Augustine - Collecting - Mark C. Taylor

Mark C. Taylor, in his book The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture, provides a nice quote of Augustine's conceptualization of thinking as collecting (this quote is a modified translation of Rex Warner's translation):

By the act of thought we are, as it were, collecting together things which the memory did contain, though in a disorganized and scattered way, and by giving them our close attention we are arranging for them to be as it were stored up ready to hand in the same memory where previously they lay hidden, neglected, and dispersed, so that now they will come forward to the mind that has become familiar with them....In fact, what one is doing is collecting them from their dispersal. Hence the derivation of the word "to think." For cogo (to collect) and cogito (to think) are in the same relation to each other as ago and agito, facio, and factio. But the mind has appropriated to itself this word (thinking), so that it is only correct to say "think" of things which are "re-collected" in the mind, not the things that are re-collected elsewhere.

If we move beyond the mind's appropriation and allow this collecting and recollecting to happen materially, we can see collecting as a practice. Thus, to select objects from the world, to gather them together from the "disorganized and scattered" flux of material culture is to think. This provides a nice way to discuss various activities of collecting beyond the usual mania/neurosis and mindless consumerist explanations.

Taylor's book, by the way, has nothing to do with this line of thinking. It is worthy of extensive commentary beyond the scope of our time constraints. A review is here.