Experience into Words: Essays on Poetry

By D. W. Harding | Go to book overview

10
The Hinterland of Thought

THERE is a passage in Troilus and Cressida in which Ulysses, describing the big brotherly aptitude of the State for spying out private affairs, implies that thoughts are not full-grown from the start but have their origin and infancy:

The providence that's in a watchful state
Knows almost every grain of Pluto's gold,
Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps,
Keeps place with thought, and almost, like the gods,
Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles.

The nature of those dumb cradles, the area where thought emerges from what is not thought, raises questions, of interest beyond technical psychology, that have been comparatively neglected by psychologists--and perhaps neglected by most people who had been trained to make as promptly as possible for the precise formulation of thought in words.


I

When psychologists have worked explicitly on thinking they have been concerned mainly with the processes by which we refer to things without their being perceptually present. These are what Stout called 'free ideas', processes allowing of the covert rehearsal of possible experience, freed from perception and overt action. The intimate neuromuscular nature of these processes will presumably remain unidentified, except in general terms, for a very long time. In experience, however, they appear most

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