How It Feels To Think: Experiencing Intellectual Invention

Savransky, Martin. 2018. How It Feels To Think: Experiencing Intellectual Invention. Qualitative Inquiry, 24(9), pp. 609-616. ISSN 1077-8004 [Article]

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This article explores some aspects of what happens, and what can happen, in the complex practice we commonly refer to as ‘thinking’. Of all the practices involved in the messy processes we call research, ‘thinking’ is perhaps the most pervasive and widespread. Yet, it also remains the most opaque. Thinking happens, but it is seldom spoken about. The theories we normally engage with never say how they come about. Surely, philosophers of various traditions have dedicated countless pages to the question of what thought is, and some social scientists have recently attempted to theorise ‘methods’ of theorising in research. Such accounts, however, tend to remain at odds with the hesitant, playful and profoundly eventful experience of thinking-feeling in and through research. The experience, that is, that thoughts often think other thoughts, that they happen to us, and that thinking therefore involves an art of learning to confer on ideas the capacity to make us think. In this paper I seek not to make grand claims about the nature of thought, but to make perceptible the dramatic and perplexing experience that thinking can constitute. In so doing, I draw on the work of philosopher of heuristics, Judith Schlanger, whose central aim has been to come to terms with the adventure of what she terms ‘intellectual invention’. The task is to open up a different –if never fully transparent– conversation about how it feels to think.

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The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


Judith Schlanger, sociology of ideas, intellectual invention, heuristics, pragmatism, William James

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1 November 2018Published
5 October 2017Published Online
22 August 2017Accepted

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22 Aug 2017 09:14

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19 Dec 2019 10:32

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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