chapter  2
Laying the foundations
Pages 6

Despite what I have said in the previous chapter, my claim that we can observe and analyse people ‘thinking together’ might still seem a dubious one. Surely, it might be objected, ‘thinking’ is a process that takes place inside individuals’ heads, and all that can be observed and analysed is people using language to communicate information and ideas? My first response to this objection is to say that the notion of ‘communication’ does not capture the special quality of the joint intellectual activity I am concerned with here. ‘Communication’ encourages the view of a linear process whereby people exchange ideas, think about them individually and then again exchange the products of their separate intellectual efforts. This does not do justice to the dynamic interaction of minds which language makes possible. Of course people think individually, but one might similarly claim that ‘dancing’ is necessarily an individual process, because basically it is a matter of a person using their brain to co-ordinate their own body movements; yet we commonly talk of people ‘dancing together’, because we wish to recognize the nature of the joint, co-ordinated physical activity involved. I have introduced the term ‘interthinking’ in order to focus attention on the joint, co-ordinated intellectual activity which people regularly accomplish using language.