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* Article: Thought-Shapers. By Robert Hanna and Otto Paans. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 17, no. 1, 2021.


This is a companion-piece to our recent essay, “This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, and A Philosophy of the Future,” Cosmos & History16, 2 (2020): 1-53.

For a more extensive treatment, see: Theory of Thought-Shapers


Otto Paans:

"Thought-shapers are essentially non-conceptual contents that operate in the construction of mental imagery and thought by arbitrarily picking out some topological and/or processual properties, and subsequently exaggerating or diminishing their presence."



" In this essay, we shift our focus from the philosophy of human civilization to the philosophy of human thinking.

More precisely, we apply the categorical distinction between

(i) mechanical (i.e., computable/recursive, entropic, and deterministic or indeterministic) systems and

(ii) organic (i.e., uncomputable/non-recursive, processual, negentropic, purposive, and self-organizing) systems, to fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind and cognition, with general application to the nature of human thinking in the formal and natural sciences, the applied arts and fine arts, morality, and socio-politics, as well as metaphysics and epistemology.

By “thought-shapers,” we mean mental representations of any or all of the following: allegories, analogies, blueprints, catechisms, diagrams, displays, icons, images, lay-outs, metaphors, mnemonics, models, outlines, parables, pictures, scenarios, schemata, sketches, spreadsheets, stereotypes, symbols, tableaux, and templates.

Correspondingly, we argue that human thinking is really possible only insofar as it’s partially causally determined, formed, and normatively guided by either

(i) mechanical, constrictive thought-shapers in a bad, false, and wrong way, or

(ii) organic, generative thought-shapers in a good, true, and right way."


Project at

  • The theory of thought-shapers (TTS) and its scientific validation)


"Thought-shapers are mental representations, especially including analogies, images, schemata, stereotypes, symbols, and templates, that specifically shape human thinking processes. The theory of thought-shapers (TTS) asserts that human thinking processes are either, (a) shaped negatively by mechanical, constrictive thought-shapers, or (b) shaped positively by organic, generative thought-shapers. Because language is a social institution and because all thinking is mediated by language, then TTS (i) falls under the mind-shaping thesis, (ii) is empirically testable via scientific psychology, and (iii) can be implemented for positively shaping human minds-&-lives."