Fashionable Thinking (William Temple)

Men seem to differ very profoundly in the fashion of their thinking.  If two men are presented with a novel suggestion and both exclaim “I must think about that”, one will begin by putting together what he knows with reference to the subject, and his former opinions based upon that knowledge, his general theories concerning that department of inquiry, and so forth; piece by piece he will work out his conclusion with regard to the suggestion made to him.  The other will find that his mind goes blank; he will stare into the fire or walk about the room or otherwise keep conscious attention diverted from the problem.  Then abruptly he will find that he has a question to ask, or a counter-suggestion to make, after which the mental blank returns.  At last he is aware, once more abruptly, what is his judgment on the suggestion, and subsequently, though sometimes very rapidly, he also becomes aware of the reasons which support or necessitate it.

My own mind is of the latter sort.  All my decisive thinking goes on behind the scenes; I seldom know when it takes place—much of it certainly on walks or during sleep—and I never know the processes which it has followed.  Often when teaching I have found myself expressing rooted convictions which until that moment I had no notion that I held.  Yet they are genuinely rooted convictions—the response of my whole being, to certain theoretical or practical propositions.

This characteristic must needs affect the philosophical method of him who suffers (or gains) from it.  In discussions with others I frequently find myself eager to know to which of the two types described—are they the Aristotelian and Platonic, the Pauline and Johannine, respectively?—my interlocutor belongs.  So, following the Golden Rule, I expose myself to the contempt of whoso may think my own type contemptible.

Exposing myself to contempt, I confess I suffer (or gain) from the blank, Johannine type.

One response

  1. Pingback: His theories, his blank mind « Practice and History of Philosophy

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