Esteemed thinker: John Locke

experience When we look back upon our day or night we often compile the hours as bits of experiences. What we did, what we ate, who we interacted with… and as a result of these experiences we often evaluate the day or night; whereupon if asked we would respond with, “I had a good day or bad day depending upon the experience encountered. And if we were to collect these continuances, we could stretch this element of time into years, thus compiling quite the grand allotment of experiences.

However, an experience is really an idea for you can’t manufacture in the same category with a tangible item…rather it is a personal state of mind, something that we have collected and stored in the crevices of our brain, only to retrieve at will or sometimes involuntarily as a resurrection of a nightmarish or traumatic “experience”.

Experiences formulate our conceptions, our perceptions, and even how we react to people, places and things… for if our episode was met with an unsatisfactory encounter…it can leave a lasting impression, and what is an impression…merely another intangible idea denoted by a strong feeling from the immediate effect of our experience…

John Locke Today’s blog takes us back a bit to the 17th century where we will meet the esteemed thinker: John Locke ( 1632-1704), English philosopher and physician whose influence on the philosophy of politics was so powerful that he is thought of as the founder of philosophical liberalism. His book Essay on the Human Understanding is considered his greatest work upon which he is most famous for. He opposed the foremost idea of “innate principles’ which contended that “we are all born knowing certain fundamental principles, such as “whatever is, is.” Rather, he presented his argument against innate knowledge, asserting that “human beings cannot have ideas in their minds of which they are not aware, so that people cannot be said to possess even the most basic principles until they are taught them or think them through for themselves.”

So, let us take time to ponder Mr. Locke’s idea and drift back the 1600s where we will read a selection from his Essay of Human Understanding, Book II…

“… All Ideas come from Sensation or Reflection. Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas:—How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the MATERIALS of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE. In that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either, about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the MATERIALS of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring…

The mind thinks in proportion to the matter it gets from experience to think about. Follow a child from its birth, and observe the alterations that time makes, and you shall find, as the mind by the senses comes more and more to be furnished with ideas, it comes to be more and more awake; thinks more, the more it has matter to think on. After some time it begins to know the objects which, being most familiar with it, have made lasting impressions. Thus it comes by degrees to know the persons it daily converses with, and distinguishes them from strangers; which are instances and effects of its coming to retain and distinguish the ideas the senses convey to it. And so we may observe how the mind, BY DEGREES, improves in these; and ADVANCES to the exercise of those other faculties of enlarging, compounding, and abstracting its ideas, and of reasoning about them, and reflecting upon all these; of which I shall have occasion to speak more hereafter…”

Esteemed thinker: Henri Bergson

Henri bergson Some of us remember our dreams, some of us don’t, while others choose not to; but when you awaken, if your memory allows you the luxury of recall, dreams are often presented in a disjointed and unintelligible jumble of ideas and scenes. And so, trying to explain your “sleep-time story” often translates into a laundry list of sound-bites making little sense in the light of day. For while you are in a dream you are producing… shall we say… a most peculiar movie, which follows a sequence of events and situations that go from “reel to reel” (or “REM to REM”) . So what is it that makes our dreams so odd, so weird, so incoherent? Some superstitions and ‘old wives tales’ make all kinds of proclamations with rather unscientific explanations regarding how one will dream. For example: sleeping with knives under your pillow will keep nightmares away, or eating garlic at dinner will guarantee bad dreams…does that mean nibbling cookies will grant us sweet dreams!

Today’s blog invites you to hear from our esteemed thinker: Henri Bergson (1859-1941). As a French philosopher, Bergson was highly acclaimed for rejecting the current trend of thinking, rationalism for intuition and experience. His influence on the 19th and early 20th thinkers crossed over the oceans and was embraced by greats such as French novelist Claude Simon, American Philosopher and psychologists William James, English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, and American author and artist John Dos Passos. In 1927 Bergson won the Nobel Prize in literature.

dreamcatcher_cepia And so, let us take a moment to experience a bit of insight from his essay and work titled Dreams; allow Henri Bergson to reveal the source of our strange and often incoherent nightly visions…the dream.

“… The incoherence of the dream seems to me easy enough to explain. As it is characteristic of the dream not to demand a complete adjustment between the memory image and the sensation, but, on the contrary, to allow some play between them, very different memories can suit the same sensation. For example, there may be in the field of vision a green spot with white points. This might be a lawn spangled with white flowers. It might be a billiard-table with its balls. It might be a host of other things besides. These different memory images, all capable of utilizing the same sensation, chase after it. Sometimes they attain it, one after the other. And so the lawn becomes a billiard-table, and we watch these extraordinary transformations. Often it is at the same time, and altogether that these memory images join the sensation, and then the lawn will be a billiard-table. From this come those absurd dreams where an object remains as it is and at the same time becomes something else. As I have just said, the mind, confronted by these absurd visions, seeks an explanation and often thereby aggravates the incoherence…”