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Man on seat by lake meditating, flowers in foreground.

Captured by Thought

Tennyson and Browning are poets, and they think; but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odour of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility.

T. S. Eliot (1921)


The distinction between thought and sensation is venerable, largely made so for us by Hume’s base line A dragon on a roof od the Linh Phuc pagoda near Da Lat. Presenting dragons as an example of Hume's 'ideas'. contrast of the strength of sensations with the more shadowy nature of thoughts. Sitting in quiet reflection our monkey minds jump to ever new delights Potter at wheel in Delhi. A page dwelling on the purely linguistic, internal monologue, which is so often mistaken for thinking. and we turn in contrast to sensations for rest. Mile post with '0' kilms distance to go. Maybe the internal noise can be converted. We can treat the air in our nostrils as arising, we attend, Fisherman on Madras beech mending net. The problem and place of attention in meditation. and we let it pass; it is much harder to grant thoughts this transitoriness, rather they seem to jump us from behind, pick us up, and sweep us along with them. If Eliot is right, writers prior Mother and son with health worker in Bangalore. Another example of the way ontological abstractions have evolved over the recent historical period. to Hume might treat a rising thought exactly as the odour A rosebud with droplets of water. Why do we give differing status to the smell and the sight of a rose? of a rose, allowing it to strut on the stage of our perceptions; neither entangling nor capturing us.

The quote is from from Eliot’s review, in the Times Literary Supplement 20 October 1921, of Grierson’s book Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century. His assertion has led to the theory known as 'Dissociation' in poetry. David Hume in 1739 commences his great work with: "All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call 'Impressions' and 'Ideas'. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness with which they strike upon the mind and make their way into our thoughts or consciousness...under [impressions] I comprehend all our sensations, passions and emotions....By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning..." (A Treatise of Human Nature, p.1)

The picture was taken beside Hoàn Kiếm Lake in central Hà Nội.

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Saturday 18th May 2019

Murphy on duty to this site