"Many fleeting Thoughts pass through the Soul without Observation, and leave no Trace or Idea behind them"

— Burnet, Thomas (c.1635-1715)

Place of Publication
Printed for M. Wotton, [etc.]
"Many fleeting Thoughts pass through the Soul without Observation, and leave no Trace or Idea behind them"
Metaphor in Context
But whatsoever you fancy concerning the Sleep of Angels, or of the Soul, I am satisfy'd that it is no sufficient Argument to prove that we have no Thoughts in our Sleep, because we do not always remember them; for the same happens to us often when we are awake. If we shou'd observe Pythagoras his Rule, to call our selves to an account every Evening, for the Actions and Thoughts of that Day, I believe we shou'd find many vacant spaces within the compass of a Day, which we cou'd not fill up with Thoughts, nor call to mind what we did or mus'd upon every Minute or Hour. Many fleeting Thoughts pass through the Soul without Observation, and leave no Trace or Idea behind them; and accordingly we forget sometimes in a trice what we had done just before. I'm sure in on Instance this often happens to me, I often go to wind up my Watch again, when I had wound it up not ten Minutes before. And the same thing may be observ'd in many other Instances. Nay, even in Matters of immediate sensation, we sometimes do not perceive that which plainly is expos'd to our Senses; we overlook a thing that lies before our Eyes, and we seek for that which we hold in our Hands. What does not strike us with some Briskness, we little mind when present, and less remember when past and absent. If while we are awake these things happen to us, methinks it cannot be expected, that we shou'd attend and remember all our sleepy Thoughts, when the Impressions are more dull and faint: The Thoughts wandering, fortuitous, and commonly inconnected one with another. When the Impressions happen to be stronf, so as to excite Pain, or Pleasure, or any Passion, we remember them, and many times they awake us. But if they are weak, as generally they are in Sleep, we think no more of the. But yet it often happens that next Day, or some Days after, some Accident or Discourse brings to our Mind such a Dream; which without that Occasion, wou'd have quite slipt our Memory, and wou'd never have been recall'd or thought of again. This shews that we may dream of many things that we do not remember, without some particular Occasion. The Brain in Sleep is moist, something like that of Infants or Children: And you wou'd put a Child to a hard Task, to tell you at Night, all that had pass'd that Day in his PLay or his Talk, and much more in his Thoughts. So I shou'd think you a hard Task-Master, if you shou'd put us to count to you all the childish Thoughts we had in the silent Night, and in a sound Sleep.
(pp. 10-11)
Reading Burnet's three Remarks
Burnet, Thomas; Locke, John, and Porter, Noah. Remarks Upon an Essay Concerning Humane Understanding: Five Tracts. Garland Publishing, Inc. New York and London, 1984.
Lockean Philosophy
Date of Entry

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