David Bohm: Thought as a System


David Bohm a physicist that worked with Einstein developed a philosophy of thought that considers human thought an interrelated system.

From Thought as a System:

“What I mean by “thought” is the whole thing – thought, felt, the body, the whole society sharing thoughts – it’s all one process. It is essential for me not to break that up, because it’s all one process; somebody else’s thoughts becomes my thoughts, and vice versa. Therefore it would be wrong and misleading to break it up into my thoughts, your thoughts, my feelings, these feelings, those feelings… I would say that thought makes what is often called in modern language a system. A system means a set of connected things or parts.

Similarly, thought is a system. That system not only includes thoughts, “felts” and feelings, but it includes the state of the body; it includes the whole of society – as thought is passing back and forth between people in a process by which thought evolved from ancient times. A system is constantly engaged in a process of development, change, evolution and structure changes…although there are certain features of the system which become relatively fixed. We call this the structure…. Thought has been constantly evolving and we can’t say when that structure began. But with the growth of civilization it has developed a great deal. It was probably very simple thought before civilization, and now it has become very complex and ramified and has much more incoherence than before. (P. 18-19)”

If we use this lens to consider our world today we may realize that this “system” is continuously growing larger and becoming more complex as more people begin to communicate with each other around the world thanks to the availability of telecommunication networks (e.g. telephone, web etc).

If we use an organism (a type of system), as a metaphor for thought, we may say this period in our culture is “Spring” where thoughts from around the world are cross-pollinating each other. Ideas are growing “synapses” connecting each other in new ways. New, hybrid ideas are spawning every second. We are not making much fuzz about it, but in a way, we are living in a period of time that is akin to a “new renaissance”.

The concept of thought as a system may sound a bit strange to begin with but if you entertain the idea for a minute and then you consider that you’re reading this in a blog (a thought system on itself) on the web (an interdependent and interconnected system of thought and technology expressed through bits and pixels) then we may realize that Bohm’s concept is more true today than ever before.

From Wikipedia’s profile on David Bohm , quoting from Thought as a System. 11-24-07

1992. Thought as a System (transcript of seminar held in Ojai, California, from November 30 to December 2, 1990), London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-11980-4.

Thought as a System – David Bohm


4 thoughts on “David Bohm: Thought as a System

  1. tarma

    the world’problem can be solved if the polititions adapt this thought.they will never do it because fear of loosing their authority


    now that I have some one’s attention, hello there. reading Bohm’s “quantum mechanics” in part was joyful, especially in that he starts with non-mathematics in a chapter where in 1951 prognosticates our thought processes seem to show quantum behavior. for example we need not just concentration but a mind which rambles on on many different subjects where it suddenly hits on a solution. therefore locking down thoughts on a subject is like grasping the position of a particle where we loose information of how fast it moves.
    his theories on thought and its evolution is discounted by most as rambling. what interests me is the realization that this process has continued as we evolved and it has evolved. it is a short step from here to putting the evolution of thought first as the primary reason for our being. another way to see this is the genetical passing of ideas refined and developed. he really has a center piece of a theology here however he was not looking for a theology. his starting point was not any theology

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