To get an idea of what I'm talking about one may pay close attention to their own thought process. It may become evident that one can gain awareness of certain conceptual assemblages. If awareness at this level is sustained one would (very quickly) learn that thinking in this manner happens at an exceedingly rapid rate.

Such an assemblage is what we would commonly call an "idea". They may or may not be translatable into natural language, but doing so (mentally) takes noticeably more time so that thinking the same thoughts takes more time. Furthermore actually speaking a thought takes longer still.

One gets the impression of a hierarchy of levels at which thinking can occur. The manifest trade off being between categorical richness of expression and speed. Though I've expressed only three tiers there may be more or even a continuum, for instance where particular words start to enter the train at different levels.

So I'm talking about ideas before they become words.

Question: Is there any literature about thinking in less concrete modes

  • Does this post of mine (only the first part) spelling out 4 levels of communication in Indian philosophy help?
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 13:39
  • Would en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin Temple Grandin be along the lines you are looking for?
    – puppetsock
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 18:07
  • This is standard fare in cognitive science now, see Mental Models.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 20:10
  • @Rusi Very useful! Mentalese for example would work nicely as a sort of translation between the para/pashyanti level and madhyama/vaikhari "levels", as such it brings into better focus what I mean with "pre-linguistic" thinking
    – christo183
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:36
  • @Gordon Could I have your comments back? Please? :)
    – christo183
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:38

1 Answer 1


Pre-cognitive or pre-linguistic conceptualization has been discussed by a number of philosophers, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Edmund Husserl. In Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty argues that our perceptual experience is not determined by the physical properties of the object we are perceiving, but by our prior conceptual understanding of that object. This prior understanding is not something that we are consciously aware of, but rather something that shapes the way we see the world. Similarly, Husserl argues in The Origin of Geometry that our mathematical concepts are not determined by the physical properties of the world, but by our prior experience of those concepts. In both cases, these philosophers are arguing that our conceptual understanding of the world shapes our perception of it, and that this understanding is not something that we are consciously aware of.

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