I Feel, Therefore I Think

It has been discovered recently that bilingualism helped with setting up a theory of mind in children, and also that physical exercise helps the brain.

It’s not surprising: in both cases, the brain is forced to exercise more. In a way, the brain is asked to do something, a particular task belong to a new category of tasks, and, when tested about that category of tasks, test higher than if it had never engaged in these tasks.

Exercise forces much of the brain to get active, and at a sufficient performance level (otherwise one crashes).

An Aspect Of My Personal Alps, Where I Frequently Run

An Aspect Of My Personal Alps, Where I Frequently Run

Bilingualism forces to realize that the logos depends upon generalized semantics, that is what one means by a particular word, and which emotion a particular concept is supposed to connect two. Having two versions of semantics and truth, forces one to practice arbitrage, hence higher mental functions. Maybe the Jews of Central and Western Europe, were so smart because they learned both the local language and Yiddish. Similarly for children of upper classes learning Greek and Latin on top of their language (Caesar learned Greek before Latin).

Are there other activities which force our minds to expand?

Facing lions and killing mammoths comes to mind. Neanderthals did this, and their brains were significantly larger than those of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. (Racist Homo SS having been trying to insult Neanderthals about this, ever since the first one was identified in 1856 as a “ricketty Cossack“).

More generally I favor the racist explanation that, living in much harder circumstances, Neanderthals were actually smarter, and their domestication of wolves proves it.

Confronting bears with bare hands, is an interesting activity. Bears hate stones, as they are familiar with the fact stones are dangerous, and when stones start flying, that’s strong magic which gives them an enticing excuse to retreat.)

Short of confronting bears with bare hands, what can we do? To improve mental performance?

What should we do?

Well, go to nature. Real nature, complete with wasps (another big black flying insect trying to sting me since my wasps adventure, but got tangled in my hairdo several times, instead; amusingly it was less than 1,000 feet from where I got attacked by wasps, but this time on a standard fire road, which allowed me to escape more readily; I am going to ned up believing in genies like the Muslim god, if they keep coming at me in the same place…).

Real nature activates, I believe, the proper neurohormones.

Making love makes the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richard happy, because it’s a strong passion.

However nature, wild, savage nature, provides with even stronger passions. A sex maniac such as the famous navigator Olivier de Kersauzon, admits that, when he sails around the world, he thinks about sex not once for one second, being too worried by survival, or crushed with fatigue. John Muir climbed a tall conifer during a storm in the Sierra, to appreciate the passions nature provides with, even more.

Nature feels beautiful: it evokes in us the neurohormonal states we call beauty. How are we going to experience beauty otherwise? Love? Yes, sometimes, somewhat, somehow, love is beautiful. But love is tied either to family, children, or where they all come from, the desire to unite with some other(s). It’s a bit too contingent upon others.

But give a human a desert, with grand vistas: even with no one else around, beauty will be had, aplenty.

Appreciating the beauty of the universe, its cosmicity, is related, in humans, no doubt, to many deep emotions we, humans, are made to leverage, to use our minds to their full capabilities. Not just scanning for prey, water, or enemies. But also contemplating what we humans created, because we are stewards of the Earth. We are of this world (that’s what “cosmic, kosmikos” means, in Greek). This world we created (as the Earth has become a vast human garden, complete with totally modified ecology, from pole to pole).

The Beatles insisted: All we need is love!

Well, sometimes we can’t get love, just from the circumstances. Where is love, walking alone under the starry sky, surrounded by darkness? If you are on a barren island, where is love going to come from?

Well, even in the desert, there is always the beauty of nature, love for the beauty of nature, of which love for other human beings is a particular case. Love for nature is not just a faithful companion, it’s a teacher of love and hope.

I think therefore I am, said the other one. But to think better, thus to be better, we have enjoy more the teacher no one can eschew, nature itself. And all the emotions, all the neurohormones, all the mind it can endow us with.

Go to the woods, or the woods will come to you.

Making fun of “I think, therefore I am” dates back at least to Wittgenstein. However, my point is serious. Whereas robots can walk, robots do NOT have sensations. Worms do. So worms feel, and decide what to feel: they are unpredictable, as I pointed out in “Three Neurons, Free Will“.

I would suggest that consciousness is more basic than the impression of “thinking”. And that unpredictability is a symptom of consciousness. Yes, consciousness has a feel to it, and that varies… Hence the unpredictability, both of sentient beings, and of the thinking process itself (and the Quantum Computer will confirm that!)

Patrice Ayme’


14 Responses to “I Feel, Therefore I Think”

  1. gmax Says:

    I feel you wrote this in a rush, because you did not mention how beautiful nature can be, and the emotions it conveys. You did in the past.

    So I suggest you pay at least lip service to the notion. Just you know, if readers get to know you for the first time, as Eugene said, you are everywhere, and all they come out with is that you think nature is all about John Muir battling a storm from the top of swinging cedar, up in the Sierra, a slightly ridiculous notion. Yeah, he did it, but that’s far out, we’ll beyond the gift of gab

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear GMax: You are right on all counts. Will do. I will add a few choices sentences to make clear the role of nature in other neurohormonal categories than the direct struggle for life.

  2. Alexi Helligar Says:

    Alexi Helligar: The lack of full engagement with nature by current AI systems is why they continue to fail. The intelligence is not in the algorithms, but in the raw chaotic signal from nature.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Excellent point, Alexi! Somehow, to be exposed to nature teaches our brains to handle raw chaotic signals.

      When I mountain trail run, as I did today, on chaotic, partly rocky ground ground, at up to 5 meters per second (!), I really wonder how I get out of it alive! The computational power is astounding (but obviously heavily distributed).

  3. EugenR Says:

    I walk, therefore i think.
    I am not sure bilingualism or multilingualism makes people more intelligent and smarter. In modern days the is more common among people of wide spread languages. In Europe single-lingualism is very common in English, Spanish, German, Italian and even French native speakers while the Dutch, Scandinavians but also the Portuguese are mostly bilinguals or multilinguals. Are they cleverer? Was any serious research on the subject?

    Yes, beauty when totally permeating us, love emerges. But it can be also dangerous. Danger is by itself beauty.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Experimental theory of mind (I gave links in my preceding essay on that which I linked in the present one) show that bilingualism promotes “higher executive functions”. It’s clear in children. It’s also known to slow down Alzheimer in those who get it, by 5 years, in the average.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Making fun of “I think, therefore I am” dates back at least to Wittgenstein. However, my point is serious. Whereas robots can walk, robots do NOT have sensations. Worms do. So worms are unpredictable, as I pointed out in:

      I would suggest that consciousness is more basic than the impression of “thinking”. And that unpredictability is a symptom of consciousness.

      • EugenR Says:

        By the way, speaking about Meditations and walking, i am going to honor again St. James for some spiritual elevation:).
        From July you can find me in camino de santiago.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Camino de Santiago… di Compostelle? Some people do in sections… Year after year. The USA equivalent is doing the Sierra crest from Mexico to Canada (I have done sections of that, running… but now it’s crowded, because of books and movies !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)… Because running or walking puts one in different neurohormonal states, one finds different solutions and connections to problems one considered before. I have occasionally walked in the mountains and get a flood of new ideas… Even on subject I had few in a long time. It definitively works.

  4. hazxan Says:

    Some interesting points, Patrice! Something that springs to mind – hunter/gatherers apparently do not reproduce at the rate of the settled, civilised. It does seem that as soon as people settled into farming, they became sex obsessed, far beyond any rational biological need to reproduce the species. Hence the resulting overpopulation that occurs wherever humans settle, but rarely when they stay “Native”.

    “Oh, but it’s just enjoyable” most will say. But to any thinker, nothing is “just” enjoyable, there must be a reason for it! And as I said, civilisations sex-obsession is counter productive.

    Could there be biochemical/hormonal changes in us that occur when we are more engaged directly with nature?

    Conversely, if exercise is good for the brain, shouldn’t sportspeople be the smartest of all? I believe the reality is much the opposite.When I was a child at school, they would often line us up after tests in order of the marks we scored. And the line could have served 2 opposite purposes – read one way and it was the order of academic ability. But start at the other end and go backwards and it was the order of sporting ability. The smartest were invariably the worst at sports and vice-versa.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Just lost a longish reply I made… ;-(… Exercise is good for the brain as it offers a higher performance envelope, and changed neurohormonal states. But one has to start as an intellectual. Those who practice only sports which don’t require much brains are not going to improve that way. Some sports are more brainy than others (sailing, climbing, wingsuit flying, etc.)

      Also some may practice sports, precisely because that can’t do anything else. See the recently discovered aphantasia:

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      “SETTLING” itself will cause more sex, indeed. That’s an excellent point. Basically when one fights for, or against life, sex does not exist, whatsoever.
      However, agriculturalists have always long stretches of idle time (except if they are cultivating in the wet equatorial forest; even dry tropical forest is idle most of the dry season: in much of Africa, that’s MOST of the year!) During that time, lest they are engaged in war against Nomads, they will indeed, play sex games…

      Sport people do only sports, because they perform at the upper margin. Thus, they are pretty dumb. Some sports (sailing, climbing, wingsuit flying, etc.) require extreme brains, but plain athletic, not that much.

      I was advocating the changed mental perspectives from changed neurohormonal states. If people do not have an intellect to start with… does not help. People who only do sports may even be affected by neuro deficiencies to start with, like the recently discovered aphantasia.

  5. hazxan Says:

    BTW, Some suspect that it is grain eating in ever increasing quantities that causes the over-stimulated sex drive in settled agriculturalists. As well as all sorts of other pathological behavior.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      That made me laugh! It may well be true. Native Americans physically degenerated from corn, although they multiplied like rabbits from it (known archeology).

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