‘Later Lacan scandalised everyone during a lecture at the Massachusetts Instititute of Technology by the way he answered a question about thought put to him by Noam Chomsky. ‘We think we think with our brains,’ said Lacan. ‘But personally I think with my feet. That’s the only way I really come into contact with anything solid. I do occasionally think with my forehead, when I bang into something. But I’ve seen enough electroencephalograms to know there’s not the slightest trace of a thought in the brain.’ When he heard this, Chomsky concluded that the lecturer must be a madman.
this is for lacan’s feet-thinking:
The child knows nothing of the nature of thought, even at the stage when he is being influenced by adult talk concerning ” mind,” ” brain,” ” intelligence.”
The technique is briefly as follows. The child is asked: ” Do you know what it means to think of something ? When you are here and you think of your house, or when you think of the holidays, or of your mother, you are thinking of something.” And then when the child has understood: ” Well then, what is it you think with ? ” If, as seldom happens, he has not grasped the idea, the matter must be further explained: ” When you walk, you walk with the feet ; well then, when you think, what do you think with ? ” Whatever the answer may be, the meaning behind the words is what matters. Finally comes the question, supposing it were possible to open a person’s head without his dying, could you see a thought, or touch it, or feel it with the finger, etc. Naturally, these last questions, which are suggestive, must be kept to the end, that is to say till the moment when the child cannot be made to say anything more of itself.
Moreover, when, as sometimes happens, the child makes use of words he has learnt, such as ” brain,” ” mind,” etc., he must be questioned further on the words until it is clear how he came to assimilate them. They may be merely empty phrases, or, on the contrary, they may be exceedingly suggestive deformations of true conceptions.
In this way we have traced three distinct stages, the first of which is easily distinguishable from the other two and appears to contain a purely spontaneous element. During this stage children believe that thinking is ” with the mouth.” Thought is identified with the voice. Nothing takes place either in the head or in the body. Naturally, thought is confused with the things themselves, in the sense that the word is a part of the thing. There is nothing subjective in the act of thinking. The average age for children of this stage is 6.
The second stage is marked by adult influences. The child has learnt that we think with the head, sometimes it even alludes to the ” brain.” Three circumstances, however, indicate a certain degree of spontaneity in the child’s convictions. The first is the age : this type of answer is always found about the age of 8, But more important is the continuity existing between the first and second stages. Indeed, thought is often looked on as a voice inside the head, or in the neck, which shows the persistence of the influence of the child’s previous convictions. Finally, there is the way in which the child materialises thought : thought is made of air, or of blood, or it is a ball, etc.
The third stage, the average age of which is 11-12, shows thought no longer materialised. It is no doubt difficult to distinguish clearly the third stage from the second. But the essential for us is to distinguish the second from the first, that is to say the adult’s contribution from the child’s conviction.
Jean Piaget 1929 The Child’s Conception of The World, p.37