It is in association with the symbols which we call names that we build up, from childhood on, the coherent world of distinct shapes and objects which we call 'nature.' The "merest" sense-experience we can imagine ourselves having is also a process of formulation. Whatever else it is . . . the world that actually meets our senses is not a world of "things," which we are then invited to speculate on or experiment with. Any world which pure sensation, pure sensitivity to stimuli, could experience must be a mere plethora, what William James tried to suggest with his phrase "a blooming, buzzing confusion." Yet we never do in fact consciously experience such a world. We have converted the percepts into concepts, and moreover into systems of concepts, before we even know we have been hit by them. As far as our conscious experience is concerned, the perceptual world comes over its horizon already organized. But who has done the organizing? What are you going to call this preconscious organizing of perceptual experience, which gives us the world as we actually and consciously experience it? Coleridge called it "primary imagination." My friend Barfield called it "figuration." Langer, who has dealt with it much more fully and authoritatively, calls it "formulation." Both of them, and Cassirer, and many others, agree that it is the same activity as the activity which we call, when we are aware of it, thinking.
--Owen Barfield, Worlds Apart