"People's thoughts are most inadequate and choked just when their action is most rapid and urgent."

— Santayana, George (1863-1952)

July, 1906
"People's thoughts are most inadequate and choked just when their action is most rapid and urgent."
Metaphor in Context
As to my personal opinion in this matter, which I am sorry to see Professor Moore finds ambiguously expounded in my book, it is probably plain enough from the above statement of the various possibilities. 1, 2, 3, and 4 describe purely ideal functions of thought, all of which it undoubtedly reaches at certain moments. 5, on the contrary, describes a superstition; yet it is this superstition, clung to by the unreconciled childishness of man, that alone induces anybody to defend the extravagances and confusions of 6 and 7. People wish thought to be mechanically efficacious because they think it would be a better guide than the cerebral process which underlies it; yet why a better guide, unless it operated miraculously, by its intent, and not by virtue of some irrelevant evolution of its substance? 8, accordingly, represents the conclusion to which I arrive; and it explains certain phrases which I have not studied to avoid, thinking that their metaphorical character would be obvious to the reader. We all speak of Malthus's ideas 'governing' the movement of population, yet hardly expect to be accused of maintaining that poor Malthus's hard thinking caused Israel's fecundity or the congestion in our large cities. A thought is said to govern those portions of existence the movement of which it serves to predict or to describe. One may well say that 'reason is vital impulse modified by reflection.' It is certain that when a man 'reflects' his action changes in consequence, just as he turns aside when he 'sees' an obstacle in front of him; but as his seeing was an impression on his organs, without which his fancy would have pictured nothing, and as his turning was an instinct or habit of his organism, without which the image would have signified no danger; so the pause in reflection was a physical event, accompanied by an oscillation of projects in the mind (for reflection can not decide when reflection shall arise, nor how long it shall last, nor what course it shall take). The consequences of reflection are due to its causes, to the competitive impulses in the body, not to the wistful lucubration itself; for this is mere poetry. People's thoughts are most inadequate and choked just when their action is most rapid and urgent. That consciousness is a lyric cry, even in the midst of business, is something which must be felt, perhaps, to be understood; and they that have feeling, let them feel it.
(pp. 411-2)
Santaya, George. "Discussion: The Efficacy of Thought" The Journal of Philosophy Vol III, No. 15 (July 1906): 411-2. <Link to Google Books>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.