• Robert Alan Hanna Independent philosopher
  • Otto Paans


Human thinking, Mental representation, Conceptual content vs. non-conceptual content, Mechanical systems vs. organic systems


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 & History 16, 2 (2020): 1-53. 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 sociopolitics, 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.

Author Biography

Robert Alan Hanna, Independent philosopher

Robert Hanna is an independent philosopher, Co-Director (with Hugh Reginald) of the online philosophy mega-project, Philosophy Without Borders, and Director of The Contemporary Kantian Philosophy Project. He received his PhD from Yale University USA in 1989, and has held research or teaching positions at the University of Cambridge UK, the University of Colorado at Boulder USA, the University of Luxembourg LU, PUC-PR Brazil, Yale, and York University CA.




How to Cite

Hanna, R. A., & Paans, O. (2021). Thought-Shapers. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 17(1), 1–72. Retrieved from