If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: mind

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

A. M. Turing – “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950)

The original question, “Can machines think?” I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted. I believe further that no useful purpose is served by concealing these beliefs. The popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any unproved conjecture, is quite mistaken. Provided it is made clear which are proved facts and which are conjectures, no harm can result. Conjectures are of great importance since they suggest useful lines of research.

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

Daniel Dennett – The Mind’s I (1981)

Consciousness is both the most obvious and the most mysterious feature of our minds.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

One thing I have learned: the mind is its own place. Regardless of natural conditions and circumstances, even of biological imperatives, the mind can contrive its reality. The mind can make hot out of cold and cold out of hot, beauty from ugliness and ugliness from beauty. The mind makes its own rules.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

Through a mist of confusion and primitive fragments of thought, a muffled message kept repeating: “Something is out there. Something is out there. Something is out there, and it has touched me.” The “me” was the most beautiful part, a special electrical pattern created by many cells at once that could have no other meaning. Quite beyond any analysis of its individual cells, beyond its electrical and chemical impulses going this way and that, the thing had a sensation of Unity.

Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia (2007)

A piece of music will draw one in, teach one about its structure and secrets, whether one is listening consciously or not. This is so even if one has never heard a piece of music before. Listening to music is not a passive process but intensely active, involving a stream of inferences, hypotheses, expectations, and anticipations (as David Huron and others have explored). We can grasp a new piece – how it is constructed, where it is going, what will come next – with such accuracy that even after a few bars we may be able to hum or sing along with it.