Incipient action : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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We conceive of thinking as a process which occurs inside our heads and we assume some entity or organ in there responsible for this process — hence, 'mind'. Thinking is a 'mental' process. Nowadays, most philosophers believe that the mental is explicable in terms of the neurophysiological, and that the entity or organ responsible for thinking is the brain. However, neither mind nor brain is responsible for thinking. No entity or organ is responsible for it. This is because thinking is not a 'process' in the first place. Thinking is an action we perform. Nor is there any specific body part associated with the act of thinking, as lungs are with breathing, say, or lips with smiling. Thinking is no more associated with a particular part of the body than mimicking or playing make-believe is, or being careful. Part One argues that our conception of thinking as an inner process — operations in or of the mind (or brain) — stems from our habituation to certain figures of speech. Endemic in the colloquial vocabulary for talking about thinking is a particularly deceptive type of figurative expression, in which metaphor is used in conjunction with a nominalised verb. We unwittingly take these expressions too literally. Part Two reviews action-based theories of thinking by Ryle, Vygotsky and Hampshire. Although none manages entirely without 'mind', all are precursors of the present work. Part Three identifies the core action in thinking as 'incepting'. Incepting is 'making as if to' do something. One readies oneself to perform a given action, and maintains this readiness, while stopping oneself overtly commencing the action. The incepting of an action can be deliberately ostentatious. However, the 'thinking' kind of incepting is usually an extremely subtle and covert performance. Covert incepting is a constantly useful skill. With adult help, we begin in infancy to learn how to covertly incept actions. After years of practice we get very good at it. It becomes second nature to us. Interestingly, the activity incepted during thinking is always social — and based on concerted, shared activity. Most often, thinking is incepted conversation.
Thinking process, Mind