Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A nervous impressibility

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High imaginative power requires for its full exercise great inherited nervous impressibility for the ideas of a particular subject, and a well-disciplined mind, richly stored with truthful ideas relating to that subject. In original scientific research, we must have inherently acute senses and perception, and a fertile and rapidly-acting intellect. The tendency to the particular subject is a congenital gift, like the instinct of animals, and is more common in subjects which, like music and painting, depend upon a high degree of refinement of the senses than in those requiring great reasoning power, because the latter depend upon a greater variety of acquirements and more intellectual action. In each case, however, the more complete and accurate the knowledge of the particular subject, the more perfect the action of the imagination; and such knowledge cannot be obtained by intuition…

This combination of intuitive sensibility and extensive accurate knowledge is a rare gift, and constitutes the essence of scientific genius. The highest efforts of scientific imagination require acute and accurate perception, ready and faithful memory, instant power of comparison and detection of similarities and differences, sound inference, ready and rapid analysis, combination, and permutation of ideas, and immediate perception of new truths evolved by each of these. Much of the successful action of the imagination depends upon the fact that all knowledge sheds a light beyond itself; and it is by observing the reflection of this light, as it were, upon associated ideas, that the mind perceives, and the imagination is said to conceive, new truths.

George Gore, The Art of Scientific Discovery

Written by nevalalee

November 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

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