The Forms of Thought

25 07 2010

In defining a methodology for Applied XQ, I keep testing out and questioning David’s approach against existing or past approaches.

Descartes’ interest in Geometry, for instance … his formation of a moral stance made up of four maxims to guide his thinking:

  • To obey the laws and customs of his country
  • To be the most constant and resolute in his actions that he could
  • To always try to conquer himself rather than his fortune; to change his desires, rather then the order of the world
  • To try to make the best choice of work, without prejudice to other men’s

(Paraphrased from Rene Descartes, A Discourse OF A METHOD For the well guiding of REASON, And the Discovery of Truth In the SCIENCES, LONDON, Printed by Thomas Newcombe MDCXLIX. (1649)

(Beginning of Part III))

Nowhere in mathematics or logic, philosophical mathematics, or philosophical logic that I’ve been able to find to date, is there a precise correlation for his premise that maths processes mirror our mental processes.

There is one interesting observation, though … and that comes from a chance internal gyroscopic intuitive leap of faith – towards the work of D’Arcy Thompson.

Speaking of form, he writes:

“The form, then, of any portion of matter, whether it be living or dead, and the changes of form which are apparent in its movements and in its growth, may in all cases alike be described as due to the action of force. In short, the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’, in this sense at least, that from it we can judge of or deduce the forces that are acting or have acted upon it: in this strict and particular sense, it is a diagram – in the case of a solid, of the forces which have been impressed upon it when its conformation was produced, together with those which enable it to retain its conformation; in the case of a liquid (or of a gas) of the forces which are for the moment acting on it to restrain or balance its own inherent mobility. In an organism, great or small, it is not merely the nature of the motions of the living substance which we must interpret in terms of force (according to kinetics), but also the conformation of the organism itself, whose permanence or equilibrium is explained by the interaction, or balance of forces, as explained in statics.”

Quoted from D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Abridged / Edited by John Tyler Bonner, ‘On Growth and Form’, CUP, 1961, reprinted 2004, page 11. Snippet view online at Google Books here: 

Here’s a thought …

Our thought processes are reactions, not actions.

(forgive the exposition of it, but I’m keen to show you along the path I’ve discovered)

If maths processes mirror our thought processes,

If addition and multiplication equate to agreement and expansion / subtraction and division equate to negation and disagreement,

If these mental positions can be seen as ‘forms’ of thought,

If these ‘forms’ of thought can be seen as equivalent to D’Arcy Thompson’s views of ‘forms’

Then we can see that these ‘forms’ of thought could also be ‘diagrams of forces’.

And if the thought processes depend on an agonist and an antagonist, internal and external inputs,

Then the forms of thought reflect diagrams of forces – internal and external – to which  our thought processes conform.

ie our thought processes are reactions, not actions, which raises the question as to whether the subject of our attention should be our thought processes, or the character of the forces which enable their conformation.






3 responses

25 07 2010


i am familiar with modelling in terms of forces
though my basic math modelling skills are so “unformed” ;)

i think you are talking about the conditions which inform our thought
is that another way of putting it…?
i especially like this phrase
“Then the forms of thought reflect diagrams of forces – internal and external – to which our thought processes conform.”

i guess what you are suggesting here
is that we list the conditions or diagram of forces…

it is something i was loath to do while teaching…
it’s the kind of wild-goose chase i got involved with my skin

the buddhist approach is
cut away most external conditions by secluding the mind in a cell
don’t talk etc etc
the equivalent of which was my diet at 12
which excluded most foods
and my room was turned into a little cell with no carpet etc

i have been reluctant to form typologies
like describing the conditions which are conducive for healthy growth in a plant
which sounds like a very sensible way to solve eg the respiration problem in 18th century was it…?
perhaps it suits you better :)
perhaps it shall be you who makes the breakthrough which future generations look back upon with wonder?
perhaps the next person who reads our work…?

25 07 2010
Leon Conrad

David –

If the above holds up to examination, then even in your cell, if you’re thinking, the forms your thought takes, the forms of the thought processes you’re using are an effect, not a cause.

Whether you wish to examine them or not is immaterial.

I had an image in my mind of 2 people arguing, their mental positions effects of forces of which they weren’t aware, the dynamic between them itself a force field, reforming their thoughts and informing their actions.

Reframing the picture, if they were aware of the shape of the forces which formed their thought processes, perhaps a different dynamic would emerge.

Alternatively, just playing with different thought processes would allow a different force to emerge, an active rather than passive impetus.

I also have an image of 2 people talking, where there’s a palpable ‘buzz’, a synergy, a positive force field which generates and is regenerated through the alignment of forces which inform the conversation they’re having.

This is all completely naive exploration – as a neophyte.
Saying that, I feel there’s something in this – not sure exactly what it is, but it resonates with me.

I wonder whether the way in which we approach thinking creates an awakening of internal force which then acts on thought to inform – no, reform it.

Do we have different methodologies? Still not clear what yours is.

18 08 2010

i have always had a model of communication which differs from the regular
and you have described it
that is
that we are part of the communication bubble

this is more noticeable in live presence
where the bubble is created live as it were

departs from the usual model of transmitter and receiver

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