Monday, September 19, 2011

The trouble with introspective thinking

I've been reading the great C.S. Lewis of late and he is (by my standards) the greatest intellect that has the ability to articulate his words with such fluidity... it makes it seem as if you aren't reading at all.

In particular I was reading his perspective on thought and emotion. He identifies that the essential property of love,hate,fear, hope or desire is attention to their object. To cease thinking about or attending to the (object) is, so far, to cease loving, being afraid. "You cannot hope and think about hoping at the same time; for in hope we look to hope's object and we interrupt this by turning round to look at the hope itself."

I think this has been my main problem in exploring emotion as a singular thing, removed from it's context and just existing on its own....trying to explain itself.

In introspection we try to look 'inside ourselves' and see what's going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. (but this does not mean that introspection finds nothing). It finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images & physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this sediment for the activities themselves.

'That is how many men have come to believe that thought is only unspoken words, or the appreciation, when interrupted, leave behind- like the swell at sea, working after the wind has dropped.'

He expressed to me things so clearly  and showed how  wrong we can be in introspective thought. Things aren't always as they seem and there is a danger in looking and analyzing things the wrong way.

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