Anatomy of mind



[Detail from Rembrandt's Anatomy Lecture]

If one person sits down to read a book as a romance, and another as a true history, they plainly receive the same ideas, and in the same order; nor does the incredulity of the one, and the belief of the other hinder them from putting the very same sense upon the author. His words produce the same ideas in both; though his testimony has not the same influence on them. The latter has a more lively conception of all the incidents. He enters deeper into the concerns of the persons: represents to himself their actions, and characters, and friendships, and enmities: He even goes so far as to form a notion of their features, and air, and person. While the former, who gives no credit to the testimony of the author, has a more faint and languid conception of all these particulars; and except on account of the style and ingenuity of the composition, can receive little entertainment from it.

--Hume [1.7 I think]

I found this tonight while searching through my old notes on Hume. I had forgotten how much I loved this -- and the end of this book. My final semester at SJC was such a brilliant time -- clear skies emotionally (after some darkness and tumult), and truly wonderful work being done in the classroom. I read these notes now and I can recall exact places and moments -- I remember reading Kant at my parents' home, visiting for a weekend, stopping in the middle of the preliminary section on analytic and synthetic judgments and feeling my mind zoom out -- wide lens to take in the buzz and hum of life around me. I was on our porch, I remember a wasp nearby, butterflies on the butterfly bush, the heat of the sun, the smell of the baking wood slats, the thick splintery grain of the grey wood. I remember thinking of the tick-tock of my mind and thinking how that all this hurry and dash of life could never be contained -- what hubris to try!

I have these diagrams sprinkled throughout my notebooks -- diagrams of Whitehead's metaphysics, of Kant's transcendental aesthetics, an illustration of Hume's examples. Tables, diagrams, illustrations. All notes from readings, no notes from the classroom discussions which were so amazing -- no notes because to take notes during those conversations was to miss something essential -- the flow and current of the ideas as they were understood, in real time, by real people.