Does here "loci for modes of thought" mean "a place for different types of thought"?

And claims from the science community that their swirling, colour-clashing representations of cells or chaotic systems are aesthetically rich seem to miss the artistic point. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould has called science images ‘loci for modes of thought’ and for artists the ‘thought’ will relate to the quest for multiple ways of interpreting what it feels like to be human rather than the search for a harmonious picture or an indication of absolute meaning.

Art and Science, Sian Ede

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    It might. You will have to find where Gould used the phrase and read the context. I was unable to find a source online. None of Ede's paragraph here has any meaning in the ordinary sense. You can't tell the difference between thought and 'thought'; thoughts "relating to quests" has no definition; and the feeling of being human is not a contrast to absolute meaning or even to an indication of absolute meaning.
    – deadrat
    Jul 13 '15 at 5:21
  • "places for different types of thought" -- "loci" is plural. I imagine Gould is thinking of our habit of placing ourselves at the pinnacle, when we illustrate the evolution of species. He has made fun of this. Of course, we think of ourselves as being the end-all and be-all, and we're the ones doing the drawing.
    – Greg Lee
    Sep 8 '15 at 3:18

I believe that this is referring to the tendency for humans to incorporate their own phenomenology (or subjective interpretation) into their perception of an object.

I think that 'modes of thought' in this context refers to the individual way that a person may think about something, independently of what the thing may represent objectively. For instance, think of a flashing red light in any way that you so choose. A flashing red light is always a flashing red light outside of subjective interpretation, but each person may perceive the light differently in his or her mind's eye. One person might envision an omen forecasting danger, whereas another might envision a broken stoplight.

Following this definition, 'loci for modes of thought' would refer to objects that have the property of inducing this sort of subjective interpretation in others. As mentioned earlier in the paragraph, the aesthetic properties of the images are not 'the point' of their appeal. In effect, the science images act as platforms for individual interpretation, to the detriment of their associated overall, 'objective' meaning. In other words, to the average person, they may increase -- rather than decrease -- their associated interpretations and meanings, creating more questions than answers but also lending to their perceived beauty.


The loci of modes of thought may refer to the current ways artists are represent reality. Consider Italian Renaissance paintings and modern Italian paintings. They're different in style, and their differences each have a difference locus of mode of thought, meaning that certain circumstances, sociological of course, are, for lack of a better word, responsible for that type of style. The final note of that excerpt gets right to the point with saying that those science images are not absolute. In a few years, a diagram of a cell will change in correlation with a different societal perspective.

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