Combinations

Combinations
   Good Combinations Result from a Long Sequence of Combinatorial Mental Processing
   The role of the preliminary conscious work . . . is evidently to mobilize certain of these [hooked] atoms [of thought], to unhook them from the wall and put them in swing. We think we have done no good, because we have moved these elements a thousand different ways in seeking to assemble them, and have found no satisfactory aggregate. But, after this shaking up imposed upon them by our will, these atoms do not return to their primitive rest. They freely continue to dance. . . . The mobilized atoms are . . . not any atoms whatsoever; they are those from which we might reasonably expect the desired solution. Then the mobilized atoms undergo impacts which make them enter into combinations among themselves or with other atoms at rest which they struck against in their course. . . . However it may be, the only combinations that have a chance of forming are those where at least one of the elements is one of those atoms freely chosen by our will. Now, it is evidently among these that is found what I called the good combination. (Poincareґ, 1921, pp. 393-394)

Historical dictionary of quotations in cognitive science. . 2015.

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