Summary Book II: Thinking with Words

The humanist’s plaintive cry, “I am not a machine” is in response to the mainstream cognitive science view that the human mind is similar to a computational machine, what scientist’s call a formal system. In a series of three books, Dr. Lynch challenges these mainstream theories by showing how human cognition consists of two parts: 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 not just a means of communication, as asserted by most cognitive scientists, but is essential to what is often referred to as human thought or reason. Humans can, of course, think without using language but only in a way that is also shared by our chimp cousins. His first book, subtitled, Thinking without Words characterized that languageless mode of cognition. His second book in the series is subtitled, Thinking with Words, and focuses on the role of natural language in human thought. The third book is subtitled, Rethinking Cognitive Psychology, and deals with the chemical, structural, emotional and developmental aspects of human cognition.

Human intelligence is thus an artifact of the evolution of language-a communicative capability that just happens to create what we call conscious thought. Book II shows that language itself can be processed by the brain using complex pattern processing capabilities evolved for processing sensory signals. This model of human cognition is then used to explain how humans have created mathematics, science, literature, history and psychology with a mind primarily evolved to tell stories of their past, to coordinate activities in the present and plan future events. Under this model, we must revise fundamental concepts of knowledge and truth that we have inherited from Greek and Enlightenment scholars.

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Cover Story

The photo used for Book II is of a deep-thinking reflective psychotherapist. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that as I photographed him he was indeed thinking with words.

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




Summary of Book II Excerpts from Book II