If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: mind

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)

When you are asked what you are thinking about, you can normally answer. You believe you know what goes on in your mind, which often consists of one conscious thought leading in an orderly way to another.

Evidently I was not in his target audience.

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Lewis Thomas – Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1983)

The human mind is not meant to be governed, certainly not by any book of rules yet written; it is supposed to run itself, and we are obliged to follow it along, trying to keep up with it as best we can. It is all very well to be aware of your awareness, even proud of it, but never try to operate it. You are not up to the job.

“The Attic of the Brain”

Lewis Thomas – Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1983)

And now, I think, we have a new kind of worry. There is no place for functionless, untidy, inexplicable notions, no dark comfortable parts of the mind to hide away the things we’d like to keep but at the same time forget. The attic is still there, but with the trapdoor always open and the stepladder in place we are always in and out of it, flashing lights around, naming everything, unmystified.

“The Attic of the Brain”

Lewis Thomas – Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1983)

We tend to accumulate and outgrow possessions at the same time, and it is an endlessly discomforting mental task to keep sorting out the ones to get rid of.

“The Attic of the Brain”

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

Today’s AI and cognitive science are still a long ways from explicating the mystery of what a human mind is and does, and this, in my opinion, is just fine. I would hate to think that our minds are so simple as to yield up all their secrets in but a few decades. On the other hand, we are making slow and steady progress, and that too is just fine by me. I would hate to think that our minds are so simple as to be constitutionally incapable of piercing the shroud of fog surrounding what it is that they themselves do.

Neil Gaiman – The Sandman, vol. 6 (1993)

It is forever a matter of Amazement to me what trifling Consolations the Mind will seize upon, in Times of Misery.

John Milton – Paradise Lost (1674)

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

(Alan Lightman recalls this in Mr. g)

Thomas Nagel – “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (1974)

Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life.

appears in The Mind’s I, ed. Daniel Dennett and Douglas R. Hofstadter, 1981

Douglas Hofstadter – The Mind’s I (1981)

“Mind is a pattern perceived by a mind.” This is perhaps circular, but it is neither vicious nor paradoxical.

from the reflections on “Prelude…Ant Fugue”, itself from Hofstadter’s GEB (1979)

Daniel Dennett – The Mind’s I (1981)

On which side of this divide does the mind fall? Is mentality like milk or like a song?

from the reflections on Hofstadter’s “The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation”, itself from Metamagical Themas