Some thoughts or ideas occur to me, and some do not, and that is important in all matters, from cooking at home to writing poetry. I wonder if there is some philosophy or psychology written on what occurs and does not occur to a person. I checked "creativity" in Wikipedia, but the article focus on only a small part of things that may occur to a person. This subject seems interesting to me because it seems that we cannot make a specific idea occur to us (we would already have it if we tried), but, on the other hand, the kind of things that occur to us seems to be an important part of what we are (different ideas occur to different persons in the same situations). Would you give me some guidance?

This is a very interesting issue. It seems clear on the one hand, as you say, that the thoughts that occur to us have a lot to do with who we are - many of the sorts of thoughts that occur to me won't occur to you and vice-versa. But on the other hand you're right to point to the involuntary aspect of how thoughts occur to us. So what seems to follow is that there is an involuntary part of the self - or some part of our mind that is out of our control, and that is a scary idea. It used to be said, and is sometimes still maintained, that creative inspiration actually comes from outside us altogether, perhaps from God.

The scary thought can be softened by distinguishing our conscious from our unconscious mentality, and considering the relation between the two. For a start it is plausible that the items that exist in your unconscious mind, e.g. your belief about what you had for breakfast before I just made it conscious by bringing it to your attention, or your memories of your first love, or your longstanding feelings about politics, or your interest in poetry, are in large part determined by where you have consciously directed your mind in the past. By consciously directing your attention and mind to certain topics or others, and by having the specific experiences you have had, you have it seems laid down a catalogue of unconscious mental states that are specific to you. They represent, perhaps help to make up, your long-term character, likes, dislikes, interests, viewpoints, etc., and what makes you the unique person you are at this point in time. So, the contents that are in your unconscious mind are not beyond your control: you have laid them down more or less consciously over time.

Next, it is plausible that the thoughts that 'pop' into consciousness are the result of the interactions among your unconscious thoughts (beliefs, desires, memories etc., a large catalogue of types of state) - these seem to be secretly churning, and producing new ideas by their combinations. Some of these new ideas and thoughts - e.g. the idea for a new recipe or line of poetry - then make their way above the surface of consciousness. This sort of process can be seen to be what is at work in creativity. Thus what pops into consciousness is the result of the interaction of contents you have added to your unconscious.

So, taking into account how the contents of the unconscious are produced, and considering the role of these unconscious contents in the production of new thoughts, we can account for the involuntariness of much of our thinking, while at the same time retaining the sense that our involuntary thinking is still *us*, a personal thing and a consistent expression of self.

I should add that the above is just my own pet theory - some philosophers won't accept the kinds of unconscious mental states this explanation relies on, for example. I think William James' 1890 book The Principles of Psychology is the best thing I've read on the stream of consciousness (he coined the phrase as far as I know), so I encourage you to dip into it (it is two large volumes). Galen Strawson also has a fantastic description of a short passage of conscious thought in his 1994 book Mental Reality, that may be of interest too.

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