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The Mechanism Of Thinking

It is evident from the foregoing discussion that we may include under

the term thinking all sorts of mental processes by which relations are

apprehended between different objects of thought. Thus young children

think as soon as they begin to understand something of the meaning of

the objects of their environment. Even animals think by means of simple

and direct associations. Thinking may therefore go on in terms of the

simplest and most immediate, or the most complex and distant



sensations would mean something, but not much; relations seen between

objects immediately present to the senses would mean much more; but

our thinking must go far beyond the present, and likewise far beyond

individual objects. It must be able to annihilate both time and space,

and to deal with millions of individuals together in one group or class.

Only in this way can our thinking go beyond that of the lower animals;

for a wise rat, even, may come to see the relation between a trap and

danger, or a horse the relation between pulling with his teeth at the

piece of string on the gate latch, and securing his liberty.

But it takes the farther-reaching mind of man to invent the trap and

the latch. Perception alone does not go far enough. It is limited to

immediately present objects and their most obvious relations. The

perceptual image is likewise subject to similar limitations. While it

enables us to dispense with the immediate presence of the object, yet it

deals with separate individuals; and the world is too full of individual

objects for us to deal with them separately. It is in conception,

judgment, and reasoning that true thinking takes place. Our next

purpose will therefore be to study these somewhat more closely, and see

how they combine in our thinking.