How is perception formed? By perception I mean 'thought' or 'idea' of the World. What I see by itself does not contribute anything to thought. Only an acknowledgement can contribute to structuring of thought.

If, according to Tractatus, logic is innate, and we cannot think illogically, then we must think logically. And if mathematics is a method of logic, then shouldn't it be the case that we 'compute' thought of the world?

My sense of the world must be computed on the basis of available data, and expectations. Intuition then resolves to ability to acutely apply logical analysis on input, and computing what is the case. Of course some people may have poor perception, but that should be because of their inability to rigorously solve the input; the basic method remains the same -computing the world.

As an example consider the following case: If I were to ask you what would tomorrow be like, you would be able to tell a fairly accurate picture by taking into consideration your present world, and probabilistically computing tomorrow. You would be able to tell me lot of things -your family matters, work, politics, etc. On the other hand, if I ask you same about a decade down the line, you will only tell me most likely things -that in world this may happen, I may be doing this job or this might be the state of nation and so on -basically saying things with highest likelihood. So is there some sort of 'computation' or structured mechanism of intuition at play when I think of the world?

  • I added an edit below the <HR> to respond to yours.
    – J D
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 19:21
  • This is so broad even a book wouldn't cover it, and more suitable for Psychology & Neuroscience SE. Could you read Wikipedia and specify what the philosophical question is.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 22:21
  • Unrelated to your underlying question, but mathematics is not a method of logic; you got it completely backwards. Mathematics is founded on logic, and in particular classical first-order logic. You can have logic without mathematics, but you cannot have mathematics without logic. And if you truly want to understand logic, you have to actually put in some hard work into studying and practicing first-order logic, and cannot rely on philosophy texts.
    – user21820
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 19:06
  • Related to your question, Tractatus is mostly nonsense; logic is not innate. FOL may intrinsically underlie reality, but humans need to actually think quite carefully to come up with FOL, or may even have to learn it from someone else. If you do a proper study of logic including learning to use a concrete deductive system for FOL, then you will know what I mean. It takes effort for almost all non-logicians to refrain from thinking illogically. For logicians, they have made a habit to think logically, so it is different for them.
    – user21820
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 19:08
  • @user21820 Are you saying Tractatus is non-sense because it's author said so, or is non-sense because it is a useless piece of text (and serves absolutely no purpose)?
    – Ajax
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


Since we are talking about understanding thought, it should be first noted that this is a philosophically challenging topic in it's own right. And a good path would be to study Cartesian duality, Gilbert Ryle's work, as well as the work of Jaegwon Kim. You'd also have to study what we know about the anatomy and physiology of perception.

Now, to respond to your question from the philosophical angle, yes, human's are capable of logic, but a lot of thought is (EDIT) alogical. Human beings are not logic engines, but rely heavily on their emotions to draw even logical conclusions. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman for the relatively current state of science on logic and decision making).

But, I'm going to dip your toes in the waters that I prefer which is artificial intelligence, in which there are two camps of thinking historically that are recently trying to reconcile their differences, connectionism and computationalism. A connectionists tries to simulate thoughts from the neuron up, and the computationalist attacks the problems by using the logics humans use, such as Boolean logic or Aristotelian syllogism, etc. Ultimately, what the camps have discovered over the last 70 years is that central to the question of what characterizes human thought, it is the creation and use of meaning.

Wittegenstein comes in two flavors, Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations, and the early Wittegenstein who was a close intellectual ally of Bertrand Russell, diverged largely on the question of meaning after exploring logical thoroughly. In his later work, he is famous for his declaration that logic and words are essentially games played by agents, and that human thought is much more than traditional logic whose rules fall short of the rules used by people. He went on to recognize "family resemblances" in meanings, and other manners of thinking that anticipated cognitive semantics and other findings in cognitive science.

Your question shows your attempts to develop your own ontology, invoking words like input, structure, and computed. The best way to answer your question is to get a good book on the psychology of perception, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. On my shelf is Perception by Julian E. Hochberg, but it's dated. He seems to have another book copyrighted in 2007. But I'm no expert in the field.

Ultimately, you have to find what in these works appeals to your metaphysics. For me, currently I'm working works by the linguist George Lakoff who along with several allies expresses a theory regarding meaning based on conceptual metaphors and ends with a metaphysics that rejects traditional views on concepts, categories, and computation of the mind based on his views on embodied cognition.

EDIT: To answer your question, which seems to me, does the mind compute, then the answer is yes metaphorically. How does it compute? I would argue that the four important ways the mind functions is intuitively, deductively, inductively, and abductively. Intuition is showcased in Blink by Malcom Gladwell, and the latter three topics are handled in the study of logic increasing in terms of complexity and sophistication. It should be noted that computers excel at deduction, but tend to struggle with induction and abduction, as both types of logic require a better handle on the meaning of the topics reasoned. Computer science has the field of expert systems to implement more heuristic forms of computation and mimic to a better degree how humans 'compute'.

If you want to understand reasoning beyond formal logic, a good introduction would be Stephen Toulmin's Uses of Argument where he floats some ideas about how jurisprudential reckoning, and hence generalized inference functions.

  • @J D Thanks for pointers.
    – Ajax
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 19:27
  • I feel compelled to say that neither the later Wittgenstein nor Kahneman refutes the impossibilty of illogical thought. The point is not anthropological, but logical. The thought is something like this: A contradiction does not specify a way for things to be, so there is no such thing as thinking that things are that way. Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 22:18
  • @MichaelAmundsen I've gone and edited to replace illogical with alogical. It might be a categorical mismatch to consider thought and logic as largely overlapping. Most cognitive function of the brain is not logic and has nothing to do with reason at all. I took Ajax's question as referring to the intuitions by which we arrive at our often unexamined metaphysical presuppositions to be 'thought' given his characterization. Illogical thought: two intuitions find themselves promoting presumptions that lead to contradiction. Illogical thought is not only possible, it is human nature.
    – J D
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 19:05

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