Wordy Wednesday – “In my mind’s eye…”

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is ‘mind’s eye‘, uttered by Hamlet to Horatio:

My father—methinks I see my father—

Where, my lord?

In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 2

In the scene, Hamlet’s use of the phrase contrasts and foreshadows Horatio’s sight of the deceased king by his own, bodily eyes. Although Shakespeare did not originally coin the term, its utterance in Hamlet likely popularized it. We use the phrase ‘mind’s eye’ today much in the same way Shakespeare had intended; that is, to talk about our ability to visualize images in our thoughts the way that Hamlet is likely haunted by mental images of his deceased father.

Philosophers and cognitive scientists have adopted the word to talk about consciousness yet more broadly as thoughts and perceptions occur to us mentally and at times, use the term more concretely to refer to some hypothesized part of the brain where perception is located.

For most of us, the mind’s eye is synonymous with mental imagery – much like how we may visualize a show on stage while reading one of Shakespeare’s plays!


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