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Connectivist Illuminati (2)

September 24, 2008

From whence we last left off….

So – I argue – the assertion that we think in a language, whether while playing chess or composing an essay, is an illusion.

What is this based on? Is this a grounded theory, a deduction, a surmising, a postulation, a guess, a ‘vision’? 

It may look like we’re using language, but that’s not what’s actually happening.

Well call me stupid, but the voices in my head are in the English language, with the occasional French or Spanish phrase thrown in. Maybe there is a process behind the language, but it is language. That’s not an illusion to me.

What we are actually doing is pattern matching. We are imagining different sorts of arrangements of pieces and then matching them to desirable (or undesirable) outcomes, such as pins or mates or whatever.

Sure, I am matching the patterns of the symbolic representations in my head. In other words, I recognize words.

An awful lot follows from this, because the mechanisms that describe reasoning via pattern matching are very different from those describing physical symbol systems.

Show me.

And it is precisely that set of differences that characterize the difference between connectivism and constructivism”

What differences?  You say tomato, I say tomahto? You say pattern matching, I say symbolic representation? What is a symbolic representation except a pattern?

Ref. Downes, S. (2007) Moodle forum post retrieved Sept 20/08 from  (black text only, blue text is mine)


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  1. You see, probably it is very personal. For instance, I do not have the feeling to think in words, by no means. It is very difficult to say what are those things floating in our minds.

    For me are often images, images of very schematic objects and connectins among those objects. For instance, my mathematical thinking is all of that kind.

    And when I have to communicate some thought I often must find the words.

  2. deadvocate permalink

    Thank you for your comment. What you have said is a strong reminder that I can’t see the workings in your head, nor can you see the workings in mine. We may function differently, and we may assign different meanings to our communicated words. I think that patterns are the same as symbolic representations, so I don’t make the distinction Stephen does.

    Words are patterns of letters which are drawings like lines, and circles, and the combinations we have created have been agreed to have certain meanings. Otherwise it is difficult to communicate what we think.

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