Unconscious Thoughts

Today Yann LeGun tweeted: “Thought != Language” in response to this Einstein’s quote: “I rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.”

It reminded me Henri Poincaré whose book on how the inventor’s mind works I was lucky to read as a University student. I tried to google the topic and found this article: “Poincaré found that he would often struggle unsuccessfully with some mathematical problem, perhaps over days or weeks (to be fair, the problems he got stuck on were difficult, to say the least). Then, while not actually working on the problem at all, a possible solution would pop into his mind. And when he later checked carefully, the solution would almost always turn out to be correct.

How was this possible? Poincaré’s own suspicion was that his unconscious mind was churning through possible approaches to the problem “in the background”—and when an approach seemed aesthetically “right,” it might burst through into consciousness. Poincaré believed that this “unconscious thought” process was carried out by what might almost be a second self, prepared and energized by periods of conscious work, yet able to work away on the problem in hand entirely below the level of conscious awareness. Link

One comment on “Unconscious Thoughts

  1. Reminds me a lot of when authors read criticisms of their own works— often times they find themselves agreeing with the critics description of their efforts, as though they had been able to put into better words than what they had written on paper using their own.

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