This sounds like a episode from the novel "Tristram Shandy."
Tristram's father Walter was "somewhat divorced from reality" and the author is making a joke. At a very important moment (the conception of his son) the elder Shandy is distracted by thinking whether he has wound the clock or not, a task of relatively little importance. The author is making the point that Walter Shandy is not quite normal, that he is so absent-minded that his mind wanders to speculate on trivial points even when most of us would be concentrating on the task at hand.
I would tend to classify this as a satirical look at philosophers and maybe at philosophy itself. This is a very 18th century thing to do, since both philosophy and satire were experiencing the same enlightenment, albeit, sometimes at odds with one another.
In other words, the phrase means exactly what it says.
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