Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking

By Vera John-Steiner | Go to book overview

7
Scientific Thinking

The apprenticeships of artists are individually constructed times of learning, while young scientists-in-the-making follow a more formal and structured process of socialization. But in both art and science, individuals bring their minds trained from childhood and their creative intensity to the challenging tasks of extending knowledge. The full mastery of the scientific methods of thinking, though, is not easily accomplished. While classroom lessons are an essential part of the apprenticeship process, the emerging scientist gains further insights into his or her future work by reading and by sharing knowledge with peers and with mentors.

In the sciences, the urge for understanding and for intellectual adventure motivate most young people. The French-American biologist, René Dubos, wrote that his first contact with scientific adventure was made in reading the work of Jules Verne:

I am sure that his stories could not instill valid knowledge or critical judgment or scientific spirit in anyone, but they can certainly foster a taste for the unknown and a desire for adventure. 1

Curiosity and passion are maintained and renewed in the course of a scientist's career through the pleasures of discovery and through the use of varied kinds of thought when confronted with a new and intriguing problem. Some scientists identify visual processes as crucial to their thinking, while others emphasize metaphoric or mathematical processes. Colleagues frequently debate their premises and their philosophical assumptions: Werner Heisenberg has evoked in Physics and Beyond the intense discussions between physicists in the nineteen-twenties as they were trying to resolve their theoretical uncertainties:

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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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