Jun 10 '14 at 0:46

Definitely! There is a genre of works primarily in etymology, textual analysis, and media studies known as "primary orality."

Among the great scholars in this field are Walter Ong and Eric Havelock, both contemporaries of and collaborators with Marshall McLuhan.The best starting text is "The Muse Learns to Write" by Havelock, brief and fascinating.

These works present what might be called a hermeneutics of punctuated equilibria.The shift to writing is the crisis giving rise to the Platonic tradition. The well-known aversion to representational media in Plato or "logocentrism" as described by Derrida are analyzed through the actual recorded shift from voice to text.These scholars are aware of Derrida, but somewhat antithetical to his thesis, without really engaging at the same level.

Interestingly, all of these thinkers, according to Havelock, were led into their studies by the shockingly powerful effects of radio in WWII, as utilized by Hitler, Churchill, FDR, and others of that period.

Even if you want something more "cognitive-science" based, I believe these are essential works and an excellent platform for wherever this interest takes you.

I would also note, as an aside, that "voice" is a priori rationality, in that it is the basis of "ratios" in utero prior to birth. Personally, only an opinion, I find this an intriguing link to Pythagorean (octaval) and then Platonic (formal) concepts of anamnesis.

Postscript. I would add one more point on this intriguing subject. As is well known, Socrates, like Jesus and Buddha, did not write. His "wisdom tradition" traces its ancestry back to the intoxicated "voices" of the Delphic oracle and his daemonic "inner voice." Why? There is another reason, aside from devaluation of "representation," to discount the "written" voice. It is impossible for linguists and archeologists to translate ancient "writing" as pure visual symbols. There is no purely ideographic writing. The text must somehow be linked to a language that is linked to a "spoken" language for the "meanings" to be translated. If there is no link to voice, breath, or Pneuma, as with Linear A, then the language becomes truly "dead" and its meanings cannot be revived. The transmission of "ratios" and "rationality," especially in the Pythagorean traditions, is deeply based in "resonating" with "others."

  • 1
    <a href="en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…"> The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind </a>by Julian Jaynes (1976) is a controversial book worth looking in: the language function is lateralised to the left side of brains and originally conscious thoughts were heard as voices (cf. Socrates' daimon). It's a fascinating work even if more sound research has been published later (eg Iain McGilChrist , The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, 2009). – sand1 Jan 30 '16 at 18:05
  • I knew vaguely of Jaynes' book but never read it. And glad to know about the updated research, thanks. – Nelson Alexander Jan 30 '16 at 18:55

You might find interesting Trigant Burrow's "Preconscious Foundations of Human Experience", (1964).

One of his observations was that language, i.e. voices, are late additions to human interaction, in evolutionary terms. He contends that the artificiality language imposes messes up people's intuition and then their general equilibrium. It's quite obvious in retrospect, when you think how people twist their sense of reality to align with some literal interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the world.

  • Such an interesting view! I will definitely turn to this book. Thank you very much :) – Melpomene Jun 11 '14 at 9:35

What is a thought? I propose that thought is perception without sensation--that is, a subjective experience of a sensory event, minus the actual stimulation of that sense. By that definition, then, the only thoughts that require voices are thoughts of voices. Granted, those types of thoughts are quite common (for me, at least), but there are other kinds, too.

If you think of a song, the thought is of music--not a voice. If you think of an elephant, the thought is (probably) of an image--not a voice. If you think of pain, the thought is of feeling--not a voice. Even words can be pictured rather than voiced if we imagine writing them out (though mentally "voicing" written language is often so reflexive it may be difficult to avoid!)

Unless you equate thought with mental voices as a tautology, I see no reason why thoughts should necessarily be dependent on voices.

  • This seems to carry empiricism close to Berkeley's radical idealism, ending up with everything substantiated in the bodiless thinking of God. There is presumably, no "thinking" without bodies, no bodies without breath, and no reproduction of bodies and "rational thoughts" together without communication. For the vast majority of our mind's evolution, this communication was the voice. Once might even say that the mutually resonating "voice" reproduced itself though bodies. Even if thoughts are not given "utterance" their very a priori structure may depend on voice. – Nelson Alexander Jan 29 '16 at 16:25

Thoughts are not dependant on voices since many people experience thoughts as images, etc...

I recently talked with such a person (PhD) who insisted she seldom experiences thoughts as an inner voice, and instead usually experiences thought in the form of images.

From my personal unscientific experience of discussing this with numerous other people, I believe it is quite common.

The following study titled "Sampling the form of inner experience in three adults with Asperger syndrome", the pdf of which can be found via google scholar, addresses this question:

Three adults with Asperger syndrome were invited to talk about their inner experiences, using an experience sampling and interview technique. They reported thoughts primarily or solely in the form of images.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.