Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Musical Form of Thinking [i]

It might be unobjectionable to say that thinking has musical form, up to a certain point. You can see that it involves a certain dissonance which is resolved, perhaps by a series of logical cadences or perhaps all at once, in the thought which you have been trying to reach.

"I am thinking my way towards something." Here you feel the thought as what would satisfy, though you can say nothing else about it yet.

But what about the thought itself? Aren't my thoughts punctiform, static, and complete in themselves, once I have arrived at them? At least, those thoughts which I am inclined to call "thoughts about facts." There do seem to be two kinds of thoughts: 1) those having to do with "what is the case," (facts) and 2) those having to do with the directedness/intentionality of the one thinking (shall we say, values). The latter would seem to have something musical about them, but the former, well, not so much: "prosaic" seems more the word.

When do I have a thought about what is the case? I reach for an example, and notice the beer next to me and think the words, "This beer is empty." When does this thought occur to me? When I reach out to drink the beer, perhaps even raise it to my lips and find with a shock of disappointment that nothing is inside. Then of course, there is the case (as in the present) of looking for an example in philosophy--then I say, look, this bottle will do: it has a distinctive fact about it. Here for once it is "the fact that" and not the emptiness of the beer that occurs to me. But I wanted the emptiness of the bottle, that was supposed to be the example. So the thought becomes of no use, it turns out to be empty of its expected exemplarity. (An example, too, I can 'raise to my lips' in expectation, and likewise find it already drained.)

Try and pick up one of those "punctiform, static, and complete in itself" thoughts, and see if it serves your purpose.