The purpose of a man's mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.(Proverbs 20:5)
Over the years, considerable effort has been devoted by philosophers, psychologists, and by ordinary people in their everyday lives, to an understanding of human minds—their own as well as those of others. For the ancient Hebrews, as in the passage from Proverbs 20, the seat of the “mind” was considered to be the heart—as it was for many Greeks (kēr or thymos; Kittel 1938; Liddell & Scott 1968). Although the physiology was off, the sense of the Hebrew lêb (LXX: kardia) quite accurately captures those functions associated with mind by contemporary cognitive scientists—“affect” or “emotion,” “thought” and “reflection” “will” or “intentionality,” and, of course, “memory” (Brown et al. 1959). Since the work of the fifth-century BCE Greek physician Alcmaeon of Croton, who discovered, by dissection, that “passages” led from the eyes to the brain (egkephalos; Theophrastus, Sens. 26), that organ became increasingly viewed as the seat of mental functions (e.g., Hippocrates, Morb. sacr. 17, 20; Pliny the Elder, Nat. 11.49), which in contemporary neuroscientific research finally became identified with mind itself (e.g., Dennett 1991: 33).
As the Proverbalist suggested, human minds may be “drawn out” (dālâh)—that is, inferred from their output—from gesture or glance, from touch or speech, from ideas expressed to others or, sometimes, inscribed into material form as a drawing, a pot, a text. An understanding of past minds is more difficult.