Paintbrush is Pump: Image Based Thought


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Paintbrush is Pump: Image Based Thought

Einstein said that his creative talents were a result not of mathematical skills but the result of his ability to visualize. He indicated that he did the tedious task of converting muscular movements and visualized images to words and equations only after he had completed his creative task. For example his first insight into “relativity” happened when he imagined riding on a beam of light.

What are the roles for images in human thought?

Einstein’s images might best be thought of as metaphors without words. To be more specific they are image-based metaphors wherein the source domain is a visualized scene whose inference structure can be mapped into the target domain, i.e. in this case the scientific domain.

Donald Schon, a researcher in the cognitive sciences, tells us of a group working on a difficult task of designing a satisfactory paintbrush made of synthetic bristles. In the middle of a discussion among the technicians designing the brush one of the group had that eureka moment and shouted “You know, a paintbrush is a kind of pump”. This insight Schon explains caused the designers “to notice new features of the brush and of the painting process”.

In this example and in the Einstein example the source domain, information rich with concrete experiences, has an inference structure which is immediately mapped into the target domain structure. Only later are the results, the images, accumulated into words and equations. As Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded “We need to think of things instead of words”.

l think a lot of people think in images rather than words; imagination is not developed in the west. in rudolph steiner schools children dont learn to write till the age of reason - 7 years old, before then they paint dance symbolise and imagine albeit in line with theosophical [especially goethe and steiner] concepts. all good scientists probably depend on their imagination and keep a notebook by their bed! a book that describes the importance of imagination for descartes who lived on the threshold of the rise of rationalism at the expense of imagination Descartes's Imagination