Add this to the list of "tidy ideas" being rethought: We think with our brains.
Knowing is currently migrating from our brains to the rest of our bodies, according to the Boston Globe article, "Don't Just Stand There, Think." In the process, it's upending centuries of thinking about thought:
But today, neuroscientists, linguists, and philosophers are making much bolder claims. A few argue that human characteristics like empathy, or concepts like time and space, or even the deep structure of language and some of the most profound principles of mathematics, can ultimately be traced to the idiosyncrasies of the human body. If we didn't walk upright, for example, or weren't warm-blooded, they argue, we might understand these concepts totally differently. The experience of having a body, they argue, is intimately tied to our intelligence.
'If you want to teach a computer to play chess, or if you want to design a search engine, the old model is OK,' says Rolf Pfeifer, director of the artificial intelligence lab at the University of Zurich, 'but if you're interested in understanding real intelligence, you have to deal with the body.'
I finished a book last summer in which you might be interested that deals with how the field of artificial intelligence might be reshaped by this developing understanding. Reconstructing the Cognitive World (the Google Book is here) has a strong philosophical cant, but worth the effort (I would say that, right?) because it rejects representationalism and instead places embodied cognition in a surprising conceptual framework.
OK, so that's a bit sterile.
Think of it this way. If you can't put your finger on exactly why you enjoyed that first date last night, or why your imagination is suddenly running ahead of your thoughts when you recall that certain someone, perhaps your shoulders and arms are keeping secrets.