Who gets the credit for our thoughts?

Lately I’ve found myself noticing a phenomenon I’ve probably mentioned here in the past: the way ideas seems to leap up out of the netherworlds of my mind into my conscious brain. This happens a lot while waking up. Some particular issue is bothering me, perhaps something work related or a problem with a song or piece of writing I’m working on, and the solution suddenly appears. I find I don’t “build” ideas in a step by step manner, but rather that they “pop up” often fully formed.

In Jonah Lehrer’s book “How We Decide” he advocated the “sleep on it” method of problem solving. Struggling with a problem is often ineffective he argued. You are better off taking a walk or doing something to distract your conscious mind. Let your subconscious work on the solution.

I’m reading “The Mind’s I” and it makes an interesting point related to all this.

Our conscious thoughts seem to come bubbling up from the subterranean caverns of our mind, images flood into our mind’s eye without our having any idea where they came from! Yet when we publish them, we expect that we—not our subconscious structures—will get credit for our thoughts. This dichotomy of the creative self into a conscious part and an unconscious part is one of the most disturbing aspects of trying to understand the mind. If—as was just asserted—our best ideas come burbling up as if from mysterious underground springs, then who really are we? Where does the creative spirit reside? Is it by an act of will that we create, or are we just automata made out of biological hardware, from birth until death fooling ourselves through idle chatter into thinking that we have “free will”? If we are fooling ourselves about these matters, then whom—or what—are we fooling?

Do we “deserve” credit for our accomplishments and ideas?

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