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August 09, 2004

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In his book "Bow the Mind Works," Steven Pinker coins the word "minding" to be a verb distinct from "thinking." Thinking is what he does when he focuses his attention on something, as for instance in solving a math problem. Minding is what his mind does when he -- his will -- is not actively directing it. Minding is the process by which his mind generates, and his consciousness receives/"hears", involuntary thoughts. His mind sends him thoughts the way that his eyes send him sights and his ears send him sounds.

I'm no doubt oversimplifying what I understand to be Plotinus's view (in part because I'm only at Chapter 2 of "Return to the One"), but he and Pinker together might agree that we can enjoy our lives more effectively if we stop thinking every now and then (for example, look at the Grand Canyon without thinking about erosion), but also if we stop "minding" also -- if we can get our mind to shut up once in a while and let us see the scenery.

Excellent points, Isaac. Plotinus would heartily agree with you, as you'll see when you get further into the book. He is all for awareness, but not nearly so much for self-awareness. Thinking is fine, but what does thinking about thinking do for us?

Plotinus asks, is a courageous man who doesn't know he is courageous any less courageous? No. In fact, his thinking, "Wow! I'm acting courageously!" could easily distract him into making a fatal mistake. I'll have to finish reading Pinker's book. It's on my "started but not completed" book shelf.

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