Thinking – Part II

The New Yorker, November 28, 1977.


Reflections about thinking. Thinking, willing, and judgment are the three basic mental activities; they cannot be derived from each other and they cannot be reduced to a common denominator. To the question “What makes us think?” there is ultimately no answer other than what Kant called “reason’s need”. Writer examines the outstanding characteristics of the thinking activity. She discusses the withdrawal from all activity which is necessary for thinking, and the distinction between thinking and judging. The spectator, not the actor, holds the clue to the meaning of human affairs. Mental activities, invisible themselves and occupied with the invisible, become manifest only through speech. Discusses the difference between concrete thinking in images & abstract dealing with verbal concepts. No language has a ready-made vocabulary for the needs of mental activity. Tells how metaphor is used for it. The metaphor unites the sensory with the non-sensory world. Gives arguments by Plato against writing. Uses of vision, speech, and hearing in metaphors discussed. Metaphors drawn from the senses will lead us into difficulties.

The New Yorker