The organizational system of thought is analogous to that of a quantum mechanical system.
Allow me to explain. To do so, we must endeavor to apprehend the philosophical consequences of quantum weirdness.
Consider a particle, of some sort. So far, so good. Just like a human, this particle maintains certain traits that describe its identity and behavior. For our epistemic purposes, let’s say one such trait a particle can have is of color. A particle can be either blue or yellow.
In a similar manner, we can say particles in general have a trait that describes their textures. A particle can be either rough or smooth.
Rather, particles seem to adopt a state of being we have not accounted for. For example, we measure a particle’s color only to find it is not blue and not yellow, but also not not blue and not not yellow either.
Now, in principle, here is where I would insert a long-winded explanation of many, many reliably-conducted experiments that one could perform on this particle and others like it that would provide inconclusive results as to its color and texture identities. It’s not that these experiments do not have the ability to measure the color or texture of a particle (they do). Moreover, it is not the case that these particles do not have well-defined colors or textures (they do).
Rather, particles seem to adopt a state of being we have not accounted for. For example, we measure a particle’s color only to find it is not blue and not yellow, but also not not blue and not not yellow either. The same goes for the texture; a particle is measured to be rough and smooth and yet neither rough nor smooth.
What’s more is the traits of color and texture seem intrinsically related. The measurement of the color, for example, influences the outcome of the particle’s texture, and vice versa.
It seems undeniable, therefore, that the process of measuring color and texture changes the color and texture states of the particles. This is known as the measurement problem of quantum mechanics, and this you will have to take me on faith (or don’t, but at least entertain the idea for a bit).
This outlandish state in which particles exist—wherein it’s color is blue, yellow, not blue and not yellow at the same time—we conventionally call ‘superposition.’ (It is effectively a fancy word used to describe a state we don’t necessarily understand.)
That is to say, each particle state may be represented as a superposition of other states. This may be better understood using the mathematical formalism scribed below (forgive the notation):
where states are represented by the exotic, bracketed arrows and subscripted ‘c’s are probabilistic coefficients indicating the degree to which each state is related as well as the normalization.
Thus, the state of a particle is different from the outcome of one’s measurement.
But let’s ignore those complicated words. The point is, each of a particle’s states is a superposition of other states. And when the system itself undergoes measurement, one of those states predominates the other and what is now a superimposed particle state ‘collapses’ onto the reality in which it is measured. That is to say, a particle’s state is both some unknown combinational state of blue and yellow, but any attempt made to observe the system forces the particle to adopt either blue or yellow as its measured identity. Thus, the state of a particle is different from the outcome of one’s measurement.
Conversational social interactions are, in their own rite, a form of attempted measurement on the state of someone else’s thoughts.
The same process applies, in some elementary way, to thoughts and how we represent those to others. Conversational social interactions are, in their own rite, a form of attempted measurement on the state of someone else’s thoughts. All thoughts can be said to reduce to referential associations equate to a superposition of truths preceded by probabilistic coefficients dictating their likelihood for collapse onto the social interaction.
But thoughts are intricate superpositions of one’s experience. For example, simple binary opinions might manifest as follows:
Thus, if you were to ask this particular individual to opine on climate change, it is pretty clear what response you might get; the probability coefficients are too extreme to provoke hesitation. Depending on the circumstance, however—for example, the humorous implications of the circumstance, the fancy of the conversational counterpart, the perceived brevity of the conversation etc.—it is conceivable that this individual’s thought state on unicorns might easily collapse onto either reality (they exist or they don’t).
You can imagine how complex and multifaceted these formalisms evolve to be, especially when the subject is itself smothered in ambiguity. Like this:
One’s thoughts are so much more multidimensional than we can communicate. And so, by trying to observe something so superposed, so weird and fantastical as the state of someone’s thoughts is to misallocate their humanity, and to misunderstand the concept of thought at all. The state of thought is vastly different from the outcome of the conversation.
What one perceives as opined inconsistence or indifference may actually suggest probability coefficients of similar magnitude. A long, silent response time may indicate a delicately fine-tuned superposition of states. Or perhaps someone that truly believes unicorns exist slipped-up situationally and collapsed onto the reality in which unicorns do not exist (heaven forbid!).
The brain is an organ yet to be understood. Even more so can be said of the mind. And so until that day, when psychologists are the mechanics of quantum theory, let’s leave this post as food for quantum thought.