Are There Different Ways of Thinking?

On the one hand, obviously.  On the other hand, not so fast.

Take the first hand, that there are obviously different ways of thinking.   Look at how a Renaissance wizard thinks — everything is correspondences.  A mystic chord connects his jealousy to the waning moon to the cry of a peacock — consequently when he feels his beloved’s affections are being captured by another, he burns a peacock to ashes except for the heart which he eats under the glow of the waning moon; and behind it all he hopes to hollow himself out like a lantern so through the translucencies of his own thought and feeling he can glimpse the Unknown and Ineffable God.  Contrast that to the modern cognitive behavioral therapist who views himself as cultural software running as a evolutionarily-designed biological machine.  If he worries his girlfriend loves someone else he reflects upon how his paleolithic drives are out of step with modern culture and a way of thinking that will cause less pain.  Pretty different!

And yet, not so fast!  Maybe the wizard and the therapist are thinking the same way but have different beliefs or different ways of expressing it.  What the wizard calls the Ineffable All, the therapist calls the Universe, what the wizard calls being out of harmony with the music of his life, the therapist calls Stress and so on, and how they differ is in some beliefs about how to fix what goes wrong — the therapist thinks talking and exercise, the wizard thinks eating the heart of a bird.  And if that’s not so, why call what they are doing thinking?  Depending upon who I am closer to, I could call what the wizard does mental illness, barbarous superstition, not thinking, or perhaps I could call what the therapist does an ostrich-like fleeing from the truth, but not thinking.

I have to be the fulcrum.  If it doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not thinking.  There’s what I can think, and what other people do, which may be thought or may be madness.   But there are not many ways of thinking inaccessible to me, because the idea of a “way” presupposes a shared territory we need a way through.  There are not fundamentally different “views of reality” for the same reason, because, if we are to make sense of views on a thing, there must be a thing in common, upon which one may take different vantage points, and peek at or glimpse from different perspectives.  For us to make sense of the blind men and the elephant, we have to believe in the elephant.  Otherwise they are just blind men having a series of dreams.

Two viewpoints on the big question — are there fundamentally different ways of viewing life, so fundamentally different that some will forever be inaccessible, or is there one?

What do you think?

I can’t help but think both are true.


5 thoughts on “Are There Different Ways of Thinking?

  1. Lisa S. says:

    This is interesting. I enjoyed reading and thinking about it. I think it’s both one and more than one. I don’t even have a favorite color so why do I have to choose? If we take an expansive view we don’t have to choose. Bingo.

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