Recently listening to my thoughts I think that it's reasonable to affirm that thoughts are randomly generated. It is correct to say so because you can't think an infinite pattern of thoughts at once, truly, you can only be thinking one thing at once, which leads to the question,

Did I choose to think this or this thought automatically came up on my mind?

The thoughts automatically comes up, even if you choose to think something is because the thought that made you choose to think about something was randomly generated. I believe this happens because of the nonstopping time flow. I also noticed that some control is taken when a problem is faced, please stop reading for a moment and try to do this math on top off head, 23+41=?, I guess that at this moment we were in control of the brain, using it as a tool instead of being a slave to its rather repetitive thoughts.

Is this interpretation true or is there a more well based affirmation?

  • 2
    do you mean thoughts in general? From a cognitive science perspective different elements of cognition are viewed as a complex interplay between top-down and bottom-up processing.
    – Dr Sister
    Oct 1, 2012 at 8:44
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    I don't necessarily think that this is true at all times "thoughts are randomly generated" as sometimes, thoughts can be influenced by your surroundings and by other people. You only have to watch Derren Brown to see that thoughts can be manipulated and 'implanted'.
    – mbx-mbx
    Oct 1, 2012 at 8:58
  • Not in the general, because as @Magrangs said, sometimes thoughts are influenced by the moment surrounding you, such as conversations, when you think of an answer to a person speech, In some cases there seem to be some control, I'm asking while you're in no interaction of any kind of activity that requires control to be taken, I'm talking about moments when you're alone simply thinking. Thanks for the links and references
    – Vinícius
    Oct 1, 2012 at 17:26
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    Anyone who calculated that sum was clearly not in control of his brain, but instead let you take over the control and make it add those numbers. After all, it was you who decided on the numbers, and that they should be added.
    – celtschk
    Oct 1, 2012 at 21:01
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    Introspection regarding the workings of the mind is almost useless, sadly--most anything you introspect will have a counterexample in the psychophysics literature (or one can be generated in short order). Our minds are far more complex, and the implementation far more subtle, than intuition gives credit for. So the first thing to do when interested in philosophy of mind is to study a bunch of cognitive science and neuroscience so you know something about what the mind does and is. There is no succinct answer to your questions save read more; Seldom's link is a reasonable starting point.
    – Rex Kerr
    Oct 3, 2012 at 21:36

5 Answers 5



The mind can control of the thoughts the brain produces by electrical signals and neural pathways.

Your mind is your higher self.

The higher self (from ancient wisdom) through discipline - can reform the physical (brain).

Ancient Eastern Philosophies, like in Japan, teach exactly how to control thoughts. (I actually work at it everyday).

Zazen takes great effort, great vigilance. If you're not vigilant, attentive, thoughts arise and immediately you're swirling around with your thoughts, not paying attention to posture, not concentrating on exhalation. Your mind leaves the dojo, and you're not here, now. It is some other time, some other place, running after your thoughts as they arise, creating emotions, desires, problems, fleeting pleasures.

Even as I speak in kusen, you take my words and run away with them, add more thoughts, complicate the mind, complicate your whole being, your life. You must be here, now. It's quite simple, but doesn't come so easily. And the effort involved, moment by moment, few of us are willing to make - even in the dojo, even in zazen, much less in daily life.



If that is mumbo jumbo to some, take the scientific perspective.

Dr. Jeffery Schwartz has dedicated his life to what you are asking about.

Decades ago, he began to study the philosophy of conscious awareness, the idea that the actions of the mind have an effect on the workings of the brain. Jeff's breakthrough work in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided the hard evidence that the mind can control the brain's chemistry. He has lectured extensively to both professional and lay audiences in the US, Europe, and Asia.



My answer actually disturbs me.

I take Wittgensteins argument against private language as successful, and I take Quine's argument that language is empirical as successful.

Here is an example from Wikipedia's article on Wittgenstein's private language argument:

For instance, if one cannot have a private language, it might not make any sense to talk of private sensations such as qualia; nor might it make sense to talk of a word as referring to a concept, where a concept is understood to be a private mental state.

Here is a quote from Quine's essay "Epistemology naturalized" (Quine1969):

Language is socially inculcated and controlled; the inculcation and control turn strictly on the keying of sentences to shared stimulation.

I'll add that there are languages that omit concepts contained in other languages. There is a language, for instance (I'm sorry, I'm going on memory; can't find a reference) which describes time as passing us from behind going forward. Like a wind at our back. We see ourselves moving forward, time passing us like a wind in our face. There is also a language (so sorry, no reference) which does not have the concept of contradiction.

I take all this to mean that the formulation of our thoughts, and, indeed the concepts it occurs to us to think about, are given to us by our language group/sub groups. Wittgenstein and Quine are saying we cannot express our thoughts independently of society, and the varying conceptual content among languages signifies that even what we think about is determined by our group.

When we think about something is often determined by the context of the moment. I cannot argue that we determine a type of concept to think about, nor how to express, even to ourselves, unspoken, the concept.

Pain is the classic example of private experience, which cannot be accurately expressed to others, in language, because we do not have access to how others feel when they experience it. But we do not control the experience of pain. And when we do think about it, I think we use the public language.

I'm not happy about it, but I only know of arguments against individual determination of thoughts.

  • +1 for best opening and following the spirit of philosophy: following the evidence^H ideas wherever they lead! (Boo, <s> doesn't work in comments; ^H means 'delete one word to the left'.)
    – labreuer
    Oct 29, 2013 at 23:10
  • "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis in linguistics states that the grammatical structure of a mother language influences the way we perceive the world. The hypothesis has been largely abandoned by linguists as it has found very limited experimental support, at least in its strong form, linguistic determinism" from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… The PL Argument is about how having rules of a game allows one to be played, that abstract conceptual thought is intrinsically game-like, learned from language games. Roadmarkings enable driving.
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 20, 2022 at 13:00

Producing thought I'd no different from producing speech when talking to someone else. Obviously you can choose what to say to other people and what not, you can lie, you can be silent.

Your choice of the things you say to others is not random, but can be arbitrary, such as what came to your mind.

The awake brain is constantly trying to produce thought, but it is possible with some meditation training to reduce this. The object and nature of thoughts is usually determined by your situation and needs, but if there is nothing urgent, what topic your brain will focus on for thoughts can be arbitrary.

As "survival animals" we can at any time use thinking to solve dedicated problems like being threatened by hunger, fire, etc. As social creatures we use our brains to secure a lifestyle that makes us feel good.

Some people suffer from negative thoughts that are reoccurring, leading to depression and sometimes suicide, so it's possible to not be in full control of thoughts. In theory however, with therapy it seems possible to cure most such suffering from unwanted thought patterns.


What would you say is the difference between "choosing what you want do think" and "not being in control of your thoughts"? Maybe you can choose what you want to think, yes, but what is that decision based on? If your will was truly free, it would be determined by your will itself - that is circular logic. Whatever decision you make, it can never be entirely based on your will as will can't create itself and thus there must be something else determining your will; let it be a factor of randomness, your social environment or your childhood memories.

  • I can choose what I think in the next moment, just like my body can control where my body goes in the next step. So that means that in the previous moment, I could have controlled what I would be thinking now. Therefore, it is possible in principle for me to direct my mind at any time.
    – Scott Rowe
    Mar 20, 2022 at 13:55

Scientifically I think your question can be compressed to "Do random things exist?"

As far as random things do not exist your thoughts are absolutely determined and even fate of everything happening around us is determined.

But Scientifically there is no prove revealed that random things cannot exist.

Scientists research deeper and deeper in particles to find new relationships between new particles and administering new laws and models.

I think for that moment we cannot answer your question with facts.

In my opinion everything is defined and detetermined.So if i have to answer your question i would say NO.I admire to anime called Berserk where it starts with this statement

“In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or Law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true, man has no control, even over his own will.”

it is pathetic and ironic from my point of view how we actually think But also beautiful and transcendental.

Neurotransmitters deliviring positive and negative ions between neurons in a neuron networks making us conscious.Some people cannot even imagine the complexity of our brain There are 1000 trillion neuron connections in an average brain.I also admire to this fact

“A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.”

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