Introduction to Thoughtsecology

Chapter 1

Definition of Thoughtsecology

Thoughtsecology is the made-up scientific study of the relationships that thoughts have with other thoughts, and with the people who think them.

A thoughtsecosystem is a somewhat distinct network of interacting thoughts. Distinct communities of people usually have their own distinct thoughtsecosystems.

A healthy thoughtsecosystem is one that helps the people who live in it and think in it to thrive and to successfully meet the challenges that life throws at them. Conversely a toxic thoughtsecosystem is one which damages the health and wellbeing of the people who live and think in it. An important goal of thoughtsecological research is to devise methods of remediating toxic thoughtsecosystems, and to find effective methods of maintaining and caring for healthy ones.

The physical basis of thoughts

Many cultures and belief systems across the world include the idea that a person has a spirit, a soul, or essence, which has an existence independently of the body. Such beliefs are outside the scope of thoughtsecology.

It is a fundamental assumption of thoughtsecology that the phenomena we call thoughts and consciousness emerge from patterns of electrical activity in the brain. We assume that thoughts exist in the brain and can be explained using physical laws, even though we are far from being able to give such an explanation.

The brain’s purpose is to help us survive

The brain is an organ, like the skin, the heart and the lungs. All organs including the brain were created and shaped through natural selection to perform a specialised function. We often say that we have brains so that we can understand the world, or so that we can appreciate art or music or ideas, however from an evolutionary perspective the fundamental “purpose” of our brains and thoughts, is to help us survive.

Thoughtsecology is not concerned with whether thoughts are true or false

Thoughtsecologists are concerned with whether thoughts and thoughtecosystems are healthy or toxic. Healthy thoughts are thoughts which promote the health and wellbeing of the person thinking them, while toxic thoughts are harmful to the person thinking them.

Thoughtsecologists are not interested in the question of whether thoughts about the world are objectively true or false. In fact, to a thoughtsecologist this is a meaningless question, because even when a seemingly airtight argument can be given as to the truth or falseness of a given thought, this argument is itself fundamentally a collection of thoughts. To a thoughtsecologist no one thought is intrinsically better or worse than another; thoughts can only be judged according to the outcomes for the people who think them. A thought which is healthy for one person might be toxic to another, and a healthy thought can become toxic over time, as the situation of the person thinking it changes.

How thoughts develop throughout an individual’s life

Babies are capable of believing anything at all. We are not born with any particular view of the world, we are born with the ability to think anything and believe anything. However, from the moment a baby is born she receives a continual flow of sensory input – colours, sounds, feelings of hunger or warmth or cold – which only lets up when she sleeps. Her brain processes this input, finds patterns in it, and gradually produces thoughts about the world.

Throughout our lives our thoughts about the world are continually polished and honed in a feedback loop: our thoughts about the world help us decide how to act, the external world responds in some way to our actions, and this response in turn alters our view of the world a little bit. To use a metaphor, an adult human’s thoughts are like a stone which has been polished smooth by the ebb and flow of the tides. In this metaphor, our thoughts have been shaped and polished by our experiences.

Dynamics of interactions between thoughts

When people communicate with each-other, whether by talking, or in writing, or art, or in other ways, their thoughts bump against each-other. In a healthy thoughtsecology, this process allows people learn from other people’s experiences.

What happens when contradictory thoughts bump into each-other? Then the two thoughts do battle. This battle may take place within just one person’s mind, or in the minds of two people having an argument, and perhaps in the minds of onlookers to the argument as well. In general the thought that wins out will be the one belonging to the person who is more certain, speaks more confidently, and who commands greater respect and regard from others. Most of the time this will lead to the healthiest thoughts winning out: in a healthy thoughtsecosystem, the confident and respected person will be a person whose thoughts have led them to be successful and healthy, and when a person is particularly earnest and forceful about a particular thought, it is because this person’s life has polished that particular thought very well indeed. So these battles between thoughts can be useful for keeping thoughtsecosystems healthy.