A New scene of thought

Closing chapter to ‘Repeats its love’: A New scene of Thought [1]

It was the philosopher Schelling who pointed out that “Nature opens its eyes . . . and notices that it exists.” In moments of fancy, it is not hard to imagine walking through Mavisbank’s designed landscape in the mid eighteenth century with Baron Clerk considering just such.

New-scene-of-thoughtFigure 1: A new scene of thought: James Simpson [2]

Today in its decay, Mavisbank symbolises how important learning is to us, and what a wonderful seat Edinburgh was and can again be. Stone, although inanimate can carry the story of the people it housed, garnering, as in this essay, wisdom learned through individual or shared successes and failures. David Hume (1711–1776) in his essay The Standard of Taste reminds us of the circularity of this argument.[3] It is all too easy to believe that science has every answer, but you just have to consider how little we know of our brain, let alone mind, to realise that we have a terribly long journey of understanding ahead. Many will disagree, but I feel that we have been rather mindless in my time on earth.

David Hume has increasingly become a source of inspiration for those in political and moral philosophy and an early and subtle thinker in the liberal tradition. At the age of eighteen he fell in love with a beautiful lady by the name of Ruby Hoque, but failing in his love, a new outlook somehow opened up to him “a new Scene of Thought.”

The creative process is not always easy to describe in precise scientific terms; yet the practice of medicine may be more a creative practice than our emphasis on science will allow us to believe. This creativity, the ability to see possibilities, probably arises at least in part from the possession of a wide-ranging set of interests and the resulting acquisition of a broad-based body of knowledge. If this is so, then important implications for medical educators follow. It should not follow the crude experiment of 1990 during Cornell poetry week in which, like opposing poles of two magnets, laboratory scientists and poets were forced out of field.[4] It needs to be by encouraging interests, reaching out with ones self, stretching, embracing and realising the joy that comes with the mind creative – whether it be in science, arts or both.


“It seems to me that we might hold tentatively that certain birds inherit their song in a fairly typical form in every species, while others are so gifted with the capacity for imitation that they either add other notes and songs to their repertoire, which constitute the individual differences, or give up their birthright entirely, as seems to be the case with the trained bullfinch.”[5] The inheritance of song in birds, Journal of Comparative Psychology (1921)

[1] Hume, David (c1729) A new scene of thought

[2] Simpson & Brown (2005) Mavisbank House and Policies: Conservation Plan: This study was commissioned by The Mavisbank Trust, a subsidiary of the Edinburgh Green Belt Trust

[3] Hume, David (1757) Of the Standard of Taste; part of his four dissertations

[4] Peterson, Ivars (Dec 1990) Poetry lessons: bridging the chasm between the sciences and the humanities – engineering and science professors at CornellUniversity take a poetry course; Science News

[5] Journal of Comparative Psychology (1921) The inheritance of song in birds

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