Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview

3
The Relationship Between Thought and Language

There is an old story about three umpires that goes something like this:

Three umpires were unwinding at a local pub after a very tough day. All three had endured abusive shouts like, "Kill the umpire" and had numerous offers for new pairs of eyeglasses. After a few mugs of brew, they began discussing how they decide to call balls and strikes. The first umpire, Jim, explained that it was really quite simple. "I simply call them as I see them."

Donnie, the second umpire, disagreed when he said, "I see them as I call them."

Neil, the third umpire, emphatically shook his head in disagreement with the other two. "You're both wrong," he said, slurring his words somewhat. "They don't even exist until I call them."

Neil had a good point. Whether a ball whizzing past home plate is a ball or strike depends on what the umpire labels it. The words he uses both interpret and define reality.


THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE

The development of mind, thought, and language is simply a nexus in which it is impossible to separate one from the other.

-- Michael Studdert-Kennedy (quoted in Restak, 1988, p. 231)

How do you express your thoughts in words and sentences? How influenced are you by your particular language? You will have difficulty answering these questions because you use both so automatically and because you have no conscious awareness of the way your thoughts give rise to the words you use to express them. In fact, if you try to monitor your speaking process, you'll find yourself stuttering and interfering with the fluid speech that you normally create so easily. It's as though speech emerges automatically and preformed. Conscious attention directed at the process tends to interfere with it.

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