Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking

By Vera John-Steiner | Go to book overview

4
Visual Thinking

"To draw is to put down your thoughts visually," remarked Fritz Scholder, the well-known Native American painter. A similar comment was made by the photographer Diana Michener: "I have always taken pictures the way other people keep journals and diaries. It is a way of ordering my reactions to the world, of placing my ideas and feelings in a concrete form outside myself, of breaking my isolation." 1

In describing their approach to thought, these artists highlight an oftignored aspect of reflection, the visualization of ideas. The human need to order the flow of experience, to reshape it, or simply to remember it, requires a multiplicity of means, and among these, language and imagery are of particular interest. Both of these processes assist the individual in bridging the personal and social aspects of experience. In comparing the role of words to those of pictures, Michener illustrates this similarity of function.

Language is a highly conventionalized form of expression, but images -- the constituent forms of visual thought -- are hard to standardize or to define. There is no dictionary of images, or thesaurus of photographs and paintings. Imagery and visual expressions reflect the uniqueness of an individual's life. Nevertheless, images have intrigued the students of the mind since the beginnings of recorded history.

In the philosophical writings of the ancient Greeks, images, or the inner perceptions of the world, were thought of as faint traces or impressions of past experience. 2 The Hellenic scholars were primarily interested in memory images, a concern still shared by contemporary investigators.

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Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction to the Revised Edition xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Sources of Thought 11
  • 1 - The Beginnings 13
  • 2 - Apprenticeships 37
  • 3 - The Invisible Tools 59
  • Part Two - The Languages of the Mind 81
  • 4 - Visual Thinking 83
  • 5 - Verbal Thinking 111
  • 6 - The Languages of Emotion 141
  • 7 - Scientific Thinking 173
  • Conclusion: the Creativity of Thinking 205
  • Appendix 1 225
  • Notes 229
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 253
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