Summary Book I: Thinking without Words

The humanist’s plaintive cry, “I am not a machine” is a defiant response to the mainstream cognitive science view that the human mind is similar to a computational machine, what scientists call a formal system. In a series of three books, Dr. Lynch challenges these mainstream theories by showing how human cognition consists of two components: a part inherited from the nonhuman primates that is not based on language, and a part that is based on human natural syntactic language. Natural language is therefore seen to be not just a means of communication, as asserted by most cognitive scientists, but essential to what is often referred to as human thought or reason. Human beings can, of course, think without using language, but only in a way that is also shared by our chimp cousins. Characterizing that languageless mode of cognition is the focus of this first book, Thinking Without Words. The second book in the series is subtitled Thinking With Words, and the third is subtitled Rethinking Cognitive Psychology.

Dr. Lynch claims that you cannot teach a chimp to parallel park a car or make Coq au Vin because natural language is required to structure complex perceptions and behavior. What, however, can a chimp's mind do, and how does it do it? If a chimp’s mind is not based on computation, could it be based on a simple stimulus-response process supported by connectionist's models of the brain? Not entirely, argues Dr. Lynch, who has developed his own models of the languageless brain, based on his experiences doing research in complex signal processing. Studying the animal mind and the fundamental mental processes that support it focuses our attention on essential cognitive issues that have significant implications for understanding the nature of human intelligence.

Back to top

Cover Story

This is Mike.

The photograph of Mike the chimp was cropped from a photo by Curt Busse at the Gombe National Park, Tanzania, in 1974 and is used with permission. You can find other wonderful photos of many chimps at Curt Busse’s photo website. Visit Site

For detailed information about Gombe and its chimps, see

The Jane Goodall Institute's Center for Primate Studies. Visit Site

I put a picture of Mike on the cover of Book I, Thinking without Words, because I thought that Mike looked thoughtful and intelligent.

Back to top


Home I Annotated Bibliography I For Pet Owners I Thought You'd Never Ask I Contact


Buy the Book...
Click on a vendor below to purchase
Paperback I Hardcover

Barnes & Noble

Paperback I Hardcover

Paperback I Hardcover



Book I: Thinking Without WordsBook II: Thinking With WordsBook III: Rethinking Cognitive Psychology




Summary of Book I Excerpts from Book I