Why can't we have two thoughts at the same time?

Updated: Jun 6

Reference: Plato, Aristotle, Augustin, Aquinas, Neuroscience Papers and Journals

Last Updated: Version 1 22.05.22 Version 2 Ongoing


I believe we are limited to one conscious thought after another.

The conscious mind cannot have attention in multiple thoughts at the same time, it can only think in a sequence, one word after another, one scenario after another.


  • To understand better the limitations and conditions of the mind.

  • Identify and study the creation and execution of a thought.


Why cant we have multiple thoughts at the same time? Is our mind limited to formulate a thought in a line having the capacity only to process one word after another? If it is, what is the condition to behave like that and what would be the case if our mind could have multiple thoughts at the same time?

To further understand the mind, I need to first comprehend the limitations it has and the rules it has to obey.


This report will help me develop a better understanding of the limits of the mind.


There must be a step-by-step understanding process.

  1. Use Philosophy and reflect on the definition of the mind

  2. Study the anatomy of the mind.

  3. Propose a solution.


What can we do without a deeper understanding of the anatomy of the brain?

Even though this statment does not bring much clarity for our point of dicussion, it is important first to notice that mind has a presence in time, since for it to term a cause it needs to know the past. For example, how can somone know what causes a plant to exist? It would need to see a plant grow from a seed and rember the begining to conclude on the cause. Otherwise it would think a seed and a plant are separate things, not one the cause of the other.

This goes in hand with the previous statement in context with how it needs the a priori. But if there would be no time for the mind to conceive, would it still be able to function? Is time, the barrier of a non-linear mind? I believe that time cannot be the cause of linearity, it affectes the cause and the effect, but it does not set it to be linear in our mind.

Language is a complex structure of symbols that we interpreted to align a form of communication with others and within. I would like to suggest an experiment. Say this sentence out loud “I like eating pizza”, now read this sentence quietly “my favorite color is green” now try to do both at the same time, saying out loud the first sentence and thinking the other. Even though my ears are only listening to one, my internal ears cannot listen to the other sentence at the same time. It seems that the mind has a light of attention that is limited to illuminate one thing at a time. How come it has this limitation?

What is happening within?

EXPANDING - Anatomy of a Thought

  • How does perception come to our brain?

The first step to understand what a thought is we need to understand what feeds it with informations.

Infomration is first collected by our senses all of them following a path within our bodies where the information is diggested in different parts of our brains. Each of our senses have cells that transform one type of stimulus energy (light wave, movement, sound waves) into electrical signals that are encoded in our brain.

  • What is a thought?

Next is to understand what is a thought made of. (Researching)

  • How do we mantain attention?

Next step is to understand how we prioritise information. (Researching)


It seems that we can only think linearly because the information we receive through our sensors is one after another. Imagine millions of tiny mouths with different types of teeth distributed all around our body. They cannot eat a whole room directly, they have to take tiny bites to slowly eat what is to be perceived, one bite after the other seeing a chair, its colors, the memories we have with it, and just like that we form one word after the other in our minds.


First, I am still lacking a lot of neuroscience knowledge. So this will need many more drafts before I feel comfortable with it.

One thing I would like to consider for further development is how would a mind be if it was not linear, what adjustments would need to be made in our perception to make this happen, and what would be the consequences of it?



"We don't think linearly, we have a main thread of thought but our brains are extremely parallel. The main thread is for organizational purposes and coordination of thought. But the thoughts are put together via many parallel processes. Wires can cross in some disorders or under certain drugs that make this extremely obvious."

For Verion 1

ACTION - I need to amplify my research to the process of thought making. Seneses are only one part of it.


"I'd suggest you familiarize yourself with the work of Iain McGilchrist. There was a Ted talk made of a speech he did about his body of work. You may also want to check out the open focus brain for a more personal experience of these different modes of attention and information processing.

The tldr is that there is an extremely interesting rabbit hole to explore here, both conceptially and experientially, around non-linear mind and non-linear perception/information processing.

I'm a 20+ year meditator and I'm telling you, this stuff is the sauce.

I appreciate your spirit of inquiry and wish you happy exploring :)"

For Version 1

ACTION - Suggestions for further study. VIDEO , BOOK 1 and BOOK 2


"That's a hell of a premise. I would argue we think probabilistically, then later assign causality semi-linearly due to the linearity of language. But, now that I'm invested, I'm about to actually read the article. Yeah, I did a quick scan. Psychophysiology has better answers/methods. I recommend Daniel Kahnemann's "Thinking Fast and Slow", it was a very interesting read and laid out the current research in an approachable way for a layman (me)"

For Version 1

ACTION - Expand research to psychophysiology


"I’ve always thought that awareness was that main thread which would also explain why science shows that we really can’t truly multitask. We just context switch. In other words, what ever has your attention (your awareness) is the linear/main thread part."

For Version 1

ACTION - Expand research to the attention.


"Deja Vu is a counterclaim to linear thinking. Not all people experience this so fyi. Deja Vu is having a familiar sense in an unfamiliar context.

Think can be linear, but that's certainly just a part of it. Thinking is absolutely nonlinear, complex, and it describes the sentience that we claim we are.

Time itself isn't even linear. I constantly see the misunderstanding come up. We want it to be linear and we force that for our own reasons. But time is relative. I wager thinking will also fall into a more nuanced description rather than some binary linearity."

For Version 1

ACTION - Maybe bring counterarguments.


“If that is the case, the mind must be able to think a priori. For that, it needs to perceive the instant and term with what it knows from the past to have a cause. The other way around would mostly be an effect from the unconscious. This first approach, seeing the mind a pendulum going from a priori to the cause, can help us formulate a bit better the way the mind works. It has its roots in the past with experience to consider a priori, and it flourishes in the instant with the cause.“

This is just word salad nonsense. “Perceive the instant and term with what it knows from the past to have a cause.” Obviously English isn’t your first language, but I find it hard to believe that this was meaningful in any language it was conceived in.

That said, the very premise that the mind thinks linearly seems far from given. I think most all evidence and interpretations of how the mind works goes directly counter to you claim."

For Version 1

ACTION - Write simple and phrase it coherently.

Action Taken


"As a poet and a dreamwalker I strongly disagree. First of all thought, memory, imagination, etc ignore chronology. We have to rebuild it a posteriori and it's as artificial as the chain of causality that we invent in a rational explanation. Hence the extreme difficulty investigators meet when they cross-check witness testimonies.

Then there's analogy, which is expressed as metaphors in poetry and as proportions in mathematics (see Plato's Timaeus). "Juliet is the sun" is absolutely non-linear, it's somewhere between music and mathematics."

For Version 1

ACTION - Define what I mean by non-linear.


"There's a lot of important complexity in the visual cortex (and others) that I think you're glossing over:


And if that is so complex/simulated, consider what's going on under the covers as the mind renders conceptual "reality"."

For Version 1

ACTION - Senses are not enough to define why we think linerly.


"The examples only show how visual information is processed and use it as proof the mind is linear. Consider a conversation: at the same time, there are many other things happening other than the visual: hearing, balance, prediction, analysis. I bet if you show all the senses feeding into these main spots, it would look awfully parallel.

The mind isn't really linear at all- the examples show several paths where parallel work is being done."

For Version 1

ACTION - Expand to understand what else is happening in the brain.


"Our minds potential in problem solving or framing logic associated with meaning is predominantly based on the linguistic rules and intuition.

Usually every aspect of humans day relies on singular reasoning or simple reasoning / linear ( duality) for a response( as we made our lives easier) , and the intricacy get built up based on the complexity of the context to process and respond to. ( Example the reasoning required in solving a rubiks cube is quantitatively and qualitatively greater than talking to another person about almost any day to day things) As we do not have scope or reason to fret over a rubiks cube or something intricate like math , science, philosophical inquisition all day , we generally dwell in simpleness which consequently results in the hindrance when trying to explore our own comprehensive and processing abilities. We take what we go with as granted."

For Version 1

ACTION - Further expand to language theories.


"I've tried but I can't really find a clear definition of what linear thinking is. The best I can arrive at is something like analytical, structured thought, perhaps as something well suited to explaining cause-and-effect relationships. Do I have that right?

But if there would be no time for the mind to conceive, would it still be able to function?

It's interesting that you bring that up. I definitly believe time to be related to the subject, except I would suggest that we often get this backward. I would personally rephrase the question: "without the mind, would there be time?" The universe is stateful in my view, with neither past nor future being directly observable to us at any given moment, our perception of time being a projection of a sort, created by our cognitive faculties, namely memory and predictive capacities which in totality help us to perceive and grasp at causality.

If I'm understanding your conception of linear thinking, perhaps non-linear thinking would be more descriptive of processes involved in say, predicting the trajectory of a baseball to effectively score a home run, and without any needless intellectual analysis."

For Version 1

ACTION - Good suggestion for further development.


"Given that we don't understand how the brain gives rise to even simple behaviors demonstrated by animals, let alone such concepts as "self" and "mind", trying to deduce from our very basic understanding of how the sense mechanism works why we think the way we do, is pure speculation no matter how well intended and thought out it is.

Speculating is good - it's the basis of all research and might inspire others as well, but we need to be clear on what is achievable and what not. Trying to "show" that we can think lineraly is just as out of reach as showing that we think completely parallel... I wish we were more careful in wording such things."

For Version 1

ACTION - Re-think structure and be more careful with how I defend my approach.

To consider for V2:

Our senses are not enough to prove the theory, the next step is to amplify research on Thought making, psychophysiology, attention, what else is happening in the brain, and other linguistic theories.

Regarding the format, I need to bring counterarguments, write simple and phrase it coherently, define what I mean by non-linear and be more carful on how I present it.

Change one reflection to "without the mind, would there be time?"