Chapter 1.7 Non-verbal Thoughts

Non-verbal Thoughts

Kant’s description of the aesthetic spirit, which he calls “the animating [or enlivening] principle of the mind”, explores the question of how we can have thoughts and ideas that we cannot explain the source of (Kant 1952). He uses it to work with other aspects of the mind – originality and ability but I am only concerned here with his arguments regarding the ability to present aesthetical ideas. Kant explains that aesthetical ideas, much the same as endocepts, require an ability to express them, though “no language can encompass them”. This “aesthetic spirit” is a description of inspiration that is useful in exploring the amorphous endocept. It also reflects what Ingalls describes about “enriching” information with an emotional engagement, an “enlivening” of it is necessary for creativity (Ingalls 1976, p.32, Kant 1952).

Hadamard quotes Schopenhauer in saying, “‘thoughts die the moment they are embodied by words,’ but signs are a necessary support of thought” (1945 p.104). He agrees with Schopenhauer that thoughts are in a sense ethereal and lose their subtlety and nuance when attached to the rigid, simplifying state of lexical representation. They are of course necessary in communicating to others, but have shown a very poor record of reflecting well the creations of the mind. Hadamard is referring to conscious formulation then, especially in the realm of mathematics. He goes onto suggest that creative thought requires more supple ‘signs,’ that allow for ambiguity and manipulation. But both views support the argument that thought and expression are different states or embodiment of the same things – endocepts. They require translation from emotional fragments that are without attributed ‘signs,’ to expressible concepts in the conscious mind and into what we might call ‘expression’.


It is also the case that inspiration requires a certain pressure or energy to be able to translate from unconsciousness to expression. This insight is explained well by Henry Moor (1952), who remarked when an artist expresses their ideas verbally, it “releases tension needed for his work”. It seems to me that the tension Moor values in for creative work is on a similar level of expression to endocepts: ideas that are more pressured emotions and vague discomfort than a ‘eureka moment’ or flash of two separate concepts coming together to make a new. As Moor and Schopenhauer state, expressing ideas in any form gives them freedom from the mind; it lets them loose in the world but sees them die to the originator. If they did not express the idea in the right way, as Moor indicates, the idea will be lost through the release of tension. That a tension is required for work is a useful observation because it helps to explain why certain types of ideas or conceptual combinations are expressed and become creative acts.

This kind of tension-based creativity and motivation is a drive to resolve ambiguity (Ingalls 1976, Maslow, 1968). I will use the term ‘tension’ to reflect the relationship between the conflicting systems of internal and external worlds, as well as the sub-systems inside this relationship (Ingalls 1976). Ideas, images or endocepts that do not have a certain amount of conflict and tension in their content, emotional velocity or relationship with the external world are more likely to be disregarded. The main reason for this is that without that tension, without that striking conflict of concepts, they do not challenge the individual’s perception of reality. If they do not force the individual to resolve the conflicting elements within them they are easier to ignore and will be drowned out by more urgent emotions and needs. We will see in a later section how this relates to expression.