Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The thunking of thinks

It is pleasing, when you are thinking about something, and thinking about talking about that something, to remember a quote by a very dead person who has thought exactly the way you have on that subject, and who has put that thought into words. 

But why should this be so? To have someone think your thought before you had been able to think it, merely by virtue of being older, wiser, more famous, and more dead than you ought to be annoying. It's incredibly cheeky of them, to steal that thought from you before you had even got around to even thinking about thinking about it! And to have them talk about it, too, before you even thinking about thinking about it, much less think about talking about it - it ought to make it even more irritating. 

And yet it is not the case. Does it just make us seem incredibly clever by remembering accurately what someone else has said? All things considered, shouldn't it actually make us even more particularly annoyed? If we remember what they have said, after all, that suggests that we never even thought what we thought we had thought in the first place; we had just been getting it from them all along.

That is annoying, or it ought to be annoying anyway. But I am not annoyed. 

Perhaps it is flattering to compare ourselves to these older, wiser, and more dead people; perhaps to find them so neatly expressing conceptions which we have produced by our the labouring of our own mental faculties is a compliment to the workings of our own mind. Which in itself is rather puzzling, because one does not habitually admire mouldering corpses. On the other hand, maybe they are the ones who ought to consider themselves complimented for having exercised their own cognitive organs in order to arrive at the same conclusion as us. That could be it, actually; we are pleased, in our magnanimity of mind, to grant the fruits of our cerebellum, our casual thoughts, spun off from the top of our very own heads, to those poor unfortunate older, wiser, and more dead beings that we are quoting from.

Ideally, to round this thought off, I'd be able to find a quote from an older, wiser and dead person saying what I have just said in a much pithier form, but I can't think of any off hand....

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