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Intellectual vision makes for excellent production.

April 7th, 2005 | 3 min read

By Keith E. Buhler

In an ongoing effort to be radically experimental, the following post is a philosophical dialogue I have written regarding the usefulness of “seeing” what you are going to make before you make it.

Please let me know how you like it, if you dislike it or don’t quite get it… and also if you have anything to add to the discussion of the two characters, as their subject interests me.

And now, with no further ado,

untitled dialogue #1.

Dramatis Personae:
a college student named Nat Tabris
and a friend.

“Intellectual vision makes for excellent production.

What do you mean by this, Nat?

That “vision”, not the vision of the eyes, but of the mind, is a pre-requisite for creating something and creating it well. That seeing a thing, or perhaps the image of a thing, in “your mind’s eye,” as it will exist in the medium, is a pre-requisite for any and all good art. Or rather, it is a pre-requisite for any art of any kind (in the general sense, e.g. “artifice”)… In other words, how good your pre-art mental map is determines how good the thing will be.

I see.

That’s what I think, but don’t let me get off easily. Let’s examine it.

How shall we examine it?

By answering this question: Is there any contradictory thesis that makes this a bit challenging, and thereby interesting, to maintain?

Divine inspiration is another source of excellent production.

Yes, but does inspiration come in any other form than intellectual vision?

Let’s see, in the case of Dante, it does not. The inspiration is a form of intellection.

Who else?

Chaucer, Plato, Wordsworth, Whitman… Eliot.

Take Chaucer. He produced an excellent book, right? Did he “see” this excellent book, before producing it?

I do not know enough about Chaucer.

I think that’s the thesis, right?

Yeah, but I do not know much about these others… Perhaps one of our other friends could help us. I definitely think Plato would affirm that inspiration from God is a kind of intellection.

Even without examining these artists, I see one exception to this.

Which is?


What do you mean?

Jazz improvisation artists begin, not with the final goal in mind, but, with a prescience of the parts of the final goal, and they let a spontaneous, spur of the moment assembly take place.

Are we missing anything major in this inquiry? Who has thought about this the best, and to whom can I look for initial starting thoughts?

Is now the best time to decide that, my friend?

No, we were in the middle of a thought. So I’ll come back to that question at the end of this train.


So, you were saying that improvisation is an exception to your own thesis. Fancy how you contradict yourself! How then we explain improv, of the jazz sort, the rhetorical sort, the humorous sort?

It seems to be an employment of methods, already known, to create an arrangement that is new.

This “new arrangement” is unforeseen?


But it is possible that it be good?

Yes… and often is.

Does this disprove your thesis, then?

Yes, unless I qualify.

Which I’m sure you will.

Yes, I will. You can tell me after if I seem to be weaseling out of the argument. I will qualify in the following way: If the parts are foreseen, and if a vague idea of the skeleton upon which these parts will be hung, is foreseen, then some idea, or “vision,” of the final product is in fact foreseeable. Let me put it this way: if you know the compononents you will be building with, it is sure what kinds of products will not be produced. By choosing your tools (the parts, or means) and the form (the skeleton, or frame) of the final product, you exclude certain final products, and in that way choose the final product.

I agree, and do not think that is weasely.

We’ve reached a sort of an end to that part of the argument, would you like to ask your first question?

Yes. It was: are we missing anything major in this inquiry? Who has thought about this the best, and to whom can we look for initial starting thoughts?

Well, I’m sure Plato had something to say about creation, and about imaging things. The Timaeus, for instance, has the maker looking at a model, some eidos, by which he creates the world.


The thesis is, “intellectual vision makes for excellent production.” This seems true, as far is it goes. David Allen affirms as much in Getting Things Done. He says “imagine yourself beyond the completion date.” “Imagine success. What did that look like?” Here he is leading his fans to build a vision of what they want, that they might attain it. With that said, however, we have much to research to see what other, more capable men, have thought about the same subject. Until then, let us conclude, tentatively, that you cannot create well without first seeing the whole, or at least the parts.

It is concluded, for now.”