If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: thinking

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.


John Dewey – How We Think (1910)

…the best thinking occurs when the easy and the difficult are duly proportioned to each other. … Too much that is easy gives no ground for inquiry; too much of the hard renders inquiry hopeless.

John Dewey – How We Think (1910)

The working over of a vague and more or less casual idea into coherent and definite form is impossible without a pause, without freedom from distraction. We say ‘Stop and think’; well, all reflection involves, at some point, stopping external observations and reactions so that an idea may mature.

John Dewey – How We Think (1910)

All thinking—so be it is thinking—contains a phase of originality. This originality does not imply that the student’s conclusion varies from the conclusions of others, much less that it is a radically novel conclusion. His originality is not incompatible with large use of materials and suggestions contributed by others. Originality means personal interest in the question, personal initiative in turning over the suggestions furnished by others, and sincerity in following them out to a tested conclusion. Literally, the phrase “Think for yourself” is tautological; any thinking is thinking for one’s self.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

They were aware of themselves, yes. They were thinking, yes. But they were more than thinking. They were feeling. They were feeling the connection of themselves to the galaxies and stars. They were grasping the beauty and depth of their existence and then expressing that experience in musical harmonies and rhythms. And in paintings. In metaphors, and words. In dance. In symbiotic transference. They imagined the cosmos beyond their own bodies. They imagined.

Terry Pratchett – Unseen Academicals (2009)

‘Are you worthy?’ said the woman.

‘What sort of question is that to ask a stranger?’

‘An interesting and possibly revealing one. Do you think the world is a better place with you in it, and would you do me the courtesy of actually thinking about your answer rather than pulling one off the “affronted” rack? I’m afraid there’s far too much of that these days. People believe that acting and thinking are the same thing.’

E. B. White – The Elements of Style (4th ed., 2000)

The act of composition, or creation, disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, part ii (1817)

The more thought enters into our representation of things, the less do they retain their naturalness, their singularity and immediacy. The wealth of natural forms, in all their infinitely manifold configuration, is impoverished by the all-pervading power of thought, their vernal life and glowing colours die and fade away. The rustle of Nature’s life is silenced in the stillness of thought; her abundant life, wearing a thousand wonderful and delightful shapes, shrivels into arid forms and shapeless generalities resembling a murky northern fog.

* This passage is from the zusatz following §246; I’ve read that these Zusätze are editors’ additions of notes students took from Hegel’s lectures, in which he expanded on the topics from the main text.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Carl Sagan – The Demon-Haunted World (1995)

We’re good in some things, but not in everything. Wisdom lies in understanding our limitations.