Do we need to learn to 'think' or is it an ability that we are born with? By 'think' I mean neurons firing in a certain way to provide useful information (although since I am not strong in this subject, this may make no sense).

  • $\begingroup$ Something to think about which might highlight the terminological problems with this question (yet suitably answered imho by John): Do you need to be able to 'think' in order to 'learn'? $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Apr 30 '16 at 15:41

Allow us to include within the term "learning" the absorption of information, which contributes to creation of neural pathways within the brain. Admittedly, this is a rather liberal use of the term, "learning".

Human thought is an emergent behavior of the brain, which begins once sufficient neural pathways have formed. Therefore, we "learn" before we think, and such learning allows the brain to follow its natural course in creating the emergent behavior of thinking. This is very subtly different from saying that we "learn to think".


That is obviously depends on how one defines learning and thinking.

We need to learn how to walk, but do you know of any non-handicap 6 year old who didn't manage to?

Similarly, newborns' nervous system in neither fully 'formed' nor in full swing (for a very good reason), so they aren't exactly thinking like an adult and they need, at least, some stimuli to develop such ability - but again, show me a non-handicap adult who doesn't think.

Thinking in itself can be defined in different ways, involve levels and abilities.

I guess you can say that learning (a change in behaviour or beliefs) is a necessity for thinking, but it isn't voluntary - we are pretty much biologically destined to think, and in normal circumstances can't help it.

So if I understand you question alright, it is an innate ability.

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    $\begingroup$ But any adult who doesn't think or walk would be called handicapped, so by definition we can't "show" you an able adult who doesn't walk or think. Also, you claim the answer will depend on definitions, and then forget about it. I think you're really onto some stuff here, and I would like to ask you to elaborate on the definitions you're using and the ideas behind the claimed biological destiny. $\endgroup$ – Dror Speiser Dec 1 '15 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DrorSpeiser, these are valid points, but my answer was to match the informal style of the question. I suspect that if I'm to seriously delve deeper into definitions it'll be the Vienna circle all over again. To give one example, and without thinking about it too much, my (cognitive) definition of learning would be "The internal perception or external observation resulting from a change in plasticity". Is this what you are after? I'd be happy to elaborate if you give me a few more pointers as to what's unclear. $\endgroup$ – Izhaki Dec 1 '15 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ The handicapped business is a guard against less common cases, and the biological destiny is to say that an organism formed by the instructions of a human DNA, and fed with sensory input our environment provides, would end up thinking - our brain and body are formed to have such function and we cannot help it, much as a typical fish cannot help laying eggs. $\endgroup$ – Izhaki Dec 1 '15 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ What you say about DNA and sensory input only replaces one question by another, namely, why does DNA and sensory input make thinking unavoidable? And again you are in the by-definition error zone: a typical fish is one that lays eggs. Beyond the fallacy and the misdirection, references and commonly used terms would allow the OP and others to continue reading. As you mentioned yourself, the Vienna circle has already thought and learned lots of stuff, so why invent the wheel? $\endgroup$ – Dror Speiser Dec 1 '15 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ We are indeed on polars. If thinking is required to demonstrate an advantage in processing complex inputs - then it does not evidently give an organism unprecedented evolutionary advantage, but it does so by definition. Essentially, the problem in all your arguments is the same: you want to say that humans think by definition as an answer to "is thought innate", but you won't say it explicitly. Why not? It's a great answer! $\endgroup$ – Dror Speiser Dec 1 '15 at 2:46

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