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The Concept of Mind ®

Gilbert Ryle
Gilbert Rvle is Wavnfletc Professor o f Meta*
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physical Philosophy m the University of Oxford.


He was bom in 1900* and educated at Brighton
College and the Queen’s College, Oxford. He
graduated with first-class honours in ’Mods',
'Greats' and P.P.E. In 1924 he became a lecturer»
and in 1925 Student and Tutor in Philosophy, at
Christchurch. H e is now at Magdalen College,
Oxford.
In addition to T he Concept of M ind he has
published Dilemmas (1954) and articles and re-
views in M ind (of which he is editor)« Philosophy,
and elsewhere.

Cover design by Komek Marbcr

For a com plete list o f books available please w i t * to


Penguin Books v h o se address can be fou n d on the
back o f the title page
J 'E R E G R I N E B O O K S

T H E C O N C E P T O F M IN D

G I L B E R T RXLB
G IL B E R T R Y L E

The Concept o f Mind


*

P E N G U I N BO O K S
Penguin Book» L td , Harroondaworth, M id d le« *
AU STRALIA: Pcngum Book« F ly Ltd, 76 1 Whitehorse Ro^d,
M itcham, Victoria

First Published by Hutchinson 1949


Publishtd in Peregrine Boolu 1963

Copyright © G ilb ert R yle, 1949

Made and printed in Great Britain


by H ezell Watson ft V in cy Ltd
Ayletbury, Bucks
Set in Linotype Georgi an

T h is book U aold subject to the condition


that it shall not, by w ay o f trade, he lent,
re-told, hired out, or otherwise disposed
o f without the publisher^ consent,
in any form of binding or cover
other than that in wliich
it is published
CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 9

L De s c a r t e s ’ m y t h 13
(1) T h e O fficial D o ctrin e 13
(2) T h e A b s u rd ity o f the O fficial D o ctrin e 17
(3) T h e O rig in o f th e C a te g o ry -M ista k c 20
(4) H isto rical N o te 24

II. K N O W I N G HOW AND K N O W I N G T H A T 26

(1) F o rew o rd 26
(а) In tellig en ce and In tellect 26
(3) K n o w in g H ew an d K n o w in g T h a t 28
(4) T h e M o tives o f the In te lle cm a list L egen d 3a
(5} ‘In M y H ead ’ 36
(б) T h e P o sitive A c c o u n t o f K n o w in g H ow 40
(7) In te llig e n t C ap acities versus H a b its 41
(8) T h e E xercisc o f In telligen ce 44
(9) U n d erstan d in g an d M isu n d erstan d in g 50
(10) Solipsism 59

III. THE WIT.L 6l


(1) F o rew o rd 61
(2) T h e M y th o f V o litio n s 61
(3) T h e D istin ctio n betw een V o lu n ta ry and In v o lu n ta ry 67
(4) F re ed o m o f th e W ill 73
(5) T h e B o g y o f M ech a n ism 74

IV . em otion 81
(1) F orew ord 81
(2) F e e lin g s versus In clin ation s 81
I

6 CONTENTS

(3) In clin ation s versu s A g ita tio n s 90


(4) M oods 95
(5) A g ita tio n s a n d F eelin gs 101
(6) E n jo y in g an d W a n tin g 103
(7) T h e C riteria o f M o tives 106
(8) T h e R easons a n d the C auses o f A ctio n s 109
(9) C on clusion 110

V. D I S P O S I T I O N S A ND O C C U R R E N C E S 111

(1) Forew ord na


(2) T h e L o g ic o f D isposition al Statem ents 113
(3) M en ta l C a p a citie s a n d T en d en cies 121
(4) M en ta l O ccu rren ces 130
(5) A c h ie v e m e n ts 143

V I. SELF-KNO W LEDCE 148


(1) F orew ord 148
(2) C onsciousness 150
(3) Introspection 156
(4) S elf-K n o w led g e w ith o u t P rivileg ed A ccess 160
(5) D isclosure b y U n stu d ied T a lk 173
(6) T h e S elf 177
(7) T h e S y ste m a tic E lusivcness o f ‘I ’ 186

V II. S E N S A T I O N AND O B S E R V A T I O N 190

(1) F orew ord 190


(2) Sensations 192
(3) T h e Sense D a tu m T h e o r y 200
(4) Sensation a n d O b servation 211
(5) P h en o m en alism 223
(6) A fte rth o u g h ts 228

V III. IMAGINATION 232


(1) Forew ord 232
(2) P ictu rin g and S eein g 232
(3) T h e T h e o ry o f Special Status Pictures 235
(4) Im a g in in g 242
(5) P reten d in g 244
(6) P reten d ing, F a n c y in g , a n d Im a g in g 250
(7) M em o ry 257
T

CONTENTS 7
TITK I N T E L L E C T 264
(i) Forew ord 264
(2) T h e D é m a rca tio n o f the In tellect 264
(3) T h e C on stru ctio n , Possession, a n d U tilizatio n o f
T h eo ries 269
(4) T h e A p p lic a tio n and M isap p lica tio n o f
E p istem o lo g ica l T e rm s 275
(5) S a y in g an d T e a c h in g 291
(6) T h e P rim acy o f the Intellect 295
(7) E p istem ology 298

PS YC HO LO G Y 301
(i) T h e P ro g ra m m e o f P sych o lo g y 301
(2) B ehaviourism 308

INDEX 3*3
I

«
»

« i
INTRODUCTION
#

T h i s book offers w h at m a y w ith reservations b e described as a th eory


o f th e m ind. B u t it does n o t g iv e n ew in fo rm a tio n ab o u t m inds. W e
possess a lrea d y a w ea lth o f in fo rm a tio n a b o u t m in ds, in fo rm atio n
w hich is n eith er d erived fro m , nor upset b y , th e argu m en ts o f p h ilo­
sophers. T h e p h ilo so p h ical a rg u m en ts w h ich co n stitu te this book arc
intended not to in crease w h a t w e kn ow a b o u t m in d s, b u t to rectify
th e logical g e o g ra p h y o f the kn o w led ge w h ich we a lre a d y possess.
T ca ch crs a n d exam in ers, m ag istrates an d critics, h istorians and
novelists, confcssors a n d n on-com m issioned officers, em ployers, em ­
ployees a n d p artn ers, p aren ts, lovers, frie n d s a n d enem ies a ll know
w ell en ough how to settle th eir d a ily q u estio n s ab o u t th e q ualities o f
ch aracter a n d in telle ct o f th e in d iv id u a l w ith w hom th e yt h ave to do.
T h e y can appraise h is p erfo rm an ces, assess h is progress, understand
his words a n d action s, d iscern h is m otives and sec h is jokes. I f they
go w rong, th e y kn ow h o w to correct th e ir m istakes. M o re , th ey can
d elib erately in flu en ce th e m in ds o f those w ith w hom th ey d ea l by
criticism , e x a m p le, te ach in g, p u n ish m en t, b rib ery, m o ck ery a n d per­
suasion, an d th en m o d ify th e ir treatm en ts in th e lig h t o f the results
produced.
B o th in d escrib in g th e m in d s o f oth ers an d in p rescrib in g fo r them ,
th e y are w ield in g w ith g re a te r o r less efficien cy concepts o f m en tal
pow ers a n d operations. T h e y h a v e learn ed how to ap p ly in concrete
situations su ch m en tal-co n d u ct ep ith ets as ‘ ca refu l’ , ‘stu p id ’ , 'lo gical',
‘ unobservant’, ‘in gen io u s’, ‘v a in ’, ‘m ethodical*, ‘cred u lo u s’, ‘w itty ’,
‘sclf-couirolled* a n d a th o u san d others.
I t is, how ever, one th in g to kn ow how to a p p ly su ch concepts, q uite
another to kn ow how to correlate them w ith one an oth er an d w ith
concepts o f o th er sorts. M a n y p eop le can ta lk sense w ith concepts
b u t cannot ta lk sense a b o u t th em ; th e y know b y p ractice how to
operate w ith con cepts, an yh o w inside fa m ilia r fields, b ut th e y cannot
state tl:e lo g ica l reg u la tio n s g o v e rn in g th eir use. T h e y arc lik e people
w ho kr.ow th eir w a y a b o u t th e ir ow n parish , b u t can n ot construct or
IO INTRODUCTION

read a m ap o f it, m u ch less a m ap o f th e region or co n tin en t in w hich


th eir parish lies.
F o r certain purposes it is necessary to d eterm in e the lo gical cross-
b earings o f the con cepts w hich we know q u ite w ell how to ap p ly. T h e
attem p t to perform this o p eration upon the con cepts o f th e powers,
operations a n d states o f m in ds h as a lw a ys been a b ig part o f th e task
o f philosophers. T h e o rie s o f kn ow led ge, logic, ethics, p o litical th eory
an d aesth etics are th e prod u cts o f their in q u iries in this field. Som e of
these in q u iries h a ve m ad e con sid erab le regio n al progress, b ut it is
part o f th e thesis o f this book th a t d u r in g th e th ree cen tu ries o f the
epoch o f n a tu ra l science th e logical catego ries in term s o f w h ich the
concepts o f m en ia l pow ers a n d operation s h ave been coordinated
h a ve been w ro n gly selected. D escartes le ft as on e o f his m ain p h ilo­
sophical legacies a m y th w h ich co n tin u es to distort th e con tin en tal
g e o g ra p h y o f th e su b ject.
A m y th is, o f course, n ot a fa ir y story. It is th e presen tation o f facts
b elo n g in g to one ca tego ry in th e idiom s app ropriate to another. T o
exp lod e a m y th is a cco rd in g ly n ot to d e n y th e facts b u t to re-allocate
them . A n d th is is w h at I am try in g to do.
T o d eterm in e th e logical g e o g ra p h y o f concepts is to reveal the
lo gic o f th e propositions in w h ich th e y are w ielded, th at is to say, to
show w ith w h a t o th e r propositions th ey a rc consistent an d inconsis­
tent. w h at propositions fo llo w fro m th em an d fro m w hat propositions
th e y follow . T h e logical typ e o r ca teg o ry to w h ich a concept belongs
is th e set o f w ays in w h ich it is lo g ic a lly le g itim a te to operate w ith it.
T h e key a rg u m e n ts em p lo yed in this book are th erefo re in ten d ed to
show w h y certain sorts o f operation s w ith th e concepts o f m ental
pow ers a n d processes a re breaches o f logical rules. I try to use reductio
a d absurdutn a rg u m e n ts b oth to disallow operation s im p licitly recom ­
m en d ed b y th e C a rtesia n m yth and to in d icate to w h at logical types
the con cepts u n d er in vestigation o u g h t to be allocated . I d o not,
how ever, th in k it im proper to use fro m tim e to lim e argu m en ts o f a
less rigo ro u s sort, esp ecially w hen it seem s exp ed ien t to m o llify or
a cclim atize . P h ilo so p h y is the rep lacem en t o f category-h ab its b y cate-
gory-d iscip lin es, a n d if persuasions o f co n cilia to ry kinds ease the
pains o f relin q u ish in g in veterate in tellectu a l h ab its, th e y d o not
indeed rein fo rce th e rigorous a rgu m en ts, b u t th ey do w eaken resist­
ances to them .
Som e readers m a y th in k th a t m y tone o f voice in this book is ex-
4 0

cessively polem ical. It m a y co m fo rt th em to know th at th e assum p­


tions again st w h ich I e x h ib it m ost h ea t are assum ptions o f w h ich I
INTRODUCTION II

m yself h a v e been a victim . P rim a rily I a m try in g to get som e


disorders o u t o f m y ow n system . O n ly seco n d arily d o I hope to help
o th er theorists to reco g n ize o u r m a la d y an d to benefit from m y
m edicine.
If

»,

•t
I
CHAPTER I

DESCARTES* M Y T H
*

(i) T h e O fficial D octrine


T h e r e is a d octrin e ab o u t th e n atu re an d place o f m inds w h ich is
so prevalen t am o n g theorists an d even am o n g laym en th at it deserves
to be described as the official theory. M ost philosophers, psych ologists
and religious teachers subscribe, w ith m inor reservations, to its m ain
articles and, a lth o u g h th ey ad m it certain theoretical difficulties in it,
th ey tend to assum e th at these can be overcom e w ith o u t serious m od i­
fications b ein g m ad e to th e arch itectu re o f th e theory- It ■will be
argued here th a t the cen tral prin ciples o f the d octrin e are u n sou n d
and conflict w ith th e w hole b od y o f w h at we know a b o u t m in d s w hen
w c are n o t sp ecu latin g ab o u t them .
T h e official doctrine, w h ich hails ch iefly fro m D escartes, is som e­
th in g like this. W ith the d o u b tfu l exceptions o f idiots and in fan ts in
arm s e ve ry h um an b ein g has both a b o d y a n d a m ind. S om e w ould
p refer to say th at every h u m a n b ein g is bo th a b od y an d a m in d . H is
b o d y an d his m in d are o rd in arily harnessed togeth er, b u t a fte r the
death o f the b o d y h is m in d m ay co n tin u e to exist and fu n ctio n .
H u m a n bodies are in space and are su b ject to the m ech an ical laws
w hich govern all o th er bodies in space. B o d ily processes a n d states
can be inspected b y extern al observers. So a m an 's b o d ily life is as
m u ch a p u b lic affair as are th e lives o f an im als and reptiles a n d even
as the careers o f trees, crystals and planets.
B u t m inds a re not in space, n or a re th eir operation s su b je c t to
m ech an ical laws. T h e w orkin gs o f one m in d a re not w itnessable by
other observers; its career is private. O n ly I can take d irect cogn isan cc
o f th e states an d processes o f m y ow n m in d. A person th erefo re lives
th ro u gh tw o collateral histories, on e con sisting o f w h at h ap p en s in
and to his body, th e o th er consisting o f w hat happ ens in a n d to his
m ind. T h e first is p u b lic, the second private. T h e events in th e first
history are events in the p h ysical w orld, those in th e second a r c events
in the m en tal world.
It has been d ispu ted w h eth er a person docs or can d irectly m onitor
»4 th e c o n c e p t o f m ind

all or o n ly som e o f the episodes o f his ow n private h istory; but,


accord in g to th e official doctrine, of a t least som e o f these episodes
he has d ire ct and u n ch a llen gea b le cognisan ce. In consciousness, self-
consciousncss and introspection he is d ircctly and a u th e n tic a lly ap­
prised o f th e present suites an d operation s o f his m ind. H e m a y h a ve
g re at or sm a ll un certain ties ab o u t co n cu rren t an d ad jacen t episodes
in the p h ysica l w orld, but he can h a ve none ab o u t a t least p a r t o f
w hat is m o m en ta rily o ccu p yin g h is m in d .
It is cu sto m a ry to express this b ifu rca tio n o f his tw o lives a n d o f
h is two w orlds b y sa yin g th at the th in g s an d events w hich b elo n g
to the p h y sica l w orld, in clu d in g his o w n b od y, are external, w h ile the
w orkings o f Ins ow n m ind are in tern al. T h is an tithesis o f ou ter an d
inner is o f co u rse m ean t to be con stru ed as a m etaph or, since m in ds,
not b ein g in space, could not be d escrib ed as b ein g sp atially inside
a n yth in g else, or as h a v in g thin gs g o in g on sp atially inside th e m ­
selves. B u t relapses from this g o o d in ten tion are com m on and
theorists a r c foun d sp ecu latin g how stim u li, th e p h ysical sou rccs o f
w hich are ya rd s or m iles outside a person ’s skin, can gen erate m en tal
responses in sid e his skull, or how decisions fram ed inside h is cran iu m
can set g o in g m ovem ents o f h is extrem ities.
Even w h en ‘inner’ an d ‘ou ter’ a rc construed as m etaphors, the
problem h o w a person’s m ind an d b o d y influen ce one a n o th e r is
notoriously ch arged w ith th eoretical difficulties. W h a t the m ind w ills,
the legs, a rm s an d th e tongu e execu te; w h at affects the ear and the
eye has so m e th in g to do w ith w hat the m in d perceives; grim aces
and sm iles b etra y th e m in d ’s m oods a n d b od ily castigation s lca«I, it
is hoped, to m oral im provem ent. B u t th e actu al transactions betw een
the episodes o f th e private h istory a n d those o f the p u b lic h isto ry
rem ain m ysteriou s, since b y definition th ey can b elon g to n eith er
series. T h e y co u ld not be reported a m o n g the h ap p en in gs described
in a person ’s au to b io gra p h y o f his in n e r life, b u t nor cou ld th e y be
reported a m o n g those described in som eone else’s b io grap h y o f th a t
person’s o v e rt career. T h e y can be in spected n eith er b y introspection
nor b y la b o ra to ry experim ent. T h e y arc theoretical shu ttlecocks
w hich a rc fo rev e r b ein g b an died fro m the ph ysiologist back to the
psychologist and from the p sych o lo gist back to the physiologist.
U n d e rly in g th is p a rtly m etap h orical representation o f the b ifu rc a ­
tion o f a person ’s two lives there is a se em in g ly m ore profou n d and
philosophical assum ption. It is assum ed th a t there are two different
kinds o f existen ce or status. W h a t e x ists or happens m ay h ave the
status o f p h y sica l existen ce, or it m ay h a v e the status o f m en tal exist-
De s c a r t e s ’ m y t h 15

encc. Som ew h at as the faccs o f coins are eith er heads or tails, or


som ew hat as liv in g crcatu rcs are eith er m ale or fem ale, so, it is
supposed, som e existin g is p h ysical existin g, o th er existin g is m en tal
existing. Ic is a necesary fea tu re o f w hat h as physical existen ce th at
it is in space an d tim e; it is a n ecessary fea tu re o f w hat h as m en ta l
existence th at is in tim e b u t not in space. W h a t has p h ysical existence
is com posed o f m atter, or else is a fu n ctio n o f m atter; w h a t has
m ental existen ce consists o f consciousness, or else is a fu n ctio n of
consciousness.
T h e r e is thus a polar opposition betw een m in d and m atter, an
opposition w h ich is o ften b ro u g h t o u t as follow s. M aterial o b jects are
situated in a com m on field, kn ow n as ‘space’ , and w h at h ap p en s to
one body in one p a rt o f space is m ech a n ica lly conn ected w ith w hat
happens to o th er bodies in o th er parts o f space. B u t m en tal h a p p en ­
in gs occur in in sulated fields, know n as ‘m in ds’, an d th ere is, apart
m aybe fro m telep ath y, n o d irect causal con n exion betw een w hat
happens in one m in d and w h at h app en s in another. O n ly th rou gh
th e m edium o f th e p u b lic p h ysical w orld can th e m ind of one person
m ake a difference to th e m ind o f an other. T h e m in d is its o w n place
and in his in n er life cach o f us lives th e life o f a g h o stly R obinson
C rusoe. People can see, h e a r a n d jo lt one an o th er’s bodies, b u t th ey
are irrem ed iab ly b lin d a n d d e a f to the w orkings o f one a n o th e r’s
m inds an d inoperative upon them .
W h a t sort o f kn ow led ge can b e secured o f th e w orkings o f a m ind?
O n th e one side, acco rd in g to the official theory, a person h a s direct
know ledge o f th e best im agin ab le kin d o f th e w orkin gs o f h is own
m ind. M en ta l states an d processes arc (or arc norm ally) conscious
states and processes, an d the consciousness w h ich irradiates th e m can
en gen d er no illusions an d leaves th e door open fo r n o d ou b ts. A
person’s present th in kin gs, feelin gs a n d w illings, his perceivin gs, re­
m em berin gs a n d im agin in gs are in trin sically ‘ phosphorescent;’; their
existen ce and th eir n a tu re are in ev ita b ly b etrayed to th eir owner.
T h e in n er life is a stream o f consciousness o f su ch a sort th a t i t w ould
be absurd to suggest th a t th e m in d whose life is th a t stream, m igh t
be unaw are o f w h at is passing dow n it.
1 rue, th e evid en ce a d d u ced recen tly b y F re u d seem s to sh ow th a t
there exist ch an n els trib u tary to this stream , w h ich run h id d e n from
their owner. People a re actu ate d b y im pu lses the existen ce o f w hich
th e y vigorously disavow ; som e o f th eir th o u g h ts differ fro m the
th ou gh ts w hich th ey acknow ledge; an d som e o f th e action s w hich
th ey th in k th ey w ill to p erfo rm th ey do not really w ill. T h e y are
16 THE CONCEPT OF MIND

th o ro u g h ly g u lle d b y som e o f th eir own h ypocrisies a n d th e y success­


fu lly ignore fa cts a b o u t th eir m ental lives w hich o n th e oflicial th eory
o u g h t to be p a ten t to th em . H old ers o f th e official th eo ry tend, h o w ­
ever, to m aintain th a t a n y h o w in norm al circu m stan ces a person
m u st be d ircctly a n d a u th e n tic a lly seized o f th e presen t state and
w orkin gs of h is ow n m ind.
B esides b e in g cu rre n tly supplied w ith these alleged im m ediate
d a ta o f consciousness, a person is also g e n e ra lly supposed to be able
to exercise fro m tim e to tim e a special kind o f p ercep tion , n a m e ly
in n er perception, or in trospection. H e can take a (non-optical) ‘look’
a t w h a t is p assin g in his m in d. N o t o n ly c a n h e view an d scrutin ize
a flow er th ro u gh his sense o f sight an d listen to a n d discrim inate
th e notes o f a b ell th ro u g h h is sense o f h ea rin g ; h e can alsr> reflec­
tively o r ir.trospectively w atch , w ith ou t a n y b o d ily o rgan o f sense, the
cu rren t episodes o f h is in n er life. T h is self-observation is also com ­
m o n ly supposed to be im m u n e from illu sio n , con fu sion or d ou b t.
A m in d ’s reports o f its ow n affairs h a ve a certa in ty superior to the
best th a t is possessed b y its reports o f m atters in th e physic«.! w orld.
Sense-perceptions can, b u t consciousness an d in trosp ection can n ot,
be m istaken o r confused.
O n th e o th er side, o n e person has no d irect access o f any sort to
th e events o f th e in n er life o f an oth er. H e can n o t do b etter than m ake
problem atic in feren ces fro m th e observed b e h a v io u r o f the o th er
person’s body to th e states o f m in d w h ich , b y a n a lo g y fro m his ow n
con duct, he supposes to be sign alized b y th a t behaviour. D irect
access to the w orkin gs o f a m in d is th e p rivile g e o f th at m ind itself;
in d e fa u lt o f su ch p rivile g ed acces>, th e w orkin gs o f on e m ind are
in ev ita b ly o ccu lt to everyo n e else. For th e supposed argum ents from
b o d ily m ovem ents sim ilar to th e ir ow n to m en ta l w orkings sim ilar
to th eir own w ould lack a n y possibility o f o b servatio n al corrobora­
tion. N o t u n n a tu ra lly , th erefo re, an a d h e re n t o f th e official th eory
finds it difficult to resist th is consequence o f his prem isses, th a t h e
h as n o good reason to b elieve th a t there do e x ist m in ds other th an
his ow n. Even if h e prefers to believe th a t to o th e r hum an bodies
th ere are harnessed m in d s n ot unlike his ow’n, h e can n o t claim to be
able to discover th eir in d ivid u al ch aracteristics, o r th e particular
th in gs t l u t th e y u n d erg o an d do. A b so lu te solitu d e is on this show ­
in g th e in elu ctab le d estin y o f th e iou l. O n ly o u r bodies can m eet.
A s a necessary co ro lla ry o f this general sch em e th ere is im plicitly
prescribed a special w ay o f co n stru in g our o rd in a ry concepts o f m en­
tal powers an d operations. 'H ie verbs, n ou n s a n d adjectives, w ith

i
d e s c a r t e s ’ m ytii 17
w hich in o rd in ary life w e describe th e w its, ch aracters and higher-
grad e p erfo rm an ces o f th e people w ith w hom we have to do, are re­
q uired to b e construed as sig n ify in g sp ecial episodes in th eir secret
histories, or else as sig n ify in g tendencies fo r su ch episodes to occur.
W h en som eone is described as kn ow in g, b e lie v in g or guessin g som e­
th in g. as h opin g, d read in g, in ten d in g or sh irk in g som ething, as de­
sign in g this or b ein g am used a t th at, th ese verbs a re supposed to
denote th e o ccurren ce o f specific m odification s in his (to us) o ccu lt
stream o f consciousness. O n ly his ow n p rivileged access to this stream
in d ire ct awareness an d introspection co u ld provide au th en tic testi­
m o n y th a t these m en ial-con d u ct verbs w ere correctly or in corrccd y
applied. T h e onlooker, be he teacher, critic, b io grap h er or friend ,
can n e ve r assure h im self that his com m en ts h ave a n y vestige o f truth.
Y e t it w as just because we do in fa c t a ll know how to m ake such
com m ents, m ake th em w ith general correctn ess and correct them
w hen th e y turn o u t to be con fused or m istaken , th a t philosophers
fo u n d it necessary to con struct th eir theories o f the nature and place
o f m inds. F in d in g m en tal-con duct con cepts b e in g reg u la rly and effec­
tively used, th ey properly sou gh t to fix th e ir logical geograp h y. B u t
th e lo g ical g eo g ra p h y officially recom m en d ed w ould en tail that there
could b e n o reg u lar or effective use o f th ese m en tal-con duct conccpts
in our d escription s of, a n d prescriptions fo r, o th er people’s m inds.

(2) T h e A bsurdily o f th e O fficial D o ctrin e


S u ch in o u tlin e is the official theory. I sh all often speak o f it, w ith
d elib erate abusiveness, as ‘ the d ogm a o f th e G h o st in the M a ch in e’.
I h ope to prove th at it is e n tirely false, a n d false not in detail b u t in
prin cipie. It is not m erely an assem b lage o f p articu lar m istakes. It
is one b ig m istake and a m istake o f a special kind. It is, n am ely, a
category-m istake. It represents th e fa c ts o f m en tal life as if th ey
b elon ged to one logical type or ca tego ry (or range o f types or cate­
gories), w hen th e y a ctu a lly b elon g to an oth er. T h e dogm a is therefore
a p h ilo so p h er’s m yth . In a ttem p tin g to exp lod e the m yth I shall
p ro b a b ly be taken to b e d e n y in g w ell-know n fa cts about the m en tal
life o f h u m a n beings, and m y plea th at I aim at d oin g n o th in g m ore
than re c tify the logic o f m en tal-co n d u ct concepts w ill p robab ly be
disallow ed as m ere su bterfuge.
I m u st first in d icate w hat is m eant b y th e phrase ‘C ategory-
m istake". T h is I d o in a series o f illustrations.
A fo re ig n e r visitin g O x fo rd or C a m b rid g e fo r th e first tim e is
shown a n um b er o f colleges, libraries, p la y in g fields, m useum s,
i8 THE CONCEPT OF MIND

scientific d ep artm en ts an d ad m in istra tive offices. H e th en asks ‘B u t


w here is th e U n iv e rsity ? I h ave seen w h ere th e m em b ers o f th e
C o lleg es ‘.ive, w h ere th e R e g istra r works, w here th e scientists exp eri­
m en t and th e rest. B u t I h a v e n ot yet seen th e U n iv e rsity in w hich
reside and w ork th e m em b ers o f you r U n iv e rsity / It h as then to be
exp lain ed to h im th a t th e U n iversity is n ot a n o th e r co llateral institu­
tion, som e u lterio r co u n te rp a rt to the colleges, lab oratories and offices
w h ich he h as seen. T h e U n iv e rsity is ju st th e w ay in w hich ¿11 th a t
h e h as alread y seen is o rg a n ized . W h e n th e y are seen and when th eir
coord in a:ion is u n d ersto od , the U n iversity h a s b een seen. H is m is­
take la y in his in n o cen t assum ption th a t it w as correct to speak o f
C h rist C h u rch , th e B o d leian L ib ra ry , th e A sh m o le a n M useum and
th e U n iversity, to sp eak, th a t is, a« if ‘th e U n iv e rsity ’ stood fo r an
ex tra m em b er o f th e class o f w hich these o th e r u n its are m em bers.
H e was m istak en ly a llo c a tin g the U n iversity to th e sam e category as
th a t to w hich th e o th e r in stitu tion s belong.
T h e sam e m istake w ould b e m ade b y a c h ild w itn essing the m arch-
past o f a division , w ho, h a v in g h a d p oin ted o u t to h im such ar.d su ch
battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc., asked w h en the division was
g o in g to appear. H e w ould be supposin g th a t a division was a counter­
part to the units a lre a d y seen , p a rtly sim ilar to th em an d partly u n ­
lik e th e n . H e w ould b e show n his m istake b y b e in g told :h at in
w atch in g th e b attalio n s, b atteries and sq u ad ro n s m a rch in g past h e
h ad beer, w a tch in g th e d ivision m arch in g past. T h e m arch-p-ist was
n o t a parade o f b attalio n s, batteries, sq u ad ron s a n d a division; it was
a parad e o f th e b attalio n s, batteries a n d sq u ad ron s o f a division.
O n e m ore illu stratio n . A fo reign er w a tch in g h is first gam e o£
crick et learns w h at are th e fu n ctio n s o f th e bow lers, th e batsm en, th e
fielders, :h c um pires a n d th e scorers. l i e th en says ‘ B u t there is no
one le ft on th e field to co n trib u te the fa m o u s elem en t o f team -spirit.
I see who does th e b o w lin g, th e battin g an d th e w icket-keeping; b u t I
d o n ot see w hose role it is to exercise esprit de corps.’ O n c e m ore, it
w ould h ave to be ex p la in ed th a t h e was lo o k in g fo r the w rong type o f
th in g . T ca m -sp irit is n ot a n o th er cricketin g-op eration su pplem en tary
to a ll o f the o th er special tasks. It is, ro u g h ly , th e keenness w ith w h ich
each o f die sp ecial tasks is perform ed, an d p e rfo rm in g a task k e e n ly
is n ot p erfo rm in g tw o tasks. C e rta in ly e x h ib itin g team -spirit is n ot
th e sam e th in g as b o w lin g or ca tch in g, b u t n or is it a third tilin g
such that we can say th a t th e bow ler first bow ls a n d then exh ibits
tcam -spirit or th a t a fielder is a t a g iv e n m o m en t eith e r catch in g or
d isp layin g esprit de corps.
DESCARTES’ MYTH 19

T h e se illustration s o f category-m istakes h a ve a com m on fea tu re


w h ich m u st be noticed. T h e m istakes w ere m ad e b y people w ho did
not know how to w ield th e con cepts U n iversity , division and team -
spirit. T h e ir p u zzles arose fro m in a b ility to use certain item s in th e
E n glish vocabu lary.
T h e th eo retically in terestin g catego ry-m istak es a rc those m ad e b y
people w ho are p erfectly com p eten t to a p p ly con cepts, at least in th e
situations w ith w hich th e y are fa m ilia r, b ut are still liable in th eir
abstract th in k in g to a llo ca te those con cep ts to logical type« to w hich
th ey d o n ot b clcn g . A n in stan ce o f a m istake o f this sort w ou ld be
th e fo llo w in g story. A stu d en t o f politics h as learn ed the m ain differ­
ences betw een the B ritish , th e F ren ch , an d th e A m e rica n C o n stitu ­
tions, a n d has learned also the differences an d con nexions betw een
th e C a b in e t, P arliam en t, th e various M in istries, th e Judicature an d
the C h u rc h o f E n glan d. B u t h e still b ecam e em barrassed w hen asked
question s ab o u t the co n n exion s betw een th e C h u rc h o f E n glan d , th e
H om e O ffice an d th e B ritish C o n stitu tio n . F o r w h ile th e C h u rch and
the H o m e Office a re in stitu tion s, th e B ritish C on stitu tion is not
an o th er institution in th e sam e sense o f th a t noun . So inter-in stitu­
tional relations w hich can b e asserted o r d en ied to h o ld betw een the
C h u rch a n d th e H o m e Office can n o t b e asserted o r denied to h old
betw een eith e r c f th em a n d the B ritish C on stitu tion . ‘T h e B ritish
C on stitu tio n ' is not a term o f th e sam e logical type as ‘ the H om e
Office’ an d ‘th e C h u rch o f E n g la n d ’. In a p a rtia lly sim ilar way, John
D o e m a y be a relative, a frie n d , an en em y o r a stran ger to R ich a rd
R oe; b u t h e can n ot l>e a n y o f th ese th in gs to th e A v e ra g e T a x ­
payer. H e knows how to talk sense in certain sorts o f discussions
ab o u t th e A v e ra g e T a x p a y e r, b u t h e is baffled to say w h y h e cou ld
not com e across h im in th e street as h e ca n com e across R ich ard
Roe.
It is p e rtin e n t to o u r m ain su b ject to notice chat, so long as the
studen t o f politics co n tin u es to th in k o f th e B ritish C on stitu tion as a
cou n terp art to the o th er institutions, h e w ill tend to describe it as a
m ysterio u sly occult in stitu tion ; a n d so lo n g as Joh n D o e continues
to thin k o f the A v era g e T a x p a y e r as a fello w -citizen , h e w ill tend to
thin k o f h im as an elu sive in su b stan tia l m an , a g h o st w ho is every­
w here yet nowhere.
M y d estru ctive purpose is to show rh a ra fa m ily o f rad ical category-
m istakes is th e sourcc o f th e d o u b le-life th eory. T h e representation
o f a person as a ghost m ysterio u sly en scon ccd in a m ach ine derives
fro m this argu m en t. B ecau se, as is true, a person’s th in k in g, fe e lin g
20 THE CO N CE PT OP MIND

an d purposive d o in g can n ot b e described so lely in th e idiom s o f


p h ysics, ch cm istry an d p h ysio lo g y, th erefore th e y m u st be described
in cou n terp art idiom s. A s th e h u m a n b o d y is a co m p lex organ ized
un it, so th e h u m an m in d m ust b e a n o th er co m p lex o rgan ized un it,
th o u gh o n e m ade o f a d ifferen t sort o f stuff an d w ith a d ificic n i sort
o f structure. Or, a g a in , as th e h u m a n b o d y, lik e a n y oth er p arcel o f
m atter, is a field o f causes and effects, so th e m in d m u st be an o th er
field o f causes and effects, th o u g h n ot (H eaven be praised) ir.echanical
causes an d effccts.

(5) T h e O rigin o f th e C ategory-M istake


O n e o f th e ch ief in tellectu a l o rigin s o f w h a t I h ave y e t to p rove to
be th e C artesian ca tcgo ry-m istak e seem s to be this. W h en G alileo
show ed th a t his m eth o d s o f scien tific d iscovery w ere com petent to
provide a m ech an ical th eory w hich sh o u ld cover every occupant o f
space, D e sca n c s fo u n d in h im se lf tw o co n flictin g m otives. A m an o f
scientific genius h e co u ld n ot b u t endorse th e claim s o f m echanics,
y e t as a religious an d m o ral m an h e cou ld n o t accept, as H obbes
accep ted , th e d isco u ragin g rid er to those claim s, n a m e ly th at h u m a n
n a tu re d iffers o n ly in d egree o f co m p le x ity fro m clockw ork. T h e
m en tal cou ld not be ju s t a v a rie ty o f th e m ech an ical.
H e a n d subsequent ph ilosoph ers n a tu ra lly b u t erroneously availed
th em selves o f the fo llo w in g escape-route. S in ce m en tal-con duct w ords
are n ot to be construed as sig n ify in g th e o ccu rren ce o f m echanical
processes, th e y m u st be con stru ed as s ig n ify in g th e occurrence o f non-
m ech an ical processes; since m ech a n ical law s ex p lain m ovem ents in
sp acc as the cffects o f o th er m ovem en ts in space, o th er laws m ust
exp lain som e o f th e non-spatial w orkin gs o f m in ds as the effects o f
o th er non-spatial w o rk in gs o f m inds. T h e d ifferen ce betw een the
h u m an beh aviou rs w h ich w e describe as in tellig en t a n d those w hich
we d escrib e as u n in te llig en t m u st be a d ifferen ce in th eir causation;
so, w h ile som e m ovem en ts o f h u m a n ton gu es an d lim b s a rc the cffects
o f m ech a n ica l causes, o th ers m ust be th e effects o f non-rr.echanical
causcs, i.e. some issue fro m m ovem en ts o f particles o f m atter, oth ers
from w orkings o f th e m ind.
T h e differences betw een th e p h y sica l a n d th e m en tal tvere thus
represented as d ifferen ces in side th e com m on fra m ew o rk o: th e cate­
gories o f ‘ thing*, ‘stuff’, ‘a ttrib u te ’, ‘state’ , ‘process’ , ‘ch an ge’, ‘cause’
an d ‘effect’. M inds are th in gs, b u t differen t sorts o f th ings from
bodies; menta'. processes arc cau scs a n d effects, b u t different sorts o f
causes an d effects fro m b o d ily m ovem en ts. A n d so on. Som ew h at as
DESCARTES’ m y t h ai

th e foreign er exp ected rhr* U n ive rsity to be an e x tra cdifice, rather


like a c o lb g e b u t also co n sid erab ly d ifferen t, so ih c rcpudiators o f
m echanism represented m in d s as extra cen tres o f causal processes,
rather like m ach in es b u t also con sid erab ly differen t fro m them . T h e ir
th eory was a p ara-m ech an ical hypothesis.
T h a t th.s assum ption was at the heart o f th e d o ctrin e is sh o v n by
th e fa c t th at th ere w as fro m th e b egin n in g fe lt to be a m ajo r theo­
retical difficulty in e x p la in in g how m inds can in flu en ce and be in ­
fluenced by bodies. IIovv can a m ental process, su ch as w illin g, cause
spatial m ovem en ts lik e the m ovem ents o f th e to n gu e? H ow can a
physical ch an ge in th e o p tic n erve liavi* a m o n g it« effects a nrnnd’s
perception o f a flash o f lig h t? T h is notorious cru x b y itself shows
the logical m o u ld in to w h ich D escartes pressed his th eory of the
m ind. It was th e self-sam e m ou ld into w hich h e an d G a lile o set th eir
m echanics. S till u n w ittin g ly a d h erin g to th e g ra m m a r o f m echanics,
he tried to a vert d isaster b y d escrib in g m in d s in w h a t was m erely
an obverse vocabu lary. T h e w orkings o f m in ds h a d to be described
by th e m ere n egatives o f th e specific descriptions g iv e n to bedies;
th ey are not in space, th ey are not m otions, th e y a rc n ot m odifications
o f m atter, th e y are n ot accessible to p u b lic observation. M inds are
not bits o f clockw ork, th e y are ju s t b r s o f nnt-rlnrkw ork.
A s th u s represented, m inds are not m erely gh osts harnessed to
m achines, th e y a rc them selves ju s t spectral m achin es. T h o u g h the
h u m an body is a n en gin e, it is n o t q uite a n o rd in ary en gin e, since
som e o f its w orkin gs are g o ve rn ed b y a n o th er en gin e in side it - this
interior govern or-en gin e b ein g o n e o f a very special sort. It is invisible,
in aud ible an d it has n o size or w eight. It can n o t be taken to bits and
the laws it obeys are not those kn ow n to o rd in ary engineers. N o th in g
is know n o f how it govern s the bodily en gine.
A second m a jo r c ru x poin ts the sam e m oral. Since, accord in g to
the doctrine, m in d s b elo n g to the sam e ra re g o ry :is bodies and since
bodies are rig id ly go vern ed b y m ech an ical law s, it seem ed to m any
theorists to follow' th a t m in ds m u st be sim ilarly go vern ed b y rigid
n on-m echanical laws. T h e p h ysical world is a d eterm in istic system ,
so th e m ental w orld m ust be a d eterm in istic system . B odies can not
help th e m odifications th a t th e y undergo, so m in d s can n o t h elp p u r­
su in g th e careers fixed fo r them . R esponsibility, ch o ice, m erit and
dem erit are th erefore in ap p licab le concepts - unless th e com prom ise
solution is ad o p ted o f sa yin g th a t the law s g o v e rn in g m en tal pro­
cesses, unlike those g o v e rn in g physical processes, h ave th e congenial
a ttrib u te of b ein g o n ly rather rig id . T h e p rob lem o f th e Fre.ediwn o f
22 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

th e W ill w as th e prnhli'm Vmw ro recon cile ih e hypothesis th at m inds


are to be described in term s draw n fro m th e categories o f m echanics
w ith th e kn o w led ge that h ig h c r-g ra d e h u m an co n d u ct is n ot o f a
p icce w ith th e b eh avio u r o f m achines.
It is an h istorical curiositv th at it w as n ot noticcd th at th e entire
a rg u m e n t w as broken-backed. T h e o rists correctly assum ed th at an y
sane m an cou ld alread y reco g n ize the diilerences betw een , say,
ration al an d non-rational utteran ces or betw een purposive an d au to ­
m atic b eh aviou r. Else th ere w ould h ave been n o th in g req u irin g to
be salved fro m m echan ism . Y e t th e exp lan ation g iv en presupposed
th a t one person could in p rin cip le n ever recogn ize The difference
betw een th e ration al and th e irration al utterances issuing fro m other
h u m an bodies, sin ce h e co u ld n ever g e t access to th e postulated
im m aterial causes o f som e o f th eir utteran ces. Save fo r th e d o u b tfu l
exception o f h im se lf, h e co u ld n ever tell the difference betw een a
m an an d a R ob ot. It w ould h a ve to b e conceded, fo r ex a m p le, that,
fo r all th a t w e can tell, th e in n er lives o f persons w ho are classed as
idiots or lu n atics are as ration al as those o f anyone else. P erh ap s
o n ly th eir overt b eh aviou r is d isap p o in tin g ; ch it is to say, perhaps
‘idiots' are n ot really idiotic, or lu n a tic s ' lunatic. Perhaps, too, som e
o f those w ho are classed as sane are rea lly idiots. A c c o rd in g to the
th eo ry, extern al observers co u ld n ever know how th e overt b eh avio u r
o f oth ers is correlated w ith th eir m en tal pow ers and processes a n d so
th e y cou ld n ever know o r even p la u sib ly con jectu re w h eth er th eir
app lication s o f m en tal-con d u ct con cep ts to these o th er people were
correct or incorrect. It w ould th en be h azard o u s o r im possible fo r a
m an to claim sa n ity or lo gical con sisten cy even fo r h im self, since he
w ould be d eb arred from co m p a rin g h is ow n perform ances w ith those
o f others. In sh ort, our ch a ra cteriza tio n s o f persons and th eir per­
fo rm an ces a s in telligen t, p ru d en t a n d virtu ou s or as stu p id , h yp o criti­
cal a n d co w a rd ly could n ever h ave been m ade, so th e problem o f
p ro vid in g a special causal h yp oth esis to serve as th e b asis o f such
diagn oses w ould never h a ve arisen. T h e q uestion. ‘ H ow do persons
differ fro m m a ch in e s’ ’ arose ju st b ecau se everyone a lrea d y knew
how to a p p ly m en tal-con duct con cepts b efo re the new causal h yp o ­
thesis was in trod uced . T h is causal h yp oth esis could not th erefore be
th e source o f th e criteria used in those applications. N o r, o f course,
has th e causal hypothesis in a n y d egree im proved our h a n d lin g o f
those criteria. W e still d istin gu ish good food from bad arith m etic,
p o litic fro m im p o litic co n d u ct and fe rtile from in fertile im agin ation s
in th e w ays in w h ich D escartes h im se lf d istin gu ish ed th em before
DESCARTES’ MYTH 2 $
and after h e sp ecu lated h o w th e a p p lica b ility o f these criteria was
com patible with th e p rin cip le o f m ech an ical causation.
l i e had m istaken th e lo g ic o f his problem . In stead o f ask in g b y
w hat criteria in tellig en t b eh avio u r is a c tu a lly d istin gu ish ed from
n on-in:etligem b eh avio u r, h e asked ‘G iv e n th at the prin ciple o f
m echan ical cau sation does not tell us th e difference, w h at oth er
causal prin ciple w ill tell it u s ? ’ H e realized th at th e problem was
n ot one o f m ech an ics a n d assum ed th at it m ust th erefore be one o f
som e cou n terp art ro m ech an ics N o t u n n a tu ra lly p sych o lo gy ie often
cast for ju st this role.
W h en tw o term s b elo n g to th e sam e catego ry, it is proper to con ­
struct con ju n ctive propositions e m b o d y in g them . T h u s a purchaser
m a y say th a t h e l>ought a left-h a n d g lo v e an d a righ t-h an d glove, b ut
not that he b o u g h t a le ft-h a n d glo ve, a rig h t-h a n d g lo ve an d a p air o f
g lo v e s.‘Sh e cam e h om e in a flood o f tears an d a sed an -ch air’ is a well-
know n jo k e based o n th e a b su rd ity o f co n jo in in g term s o f differen t
types. It w ould h ave l>ecn e q u a lly rid icu lou s to con stru ct th e d is­
jun ction. 'S h e cam e h o m e eith er in a flood o f rears or else in a sedan-
chair*. NTow th e d o gm a o f th e G h o st in the M a ch in e does ju s t this.
It m aintains th a t there exist b oth bodies and m inds; th at there occu r
physical processes an d m ental processes; th at th ere are m ech an ical
causes of corporeal m ovem en ts a n d m en tal causes o f corporeal m ove­
m ents. I sh all a rgu e th a t these an d oth er an alo gou s con ju n ctio n s arc
absurd; but, it m ust be n oticed, the a rg u m e n t w ill n ot show th at
eith er of th e ille g itim a te ly con join ed propositions is ab su rd in itself.
I am not, fo r ex a m p le, d e n y in g th a t there o ccu r m ental processes.
D o in g long division is a m en tal process a n d so is m a k in g a jo ke. B u t I
am sayin g th a t th e p h rase ‘ th ere o ccu r m en tal processes’ does not
m ean the sam e sort o f th in g as ‘th ere occu r ph ysical processes’, and,
therefore, th at it m akes no sense to co n jo in o r disjoin th e two.
I f m y a rg u m e n t is successfu l, there w ill follow som e in terestin g
consequenccs. F irst, the h allow ed contrast betw een M in d an d M atter
w ill be dissipated, b ut dissipated not b y cith e r o f th e e q u a lly hallow ed
absorptions o f M in d b y M a tter nr o f M a tte r b y M in d , b ut in q uite
a different w ay. F o r th e seem in g co n trast o f th e tw o w ill be shown
to be as illeg itim a te as w ould be the con trast o f ‘she cam e h om e in a
flood of tears’ an d ‘she cam e h om e in a sed an-ch air’. T h e b e lie f th at
there is a polar opposition betw een M in d an d M a tte r is th e b elief
th at th ey are term s o f th e sam e lo gical type.
It will also fo llo w th at b oth Idealism an d M aterialism are answers
to an im proper question. T h e ‘red u ctio n ’ o f th e m aterial world to
24 THE CO N CE PT OF MIND

m en tal states a n d processes, as w ell as the ‘re d u ctio n ' o f m en tal states
an d processes to p h ysical states a n d processes, presupposes th e
leg itim a cy o f th e d isju n ctio n ‘E ith e r there e x ist m inds or th ere exist
bodies (but n ot b o th )’. It w ould be like sa y in g , ‘ E ith er she b o u g h t a
left-h a n d a n d rig h t-h a n d g lo ve o r she b o u g h t a p a ir o f glo ves (but
n ot both)'.
It is p e rfe ctly p ro p er to sa y, in one lo gical cone o f voice, th a t th ere
exist m inds an d to say, in a n o th er logical to n e o f voice, th a t th ere
e x ist bodies. B u t th ese expressions d o n ot in d icate tw o different
species o f existe n ce, fo r ‘existen ce’ is n ot a g e n e ric w ord like ‘colou red ’
o r ‘se xed ’. T h e y in d ic a te tw o differen t senses o f ‘ex ist’, som ew h at as
‘risin g ’ h a s d iffe re n t senses in ‘th e tide is risin g ’ , 'h o p es are rising’,
an d ‘ th e a ve ra g e a g e o f d eath is risin g’. A m a n w ould be th o u g h t to
be m a k in g a poor jo k e w h o said th a t th ree th in gs are now rising,
n a m e ly th e tide, h o p es a n d th e a vera g e a g e o f d eath . It w ould be just
as good or b ad a jo k e to say th a t th ere e x ist p rim e n u m b ers an d
W ed n esd ays a n d p u b lic o p in ion s an d navies; o r th at th ere ex ist b oth
m in d s a n d bodies. In th e su cceed in g c h a p te rs I tr y to prove th a t th e
official th e o ry does rest o n a b a tch o f category-m istakes b y sh ow in g
th a t lo g ic a lly a b su rd corollaries fo llo w fr o m it. T h e exh ib itio n o f
th ese ab su rd ities w ill h a v e th e con stru ctive effect o f b rin g in g out
p a rt o f th e correct lo g ic o f m en ta l-co n d u ct concepts.

(4) H istorical N o te
It w ould not be tr u e to say th a t th e official th eo ry d erives solely
fro m D escartes’ th eo ries, or even fro m a m o re w idespread a n x ie ty
a b o u t th e im p lica tio n s o f se v en tee n th -cen tu ry m echanics. Scholastic
a n d R e fo rm atio n th e o lo g y h a d sch ooled the in tellects o f th e scientists
as w ell as o f th e la y m e n , ph ilosoph ers a n d clerics o f th a t age. Stoic-
A u g u stin ia n th eo ries o f th e w ill w ere em b ed d ed in d ie C alvin ist d o c­
trines o f sin a n d g ra c c ; P la to n ic an d A risto te lia n theories o f the
in telle ct shaped th e o rth o d o x d octrin es o f th e im m o rta lity o f the soul.
D escartes w as re fo rm u la tin g a lre a d y p rev a len t th eo lo gical doctrines
o f th e soul in th e n ew syn tax o f G alileo. T h e th eologian ’s p riv a c y o f
con scicn ce becam e th e p h ilo so p h er’s p riva cy o f consciousness, an d
w hat h ad been th e b o g y o f P red estin atio n reap p eared as th e b ogy
o f D eterm in ism .
It w ould also n o t be tru e to say th a t th e tw o-w orlds m y th did no
th eoretical good. M y t h s o ften do a lot o f th eo retica l good , w hile th ey
are still new. O n e b en efit bestow ed b y the p a ram cch an ica ! m y th was
th a t it p a rtly su p eran n u ated th e then p rev a len t para-p olitical m yth .
DESCARTES’ MYTH 25

M inds an d th eir F a cu ltie s h ad previou sly been described b y analogies


with political superiors an d political subordinates. T h e id iom s used
were those o f rulin g, o b e y in g , co llab o ratin g a n d reb ellin g. T h e y sur­
vived an d still survive in m an y eth ical a n d som e cp istem ological
discussions. A s, in p h ysics, the new m y th o f occu lt F o rccs was a
scientific im provem en t o n the old m yth o f F in a l C auses, so, in anthro­
pological an d p sych o lo g ica l th eory, the new m yth o f h id d e n opera­
tions, im pulses and a g c n c ic s was a n im provem en t on th e old m y th o f
d ictations, d eferen ces a n d disobediences.
C H A P T E R II

KNOW ING HOW AND KNOW ING T H A T


*

(1) Forew ord


I n th is ch a p ter I try to show th a t w hen w e describe people as ex er­
cisin g q u a lities o f m in d , w e are n o t re fe rrin g to o ccu lt episodes o f
w h ich th eir overt a cts a n d utteran ces are effects; w e are referrin g to
those o ve rt acts a n d utteran ces ihe:nselves, T h e r e are, o f coursc,
differences, c ru c ia l fo r o u r in q u iry , betw een d escrib in g an action as
perform ed ab sen t-m in d ed ly a n d d escrib in g a p h ysio lo g ica lly sim ilar
a ctio n a s d on e on purpose, w ith care o r w ith cu n n in g . B u t su ch d if­
ferences o f d escription d o n o t consist in th e absence o r presence o f
an im p licit referen ce to som e shadow -action co v ertly p re fa c in g th e
overt action. T h e y consist, o n th e co n trary, in th e absen ce o r pres­
en ce o f ce rta in sorts o f testab le exp lan atory-cu m -p red ictive asser­
tions.

(2) In tellig en ce a n d In tellect


T h e m en tal-co n d u ct con cep ts th at I ch oose to exa m in e first are
those w h ich b e lo n g to th a t fa m ily o f con cepts o rd in a rily surnam ed
‘in tellig en ce’ . H e re are a few o f th e m ore d eterm in ative adjectives o f
th is fa m ily : ‘clev er’ , 'sen sible', 'ca refu l', ‘m eth o d ica l’, 'in ven tive',
'prud en t', 'a c u te ', ‘lo g ica l', 'w itty ', ‘o b servan t', ‘critica l’, ‘exp eri­
m e n ta l’, ’q u ick -w itted ', ‘c u n n in g ’ , Svise', ‘ju d icio u s’, an d ‘scrup ulous’.
W h e n a person is deficient in in telligen ce h e is described as ‘stu p id ’
o r else b y m o re d eterm in ate ep ith ets su ch as 'd u ll', ‘silly ’, ‘careless’,
‘u n m eth o d ica l', ‘ u n in ven tive’, ‘rash ’, 'dense', 'illo g ica l’, ‘hum ourless*,
‘u n o b servan t', ‘ u n critica l’, ‘uncxperirr.entaF, 'slow ', ‘sim p le’, ‘unwise’ ,
an d ‘in ju d icio u s'.
I t is o f first-rate im p o rtan ce to notice fro m th e start th a t stu p id ity
is n ot th e sam e th in g , o r the sam e sort o f th in g , as ignorance. T h e re
is no in co m p a tib ility hf»rw<*#»n K^ing w ell-in form ed and b e in g silly,
an d a person w h o h a s a go o d nose fo r argu m en ts o r jo k e s m ay h a ve
a b ad h ea d fo r facts.
P a rt o f th e im p o rtan ce o f this distinction betw een b e in g in telligen t
KNOWING HOW AND KNOWING THAT V]
a n d possessing k n o w le d g e lies in the fa c t th a t horh philosophers and
la ym en tend to treat in telle ctu a l operation s as th e co re o f m en tal
conduct; th a t is to say, th ey tend to define all o th e r m ental-conduct
concepts in term s o f con cep ts o f cogn itio n . T h e y suppose :h at th e
p rim ary exercise o f m in ds consists in fin d ing th e answ ers to questions
and that th e ir o th e r occu p ation s are m erely ap p licatio n s o f con sid­
ered truths or even reg rettab le distractions fro m th e ir consideration.
T h e G reek idea th a t im m o rta lity is reserved fo r the th eo riz.n g part
o f th e soul was d iscred ited , b u t not dispelled, b y C h ristian ity.
W her. w e speak o f th e in te lle ct or, b etter, o f th e in tellectu al powers
and perform ances o f persons, w e ?.re referrin g p rim a rily to that spe­
cial class o f operation s w h ich constitute th eo rizin g . T h e go a l o f
these operations is th e kn o w led ge o f true propositions or facts.
M a th e m a tics a n d th e establish ed n atu ral scien ces are the m odel
accom plishm ents o f h u m a n intellects. T h e ea rly theorists n atu rally
speculated upon w h a t con stitu ted th e p ecu liar excellen ces o f th e
theoretical sciences and disciplines, th e gro w th o f w hich they h a d
w itnessed a n d assisted. T h e y were predisposed to find th at i: was in
the cap acity fo r rigo ro u s th eory th at la y th e su p erio rity o f m en over
anim als, o f civ ilize d m en o v e r b arb arian s, an d even o f the divin e
m in d over h u m a n m inds. T h e y thus b e q u e a th e d the idea th at th e
cap acity to attain k n o w le d g e o f truths w as th e d efin in g p rop erty o f
a m in d. O th e r h u m an pow ers could be classed as m en tal on ly if th ey
could be show n to be som ehow piloted b y th e in tellectu al grasp o f
true propositions. T o be ration al was to b e a b le to recogn ize tru th s
an d th e co n n ex io n s betw een them . T o act ra tio n a lly was, therefore,
to h a v e o n e’s n on -th eoretical propensities co n tro lled b y on e’s appre­
h ension o f tru th s a b o u t th e con d u ct o f life.
T h e m ain o b je ct o f this ch ap ter is to show th a t th ere arc m an y
activities w h ich d irectly d isp la y qualities o f m in d , y e t are n eith er
them selves in tellectu al operations n or y e t effects o f intellectual
operations. In tellig en t p ractice is not a step-child o f theory. O n the
con trary th e o riz in g is on e practice am o n g st o th ers a n d is itself
in tellig en tly o r stu p id ly condu cted.
T h e r e is a n o th er reason w h y it is im p o rta n t to correct from the
start the in tcllectu a list d o ctrin e w hich tries to define intelligen ce in
term s o f th e apprehension o f truths, in stead o f th e apprehension o f
truths ir. term s o f in telligen ce. T h e o r iz in g is an a c tiv ity which m ost
people c m an d n o rm a lly d o conduct in silence. T h e y articu late in
sentences th e theories th a t th e y construct, b u t th e y d o n o t m ost o f
th e tim e speak these sentences out lou d . T h e y say th em to th em ­
T H E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

selves. O r th e y fo rm u la te th eir th ou gh ts in diagram s and pictures,


b u t th ey do n o t alw ays set these our on paper. T h e y ‘see them in
th eir m inds’ eye s’. M u ch o f ou r o rd in ary th in k in g is conducted in
interna) m o n o lo gu e or silen t soliloquy, u su ally accom p an ied b y an
interna! cin em atograph -sh ow o f visual im agery.
T h is trick o f ta lk in g to on eself in silence is acquired neither
q u ick ly nor w ith o u t effort; and it is a necessary condition o f our
acq u irin g it th a t we should have previously learned to talk in telli­
g e n tly aloud a n d h ave heard and understood o th er people d o in g so.
K eep in g o u r th o u gh ts to ourselves is a sophisticated accom plishm ent.
It was n ot u n til the M id d le A g e s th at people learned to read w ithout
reading aloud. S im ilarly a b o y has to learn to read aloud b efore he
learns to read un d er h is b reath, an d to p rattle aloud b efo re he
prattles to h im self. Y e t m an y theorists h ave supposed th at the
silence in w h ich m ost o f 11$ have learned to th ink is a defining
property o f th o u g h t. P la to said that in th in k in g the soul is talkin g
to itself. B u t silence, th o u g h o ften con venien t, is inessential, as is the
restriction o f th e audien ce to one recipient.
T h e co m b in a tio n o f the tw o assum ptions that th eo rizin g is the
p rim ary a ctiv ity o f m inds and th at th e o rizin g is in trin sically a pri­
vate, silent, or internal operation rem ains on e o f the m ain supports
o f th e dogm a o f the gh ost in the m achine. People tend to id en tify
th eir m inds w ith th e ‘place’ w here th e y co n d u ct their secret
thoughts. T h e y even com e to suppose th at there is a special m ystery
about how w e publish o u r th o u gh ts instead o f re a lizin g th a t we
em ploy a special artifice to keep th em to ourselves.

(3) K now ing H ow a n d K n ow in g T h a t


W h e n a person is described b y one or o th er o f th e intelligen ce-
cpithets su ch as 'shrew d' or ‘silly', ‘p ru d en t’ o r ‘im pruden t', the
description im p u tes to h im not th e know ledge, or ignorance, o f rhis
or th at truth , b u t th e ab ility, o r in ab ility, to do certain sorts of
rhings. T h e o rists h ave b een so preoccupied w ith the task o f investi­
g a tin g th e n atu re, th e source, an d the creden tials o í the theories that
we adopt th at th e y h ave fo r the m ost part ignored the question w hat
it is for som eone to know how to perform tasks. In o rd in ary life, on
the con trary, as w ell as in th e special business o f teach ing, we are
m u ch m ore con cern ed w ith people's com petences than w ith their
cogn itive repertoires, w ith th e operations than w ith the truths that
th ey learn, in d e e d even w hen we are concerned w ith their intellec­
tual excellen ces and deficiencies, w e are interested less in th e stocks
K N O W IN G HOW AND K N O W IN G T H A T 29

of truths th a t th e y acquire and retain th a n in th e ir capacities to find


out tru th s fo r them selves and th eir a b ility to o rgan ize and exploit
them, w hen discovered. O fte n we dep lore a person's ignoran ce o f
some fa c t o n ly because w e deplore th e stu p id ity o f w h ich his ignor­
ance is a consequence.
T here are certain parallelism s betw een k n o w in g how an d kn ow in g
tiutt, as well as certain divergences. W e speak o f learn in g how to
play an instrum ent as w ell as o f le a rn in g th a t som eth in g is the
case; o f finding o u t h ow to prun e trees as well as o f fin ding ou t that
the Rom ans h ad a cam p in a certain p lace; o f fo rg ettin g h ow to tie
a reef-knot as w ell as o f fo rg e ttin g th a t th e G erm an fo r ‘k n ife ’ is
‘Messer*. W e can w ond er how as well as w on d er w hether.
On th e o th er h a n d w e n ever speak o f a person b elievin g or opin­
ing how, and th o u gh it is proper to ask f o r th e grou nds or reasons
for som eone’s acceptan ce o f a proposition, this question cannot be
asked o f som eone’s skill a t cards o r p ru d en ce in investm ents.
W h a t is in volved in o u r descriptions o f people as kn o w in g h ow to
make a n d appreciate jokes, to talk g ra m m a tic a lly , to p la y chess, to
fish, or to argue? P a rt o f w h at is m eant is th at, w hen th ey perform
these operations, th e y tend to perform th e m w ell, i.e. co rrectly or
efficiently or successfully. T h e ir perform an ces com o up to certain
standards, or satisfy certain criteria. B u t this is n o t en ough . T h e
w ell-regulated clock keeps go o d tim e and th e w ell-drilled circu s seal
performs its tricks flaw lessly, y e t we do n o t ca ll them 'in tellig en t’.
W e reserve this title fo r th e persons responsible fo r th eir perform ­
ances. T o be in telligen t is not m erely to sa tisfy criteria, b u t to ap p ly
them; to regu late on e’s actions an d not m e re ly to b e w ell-regulated.
A person’s perform an ce is described as ca re fu l or sk ilfu l, i f in his
operations he is re a d y to d etect an d co rrect lapses, to repeat and
improve upon successes, to profit fro m th e exam ples o f others an d so
forth. H e applies criteria in p erfo rm in g critica lly , th a t is, in tryin g
to get th in gs right.
T h is p o in t is co m m o n ly expressed in th e vern acu lar b y sayin g
that an action exh ibits in telligen ce, if. and o n ly if, th e agen t is
thinking w hat h e is d o in g w hile h e is d o in g it, and th in k in g w hat
he is d o in g in su ch a m an n er th at he w ou ld not do th e action so
well if h e were n ot th in k in g w hat h e is d o in g . T h is popular idiom
is som etim es appealed to as evid en ce in fa v o u r o f the intellectualist
legend. C h am p io n s o f th is legen d are apt to try to reassirailate kn ow ­
ing how to kn o w in g tha t b y a rg u in g th a t in telligen t perform ance
involves th e observance o f rules, o r th e application o f criteria. It
30 T H E C O N C E P T OF MIND

follow s th a t the o p eratio n w h ich is ch aracterized as in tellig en t m ust


be prccedcd b y an in tellectu al ack n ow led gem en t o f these rules or
criteria; th a t is, the a g e n t m ust first go th rou gh th e in tern al process
o f avo w in g to h im self ce rta in propositions ab o u t w hat is to b e done
('m axim s', 'im peratives’, or ‘reg u lative propositions’ as th ey are
som etim es called); o n ly Then can h e execu te his p erform an ce in
accordan ce w ith those d ictates. H e m ust preach to h im se lf before
he can practise. T h e c h e f m ust recite h is recipes to h im se lf before
h e can cook a cco rd in g to th em ; th e hero m ust len d his in n er ear to
som e appropriate m oral im p erative before sw im m in g o u t to save the
d row n in g m an; th e ch ess-p layer m u st run o ver in h is h e a d all the
relevant rules a n d ta ctica l m axim s o f th e gam e b efore h e can m ake
correct and sk ilfu l m oves. T o do so m eth in g th in k in g w h at on e is
d o in g is, acco rd in g to th is legen d , alw ays to do tw o th in g s; n am ely,
to consider certain ap p rop riate propositions, or prescriptions, and to
p u t into practice w h at these propositions or prescriptions enjoin.
It is to do a b it o f th e o ry an d then to d o a b it o f practice.
C e rta in ly we often do not on ly reflect before we a ct b u t reflect in
order to act properly. T h e chess-player m ay require som e tim e in
w hich to plan his m oves b efore h e m akes them . Y e t th e general
assertion th a t all in te llig en t perform ance requires to be prefaced b y
the consideration o f app ropriate propositions rin gs im p lau sib ly, even
when it is ap o lo getically conceded th at th e required con sideration
is o ften very sw ift a n d m a y g o q u ite un m arked b y the agen t. I shall
a rgu e th at the in telle cm alist legend is false an d th at w hen we des­
cribe a perform an ce as in telligen t, this does not en tail th e double
operation o f con siderin g and execu tin g.
F irst, there are m an y classes o f perform ances in w hich intelligence
is displayed, but the ru les or criteria o f w h ich are un form u lated .
T h e wit, when ch a llen g ed to cite th e m axim s, or can on s, b y w hich
h e constructs and appreciates jokes, is u n ab le to answ er. H e knows
how to m ake good jo k e s an d how to d etect b ad ones, b u t he cannot
tell us or h im self an y recipes fo r them . So th e p ractice o f h u m ou r
is not a client o f its theory. T h e canons o f aesth etic taste, o f
tactfu l m anners and o f in ventive tech n iq u e sim ilarly rem ain un ­
propounded w ith o u t im p ed im en t to th e in telligen t exercise o f those
gifts.
R ules o f correct reason in g w ere first extracted b y A risto tle , yet
m en knew how to a vo id and detect fallacies before th e y learned 4

h is lessons, ju st as m en since A ristotle, an d in c lu d in g A ristotle,


ord in arily co n d u ct th eir argu m en ts w ith o u t m ak in g a n y internal
KNOWING HOW AND KNOWING THAT 31

reference to h is fo rm u la e. T h e y d o not p lan th eir argu m en ts before


constructing them . In d ee d if th e y h a d to plan w hat to th in k before
th in k in g it th ey w o u ld n ever th in k a t all; for this p la n n in g w ould
itself be unplanned.
Efficient practice preced es the th eory o f it; m eth od o logies pre­
suppose the app lication o f the m ethods, o f th e critica l investiga­
tion o f w hich th ey a re th e products. I t was because A risto tle foun d
h im self and oth ers reaso n in g now in tellig en tly an d now stu p id ly and
it was because Iz a a k W a lto n fo u n d h im self and o th ers a n g lin g
som etim es effectively a n d som etim es in effectively th at b o th w ere able
to give to th eir pupils th e m axim s an d prescriptions o f th eir arts. It
is therefore possible fo r people in te llig e n tly to perform som e sorts
o f operations w hen th ey are n o t y e t able to consider an y propositions
en joinin g how th e y sh o u ld be perform ed. Som e in te llig e n t perform*
ances a rc n ot controlled, b y a n y in terior ack n o w led gem en ts o f th e
principles app lied in th em .
T h e cru cial objection to the in tcllcctu alist legend is th is. T h e con­
sideration o f propositions is itself an operation th e ex ecu tio n o f
which can be m ore or less in telligen t, less or m ore stupid. B u t if, for
any operation to b e in te llig e n tly executed, a prior th eo retica l opera­
tion had first to be perform ed and p erform ed in tellig en tly,
it would be a logical im p o ssib ility fo r an yon e ever to b reak in to the
circle.
L et us consider som e salien t points a t w hich this regress w ould
arise. A c co rd in g to th e legen d , w hen ever an a gen t does a n y th in g in ­
telligen tly, h is act is preced ed an d steered b y an oth er in tern a l act o f
considering a reg u lative proposition app ropriate to h is p ractical prob­
lem. B u t w h at m akes h im consider th e one m axim w h ich is app ro­
priate rather than an y o f th e thousands w hich are n ot? W h y does
the h ero not find h im se lf ca llin g to m in d a cookin g-recip e, o r a rule
o f F orm al L o g ic ? P erh ap s he does, b u t th en his in tellectu al process
is silly an d not sensible. In te llig e n tly reflectin g h ow to a c i is, am on g
other things, co n sid erin g w h at is pertinen t and d isregard in g w hat
is inappropriate. M u st w e th en say th at fo r the h ero ’s reflections how
to act to be in telligen t h e m u st first reflect how b est to reflect how
to act? T h e endlessness o f this im plied regress show s th a t th e app li­
cation o f the criterion o f appropriateness docs not en tail th e occur­
rence o f a process o f co n sid erin g th is criterion.
N e x t, supposing still th a t to act reason ably I m ust first perpend
the reason fo r so actin g, h o w am I led to m ak e a su itable application
o f the reason to th e p a rticu lar situation w h ich m y action is to m eet?
yx THE CON CEPT OF M IND

F o r th e reason, or m ax im , is in ev ita b ly a proposition o f som e gen er­


ality. It ca n n o t em b o d y specifications to fit every detail o f th e par­
ticu lar sta te o f affairs. C learly, on ce m ore, I m ust be sensible and
n o t stupid, and th is go o d sense can n o t itself be a product o f th e intel­
lectu al ack n o w led gem en ts o f an y gen eral principle. A soldier does not
becom e a shrew d gen eral m erely b y en d orsin g the strategic prin­
ciples o f C la u se w itz; he m ust also be com peten t to ap p ly them .
K n o w in g h o w to a p p ly m axim s can n ot be redu ced to, o r derived
from , th e accep tan ce o f those or a n y o th er m axim s.
T o pu t it q u ite gen erally, th e absurd assum ption m ad e b y the
in tellcctu alist legen d is this, th a t a perform an ce o f a n y sort inherits
a ll its title to in telligen ce from som e an terior in tern al operation o f
p lan n in g w h a t to do. N o w very often we d o g o th ro u gh su ch a pro*
cess o f p la n n in g w h at to do, an d, if we are silly, o u r p la n n in g is
silly, if sh rew d , o u r p la n n in g is shrew d. It is also notoriously possible
fo r us to p lan sh rew d ly an d p erform stupidly, i.e. to flout ou r pre-
ccpts in o u r practice. B y th e origin al argu m en t, therefore, o u r in­
tellectual p la n n in g process m u st in h erit its title to shrewdness from
y e t a n o th er in terior process o f p la n n in g to plan, and this process
co u ld in its turn be silly or shrew d. T h e regress is infinite, an d this
reduces to a b su rd ity the th eo ry th at fo r an operation to be in telligen t
it m ust b e steered b y a prior in tellectu al operation. W h a t distin ­
guish es sensible from silly operations is n o t th eir paren tage b u t their
procedure, an d this h olds no less fo r in tellectu al th an fo r practical
perform ances. ‘In telligen t’ can n o t b e defined in term s o f ‘in tellectu al’
or ‘k n o w in g how ’ in term s o f 'kn ow in g tha t’ ; ‘ th in k in g w h at I am
doing* d oes n o t con n ote ‘b oth th in k in g w hat to do and d o in g ic\
W h en I d o so m eth in g in telligen tly, i.e. th in k in g w h at I am d o in g, I
am d oin g o n e th in g and not tw o. M y perform an ce h as a special pro­
cedure or m an n er, not special antecedents.

(4) T h e M o tiv es o f th e IntellectuaU st L eg e n d


W h y a re people so stron gly draw n to b elieve, in th e fa c e o f th eir
own d a ily cxp erien cc, th a t th e in telligen t execution o f an operation
m ust e m b o d y tw o processes, one o f d o in g an d an o th er o f th eorizin g?
P art o f th e answer is th at th ey are w edded to th e dogm a o f the
gh ost in th e m achine. Since d o in g is o ften an overt m uscular affair,
it is w ritten o ff as a m erely physical process. O n the assum ption o f
the an tithesis betw een ‘p h ysical’ and ‘m en tal’, it follow s th at m us­
cu lar d o in g cannot itself be a m ental operation. T o earn the title
'skilfu l', ‘ cu n n in g ’, or ’ h um orous’, it m ust therefore g e t it b y transfer
KN O W IN G HOW AND KNOWING TH AT 33

from an o th er co u n terp art a ct o ccu rrin g not ‘in th e m ach in e’ b u t ‘in


the gh o st'; fo r ‘sk ilfu l’, ‘cu n n in g ’ and ‘hum orous* are ccrta in iy
m en tal predicates.
It is, o f course, p e rfectly tru e th a t w hen w e ch a ra cterize as w itty
o r tactfu l som e piece o f overt beh aviou r, w e are n o t co n sid erin g on ly
th e m u scu lar m ovem en ts w h ich w e witness. A parrot m ig h t h ave
m ade th e sam e rem ark in th e sam e situation w ith o u t o u r cred itin g
it w ith a sense o f h u m o u r, o r a lo u t m igh t h ave don e p recisely w h at
fh#» rartfnl m an Hid. w ithoitr o u r th in k in g him ta ctfu l. B u t i f one
an d the sam e vocal u tteran ce is a stroke o f h u m o u r fro m the
hum orist, b u t a m ere noise-rcsponsc, w hen issu in g fro m th e parrot,
it is te m p tin g to say th a t w e are ascrib in g w it not to so m eth in g th at
w e h ear b u t to so m eth in g else th a t we do n ot hear. W e are accord­
in g ly tem pted to say th a t w h a t m akes on e au d ib le o r visib le action
w itty, w h ile a n o th er a u d ib ly o r v isib ly sim ilar action w as not, is that
th e form er w as atten d ed b y a n o th er in au d ib le an d invisible action
w hich w as th e real exercise o f w it. B ut to a d m it, as w e m ust, th at
there m a y b e no visible o r a u d ib le difference betw een a ta ctfu l o r
w ittv a ct an d a tactless o r hum ourless on e is n ot to a d m it th a t the
difference is con stitu ted b y th e perform ance o r non -perform an ce o f
som e extra secret acts.
T h e cleverness o f the clo w n m a y b e ex h ib ited in h is trip p in g and
tu m blin g. H e trips a n d tu m bles ju st as clu m sy people do, except
th at h e trips a n d tu m bles o n purpose and a fte r m u ch rehearsal and
at the gold en m o m en t a n d w here the children can see him an d so as
not to h u rt h im self. T h e spectators app lau d h is skill a t seem in g
clum sy, b u t w h at th ey a p p lau d is not som e extra h id d en perform ­
an ce ex ecu ted ‘in h is head*. It is h is visible p erform an ce th a t th e y
adm ire, b u t th ey ad m ire it n o t fo r b ein g an effect o f a n y h id d en in ­
ternal causes b ut fo r b e in g an exercise o f a skill. N o w a skill is not
an act. It is th erefo re n eith er a w itnessable nor an unw itnessable a c t
T o reco g n ize th a t a p e rfo rm an ce is an exercise o f a skill is indeed to
appreciate it in th e lig h t o f a fa cto r w hich cou ld not be separately
recorded b y a cam era. B u t th e reaoon w h y the ekill exercieed in a
perform an ce ca n n o t be sep arately recorded b y a ca m era is n o t th at
it is an o ccu lt o r g h o stly h ap p en in g, but th a t it is not a h ap p en in g
at all. It is a disposition, o r co m p lcx o f dispositions, and a disposition
is a fa cto r o f th e w ro n g lo gical ty p e to be seen o r unseen, recorded
or un recorded . Ju st as th e h a b it o f ta lk in g lo u d ly is n ot itself loud
or q u iet, since it is n ot th e sort o f term o f w h ich ‘lo u d ’ a n d 'qu iet'
can be pred icated , o r ju s t as a su sceptibility to h ead ach es is fo r the
C .M . - 2
34 th e co n cept o f m in d

sam e reason not itself un en d u rab le or en d u rab le, so the skills, tastes,
and b en ts w hich are exerciscd in overt o r in tern al operations are not
them selves o vert or in tern al, w itnessable, or unw itnessable. T h e
trad ition al th eory o f th e m in d has m isconstrued the type-distinc-
tion betw een disposition and exorcise in to its m yth ica l b ifu rcation
o f unw itnessable m en tal causes an d th eir w itnessable physical
effects.
T h e clow n’s trippings and tu m b lin g s are th e w orkings o f his
m in d, fo r th ey are h is jokes; b u t th e visib ly sim ilar trippings an d
tu m b lin g s o f a clu m sy m an are not the w orkin gs o f that m an’s m ind.
For he d o es not trip on purpose. T r ip p in g on purpose is both a b od ily
and a m en tal process, b u t it is not tw o processes, such as one process
o f p u rp o sin g to trip an d, as an effect, an o th er process o f tripping.
Y e t the old m yth dies h ard. W e are still tem pted to argu e th a t if
the clo w n ’s antics e x h ib it carefulness, ju d g e m e n t, wit, and apprecia­
tion o f the m oods o f his spectators, th ere m ust be o ccu rrin g in the
clow n ’s h ead a cou n terp art p erfo rm an ce to th a t w h ich is takin g place
on the sawdust. I f h e is th in k in g w h a t he is doin g, th ere m ust be
o ccu rrin g b eh in d his pain ted fa ce a co gitative shadow -operation
w hich w c d o not witness, ta lly in g w ith , and con trollin g, the bodily
con tortions w hich we d o witness. S u re ly th e th in k in g o f th o u gh ts is
the b asic activity o f m in ds an d su rely, too, the proccss o f th in k in g is
an in visib le and in au d ib le process. So h o w can th e clow n 's visible and
aud ible perform an ce be his m in d a t w ork?
T o d o ju stice to th is o b jection it is n ecessary to m ake a verbal con*
cession. T h e re has fa irly recen tly co m e into gen eral use a certain
special sense o f the w ords ‘m en ta l’ and ‘m in d ’. W e speak o f ‘m ental
a rith m e tic’, o f ‘m in d -readin g’ an d o f d eb ates g o in g on ‘in the m in d ’,
and it c c rta in ly is the case th at w h at is in this sense m en tal is un­
witnessable. A b o y is said to be d o in g ‘m ental arith m etic’ w hen in­
stead o f w ritin g dow n , or recitin g alo u d , the n um erical sym bols w ith
w hich h e is operatin g, he says them to h im self, p erfo rm in g h is calcu ­
lations in silent soliloquy. S im ilarly a person is said to be readin g
the m in d o f an oth er w hen h e describes tr u ly w hat th e o th er is sa yin g
or p ictu rin g to h im self in a u d ito ry or visu al im ages. T h a t these are
special uses o f ’m en tal’ and ‘mind* is ea sily show n. F o r a b o y who
docs h is ca lc u la tin g alo u d , or on p ap er, m ay be reasoning correctly
and o rg a n iz in g his steps m eth od ically; h is reckon in g is not the less
a ca rch i! in tellectu al operation fo r b e in g con du cted in p u b lic instead
o f in private. H is perform ance is th erefo re an exercisc o f a m en tal
fa cu lty in th e norm al sense o f ‘m en tal’.
KNOWING HOW ANE K N O W I N G T H A T 35

N ow calculatin g does not first accu ire th e rank o f proper th in k in g


when its au th or b egin s to d o ii wiili h is lips closed and his hands in
his pockets. T h e se alin g o f the lips is n o p a rt o f th e definition o f
thinking. A m an m a y th in k aloud or h a lf u n d er his b rea th ; he m a y
think silently, y e t w ith lip-m ovem ents con spicuou s en o u g h to be
read by a lip-readcr; o r h e m ay, as m ost o f us h ave done since
nursery-cays, th in k in silen ce an d w ith m otionless lips. T h e differ­
ences are differences o f social and personal con ven ien ce, o f celerity,
and o f facility. T h e y need im p ort nc m ore d ifferen ces into th e coh er­
ence, cogcncy, or appropriateness o f the in tellectu a l operations per­
form ed than is im ported in to them b y a w riter's preference for
prnrils over pens, o r fo r in vicib le ink over o rd in ary ink. A d eaf and
dum b person talks in m a n u a l signs. Perh ap s, w hen h e w ants to keep
his thoughts to h im self, h e m akes these sign s w ith his hands kept
behind his back o r u n d er th e table. T h e fa c t th at these sign s m ig h t
happen to be observed b y a P a u l P ry w ould n ot lead us or th eir
maker to say th a t h e w as n ot th inkin g.
T h is special use o f ‘m e n ta l' a n d ‘m in d ’ in w h ich th e y sign ify w hat
is done ‘in one's h ea d ' ca n n o t be used as evid en ce fo r th e d ogm a o f
the ghost in the m ach in e. 1c is n o th in g b u t a co n ta g io n from th at
dogma. T h e tech n ical trick o f co n d u ctin g o u r th in k in g in auditory
word-images. insrrad o f in spoken \*orde, d ocs in d eed securc sco cu y
for our thinking, since th e a u d ito ry im a g in in g s o f o n e person arc not
seen or heard b y a n o th er (or, as we shall see, b y th eir ow ner either).
But this secrecy is n ot the secrecy ascribed to the postulated episodes
o f the ghostly shadow -w orld. It is m erely th e co n v en ien t privacy
which characterizes th e tu n es th a t run in m y h ea d and the things
that I see in m y m in d 's eye.
M oreorer, th e fa ct th a t a person says th in gs to h im se lf in his
head docs not entail th a t h e is th in k in g. H e ca n b a b b le deliriously,
or repeat jin g le s in in n er speech, ju st as h e can in ta lk in g aloud.
T h e distinction berw ern ta lk in g sense an d b a b b lin g , or betw een
thinking w hat o n e is sa y in g and m erely sa y in g , cuts across the dis­
tinction betw een ta lk in g a lo u d and ta lk in g to on eself. W h a t makes
a verbal operation an exercise o f intellect is in d ep en d en t o f w h at
makes it pu b lic o r private. A rith m e tic d o n e w ith p en cil an d paper
m ay be more in te llig e n t th an m ental arith m etic, an d th e pu b lic
tum blings o f the clow n m ay be m ore in tellig en t th an th e tum blings
w hich h e m erely ‘sees’ in h is m ind's e v e o r ‘feels' in his m in d ’s legs,
if, as m ay or m a y not be th e case, a n y su ch im a g in in g s o f antics
occur.
THE CONCEPT OF M IN D

(5) 7 « M y IleacP
It is con ven ien t 10 sa y som eth in g here a b o u t o u r everyd ay use o f
the phrase ‘in m y head*. W h e n I d o m en tal a rith m etic, I am lik ely
to say th a t I h a ve h a d th e n u m b ers w ith w hich I h a v e been w orking
‘in m y h ea d ’ an d not o n paper; a n d if I h a ve b e e n listen in g to a
ca tch y a ir or a verbal jin g le , I am lik e ly to d escrib e m yself later on
as still h a v in g th e tu n c o r jin g le ‘ru n n in g in m y h e a d ’. It is ‘ in m y
h ead ’ th at I g o over th e K in g s o f E n gla n d , so lv e anagram s and
com pose lim ericks. W h y as this fe lt to b e an app ropriate and expres­
sive m etap h or? F o r a m eta p h o r it certain ly is. N o o n e th in ks that
w hen a tu n e is ru n n in g in m y h ead , a su rgeon c o u ld u n earth a little
orchestra buried in sid e m y skull or th a t a d o cto r b y a p p ly in g a
stethoscope to m y cra n iu m co u ld h e a r a m u ffled tu n e, in th e w ay in
w hich I h ear the m uffled w h istlin g o f m y n e ig h b o u r w hen I p u t m y
ear to th e w all betw een o u r rooms.
It is som etim es su ggested th at the phrase d erives fro m theories
ab o u t the relations betw een brains a n d in tellectu al processes, it
p robab ly is fro m su ch th eories th a t we d erive su c h expressions as
‘ rackin g on e’s brains to solve a problem '; y e t n o o n e boasts o f h avin g
solved an an agram ‘in h is b rain s’. A sch oolb oy w o u ld som etim es be
ready to say that h e h a d don e an easy piecc o f a rith m e tic in his
head, th o u gh he d id n o t h a ve to use his brain s o v e r it; a n d no in ­
tellectual effort o r a cu m en is required in o rd er to h a v e a tu n e ru n ­
n in g in on e’s head. C o n versely, arith m etic don e w ith paper and
pencil m a y ta x on e’s brain s, a lth o u g h it is not d o n e 'in th e h ea d ’.
It appears to be p rim a rily o f im a g in ed noises th a t we find it
n atural to sa y th at th ey tak e p lace ‘ inside ou r h e a d s’; a n d o f these
im agin ed noises it is p rim arily those th a t we im a g in e ourselves both
u tterin g an d h earing. It is th e w ords w h ich I fa n c y m yself saying
to m yself an d the tunes w h ich I fa n c y m y se lf h u m m in g or w histlin g
10 m y se lf w h ich are first th o u g h t o f as d ro n in g th ro u g h th is cor­
poreal studio. W ith a little violence th e phrase ‘ in m y h ead ’ is then
som etim es, b y som e people, exten d ed to all fa n cie d noises an d even
transferred to the d escription o f the th in gs th a t I fa n c y I sec; b u t
we sh all com e back to th is exten sion later on.
W h a t then tem pts us to describe o u r im a gin atio n s o f ourselves
sa y in g or h u m m in g th in gs to ourselves b y sa y in g th a t th e th in gs are
said or h u m m ed in o u r h ea d s? F irst, the idiom h as an indispensable
negative function. W h e n th e w hect-noiscs o f th e tra in m ake 'R ule
B ritan n ia' run in m y h e a d , th e w heel-noises a re a u d ib le to m y fellow -
KNOWING HOW AND K N O W IN G T H A T yj
passengers, b u t m y ‘R u le B ritan n ia’ is not. T h e r h y th m ic rattle fills
the whole carriage; m y ‘ R u le B rita n n ia’ does not fill th a t com part-
mcnc o r an y part o f ii, so it is tem p tin g to say that it fills instead
another com partm ent, n a m e ly one th a t is a part o f m e. T h e rattle-
noises h ave their source in the w heels and the rails: m y ‘ Rule
B ritannia’ does n ot have its source in a n y4 orchestra ou tsid e m e, so
it is tem p tin g to state th is n egative fa c t b y sayin g th a t it has its
source inside m e. B u t th is b y itself w ould not exp lain w h y I find it
a n aiu ral m etaph or to sa y th a t ‘R u le B rita n n ia ’ is ru n n in g in m y
head rather than in m y th ro at, chest, or stom ach.
W h en I h ear the w ords th at vo ✓
u u tter or the tunes th a t th e ban d
plays, I o rd in arily have an idea, som etim es a w rong one, fro m w hich
direction th e noises com e a n d a t w h a t distan ce from m e th e ir source
is. But w hen I h ear th e w ords th a t I m vself«*
utter aloud, the tunes that
I m yself hum , the sounds o f m y ow n chew ing, b rea th in g a n d co u gh ­
ing. the situation is q uite d ifferen t, sincc h ere there is no question of
the noises co m in g from a source w hich is in an y d irection or at any
distance from m e. I do n o t h a ve to turn m y head about in o rd er to
hear better, n or can I a d v a n ce m v ear nearer to the sou rce o f the
noise. F u rth erm o re, th o u g h I can sh u t out, or m uffle, y o u r voice and
the b an d ’s tunes b y sto p p in g up m y ears, this action , s o fa r from
decreasing, increases the loudn ess an d resonance o f m y ow n voice.
M y own utterances, as w ell as o th er head-noises like throbbin gs,
sneezes, sniffs an d rhe rest, are not airborne noises co m in g from a
m ore or less rem ote source; th ey are m ad e in th e head an d are h eard
through th e head, th o u g h som e o f th em arc also h eard a s airborne
noises. I f I m ake noises o f a very resonant or h a ck in g k in d , I can feel
the vibrations or jerk s in m y head in the sam e sense o f 'fe e l in’ as I
feel the vibrations o f the tu n in g-fo rk in m y hand.
N o w these noises are lite ra lly an d not m etap h o rically in th e head.
T h e y are real head-borne noises, w h ich the doctor could h e a r th rou gh
his stethoscope. But th e sense in w h ich we say th a t th e schoolboy
d oin g m ental arith m e tic h as h is n u m b ers not on paper b u t in his
head is not this literal sense b u t a m etaph orical sense borrow ed from
it. T h a i his num bers a rc not really b e in g h eard in his h e a d in the
w ay in w hich he rea lly h ears his ow n co u g h in g in his h ea d is easily
shown. F or if he w histles o r yells lo u d ly w ith his ears stopped up. he
can h aif-d eafen h im self o r set h is ears singing. B u t if in d o in g his
m ental arith m etic, h e ‘sin gs’ his num bers to h im self as if in a very
shrill voice, n o th in g h a lf-d e a fe n in g occurs. H e m akes a n d h ears no
shrill noises, fo r he is m erely im a gin in g h im self m ak in g an d hear­
38 THE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

in g sh rill noises, an d an im agin ed shriek is n ot a shriek, an d it is n o t a


w h isp er eith er. B ut h e describes his n u m b ers as b ein g in his head,
ju st as I d escrib e m y ‘R u le B ritan n ia' as ru n n in g in m y h ead , because
th is is a liv e ly w a y o f exp ressin g the fa c t th a t the im agin a tio n o f the
p rod u ction -cu m -au d ition is a vivid one. Oxir phrase ‘in m y h e a d ’ is
m ean t to be understood as in side inverted com m as, lik e th e verb ‘see’
in su ch expressions as ‘I “ see” th e incident now , th o u g h it took place
fo rty years a g o ’. I f we w ere re a lly d oin g w h a t w e im agin e ourselves
doin g, n a m e ly h e a rin g ourselves sayin g o r h u m m in g th in gs, then
these noises w ould be in o u r h ead s in th e literal usage o f th e phrase.
H o w ever since we are n ot p ro d u cin g o r h e a rin g noises, b u t on ly
fa n c y in g ourselves d o in g so, w h en w e say th a t the n u m b ers a n d the
tunes th a t w e im a g in e ourselves d ro n in g to ourselves are 'in our
h ead s’, we say it in th e kn o w in g tone o f voice reserved fo r expressing
th in gs w h ich are n ot to b e taken literally.
I h a ve said th at th ere is som e inclination to exp an d th e em p lo y­
m en t o f th e idiom 'in m y h e a d ’ , to cover n ot o n ly im agin ed self-m ade
an d h ca d -b o m e noises b u t also im agin ed noises in gen eral an d , even
w ider, im a g in ed sigh ts as well. I suspect th a t th is in clin ation , if I am
rig h t in th in k in g th a t it exists, derives fro m the fo llo w in g fa m iliar
set o f facts. In th e case o f all th e specifically head-senses, eith er we
a rc en dow ed w ith a n aiu su l set o f &liuiici6 or wc can easily provide
an artificial set. W e can sh u t o u t the view w ith our eyelids o r w ith
o u r h an d s; our lips sh ield our tongues; our fingers can be used to
stop o u r ears a n d nostrils. S o w hat is th ere fo r yo u an d m e to see,
h ear, taste a n d sm ell can b e exclu d ed b y p u ttin g up these shutters.
B u t th e th in gs th a t I see in m y m ind’s eye a rc n ot ex clu d ed w hen
I d o se m y eyes. In d eed som etim es I 'see' th em m ore v iv id ly th an
ever w hen I d o so. T o dism iss th e g h a stly vision o f yesterd a y’s road-
a ccid cn t, I m a y even h ave to open m y eyes. T h is m akes it tem p tin g
to d escribe th e differen ce betw een im a g in a ry and real view s b y sa y ­
in g th a t w hile the o b jects o f th e latter are on th e fa r side o f the
shutters, th e ob jects o f the fo rm e r are on th e n ea r side o f th em ; the
latter are w ell outsid e m y h e a d , sc th e fo rm er are w ell inside it. B u t
this p o in t needs a certain elaboration.
S ig h t an d h ea rin g are distance-senses, w h ile tou ch , taste a n d sm ell
a rc not; th a t is to say, w h en we m ik e o u r o rd in a ry uses o f the verbs
‘see’, ‘h e a r’, ‘ w atch ', ‘listen’, 'e s p y ',‘o verh e ar’ an d th e rest, the th in gs
we speak o f as ‘seen’ a n d ‘listened to’ are th in gs a t a distance fro m
us. W e h ear a tra in fa r aw ay to :he south an d we g e t a peep a t a
p lan et u p in th e sky. H en ce w e find a difficulty in ta lk in g a b o u t the
KNOWING HOW AND K N O W IN G TH AT 39

w hereabouts o f th e spots th a t float ‘b efo re th e eye’. F o r th o u g h seen


th ey arc n ot o u i ihcrc. B u t w e do not speak of fe e lin g o r ta stin g
things in th e distan ce, an d if asked how fa r off ar.d in w h ich direction
a th in g lies, wc d o n ot reply ‘I x t m e h a v e a sn iff or a taste’. O f course
we m ay exp lore tactu ally a n d k in a c sth c tica lly , bur w hen w e find out
in these w ays w h ere the e lectric lig h t sw itch is, v/c are fin d in g th at it
is w here th e finger-tips are. A n o b je c t h a n d led is w h ere th e h an d is,
but an o b je ct seen o r h eard is not, u su a lly , an yw h ere n ear w h ere the
eye o r ear is.
So w hen wc w an t to em p h asize th e fa c t th at som ethin g is n o t really
being seen o r h ea rd , but is o n ly b e in g im a g in e d as seen o r h eard , wc
lend to assert its imaginarincs:» b y d e n y in g its d is w u c c , an d, b y a
con ven ien t im propriety, w e d e n y its d istan ce by assertin g its m eta­
phorical nearness. ‘N o t o u t there, b u t in here; not ou tsid e th e shu tters
and real, b u t in sid e the sh u tters a n d unreal*, ‘not an e x te rn a l reality,
but an in tern al phantasm*. W e h ave no su ch lin gu istic trick fo r d e ­
scribin g w h a t wc im agin e ourselves feelin g , sm elling, o r tastin g. A
passenger o n a sh ip feels th e d eck ro llin g ben eath h im c h ic fly in his
feet an d calves; a n d w hen h e gets ash ore, h e still'feels* the pavem en t
rolling b en ea th h im ‘ in his fe e t an d ealves*; b u t as k in aesth etic fe e l­
ing is n ot a distance-scnse, h e can n o t p illo ry his im a g in a ry leg-
feelingc ad illusion s b y sa y in g th a t the lo llin g if 111 his leg» an d not
in the street, fo r th e ro llin g th a t h e h ad fe lt w h en ab oard has
eq u ally been fe lt in his legs. H e cou ld n ot h ave said ‘I fe e l th e other
end o f th e ship rolling*. N o r does h e describ e the illu sory ro llin g o f
the pavem ents as b ein g ‘fe lt in his head*, b u t o n ly as ‘fe lt in his
legs'.
I suggest, th en , th a t the phrase ‘in th e head* is fe lt to b e an app ro­
priate a n d expressive m etap h o r in th e first instance fo r vivid ly
im agined self-voiced noises, and seco n d a rily fo r an y im a g in a ry noises
and even fo r im a g in a ry sigh ts, b ecau se in these latter cases a denial
o f distance, b y assertion o f m eta p h o rical nearness, is in ten d ed 10 be
construed as an assertion o f im agin arin ess; a n d the nearness is rela­
tive, not so m u ch to the licad -organ s o f sig h t an d h e a rin g them selves,
as to th e places w here th eir sh u tters are p u t up. It is an in terestin g
verbal p o in t th a t pcopte som etim es use ‘m ental* and ‘m erely m en ta l’
as synon ym s fo r ‘ imaginary*.
B u t it d ocs n ot m atter fo r m y g e n e ra l a rgu m en t w h eth er this
excursus in to p h ilo lo g y is co rrcct or not. It w ill serve to draw attention
to the sores o f th in gs w h ich wc sa y are ‘in o u r h eads’, n am ely, such
th in gs as im a g in ed words, tu n es a n d , perh aps, fistas. W h e n people
40 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

em ploy the idiom ‘in th e m in d ’, th ey are u su a lly expressing over-


sophisticatedly w hat we ord in arily express b y th e less m isleadin g
m etaphorical use o f ‘ in the h ead ’. T h e phrase 'in the m in d ’ can and
should alw ays be dispensed w ith. Its use h a b itu a tes its em ployers to
the view th a t m inds are q u eer ‘places’, th e occup ants o f w hich are
spccial-status phantasm s. It is part o f th e fu n ctio n o f this book
to show that exercises o f q u alities o f m ind do not, save p e t d e a ­
dens, take place ‘in th e h ead ’ , in the o rd in ary sense o f th e phrase,
an d those w h ich d o so h a ve no special p rio rity over (hose w hich
do not.

(6) T h e Positive A c c o u n t o f K noudng H ow


So fa r I h ope to h a ve show n th at th e exercise o f in telligen ce in
practice cannot be an alysed into a tandem operation o f first consider­
in g prescriptions and then e x e c u tin g them . W e h a ve also exam in ed
som e o f th e m otives w hich in clin e theorists to adopt this analysis.
B u t i f to perform in tellig en tly is to d o one th in g and not two
things, an d if to perform in telligen tly is to ap p ly criteria in th e con­
duct o f th e p erfo rm an ce itself, it rem ains to show how this factor
does ch aracterize those operations w hich we reco g n ize as sk ilfu l,
prudent, tasteful or logical. F o r th ere need be n o visible or audible
differences betw een an action done w ith skill a n d one done from
sheer h ab it, blin d im pulse, or in a fit o f absence o f m ind. A parrot
m ay squaw k o u t ‘Socrates is m ortal’ im m ed iately a fte r som eone has
uttered prem isses from w h ich this conclusion follow s. O n e boy m ay,
w hile th in k in g ab o u t cricket, g ive b y rote th e sam e correct answ er
to a m ultiplication problem w h ich an o th er b oy g ives who is th in k in g
w hat he is doing. Y e t we d o not call the parrot ‘lo g ic a l’, or describe
the in atten tive b o y as w orkin g ou t the problem .
C on sider first a b o y learn in g to p la y chess. C le a rly before he has
ye t heard o f the rules o f th e g a m e he m igh t b y a ccid en t m ake a m ove
w ith h is kn ig h t w hich the rules perm it. T h e fa c t th at he m akes a
perm itted m ove does n ot entail th at h e know s the ru le w hich perm its
it. N o r need the spectator be able to discover in th e w ay the boy
m akes this m ove an y visible featu re w h ich show s w h eth er the m ove
is a random one, or on e m ad e in kn ow ledge o f th e rules. H ow ever,
the boy now begins to learn the gam e properly, and this gen erally
involves his receivin g exp licit instruction in the ru les. H e probably
gets them b y h eart and is then ready to cite them o n dem an d. D u rin g
his first few gam es he p ro b ab ly has to go over th e rules aloud or in
his head, and to ask now an d then how th ey sh o u ld be applied to this
KN O W IN G HOW AND KNOW ING TH AT 41

or that p a rticu la r situation . B u t very soon h e com es to observe the


rules w ith o u t th in k in g o f th em . H e m ak es the p erm itted m oves and
avoids th e fo rb id d e n ones; h e n otices an d protests w h en his opponent
breaks th e rules. B u t h e n o lo n g er cites to h im se lf o r to the room the
form ulae in w h ich th e bans an d perm issions are d eclared . It ha?
becom e second n a tu re to h im to do w h a t is allow ed a n d to avoid w hat
is forbidden. A t this stage he m ig h t even h a v e lost his fo rm er ab ility
to cite th e rules. I f asked to in stru ct an o th er b eg in n er, h e m ig h t have
fo rgcttcn how to state th e rule» a n d h e w ou ld »how ilie b egiu u er how
to play o n ly b y h im se lf m a k in g th e co rrect m oves and can cellin g
the beginner's fa lse m oves.
But it w ould be q u ite possible fo r a b o y to learn chess w ith o u t even
hearing o r rea d in g th e ru les a t all. B y w atch in g th e m oves m ad e by
others a n d b y n o ticin g w h ich o f his ow n m oves w ere conceded and
which w ere rejected , h e co u ld p ick up th e a rt o f p la y in g correctly
while still q u ite u n ab le to propoun d th e reg u latio n s in term s o f which
‘correct’ a n d ‘in correct’ are defined. W e a ll lea rn ed the ru les o f hunt-
the-tiiim blc a n d h ide-and-seek an d th e elem en ta ry rules o f gram m ar
and logic in this w ay. W e le a m how b y p ra ctice, schooled in deed by
criticism an d e x a m p le, b u t o ften q u ite u n a id ed b y a n y lessons in the
theory.
It should be n o tice d th a t th e b o y is n o t said to kn ow how to play,
if all th a t h e can d o is to recite th e ru les a ccu rately. H e m u st be able
to m ake th e req u ired m oves. B u t h e is said to know h o w to p la y if,
alth ough h e ca n n o t cite the rules, h e n o rm a lly does m ak e th e per­
mitted m oves, a v o id th e fo rb id d e n m oves an d protest if his opponen:
makes fo rb id d en m oves. H is kn o w led ge how is exercised prim arily
in ths m oves th a t h e m akes, o r concedes, a n d in th e m oves th a t he
avoids or vetoes. So lo n g as he can ob serve th e rules, w e do n ot care
if h e can n ot also fo rm u la te them . It is n ot w h a t h e does in his head
or with his ton gu e, b u t w h a t h e does o n th e board th at show s w hether
or not he know s th e ru les in th e e x e c u tiv e w ay o f b e in g a b le to apply
them. S im ila rly a fo re ig n sch olar m ig h t n ot kn ow how to speak gram -
m atiral E n g lish as w ell as an E n glish ch ild , fo r a ll th a t h e h a d m as­
tered th e th eo ry o f E n g lish gra m m ar.

{7) Intelligent C apacities versus H a b its


T h e a b ility to a p p ly rules is the p ro d u ct o f p ractice. It is therefore
tem pting to a rg u e th a t com peten ces a n d skills are ju st h ab its. T h e y
arc certainly second n atures or a cq u ired dispositions, b ut it d ocs not
follow fro m th is th a t th e y a rc m ere h ab its. H a b its are one sort, but
4* THE CONCEPT OF M IND

n ot th e o n ly sort, o f sccond n atu re, an d it w ill be argu ed Liter th a t


th e com m on assum ption th at a ll second n atu res are m ere h ab its
obliterates distinctions w h ich are o f card in a l im portan ce for th e in ­
q uiries in w hich w e a re en gaged .
T h e ab ilicy to g iv e b y io ie th e cot ie e l solution s i>f m ultip lication
problem s differs in certain im p ortan t respects from the a b ility to
solve th em b y calcu latin g. W h e n w e describ e som eon e as d oin g som e­
th in g b y p u re or b lin d h a b it, w e m ean th at h e does it au to m atically
a n d w ith o u t h a vin g to m in d w h a t h e is doing. H e does not exercise
care, vigilan ce, o r criticism . A f t e r th e to d d lin g-age w e w alk on pave­
m ents w ith o u t m in d in g o u r steps. B u t a m o u n tain eer w alkin g over
ice-covered rocks in a h ig h w in d in th e d ark does not m ove his lim bs
b y b lin d habit; h e th in ks w h at h e is d o in g, h e is re a d y fo r em er­
gencies, h e econom izes in effort, h e m akes tests an d experim ents; in
sh ort h e w alks w ith som e d egree o f sk ill an d ju d g em e n t. I f he m akes
a m istake, h e is in clin ed n o t to rep eat it, an d if h e finds a new trick
effective h e is inclined to co n tin u e to use it an d to im prove on it. H e
is co n co m ita n d y w a lk in g a n d te a ch in g h im se lf how to w alk in con ­
ditions o f this sort. It is o f th e essence o f m erely habitúa', practices
th a t one perform an ce is a rep lica o f its predecessors. It is o f the
essence o f in telligen t practices th at one p erform an ce is m odified b y
its predecessors. T h e a g e n t is still learn in g.
T h is distinction betw een h ab its a n d in tellig en t capacities can be
illu strated b y referen ce to th e p a rallel d istin ction betw een th e
m ethods used for in cu lca tin g th e tw o sorts o f sccon d nature. W e build
u p h ab its b y drill, b u t we b u ild up in telligen t cap acities by training.
D rill (or conditioning) consists in th e im position o f repetitions. T h e
recru it learn s to slope arm s b y rep eated ly g o in g th rou gh ju st the
sam e m otions b y num bers. T h e ch ild learns th e alph ab et an d the
m u ltip lication tables in th e sam e w ay. T h e practices a rc nt>t learned
u n til th e p u p ils responses to his cues a rc a u to m atic, u n til he can ‘do
th em in his sleep’, as it is re v e a lin g ly put. T ra in in g , on the oth er
h an d, th ou gh it em bodies p len ty o f sh eer d rill, does n ot consist o f
drill. It involv'-s th e stim u lation b y criticism a n d exa m p le o f the
pu pil’s ow n ju d gem en t. H e learn s how' to do th in gs th in kin g w h a t h e
is doin g, so that eve ry o p eratio n p e rfo rm e d is itself a new lesson to
him how* to perform b etter. T h e soldier w ho w as m erely d rilled to
slope arm s correctly h a s to b e train ed to be proficient in m arksm an ­
ship an d m ap-reading. D rill dispenses w ith in telligen ce, train in g de­
velops it. W e do not ex p ect the soldier to b e ab le to read m ap s ‘in
his sleep’.
KNO W IN G HOW AND K N O W IN G TH AT 43
T h ere is a fu rth e r im portan t difference betw een habits an d in telli­
gent capacities, to b rin g o u t w hich it is necessary to say a few words
about the lo g ic o f dispositional concepts in general.
W h en we d escribe glass as brittle, or su gar as soluble, we are u sin g
dispositional concepts, the logical force o f w hich is this. T h e brittle­
ness o f glass does n o t consist in th e fa ct th a t it is at a g iv en m om ent
actually b e in g shivered . It m ay be b rittle w ith o u t ever b ein g shivered.
T o say th at it is b rittle is to say th at if it ever is. or ever h a d been,
struck or strain ed , it w ould fly, or h ave flow n, into fragm en ts. T o say
that sugar is solu b le is to say th at it w ould dissolve, or w ould have
dissolved, if im m ersed in water.
A statem en t ascrib in g a dispositional p roperty to a th in g has m uch,
though not ev e ry th in g , in com m on w ith a statem ent su bsum in g the
th in g un d er a law. T o possess a dispositional property is not to be
in a p a rticu la r state, or to u n d ergo a p articu lar chan ge; it is to be
bound or lia b le to be in a p a rticu lar state, or to un dergo a particular
change, w h en a p articu lar con d ition is realized. T h e sam e is true
about specifically h u m a n dispositions such as qualities o f character.
M y b ein g an h ab itu al sm oker does not en tail th at I am a t th is or that
m om ent sm o k in g ; it is m y p erm an en t pronencss to sm oke w hen I am
not eatin g, sleep in g, lectu rin g or a tten d in g fun erals, an d h ave n ot
quite re ce n tly been sm oking.
In discussin g dispositions it is in itia lly h elp fu l to fasten on th e
simplest m odels, such as the brittlen ess o f glass or th e sm okin g h a b it
o f a m an. F o r in d escrib in g these dispositions it is easy to unpack
the h yp o th etica l proposition im p licitly con veyed in the ascription o f
the dispositional properties. T o b e b rittle is ju st to be b oun d or likely
to fly into fra g m e n ts in su ch an d su ch conditions; to b e a sm oker
is just to be b o u n d or lik e ly to fill, lig h t an d draw on a pipe in such
and such conditions. T h e s e are sim ple, single-track dispositions, the
a ctu alizatio n s o f w hich are n early uniform .
Hut the p ra ctice o f con siderin g such sim ple m odels o f dispositions,
th ou gh in itia lly h e lp fu l, leads at a later stage to erroneous assum p­
tions. T h e re a re m an y dispositions th e actu alization s o f w h ich can
take a w id e a n d perhaps u n lim ited variety o f shapes; m an y disposi­
tion-concepts arc d eterm in ab le concepts. W h e n an ob ject is described
as hard, we d o not m ean o n ly th a t it w ould resist deform ation; we
m ean also th a t it w ould, fo r exam p le, g ive ou t a sharp sound if struck,
that it w ould cause us pain if we cam e into sharp contact w ith it, th at
resilient ob jects w ould boun ce off it, an d so on indefinitely. I f we
w ished to u n p ack all th at is con veyed in d escribin g an an im al as
44 th e c o n c e p t o f m in d

gregarious, we sh ou ld sim ilarly h ave to p rod u ce a n infinite series o f


d ifferent h yp o th etica l propositions.
N o w the h igh er-grad e dispositions o f people w ith w h ich th is in­
q u iry is largely con cern ed arc, in gen eral, not sin gle-track disposi­
tions, hut dispositions th e exercises o f w hich are indefinitely
heterogeneous. W h e n Jane A u ste n wished to show th e specific kind
o f pride w hich ch a ra cterized th e heroine o f P rid e a n d P reju d ice, she
h a d to represent h er actions, w ords, th ou gh ts, an d fe e lin g s in a th ou­
sand d ifferent situations. T h e r e is n o one stan dard type o f action or
reaction such th a t Jane A u ste n cou ld say ‘M y h ero in e’s k in d o f pride
was ju st th e ten d en cy to d o this, w h en ever a situ a tio n o f th at sore
arose'.
E pistem ologists, am o n g others, often fa ll into the trap o f exp ectin g
dispositions to h ave un iform exercises. F o r instan ce, w hen th ey recog­
n ize th a t th e verbs ‘kn ow ’ an d ‘ believe* are o rd in a rily used disposi-
tion ally, th e y assum e th a t th ere m u st th erefo re ex ist one-pattern
in tellectu al processes in w hich these co g n itive dispositions are
actu alized . F lo u tin g the testim on y o f exp erien ce, th e y postulate that,
for exam ple, a m an w ho believes th at the earth is ro u n d m ust from
tim e to tim e be g o in g th ro u gh som e u n iqu e p ro ceed in g co g n izin g,
‘ju d g in g ', or in tern ally re-asserting, w ith a fe e lin g o f confidence, T h e
earth is round'. In fa ct, o f course, people do not h a rp on statem ents
in this w ay, an d even i f th e y d id d o so an d even if w e knew th at they
d id , we still should not b e satisfied th a t th ey b eliev ed that the earth
was rou n d, unless w e also fo u n d th em in ferrin g , im a g in in g , sayin g
an d d o in g a g re at n u m b er o f o th er thin gs as well. I f we fou n d them
in ferrin g, im agin in g, sa y in g an d d o in g these o th er th in g s, we should
b e satisfied th a t th e y believed the earth to be ro u n d , even if we had
the best reasons fo r th in k in g th a t th ey n ever in te rn a lly harped on th e
original statem en t a t all. H o w ever o fte n an d s to u d y a skater avers
to us or to h im self, th a t th e ice w ill bear, he show s th a t he has his
qualm s, if he keeps to th e e d g e of th e pond, calls h is ch ild ren aw ay
from the m id d le, keeps h is eye on the life-belts or co n tin u a lly specu­
lates w h at w ould happen if the ice broke.

(8) T h e E xercise o f In tellig en ce


In ju d g in g th at som eone’s p erform an ce is or is n o t in telligen t, we
have, as has been said, in a certain m an n er to lo o k b eyon d th e per­
form an ce itself. F o r there is n o p articu lar overt or in n er perform ance
w hich could n o t have been accid en tally or ‘m e ch a n ic a lly ' executed
b y an idiot, a sleepw alker, a m an in panic, ab sen ce o f m in d or de­
KNOWING HOW AND K N O W IN G T H A T 45

lirium or even, som etim es, b y a parrot. B u t in lookin g b eyon d the


perform an ce itself, we a r c not tryin g to pry into som e h id d e n counter­
part perform an ce enact cd on The supposed secret stage o f the a gen t’s
inner life. W e a rc co n sid erin g h is abilities and propensities o f w hich
this p erfo rm an ce was a n a ctu alizatio n . O u r in q u iry is n o t into causes
(and a fortiori not into o c c u lt causcs), b u t into capacities, sk ills, habiTS,
liab ilities a n d bents. W e observe, fo r exam p le, a so ld ier scoring a
b u ll’s eye. W as it lu ck o r was it sk ill? I f h e h as th e sk ill, then h e can
get on or n ear th e b u ll’ s e y e again , even if the w ind stren gth en s, the
ran ge alters an d th e ta rg e t moves. O r if h is second shot is an outer,
h is th ird , fo u rth and fifth shots w ill p ro b a b ly creep nearer an d nearer
to th e b u ll’s eye. H e g e n e ra lly checks h is b reath in g b efo re pu llin g
th e trig g er, as h e d id o n this occasion; he is read y to advise h is n eig h ­
b our w hat allow ances co m ake fo r refraction, w ind, etc. M ark sm an ­
ship is a com plex o f skills, an d th e question w h eth er he h it th e b u ll’s
eye b y lu ck o r fro m g o o d m arksm an sh ip is the q u estion w heth er or
n o t he has the skills, a n d , if h e has, w h eth er h e used th e m b y m akin g
his shot w ith care, self-con trol, atten tion to the con d ition s and
th o u g h t o f h is instructions.
T o d ecid e w heth er h is b u ll’s eye was a flu ke or a go o d sh ot, we need
and he h im self m ig h t n e ed to tak e into acco u n t m ore th a n this one
success. N a m e ly , we sh o u ld take in to acco u n t h is subsequen t shots,
h is past record, his exp lan atio n s or excuses, th e advice h e g a v e to his
n eigh b o u r a n d a h o st o f o th er clues o f various sorts. T h e r e is n o one
sign al o f a m an ’s k n o w in g how to shoot, b u t a m odest assem blage
o f heterogeneous p erfo rm an ces g en erally suffices to estab lish beyond
reasonable d o u b t w h e th er he know s how to shoot or n ot. O n ly then,
if a t all, can it be d ecid e d w h eth er he h it the b u ll's e y e because he
was lu ck y, or w h eth er h e h it it because h e was m arksm an en o u gh to
succeed w h en h e tried.
A d ru n k ard a t the ch essboard m akes th e one m ove w h ich upsets
his opp on en t’s p lan o f cam p aign . T h e spectators are satisfied th a t this
was d u e not to clevern ess but to luck, if th e y are satisfied th at m ost
o f h is m oves m ad e in this state break the rules o f chess, or have
no tactical connexion w ith th e position o f th e gam e, th a t he would
n ot be lik e ly to rep ea t this m ove if the tactical situ ation w ere to
recur, th at he w ould n ot app lau d su ch a m ove m ade b y another
p layer in a sim ilar situ ation , th a t he could not exp lain w h y he
h ad done it or even d cscrilje the threat un der w hich h is K in g had
been.
T h e ir problem is n o t on e o f th e occurrence or non-occurrence of
46 THE CO N CEPT OF MIND

gh o stly processes, b u t on e o f th e truth or falseh ood o f certain ‘cou ld '


and ‘w ould’ propositions an d certain o th er p articu lar app lications
o f them . For, ro u g h ly , th e m in d is not th e topic o f sets o f untestable
categorical propositions, b u t th e topic o f sets o f testable h yp o th etical
an d sem i-hypothetical propositions. T h e difference b etw een a norm al
person an d an id io t is not th a t th e norm al person is re a lly tw o persons
w hile th e id io t is o n ly one, b u t th a t th e n orm al person ca n d o a lot
o f th in gs w h ich th e idiot can n ot do; an d ‘can ’ an d 'ca n n o t' are not
occurrence w ords b u t m odal words. O f course, in d escrib in g the m oves
actu a lly m ade b y th e d ru n k an d the sober players, or the noises a c tu ­
a lly uttered b y th e id io tic an d th e sane m en, we h a ve to u se not o n ly
‘co u ld ’ an d ‘ w ould’ expressions, b u t also ‘d id ’ and ‘d id n o t’ expres­
sions. T h e d ru n k a rd ’s m ove was m ad e recklessly an d th e sane m an
was m in d in g w h at h e was sayin g. In C h a p te r V I shall t r y to show'
th at the cru cia l differences betw een such occurrence rep orts as ‘he
d id it recklessly’ an d ‘he d id it on purpose’ h ave to be elu cid ated not
as differences betw een sim ple an d com posite occurrence reports, buc
in q u ite a n o th er w ay.
K n o w in g how, then, is a disposition, b u t not a sin gle-track disposi­
tion like a reflex or a h ab it. Its exercises are observances o f rules or
canons or th e app lication s o f criteria, b u t th ey are not tan d em opera­
tions o f th eo retically avo w in g m axim s and then p u ttin g them into
practice. F u rth er, its exercises can be overt or covert, deeds perform ed
or deeds im agin ed , w ords sp oken aloud or words heard in one's head,
pictures painted on can vas or pictu res in the m in d ’s eye. O r th e y can
be am algam atio n s o f th e two.
T h e se points m ay be jo in tly illu strated b y d escrib in g w h a t happens
w hen a person argues in telligen tly. T h e r e is a special p o in t in select­
in g th is exam p le, since so m u ch has been m ad e o f th e ra tio n a lity o f
m an; and part, th o u g h o n ly p art, o f w h at people u n d erstan d b y
‘ration al’ is ‘cap able o f reason in g co g en tly’.
F irst, it m akes no im portan t difference w h eth er we th in k o f the
reasoner as a rg u in g to h im self or a rg u in g aloud, p lea d in g , perhaps,
b efore an im agin ed co u rt or p le a d in g b efore a real court. T h e criteria
b y w h ich h is argu m en ts are to b e a d ju d g e d as cogen t, clear, relevant
an d well o rgan ized are the sam e fo r silen t as fo r d eclaim ed or w ritten
ratiocinations. S ilen t argu m en tation has th e practical ad van tages o f
b ein g rela tively speedy, socially u n d istu rb in g and secret; au d ib le
an d w ritten argu m en tatio n has th e ad van tage o f b ein g less slap-dash,
th ro u g h b e in g subjected to the criticism s o f the au d icn cc a n d readers.
But th e sam e q u alities o f in tellect are exercised in b o th , save that
K N O W IN G HOW AND K N O W IN G T H A T 47

special sch oolin g is req u ired to in cu lcate th e trick o f reasoning in


silen t soliloquy.
N e x t, a lth o u g h th ere m a y occu r a few sta g es in his argu m en t
w h ich arc so trite th a t he can go th ro u gh th em b y rote, m uch o f his
arg u m en t is lik e ly never to h a v e been con stru cted before. H e has
to m eet new objection s, interpret new evid en ce and m ake connexions
betw een elem ents in the situation w h ich had n o t previously been co­
ordin ated. In short he has to in novate, an d w here he innovates h e is
not o p eratin g from h ab it. H e is not rep eatin g h a ck n e y e d m oves. T h a t
he is now th in k in g w hat h e is d o in g is show n not o n ly b y this fact
th at he is o p eratin g w ith o u t precedents, b u t also b y th e fa c t that he
is rea d y to recast h is expression o f o b scu rely p u t points, on gu ard
again st a m b ig u ities or else on th e look ou t fo r chances to exploit
th em , ta k in g care n ot to rely on easily re fu ta b le inferences, alert in
m eetin g ob jection s a n d resolute in steerin g th e gen eral course o f his
reason in g in th e direction o f h is final goal. It w ill b e argu ed later that
all these w ords ‘ read y’ , ‘on g u a rd ', ‘ca re fu l’ , ‘on th e look o u t', and
‘resolute* are sem i-dispositional, sem i-episodic words. T h e y do not
sign ify the co n co m itan t occurren ce o f extra b u t in tern al operations,
nor m ere capacities an d tendencies to p erfo rm fu rth e r operations if
th e need for them sh ou ld arise, but so m eth in g betw een the two. T h e
ca refu l d river is n o t a ctu a lly im a g in in g or p la n n in g fo r all o f the
countless co n tin gen cies th a t m ig h t crop up; n o r is h e m erely com pe­
tent to reco g n ize and cope w ith a n y one o f th em , if it should arise. H e
has n ot forseen the ru n aw ay d o n k ey , yet he is n o t un p repared fo r it.
H is readiness to cope w ith such em ergen cies w ould show itself in
th e operations h e w ould perform , if th ey w ere to occur. B u t it also
actu a lly does show itse lf b y the w ays in w h ich he converses and
han dles his controls even w hen n o th in g critica l is ta k in g place.
U n d erlyin g all the o th er featu res o f the operation s execu ted b y
th e in telligen t reasoner there is the card in al fe a tu re th a t he reasons
lo gically, th a t is, th a t he avoids fallacies a n d produces valid proofs
a n d in feren ces, pertin en t to th e case he is m ak in g . H e observes the
rules o f logic, as w ell as those o f style, fo re n sic strategy, professional
etiq u ette an d the rest. B u t he p ro b a b ly observes the rules o f logic
w ith ou t th in k in g ab o u t them . H e docs not c ite A risto tle’s form u lae
to h im self or to the cou rt. H e applies in h is p ra ctice w h at A risto tle
abstracted in h is th eo ry o f su ch practices. H e reasons w ith a correct
m eth od , b u t w ith o u t co n sid erin g th e p rescrip tio n o f a m ethodology.
T h e rules th at h e observes h ave b ecom e h is w ay o f th in kin g, w hen
h e is ta k in g care; th ey arc not ex tern al ru b rics w ith w h ich he has to
48 T H E CO N CEPT OF MIND

square his th ou gh ts. In a w ord, h e con d u cts h is op eration efficiently,


an d to operate efficien tly is n o t to p erfo rm tw o operations. It is to
perform on e operation in a certain m an n er or w ith a ce rta in style or
procedure, an d the d escription o f this m odus operatidi h a s to b e in
term s o f such sem i-disposition al, sem i-episodic ep ith ets as 'alert',
‘ca refu l', ‘critica l’, ‘in g en io u s’ , ‘logical', etc.
W h a t is true o f a r g u in g in tellig en tly is, w ith ap p rop riate m odifica­
tions, tru e o f o th er in te llig e n t operations. T h e boxer, the su rgeo n , the
poet and the salesm an a p p ly th eir special criteria in the p erfo rm an ce
o f th eir special tasks, fo r th ey arc try in g to g e t th ings r ig h t; an d th ey
are appraised as clever, sk ilfu l, inspired or shrew d not fo r the w ays in
w hich th ey consider, if th e y consider a t all, prescriptions fo r conduct­
in g th eir special p erfo rm an ces, b u t fo r th e w ays in w h ich th ey con­
duct those p e rfo rm an ces them selves. W h e th e r or n o t the boxer plans
his m anoeuvres b efo re e x e cu tin g th em , h is cleverness a t b o x in g is
d ecid ed in th e lig h t o f h ow he fights. I f he is a H am let o f th e ring,
he w ill be condem ned a s an in ferio r fighter, th o u g h p erh ap s a b ril­
lian t theorist or critic. C le vern ess a t figh tin g is e x h ib ited in th e g iv in g
an d p a rryin g o f blows, n ot in the acceptan ce or rejectio n o f proposi­
tions ab o u t blows, ju s t as a b ility a t reason in g is e x h ib ite d in the
construction o f valid a rg u m en ts an d th e d etectio n o f fallacies, n o t in
the avow al o f lo gician s’* fo rm u lae. N o r docs th e su rgeon ’ s skill fu n c­
tion in his ton gue u tte rin g m edical tru th s b u t on ly in h is hands
m ak in g the correct m ovem ents.
A ll this is m eant n o t to d en y or d ep reciate th e value o£ in tellectu al
operations, b u t o n ly to d en y th at th e execu tio n o f in tellig en t per­
form an ces en tails the a d d itio n a l execu tio n o f in tellectu al operations.
It w ill b e show n later (in C h a p te r IX), th a t the lea rn in g o f all b u t th e
m ost unsophisticated k n a ck s requires som e in tellectu al ca p a city . T h e
a b ility to do th in g s in accord an ce w ith instructions necessitates
u n d erstan d in g those in stru ctions. So som e propositional com petence
is a con dition o f a c q u irin g a n y o f these com petences. B u t it does not
follow th a t exercises o f these com petences require to be accom p an ied
b y exercises o f propositional com petences. 1 cou ld n ot h a v e learned to
sw im th e breast stroke, if I h a d not been able to un derstan d the
lessons g iven m e in th a t stroke; b u t I d o not h ave to recite those
lessons, w hen I now sw im th e breast stroke.
A m an kn o w in g little o r n o th in g o f m edical science co u ld n ot be a
good surgeon, b u t ex cellen cc a t su rgery is n o t th e sam e th in g as
know ledge o f m ed ical science; n or is it a sim ple p ro d u ct o f it. T h e
surgeon m u st in d eed h a v e learn ed fro m instruction , o r b y his own
K N O W I N G H O W AND K N O W I N G T H A T 49

in d u ction s a n d observations, a great n u m b e r o f truths; b u t h e m ust


also h a v e learned b y practice a gre at n u m b er o f aptitudes. Even
where efficient practice is the d elib era te application o f considered
prescriptions, th e in telligen ce involved in p u ttin g the prescriptions
into p ra ctice is not iden tical w ith th a t in vo lved in in tellectu ally grasp­
in g the prescriptions. T h e r e is no con trad ictio n , or even paradox, in
d escrib in g som eone as b ad a t p ractisin g w h at he is good at p reach ­
ing. T h e r e h ave been th o u g h tfu l an d o rig in al literary critics who
have fo rm u la te d a d m irab le canons a n d prose style in execrable
prose. T h e r e have been others w h o have em ployed b rillian t E n glish
in th e expression o f th e silliest theories o f w h at constitutes good
w riting.
T h e ce n tra l poin t th a t is b e in g lab ou red in this ch ap ter is o f con­
sid erable im portance. It is an attack fro m one flank upon the cate-
go ry-m istake w h ich underlies the d o gm a o f th e gh ost in the m achine.
In unconscious reliance upon this d ogm a theorists an d h y m e n alike
con stan tly construe the ad jcctives b y w h ich we ch aracterize p erform ­
ances as ingenious, wise, m eth od ical, ca refu l, w itty, etc. as sign alizin g
the o ccurren ce in som eone’s h idden stream o f consciousness o f special
processes fu n ctio n in g as g h o stly h a rb in g ers or m ore specifically as
occult cau ses o f th e p erfo rm an ces so ch a racterized . T h e y postulate
an in tern al sh ad ow -pcrform ance to be th e real carrier o f the intelli­
gence o rd in a rily ascribed to the overt a ct, an d th in k that in this w ay
th ey ex p la in w h at m akes the overt a ct a m an ifestation o f intelligence.
T h e y h a ve d escribed the overt a ct as an effect o f a m ental happening,
th ou gh th e y stop short, o f course, b efore ra isin g the n ex t question -
w hat m ak es the postulated m en tal h ap p en in gs m anifestations o f
in telligen ce and not m en tal deficiency.
in opposition to this en tire dogm a, I am a rg u in g th a t in describing
the w orkin gs o f a person's m in d wc are n o t d escrib in g a second set
of sh ad o w y operations. W c a rc d escrib in g certain phases o f his one
carccr; n a m e ly we a re d escrib in g the w ays in w hich parts o f his
con duct are m an aged . T h e sense in w h ich we ‘ex p lain ’ his actions
is not th a t we in fer to occu lt causes, b u t th at we subsum e un der
h yp o th etical and sem i-h ypoth etical propositions. T h e explanation is
not o f th e type ‘th e glass b roke because a stone hit it’, b u t m ore
nearly o f th e different type ‘ the glass b roke w hen the stone h it it,
because it was b rittle’. It m akes n o d ifferen ce in th eory if the per­
form an ces w c are ap p raisin g are operation s execu ted silen tly in the
a g en t’s h ea d , such a s w h at he does, w h en d u ly sch ooled to it, in
th eo rizin g , com posin g lim cricks or so lv in g an agram s. O f course it
50 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

m akes a lot o f difference in practice, fo r th e exam in er can n ot aw ard


m arks to operation s w hich th e can d id ate su ccessfu lly keeps to him self.
B u t w hen a person talks sense aloud, ties knots, fein ts or sculpts,
th e action s w h ich we w itness are them selves the th in gs w h ich he is
in tellig en tly doin g, th o u g h th e concepts in term s of w h ich the p h ysi­
cist or p h ysio lo gist w ould describe h is actions d o not exh au st those
w hich w ould be used b y his pupils or h is teachers in app raisin g their
logic, style o r tech n iq ue. H e is b od ily a ctive and he is m en ta lly active,
b u t he is n o t b ein g syn ch ro n ou sly active in tw o different ‘places’, or
w ith tw o d ifferen t ‘en gines’. T h e re is th e one a ctivity, b u t it is one
susceptible o f an d req u irin g m ore th an one kin d o f exp lan ato ry
description. S o m ew h a t as th ere is n o aero d yn am ical or p h ysiological
difference b etw een the description o f one b ird as ‘fly in g sou th ’ and
o f an oth er a s ‘m ig ra tin g ’ , th o u g h th ere is a b ig b iological difference
betw een these descriptions, so th ere need be no physical or p h ysio­
lo gical differen ces betw een th e descriptions o f one m an as g a b b lin g
an d a n o th e r m ikin g sense, th o u g h the rh etorical an d logical
differences a r c enorm ous.
T h e sta tem en t ‘ the m in d is its ow n place’, as theorists m ig h t con­
strue it, is n o t true, fo r th e m in d is n o t even a m etap h orical ‘place’.
O n th e co n tra ry , th e chessboard, th e p latform , th e scholar’s desk, the
ju d g e ’s b en ch , the lorry-d river’s seat, th e stu d io an d the footb all field
arc a m o n g it« places. T h e se are w here people w ork an d p lay stupidly
or in tellig en tly. ‘ M in d ’ is n o t th e n am e o f an oth er person, w orkin g
o r fro lic k in g beh in d an im penetrable screen; it is n ot the nam e o f
an oth er p la c c w here w ork is done or gam es arc played ; an d it is not
the n am e o f an oth er tool w ith w h ich w ork is done, or another
applian ce w ith w hich gam es are played .

(9) U n derstan ding and M isunderstanding


It is b e in g m ain tain ed th ro u g h o u t this book th a t w hen w e ch arac­
terize p eo p le b y m en tal predicates, we are not m a k in g untestable
in feren ces to a n y g h o sd y processes o ccu rrin g in stream s o f conscious­
ness w hich w e are d eb arred frora visitin g; we are d escrib in g th e w ays
in w h ich th ose people con d u ct parts o f th eir p red om in an tly pu blic
behaviour. T r u e , we g o b eyo n d w hat we see th em do an d h e a r them
say, but this g o in g b eyo n d is not a g o in g beh in d, in the sense of
m ak in g in feren ces to o ccu lt causes; it is g o in g b eyo n d in the sense
o f con siderin g, in th e first instance, the pow ers an d propensities of
w h ich th eir a ctio n s are exercises. B u t this p o in t requires expansion.
A person w h o can n ot p la y chess ca n still w atch gam es o f chess.
K N O W IN G HOW AND K N O W IN G TH AT JI

H e sees th e m oves b e in g m ad e as clearly as does his n eigh b o u r who


know s th e gam e. B u t th e spectator w h o does not know th e gam e
can n ot do w h a i his n eig h b o u r does - appreciate the stu p id ity or
cleverness o f th e players. W h a t is th is difference betw een m erely
w itnessing a p erform an ce and u n d erstan d in g w h at is witnessed?
W h a t, to take an oth er exa m p le, is the difference betw een hearing
w h at a speaker says an d m a k in g sense o f w h a t he is h eard to say?
A d vo cates o f the d oub le-life legen d w ill answ er th a t understan ding
the chess-player’s m oves consists in in ferrin g from the visible m oves
m ade on th e board to unw itnessable operations ta k in g place on the
p layer’s private stage. It is a process o f in feren ce an alogous to that b y
w h ich we in fe r fro m the seen m ovem ents o f the railw ay-signals to
th e unseen m an ipulation s o f th e levers in the signal-box. Y e t this
answ er prom ises so m eth in g th at cou ld n ever be fulfilled. F o r since,
acco rd in g to th e th eo ry, one person can n ot in principle visit another
person’s m in d as he can visit signal-boxes, there cou ld be no w ay of
estab lish in g th e necessary correlation betw een th e overt m oves an d
th eir h id d en causal counterparts. T h e a n a lo g y of th e signal-box
b reaks dow n in a n o th er place. T h e connexions betw een levers and
signal-arm s are easy to discover. T h e m ech an ical principles of the
fu lcru m an d th e p u lley, an d th e beh aviou r o f m etals in tension and
com pression are, a t least in ou tlin e, fam iliar to us all. W e know w ell
en o u gh how the m ach in ery inside the sign al-b ox works, how that
outsid e th e sign al-box w orks a n d h ow the tw o are m ech an ically
coupled. B u t it is ad m itted b y those w ho b elieve in the legend o f the
gh ost in the m ach in e th a t n o one yet know s m u ch ab o u t the laws
g o vern in g th e supposed w orkin gs o f th e m in d , w hile the postulated
in teraction s betw een the w orkin gs o f the m in d an d the m ovem ents
o f the h an d a re ack n o w led ged to be com p letely m ysterious. E n jo yin g
n eith er the supposed status o f the m en tal, nor the supposed status
o f th e p h ysical, these in teraction s can n ot b e exp ected to o b ey eith er
th e know n law s o f physics, or th e still to be discovered laws o f psy­
chology.
It w ould fo llo w th at n o one h as ever yet h ad th e sligh test un der­
sta n d in g o f w hat a n yo n e else has ever said or done. W e read the
w ords w h ich E u clid w rote an d we are fa m ilia r w ith the things w hich
N a p o le o n d id , b u t we h a ve n o t the sligh test idea w h at they h a d in
their m inds. N o r has a n y spectator o f a chess tou rn am en t or a fo o t­
b a ll m atch ever y et had a n in k lin g o f w h at th e players w ere after.
B u t this is p a ten tly absurd. A n y b o d y w ho can p la y chess alread y
u n d erstan d s a go o d d eal o f w h a t o th er players do, an d a b rief study
$2 THE CON CEPT OF MIND

o f geom etry enables an o rd in ary b oy to follow a good deal o f E u clid 's


reasoning. N o r docs this u n d erstan d in g req uire a prolonged grou n d ­
in g in the not ye t established law s o f p sych ology. F o llo w in g the m oves
m ade b y a chess-player is not d o in g a n y th in g rem otely resem bling
p roblem atic p sych o lo gical diagnosis. Indeed, supposin g th a t one per­
son could understand a n o th er’s w ords or action s on ly in so fa r as he
m ade causal in feren ces in accordan ce w ith psych ological laws, the
queer consequence w ould follow th a t if a n y p sych ologist h ad dis­
covered these laws, h e could n ever h ave conveyed his discoveries
to his fellow m en. F o r e x hypoth esi th ey cou ld not follow h is exp osi­
tion o f th em w ith ou t in ferrin g in accordan ce w ith them fro m his
words to his thoughts.
N o one feels h a p p y w ith th e view th at fo r one person to follow
w hat a n o th er person says or does is to m ake in feren ces som ew hat
like those m ade b y a w ater-diviner fro m th e perceived tw itch in g of
th e tw ig to the su bterran ean flow o f water. So th e consolatory am en d ­
m ent is som etim es m ad e th at, since a person is d irectly aw are o f the
correlations betw een h is ow n private experien ces an d his ow n overt
actions, h e can understand th e perform an ces o f others b y im p u tin g
to them a sim ilar correlation. U n d erstan d in g is still psych ological
divining, b u t it is d ivin ation rein forced b y analogies fro m the
d ivin ei's d u e tt o b sciva tio n o f d ie 4.oiicl«uiou& betw een his u>vn inner
and o u ter lives. B u t th is am en d m en t does n o t a b o lish th e difficulty.
It w ill be arg u ed later th a t a person’s appraisals o f h is ow n per­
form ances do n o t differ in k in d from h is appraisals o f those o f others,
b u t fo r th e present purpose it is en o u gh to say th at, even i f a person
did e n jo y a p rivileged illu m in a tio n in th e ascription o f m ental-
conduct concepts to h is ow n p erform an ces, h is supposed an alogical
argu m en t to the m en tal processes o f others w ould l>e com pletely
fallacious.
If som eone h as inspcctcd a n u m b er o f railw ay-signals an d signal-
boxes, h e can th en in a new case m ak e a go o d p robable inference
from observed sign al-m ovem ents to unobserved levcr-m ovem ents.
But if h e had exam in ed on ly one signal-box an d knew n o th in g about
the stan d ard ization -m eth ods o f large corporations, h is in feren ce
would b e p itia b ly w eak, fo r it w ould b e a w ide gen eralizatio n based
on the sin gle instance. F u rth er, one signal-arm is closely sim ilar to
an cther in appearan ce an d m ovem en ts, so the in feren ce to a corres­
pon din gly close sim ilarity betw een th e m echanism s housed in
different signal-boxes h as som e stren gth. B u t th e observed appear­
ances an d action s o f people d iffer very m ark ed ly, so th e im pu tation
K NO W IN G HOW AND KNOW ING TH AT 53

to them o f in n er processes closely m a tch in g one an o th er w ould be


a ctu ally co n trary to th e evidence.
U n d erstan d in g a person’s deeds an d w ords is not, therefore, any
k in d o f p ro b lem atic d ivin ation o f occult processes. F or this divina­
tion docs n o t an d can n ot occur, w hereas u n d erstan d in g does occur.
O f course it is part o f ray gen eral thesis th a t the supposed occult
processes a rc them selves m yth ical; th ere exist« n o th in g to be the
ob ject o f th e postulated diagnoses. B u t fo r the present purpose it is
en ough to prove th at, if there w ere such in n er states and operations,
one person w ould n o t be ab le co m ake p robable inferences to their
occurren ce iu the inner life o f another.
I f u n d erstan d in g docs not consist in in ferrin g , or guessing, the
alleged inner-life precursors o f overt actions, w hat is it? If it does
not require m astery o f psych ological th eo ry togeth er w ith the a b ility
to ap p ly it, w hat know ledge does it req u ire? W e saw th at a spectator
w ho can n ot p la y chess also can n o t follow th e p la y o f others; a person
w ho cannot read or speak Sw edish can n ot un derstan d w hat is spoken
or w ritten in Sw edish; a n d a person w hose reasoning powers are
w eak is bad a t fo llo w in g and reta in in g the argu m en ts o f others.
U n d erstan d in g is a part o f kn ow in g how. T h e kn ow ledge th at is re­
q u ired fo r u n d erstan d in g in telligen t perform an ces o f a specific kind
is som e d egree o f com petence in perform an ces o f th a t kind. T h e
com petent critic o f prose-style, exp erim en tal techn ique, or em ­
b roidery, m ust a t least know h ow to w rite, exp erim en t or sew.
W h e th e r or not h e has also learn ed som e p sych o lo gy m atters about
as m u ch as w heth er he has learned a n y ch em istry, n eurology or
econom ics. T h e se stud ies m a y in certain circu m stances assist his
appreciation o f w hat he is criticizin g ; b u t the one necessary condition
is th a t he has som e m astery o f the art o r procedu re, exam p les o f
w hich h e is to appraise. F o r one person to see the jokes th a t an oth er
m akes, th e on e th in g he m ust h a ve is a sense o f h u m o u r and even
th at special bran d o f sense o f h u m o u r o f w h ich those jokes are
exercises.
O f course, to execu te an operation in telligen tly is n o t e x a c tly the
sam e th in g as to follow its execu tion in telligen tly. T h e a gen t is
o rigin atin g, th e spectator is o n ly con tem p latin g. B u t the rules w hich
the a g en t observes an d the criteria w h ich he applies are one with
those w hich govern the sp ectator’s applause an d jeers. T h e co m ­
m en tator on P la to ’s ph ilo sop h y need not possess m u ch philosophic
o rigin ality, b u t if he can n ot, as too m an y com m en tators cannot,
appreciate th e force, d rift or m otive o f a ph ilosoph ical argu m en t, his
54 th e co n c e p t o f m in d

com m ents will be w orthless. I f he can appreciate th em , th en he


know s how to do part o f w h at P lato knew how to do.
I f I am com peten t to ju d g e yo u r perform ance, then in witness­
in g it I am on the a le rt to detect m istakes an d m uddles in it, b u t so
are you in ex ecu tin g it; I am read y to notice th e ad van tages you
m ig h t rake o f pieces o f lu ck , b u t so are you. Y o u learn as you proceed,
and I too learn as you proceed. T h e in telligen t perform er operates
critically, th e in telligen t spectator follow s critically. R o u g h ly , execu ­
tion an d u n d erstan d in g are m erely different exorcises o f know ledge
o f the tricks o f the sam e trade. Y o u exercise your know ledge how to
tie a clove-hitch not o n ly in acts o f ty in g d o ve-h itch es and in correct­
in g yo u r m istakes, but also in im a g in in g ty in g them correctly, in
in stru ctin g pupils, in criticizin g the in correct or clu m sy m ovem ents
an d ap p lau d in g the correct m ovem ents th at th e y m ake, in in ferrin g
from a fa u lty result to the error w hich produced it, in p red ictin g the
outcom es o f observed lapses, an d so on indefinitely. T h e words ‘ un der­
sta n d in g’ and 'fo llo w in g ' design ate certain o f those exercises o f your
know ledge how, w h ich you e x ecu te w ith ou t h avin g, fo r exam ple, an y
string in yo u r hand.
It should b y now be otiose to poin t out th a t this docs not im ply
th at th e spectator or reader, in fo llo w in g w h at is don e or w ritten, is
m a k i n g a n a lo g i c a l i n f c r e n c c a f r o m in te rn e d p r o c e s s e s o f h is o w n to
corresponding in tern al processes in th e a u th o r o f the actions or
w ritings. N o r need he, th ou gh he m ay, im agin atively represent h im ­
self as b ein g in the shoes, th e situation a n d the skin o f th e author.
H e is m erely th in k in g w h at th e au th o r is d o in g a lo n g th e sam e lines
as those on w h ich the a u th o r is th in k in g w hat h e is doin g, save that
the spectator is finding w hat the a u th o r is inventing. T h e a u th o r is
le a d in g an d th e spectator is follow in g, but their path is th e sam e. N or,
again , does this acco u n t o f un d erstan d in g req uire or encou rage us to
postulate a n y m ysterious electric sym p ath ies betw een kindred souls.
W h eth er or not th e h earts o f tw o chess-players b eat as one, w hich
th ey w ill not d o if th ey are opponents, th eir a b ility to follow one
an other’s p la y depends not on this valvu la r coincidence b u t upon
th eir com peten ce a t chess, their in terest in this gam e an d th eir a c­
quired fa m ilia rity w ith one an oth er’s m ethods o f playing.
T h is p o in t, th at th e ca p acity to appreciate a p erform an ce is one in
type w ith the cap acity to execu te it, illustrates a con ten tion previously
argxied. n am ely th a t in telligen t capacities are not single-track dis­
positions, b u t are dispositions a d m ittin g o f a w ide variety o f m ore or
less dissim ilar exercises. It is h ow ever necessary to m ake tw o provisos.
KN O W IN G HOW AND KN O W IN G TH A T 55

F irst, the ca p a city to perform a n d to appreciate an operation does


n ot necessarily in volve the a b ility to fo rm u late criticism s or lessons.
A w ell-trained sailor b o y can both tie com p lex knots and «discern
w h eth er som eone else is tyin g th em co rrectly or in correctly, d eftly
o r clum sily. B u t h e is p robab ly in capablc o f the difficult task o f de­
scrib in g in w ords how th e knots sh ou ld b e tied. A n d , sccon d, the
a b ility to appreciate a perform an ce does not involve the sam e degree
o f com p ctcn cc as th e a b ility to execu te it. It does n ot take g en iu s to
reco gn izc gen ius, an d a good d ra m a tic critic m ay be in differen t as an
actor or p layw rig h t. T h e re w ould be no le a th e rs or pupils if the
a b ility to understand operations required com plete a b ility to p erform
them . Pupils a rc ta u gh t how to do th in gs b y people w ho kn ow better
than th ey how' to do rhem . E u clid ’s E lem en ts arc n eith er a scaled , nor
an open, book to th e schoolboy.
O n e featu re in this accoun t o f u n d erstan d in g has been grasped,
th o u gh from the w rong end, b y certain philosoph ers w ho h ave tried
to exp lain how an h istorian, sch olar or literary critic can understand
the deed s or w ords o f his subjects. A d h e r in g w ithout q u estio n to the
d o gm a o f the g h o st in the m ach in e, these philosophers w ere n a tu ra lly
perplexed b y th e pretensions o f h istorians to interpret th e a ctio n s and
w ords o f h istoric personages as expressions o f th eir actu al th ou gh ts,
feelin gs and intentions. F o r if m inds are im penetrable to one an oth er,
how can historians penetrate the m inds o f th eir heroes? Y e t if such
penetration is im possible, the labours o f all scholars, critics a n d his­
torians m ust b e vain; th ey m a y describe th e signals, b u t th e y can
n ever b egin to interpret them a s cffects o f operations in the etern a lly
sealed signal-boxes.
T h e se philosophers h ave p u t forw ard the fo llo w in g solution of
th eir spurious p u zzle. T h o u g h I can n ot witness the w orkings o f your
m ind o r P lato ’s m ind, b u t o n ly th e overt actions an d w ritten words
w hich I take to be outw ard ‘expressions’ o f those inner w orkings, I
can, w ith due effort and p racticc, d elib era tely en act such operations
in m y ow n private th eatre as w ould n atu rally origin ate ju s t such
action s an d words. I can th in k private th o u gh ts o f m y ow n w hich
w ould b e w ell expressed b y the sentences ascribed to P lato ’s hand,
an d I can, in fa c t or in fa n cy, execu te volition s o f m y own w hich
origin ate or w ould origin ate actions like those w h ich I h ave w itnessed
you perform in g. H a v in g p u t m y se lf into a fram e o f m in d in w hich
I act like yo u , or w rite like P lato, I can then im p u te to you an d to him
sim ilar fram es o f m ind. I f this im pu tation is correct, then, from know ­
in g w hat it is like fo r m e to be in th e fra m e o f m in d w h ich issues
56 T H E C O N C E PT OF MIND

in these actions and w ords, I can also know w h at it was like to be


P lato w ritin g his D ia lo g u e s an d w h at it is like to be y o u , tyin g, per­
haps, a clovc-h itch . IVy re-en actin g yo u r overt a ctio n s I re-live your
private experiences. I n a fash ion , th e stu d en t o f P lato m akes h im self
a second P lato, a sort o f re-au th or o f h is D ialo gu es, a n d thus an d only
thus he understands th ose D ialogues.
U n fo rtu n a te ly th is p ro g ra m m e o f m im ick in g P la to 's m ental pro­
cesses can never b e w h o lly successful. I am , a fte r a ll, a tw entieth-
cen tury E n glish stu d en t o f P lato, a th in g w hich P lato never was. M y
cu lture, schooling, la n g u a g e , h ab its an d interests a re different from
his an d th is m ust im p a ir the fidelity o f m y m im ic ry o f his fram e
o f m ind and therefore the success o f m y attem p ts to u n d erstan d him .
Still, it is argu ed , th is is, in the n atu re o f the ease, the best th a t 1 can
do. U n d ersta n d in g m u st be im perfect. O n ly b y re a lly b ein g Plato
could I re a lly u n d erstan d him .
Som e holders o f th eories o f this ty p e ad d extra co m fo rts to it.
T h o u g h m inds are in accessib le to on e an oth er, th ey m a y be said to
resonate, like tu n in g-fo rk s, in h a rm o n y w ith one a n o th er, th ou gh
u n fo rtu n a tely th ey w o u ld never know it. I can n o t lite ra lly share your
experiences, b u t so m e o f ou r exp erien ces m a y som eh ow ch im e to­
g eth er, th o u g h we ca n n o t b e aw are o f th eir d o in g so, in a m an ner
w h ich alm ost amounts; to gen u in e com m union. In th e m o st fortu n ate
cases we m a y resem ble tw o in cu rab ly d e a f m en sin g in g in tune and
in tim e w ith on e an o th er. R u t we need not dw ell on su ch em b ellish ­
m ents to a th eo ry w h ich is rad ica lly false.
F o r this th eo ry is ju s t an o th er un successful a ttem p t to w riggle
out o f a p e rfe ctly m y th ic a l dilem m a. It assum es th a t un derstanding
w ould h a ve to consist in co n tem p la tin g th e u n kn o w ab le w orkings o f
in sulated ghosts an d cries to rem edy this trouble b y sa y in g th at, in
d efa u lt o f su ch k n o w le d ge, I can do n early as well b y con tem p latin g
such gh o stly operation s o f m y ow n as w ould n a tu ra lly issue in overt
‘expressions’ sim ilar to those o f the persons w hom I w ish to un der­
stand. B u i this in volves a fu rth e r unw arrantable b u t in teresting
assum ption, .n a m e ly th a t to sim ilar o vert deeds a n d w ords there
alw ays correspond sim ilar in tern al processes, an assum ption w h ich is,
accord in g to the th e o ry itself, com p letely un testab lc. It assum es,
also q u ite im properly, th a t it follow s from the fa c t th a t I g o th rou gh
certain in tern al processes th a t I m ust p e rfectly ap p reciate them for
w hat th ey are, i.e. th a t I can n ot m isconstrue, or be p u z z le d by, an y­
th in g th a t goes on in m y ow n stream o f consciousness. In short, this
w hole th eo ry is a va ria n t o f th e doctrine th a t u n d ersta n d in g consists
KNOW IN G HOW AND KNO W IN G TH AT 57

in p ro b lem atic causal d ivin ation , rcin fo rccd b y a w eak analogical


argum ent.
W h a t m akes the th eo ry w orth discussing is th at it p a rtly avoids
eq u a tin g u n d erstan d in g w ith psych ological diagnosis, i.e. w ith causal
in feren ces from overt b eh aviou r to m en tal process in accordan ce w ith
laws ye t to be discovered b y psychologists; an d it avoids th is equation
b y m ak in g an assum ption to w hich it is not en titled b u t w hich is on
the ed ge o f the truth. It assum es th at the qualities o f people’s m inds
are reflected in the th in g s th at th ey overtly say an d do. So historians
an d scholars in stu d yin g th e styles an d procedures o f lite ra ry and
practical activities are on th e rig h t track; it is. acco rd in g to the
th eo ry, just th eir inescapable m isfortune th at this tra ck term inates
in the ch asm separatin g th e ‘ph ysical’ fro m the ‘m en ta l', the ‘overt’
fro m the ’inner’. N o w , had the holders o f th is theory seen th at the
styles and procedures o f people’s activities are the w ay their m inds
work an d are n ot m erely im p erfect reflections o f th e postu lated secret
processes w hich w ere supposed to be the w orkings o f m in ds, their
d ilem m a w ould h a ve evaporated. T h e claim s o f h isto rian s and
scholars to be ab le in principle to understand w h at their su bjects did
an d w rote w ould h ave been au to m atically vind icated. It is not th ey
w ho h ave been stu d y in g shadows.
O ve rt in telligen t perform an ces are not d u e s to the w orkin gs o f
m inds; th ey are those w orkings. Bosw ell described Joh n son ’s m ind
w hen he d escribed h ow he wrote, talked , ate, fidgeted an d fu m ed . H is
description was, o f course, incom plete, since there w ere notoriously
som e th o u gh ts w h ich Johnson kep t ca re fu lly to h im s e lf an d there
m ust h a ve been m a n y dream s, d ayd ream s an d silen t babblings
w h ich o n ly Johnson could h ave recorded an d o n ly a Jam es Joyce
w ould w ish h im to h ave recorded.
B efo re we con clu d c this in q u iry into u n d erstan d in g, som e­
th in g m ust be said ab o u t p artial u n d erstan d in g an d m isunder*
standing.
A tte n tio n has a lrea d y been draw n to certain p arallelism s and cer­
tain non-parallelism s betw een the concept o f kn ow in g th a t and the
concept o f kn o w in g how. A fu rth er non-parallelism m u st now be
noticed. W e n ever speak o f a person h a v in g partial kn ow led ge o f a
fa c t or tru th , save in the special sense of his h a v in g kn ow led ge o f a
part o f a body o f facts or truths. A b oy can b e said to h a v e partial
kn ow led ge o f th e coun ties o f K n glan d, if h e know s som e o f them and
does not know others. B u t h e could not be said to h ave incom plete
kn ow led ge o f Sussex b ein g an E n glish cou n ty. E ith er he know s this
58 THE CO N CE PT OF M IN D

fa ct or b e docs not know it. O n th e o th er h an d, it is proper and norm al


to speak o f a person kn ow in g in part how to d o som ething, i.e. o f his
h a vin g a p articu lar ca p a city in a lim ited degree. A n o rd in ary chess­
player know s the gam e p retty well hut a ch am p io n know s it better,
and even the ch am pion has still m uch to learn.
T h is holds too. as we should now exp ect, o f understanding. A n
o rd in ary chess-player can p a rtly follow the tactics and strategy of a
cham pion; perhaps a fte r m u ch stu d y he will co m p letely understand
the m ethods used b y th e cham pion in certain p articu lar m atches.
B u t he can never w h o lly an ticip ate how the ch am pion w ill fight his
next contest and he is n ever as q u ick or su re in his interpretations o f
the ch am pion ’s m oves as th e cham pion is in m ak in g, or perhaps, in
exp lain in g them .
L e a rn in g how or im p rovin g in a b ility is n o t like learn in g that or
a cq u irin g inform ation. T r u th s can be im parted, procedures can only
be in culcated , and w h ile in cu lcatio n is a grad u al process, im p artin g
is relativelyy sudden. It m akes sense to ask at w h a t m om ent som eone
becam e apprised o f a tru th , b u t not to ask a t w h at m om en t som eone
acquired a skill. ‘ P art-train ed’ is a significant phrase, ‘part-inform ed'
is not. T r a in in g is the a rt o f se ttin g tasks w hich the pupils h ave not
ye t accom plished b u t are not a n y lon ger q u ite incapable o f accom ­
plishing.
T h e notion o f m isu n d erstan d in g raises no gen eral theoretical diffi­
culties. W h en th e card -player's tactics are m isconstrued b y his
opponents, th e m an oeuvre th ey think th ey discern is indeed a possible
m anoeuvre o f th e gam e, th o u gh it happens n o t to be his m anoeuvre.
O n ly som eone who knew the gam e cou ld interpret the p la y as part
o f the execution o f the supposed m anoeuvre. M isu n d erstan d in g is a
by-product o f kn ow in g hozo. O n ly a person w ho is a t least a partial
m aster o f the R ussian to n gu e can m ake th e w ro n g sense o f a Russian
expression. M istakes are exercises o f com petences.
M isin terpretation s are not alw ays d u e to th e inexpcrtness or care­
lessness o f th e spectator; th ey are due som etim es to th e carelessness
and som etim es to th e cu n n in g o f th e a gen t or speaker. Som etim es,
again , both are exercisin g all d u e skill an d care, b u t it happens that
th e operations perform ed , or the words spoken, cou ld actu ally be
constituents o f two or m ore different undertakings. T h e first ten
m otions m ad e in ty in g one knot m igh t be id en tical w ith th e first
ten m otions required fo r ty in g an other, or a set o f prem isses suitable
for establish ing on e conclusion m igh t be eq u ally su itable fo r estab­
lish in g another. T h e on lo o ker’s m isinterpretation m a y then be acute
KNOW IN G HOW AND K N O W IN G TH AT 59

a n d w ell-groun ded , i t is careless o n ly an b e in g prem ature. F ein tin g


is th e arc o f ex p lo itin g th is possibility.
It is obviou s th a t w here m isu n d erstan d in g is possible, understand­
in g is possible. It w ould be ab surd to su ggest that perhaps w e alw ays
m iscon strue th e perform an ces that we w itness, fo r we could n ot even
learn to m isconstrue save in learn in g to construe, a learn in g process
w hich in vo lves learn in g n o t to m isconstrue. M isinterpretations are in
p rin cip le corrigib le, w h ich is p a n o f th e valu e o f controversy.

(10) Solipsism
C o n cem p o rary ph ilosophers h a ve exercised them selves w ith the
p ro b lem o f our kn o w led ge o f o th er m in d s. E n m esh ed in the dogm a
o f th e g h o s t in the m ach in e, th e y h a ve fo u n d it im possible to discover
a n y lo g ic a lly satisfacto ry evidence w arra n tin g one person in believing
that th ere exist m in d s o th er th an his ow n. I can w itness w h at your
b o d y d o cs, b u t I can n ot w itness w hat y o u r m in d docs, an d m y pre­
tensions to in fer from w hat yo u r b o d y does to w hat y o u r m in d does
all collapse, since the prem isses fo r su ch inferences are eith er in*
ad e q u a te or unknow able.
W e ca n n ow see o u r w a y o u t o f the su pposed difficulty. I discover
th a t th ere are o th er m inds in u n d ersta n d in g w hat o th er people say
an d d o. Iu m a k in g sense o f w hat yo u sa y , in ap p reciatin g your jokes,
in u n m a sk in g y o u r chess-stratagem s, 5n fo llo w in g yo u r argum ents
an d in h ea rin g you p ick h o les in m y arg u m en ts, I am not in ferrin g
to th e w o rkin gs o f y o u r m ind. I am fo llo w in g them . O f course, I am
n o t m e re ly h ea rin g th e noises th at y o u m ak e, or m erely seeing the
m ovem en ts th a t yo u perform . I am u n d ersta n d in g w h at I h e a r and
see. B u t th is u n d erstan d in g is n o t in fe rrin g to o ccu lt causes. It is
a p p re cia tin g how the operations are con d u cted . T o find th at most
people h ave m inds (th o u gh idiots a n d in fan ts in arm s do not) is
sim p ly to find th at th e y are ab le an d prone to do certain sorts o f
th in gs, a n d this we d o b y w itn essing the sorts o f th in gs th e y do.
In d eed we d o not m erely discover th a t there arc oth er m inds; we
d iscover w h a t specific q u alities o f in te lle ct a n d ch aracter particular
people h ave. In fa c t we are fa m ilia r w ith su ch specific m atters long
b efore w e can co m p reh en d such g e n e ra l propositions as th at John
D o e h a s a m in d, or th at there exist m in d s o th er than our own; just
as we k n o w th a t stones arc h ard and sponges are soft, kittens are
w arm a n d active, potatoes arc cold a n d inert, lo n g b efore we can
grasp th e proposition th a t k itten s are m ateria l objects, or th at m atter
exists.
6o T H E C O N C E P T OF M IND

C erta in ly th ere arc som e th in gs w h ich I can find o u t a b o u t you


only, or best, th ro u gh b e in g told o f them b y you. T h e oculist has
to ask his clien t w h at letters h e sees w ith h is rig h t and left eyes and
how clearly h e secs th em ; the doctor has to ask th e sufferer w here
th e p ain is and w hat sort o f a p a in it is; a n d the p sych o-an alyst h as to
ask his patien t a b o u t h is dream s and dayd ream s. I f you d o not
d iv u lg e th e con ten ts o f y o u r silen t soliloquies an d o th er im aginin gs,
I h ave no other su re w ay o f fin ding out w h at yo u h ave b een sa yin g
or p ictu rin g to yourself. B u t the sequence o f yo u r sensations and
im agin in gs is n o t the sole field in w h ich yo u r wits an d ch aracter are
shown; perh aps o n ly fo r lu n atics is it m ore than a sm all co m er o f
th a t field. I find o u t m ost o f w hat I w ant to kn ow abour y o u r capa­
cities, interests, likes, dislikes, m ethods and convictions b y observing
how yo u con d u ct your overt doings, o f w hich b y fa r th e m ost im por­
tant are yo u r sayin gs and w ritings. It is a subsidiary question how
you co n d u ct yo u r im agin in gs, in clu d in g y o u r im agin ed m onologues.
CHAPTER III

THE W ILL
*

(1) Foreword
M o s t o f the m cn tal-con d u ct con ccp ts whose logical beh aviou r we
exam ine in th is book, a re fa m ilia r a n d everyday concepts. W c all
know how to a p p ly th em an d w c un derstan d other people w hen th ey
apply ihcm . W h a t is in dispute is not how to apply them , b u t how to
classify th em , or in w h at categories to p u t them .
T h e con ccpt o f volition is in a different ease. W e d o not know in
d a ily life how to use it, fo r we d o not use it in daily life and d o not,
consequently, learn b y practico h ow to ap p ly it, and how not to m is­
apply i t It is an artificial concept. W e have to study certain specialist
theories in order to find out how it is to be m anipulated. It does not,
o f course, follow from its b ein g a tech n ical concept th a t it is an
illegitim ate or useless concept. ‘Ionization* and ‘off-side' arc technical
concepts, but both are leg itim ate a n d useful. ‘P h logiston ’ and ‘anim al
spirits' were tech n ical concepts, th o u g h th ey have now n o utility.
I hope to show th a t th e con cept o f volition belongs to the latter
tribe.

(2) T h e M y th o f Volitions
It has fo r a lon g tim e been taken fo r an indisputable axiom that
the M in d is in som e im portan t sense tripartite, that is, th a t there are
ju st three ultim ate classes o f m ental processes. T h e M in d or Soul, we
are often told, has th ree parts, n am ely, T h o u g h t, F e e lin g an d W ill;
or, m ore solem n ly, the M in d or Sou l fu n ctio n s in th ree irrcd u cib ly
different m odes, (he C o g n itiv e m ode, the E m otional m ode, and the
Conative m ode. T h is trad ition al d ogm a is not only not self-evident,
it is such a w elter o f con fusions an d false inferences th at it is best
to give up a n y attem p t to re-fashion it. It should be treated as one
o f th e curios o f theory.
T h e m ain ob ject o f th is ch ap ter is not, however, to discuss the
w hole Trinitarian th eory o f m in d b u t to discuss, and discuss destruct­
ively, one o f its ingredients. I hope to refu te the doctrin e th at there
62 THE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

exists a F acu lty, im m aterial O rg an , or M in istry, corresponding to the


th eory's description o f th e ‘ W ill’ an d , accord in gly, th a t there occur
processes, or operations, corresp on din g to w h at it describes as ‘voli­
tions’. I m ust how ever m ake it clear fro m th e start th at this refutation
will not invalidate th e distinction s w h ich we all q u ite properly draw
between volun tary an d in volu n tary actions and betw een strong-
w illed and w eak-w illed persons. It w ill, on the con trary, m ake clearer
w hat is m eant b y ‘vo lu n tary’ and ‘in volu n tary', b y ‘strong-w illed’ and
‘ weak-willed’, b y em an cip atin g these ideas fro m b on dage to an absurd
hypothesis.
V olitions h a ve been postulated as special acts, or operations, ‘in
the m in d ; b y m eans o f w hich a m in d gets its ideas translated into
facts. I tb in k o f som e state o f affairs w h ich I w ish to com c into
existence in th e ph ysical world, b ut, as m y th in k in g an d w ish ing are
unexecutive, th ey require the m ediation o f a fu rth e r executive
m en tal process. So I perform a volition w hich som ehow puts m y
m uscles into action. O n ly w hen a b od ily m ovem en t h as issued from
such a volition can 1 m erit praise or blam e fo r w hat m y h an d or
tongue hi.s done.
It w ill be clear w h y I reject this story. It is ju st an in evitable exten ­
sion o f the m yth o f the g h o st in th e m achine. It assum es that there
are menral Starrs nnd processes e n jo y in g one sort o f cxistcn cc, and
b od ily states and processes en jo y in g another. A n occurrence on the
one stage is never n u m erically iden tical w ith an occurrence on the
other. So, to say th a t a person p u lled the trigger in ten tion ally is to
express at least a co n ju n ctive proposition, asserting the occurrence o f
one act on th e ph ysical stage an d an o th er on th e m ental stage; and,
accord in g to m ost versions o f th e m y th , it is to express a causal pro­
position, asserting th a t the b o d ily act o f p u llin g th e trigger was the
effect o f a m ental a ct o f w illin g to p u ll th e trigger.
A cco rd in g to th e theory, the w orkings o f the body are m otions o f
m atter in space. T h e causes o f these m otions m ust then be cither
other m otions o f m atter in space or, in the privileged ease o f h um an
beings, thrusts o f an oth er kind. In som e w ays w hich m ust forever
rem ain a m ystery, m en tal thrusts, w hich are not m ovem ents o f m atter
in space, can cause m uscles to contract. T o describe a m an as inten ­
tionally pulling the trigger is to state th a t such a m enta! thrust did
cause the contraction o f the m u sd es o f his finger. So th e lan gu age o f
‘ volitions’ is the lan gu age o f the para-m echanical th eory o f the m ind.
I f a theorist speaks w ith o u t qualm s o f ‘volitions’ , or ‘acts o f w ill’, no
fu rth e r cvidencc is needed to show th a t h e swallows w hole th e dogm a
THE W IL L 63

th a t a m in d is a secon dary field o f special causes. It can be predicted


th a t he w ill corresp on d in gly speak o f b o d ily action s as ‘expressions’
o f m ental processes. H e is lik ely also to speak g lib ly o f ‘experiences’,
a plural n oun co m m o n ly used to denote th e p ostu lated non-physical
episodes w hich con stitute th e shadow -dram a o n the gh o stly boards
o f th e m en tal stage.
T h e first o b jectio n to th e doctrine th at overt actions, to w hich we
ascribe intelligen ce-predicates, are results o f cou n terp art hidden
operations o f w illin g is this. D esp ite the fa c t th a t theorists have, since
the Stoics an d S ain t A u g u stin e , recom m en d ed us to describe our
con duct in this w ay, 110 one, save to endorse the th eo ry , ever describes
his ow n conduct, or th at o f his acquaintan ces, in th e recom m ended
idiom s. N o one ever says such th in gs as th a t a t 10 a.m . he was occu-
pied in w illin g th is or th at, or h e p erform ed five q u ick an d easy
volitions and two slow an d difficult volitions b etw een m id d ay and
lunch-tim e. A n accused person m a y a d m it or d e n y th a t he d id som e­
thing, or th at h e did it on purpose, b u t h e n ever adm its or denies
h a v in g w illed. N o r do th e ju d g e an d ju r y req u ire to be satisfied b y
evidence, w h ich in the n atu re o f the case co u ld never be adduced,
th a t a volition preceded th e p u llin g o f the trigger. N ovelists describe
th e actions, rem arks, gestures, and grim aces, th e daydream s, deliber­
ations, q ualm s, an d em barrassm ents o f th eir ch aracters; b u t they
n ever m ention th eir volitions. T h e y w ould n o t know w hat to say
a b o u t them .
B y w h at sorts o f predicates should th e y b e described? C a n th ey be
sudden or grad u al, stro n g or w eak, difficult or ea sy , en jo yab le or dis­
agreeable? C a n th ey be accelerated, d ecelerated , interru pted, or sus­
pend ed? C an people b e efficient or inefficient a t th em ? C a n we take
lessons in ex e cu tin g th em ? A re th ey fa tig u in g o r d istractin g? C an I
do tw o or seven o f them sy n ch ro n o u sly? C a n I rem em ber execu tin g
th em ? G in I execu te th em , w h ile th in k in g o f o th e r things, or w hile
d ream in g? C an th e y b cco m e h a b itu a l? C a n I fo rg e t how to do them ?
C an I m istaken ly b elieve th a t I h a ve execu ted o n e, w hen I h ave not,
o r that I h a ve n ot execu ted one, w hen I h ave? A t w hich m om en t was
th e b o y g o in g th ro u g h a volition to tak e th e h ig h dive? W h en he set
foot on th e lad d er? W h e n h e took his first d eep b reath ? W h e n he
counted off ‘O n e, two, th ree - G o ’, b u t d id not g o ? V e ry , very sh ord y
b efore he sprang? W h a t w ould his ow n answ er l>e to those questions?
C h am pion s o f the doctrine m ain tain , o f cou rse, th at the enactm ent
o f volitions is asserted b y im plication , w h e n ev er an overt a ct is des­
crib ed as in ten tion al, vo lu n tary, cu lp ab le, or m eritoriou s; th ey assert
64 T H E C O N C E P T O F MIN'D

too th a t an y person is n o t m erely able b u t b oun d to know th at he is


w illin g w hen he is d o in g so, since volition s are defined as a species
o f conscious process. So if o rd in ary m en an d w om en fa il to m ention
th eir volitions in th eir descriptions o f th eir own beh aviou r, this
m ust be d u e to th eir b ein g untrained in th e dictions appropriate to
the description o f th eir inner, as d istin ct fro m th eir overt, behaviour.
H ow ever, w hen a ch am p io n o f the d octrin e is h im self asked how lon g
a go he execu ted h is last volition, or h ow m an y acts o f w ill he executes
in, say, recitin g ‘L ittle M iss M u ifet’ backw ards, h e is a p t to confess to
finding difficulties in g iv in g th e answ er, th o u gh these difficulties
should n ot, a cco rd in g to h is ow n th eory, exist.
I f o rd in ary m en n ever rep ort the o ccurren ce o f these acts, fo r all
th at, acco rd in g to the theory, th ey sh ou ld be en cou n tered vastly more
freq u en tly than head ach es, or feelin gs o f boredom ; i f ord in ary
vocabu lary has no n on -academ ic nam es for them ; if we do not know
how to settle sim ple questions ab o u t th eir freq u en cy, d u ratio n or
stren gth, then it is fa ir to con clu d e th at th eir existence is not asserted
on em pirical grou n d s. T h e fa c t th a t P lato a n d A risto tle never m en­
tioned them in their freq u en t an d elab orate discussions o f the nature
o f th e soul and th e springs o f co n d u ct is d u e not to a n y perverse
n eglect b y them o f notorious in gredien ts o f d a ily life b u t to the h is­
torical circum stan ce th a t th e y were n ot acq u ain ted w ith a special
h ypothesis th e acceptan ce o f w hich rests not on the discovery, b u t
on the postulation, o f these g h o stly thrusts.
T h e second o b jectio n is this. It is ad m itted th a t one person can
n ever witness th e volitions o f an oth er; he can on ly in fer from an
observed overt action to th e volition fro m w hich it resulted, an d then
o n ly if h e h as a n y good reason to b elieve th a t th e overt action was a
vo lu n tary action, and not a reflex or h ab itu al action , or one resulting
from som e extern al cause. It follow s th at n o ju d g e, schoolm aster, or
parent ever know s th at th e action s w hich he ju d g e s m erit praise or
blam e; fo r he cannot d o b etter th an guess th at th e action was willed.
E ven a confession b y the ag en t, if su ch confessions w ere ever m ade,
th at h e h ad execu ted a volition before his h an d did the deed w ould
n ot settle the question. T h e pronou n cem en t o f th e confession is on ly
a n oth er overt m uscular action. T h e curious conclusion results that
th ou gh volitions w ere called in to exp lain o u r appraisals o f actions,
this exp lan ation is ju s t w h a t they fa il to provide. I f we h a d no o th er
an teceden t groun ds for a p p ly in g appraisal-concepts to th e action s o f
others, we should have no reasons a t all fo r in ferrin g from those
actions to the volitions alleged to g ive rise to them .
THE W ILL 65

N o r could it b e m ain tain ed th a t the agen t h im self can kn ow that


a n y overt action o f h is ow n is th e effect o f a given volition. Supposing,
w h at is n ot the case, th a t h e could know fo r certain, cith er from the
alleg ed d irect d eliveran ces o f consciousness, or from the alleged direct
findings o f introspection, th at h e h a d execu ted an a ct o f w ill to pull
th e trig g e r ju st b efore he had p u lled it, this w ould not prove that the
p u llin g was th e effect o f th a t w illin g. T h e conn exion betw een volitions
and m ovem en ts is allow ed to be m ysterious, so, fo r all he knows,
his volition m a y h a ve h a d som e o th er m ovem en t as its effect and
the p u llin g o f th e trigger m a y h a ve h a d som e o th er even t for its
cause.
T h ird ly , it w ould b e im proper to b u rk e the poin t th at the con­
nexion betw een volition and m ovem en t is ad m itted to be a m ystery.
It is a m ystery not o f th e unsolved but soluble typ e, like the problem
o f th e cause o f cancer, b u t o f q u ite an o th er type. T h e episodes sup­
posed to con stitute th e careers o f m inds are assum ed 10 h ave one
sort o f existen ce, w h ile those co n stitu tin g the careers o f bodies have
an other sort; and n o bridge-starus is allow ed. T ran saction s betw een
m in d s an d bodies in volve links w here no links can be. T h a t there
should be a n y causal transactions betw een m inds an d m atter conflicts
w ith one part, th at there sh ou ld b e none conflicts w ith an oth er part
o f th e th eory. M in d s, as th e w h ole legen d describes th em , are what
m u st exist if th ere is to b e a causa! exp lan atio n o f th e in telligen t be­
h avio u r o f h u m an bodies; an d m inds, as th e legend describes them ,
live on a floor o f existen ce defined as bein g outside th e causal system
to w hich bodies belong.
F o u rth ly , a lth o u g h th e p rim e fu n ctio n o f volitions, the task for
th e p erfo rm an ce o f w h ich th ey w ere postulated, is to origin ate bodily
m ovem ents, th e argu m en t, su ch as it is, fo r th eir existen ce entails
th a t som e m en tal h app en in gs also m ust result from acts o f will. V o li­
tions were postulated to be th at w h ich m akes actions voluntary,
resolute, m eritorious, an d w icked. Hut predicates o f these sorts are
ascribed not o n ly to b o d ily m ovem ents b u t also to operations w hich,
accord in g to th e th eory, are m en tal and n o t physical operations. A
th in ker m a y ratiocin ate resolutely, or im agin e w ickedly; he m ay try
to com posc a lim erick an d h e m a y m eritoriou sly con centrate on his
algeb ra. Som e m en tal processes Then can, a cco rd in g to the theory,
issue from volitions. So w hat o f volitions them selves? A re th ey volun­
tary or in vo lu n tary acts o f m in d ? C le a rly eith er answ er leads to
absurdities. I f I can n o t help w illin g to pull th e trigger, it w ould be
absurd to d escribe m y p u llin g ii as ‘ volu n tary'. B u t i f m y volition to
66 T H E C O N C E P T OF MIND

pull the trigger is volu n tary, in th e sense assumed b y th e th eory, then


it must issue fro m a prior volition and th a t from an oth er ad infinitum .
It has been suggested, to avoid th is difficulty, th at volitions cannot be
described as eith er vo lu n tary or involuntary. ‘V o litio n ' is a term of
the w ron g type to accept eith er predicate. If so, it w ould seem to
follow th at it is also o f th e w rong type to accept such predicates as
‘virtuous' and ‘ w icked', ‘goo d ’ and ‘b ad’, a conclusion w h ich m ig h t
em barrass those m oralises w h o use volitions as the sheet-anchor o f
th e:.r systems.
#

In short, then, the doctrin e o f volitions is a causal hypothesis,


adopted because it was w ro n gly supposed that th e question, ‘ W h a t
makes a b o d ily m ovem en t v o lu n ta ry ? ' was a causal question. T h is
supposition is. in fa ct, o n ly a special tw ist o f th e gen eral supposition
that the question, ‘ H ow are m en tal-con duci concepts applicable to
hum an behaviour?* is a question a b o u t the causation o f th at b e­
haviour.
Cham pions o f the doctrine sh ou ld h ave noticed the sim ple fa ct
that th ey an d all other sensible persons knew h ow to decide questions
about the voluntariness an d involuntariness of action s an d ab o u t the
resoluteness and irresoluteness o f agen ts before th e y had ever heard
of the h ypoth esis o f th e o ccu lt in n er thrusts o f actions. T h e y m igh t
then h ave rea lized th a t th e y w ere not elu cid atin g th e criteria alread y
in efficient use, b ut. ta citly assu m in g th eir va lid ity, w ere try in g to
correlate them w ith h yp o th etical occurrences o f a para-m echanical
pat:em . Y e t this co rrelation cou ld, on the one h an d, never be scienti­
fically established, since the th rusts postulated w ere screened from
scientific observation: an d , on the o th er hand, it w ould b e o f no
practical or th eoretical use, since it w ould not assist ou r appraisals o f
actions, d ep en d in g as it w ould on th e presupposed va lid ity o f those
appraisals. N o r w ould it elu cid ate th e lo gic o f those appraisal-con-
cepts, the in te llig en t em p lo ym en t o f w h ich antedated the inven tion
o f this causal hypothesis.
Before we bid farew ell to th e d o ctrin c o f volitions, it is expedient
to consider certain q u ite fa m ilia r an d au th en tic processes w ith w hich
volitions are som etim es w ro n gly identified.
People are fre q u e n tly in d o u b t w h at to do; h a v in g considered
alternative courses o f action , th e y then, som etim es, select or choose
one o f these courses. T h is process o f o p tin g for one o f a set o f alterna­
tive courses o f action is som etim es said to b e w h a t is signified b y
S o litio n '.B u t this id en tification w ill not d o .fo r m ost vo lu n tary actions
do not issue o u t o f conditions o f indecision and are n o t therefore re*
THE W ILL 67

suits o f settlem en ts o f indecisions, M oreover it is n otorious that a


person m a y choose to do so m eth in g but fail, fro m w eakness of w ill, to
do it; or he m a y fa il to d o it b ccau sc som e circum stance arises after
the ch oicc is m ade, p reve n tin g ih e execu tio n o f th e a ct choscn. B u t
th e th eory cou ld n ot allow th at volitions ever fa il to resu lt in action,
else fu rth e r ex ecu tive operations w ould h ave to be postulated to
account for th e fa c t th a t som etim es vo lu n tary action s are perform ed.
A n d fin ally the process o f d elib era tin g betw een altern atives and
optin g fo r on e o f th em is itself su bject to appraisal-predicates. B u t
if, fo r exam p le, an act o f ch oosin g is d escribablc as voluntary,
then, on th is su ggested show ing, it w ould h ave in its tu rn to b e the
result o f a prior ch oice to choose, an d th a t from a choice to choose to
ch o o se .. . .
T h e sam e ob jection s fo rb id th e identification w ith volitions o f such
other fa m ilia r processes as th at of resolvin g or m ak in g up our m inds
to d o so m eth in g an d th at o f n erv in g or b racin g ourselves to do som e­
th in g. I m ay resolve to g e t o u t o f bed or g o to th e dentist, and I m ay,
clen ch in g m y fists and g rittin g m y teeth , b race m y se lf to d o so, b u t I
m a y still backslid e. I f the action is not done, then, acco rd in g to the
doctrine, th e volition to do it is also unexecuted. A g a in , the opera­
tions o f resolvin g and n ervin g ourselves are them selves m em bers o f
th e class o f cred itab le or d iscred itab le actions, so th e y can n o t con­
stitute th e p ecu liar in gred ien t w hich , a cco rd in g to the doctrine, is the
com m on con d ition o f a n y p erform an ce b e in g creditable o r discredit­
able.

(3) T h e D istin ction betxveen Voluntary a n d Involuntary


It should be n oticed th a t w hile o rd in ary fo lk , m agistrates, parents,
an d teachers, g e n e ra lly ap p ly th e w ords ‘ vo lu n tary’ an d ‘ involuntary*
to actions in one w ay, ph ilosophers o fte n a p p ly them in q u ite another
w ay.
In th eir m ost o rd in ary em p loym en t ‘ v o lu n tary’ and ‘involuntary*
are used, w ith a few m in or elasticities, as ad jectives a p p ly in g to
actions w h ich o u g h t n ot to b e done. W e discuss w h e th er som eone’s
action was vo lu n tary or not o n ly w hen th e action seem s to have been
his fa u lt. H e is accused o f m a k in g a noise, an d th e g u ilt is his, if the
action was volu n tary, like la u g h in g ; he has su ccessfu lly excu sed h im ­
self, if he satisfies us th a t it was in vo lu n tary, lik e a sneeze. In the same
w ay in o rd in ary life w c raise questions o f responsibility o n ly when
som eone is ch arged , ju stly or u n ju stly, w ith an offence. It m akes
sense, in this use, to ask w h eth er a b o y was responsible fo r breaking
68 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

a w indow, b u t n ot w h eth er he was responsible fo r fin ish in g h is hom e­


w ork in good tím e. W c d o n o t ask w heth er it was his fa u lt th at he
g o t a long-division sum rig h t, fo r to g e t a sum r ig h t is not a fau lt. I f
h e gets it w rong, h e m ay sa tisfy us th a t his fa ilu re was not h is fa u lt,
perhaps because h e h ad n o t yet b e e n show n h ow to do su ch calcu ­
lations.
In th is o rd in ary use. then, it is ab su rd to discuss w h eth er satis­
fa cto ry, correct or ad m irab le perform an ces are v o lu n tary or in vo lu n ­
tary. N e ith e r inculpation nor excu lp atio n is in point. W e n either
confess to au th orsh ip n or a d d u cc ex te n u a tin g circum stances; neither
plead ‘g u ilty ’ nor p lead ‘n o t g u ilty ’; fo r we arc not accused.
B u t philosophers, in d iscu ssin g w h a t con stitutes acts vo lu n tary or
in volu n tary, tend to d escribe as vo lu n tary not o n ly rep reh ensible b u t
also m eritorious actions, n ot on ly th in gs th a t are som eone’s fa u lt b u t
also th in gs th a t are to h is credit. T h e m otives u n d e rly in g th eir u n ­
w ittin g extension o f th e o rd in ary sense o f ‘v o lu n tary’, ‘in vo lu n tary’,
an d ‘responsible’ w ill b e considered later. F o r th e m om en t it is w orth
w hile to consider certain consequences w h ich follow from it. In the
ord in ary use, to say th a t a sn eeze was in vo lu n ta ry is to sa y th a t the
agen t co u ld n ot h elp d o in g it, a n d to sa y th a t a la u g h was vo lu n tary
is to say th at th e a g e n t could have help ed d o in g it. (T h is is not to say
th a t th e la u g h was in ten tional. W e d o n ot la u g h on purpose.) T h e b oy
could h ave g o t th e su m rig h t w hich he a ctu a lly got w rong; h e knew
how' to behave, b u t h e m isb eh aved ; h e was com p eten t to tie a reef-
knot, th o u gh w h at h e u n in ten tio n ally p rod u ced was a granny-knot.
H is fa ilu re or lapse was his fa u lt. B u t w h en th e w ord ‘ vo lu n tary’ is
given its p h ilo so p h ically stretch ed use, so th a t correct as w ell as in­
correct, ad m irab le as w ell as con tem p tib le acts are described as volu n ­
tary, it seem s to fo llo w b y an alo g y w ith th e o rd in ary use, th a t a b oy
w ho gets his sum r ig h t can also be described as h a v in g been ‘ab le to
h elp it/ It w ould th en b e proper to ask : C o u ld you h a ve helped
solvin g th e rid d le? C o u ld you h a ve h elp ed d raw in g the proper con­
clu sion ? C ou ld you h ave h elp ed ty in g a proper reef-k n ot? C o u ld you
h ave h elp ed seein g th e poin t o f th at jo k e ? C o u ld yo u h a ve helped
b ein g kin d to th at ch ild ? In fa ct, how ever, no on e could answ er these
questions, th ou gh it is n o t a t first obviou s w h y, i f it is correct to say
th at som eone could h ave avoided g e ttin g a sum w ron g, it is incorrect
to say th a t h e could h a ve avoid ed g e ttin g it right.
T h e solution is sim ple. W h e n we say th a t som eone cou ld have
avoid ed co m m ittin g a lapse or error, or th a t it was h is fa u lt th at he
com m itted it, we m ean th a t h e kn ew how to d o th e rig h t th in g, or
THE W ILL 69

was com peten t to d o so, b u t did not exorcise his kn ow ledge or com ­
petence. H e was n ot tryin g, or n ot tryin g hard en ough. B u t w hen a
person has done the rig h t thin g, we cannot then say that he knew
how to d o the w ron g thing, or th at he was com petent to m ake m is­
takes. F o r m ak in g m istakes is not an exercise o f com petence, nor is
the com m ission o f slips an exorcise o f kn ow ledge how; it is a failure
to exercise know ledge how. It is true in on e sense o f ‘cou ld ’ th at a
person w ho h ad done a sum correctly could h ave go t it w rong; in the
sense, nam ely, th a t he is not exem p t from the lia b ility to be carcless.
But in another sense o f 'co u ld ', to ask, ‘C ou ld you have got it w rong?’
m eans ‘W e re you sufficiently in telligen t and w ell-trained and were
you con centrating hard en ough to m ak e a m iscalcu latio n ?’ , an d this
is as silly a question as to ask w heth er som eone's teeth a rc strong
enough to be broken b y cra ck in g nuts.
T h e tan gle o f la rgely spurious problem s, know n as the problem o f
the F reedom o f the W ill, p artly derives from this unconsciously
stretched use o f ‘voluntary* and these consequential m isapplications
o f different senses o f ‘could' and ‘could have h elp ed ’.
T h e first task is to elu cid ate w h at is m ean t in th eir ordin ary, undis-
tortcd use b y ‘volu n tary', ‘in volu n tary’ , ‘responsible’, ‘could n ot have
helped', and ‘h is fa u lt', as these expressions are used in deciding
concrete questions o f g u ilt an d innocence.
If a boy has tied a gran n y-kn ot instead o f a reef-knot, we satisfy
ourselves that it was his fa u lt b y first estab lish in g th a t he knew how
to tie a reef-knot, an d then b y estab lish ing th at h is hand was not
forced b y external coercion an d th at there wore no other agcn cies at
work preven tin g h im from tyin g the correct knot. W e establish that
he could tie reef-knots b y fin d in g o u t th at h e h ad been tau gh t, had
had practice, usually g o t them righ t, or b y finding th at he could
dotcct an d correct knots tied b y others, or b y finding th a t h e was
asham ed o f w hat he had done an d , w ithout help from others, put it
rig h t him self. T h a t h e was not actin g under duress or in p an ic or
h ig h fever or w ith n u m b fingers, is discovered in th e w ay in w hich
we ord in arily discover th at h ig h ly exception al incidents h ave not
taken placc; fo r su ch incidents w ould h ave been too rem arkab le to
have gone unrem arked, a t least b y the boy him self.
T h e first question w hich we h ad to decide h a d n o th in g to d o w ith
the occurren cc or non-occurrence o f a n y occu lt episode in the boy's
stream o f consciousness; it was the question w heth er or not he had
the required h igh er-level com petence, th at o f know in g how to tie
reef-knots. W c w ere not, a t this stage, in q u irin g w heth er h e com ­
•JO THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

m itted , or om itted , an ex tra p u b lic or p rivate operation, b u t only


w heth er he possessed or lacked a certain in telligen t capacity. W h a t
satisfied us was not th e (u nattainable) know ledge o f th e truth or
fa lsity o f a p articu lar cause-overt effect proposition, b u t the (attain­
able) know ledge o f th e truth or fa lsity o f a com plex and partially
general h ypoth etical proposition - not, in short, th at he did tic a
shadow y reef- or gran n y-kn ot b eh in d th e scenes, b u t that h e could
h ave tied a real on e w ith th is rope and w ould h a ve done so on this
occasion, if he h ad paid m ore heed to w h at h e was doing. T h e lapse
w as his fc.ult because, k n o w in g how to tie the knot, h e still did not
tie it correctly.
C onsider n e x t th e case o f an act w hich everyone w ould decide was
n ot the agent's fa u lt. A boy arrives late fo r school an d on in q u iry it
turns out th at he le ft h om e a t the usual tim e, did not d a lly on his
w ay to the om nibus h alt an d cau gh t th e usual om nibus. B u t the
veh icle broke down an d could not com plete th e journ ey. T h e b o y ran
as fa st as he could th e rest o f the w ay, b u t was still Jate. C le arly all the
steps taken b y the boy were eith er th e sam e as those w hich norm ally
b rin g hira to school in tim e, or w ere the o n ly steps open to him for
rem ed yin g the effects o f th e breakdow n. T h e re was n o th in g else th at
he could have done an d his teach er p ro p crlv recom m ends h im to
tollow the sam e routin e on fu tu re occasions. H is late arrival was not
the result o f a failu re to d o w h at h e was capable o f doing. H e was
prevented b y a circum stance w hich was not in h is pow er to m odify.
H ere again th e teach er is ju d g in g a n action w ith reference to the
capacities and opportunities o f the agen t; his excuse is accepted that
he could not h a ve done b etter than h e did. T h e w hole question o f
the involuntariness o f his late arrival is decided w ithout the b oy b ein g
asked to report a n y d eliverances o f consciousness or introspection
about the execution or non-execution o f a n y volitions.
It m akes no difference if the actions w ith w hich an agen t is ch arged
either are or em b od y operations o f silent soliloquy or other operations
w ith verbal or non-verbal im ages. A slip in m en tal a rith m etic is the
pupil's fau lt on th e sam e grou n ds as a slip m ade in w ritten arith ­
m etic; ar.d an error com m itted in m atch in g colours in the m in d ’s
eye m ay m erit th e reproach o f carelessness in th e sam e w ay as an
error com m itted in m atch in g colours on the draper’s counter. I f the
agent could have done b etter than he did, then h e could h ave helped
d oin g it as b ad ly as h e did.
Beside« con siderin g the ord in ary senses o f ‘ volun tary', ‘in vo lu n ­
tary', ‘responsible', ‘m y fa u lt', an d ‘co u ld ' or ‘could not h elp', we
THE W ILL 7!

should notice as well th e o rd in ary uses o f such expressions as ‘effort


o f w ill’, ‘stren gth o f w ill' an d 'irresolute*. A person is described as be­
h a vin g resolutely w hen in ih e execu tion o f difficult, protracted or dis­
agreeable tasks h e tends n o t to rela x his efforts, not to let h is atten ­
tion be d iverted, not to g ru m b le and not to th in k m uch or often ab o u t
his fatigue or fears. H e does n o t shirk or drop th in gs to w hich h e has
set his hand. A w eak-w illed person is one w ho is easily d istracted or
disheartened, apt to convince h im self th a t an oth er tim e will be m ore
suitable or th at the reasons fo r u n d erta k in g the task w ere not after
all very strong. N o te that it is no part o f the definition o f resoluteness
or o f irrcsoluteness th at a resolution should a ctu a lly h ave been
form ed. A resolute m an m a y firm ly resist tem ptations to abandon or
postpone h is task, th o u gh he n ever w ent th rou gh a p refato ry ritual-
process o f m a k in g up his m in d to com plete it. B u t n a tu ra lly such a
m an will also be disposed to p erform a n y vows w hich he has m ad e to
others or to him self. C o rresp on d in gly th e irresolute m an w ill be likely
to fa il to carry ou t his often num erous good resolutions, b u t h is lack
o f tenacity o f purpose w ill b e e x h ib ited also in surrenders a n d slack­
nesses in courses o f action w hich w ere u n p refaced b y a n y p rivate or
p u b lic undertakings to accom plish them .
Strength o f will is a propensity the exercises o f w hich consist in
stickin g 10 tasks; th at is, In not b ein g deterred o r diverted. W eakness
o f w ill is h a v in g too little o f th is propensity. T h e perform an ces in
w hich strength o f w ill is exerted m a y be perform an ces o f alm ost any
sort, intellectual or m anual, im agin ative or adm in istrative. It is not
a singlc-track disposition or, fo r th a t a n d o th er reasons, a disposition
to execute occu lt operations o f one special kind.
B y 'a n effort o f w ill’ is m ean t a p a rticu lar exercise o f ten acity o f p u r­
pose, occurring w hen th e obstacles are n o tab ly great, or the counter­
tem ptations n otab ly strong. S u ch efforts m ay, b u t need not, be
accom panied b y special processes, often o f a ritu al ch aracter, o f
nerving or a d ju rin g on eself to do w hat is required; b u t these processes
are n ot so m u ch w ays in w h ich resoluteness is show n as w ays in w hich
fea r o f irrcsoluteness m an ifests itself.
Before we leave the concept or concepts o f voluntariness, two
fu rth er points need to be m ad e. (1) V e ry often we oppose th in gs done
volun tarily to thin gs suffered un der com pulsion. Som e soldiers are
volunteers, others are conscripts: som e yach tsm en g o ou t to sea volun­
tarily, others are carried o u t to sea b y th e wind and tide. H ere ques­
tions of in culpation an d excu lp ation need n o t arise. In askin g w hether
the soldier volunteered or was conscripted, we a re ask in g w heth er he
72 T H E C O N C E P T OP M IND

joined up because h e w anted to d o so, or w hether h e jo in e d up b e ­


cause he had to d o so, w here ‘had to’ entails ‘n o m atter w hat he
w anted’. In askin g w h eth er th e yach tsm an w ent out to sea o f his own
accord or w heth er he was carried out, we are a sk in g w h eth er he w ent
out on purpose, or w h eth er h e w ould still h a ve gone o u t as he did,
even if h e h ad m eant not to do so. W o u ld bad news fr o m h om e, or a
w arn in g fro m the coastgu ard, h a ve stopped h im ?
W h a t is in vo lu n tary, in this use, is n ot describable as a n act. B ein g
carried out to sea. or b ein g callcd up, is som eth in g th a t h app ens to a
person, n o t som eth in g w hich h e does. In th is respect, th is antithesis
betw een v o lu n tary and in volu n tary differs fro m th e an tith esis we
h ave in m ind w hen we ask w heth er som eone’s ty in g o f a gran n y-kn ot,
or his k n ittin g o f his brow s, is volu n tary or in volu ntary. A person w ho
frow ns in vo lu n tarily is not fo rced to frow n, as a yachtsm an m a y be
forced ou t to sea; nor is th e careless b oy forced to tie a gran n y-kn ot,
as the conscript is fo rced to join th e arm y. E ven fro w n in g is som e­
th in g th at a person does. It is n ot done to him . So som etim es the
question ‘V o lu n ta ry or in vo lu n ta ry?’ m eans ‘D id th e person do it. or
was it done to h im ? ’ ; som etim es it presupposes that h e did it, b u t
m eans 'D id he do it w ith or w ithout h eed in g w hat he was d o in g ?’
or ‘D id h e d o it on purpose or in ad verten tly, m ech a n ica lly, or instinct­
ively, etc.?’
(2) W h en a person does som eth in g volu n tarily, in the sense th a t he
docs it on purpose or is tryin g to do it, his action certain ly reflects
som e q u ality or q u alities o f m in d, since (it is m ore th a n a verbal
poin t to say) h e is in som e degree an d in one fa sh io n or an oth er
m in d in g w hat h e is doin g. It follow s also that, if lin g u istically equip­
ped, he can then tell, w ith ou t research or con jectu re, w h a t he has
been tryin g to accom plish. B u t, as w ill be argu ed in C h a p te r V , these
im plications o f voluntariness do not carry w ith them th e double-life
corollaries often assum ed. T o frow n in ten tion ally is n o t to do one
th in g on on e’s fo reh ead an d another th in g in a second m etaph orical
place; nor is it to do one th in g w ith on e’s brow -m uscles an d another
th in g w ith som e n on -bodily organ. In particular, it is n o t to b rin g
about a frow n on one's foreh ead b y first b rin gin g about a frow n-caus­
in g exertion o f som e occu lt non-m uscle. ‘H e frow ned in ten tio n ally’
does not report th e occurrence o f two episodes. It reports th e occur­
rence o f one episode, b u t one o f a very different ch a ra ctcr from rhat
reported b y ‘he frow ned in volu n tarily’ , th o u g h the frow n s m igh t be
ph otograph ically as sim ilar as you please.
THE W ILL 73

(4) F reed om o f th e W ill


It has been pointed out th a t in som e philosophers’ discussions o f
the voluntariness o f actions, the w ords ‘vo lu n tary’ , 'in v o lu n ta ry ’ and
‘responsible’ arc used, nor w ith th eir o rd in ary restriction to lapses or
app aren t lapses, b u t w ith th e w ider scope coverin g all perform ances
w hich are to !>e a d ju d g ed fa vo u ra b ly or u n favo u rab ly b y an y criteria
o f excellen ce or adm issib ility. In th eir use, a person is described as
vo lu n tarily d o in g th e rig h t th in g and as vo lu n tarily d o in g the w rong
th in g, or as b ein g responsible not on ly fo r action s for w hich he is
su bject to accusation , b u t also fo r actions en titlin g h im to kudos. It
is used, th at is, as a synon ym o f ‘ intentional’.
N o w the philosophers w ho h ave w orked w ith th is stretch ed usage
h ave had a stron g in tellectu al m otive fo r d oin g so. T h e y fe lt th e need
fo r an apparatus o f term s b y w hich to d em arcate th ose th in gs and
occurrences to w hich eith er p lau d its or strictures arc appropriate
fro m those to w hich n eith er are appropriate. W ith o u t such an a p ­
paratus it w ould, th e y felt, be im possible to state w hat ajrc th e q u a li­
fications for m em bership o f the realm o f Spirit, th e la ck o f w hich
entails relegation to th e realm o f b ru te N a tu re.
T h e m ain source o f this concern to discover som e p ecu liar elem ent
present, w herever Spirit is present, and absent, w here it is absent, was
alarm a t the b o g y o f M ech an ism . It was believed th at the physical
sciences had establish ed, or were on the w ay to estab lish in g, th a t the
th in gs an d events o f the extern al w orld are rig id ly govern ed b y dis­
coverable laws, laws the form u lation s o f w hich ad m it n o appraisal-
words. It was felt th at all extern al happ enin gs are con fin ed w ithin
the iron grooves o f m ech an ical causation. T h e genesis, th e properties
and the courses o f these h ap p en in gs were, or w ould b e, totally e x ­
plained in term s o f m easu rable an d , it was supposed, th erefo re p u r­
poseless forces.
T o salve o u r rig h t to em p loy appraisal-concepts, th e field o f their
proper application h ad to b e show n to lie som ew here else th an this
extern al w orld, a n d an internal world o f u n m easu rable b u t purposeful
forces was th o u g h t to d o the trick. ‘V o lition s' b e in g already
n om in ated as th e required ou tpu ts o f internal forces, it was then
n atural to suppose th at voluntariness, defined in term s o f propagation
b y volitions, was the com m on and p ecu liar elem en t w h ich m akes
occurrences spiritual. Scientific propositions a n d appraisal-proposi*
tions w ere acco rd in g ly distin guish ed as b ein g resp ectively descrip­
tions o f w h at takes place in the extern al w orld and descriptions o f
74 th e c o n c e p t o f m tnd

w hat rakes ptace in the in tern al w orld - at least until psychologists


claim ed th a t th eir assertions w ere scientific description s o£ w hat takes
place in th e inner world.
T h e question w h eth er h u m an b ein gs can m erit praise or blam e
was con sequen tly con strued as th e question w h e th er volitions are
effects.

(5) T h e Bogy o f M ech a n ism


W h en ever a new science ach ieves its first b ig successes, its en th u ­
siastic acolytes alw ays fa n c y th at all questions arc now soluble b y
extension o f its m ethods o f solvin g its questions. A t one tim e theorists
im agin ed th a t the w hole w orld w as n o th in g m ore than a com p lex
o f geo m etrical figures, a t a n o th er th at th e w hole w orld was
describablc and exp licab le in th e propositions o f pure arith m etic.
C h em ical, electrical, D arw in ian an d F reu d ian cosm ogonies h ave also
enjoyed their b rig h t b u t b rie f days. ‘A t lon g la st’, th e zealots alw ays
say, ‘we can give, or at least in d icate, a solution o f all difficulties and
one w hich is u n q u estion ab ly a scientific so lu tio n ’.
T h e physical sciences laun ch ed b y C o p ern icu s, G alileo, N ew ton
and B oyle secured a lo n ger and a stron ger hold u p o n the cosm ogony-
builders than did eith er th eir foreru n n ers or th e ir successors. People
still tend to treat law s o f M ech an ics n o t m e re ly as the id eal type o f
scientific laws, b u t as, in som e sense, th e u ltim ate law s o f N atu re.
T h e y tend to h ope or fe a r th a t b iological, p sych o lo gical an d socio­
logical laws w ill on e d a y be ‘red u ced ’ to m ech an ical laws - th o u gh
it is left u n clear w hat sort o f a transaction this ‘ red u ction ’ w ould be.
I have spoken o f M ech an ism as a bogy. T h e fe a r th at th eoretically
m inded persons h ave fe lt lest e v e ryth in g sh o u ld turn ou t to be e x ­
plicable b y m ech an ical law s is a baseless fear. A n d it is baseless not
because the co n tin g en cy w hich th e y d read happ ens not to be im pend­
ing, b u t because it m akes no sense to speak o f su ch a contingen cy.
Physicists m ay on e d a y h a ve fo u n d the answers to all physical ques­
tions, but not all questions are p h ysical questions. T h e law s th a t they
h ave fo u n d an d w ill find m ay , in on e sense o f th e m etap h orical verb,
govern eve ryth in g that happens, b u t th e y do n o t ordain everyth in g
th at happens. Indeed th ey do not ordain a n y th in g th at happens. L aw s
o f nature are n ot fiats.
A n illustration m ay elu cid ate this point. A scientifically trained
spectator, w ho is not acq u ain ted w ith chess o r a n y o th er g a m e, is
perm itted to look a t a chessboard in the in tervals betw een the moves.
H e does not ye t see the players m a k in g the m oves. A fte r a tim e he
THE W IL L 75

begins to n otice certain regularities. T h e pieces kn ow n to us as


‘paw ns’ n o rm a lly m ove only one square a t a tim e and then on ly for­
wards, save in certain spccial circum stances w hen th ey m ove diagon ­
ally. T h e pieces kn ow n to us as 'bishops’ o n ly m ove diagonally,
though th ey con m ove an y n u m b er o f squares a t a time. Knighca
alw ays m ake d og-legged moves. A n d so on. A fte r m uch research this
spectator w ill have worked o u t all th e rules o f chess, an d he is then
allowed to see th at th e m oves o f th e pieces are m ad e b y people whom
we know as'p layers’.H e com m iserates w ith th em upon th eir bondage.
‘E very m ove th at you m ake', he says, ‘is govern ed b y unbreakable
rules; fro m the m om ent th at on e o f you p u ts h is hand on a pawn,
the m ove th a t he will m ake w ith it is, in m ost cases, accu rately pre­
dictable. T h e w hole course o f w h at yo u tra g ica lly du b your “ gam e” is
rem orselessly pre-ordained; n o th in g in it takes p lace w hich cannot
be shown to be governed b y on e or o th er o f th e iron rules. I Ieartless
necessity d ictates th e play, lea v in g n o room in it for in telligence or
purpose. T ru e , I am not yet com peten t to exp lain every m ove th at I
witness b v✓ the ru les that I h a ve so fa r discovered. B u t it w ould be
unscientific to suppose that there are in ex p licab le m oves. T h e r e must
therefore he fu rth e r rules, w hich I h ope to discover and which will
satisfactorily com plete the exp lan atio n s w h ich I h ave inaugurated.'
T h e players, o f course, laugh an d ex p lain to h im th at th ou gh every
m ove is govern ed , not oue o f th em is ord ain ed b y the rules, ‘True,
given th at I start to m ove m y bishop, yo u can predict w ith certainty
th at it w ill end on a square o f the sam e colou r as th at from w hich ir.
started. T h a t can be deduced from th e rules. B u t that, or how far, I
sh all m ove m y bishop a t this or th a t stage o f the gam e is not stated
in, or d ed u cib le fro m , the rules. T h e r e is p len ty o f room for us to
display cleverness and stu p id ity an d to exercise deliberation and
choice. T h o u g h n o th in g happens th a t is irregu lar, p len ty happens
th a t is surprising, ingenious an d silly. T h e rules are th e sam e fo r all
the gam es o f chess that h a ve ever been played , yet n early ever)'
gam e th a t has ever been p layed h as taken a course for w hich the
players can recall no close parallels. T h e rules a rc u n alterable, but
the gam es are not uniform . T h e ru les prescribe w hat th e players may
not do; e v e ry th in g else is p erm itted , th o u g h m a n y m oves that are
perm itted w ould b e b ad tactics.
‘T h e re are n o fu rth e r ru les o f the gam e for y o u to discover and
the “ cxplduailoii»” wliW.il you h ope to find for d ie put ik u la i m o v o
th at we m ake can , o f course, be discovered, but th ey are not exp lan a­
tions in term s o f ru les but in term s o f som e q u ite different things,
76 T H E C O N C E P T O F MIND-

nam ely, su ch th in gs as th e p la yer’s con sideration an d application o f


tactical principles. Y o u r notion o f w h at con stitu tes an exp lan ation
was too narrow . T h e sense in w hich a ru le "e x p la in s” a m ove m ad e in
con form ity w ith it is n o t th e sam e as the sense in w hich a tactical
principle exp lain s a m ove, fo r all th a t every m o ve th at obeys a tactical
prin ciple also obeys a rule. K n o w in g how to a p p ly tactical principles
involves kn ow in g the rules o f th e g a m e, b u t th ere is n o question of
these principles b ein g “ red u cib le” to rules of th e gam e/
T h is illustration is n o t in tended to su ggest th a t the laws o f physics
are very m u ch like the rules o f chess; fo r the cou rse o f N a tu re is not
a gam e an d its laws are not h u m an inventions o r conventions. W h a t
the illustration is m eant to b rin g o u t is th e fa c t th a t there is no co n ­
tradiction in sa yin g th a t one and the sam e process, such as the m ove
o f a bishop, is in accordan ce w ith tw o prin ciples o f com pletely
different types and such th a t n eith er is ‘re d u cib le' to the other,
th o u gh one o f th em presupposes th e other.
H en ce there d erive tw o q u ite different sorts o f ‘exp lan ation ’ o f
the m oves, n eith er o f w hich is in com p atib le w ith the other. Indeed
the explan ation in term s o f tactical canons presupposes that in term s
o f the rules o f chess, b u t it is not d cd u cib le fro m those rules. T h is
point can be expressed in an oth er w ay. A sp ectator m ig h t ask, in one
sense o f ‘w h y’ , w h y the bishop alw ays ends a m ove on a square o f the
sam e colour as th at on w hich it b egan the g a m e; he w ould be a n ­
swered b y b ein g referred to the rules o f chess, in clu d in g those
prescribin g the design o f the board. H e m ig h t then ask, in another
sense o f ‘w h y’ , w h y a p layer at a certain stage o f the g a m e m oved one
o f h is bishops (and not som e o th er piece) to one square (and not to
another); h e m ig h t be answ ered th at it was to force the opposing
Q ueen to cease to th reaten the p layer’s K in g.
W ords like ‘exp lan atio n ’, ‘law ’ , ‘ru le’ , ‘p rin cip le’, ‘ w h y’ , ‘bccause’,
‘cause’, ‘reason’, ‘go vern ’, ‘necessitate’ , etc., have a range o f typ ically
different senses. M ech an ism seem ed to be a m cn a ce because it was
assum ed that the use o f these term s in m ech a n ical theories is their
sole use; that all 'w h y' questions are an sw erab le in term s o f laws o f
m otion. In fa ct all ‘w h y ’ questions o f one type are perhaps answ er­
able in those terms an d no ‘w h y ’ questions o f o th e r types a re answ er­
able m erely in those terms.
It m ay w ell be that th ro u gh o u t the w hole len g th o f T h e D eclin e
and F a ll o f th e Rom an E m pire G ib b o n never o n ce in frin ges the rules
o f E nglish gram m ar. T h e y govern ed his entire w ritin g, yet th ey did
not ordain w hat he sh ou ld write, or even the styl« in w h ich he should
THE W ILL 77
w rite; rhey m erely fo rb a d e certain w ays o f con join in g words. K now ­
in g these rules an d G ib b o n ’s obedience to them , a reader can predict
from the fact th a t a p a rticu lar sentence has fo r its su b ject a plural
noun that its verb will l>e a plu ral verb. H is predictions w ill be uni­
fo rm ly corrcct, ye t w e fe e l n o in clin ation to lam ent th at G ib b on ’s
pen ran in a fa ta l groove. G ra m m a r tells the reader th a t the verb
m ust be a plu ral verb, b u t not w h ich verb it w ill be.
A n argu m en tative passage from T h e D eclin e a n d Fall m igh t be
exam in ed fo r th e g ra m m atical rules w hich its w ord-arrangem ents
observe, the stylistic canons w h ich its w ord-arrangem ents observe,
and the logical rules w hich its w ord-arrangem ents observe. T h e re is
no conflict or com petition betw een these different types o f principles;
a ll alike arc applied in the sam e m aterial; all alike can supply licenses
for correct predictions; ail alik e m a y be referred to fo r answers to
questions o f the sam e verbal p attern 'W h y did G ib b on write this and
not som ething else?’
T h e discoveries o f th e ph ysical sciences n o m ore rule out life, sen­
tience, purpose or in telligen ce fro m presence in the w orld than do
the rules of g ra m m a r extru d e style or lo gic from prose. C erta in ly the
discoveries o f the ph ysical sciences say n o th in g o f life, sentience, or
purpose, but nor do the rules o f g ram m ar say a n y th in g about style
or logic. F or the laws o f ph ysics a p p ly to w hat is anim ate as well as
to w h at is in an im ate, to in telligen t people as w ell as to idiots, just as
the rules of g ra m m a r a p p ly to W hitaker's A lm a n a c as w ell as to T h e
D eclin e and F a ll, to M rs E d d y ’s as well as to H u m e ’s reasonings.
T h e favou rite m odel to w hich th e fan cied m echanistic world is
assim ilated is th at o f b illiard balls im p artin g th eir m otion to one
a n oth er by im pact. Y e t a gam e o f billiards provides one o f the
sim plest exam ples o f a course o f even ts for the description o f which
m echanical term s are necessary w ith o u t b ein g sufficient. C ertain ly
from accuratc know ledge o f th e w eigh t, shape, elasticity an d m ove­
m ents o f the balls, the constitution o f th e table and the conditions o f
the atm osphere it is in principle possible, in accord an cc w ith know n
laws, to deduce from a m om en tary state o f th e balls w hat w ill be their
later state. B u t it docs not follow from th is that th e course o f the
g am e is predictable in accordance w ith those laws alone. A scientific
forecaster, w ho was ig n oran t o f th e rules and tactics o f the gam e is
predictable in accordan ce w ith those law s alone. A scientific fore­
caster, who was ign oran t o f the rules an d tactics o f the g a m e and o f
the skill and plan s o f the players, could predict, perhaps, from the
b eg in n in g o f a single stroke, the positions in w hich the balls will
78 THE C O N CE PT OP M IN D

com c to rest b efore the n ext stroke is m ade: b a t h e could predict no


fu rth er. T h e p layer h im self m a y be ab le to foresee w ith m odest prob­
a b ility the sort o f break th a t h e w ill m ak e, fo r he knows, perhaps,
the best tactics to ap p ly to situations like this an d he know s a good
deal ab o u t h is ow n skill, en d u ran ce, patience, keenness an d inten­
tions.
It m ust b e n oticed th at in so fa r as the p la y e r h as a n y skill in
g ettin g the b alls w here he wishes, h e m ust h a v e kn ow led ge, o f a
ru le-of-th um b sort, o f th e m ech an ical p rin cip les w h ich govern the
accelerations an d decelerations o f th e balls. H is kn ow ledge h ow to
execu te his in ten tions is not at loggerh ead s w ith his kn ow ledge o f
m ech an ical laws; it depends on th at kn ow ledge. In ap p lyin g appraisal-
concepts to his p la y we arc n o t w orried by the fa c t th at the m otions
im parted b y h im to the b alls are govern ed b y m echan ical laws; fo r
there co u ld not b e a g a m e o f skill a t a ll if, per im p o s s ib le , the instru­
m ents o f the gam e beh aved random ly.
T h e m odern in terpretation o f n atu ral laws as statem ents n ot o f
necessities b u t o f very, very lo n g odds is som etim es acclaim ed as pro­
v id in g a desiderated clem en t o f non-rigorousness in N atu re. N o w
a t last, it is som etim es felt, w e can b e scientific w h ile reservin g ju st a
fe w occasions in w h ich appraisal-concepts can. b e properly applied.
T h is silly view assum es th a t an action cou ld n o t m erit favou rab le
or un favou rab le criticism , unless it w ere an ex cep tio n to scientific
gen eralization s. B u t th e b illiard s p la yer asks fo r no spccial indul*
gences from th e law s o f physics a n y m ore th a n he docs from the
rules o f billiards. W h y sh ou ld h e ? T h e y do n o t force his h an d. T h e
fears expressed b y som e m oral philosophers th a t th e ad van ce o f
th e n atural sciences dim inishes th e field w ith in w h ich th e m oral
virtues can be exercised rests on th e assu m ption th a t th ere is some
contradiction in sa y in g th a t one an d the sam e o ccu rren ce is governed
both b y m ech an ical laws a n d b y m oral prin cip les, a n assum ption as
baseless as th e assum ption th a t a g o lfe r ca n n o t a t once con form to
th e laws o f ballistics and o b ey th e rules o f g o lf a n d p la y w ith elegance
and s k ill N o t o n ly is th ere p len ty o f room fo r purpose w here every­
th in g is govern ed b y m ech an ical laws, b u t th e re w ould be n o place
fo r purpose if th in gs w ere not so govern ed. P re d ic ta b ility is a neces­
sary con dition o f p lan n in g.
M ech an ism then is a m ere b o g y a n d w hile there is m uch to be
elu cid ated in th e special concepts o f b io lo g y , an th ro p o lo g y, socio­
lo gy, ethics, lo gic, aesth etics, politics, econom ics, h istoriograph y, etc.,
th ere is n o need fo r th e desperate salvage-op cration o f w ith draw in g
THE W ILL 79

th e application s o f th em o u t o f the o rd in ary w orld to som e postulated


other w orld, or o f settin g up a p artition betw een things th a t exist
in N a tu re an d th in gs th at exist in n on -N atu rc. N o occu lt precursors
o f overt acts a re req uired to preserve fo r th eir a g e n t his title to
p lau d its or strictu res fo r p e rfo rm in g them , n or w ould th ey be effec­
tive preservatives if th ey d id exist.
M en are not m achines, not even gh ost-ridden m achines. T h e y
are m en - a tau to lo g y w hich is som etim es w orth rem em bering. People
o ften pose su ch questions as ‘H ow does m y m in d g e t m y hand to
m ake the required m o vem en ts?’ an d even ‘W h a t m akes m y h an d do
w hat m y m in d tells it to d o ? ’ Q uestions o f these patterns are properly
asked o f certain chain-processes. T h e question ‘ W h a t m akes the
b u llet fly out o f th e b a rre l? ’ is properly answ ered b y ‘T h e expansion
o f gases in the ca rtrid g e’; the question ‘ W h a t m akes the cartridge
e x p lo d e ?’ is answ ered b y referen ce to the percussion o f th e detonator;
an d th e question ‘H ow does m y sq u eezin g the trig g er m ake the pin
strike the d e to n a to r?’ is answ ered b y d escrib in g th e m echanism o f
springs, levers a n d catch es betw een the trig g er an d the pin. So when
it is asked ‘H ow does m y m in d get m y finger to squeeze the trig g er?’
the form o f the question presupposes th a t a fu rth er chain-process is
in volved, e m b o d y in g stili earlier tensions, releases and discharges,
th ou gh this tim e ‘m ental* ones. B u t w h atever is the act or operation
adduced as the first step o f th is postulated chain-process, the per­
form an ce o f it h as to b e described in ju st th e sam e w ay as in ordinary
life we d escribe th e sq u eezin g o f th e trig g e r b y th e m arksm an.
N a m e ly we say sim p ly 'H e d id it’ an d not ‘H e d id or underw ent
som eth in g else w h ich caused it’.
In conclusion, it is perhaps w orth w hile g iv in g a w arn in g against
a v e ry pop u lar fa lla cy . T h e h earsay kn ow led ge th at everyth in g in
N a tu re is su b ject to m ech an ical laws often tem pts people to say that
N a tu re is eith er on e b ig m ach in e, or else a conglom eration o f
m achines. B u t in fa c t there are very few m achines in N a tu re . T h e
o n ly m ach in es th a t we find a rc the m ach ines th at h u m an beings
m ake, such as clocks, w in dm ills an d turbines. T h e r e are a very few
n atu ral system s w h ich som ew h at resem ble su ch m achines, nam ely,
su ch th in gs as solar system s. T h e se do g o on by them selves and repeat
in d efin itely th e sam e series o f m ovem ents. T h e y d o go, as few u n ­
m an u fa ctu red th in g s go, ‘like clock-w ork’. T r u e , to m ake m achines
we have to kn ow an d a p p ly M ech an ics. B u t in ven tin g m achin es is
n ot co p yin g th in g s foun d in in an im ate N a tu re.
P arad o xical th o u g h it m ay seem , we h ave to look rather to livin g
8o THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

organism s fo r exam ples in N a tu re o f self-m ain tain in g, routine-


observing system s. T h e m ovem ents o f the h ea ven ly bodies provided
one kin d o f ‘clock’. It was the h u m an pulse th at provided the next.
N o r is it m erely p rim itive anim ism w hich m akes n ative ch ild ren
think o f en gines as iron horses. T h e r e is very little else in N a tu re
to w hich th ey are so closely analogous. A v a la n ch e s and gam es o f
billiards are su b jcct to m ech an ical laws; b u t th ey are n ot a t all like
th e w orkings o f m achines.
CHAPTER IV

EM OTION
*

(1) Forew ord


I n this ch a p te r I discuss certain o f th e con cepts o f em otion an d fe e l­
ing-
T h is scru tin y is necessary b ccau se ad h eren ts o f the d ogm a o f the
ghost in th e m a c h in e can itdduce in support o f it the con scn t o f m ost
philosophers a n d psychologists to th e view th at em otions a rc in tern al
or private experiences. E m otion s are d escrib ed as turbulences in the
stream o f consciousness, th e ow ner o f w h ich cann ot h elp d irectly
registering th em ; to ex tern al w itnesses th ey are, in conscquence,
necessarily occult. T h e y are o ccu rren ces w h ic h take place n ot in the
public, p h ysical w orld but in yo u r o r m y secret, m ental world.
I shall a rg u e th a t th e word ‘ em otion ’ is used to design ate ar least
three o r fo u r d ifferen t kinds o f th in gs, w h ich I sh all call 'inclinations*
(or ‘m otives’), ‘m oods’, ‘agitatio n s’ (or ‘ com m otion?’) and ‘feelin gs’.
Inclinations an d m oods, in clu d in g agitation s, a re not occurrences and
do not th erefo re take place eith er p u b lic ly o r privately. T h e y are
propensnies, n ot acts o r states. T h e y arc, how ever, propensities o f
different kin d s, a n d th eir d ifferen ces are im p ortan t F eelin gs, o n the
other h an d , a re occurrences, b u t th e p lace th a t m ention o f them
should take in descriptions o f h u m an b eh a vio u r is very differen t from
that w hich th e stan d ard th eories accord to it. M oods o r fram es of
m ind a rc, u n lik e m otives, b ut like m alad ies and states o f th e w eather,
tem porary co n d itio n s w hich in a ccrcain w ay c o ile d occurrcnces, b ut
they are not th em selves extra occurren ces.

(2) F eelin g s versus Inclinations


B y ‘feelin g s’ I refer to th e sorts o f th in gs w hich people often
describe as thrills, tw inges, pan gs, throbs, w renches, itches, prickings,
chills, glow s, loads, qualm s, h a n k erin g s, cu rd lin g*, sinkings, tensions,
gn aw in gs a n d shocks. O rciinarily, w h en people report th e occurrence
o f a fe e lin g , th e y d o so in a phrase like ‘a th ro b of com passion’, ‘a
shock o f su rprise' o r ’a thrill o f a n ticip a tio n ’.
82 THE C O N C E PT OF MIND

It is an im portan t lin gu istic fa c t th a t these nam es for specific feel­


ings, such as ‘itc h ’, ‘ qxialm’ , and ‘p an g ' are also used as nam es o f
specific b o d ily sensations. I f som eone says th a t he has ju st fe lt a
tw in ge, it is proper to ask w h eth er it was a tw in ge o f rem orse or o f
rh eu m atism , th ou gh the w yid ‘ twinge* is n ot n ecessarily b ein g ussd
in q u ite the sam e sense in the altern ative contexts.
T h e re are fu rth e r respects in w hich the w ays in w h ich we speak
o f, say, q u alm s o f apprehension are analogous to the w ays in which
we speak of, say, qu alm s o f sea-sickness. W e are read y to characterize
cith e r as acu te or fa in t, sudden or lin gerin g, in term itten t or steady.
A m an m ay w ince fro m a p rick in g o f his conscience or fro m a prick­
in g in his finger. M oreover, we are in som e cases rea d y to locate, say,
the sin kin g fe e lin g o f despair in th e pit o f th e stom ach or the tense
fe e lin g o f a n g er in th e m uscles o f th e jaw an d fist. O th e r feelings
w hich we are n ot prepared to locate in a n y p articu lar p art o f th e body,
like glow s o f pride, scein to pervade the w hole b o d y in m u ch the same
w ay as do glow s o f w arm th.
Jam es b o ld ly identified feelin gs w ith b o d ily sensations, b u t for
our purposes it is enough to show th at we talk o f feelin gs very m u :h
as we talk o f b o d ily sensations, th o u g h it is possible th at there is a
tin ge o f m etaph or in our talk o f the fo rm er w h ich is ab sen t from our
t a lk o f th e l . t u c i .
O n th e o th er h an d , it is necessary to do ju stice to the cru cial fact
that we d o report feelings in su ch idiom s as ‘q u alm s o f apprehension’
and ‘glow s o f prid e’ ; we d o, th at is, distin guish a glow o f pride frcm
a glow o f w arm th , an d I sh all h ave to try to b rin g ou t th e force of
su ch distinctions. I hop;: to show th at th o u gh it is q u ite proper to
describe som eone as feelin g a th rob o f com passion, his com passion is
n o t to be equated w ith a th rob or a series o f throbs, a n y m ore than
h is fa tig u e is his gasps; so n o d isillu sion in g consequences would
fo llo w from ack n o w led gin g th a t throbs, tw inges an d other feelings
are b o d ily sensations.
In one sense, th en , c f ‘em o tio n ’ th e feelin gs are em otions. But
there is q u ite a n o th er sense o f ‘em otion ' in w h ich theorists classify
as m otions th e m otives b y w hich p eop le’s h igh er-level behaviour
is exp lain ed . W h e n a m an is described as vain , considerate, avaricious,
patriotic or in dolent, an exp lan ation is b ein g given o f w h y h e con­
ducts his actions, daydream s an d th o u gh ts in th e w ay h e does, and,
accord in g to the standard term in ology, va n ity, kindliness, avarice,
patriotism an d laziness rank as species o f em otion; th e y com e thence
to be spoken o f as feelings.
EM OTION 83

B u t there is a g re at verbal m u d d le here, associated w ith a great


logical m uddle. T o b egin w ith , when som eone is described as a vain
or indolent m an , the w ords ‘v a in ’ an d ‘in d olen t' are used co sign ify
more or less lastin g traits in his ch aracter. In this use he m igh t be
said to h ave been vain since ch ild h ood , or in dolent d u rin g his entire
half-holiday. H is v a n ity an d indolencc are dispositional properties,
w hich could b e un packed in su ch expressions as ‘ W h en ever situations
o f certain sorts h ave arisen, he has alw ays or u su ally tried to m ake
him self prom in en t’ or ‘W h en e v er h e was faced b y an option between
doing so m eth in g difficult an d not d o in g it, he shirked d o in g the
difficult th in g ’. Sentences b eg in n in g w ith ‘W henever* are not singular
occurrencc reports. M o tiv e w ords used in th is w ay sign ify tendencies
or propensities and th erefo re can n ot sig n ify the occu rrcn cc o f fe e l­
ings. T h e y are ellip tical expressions o f gen eral h yp o th etical proposi­
tions o f a certain sort, a n d can n ot be construed as expressing
categorical narratives o f episodes.
It w ill h ow ever be objected that, besides th is dispositional use o f
m otive words, th ere m ust also be a corresponding active use o f them .
For a m an to b e p u n ctu al in th e dispositional sense o f the adjective,
he m ust tend to be p u n ctu al on p articu lar occasions; and the sense in
w hich h e is said to b e p u n ctu al fo r a p a rticu lar ren dezvous is not the
dispositional b u i the a ctive ¡>cii»c o f 'p u n ctu a l’. T i c tend« to be nt his
rendezvous on tim e’ expresses a gen eral h yp o th etical proposition, the
truth o f w h ich requires that th ere sh ou ld also be corresponding true
categorical propositions o f th e pattern ‘ he was at to d ay’s rendezvous
in good tim e'. So, it w ill be argu ed , fo r a m an to be a vain or indolent
m an there m ust be p a rticu lar exercises o f van ity and indolence occur­
ring a t p a rticu lar m om ents, and these w ill be actu al em otions or
feelings.
T h is a rg u m en t c c rta in ly establish es som ethin g, b u t it does not
establish th e p o in t desired. W h ile it is tru e th a t to describe a m an
as vain is to sa y th a t h e is su b ject to a specific ten d en cy, it is not true
th at the p a rticu lar exercises o f this ten d en cy consist in his registering
particular th rills or tw inges. O n th e con trary, on h ea rin g th at a m an
is vain we exp ect h im , in the first in stance, to b eh ave in certain ways,
n am e ly to talk a lot ab o u t h im self, to cleave to th e society o f the
em inent, to reject criticism s, to seek th e fo o tligh ts a n d to disengage
h im self from con versation s a b o u t the m erits o f others. W e expect
h im also to in d u lg e in roseate d ayd ream s a b o u t his ow n succcsses, to
avoid recallin g past fa ilu re s and to p la n for his ow n advancem ent. T o
be vain is to ten d to a ct in these a n d in n u m erab le o th er kindred
84 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

ways. C erta in ly we also exp ect the vain m an to fe e l certain p an gs and


flutters in certain situations; w c exp ect h im to h ave an acu te sin kin g
feelin g, w hen an em in en t person fo rgets h is nam e, an d to feel
b u oyan t o f h ea rt an d lig h t o f toe on h ea rin g o f th e m isfortun es o f
his rivals. B u t feelin gs o f p iq u e an d b u o yan cy arc n ot m ore d irectly
in d icative o f va n ity than arc p u b lic acts o f b oastin g or p rivate acts o f
dayd ream in g. Indeed th e y are less d irectly in d icative, fo r som e
reasons w h ich w ill sh o rtly appear.
Som e theorists w ill o b ject th at to speak o f an act o f b oastin g as
one o f the d irect exerciscs o f v a n ity is to leave o u t th e cardin al factor
in the situation. W h e n w c exp lain w h y a m an boasts b y sa yin g th at it
is because he is vain , we are fo rg e ttin g that a disposition is not an
event and so cannot be a cause. T h e cause o f h is b oastin g m ust be an
event an teced en t to his b e g in n in g to boast. H e m ust be m oved to
boast b y som e actual ‘im pulse’ , n am ely an im pulse o f van ity. So the
im m ediate or d ircct a ctu alizatio n s o f v a n ity are p articu lar vanity
im pulses, an d these arc feelin gs. T h e vain m an is a m an w ho tends
to register p a rticu lar feelin gs o f van ity; these cause or im pel h im to
boast, or perh aps to w ill to boast, and to do all the o th er th in gs w hich
we say are done from vanity.
It should be n oticed th a t this a rgu m en t takes it fo r gran ted th at to
explain an act as done from a certain m otive, in this case trom vanity,
is to g ive a causal exp lan ation . T h is m eans th a t it assum es th a t a
m ind, in this case th e boaster's m in d , is a field o f special causes; that
is w h y a va n ity feelin g has b een called in to l>c th e in n er cause o f
th e overt boasting. I sh all sh o rtly argu e th at to exp lain an act as done
from a certain m otive is not an alogous to sa yin g th a t the glass broke
bccause a stone h it it, b u t to th e q uite different type o f statem en t th at
th e glass broke, w hen the stone h it it. because th e glass was brittle.
Just as there are n o o th er m om en tary actu alizatio n s o f brittleness
than, for exam p le, flyin g into fragm en ts w hen struck, so n o other
m om en tary a ctu alization s o f ch ron ic van ity need to be postulated
than such th in gs as boasting, d a y d re a m in g about trium phs and
avoid in g conversations ab o u t the m erits o f others.
B u t b efo re ex p a n d in g th is argu m en t I w ant to show how intrinsic*
a lly im plausible th e view is that, on each occasion th at a vain m an
behaves vaingloriously, he experiences a p articu lar palp itation or
p rick in g o f vanity. T o p u t it quite d o gm atically, the vain m an never
feels vain. C erta in ly , w hen thw arted, he feels acu te dudgeon and
w hen u n exp ected ly successful, he feels buoyan t. B u t th ere is no
special thrill or p a n g w h ich w e call a ‘fe e lin g o f van ity’. In deed, if
EM OTION 85

there were such a reco gn izab le specific feelin g , and th e vain m an


was constantly exp erie n cin g it, he w ould be the fust instead o f the
last person to reco gn ize h ow vain h e was.
T ake a n o th er exam ple. A m an is interested in Sym bolic L ogic. H e
regularly read© books and article« on the su bject, discucses it, works
out problem s in it a n d n eglects lectures on o th er subjects. A cco rd in g
to the view w hich is here contested, h e m ust therefore constantly e x ­
perience im pulses o f a peculiar kin d , n a m e ly feelings o f interest in
Sym bolic L o g ic , an d if h is interest is very stron g these feelings m ust
be very a cu te and v ery freq uen t. H e m ust therefore be ab le to tell
us w hether these fee lin g s are su dden , like twinges, or lasting, like
aches; w h eth er th e y su ccccd one an o th er several times a m inute or
only a few tim es an hour; an d w’h eth er he feels them in the sm all of
his back or in his fo reh ead . B u t clearly his o n ly reply to such specific
questions w ould be th at h e catches h im self exp erien cin g no peculiar
throbs or qualm s w h ile he is a tte n d in g to h is hobby. H e m ay report
a feeling o f vexation , w hen his studies are interrupted, and the feelin g
o f a load off his chest, w hen distractions are rem oved; b u t there are
no peculiar feelin gs o f in terest in S ym b o lic L o g ic for h im to report.
W hile u n d istu rb ed ly p u rsu in g h is h o b b y , he feels no perturbations
at all.
Suppose, how ever, th at th ere were su ch feelings croppin g up,
m aybe, ab o u t eve ry tw o or tw en ty m inutes. W'e should still expect
to find him discussing and stu d yin g rhe su b ject in the intervals be­
tween these occurrences, an d we sh ou ld co rrectly say th a t he was
still discussing an d stu d yin g the su bject fro m interest in it. T h is
point b y itself establishes th e conclusion th a t to dc som ethin g from
a m otive is com patib le w ith b e in g free from an y particular feelings
while d o in g it.
O f course, th e stan d ard theories of m otives do not speak so cru d ely
o f qualm s, pan gs a n d flutters. T h e y speak m ore sedately o f desires,
impulses or prom ptings. N o w there are feelin gs o f w an tin g, n am ely
those we ca ll 'h a n k e rin g s’, ‘ cravin gs' and Etchings'. So let us p u t our
question in this w ay. Is b e in g interested in S ym b olic L o g ic equivalent
to being liab le or prone to feel certain sp ecial h ankerings, gnaw ings
or cravings? A n d does w o rkin g a t S ym b o lic L o g ic from interest in it
involve fe e lin g one su ch itch in g b efore each b it o f the w ork is begun ?
If the affirm ative an sw er is g iven , then th ere can be n o answ er to the
question, 'F ro m wlxai m otive does the stu d en t woik a t the subject
in the intervals betw een the itch in g s? ’ A n d if to say th at his interest
was strong m ean t th a t th e supposed feelin gs w ere freq u en t an d acute,
86 THE CO N CE PT OF MIND

the absurd consequence w ould follow th a t the m ore stron gly a m an


was interested in a su bject, th e m ore h is attention w ould be distracted
from it. T o call a fe e lin g or sensation ‘acu te’ is to say th at it is difficult
not to attend to it, an d to atten d to a fe e lin g is not the sam e th in g
as to attend to a problem in S ym b o lic L ogic.
W e m ust rejcct, th en, th e conclusion o f the argu m en t w hich tried
to prove th at m otive words are the nam es o f feelin gs or else o f ten­
dencies to h ave feelin gs. B u t w hat was w rong w ith th e argu m en t
fo r th is conclusion?
T h ere are at least two q uite different senses in w hich an occurrence
is said to be ‘exp lain ed ’ ; an d there are corresp ondingly a t least two
quite different senses in w hich we ask ‘w h y ’ it occurred and tw o q u ite
different senses in w h ich we say th a t it happened ‘ because’ so and
so was the ca se .T h e first sense is the causal scn sc.T o ask w h y the glass
broke is to ask w h at caused it to break, an d wc exp lain , in th is sense,
the fra ctu re o f th e glass when we report that a stone h it it. T h e
‘ bezause’ clause in the exp lan ation reports an event, n am ely the event
which stood to th e fra ctu re o f th e glass as cause to effect.
But very freq u en tly w e look fo r and g e t explan ation s o f occur­
rences in an oth er sense o f ‘exp lan ation ’. W e ask w h y the glass
shivered w hen struck b y th e stone a n d we g e t the answ er th a t it was
because the glass was brittle. N o w 'brittle' is a dispositional adjective;
that is to say, to describe th e glass as b rittle is to assert a general
hypothetical proposition ab o u t the glass. So w hen we say th a t the
glass b roke w hen struck because it was brittle, the ‘because’ clause
docs not report a h ap p en in g or a cause; it states a law -like proposition.
People co m m o n ly say o f exp lan ation s o f this second kin d th a t th ey
give the ‘reason’ fo r the glass b reak in g w hen struck.
How does the law -like gen eral h yp o th etical proposition w ork? It
says, ro u g h ly , that the glass, i f struck or tw isted, etc., w ould not
dissolve or stretch or evaporate b u t fly into fragm en ts. T h e m atter
o f fact th at the glass d id a t a p a rticu lar m o m en t fly into fragm ents,
when struck b y a p articu lar stone, is explained, in this sense o f
‘explain ’ , w hen the first h app en in g, n am ely th e im pact o f th e stone,
satisfies th e protasis o f the gen eral h yp oth etical proposition, and
whsn the second h app en in g, n am ely th e fragm en tatio n o f the glass,
satisfies its apodosis.
T h is can now be applied to th e exp lan ation o f actions as issuing
from specified m otives. W h en we ask ‘W h y did som eone act in a
certain w a y ? ’ this question m igh t, so fa r as its lan g u ag e goes, either
be an in q u iry in to the cause o f h is a ctin g in th at w ay, or b e an in­
EM OTION 87

quiry in to th e ch aracter o f the agen t w hich accoun ts fo r his h avin g


acted in th a t w ay on th a t occasion. I suggest, w h at I sh all now try
to prove, th a t explan ation s by m orives arc exp lan ation s o f the second
type and n o t o f the first type. It is perhaps m ore th an a m erely
linguistic fact that a m an who reports the m otive from w hich som e­
thing is done is, in com m on parlance, said to be g iv in g the ‘ reason'
for the action. It sh ou ld be also noticed th at th ere are lots o f different
kinds o f such exp lan ation s o f h u m an actions. A tw itch m ay he ex­
plained b y a reflex, the filling o f a pipe b y an inveterate h abit; the
answ ering o f a letter b y a m otive. Som e o f th e differences between
reflexes, habits, and m otives w ill h ave to be described at a later
stage.
T h e present issue is this. T h e statem ent ‘ he boasted from van ity'
ough t, on on e view , to b e construed as sayin g th a t ‘he boasted and
the cause o f his b o astin g was the occurrence in h im o f a particular
feelin g or im pulse o f vanity'. O n th e orher view , it is to b e construed
as sayin g ‘ he boasted on m eeting the stranger and h is d o in g so satis*
fies the law -like proposition th at w hen ever he finds a ch an ce o f
securing the ad m iratio n ar.d en v y o f others, h e does w hatever he
thinks w ill produce this ad m iration and en v y’.
M y first argu m en t in favour o f the second w ay o f con stru in g such
siaiem euis is ihut 110 on e cuuld cvci know or even, usually, reason­
ably co n jectu re th a t th e cause o f som eone clse’s overt action was the
occurrence in him o f a feeling. E ven if th e agen t reported, w hat
people never do report, that h e h ad exp erien ced a v a n ity itch just
before he boasted, this would be very w eak evidence th at the itch
caused the action, since fo r all w c know , the cause was an y one o f a
thousand o th er synchronous happen ings. O n this view th e Im puta­
tion o f m otives w ould be in cap able o f an y direct testing and no
reasonable person w ould put a n y relian ce on a n y such im putation. It
w ould be like w ater-divin in g in places w h ere w ell-sinking was fo r­
bidden.
In fa ct, h ow ever, we do discover th e m otives o f o th er people.
T h e process o f d isco verin g [hem is n o t im m u n e fro m error, b u t nor
arc the errors in corrigible. It is or is like an in d u ctive process, w hich
results in the establish m en t o f law -like propositions and the applica*
tions o f them as the 'reasons’ fo r p articu lar actions. W h a t is estab­
lished in each case is or includes a gen eral h yp oth etical proposition
o f a certain sort. T h e Im putation o f a m otive fo r a particular action
is not a casual inferen ce to an unw itnessed even t b u t the subsum p­
tion o f an episode proposition under a law -like proposition. It is
88 THK C O N C E P T OF M IND

th erefore an alogous to the exp lan ation o f reactions and actions by


reflexes an d habits, or to the exp lan atio n o f the fra ctu re o f th e glass
b y reference to its brittleness.
T h e w a y in w h ich a person discovers h is own long-term m otives is
the sam e as th e w ay in w hich he discovers those o f others. T h e
q u a n tity and q u a lity o f th e in form ation accessible to him differ in
the tw o inquiries, b u t its item s are in gen era l o f the sam e sort. H e
has, it is true, a fu n d o f recollections o f h is ow n past deeds, thou ghts,
fancies, an d feelin gs; an d h e can perform rhe exp erim en ts o f fa n cy ­
in g h im self con fron ted b y tasks an d opp ortu n ities w hich h ave not
a ctu ally occurred. H e can thus base his appreciations o f his own
lastin g inclinations on d ata w hich h e lacks fo r his appreciations o f
th e in clin ation s o f others. O n th e o th er side, h is appreciations o f
his ow n in clin ation s are u n lik ely to be unbiased and he is not in a
favo u rab le position to com pare his ow n actions and reactions w ith
those o f others. In gen eral we th ink th a t an im p artial and discerning
spectator is a b etter ju d g e o f a person’s p revailin g m otives, as well
as o f his habits, abilities, an d weaknesses, than is th at person him self,
a view w h ich is d irectly co n trary to th e th eory w hich holds that
an agen t possesses a P rivileged A ccess to th e so-called springs o f
his ow n actions and is, because o f th a t access, able and bound to
discover, w ith ou t in feren ce o r research, from w hat m otives he tends
to act and from w h a t m o tive h e acted on a p articu lar occasion.
W e shall sec later on (C hapter V ) th a t a person w h o docs or under­
goes som ethin g, h e e d in g w h at he is d o in g or u n d ergoin g, can, com ­
m on ly, answer questions ab o u t the in cid en t w ith ou t in feren ce or
research. B u i w hat g ives h im those ready-m ade answ ers can and
o ften does give his com panions also those sam e ready-m ade answers.
H e does n ot h ave to be a detective, b u t nor d o they.
A n o th e r argu m en t supports this thesis. A person rep lyin g to an
in terrogation m ig h t say th at he was d elvin g into a d itch in order to
find the larvae o f a certain species o f inscct; th at he was looking for
these larvae in order to find out on w h at fau n a or flora th ey were
parasitic; that he was try in g to find out on w hat th ey w ere parasitic
in order to test a certain ecological hypothesis; an d th at h e wanted
to test this h ypothesis in order to test a certain hypothesis about
N a tu ra l Selection. A t each stage h e declares h is m otive or reason
fo r p u rsu in g certain investigations. A n d each successive reason that
h e gives is o f a h ig h e r level o f g en era lity than its predecessor. H e is
subsum in g one interest un der an oth er, som ew hat as m ore special
law s are subsum ed un d er m ore general laws. H e is n o t recording a
EM OTION 89

chronological series o f earlier an d ea rlier stages, th o u gh o f course


he could do th is if asked th e q u ite different questions W h a t first
aroused y o u r in terest in this p roblem ? and in th a t?
In th e case o f e ve ry action , taken by itself, fo r w h ich it is natural
to ask ‘F ro m w h at m otive was it d o n e ? ' it is alw ays possible th a t it
was not done from a m otive b u t fro m force o f habit. W h atever I do
or say, it is alw ays con ceivab le, th o u g h n early alw ays false, th at I did
it, or said it, in com plete absence o f m ind. T h e perform an ce o f an
action from a m otive is different from its perform an ce out o f h abit;
b u t th e sorts o f th in gs w hich b elo n g to th e one class also belong
to th e other. N o w to say th at an action was don e fro m force o f h abit
is p aten tly to say th a t a specific disposition exp lains the action. N o
one, I trust, thinks that ‘ h ab it’ is the n am e o f a peculiar internal
event or class o f events. T o ask w heth er an action was don e from
fo rce o f h a b it or from kind lin ess o f h eart is th erefore to ask w hich
o f tw o specified dispositions is the exp lan atio n o f th e action.
F in a lly , we should consider b y w h at tests we sh ou ld try to decide
a dispute ab o u t the m otive fro m w h ich a person h ad done som e­
th in g; d id he, fo r exam p le, th row up a w ell-paid post fo r a relatively
h u m b le G o vern m en t jo b from patriotism or fro m a desire to be
exem p t fro m m ilita ry service? W e b egin , perhaps, b y askin g him ;
but on th is sort o f m atter h is avow als, 10 us or to hiniMilf, w ould very
lik e ly not b e fran k. W e n ex t try, not necessarily unsuccessfully, to
settle the dispute b y con siderin g w h eth er his words, actions, em bar­
rassm ents, etc., on this and o th er occasions square w ith the h ypo­
thesis th a t h e is p h ysically tim orous and averse fro m regim entation,
o r w heth er th ey square w ith the h yp oth esis th at he is relatively
in d ifferen t to m on ey a n d w ould sacrifice a n y th in g to h elp w in the
war. W e try, th at is, to settle b y in d u ction the relevan t traits in his
character. In ap p lyin g, then, the results o f ou r in d u ction to his
p articu lar decision, i.e. in e x p la in in g w h y he cam e to it, we do not
press h im to recall the itches, pangs, an d throbs th at h e registered
in m ak in g it; nor, p ro b ab ly, do we trou b le to in fer to th eir occurrence.
A n d th ere is a special reason fo r not p ayin g m u ch h eed to the feel­
ings h ad b y a person whose m otives arc un der investigation, nam ely
th a t we kn ow th a t liv e ly an d freq u en t feelin gs are fe lt b y senti­
m en talists w hose positive action s show q u ite clearly th a t their
patriotism , e.g. is a self-ind ulgent m ake-believe. T h e ir h earts du ly
sink w h en th e y h ear th at th eir co u n try ’s p ligh t is desperate, but
th eir appetites are unaffected and the routines o f th eir lives are
unm odified. T h e ir bosom s swell at a m arch-past, b u t th ey avoid
<K> TH E C O N C E P T OP M IND

m arch in g them selves. T h e y a rc rather like theatregoers an d novel


readers, who also feel g en u in e pangs, glow s, flutters, and tw inges o f
despair, indignation, exh ilaration and disgust, w ith the difference
th at th e theatregoers an d novel readers realize th at they are
m aking-believe.
T o say, then, th at a certain m otive is a trait in som eone’s ch aracter
is to say that he is in clin ed to do certain sorts o f things, m ake
certain sort? o f plans, in d u lge in certain sorts o f daydream s, and
also, o f course, in certain situations to feel certain sorts o f feelings.
T o say th at he d id som eth in g from th a t m otive is to say th at this
action, done in its particular circum stances, was just d ie sort o f th in g
th at th at was an in clin ation to do. It is to say ‘h e w ould do th a t’.

(3) Inclinations versus A g ita tion s


Q uite different from inclinations are th e states o f m ind or m oods,
in w hich persons arc described as agitated , distu rbed, distracted, or
upset. T o be anxious, startled, shocked, excited, convulsed, flabber­
gasted. in suspense, flurried, and irritated, are fa m ilia r kinds of
agitation. T h e y are com m otions, th e degrees o f upsettingness of
w hich are ordinarily ch aracterized as degrees o f violence. In respect
o f any one o f th em it m akes sense to sa y th a t a person is too m u ch
disturbed to th in k o r act coh erently, too m uch startled to utter a
word, o r toe excited to b e able to concentrate. W h en people arc said
to be speechless w ith am azem en t, or paralysed b y horror, the specific
agitation is, in effect, b ein g described as extrem ely violent.
T h is point alread y indicates part o f th e difference betw een in clin a­
tions and agitations. It w ould be absurd to say th a t a person’s interest
in Sym bolic L o g ic was so violen t th a t h e co u ld not concentrate on
Sym bolic L o gic, o r th at som eone was too patriotic to b e ab le to
work for his coun try. In clinations are not disturbances a n d so can­
not be violent or m ild disturbances. A m an whose d om in an t m otive
is philanthropy or van ity can n o t be described as distracted or upset
b y philanthropy or van ity; fo r h e is not distracted or upset at all.
H e is en tirely single-m inded. P h ila n th ro p y an d v a n ity arc not gusts
or storms.
A s the words "distraction’ an d ‘agitatio n ’ them selves indicate,
people in these conditions arc, to use a h azard ou s m etaph or, su bject
to opposing forces. T h e tw o radical kin d s o f such conflicts are these,
n am ely when one in clin ation runs co u n ter to an oth er, and w hen an
in clin ation is th w arted b y th e hard facts o f th e w orld. A m an w ho
wants a country life an d w ants to h old a position w h ich requires
EM OTION 91
h is liv in g in a tow n is in clin ed in opposing directions. A m an w ho
w ants to live an d is d y in g is precluded b y th e facts fro m d oin g w hat
he wants. T h e se instances show a n im portant feature o f agitations,
n am ely th a t th ey presuppose the existence o f inclinations w hich are
not them selves agitations, m u ch as eddies presuppose the existence
o f currents w hich are not them selves eddies. A n ed d y is an
interference-condition w h ich requires th at there exist, say, two
currents, or a cu rren t an d a rock; a n agitation requires th a t there
exist tw o in clin ation s or an in clin ation an d a factu al im pedim ent.
G rief, o f one sort, is affection blocked b y death; suspense, o f one
sort, is hope in terfered w ith b y fear. T o be torn betw een patriotism
and am b ition th e victim m ust be b oth patriotic and am bitious.
H u m e, fo llo w in g H u tcheson, w as p a rtia lly alive to this distinction
betw een in clin ation s an d agitations, w hen h e n oticed that some
'passions' are in trin sically calm , w hile others arc violent. H e noticed
too th at a calm passion m igh t ‘van q u ish ’ a violent passion. B u t his
an tithesis o f ‘calm ’ and ‘violent’ suggests a m ere difference o f degree
betw een tw o thin gs o f the sam e kind. In fa ct, inclinations and
agitation s are th in gs o f d ifferen t kinds. A g ita tio n s can be violent or
m ild , inclinations can n o t be eith er. In clin ation s can be relatively
stron g or relatively w eak, b u t this difference is not a difference o f
d egree o f u p scuin gn ess; it is a difference o f degree o f operative»«»»,
w hich is q u ite a different sort o f difference. H u m e ’s w ord ‘passion’
was b ein g used to sig n ify th in gs o f a t least two disparate types.
W h e n a m an is described as b e in g b oth very avaricious and
rather fond o f gard en in g, part o f w h at is b ein g said is th a t the
form er m otive is stronger th an th e latter, in the sense th at m uch
m ore o f h is in tern al and extern al con d u ct is directed tow ards self-
en rich m en t th a n is d irected tow ards horticulture. M oreover, when
situations arise in w hich a slig h t financial loss w ould be accom panied
b y a m ajor im provem en t to h is gard en , he is lik ely to give up the
o rch id s an d to keep th e cash. B u t m ore is b ein g said than this. F o r
a m an to be d escribable as v ery avaricious, th is propensity m ust in
th e sam e w ay be d om in ant over all or n early all his o th er inclina­
tions. E ve n to be described as rather fo n d o f g a rd e n in g indicates
th a t this m otive d om inates a lot o f o th er inclinations. T h e strengths
o f m otives are th eir relative stren gth s vis-à-vis eith er some other
specified m otive, or every o th er m otive, o r m ost other motives.
T h e y are determ ined p artly b y th e w ay in w hich th e agent distributes
h is in tern al and extern al activities and, w hat is on ly a special case
o f this, p artly b y th e outcom es o f com petitions betw een his inclina-
92 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

tions, when circum stances b rin g about such com petitions, i.e. w hen
he can n ot do two things, to b oth o f w h ich he is inclined. Indeed, to
say th at his m otives have such and such strengths is sim p ly to say
th at he tends to distribute h is activities in such and such ways.
Som etim es a p articu lar m otive is so stron g th a t it alw ays, or
n early alw ays, dom inates every o th er m otive. T h e m iser or the saint
w ould perhaps sacrifice everyth in g, even life itself, rath er than lose
w hat he m ost prizes. Such a m an w ould, if th e w orld w ere kind,
never be seriously agitatec or distracted, since n o o th er in clin ation
is stron g enough seriously to com pete or con flict w ith h is h eart’s
desire. H e co u ld not b e set a t loggerh ead s w ith him self.
N o w on e o f the m ost popular uses o f ‘em otion’ , ‘em otional’,
"moved*, etc., is to describe th e agitation s, o r o th er m oods, in w hich
people from tim e to tim e are, or to w hich th e y are liable. B y a
‘h ig h ly em otional person’ is com m only m ean t a person w h o is
freq u en d v a n d violen tly distrau gh t, th rilled, or flustered. If, fo r any
reason, this is chosen as the standard, o r proper sense, o f ‘em otion’,
then m otives or inclinations are not em otions a t all. V a n ity w ould
not be an em otion, th ou gh ch a g rin w ould; b e in g interested in
Sym bolic L o g ic w ould not be an em otion, th o u gh b e in g bored b y
o th er topics w ould. B u t there is no p o in t in try in g to prun e the
am biguities o f the w ord ‘em otion’, so it is better to say th a t m otives
are, i f you like, em otions, b u t n o t in th e sense in w h ich agitations
are em otions.
W e m ust d istin guish between two different w ays in w hich we use
words like ‘w orried’, ‘excitcd’, an d ‘em barrassed’. Som etim es we use
them to sign ify tem porary m oods, as w hen we say that som eone was
em barrassed fo r som e m inutes, or w orried fo r an hour. Som etim es
we use them fo r susceptibilities to m oods, as when we say th a t som e­
one is em barrassed b y praise, i.e. is reg u la rly em barrassed, w henever
he is praised. S im ilarly ‘rheum atic’ som etim es m eans ‘ h a vin g a bout
o f rheum atism ’, som etim es ‘prone to h ave bouts o f rh eu m atism ’ ;
and ‘Ireland is rainy* m ay m ean th a t there is a good deal o f rain
there now, o r th a t there usually is a good d eal o f rain there. C learly,
susceptibilities to specific agitations arc on the sam e general fo otin g
w ith inclinations, n am ely that both are gen eral propensities an d not
occurrences. A n x ie ty about the issue o f a w ar, or g rie f fo r a dead
friend , m ay ch aracterize a person fo r m on th s or years. H e keeps on
relapsing in to an xiety, or he keeps on grieving.
T o say th a t a person has fo r days or w eeks been vexed b y som e­
one’s criticism s o f h im is n o t to say th a t at every m om en t o f that
EM OTION 93

tim e h e has b een in th e m ood to do pettish th in gs, th in k resentful


th ou gh ts or register feelin gs o f d u d geon . F o r h e is also fro m tim e
to tim e in th e m ood to eat, co n d u ct h is business, and p la y his gam es.
W h a t it docs m ean is th at h e is prone to relapse into this m ood: h e
keeps on g e ttin g in to the fra m e o f m in d in w hich he can n o t help
h arp in g on th e in ju stice w h ich he h as suffered; can n o t h elp inter­
m itten tly d a yd re a m in g o f self-vindication s an d retaliations; cannot
even seriously try to im pure cred itab le m otives to h is critic, or to
recogn ize a n y substance in h is criticism s. A n d to say th at he keeps
on relapsin g into this m ood is to describe h im in dispositional terms.
W h e n susceptibilities to specific m oods arc ch ronic, th ey are traits o f
character.
B u t w h at sort o f a description are we g iv in g , w hen we say o f
som eone th at h e is at a p articu lar tim e an d fo r a shortish or lon gish
period in a p articu lar m o o d ? P a ri o f th e answ er w ill be given in
Section (4) o f this chapter. H ere it is en o u g h to show th at th ou gh
m oods, like m aladies and states o f th e w eather, are relatively short­
term conditions, th ey are n o t d eterm in ate incidents, th o u g h they
issue in determ in ate incidents.
F ro m the fa ct th a t a person h as b een h a v in g indigestion fo r an
h o u r it does not follow th a t he h as h ad one lo n g pain or a series
o f short paina d u rin g th a t hour; perhaps h e h ad n o pains at all. N o r
does it fo llo w th a t h e h as been fe e lin g sick, or th a t he spurned his
food, or th at he looked pale. It is en o u gh i f som e or o th er o f these
and fu rth e r app ropriate occurren ces h a ve taken place. T h e r e is no
unique episode, the o ccu rren ce o f w h ich is a necessary or sufficient
condition o f h a v in g indigestion. ‘In d igestio n ' does not, therefore,
stand fo r an y such un iqu e episode. In the sam e w ay a su lk y or
h ilario u s person m a y or m a y not sa y certain things, talk in a certain
tone o f voice, g rim a c c or gesticu late in certain w ays, h ave certain
daydream s, or register certain feelings. B e in g su lk y or hilarious re­
quires som e o r o th er o f these a n d fu rth e r appropriate actions and
reactions, b u t there is n o on e o f them w h ich is a necessary or suffi­
cien t con dition o f b e in g su lk y or hilarious. ‘Sulkiness’ and ‘h ilarity’
do not, th erefore, stand fo r an y one specific action or reaction.
T o b e su lk y is to be in th e m ood to act or react in som e or other
o f certain va g u e ly describable, th o u g h easily recogn izab le, ways,
w henever ju n ctu res o f certain sorts arise. T h is show s th at mood
w ords like ‘tra n q u il’, a n d ‘jo v ia l’ , in clu d in g w ords for agitations,
lik e ‘harassed’ an d ‘h om esick’ , stand fo r liabilities. E ven to be for a
b rie f m o m en t scan d alized or in a p an ic is, fo r th a t m om ent, to be
94 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

liable co do som e su ch th in g as stiffen or sh riek, or to be u n ab le to


finish on e’s sentence, or to rem em ber w here the fire-escape is to be
found.
C ertain ly a person is not to b e described as b e in g in a p articu lar
m ood unless an a d eq u ate n um b er o f app ropriate episodes actually
occur. ‘ He is in a cyn ical m oo d ’, like ‘he is nervous', does not
m erely say ‘ H e w ould . . / or ‘H e cou ld not. . . / It alludes to actual
beh aviou r as w ell as m en tio n in g liabilities; or, rather, it alludes to
actual behaviour as re a lizin g these liabilities. It co n jo in tly explains
w h at is actu ally g o in g on and a u th o rizes predictions o f w h at w ill
g o on, if . . . or o f w h at w ould h ave go n e on, if. . . . It is rather like
sayin g ‘the glass was b rittle en ough to crack , w hen th at pebble
struck it.’
B u t though agitation s, lik e o th er m oods, are lia b ility conditions,
th ey are not propensities to act in ten tio n a lly in certain w ays. A
wom an w rings h er han ds in an gu ish , but w e do not say th at an gu ish
is the m otive from w h ich she w rings h er hands. N o r do we inquire
w ith w h at o b ject an em barrassed m an blushes, stam m ers, squirm s,
or fidgets. A keen w alker w alks because he w ants to w alk, b u t a
perplexed m an docs n ot w rin kle his brow s b ccausc he w ants or
m eans to w rinkle them , th o u gh th e actor or h yp ocrite m ay w rinkle
his biow« because h e w ants o r m eans to appear perplexed. T h e
reason fo r these differences is sim ple. T o be distracted is not like
bein g thirsty in the presence o f drin king-w ater; it is like b ein g
th irsty in the absence o f w ater, or in the presence o f foul water. It is
w an tin g to do som eth in g w hile not b ein g able to do it, or w antin g
to do som ething and a t th e sam e tim e w an tin g n o t to do it. It is the
conjunction o f an in clin ation to b eh ave in a certain w ay w ith an
in h ibition upon b eh a vin g in th at w ay. T h e ag itated person cannot
th in k w hat to do, or w hat to think. A im less and va cillatin g be­
haviour, as w ell as paralysis o f b ehaviou r, are sym ptom s o f agitations
in a w ay in w hich m ak in g a jo k e is not a sym p tom b u t an exorcise o f
a sense o f hum our.
M otives then are not agitation s, not even m ild agitations, nor
arc agitations m otives. B u t agitations presuppose m otives, or rather
th ey presuppose b e h a vio u r trends o f w hich m otives are for us the
m ost interesting sort. C on flicts o f h abits w ith habits, or h ab its w ith
un kin d facts, or habits w ith m otives arc also com m otion-conditions.
A n in veteiate sm oker on parade, or w ith o u t an y m atches, or in
L en t, is in this pligh t. T h e r e is h ow ever a lin gu istic m atter w hich
is th e source o f som e con fusion. T h e re are som e words w hich sign ify
EM OTION 95

both in clin ation s and agitation s, besides som e w hich never sign ify
a n y th in g b u t agitation s, a n d o th ers again w h ich never sign ify any­
th in g b u t inclinations. W o rd s like ‘ uneasy’ , ‘an xiou s’ , ‘distressed',
‘excited ’, "startled’ alw ays sig n ify agitations. Phrases lik e ‘fon d o f
fishing*, ‘keen o n g a rd e n in g ’, ‘bent on b eco m in g a b ishop ’ never
sign ify agitations. B u t w ords like io v e ’, ‘w an t’, ‘desire’, ‘proud’,
‘eager , and m a n y others stand som etim es fo r sim ple inclinations
and som etim es fo r agitatio n s w h ich are resultan t upon those inclina­
tions and in terferences w ith th e exercise o f th em . T h u s ‘h u n gry’
in th e sense o f ‘h a v in g a good ap p etite’ m eans ro u g h ly ‘is eatin g or
w ould eat h ea rtily an d w ith o u t sauces, etc.'; b u t th is is different
from the sense in w h ich a person m ig h t b e said to b e ‘too h u n gry
to con cen trate on h is w ork’. H u n g e r in th is second sense is a distress,
and requires for its existen ce th e con ju n ction o f an appetite w ith
the in a b ility to eat. S im ilarly the sense in w h ich a b o y is proud o f
his school is d ifferen t fro m the sense in w h ich h e is speechless w ith
prid e on b e in g u n exp ected ly g iv en a p lace in a school team .
T o rem ove a possible m isapprehension, it m ust be pointed out that
not all agitatio n s are disagreeable. P eop le vo lu n tarily su bject them ­
selves to suspense, fa tig u e , u n certain ty, p erp lexity, fear, an d surprise
in su ch practices as a n glin g, row ing, travellin g, crossw ord puzzles,
r o c k - c li m b i n g , au<J j o k i n g . T h a i ilu illj., l a p i u i c s , su rp ris e , am use*
m en t, and re lie f are agitation s is show n b y the fa c t th a t w e can say
th at som eone is to o m uch th rilled , am u sed o r relieved to act, think
or talk coh eren tly. W e a rc th en d escrib in g h im as b ein g m oved in
the sense o f ‘stirred’ and not as b e in g m o tivated in the sense o f ‘ keen
to do or g e t som eth in g’.

(4) M o od s
W e co m m o n ly describe people as b e in g at p articu lar tim es for
shorter or lo n g er periods in certain m oods. W e say, fo r exam ple,
th a t a person is depressed, h ap p y, u n com m u n icative or restless, and
has b een so fo r m in u tes or fo r days. O n ly w hen a m ood is chronic
d o we use such m ood w ords as descriptions o f character. A person
m a y b e m e lan ch o ly tod ay, th o u g h h e is n o t a m elan ch olic person.
In sa y in g th a t h e is in a certain m ood we are sayin g som ething
fa irly general; not th a t h e is all th e tim e or fre q u e n tly d oin g one
u n iq u e th in g , or h a v in g one u n iqu e feelin g, b u t th a t he is in the
fra m e o f m in d to say. do and feel a w ide variety o f loosely affiliated
things. A person in a frivolous vein is in th e m ood to m ake m ore
jokes th a n usual, to b e m ore tickled th a n usual b y the jo kes o f
96 T H E C O N C E P T O F MIND

others, to polish off im p ortan t m atters o f business w ith ou t anxious


consideration, to p u t h eart and soul into ch ildish gam es, and so on
indefinitely.
A person’s m om en tary m ood is a different sort o f th in g from
the motive» w hich actuate h im . W e can say o f a person th at he is
am bitious, loyal to h is party, h u m a n e and interested in en tom ology,
and that he is all o f these things, in a certain sense, at th e sam e time.
N o t th at such in clin ations a rc synchronous occurrences or states,
sincc th ey are not occurrences or states a t all. B u t i f a situation w ere
to arise in w hich h e co u ld b o th advance his career and h elp his
party, h e w ould do b o th rather than d o cither w ith ou t th e other.
M oods, on th e con trary, m onop olize. T o *ay th a t he is in one
m ood is, w ith reservations fo r com plex moods, to sa y th a t he is
not in a n 4v other. T o be in th e m ood to act and react in certain
w ays is also not to b e in th e m ood to act o r react in a lo t o f o th er
ways. T o be in a con versational m ood is not to b e in a readin g,
w riting, or law n -m ow in g m ood. W e talk aboi:t m oods in term s like
those, and som etim es borrow ed fro m those, in w h ich we talk about
th e weather, an d we som etim es ta lk al>out th e w eather in term s
borrowed from th e la n g u a g e o f m oods. W e do not m ention m oods
or rhe w eather, unless they are ch an geab le. I f it is show ery here
today, th en it Is not a settled d riz z le here today. If John D o c was
sullen yesterday even in g, th en h e was not hilarious, sad. serene, or
com panionable yesterd ay evenin g. F u rth er, som ew hat as this m orn­
in g's w eath er in a g iv e n lo ca lity m ade rhe same sort o f difference
to every section o f th at neighb ou rhood, so a person's m ood d u rin g
a given period colours all o r m ost o f h is actions and reactions d u rin g
th a t period. H is w ork and his p lay, h is talk an d his grim aces, his
appetite and h is d ayd ream s, all reflect his touchiness, h is jo viality,
or his depression. A n y one o f them m ay serve as a barom eter for all
the others.
M ood w ords are short-term ten d en cy words, b u t th ey differ from
m otive words, n ot o n ly in th e short term o f their application , b u t in
th eir use in ch a ra cterizin g th e total ‘set’ o f a person d u rin g th at
short term . Som ew hat as the entire ship is cruising south-east, rolling,
or vibrating, so the en tire person is nervous, serene, or gloom y. H is
own corresponding in clin ation w'ill b e to describe the w hole world
as m enacing, con gen ial, or grey. I f he is jovial, h e finds everyth in g
jollier than usual; and if h e is su lk y, not o n ly his em p loyer’s tone o f
voice and his own kn otted shoe-lace seem unjust to h im , b u t every­
thing seems to be d o in g h im injustices.
EM OTION 97

M ood words are co m m o n ly classified as th e nam es o f feelings.


B u t if the w ord "feelin g’ is used w ith a n y strictncss, this classification
is q uite erroneous. T o sa y th at a person is happy or discontented is
not m erely to sa y th a t he h as freq u en t or continuous tingles or
gnaw ings; in deed, it is n ot to soy even this, fo r we should not
w ithdraw o u r statem en t on h e a rin g th a t th e person had h ad no
su ch feelin gs, and w c sh ou ld n ot b e satisfied that he was h ap p y or
discontented m erely b y h is avow al th a t he h ad them freq u en tly and
acutely. T h e y m ig h t be sym ptom s o f indigestion or intoxication.
Feelings, in a n y strict sense, are th in gs th at com e and g o or
w a x and w an e in a fe w seconds; th e y stab o r they gru m b le; we feel
them all over us o r else in a p articu lar part. T h e victim m a y say
th at h e keeps on h a v in g tw eaks, o r th a t th e y com e o n ly a t fa irly
lon g intervals. N o one w ould describe his happiness or discontent­
m ent in an y su ch term s. H e says th at h e feels happy or discontented,
b u t not th a t h e keeps on feelin g, or th at h e steadily feels h ap p y or
discontented. I f a person is too g a y to brood over a rebuff, h e is not
un dergoin g so vio len t a fe e lin g th at he ca n think o f n o th in g else,
an d th erefo re n ot o f th e rebuff; on th e contrary, he en joys m u ch
more th an usual all th e th in gs he does an d all th e th ou gh ts he
thinks, in clu d in g th o u g h ts o f th e rebuff. H e does n o t m in d th in k in g
o f it as m u c h as h e w ou ld usually do.
T h e m ain m otives fo r cla ssifyin g m oods as feelin gs seem to be
tw ofold. (1) T h eo rists h ave fe lt con strained to put th em into one o f
th eir th ree p erm itted pigeon-holes, T h o u g h t, W ill, an d F eelin g; an d
as m oods w ill n ot fit eith er o f th e first two holes, th e y m ust be m ade
to fit th e third. W e need n o t spend rim e o n this m otive, (a) A person
in a la zy , frivo lo u s, or depressed m ood m ay, w ith p erfect idiom atic
correctness, avow h is fram e o f m in d b y sayin g T feel lazy*, or ‘I am
b egin n in g to feel frivolou s’ , o r ‘I still feel depressed’. H ow can such
expressions b e id io m a tically co rrect unless th e y leport the occurrence
o f feelin gs? I f ‘I feel a tin gle’ an noun ces a tin g lin g feelin g, how can
1 feci en ergetic’ h elp an n o u n cin g an en erg y feelin g?
B u t this in stan ce begins to m ak e th e argu m en t rin g unplausibly.
E n ergy is o b vio u sly n ot a feelin g. S im ila rly, if the patient says, T
feel ill’, o r ‘ I feel b etter’, no one w ill Therefore classify illness or con­
valescence as feelin gs. ‘l i e felt stupid’ , ‘cap ab le of clim b in g the tree’,
'abou t to fa in t’, a rc o th er uses o f the verb ‘to feel', w here the accusa­
tives to th e verb arc n o t th e naxues o f feelings.
Before co m in g b a ck to th e association o f "fccP w ith m ood words,
we should consider som e differences betw een su ch avow als as ‘I
C .IL -4
98 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

feel a tickle’ and ‘I f e d ill’. I f a person feels a ticklc, he has a tickle,


and if h e h as a tickle, he feels it. B u t if he feels ill, he m a y not be
ill, and if he is ill, he m ay not feel ill. D ou btless a person’s feelin g
ill is som e eviden ce fo r his b e in g ill: b u t fe e lin g a tickle is n ot
eviden ce fo r his h a v in g a tickle, a n y m ore th an strik in g a blow is
eviden ce fo r th e o ccurren ce o f a blow. In ‘feel a tick le’ and ‘strike a
blow ’, ‘tick le’ an d ‘blow ’ are cogn ate accusatives to th e verbs ‘feel’
and ‘strike’. T h e verb an d its accu sative are two expressions fo r the
sam e th in g , as are th e verbs an d th eir accusatives in ‘I dream t a
d ream ’ and ‘I asked a q u estion ’.
B u t ‘ill' and ‘cap ab le o f clim b in g th e tree' are not cognate accusa­
tives to the verb ‘ to feel': so th e y are not in g ra m m a r b oun d to sign ify
feelin gs, as ‘ tick le’ is in g ram m ar b oun d to sig n ify a feelin g. A n o th e r
pu rely g ram m atical poin t shows th e sam e thing. It is indifferent
w heth er I say ‘I feel a tick le’ or *1 h a v e a tickle'; b u t ‘ I h a ve . . .’
cannot be com pleted b y . ill’ , ‘ . . . cap ab le o f clim b in g the
tree', ‘. . . h ap p y’ , or ‘ . . . d iscon ten ted 1. I f we try to restore the
verbal p arallel b y b rin g in g in the app ropriate ab stract nouns, we
find a fu rth er in co n gru ity; ‘ I fe e l h appiness', ‘I feel illness’ or ‘I feel
ab ility to clim b the tree’ , if th ey m ean an y th in g , d o not m ean at
all w hat is m ean t b y ‘I feel h app y, ill, or cap able o f clim b in g the
tree’.
O n the o th er h an d , besides these differences betw een th e different
uses o f ‘I feel . . t here are im portan t analogies as w ell. I f a person
says th a t he has a tickle, we do not ask for h is evidence, or require
him to m ake q u ite sure. A n n o u n c in g a tickle is not p roclaim in g
the results o f an in vestigation. A tickle is not som eth in g established
by carefu l w itnessing, or so m eth in g inferred fro m clues, nor do
w c praise fo r th eir pow ers o f observation or reason ing people who
let us know th at th ey feel tickles, tw eaks an d flutters. Just th e sam e
is true o f avow als o f m oods. I f a person says ‘I feel bored', or ‘ I feel
depressed’ , we do n ot ask h im for his evidence, or request h im to
m ake sure. W c m a y accuse him o f sh am m in g to us or to him self,
b u t we d o n ot accuse him o f h a v in g been careless in his observations
or rash in his inferences, since we do not th ink th at h is avowal
was a report o f observations or conclusions. l i e has not been a good
or a bad detective; h e has not been a detective at all. N o th in g would
surprise us m ore th an to h ear him say ‘ I feel depressed' in the alert
and jud icious tone o f voice o f a d etective, a m icroscopist, or a d ia g ­
nostician, th o u gh this tone o f voice is p e rfectly congruous w ith ‘I was
feelin g depressed' and 'h e feels depressed’. I f th e avow al is to do
EM OTION 99

its job, it m ust he said in a depressed tone o f voice; it m ust be blurted


o u t to a sym p ath izer, wot reported to an investigator. A v o w in g ‘I feel
depressed’ is d o in g on e o f the th in gs, n am ely one o f th e convcrsa*
tional things, th a t depression is the m ood to do. It is not a piece of
scientific prem iss-providing, b u t a p iecc o f conversational m oping.
T h a t is w hy. if we are suspicious, w c do not ask T a c t or fiction ?’,
T r u e or fa lse?', ‘R eliab le or u n re lia b le?’ , b u t ‘Sincere or sh am m ed ?’
T h e conversational avow al o f m oods requires not acum en, b u t open­
ness. Ic com es fro m th e h eart, not fro m th e head. It is n ot discovery,
b u t volun tary non-concealm ent.
O f course people h ave to learn how to use avow al expressions
appropriately an d th e y m a y not learn these lessons very well. T h e y
learn them fro m o rd in ary discussions o f th e m oods o f others and
from su ch m ore fru itfu l sources as novels and the theatre. T h e y
learn fro m th e sam e sources h ow to ch eat b oth o th er people and
them selves b y m a k in g sham avow als in th e proper tones o f voice
and with th e o th er proper h istrion ic accom panim ents.
I f v e now raise th e epistem ologist’s question ‘H ow does a person
find out w h at m ood he is in ’ we can answ er th a t if, as m ay n o t be
th e case, he finds it out a t all, he finds it o u t very m u ch as w e find
it out. A s we h ave seen, h e docs n o t groan ‘I feel b o red ’ because he
h as foun d o u t th a t he is bored, an y m ore th an the sleepy m au yawns
because h e has fo u n d o u t th at h e is sleepy. R ath er, som ew hat as the
sleepy m an finds o u t th at h e is sleepy b y finding, am o n g o th er things,
th at he keeps on yaw n in g, so th e bo red m an finds ou t th a t he is
bored, if he does find this out, b y fin ding th a t am o n g o th er th in gs he
g lu m ly says to oth ers an d to h im self ‘I feel bored’, an d ‘H ow bored
I feel'. Such blurted avow al is n o t m erely one fa irly reliable index
am ong others. It is the first a n d th e best in d ex, since b ein g w orded
and volun tarily uttered, it is m ean t to b e h eard and it is m ean t to be
understood. It calls fo r n o sleuth-w ork.
In some respects avow als o f m oods like ‘I feel ch ee rfu l’ m ore
closely resem ble an n oun cem ents o f sensations like ‘I feel a tickle’
than they resem ble utterances like ‘I feel b etter’ or ‘I feel capable of
clim b in g th e tree’. Just as it w ou ld be absurd to say ‘I feel a tickle
b u t m aybe I h a v en ’t o n e’, so, in o rd in ary cases, it w ould b e absurd
to say ‘ I feel ch eerfu l b u t m aybe I am not’ . B u t there w ould be no
absurdity in sayin g ‘I feel b etter b u t perhaps I am worse', or ‘I feel
capable o f clim b in g a tree b u t m ayb e I cou ld not’.
T h is d ifferen ce can be b ro u gh t o u t in an o th er w ay. Som etim es
it is natural to say ‘I feel as if I co u ld eat a horse’, o r ‘I feel as if m y
100 THE CO N CE PT OP MIND

tem perature has return ed to n orm al'. B u t it w ould seldom if ever be


nam ral to say ‘I fe e l as if I were in th e dum ps’, or ‘I feel as if I were
bored’, an y m ore th an it would b e natural to say ‘I feel as if I had a
pain’. N o t m u ch w ould b e gain ed b y discussing at length w h y we use
the E n glish verb ‘to fe e l' in these different ways. T h e re are hosts o f
other w ays in w h ich it is also used. I can say ‘I fe lt a lum p in the
m attress’, ‘ I fe lt cold ’, ‘ I fe lt q u eer’. ‘I fe lt m y jaw -m uscles stiffen’, T
felt m y go rge rise’, 'I fe lt m y ch in w ith m y th u m b ’, ‘I felt in vain for
the lever’, ‘I fe lt as if som ething im p o rtan t was about to happen’ , ‘I
felt th at th ere was a flaw som ew here in th e argu m en t’, ‘ I fe lt quite
a t hom e’, ‘I fe lt th a t he was a n g ry ’. A featu re com m on to m ost o f
these uses is th a t the speaker does n o t w ant fu rth er questions to be
put. T h e y w ould be eith er unansw erable questions, or unaskable
questions. T h a t he fe lt it is en o u gh to settle som e debates; that
he m erely fe lt it is en ough to show th a t debates should not even
begin.
N am es o f m oods, th en, are n o t the nam es o f feelings. B u t to be
in a p articu lar m ood is to be in th e m ood, a m o n g other things, to
fee. certain sorts o f feelin gs in certain sorts o f situations. T o be in a
la zy m ood, is, am o n g other th in gs, to tend to have sensations o f
lassitude in th e lim bs w hen job s h ave to be done, to have cosy feel­
ings o f relaxatio n w hen the deck-chair is resum ed, net to have elec­
tricity feelin g s w hen th e gam e b egin s, and so forth. But we are not
th in kin g p rim arily o f these feelings w hen we say that we feel lazy;
in :act, we seldom pay m uch h eed to sensations o f thssc kinds, save
when th ey are a b n o rm ally acute.
A re nam es o f m oods nam es o f em otions? T h e o n ly tolerable reply
is that o f course th ey are, in the sense th a t som e people som e o f the
tim e use th e w ord ‘em otion ’. But then we m ust add that in this sense
an em otion is n ot som ething th a t can be segregated from th in kin g,
daydream ing, vo lu n tarily doing th in gs, g rim a c in g or fe e lin g pangs
a n c itches. T o h ave the em otion, in th is sense, w h ich we o rd in arily
refer to as ‘b ein g bored’ , is to be in the m ood to th in k certain sorts
o f thoughts, an d n ot to th in k o th er sorts, to yaw n an d not to chu ckle,
to converse w ith stilted politeness, and not to talk w ith anim ation, to
feel flaccid an d n o t to fe e l resilient. Boredom is n o t som e unique
distinguishable in gred ien t, scene or featu re o f all th<;t its victim is
doing and un d ergoin g; rather it is the tem porary com plexion o f th at
toti.lity. It is n ot lik e a gust, a su n beam , a show er or the tem perature;
it is like th e m o rn in g ’s weather.
EM OTION 10 1

(5) Agitations and F eelin g s


In an eariy part o f this chapter, I undertook to tr y to b rin g out
w hat is m eant b y describing, fo r exam p le, a certain glow as a glow
o f pride, or a q u alm as a qualm o f a n x iety. It is h elp fu l, to begin
w ith, to notice th at, a n yh o w com m only, th e word w h ich com pletes
the phrase ‘p an g o f . . / or ‘ch ill o f . . / is the n am e o f a n agitation . I
shall now argu e th at feelin gs are in trin sically connected w ith a g ita ­
tions an d are n o t in trin sically conn ected w ith inclinations, save in
so fa r as inclinations are facto rs in agitation s. B u t I am not try in g to
establish a r.ovel p sych o lo gical hypothesis; I am tryin g to show only
th a t it is part o f the lo g ic o f ou r descriptions o f feelings th a t th ey are
signs o f agitations and are not exercises o f inclinations.
W e h ave seen th at an yh o w m an y o f th e w ords used to designate
feelin gs are also used to designate b od ily sensations. A flutter m ay be
a flutter o f anticipation or it m ay be a flutter o f b od ily exhaustion;
a m an m ay squirm eith er w ith em barrassm ent or w ith stom ach ­
ache. A child som etim es does not know w heth er the lum p he feels
in his throat is a sign o f m isery, or a sign th at he is sickening for
som ething.
B efore considering o u r special problem , ‘ B y w h at criteria d o we
com e to m ark off som e feeling© ao feelin gs “ o f surprise” or “ o f d is­
g u st” ?', let us consider the prior question, ‘B y w h at criteria d o we
com e to class certain b o d ily sensations as, fo r exam ple, tw inges o f
toothache or qu alm s o f m al de tn erV In deed, b y w h at criteria do we
com e to locate or m is-locate sensations as bein g, in som e sense o f
‘ in', in th e righ t kn ee or in th e p it o f the stom ach ? T h e answ er is that
we learn both to locate sensations an d to g ive their cru d e physio­
logical diagnoses from a rule*of-thum b exp erim en tal process, rein­
forced. norm ally, b y lessons tau gh t b y others. T h e pain is in the
finger in w iiich I see the needle; it is in th a t finger b y th e sucking
o f w hich alone th e pain is alleviated. S im ilarly the dull load w hich
I feel, and locate in th e stom ach, com es to be reco gn ized as a sign
o f indigestion, because it is correlated w ith loss o f appetite, a liab ility
to subsequent nausea, alleviation by certain m edicines and hot-w ater
bottles. Phrases like ‘a tw in ge o f to o th ach e' alread y em b o d y causal
hypotheses, an d th e em bodied h ypotheses are som etim es w rong. A
w ounded soldier m a y say th a t he feels a tw in ge o f rheum atism in
his rig h t leg, w hen he has n o rig h t leg, an d w hen ‘ rh eu m atism ’ is the
w ron g diagnosis o f th e pain h e feels.
Sim ilarly, w hen a person reports a ch ill o f d isq u iet or a tu g of
102 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

com m iseration, h e is not m erely reporting a feelin g ; h e is g iv in g a


diagn osis o f it, b u t a diagnosis w hich is not in term s o f a physio­
logical distu rban ce. In some cases h is diagnosis m ay be erroneous;
he m a y diagn ose as a tw inge o f rem orse w hat is really a tw in ge o f
fear, and w hat h e takes lu be a sin kin g fe e lin g o f boredom m ay
actu ally be a sin kin g feelin g o f in feriority. H e m ay even ascribe to
dyspepsia a fe e lin g w hich is really a sign o f an xiety, or ascribe to e x ­
citem en t flu tterin g sensations caused b y over-sm oking. N a tu ra lly
such m is-diagnoses are ir.ore com m on in ch ild ren th an in grown-ups,
and in persons in untried situations than in persons livin g their
ch arted lives. B u t th e point h ere b e in g m ad e is th at w heth er we are
a tta ch in g a sensation to a ph ysiological condition or a tta ch in g a feel­
in g to an em otional condition, we are a p p ly in g a causal hypothesis.
Pains do not arrive already h all-m arked ‘ rh eu m atic', nor do throbs
arrive a lrea d y hall-m arked ‘com passionate’.
N e x t, it w ould be absurd to speak o f som eone h a v in g a sensation,
or a feelin g, on purpose; or to ask som eone w hat h e had a tw inge for.
R a th er, the occurren ce of a sensation or o f a fe e lin g is accounted
for b y sayin g, fo r exam ple, th a t the electric cu rren t gave m e a
tin g lin g sensation, or that the sound o f th e siren gave m e a squirm ­
in g fe e lin g in m y stom ach, w here n o one w ould add u ce a m otive for
feelin g this liu g le or that squirm . F eelin gs, in oth er words, are not
am on g th e sorts o f things o f w h ich it m akes sense to ask from w hat
m otives th ey issue. T h e sam e is true, fo r the sam e reasons, o f the
other signs o f agitation s. N e ith e r m y tw inges nor m y winces, neither
m y sq u irm in g feelin gs nor m y b od ily squirm in gs. neither m y feelings
o f relief n or m y sighs oi relief, a rc th in gs w hich I do fo r a reason;
nor, in consequence, are they th in gs w h ich I can be said to d o cleverly
or stupid ly, successfully or un successfully, ca rcfu lly or carelessly - or
indeed do a t all. T h e y are n eith er w ell m an aged n or ill m anaged;
th ey are n o t m an aged a t all, th o u g h the actor's w inces an d the h y p o ­
crite’s sighs are well or ill m anaged. It w ould be nonsense to say that
som eone tried to h ave a tw inge, th o u g h n ot nonsense to say th at he
tried to in du ce one.
T h is poin t show s w h y >ve w ere rig h t to suggest above th at feelings
do not b elo n g d ire ctly to sim ple inclinations. A n inclination is a cer­
tain sort o f proneness or readiness to d o certain sorts o f th in gs on
purpose. T h ese th in gs are therefore dcscribable as b ein g done from
d ia t m otive. T h e y are the exercises o f the disposition that we call
‘a m otive’. F eelin gs are not fro m m otives an d are therefore not
a m o n g the possible exercises o f su ch propensities. T h e widespread
EM OTION 103

theory th at a m otive su ch as van ity, or affection, is in the first instance


a disposition to experience certain specific feelin gs is therefore absurd.
T h ere are, o f course, tendencies to h ave feelings; b ein g vertiginous
and rh eu m atic are such tendencies. B u t we do not try to m odify
tendencies o f theee kind« b v sermons.
W h a t feelin gs do causally b elon g to are agitations; th e y arc signs
o f agitation s in th e sam e sort o f w ay as stom ach-aches are signs o f
indigestion. R o u g h ly , we do not, as th e prevalent th eory holds, a ct
purposively because we experience feelings; w c exp erience feelings,
as w c w ince an d shudder, because we are in h ib ited fro m a ctin g
purposively.
It is worth rem arkin g, before we leave this p art o f the subject, that
wc can in du ce in ourselves g en u in e an d acu te feelin g s by m erely
im agin in g ourselves in agitatin g circum stances. N ovel-readcrs and
theatregoers fe e l real pangs and real liftin gs o f the heart, ju st as th ey
m ay shed real tears an d soowl u n feign ed scowls. B u t their distresses
and in dign ation s are feign ed. T h e y do not affect th eir ow ners’ appe­
tites fo r chocolates, or change th e tones o f voice o f th eir conversations.
Sentim entalists are people w h o in d u lge in in du ced feelin gs w ithout
ackn ow led gin g th e fictitiousness o f th eir agitations.

(6) E n joy in g a n d W anting


T h e w ords ‘pleasure’ and ‘desire’ p lay a la rge role in th e term ino­
logy o f m oral philosophers and o f som e schools o f psychology. I t is
im portant b riefly to indicate som e o f th e differences betw een the
supposed lo g ic o f their use and its actual logic.
F irst, it seem s to b e gen erally supposed th a t ‘pleasure* and ‘desire’
are alw ays used to sig n ify feelings. A n d th ere certain ly arc feelin gs
w hich can b e d escribed as feelin gs o f pleasure an d desire. Som e
thrills, shocks, glow s, an d ticklings are feelin gs o f d elig h t, surprise,
relief, an d am usem ent; and h an kerin gs, itches, gn aw in gs, and yearn ­
ings are signs th a t som ething is both w anted an d m issed. B u t the
transports, surprises, reliefs, a n d distresses o f w h ich su ch feelin gs
are diagnosed, or m is-diagnosed, as signs are not them selves feelings;
th ey are agitatio n s or m oods, ju st as are the transports a n d distresses
w hich a ch ild betrays b y his skips an d his w him pers. N o stalgia is an
agitation a n d on e w h ich can be called in one sense a ‘desire’ ; b u t it is
not m erely a fe e lin g or series o f feelin gs. Besides exp erien cin g these,
th e h o m csick person also cannot h elp th in k in g an d d ream in g o f
hom e, resistin g suggestions that h e should prolon g h is absence and
b ein g h alf-h earted ab o u t recreations o f w h ich h e is ord in arily fond.
104 TH E C O N C E P T OF MIND

If these and sim ilar trends w ere n o t present, we should n ot call him
hom esick, w h atever feelin gs w ere reported.
‘Pleasure', th en , is som etim es used to denote special kinds o f moods,
such as elation, jo y an d am usem en t. It is acco rd in g ly used to com ­
plete the descriptions o f certain feelin gs, su ch as flutters, glow s, an d
thrills. B u t there is an o th er sense in w h ich we say th at a person w ho
is so absorbed in som e a ctivity, such as g o lf or argu m en t, th at he is
reluctant to stop, or even to th in k o f a n y th in g else, is ‘ takin g pleasure
in’ or ‘e n jo y in g ’ d o in g w h at h e is doin g, th o u gh he is in n o degree
convulsed or beside h im self, an d th o u gh h e is not, therefore, e x ­
periencing a n y p a rticu lar feelings.
Doubtless th e absorbed g o lfer experiences num erous flutters and
glows o f rapture, excitem en t an d self-approbation in the coursc o f
his gam e. B u t w hen asked w h eth er or not he had en jo yed the periods
o f the gam e betw een the occurrences o f such feelin gs, h e w ould
obviously reply th a t h e h a d , for h e h a d en joyed the w hole gam e.
H e would a t no m om ent o f it h a ve w elcom ed an interruption; he was
never in clin ed to tu rn his th o u gh ts or conversation fro m the circu m ­
stances o f the gam e to o th er m atters. H e d id not have to try to con­
centrate on th e gam e. H e con cen trated on it w ith ou t lectu rin g or
ad ju rin g h im se lf to do so. It w ould h ave been, an d perhaps was, an
effort to con cen trate on A n y t h i n g else.
In this sense, to e n jo y d o in g so m ethin g, to w ant to do it an d not
to want to d o a n y th in g else are different w ays o f ph rasin g th e sam e
thing. A n d ju st th is lin gu istic fa c t illustrates an im portan t point. A
h an kerin g is n ot th e sam e as, or a t all sim ilar to, a flutter or a glow .
B u t that som eone has an in clin ation to do som ethin g th at h e is doing
an d no in clin atio n n ot to d o it can b e signified indifferently b y ‘ he
enjoys d oin g it’ an d b y ‘he is d o in g w h at he w ants to do’ and b y ‘he
does not want to stop’. It is a fulfilled propensity to act or react, where
these are heeded action s an d reactions.
\Vc see then th a t ‘pleasure’ can be used to sign ify a t least two quite
different types o f things.
(i) T h e re is the sense in w hich it is com m only replaced b y the
verbs 'e n jo y ' and ‘lik e ’. T o say th at a person has been en jo yin g d ig ­
g in g is not to say th a t he has b een both d ig g in g and d oin g or e x ­
periencing so m eth in g else as a con com itan t or effect o f the d igging;
it is to say th a t he d u g w ith his w hole h eart in his task, i.e. th at he
d u g, w anting to d ig an d n ot w an tin g to do a n yth in g else (or nothing)
instead. H is d ig g in g was a propensity-fulfilm ent. H is d ig g in g was his
pleasure, and n ot a veh icle o f his pleasure.
EM OTION 105
12) T h e re is th e sense o f ‘ pleasure' in w h ich it h com m only replaced
b y such w ords as ‘d e lig h t’, ‘transport', ‘rap tu re’, ‘exu ltation’, an d ‘joy*.
T h ese are nam es o f m oods sig n ify in g agitations. ‘T o o d elighted to
talk coherently* a n d ‘c ra zy w ith jo y ’ are legitim ate expressions. C on ­
nected w ith su ch m oode, th ere cxiet certain feelings w h ich arc com ­
m only described as ‘th rills o f pleasure', ‘glow s o f pleasure’ , and so
fo ith . It should be n oticed th at th o u g h we speak o f th rills o f pleasure
coursing th ro u gh us, or o f glow s o f pleasure w arm ing our hearts, we
do not o rd in arily speak o f pleasures or o f pleasure cou rsing th rou gh
us or w arm in g o u r hearts. O n ly theorists are m isguided en ough to
classify eith er d e lig h t or en jo ym en t w ith feelings. T h a t this classi­
fication is m isgu id ed is show n b y the fa cts (t) th at en jo y in g d ig g in g
is n ot b o th d ig g in g an d h a v in g a (pleasant) feelin g; and (2) th at
delight, am u sem en t, etc., are m oods, a n d th a t m oods are not feelings.
It is also show n b y th e fo llo w in g considerations. I: alw ays m akes sense
to ask a b o u t a n y sensation or fe e lin g w hether its ow ner enjoyed
h avin g it, disliked h a v in g it or did not care one w ay or the other
about it. M o st sensations and feelin gs are n either en joyed nor dis­
liked. It is excep tio n al to h eed th em a t all. N o w this applies to thrills,
flutters, an d glow s ju st a s m u ch as to tingles. So, even th o u gh w hat a
person h as fe lt is p ro p erly described as a th rill o f pleasure or, more
«specifically, no a ticlde o f am u sem en t, it is otill a proper question
w hether he not o n ly en jo yed th e jo k e b u t also en joyed the tickled
feelin g th a t it gave him . N o r sh ou ld we be m uch surprised to hear
him rep ly th at h e w as so m u ch d e lig h te d b* th e jo k e that the
‘tickled’ fe e lin g was q u ite u n com fortab le; or to h ear som eone else,
who has been cry in g fro m grief, a d m it th a t the cry in g itself had
besn slig h tly agreeable. I discuss in Section (4) o f this ch ap ter the
two m ain m otives fo r m isd a ssify in g m oods as feelings. T h e m otives
for ra n k in g ‘en jo y’ as a w ord for a fe e lin g are parallel, th ou gh not
identical, since e n jo y in g is n ot a m ood. O n e can be in the m ood, or
not in th e m ood, to e n jo y som ething.
S im ilar considerations, w h ich need not be developed, w ould show
that ‘d islike’ , ‘w ant’, and ‘desire’ d o not denote pangs, itchings or
gnaw ings. (It should be m en tioned th a t ‘p ain ’, in th e sense in w hich
I have pains in m y stom ach, is not th e opposite o f 'pleasure’. In this
sense, a p ain is a sensation o f a special sort, which w c ord in arily dis­
like having.)
L ik in g an d d islikin g, joy an d grief, desire au.l avciM on a te, then,
not 'in tern al’ episodes w h ich th eir ow ner witnesses, b u t his associates
do n ot witness. T h e y a re n o t episodes an d so are not the sort o f things
io6 TH E C O N C E P T OF MIND

w hich can be witnessed or unw itnessed. C e rta in ly a person can


usually, but not alw ays, tell w ith ou t research w h eth er he en joys som e­
th in g or not, an d w hat his present m ood is. B u t so can his associates,
provided that he is con versation ally open w ith th em and does not
w ear a mask. I f he is con versation ally open neither w ith them nor
w ith him self, both will h ave to do som e research to find out these
things, and they are m ore lik ely to succeed than he.

(7) T h e Criteria o f M otives


So fa r it has been argu ed th a t to exp lain an action as done from a
certain m otive is not to correlate it w ith an o ccu lt cause, b u t to sub­
sum e it under a propensity or bchaviour-tren d. B u t this is not enough.
T o exp lain an action as due to h ab it, or as d u e to an instinct, or a
reflex, squares w ith this fo rm u la, yet we d istin gu ish actions done, say,
from va n ity or affection from those done au to m a tically in one o f
these other ways. I sh all restrict m yself to tryin g to indicate som e o f
the criteria by w h ich we w ould ord in arily decide th a t an a g e n t had
done som ething n o t fro m fo rcc o f h ab it b u t from a specified m otive.
B u t it m ust not be supposed th a t the tw o classes are dem arcated
from one another as an eq u atorial d a y from an equatorial night. T h e y
shade into one an oth er as an E n glish d a y shades into an E n glish
night. K in dlin ess shades into politeness th rou gh th e tw iligh t o f con-
sidcrateness, an d politeness shades into d rill th rou gh the tw iligh t o f
etiquette. T h e d rill o f a keen soldier is not q u ite like th e d rill o f a
m erely docile soldier.
W h en we say th at som eone acts in a certain w ay from sheer force
o f habit, part o f w hat we h ave in m ind is this, th at in sim ilar circu m ­
stances he alw ays acts in just this w ay; th at h e acts in this w ay
w hether or not he is a tten d in g to w h at he is d oing; th at he is not
exercisin g care or try in g to correct or im prove h is perform ance; and
th at he m ay. a fte r the act is over, be q u ite unaw are th at he has done
it. Such actions are o ften g iv en the m etaphorical title ‘au tom atic’.
A u to m atic habits arc o ften d elib erately in culcated b y sheer drill, and
o n ly b y some coun ter-d rill is a form ed h a b it eradicated.
B u t w hen we say th at som eone acts in a certain w ay from am bition
or sense o f justice, we m ean b y im plication to d en y th at th e action
was m erely autom atic. In p articu lar we im p ly th a t the agen t was in
som e w ay th in kin g or h eed in g w hat he was doin g, and would not
have acted in th at w ay. if he had not been th in k in g w hat he was
doing. But the precise fo rce o f this expression ‘th in k in g w hat he was
d o in g’ is som ew hat elusive. I certain ly can run upstairs tw o stairs at
EM OTION 107

a tim e from fo rce o f h a b it and a t the sam e tim e notice that I am


d oin g so an d even consider how the act is done. I can be a spectator
of m y habitual, and o f m y reflex actions and even a diagn ostician of
them , w ithout these action s ceasin g to be autom atic. N otoriou sly
such attention som etim es upsets th e autom atism .
C on versely, actions done from m otives can still be naïve, in the
sense th at the a g e n t has not coupled, an d perhaps can n ot couple, his
action w ith a seco n d ary operation o f tellin g h im self or the com pany
whac he is d o in g , or w h y he is d o in g it. Indeed even when a person
does pass in tern al or spoken com m ents upon his curren t action, this
second operation o f co m m en tin g is o rd in arily itself naïve. H e cannot
also be co m m en tin g on his com m entaries aà infinitum . T h e sense in
w hich a person is th in k in g w hat he is doin g, when his action is to
be classed not a s au to m atic but as done fro m a m otive, is th at he is
a ctin g m ore o r less ca refu lly, critically, consistently, and purposefully,
adverbs w hich d o n o t sig n ify the prior or con com itant occurrence of
extra operation s o f resolving, p lan n in g or co gitatin g, b u t on ly that
the action taken is itself done n ot absent-m ind edly but in a certain
positive fram e o f m in d. T h e description o f th is fram e o f m in d need
not m ention a n y episodes o th er th an this act itself, th o u gh it is not
exhausted in th a t m ention.
In short, th e class o f actions done fro m m otives coincides w ith the
class o f actio n s d escribablc as m ore or less intelligent. A n y act done
from a m o tive can be appraised as rela tively sagacious or stupid, and
vice versa. A c tio n s d on e from sheer force o f h ab it arc not ch aracter­
ize d as sensible or silly, th o u gh o f course the a gen t m ay show sense
or silliness in fo rm in g , or in not erad icatin g, th e habit.
B u t this b rin g s up a fu rth e r point. T w o actions don e from the same
m otive m ay e x h ib it different degrees o f com petence, and two sim ilar
actions e x h ib itin g th e sam e degree o f com pcten ce m ay be done from
different m otives. T o be fo n d o f row ing does not entail b e in g accom ­
plished or effective at it, an d, o f tw o people eq u ally effective at it. one
m ay be ro w in g fo r th e sport and the o th er fo r th e sake o f h ealth or
glory. T h a t is. th e ab ilities w ith w hich th in gs are done are personal
ch aracteristics o f a d ifferent kin d fro m th e m otives or inclinations
w hich are th e reasons w h y th ey are done; and we distinguish acts
done from fo rcc o f h a b it from n on -au tom atic actions b y the fa ct that
the latter a r c exercises o f b oth at once. T h in g s done q uite absent-
m in d ed ly a r c done n eith er w ith m ethods nor fo r reasons, th ou gh
th e y m ay be efficacious and th e y m ay h ave com plex procedures.
In ascrib in g a specific m otive to a person we are d escrib in g the
io8 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

sorts o f things th at h e tends to try to d o or b rin g ab ou t, w hile in


ascrib in g to h im a specific com peten ce we are d escrib in g the m ethods
and the effectiveness o f the m eth od s b y w h ich lie conducts these
attem pts. It is the distin ction betw een aim s an d techniques. T h e m ore
com m on idiom o f ‘ends an d m eans’ is often m isleading, i f a m an
m akes a sarcastic jo k e , h is perform an ce can n ot be split up in to steps
and landings, yet the ju d g em e n t th at it was m ad e fro m h atred is
still d istin guish able fro m th e ju d g e m e n t that it was m ad e w ith in*
gem rity.
A risto tle realized th a t in ta lk in g ab o u t m otives we are talkin g
about dispositions o f a certain sort, a sort different fro m com petences;
he realized too th a t a n y m otive, un like a n y com petence, is a pro­
pensity o f which it m akes sense to say th at in a g iv en m an in a given
walk o f life this m otive is too strong, too w eak, or n eith er too strong,
n or too weak. H e seem s to su ggest th at in ap p raisin g the m oral, as
distin ct from the tech n ical, m erits an d dem erits o f actions we are
com m enting on the excessive, proper or in ad eq u ate stren gth o f the
inclinations o f w h ich th e y are the exercises. N o w we are not con­
cerned here w ith eth ical questions, or w ith questions ab o u t th e n atu re
o f eth ical questions. W h a t is relevan t to ou r in q u iry is th e fa ct, re­
co g n ized b ) A risto tle a s card in al, th at the relative strengths o f in-
clin aiiu m are alterable. C h an g e s o f en viron m ent, com panionship,
h ealth , and age, extern al criticism s an d exam p les can all m o d ify the
balance o f power betw een th e in clin ation s w hich constitute one side
o f a person’s ch aracter. B u t so can h is ow n concern ab o u t th is balan ce
m o d ify it. A person m ay find th at he is too fon d o f gossip, or not
atten tive en ough to o th er p eop le’s com fo rt, an d he m ay, th o u g h he
need not, develop a second order iu clin ation to stren gthen som e of
his w eak, and w eaken som e o f his strong propensities. l i e m a y be­
com e n ot m erely a cad em ically critical, b u t execu tively corrective o f
his ow n character. O f course, h is new second order m otive for school­
in g h is first ord er m otives m ay still be a p ru d en tial or econom ic one.
A n am bitious hotel-proprietor m ig h t d rill h im self in eq uab ility,
considerateness and p ro bity solely from the desire to increase his
incom e; and his techniques o f self-regim en tation m igh t be m ore
effective than those em ployed b y a person w hose id eal was loftier. In
the case, however, o f th e hotel-proprietor th ere w ould be one in clin a­
tion the relative stren gth o f w hich vis-à-vis the others h ad been left
un criticized and u n regu lated , n am ely h is desire to g e t rich. T h is
m otive m ight be, th o u g h it need not be, too stron g in him . I f so, we
m igh t call him ‘sh rew d ’, b u t we should not yet ca ll him 'w ise’. T o
EM OTION !0 9

gen eralize th is poin t, a part o f w hat is m ean t b y sayin g o f a n y in­


clin ation that it is too strong in a given agen t is th a t th e a gen t tends
to act from th at inclination even w h en he is also inclined to weaken
th at inclination b y d eliberately a ctin g differently. H e is a slave o f
nicotin e, or o f allegian ce to a political party, if he can ever b rin g
h im self to take en o u gh o f th e serious steps b y w h ich alone the
stren gth o f these m otives could be reduced, even th o u g h he has som e
second ord er in clin atio n to reduce it. W h a t is h ere b ein g described
is pare o f w hat is o rd in arily called ‘self-control’ , and w hen w h at is
ord in arily m iscalled an ‘im pulse’ is irresistible and th erefore uncon­
trollable, it is a ta u to lo g y to say th a t it is too strong.

(8) T h e Reasons a n d th e Causes o f A ctio n s


I h ave a rg u e d th a t to exp lain an action as don e fro m a specified
m otive or in clin ation is not to describe the action as the effect o f a
specified cause. M o tives are not h ap p en in gs an d are not therefore o f
the rig h t type to be causes. T h e expansion o f a m otive-cxprcssion is
a law -like sentence and not a report o f an event.
B u t th e gen eral fa c t n a t a person is disposed to act in such and
such w ays in such and such circu m stances does n o t by itself account
fo r h is d oin g a particular th in g a t a p a rticu lar m om ent; a n y more
than th e fa c t th a t th e gla33 was b rittle accounts for its fractu re at
10 p.m . A s th e im pact o f ihe stone at io p.m . caused the glass to break,
so som e an teced en t o f an action causes or occasions th e a gen t to
perform it w hen an d w here he does so. F o r exam ple, a m an passes
his n eig h b o u r th e salt from politeness; b u t his politeness is m erely
his in clin ation to pass the salt w hen it is w anted, as w’ell as to perform
a thousand o th er courtesies o f the sam e gen eral kind. So besides the
question ‘fo r w hat reason d id he pass the salt’ ? th ere is the quite
different question ‘w hat m ade h im pass the salt at th at m om ent to
th at n e ig h b o u r? T h is question is p ro b a b ly answ ered b y ‘h e heard
his n eig h b o u r ask for it’ , or ‘he noticed h is n eig h b o u r’s eye w ander­
in g over th e tab le’ , or som ething o f th e sort.
W e are p e rfe ctly fam iliar w ith th e sorts o f h ap p en in gs w hich in­
duce or occasion people to d o things. I f we w ere not, we could not get
them to do w h at w e wish, and the o rd in ary d ealin gs betw een people
could not exist. Custom ers could not purchase, officers could not
com m and, frien d s could n o t converse, or ch ild ren p lay, unless they
kn ew h ow to g e t o th er people an d them selves to do th in gs a t particu­
lar junctures.
T h e o b je c t o f m en tion in g these im p ortan t trivialities is twofold;
I TO THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

first, co show th at an action ’s h a v in g a cause docs not con flict w ith


its h a vin g a m otive, b u t is alread y prescribed fo r in th e protasis o f
the h yp o th etical proposition w hich states th e m otive; and second,
to show th at, so fa r from ou r w an tin g to h ear o f occu lt or g h o stly
causes o f actions, w e a lread y know ju st w hat sorts o f fa m ilia r an d
usually p u b lic h app en in gs are the th in gs w h ich g e t people to n et in
particular w ays a t p articu lar tim es.
I f the doctrine o f the g h o st in th e m ach in e w ere true, not on ly
w ould people be absolute m ysteries to one an oth er, th ey w ou ld also
be ab solu tely in tractable. In fa c t th e y are relatively tra cta b le an d
relatively easy to understand.

(9) C onclusion
T h e re arc tw o q u ite d ifferent senses o f ‘em otion ’, in w hich w e e x ­
plain people’s beh aviou r b y referen ce to em otions. In th e first sense
we are referrin g to the m otives or inclinations fro m w h ich m ore or
less in telligen t actions are done. In the second sense we are referrin g
to m oods, in clu d in g th e agitation s or perturbation s o f w hich som e
aim less m ovem ents a rc signs. In n eith er o f these senses are we assert­
in g or im p ly in g th at th e overt beh aviou r is the effect o f a fe lt tu rb u ­
lence in the a g e n t’s stream o f consciousness. In a th ird sense o f
‘em otion ’, pangs an d tw in ges are feelin gs or em otions, b u t th e y are
not, save per accidens, th in gs b y reference to w hich we ex p lain be­
haviour. T h e y are th in gs fo r w h ich diagnoses are required, not th in gs
required fo r the diagnoses of b ehaviou r. Im pulses, described as feel­
ings w hich im pel actions, are para-m ech an ical m yths. T h is does not
m ean th at people never act on th e im pulse o f th e m om ent, b u t only
th at we should not sw allow th e traditional stories a b o u t the o ccu lt
antecedents o f eith er d eliberate or im pulsive actions.
C on sequen tly, th o u gh the description o f the h igh er-level b eh a vio u r
o f people certain ly requires m ention o f em otions in the first two
senses, th is m en tion does not en tail inferences to occu lt inner states
or processes. T h e d iscovery b y m e o f yo u r m otives a n d m oods is not
an alogous to u n ch cck ab lc w ater-divinin g; it is p artly an alogo u s to
m y inductions to yo u r habits, instincts, and reflexes, p artly to m y in ­
ferences to your m aladies an d yo u r tipsiness. B u t, in fa v o u ra b le cir­
cum stances, I find o u t yo u r inclination s a n d yo u r m oods m ore
d irectly than this. I h ear and understand yo u r conversational avow als,
yo u r in terjection s an d your tones o f voice; I see an d understand your
gestures an d facial expressions. I say ‘u n d erstan d ’ in no m etap h o ri­
cal sense, fo r even in terjections, tones o f voice, gestures, an d grim aces
EM OTION III

arc m odes o f com m un ica:ion. W e learn to p roducc th em , not indeed


from sch oolin g, but from im itation. W e know how to sham b y pu t­
tin g them on an d w c know, in som e d egree, how to avoid g iv in g ou r­
selves aw ay b y assu m in g masks. It is not only th eir vocabularies that
m ake foreign ers difficult to understand. M y discovery o f m y own
m otives and m oods is net different in kin d , th o u gh I am ill placed
to see m y own grim accs an d gestures, or to hear m y own tones o f
voice. M otives a n d mood? a re not th e sorts o f thin gs w h ich could be
am ong the d ire ct intim ation o f consciousness, or am o n g th e objects
of introspection, as these factitio u s form s o f P rivileged A ccess are
ord in arily described. T h e y are n ot ‘exp erien ces’, a n y m ore th an habits
or m aladies a rc ‘experiences’.
CHAPTER V

DISPOSITIONS AND OCCURRENCES


*

(i) Foreword
I have a lrea d y h ad occasion to argu e th a t a num b er o f the words
w hich we co m m o n ly use to d escribe a n d exp lain people’s behaviour
sig n ify dispositions an d not episodes. T o say th a t a person knows
som ething, or aspires to be som ethin g, is not to say that h e is at a
p articular m o m en t in process o f d oin g or u n d ergoin g an yth in g, b u t
that he is ab le to d o ccrtain things, w hen the need arises, or th a t he
is prone to d o an d fee! certain th ings in situations o f certain sorts.
T h is is, in itself, h a rd ly m ore than a d u ll fa c t (alm ost) o f ordinary
gram m ar. T h e verbs Ttnow', ‘possess’, an d 'aspire’ d o not behave like
th e verbs 'ru n ', 'w ake u p \ or 'tin g le ’; we can n ot say ‘h e knew so and
so fo r tw o m inutes, then stopped an d started a ga in a fte r a b reath ed ,
‘he g ra d u a lly aspired to be a bi^liup’ , or ‘h e is now en gaged in posses­
sin g a b icycle’. N o r is it a p ecu liarity o f people th a t we describe them
in dispositional terras. W e use such term s just as m uch fo r describ­
in g anim als, insects, crystals, an d atom s. W e are co n sta n d y w antin g
to talk ab o u t w hat can b e relied on to happen as w ell a s to talk about
w hat is a ctu a lly h app en in g; we are con stan tly w an tin g to give ex­
planations o f incidents a s well as to report th em ; an d we are co n ­
stan tly w an tin g to te ll how th in gs can b e m an aged as w ell as to tell
w hat is now g o in g on in them . M oreover, m erely to classify a word
as sig n ify in g a disposition is not yet to say m u ch m ore ab o u t it than
to say th at it is n o t used for an episode. T h e r e are lots o f different
kinds o f dispositional words. H ob b ies are not th e sam e sort o f th in g
as habits, an d both are d ifferent from skills, from m annerism s, from
fashions, from phobias, a n d from trades. N cst-b u ild in g is a different
sort o f property from b ein g feath ered , an d b e in g a conductor of
electricity is a d ifferent sort o f p roperty fro m b e in g elastic.
T h e re is. how ever, a special point in d raw in g atten tion to the fact
th at m an y o f the card in al concepts in term s o f w hich we describe
specifically h u m an b eh aviou r arc dispositional concepts, since the
vo gu e o f th e para-m ech an ical legend h as led m an y people to ignore
D ISPO SITIO N S AND O CCU RREN CES IIJ

the w ays in w h ich these con ccp ts a ctu a lly behave and to construe
them instead a s item s in th e descriptions o f o ccu lt causcs an d effects.
Sentences em b o d y in g these dispositional w ords h a ve been interpreted
as b ein g catego rical reports o f p a rticu la r b u t unw itncssable m atters
o f fa ct instead o f b e in g testable, open h yp o th etical an d w hat I shall
call ‘sem i-h ypoth etical’ statem ents. T h e o ld error o f treatin g the term
‘Force’ as d en o tin g an occu lt fo rce-exertin g a g e n c y h as been given up
in the ph ysical sciences, b u t its relatives su rvive in m an y theories of
m ind and are perhaps o n ly m orib u n d in biology.
T h e scope o f this poin t m ust not be ex aggerated . T h e vo cabu lary
we use fo r d escrib in g specifically h u m an b eh aviou r does not consist
on ly o f dispositional words. T h e ju d g e, th e teacher, the novelist, che
psychologist, an d the m an in th e street arc bound also to em p loy a
large b a ttery o f episodic w ords w hen ta lk in g ab o u t how people do, or
should, a ct an d react. T h e se episodic w ords, n o less th an dispositional
words, b e lo n g to a variety o f types, an d we sh all find the obliviousness
to som e o f these differences o f type h as bo th fostered, an d been
fostered b y , th e id entification o f the m en tal w ith th e gh ostly. L ater
in this ch ap ter I sh all discuss tw o m ain types o f m ental episodic*
words. I d o n o t su ggest th a t th ere are n o others.

(a) T h e l^ogic o f Dispositional Statements


W h e n a cow is said to be a ru m in an t, or a m an is said to be a
cigarcttc-sm okcr, it is n o t b e in g said th a t th e cow is ru m in atin g now
or that th e m an is sm o kin g a ciga rette now. T o be a ru m in an t is to
tend to ru m in ate fro m tim e to tim e, an d to b e a cigarcttc-sm okcr is
to be in th e h a b it o f sm o kin g cigarettes.
T h e ten d en cy to ru m in ate and th e h ab it o f cigarctte-sm okin g could
n ot exist, unless th ere w ere such processes or episodes as ru m in atin g
and sm okin g cigarettes. ‘ H e is sm o k in g a cigarette now ’ docs not say
the sam e sort o f th in g as ‘ he is a cigarette-sm oker’ , b u t unless state­
m ents like th e first w ere som etim es true, statem en ts like the second
could not be true. T h e ph rase ‘sm oke a cig a rette’ has both episodic
uses an d , d eriva tive fro m th em , ten d en cy-statin g uses. B u t this docs
not alw ays occur. T h e r e are m an y ten d en cy-statin g and capacity-
statin g expressions w hich can n ot also be em ployed in reports o f epi­
sodes. W e can sa y th a t so m eth in g is elastic, b u t w hen req uired to say
in w h at actu al events h is p o ten tia lity is realized , w e h ave to change
our vo cab u lary and say th a t th e ob ject is co n tractin g a fte r b ein g
stretched, is ju s t g o in g to exp an d a fte r b ein g com pressed, or recen tly
bounced on sudden im pact. T h e re is n o active verb corresponding to
I 14 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

‘elastic’ , in d ie w ay in w hich ‘is ru m in a tin g ’ corresponds to ‘is a ru m i­


n an t’ . N o r is th e reason fo r this non-parallelism fa r to seek. T h e re are
several d ifferent reactions w h ich w c exp ect o f an elastic o b ject, w hile
there is, ro u g h ly , o n ly one sort o f b eh aviou r th a t we cx p ect o f a
creatu rc th a t is d escribed to us as a ru m in an t. S im ilarly there is a
w id e ran ge o f d ifferent actions an d reactions predictab le fro m the
description o f som eone as ‘g re e d y ’, w h ile th ere is. ro u g h ly , on ly one
sort o f action pred ictab le from th e description o f som eone as ‘a
cigarccte-sinoker’. In short, som e dispositional w ords are h igh ly
gen eric or d eterm in ab le, w hile others are h ig h ly specific or d eterm in ­
ate; th e verbs w ith w h ich we report the differen t exercises o f generic
tendencies, capacities, a n d liabilities are a p t to differ fro m th e verbs
w ith w h ich we n am e th e dispositions, w hile th e episodic verbs corres­
p on d in g to the h ig h ly specific dispositional verbs are a p t to be the
sam e. A b aker can be b a k in g now , but a gro cer is not described as
‘g ro cin g ’ n ow , b u t o n ly as sellin g su gar now , or w eigh in g tea now, or
w rappin g up b u tter now. T h e r e are h a lfw a y houses. W ith q u alm s wc
w ill speak o f a doctor as en g a g ed now in d o cto rin g som eone, though
n ot o f a solicitor as now solicitorin g, b u t o n ly as now d ra ftin g a will,
o r now d efen d in g a client.
D ispositional w ords like ‘know ’, ‘b elieve’, ‘aspire’, ‘clever’, and
‘h um orous’ a rc d cu u m tu a b lc dispositional words. T h e y sig n ify ab ili­
ties, tendencies, or pronenesses to do, not th in gs o f one un iqu e kind,
b u t th in gs o f lots o f d ifferent kinds. T h eo rists w h o reco gn ize that
‘know ’ a n d ‘b elieve’ are co m m o n ly used as dispositional verbs are apt
n ot to notice th is poin t, b u t to assum e th at there m ust be correspond­
in g acts o f kn o w in g o r ap p reh en d in g and states o f b elievin g; and
the fa c t th at on e person can never find an o th er person execu tin g
such w ron gly postulated acts, or b ein g in su ch states is apt to be
accoun ted fo r b y lo catin g these acts an d states inside the agent's
secret grotto.
A sim ilar assum ption w ould lead to the conclusion th a t since being
a solicitor is a profession, th ere m ust occu r professional activities o f
solicitorin g, a n d , as a solicitor is never fou n d d oin g a n y su ch unique
th in g, b u t o n ly lots o f differen t things like d ra ftin g w ills, d efen d in g
clients, and w itn essing signatures, his uniqu e professional a ctiv ity o f
solicitorin g m ust be one w h ich h e perform s b eh in d locked doors.
T h e tem p tation to construe dispositional w ords as episodic w ords and
this o th er tem p tation to postulate th a t a n y verb th at has a disposi­
tional use m ust also h ave a corresp on din g episodic use are tw o sources
o f one an d th e sam e m yth . B u t th e y are not its o n ly sources.
D ISPO SITIO N S AND O CCU RREN CES II5

It is now necessary to discuss briefly a general objection th a t is


som etim es m ade to th e w hclc p ro gram m e o f ta lk in g ab o u t capacities,
tendencies, liab ilities, and pronenesscs. Potentialities, it is truistically
said, are n o th in g actual. T h e w orld does not contain, over an d above
w hat exists an d happens, some o th er things w hich are m ere would-
be things and could-be happenings. T o sa y o f a sleepin g m an th a t he
can read F ren ch , or o f a piece o f d ry su gar th a t it is soluble in water,
seems to be p reten d in g a t once to accord an a ttrib u te and to p u t that
attribute into cold storage. B u t an attrib u te eith er does, or does not,
ch aracterize som ething. I t cannot b e m erely on deposit account. O r,
to pu t it in a n o th er w ay, a significant affirm ative in d icative sentence
m ust be eith er tru e o r false I f it is true, it asserts th a t som ething has,
or som e th in gs have, a certain ch aracter; if it is false, then its subject
lacks that character. B u t there is no h a lfw a v house betw een a state*
m ent’s b ein g true an d its being false, so th ere is n o w ay in w hich the
su bject described b y a statem en t can shirk th e d isjunction b y being
m erely ab le or lik e ly to have o r lack th e character. A clock can strike
the h o u r th a t it is, or strike an h ou r th a t it is not; b u t it cannot strike
an h o u r that m ig h t be th e correct one b u t is n eith er the correct nor
an incorrect one.
T h is is a va lid o b jectio n :o one kin d o f account o f such statem ents
as th at the sugar ie soluble, or th e eleepcr can read F ren ch , n a m e ly an
account w hich construes such statem ents as asserting extra m atters
o f fact. T h is was indeed th e m istake o f th e old F a cu lty theories w hich
construed dispositional words as d en o tin g o ccu lt a g e n d a * or causes,
i.e. th in gs existin g, or processes ta k in g place, in a sort o f lim bo world.
B u t th e truth th at sentences co n tain in g w ords lik e ‘ m ig h t’ , ‘cou ld ’,
and 'w ould . . . if’ do n o t reso rt lim b o fa cts does n o t entail th at such
sentences h ave not g o t proper jobs o f th eir ow n to perform . T h e job
of reportin g m atters o f fa c: is only one o f a w ide ran ge o f sentence-
jobs.
It needs n o arg u m en t to show' th a t in terrogative, im perative, and
optative sentences arc used fo r o th er ends than th a t o f n o tifyin g
their recipients o f the existence or occurrence o f things. It does, u n ­
fo rtu n ately, need som e argu m en t to show that th ere are lots o f sign i­
ficant (affirm ative an d negative) in d icative sentences w hich have
fun ction s o th er than th a t o f rep o rtin g facts. T h e r e still survives the
preposterous assum ption that e v e ry true or fa lse statem en t either
asserts o r denies th a t a m entioned o b jcc t or set o f o b jccts possesses
a specified attribute. In fact, som e statem ents d o this a n d m ost do not.
Books on arith m etic, algebra, geom etry, jurisp ruden ce, philosophy,
T H E C O N C E P T OP M IN D

form al lo gic, an d econ om ic th eory con tain few , if an y. fa c tu a l state­


m ents. T h a t is w h y we call su ch subjects ‘ab stract’ . Books on physics,
m eteorology, b acterio logy, and com p arative p h ilo lo gy co n tain very
few such statem ents, th o u gh th ey m ay tell us w here th ey are to be
found. T e c h n ica l m anuals, w orks o f criticism , serm ons, political
speeches, and even railw ay guides m ay be m ore or less instructive,
and instructive in a variety o f w ays, b u t th e y teach us few sin gular,
categorical, attrib u tive, or relational truths.
L e a v in g on one side m ost o f the sorts o f sentences w h ich have
other than fact-rep o rtin g jobs, let us com e straigh t to law s. F or
th ou gh assertions th a t m entioned in dividu als h a ve cap acities, liahili-
ties, tendencies, an d the rest are not them selves statem ents o f laws,
th ey have featu res w h ich can best be b ro u g h t ou t a fter som e pecu­
liarities o f law sentences h ave been discussed.
L aw s are often stated in g ra m m a tica lly u n com p lex in d icative
sentences, b u t th e y can also be stated in, am o n g o th er constructions,
h ypoth etical sentences o f su ch patterns as ‘ W h a tever is so a n d so, is
su ch an d su ch ' or ‘I f a b o d y is le ft unsupported, it fa lls a t su ch and
such a rate o f acceleration’. W e d o not call a h yp o th etical sentence a
‘law ’, unless it is a ‘variable* or ‘open’ h yp o th etical statem en t, i.e. one
o f w hich th e protasis can em b ody a i least one expression lik e ‘‘a n y ’ or
‘w hen ever’. It is in virtu e o f this featu re th at a law applies to instances,
th o u gh its statem en t does not m en tion them . I f I know th a t any
pend ulum th at is lo n ger b y an y am ou n t th an an y o th er p end u lu m
will sw ing slow er than the shorter p end u lu m b y an am ou n t propor­
tional to its excess len gth , th en on fin ding a p articu lar pend ulum
three in ches longer th an an o th er p articu lar p en d u lu m . I ca n infer
how m uch slow er it w ill sw ing. K n o w in g th e law does n ot involve
a lrea d y h a vin g fo u n d these tw o pendulum s; the statem en t o f th e law
does n ot em b o d y a report o f th eir existence. O n th e o th er hand,
know ing or even u n d erstan d in g the law does involve k n o w in g that
there could be p articu lar m atters o f fact sa tisfyin g the protasis and
therefore also satisfyin g th e apodosis o f the law’. W e h ave to learn to
use statem ents o f p articu lar m atters o f fa ct, before we can learn to
use the law -statem ents w hich do or m igh t ap p ly to them . Law -state-
m cnts belon g to a different and m ore sophisticated level o f discourse
from th at, or those, to w h ich b elo n g th e statem en ts o f th e fa c ts that
satisfy them . A lg eb ra ica l statem en ts are in a sim ilar w ay on a differ­
en t level o f discourse from th e a rith m etica l statem ents w hich satisfy
them .
L aw -statem en ts are tru e or false b u t th e y do n o t state tru th s or
D IS P O S IT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 117
falsehoods o f the sam e ty p e as those asserted b y th e statem ents o f fact
to w hich th e y a p p ly or are supposed to app ly. T h e y have different
jobs. T h e cru cial d ifference can be b ro u g h t out in this w ay. A t least
part o f the poin t o f try in g to establish law s is to find ou t how to infer
from p articu lar m atters o f fa c t to o th er p articu lar m atters o f fact,
how to exp lain p a rticu lar m atters o f fa c t b y referen ce to other
m atters o f fa ct, an d h ow to b rin g ab o u t or prevent p articu lar states o f
affairs. A law is used as, so to sp eak, an in feren ce-ticket (a season
ticket) w hich licenses its possessors to m ove fro m asserting factu al
statem ents to assertin g o th er fa ctu a l statem ents. It also licenses them
to provide exp lan ation s o f given facts an d to b rin g a b o u t desired states
o f affairs b y m an ip u la tin g w h at is fo u n d existin g or happ en in g. In ­
deed w e sh o u ld n o t ad m it th at a stu d en t h as learn ed a law, if all he
were prepared to do w ere to recite it. Just a s a student, to q u a lify as
know ing rules o f g ra m m a r, m u ltip licatio n , chess, or etiquette, m ust
be able and read y to a p p ly these rules in concrete operations, so, to
q ualify as kn o w in g a law . h e m ust be ab le and rea d y to a p p ly it in
m aking concrete inferences from an d to p articu lar m atters of fact, in
explain in g them an d , perhaps also, in b rin g in g th em about, or pre­
venting th em . T e a c h in g a law is, a t least in ter alia, teach in g how to
do new things, th eoretical a n d p ractical, w ith p articu lar m atters o f
fact.
It is som etim es u rg ed th a t if we discover a law , w h ich enables us to
infer fro m diseases o f certain sorts to th e existence o f bacceria o f
certain sorts, then we h a v e discovered a new existence, n am ely a
causal con n exion betw een such bacteria an d such diseases; an d th at
consequently we now know , w h at w e d id not know b efore, th at there
exist n ot o n ly diseased persons an d bacteria, b u t also an invisible and
intangible b on d betw een them . A s trains can n ot travel, unless there
exist rails fo r them to travel on, so, it is alleged , bacteriologists cannot
m ove from the clin ical observation o f patients to the prediction of
m .croscopic observations o f bacteria, unless there exists, th o u g h it
can never be observed, an a ctu a l tie betw een th e objects o f these
observations.
N ow th e r e is n o o b je c t io n to e m p l o y in g th e fa m ilia r id io m ‘c a u s a l
c o n n e x io n '. B a c te r io lo g is ts d o d is c o v e r c a u s a l c o n n e x io n s b e tw e e n
b a c te ria a n d d is e a s e s , s in c c th is is o n ly a n o t h e r w a y o f s a y in g that
th e y d o e s ta b lis h la w s a n d s o p r o v id e th e m s e lv e s w it h in fe r e n c e -
tic k e ts w h ic h e n a b le th e m to in f e r fr o m d is e a s e s to b a c te r ia , e x p la in
d isea ses b y a s s e r tio n s a b o u t b acT eria, p r e v e n t a n d c u r e d is e a s e s b y
e lim in a tin g b a c t e r ia , a n d s o fo r th . B u t to s p e a k a s i f t h e d is c o v e r y
118 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

o f a law w ere th e fin d in g o f a third, unobservable existence is sim ply


to fa ll back into the old h ab it o f con stru in g open hypothetical state­
m ents as sin gu lar categorical statem ents. It is like sayin g th at a rule
o f gram m ar is a sort o f extra b u t unspoken noun or verb, or th at a
ru le o f chcss is a sort o f extra b u t invisible chessm an. It is to fa ll back
into the old h ab it o f assum ing th at all sorts o f sentences d o the same
sort o f job, the jo b , n am ely, o f ascrib in g a predicate to a m entioned
object.
T h e favourite m etaphor ‘th e rails o f in feren ce’ is m islead in g in just
this wav. R ailw ay lines exist in just th e sam e sense th at trains exist,
and we discover th a t rails exist in just th e w ay th a t we discover that
trains exist. T h e assertion th at trains run from one place to another
does irm ly that a set o f ob servable rails exists betw een rhe tw o places.
So to speak o f the 'rails o f in feren ce’ suggests th a t in ferrin g from
diseases to bacteria is re a lly not in ferrin g a t all, b u t d escribin g a third
en tity; not arguing ‘because so and so, therefore such an d su ch ’ , but
reporting ‘there exists an unobserved bond betw een th is observed so
and so and th at observed such and su ch’. B u t if we then ask ‘W h a t is
this third, unobserved en tity postulated fo r? ’ the on ly answ er given
is 'to w arrant us in a rg u in g from diseases to b acteria’. T h e legitim acy
o f the inference is assum ed all the tim e. W lia t is gratu ito u sly de­
siderated is a story th at shall seem to red u ce 'th erefore' sentences and
'if an y . . sentences to sentences o f th e p attern ‘ H ere is a . . i.e. o f
o b litera.in g th e fu n ctio n al differences betw een argu m en ts and narra­
tives. But m uch as railw ay tickets cannot be ‘redu ced’ to queer
counterparts o f the railw ay jo u rn eys th at th ev m ake possible: and
m uch as railw ay jo u rn eys can n ot b e ‘redu ced’ to queer counterparts
o f th e railw ay stations a t w hich th e y start an d finish, so law-state-
m ents cannot be ‘redu ced’ to coun terparts o f the inferences and ex­
planations th a t th ey license, and inferences an d explanation s cannot
be ‘reduced’ to coun terparts o f the fa ctu al statem ents th at constitute
th eir term ini. T h e scntence-job o f statin g facts is different from the
jo b o f stating an a rg u m en t from fa ctu al statem en t to factu al state­
m en t. and both are different from the jo b o f g iv in g w arrants fo r such
argum ents. W e h ave to learn to use sentences for the first job before
we can learn to use them fo r the second, and we have to learn to use
them for the first and the second jobs b efore we can learn to use them
for the third. T h e r e arc. o f course, p len ty o f o th er sentencc-jobs,
w hich it is n ot o u r present business to consider. F o r exam ple, the
sentences w hich o ccu p y these pages h ave not g o t a n y of the jobs
w hich they have been describing.
D I S P O S I T I O N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 119
W c can now com c back to consider dispositional statem ents,
narrely statem en ts to the effect th at a m en tion ed thing, beast or
person, has a certain cap acity, tend ency, or propensity, or is subject
to a certain liability. It is clear th at such statem ents are not laws, for
they m ention p a rticu lar things or persons. O n the o th er hand they
resemble law s in b e in g p a rtly ‘ variab le' or ‘open’. T o say th at this
lum p o f su gar is soluble is to sf.y th a t it w ould dissolve, if subm erged
anyw here, at an y tim e and in an y parcel o f w ater. T o say th at this
sleeper know s F ren ch , is to say th at if, fo r exam p le, he is ever
addressed in F ren ch , or shown an y F ren ch new spaper, he responds
pertinently in F ren ch , acts appropriately or translates it correctly
into h is own tongue. T h is Is, o f course, too precise. W e should
not w ithdraw o u r statem ent that h e know s Fren ch on finding that
he did not respond pertinen tly w hen asleep, absentm inded,
drunk, or in a panic; or on finding th at he did not correctly trans­
late h ig h ly tech n ical treatises. W e exp ect n o m ore than that he
will o rd in arily cope p retty well w ith the m ajority o f ordin ary
F rench-using and F ren ch follow in g tasks. ‘K n ow s F ren ch ’ is a
vague expression an d , for most purposes, non e th e less useful for
being vague.
T h e suggestion has been m ade th a t dispositional statem ents about
m entioned in d ividu als, w hile n o t them selves lawn, arc déductions
from laws, so th a t we h a ve to learn som e perhaps crude and vague
laws before we can m ake su ch dispositional statem ents. But in general
the learn in g process goes the other w ay. W e learn to m aks a num ber
o f dispositional statem ents about in dividu als b efore we learn laws
stating gen eral correlations betw een such statem ents. W e find that
some in d ivid u als are both oviparous an d feath ered , before wc learn
that a n y in d ivid u al th a t is feath ered is oviparous.
Dispositional statem en ts about p a rticu la r things an d oersons are
also like law statem en ts in the fa c t th at w e use them in a partly
sim ilar w ay. T h e y ap p ly to. or th ey are satisfied b y. the actions, re­
actions and states o f the objcct; th ey are inference-tickets. w hich
license us to predict, retrodict, exp lain , and m o d ify these actions,
reactions, an d states.
N a tu ra lly, the ad d icts o f the superstition th a t a ll true indicative
sentences eith er describe existents or report occurrences will dem and
that sentences su ch as ‘th is w:re con d u cts electricity’ , or ‘John D oe
knows F ren ch ’ , sh all be construed as co n v e y in g fa ctu al inform ation
o f the sam e type as th at conveyed b y 'th is w ire is con du ctin g electri­
city' and ‘Joh n D o e is speaking F re n c h ’. H ow could the statem ents
120 TH E C O N C E P T OP MIXD

be true unless there w ere so m eth in g now going on, even th ou gh


goin g on, u n fo rtu n ately, b eh in d the scenes? Y e t th ey h ave to agree
that we do o ften know th a t a w ire con ducts electricity an d th at indi­
viduals know F re n ch , w ith o u t h a v in g first discovered a n y undis-
coverable goinga on. T h e y h ave to con cede, uju, d ia l ih e theoretical
utility o f d iscoverin g these h id d en go in g s on would consist on ly in its
en titlin g us to do just th at p red ictin g, exp lain in g, and m o d ifyin g
w hich w e a lrea d y d o an d o ften know th at we are en titled to do. T h e y
w suld h ave to ad m it, finally, th at these postulated processes are them ­
selves, a t th e best, th in gs th e existen ce o f w h ich th e y them selves infer
from th e fa ct th at we can predict, exp lain , and m odify the observable
actions and reactions o f in dividuals. B u t if th ey d em an d actual ‘rails’
where o rd in ary in feren ces are m ad e, th ey w ill h ave to provide some
fu rth er actu al ‘rails’ to ju s tify th eir ow n peculiar in feren ce from the
legitim acy o f o rd in ary in feren ces to th e ‘ rails’ w h ich th ey postulate
to carry them . T h e postulation of such an endless h ierarch y o f ‘rails’
could h a rd ly l>e attractive even to those w ho are attracted b y its first
step.
D ispositional statem ents are n eith er reports o f observed or observ­
able states o f affairs, nor yet reports o f unobserved or unobservable
states o f affairs. T h e y narrate no incidents. But th eir job s are inti-
m utely con n ccted w ith n a i'iaiives u f incidents, fo r, if th ey are true,
they are satisfied b y n arrated incidents. ‘John l^oe has just been
telephoning in F re n ch ’ satisfies w hat is asserted b y ‘John D o e knows
French', and a person w ho has fou n d out that John D o e knows
French p e rfectly needs n o fu rth e r ticket to enable h im to argue
from h is h a v in g read a telegram in F ren ch to his h a v in g m ade sense
o f it. K n o w in g that John D oe know s F ren ch is being in possession of
that ticket, and ex p e ctin g h im to understan d this telegram is travel­
ling w ith it.
It should be n oticed th at there is no in com p atibility in sa yin g that
dispositional statem ents n arrate n o in ciden ts and allo w in g the patent
fact th a t dispositional statem ents can h ave tenses. ‘H e was a cigarette-
sm okcr for a y e a r' and ‘ the ru b b er b egan to lose its elasticity last
sum m er’ are p erfectly legitim ate dispositional statem ents; an d if it
were never true th at an in d ivid u al m igh t be goin g to know some­
thing. there co u ld exist n o teach in g profession T h e re can be short­
term, long-term , or term less inference-tickcts. A ru le o f crick et m ight
be in force o n ly fo r an exp erim en tal period, a n l even the clim ate o f
a continent m ig h t ch a n g e fro m epoch to epoch.
D ISPO SITIO N S AND OCCURRENCES I'll

(3) M en ta l Capacities and T en d en cies


T h e r e is a t o u r disposa. an indefinitely w ide ran ge o f dispositional
term s fo r ta lk in g ab o u t things, liv in g creatures, and hum an beings.
Som e o f these can be applied in d ifferen tly to all sorts o f thing»; for
exam ple, som e pieces o f m etal, som e fishes, an d som e h u m an beings
w eigh 140 lb., a re elastic a n d com b ustib le, an d all o f th em , if left
unsupported, fa ll a t th e sam e rate o f acceleration. O th er dispositional
term s can be app lied only to certain kinds o f things; ‘hibernates', for
exam p le, can b e applied w ith truth or falsity on ly to liv in g creatures,
an d ‘T o r y ’ can be applied w ith tru th or fa lsity on ly to non-idiotic,
non -infantile. non-barbarous h um an beings. O u r concern is w ith a
restricted class o f dispositional term s, n a m e ly those appropriate only
to th e ch aracterizatio n of h u m a n beings. Indeed, th e class we are
concerned w ith is narrow er th an chat, sin cc we are concerned only
w ith chose w h ich are appropriate co the ch aracterization o f such
stretches o f h u m a n behaviour as e x h ib it q u alities o f intellect and
character. W e are not, for exam p le, concerned w ith an y m ere reflexes
w hich m ay happen to be p ecu liar to m en, or w ith a n y pieces o f
ph ysiological eq u ip m en t w hich happen to be peculiar to h um an
anatom y.
O f coursc, the edges of th is restriction arc blurred. D ogs as well a»
in fa n ts are d rilled to respond to w ords o f com m and, to poin tin g and
to the rin g in g o f dinner-bells; apes learn to use and even construct
instrum ents; kitten s are p la yfu l an d parrots are im itative. I f we like
to sa y that the behaviour o f an im als is instinctive w hile part o f the
beh avio u r o f h u m an beings is rational, th o u g h w c are d raw in g atten­
tion to an im portan t difference or fa m ily of differences, it is a differ­
ence th e ed ges o f w h ich are, in th eir tu rn, blurred. E x a c tly w hen does
the in stin ctive im itativeness o f the in fa n t develop into rational h istri­
onics? B y w h ich b irth d a y has the ch ild ceased ever to respond to the
dinner-bell like a d o g and b egu n alw ays to respond to it like an
an g e l? E x a c tly w here is th e b ou n d ary lin e betw een th e su bu rb and
th e cou n try?
Since th is book as a whole is a discussion o f th e logical behaviour
o f som e o f th e card in al terms, dispositional, an d occurrent, in which
we talk ab o u t m inds, all :hat is necessary in th is section is to indicate
som e gen eral differences betw een th e uses o f som e o f ou r selected
dispositional term s. N o attem p t is m ade to discuss all these terms, or
even all o f the types o f these terms.
M a n y dispositional statem ents m ay be, th o u gh th ey need not be,
122 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

and o rd in arily are not, expressed w ith the help o f the w ords ‘can,’
*could\ and ‘ab le’. ‘H e is a sw im m er’, w hen it docs not sign ify th at he
is an expert, m eans m erely th at he can swim . B u t the w ords ‘can ’ and
'ab le' are used in lots o f different ways, as can b e illustrated b y the
follow in g exam ples. ‘Stooes can float (for pum ice-stonc floats)’ ; ‘that
fish can swim (for it is n ot disabled, a lth o u g h it is now in ert in the
m ud)’ ; ‘John D oe can sw im (for he has learned and not forgotten)’;
‘R ich ard R oe can sw im (if he is w illin g to learn)’; ‘you can swim (when
you try hard)’; ‘she can sw im (for the doctor has w ithdraw n his veto)’,
and so on. T h e first exam ple states th a t th ere is no liccnce to infer
th at because this is a stone, it will not float; the second denies the
existence o f a ph ysical im pedim ent; the last asserts th e cessation o f a
disciplinary im pedim ent. T h e th ird, fo u rth , an d fifth statem ents are
inform ative about personal qualities, an d th e y give different sorts o f
inform ation.
T o b rin g out th e different forces o f -some o f these different uses of
‘can’ and ‘able’ , it is con ven ien t to m ake a b rie f disquisition on the
logic o f w hat are som etim es called th e ‘m odal w ords’, su ch as ‘can ’,
‘m ust’, ‘m a y ’, ‘is necessarily’ , ‘is not n ecessarily’, an d ‘is not necessarily
not’. A statem ent to the effect th at som ethin g m ust be, or is neces­
sarily, the case fu n ction s as w hat I have called a n ‘in feren cc-ticket’ ;
it licenses the inference to the th in g ’s b ein g th e case from som ethin g
else w hich m ay or m a y n ot be specified in the statem ent. W h en the
statem ent is to th e effect th at som eth in g is necessarily not, or cannot
be, the case, it fu n ctio n s as a liccn ce to in fer to its n o t b ein g the case.
N o w som etim es it is required to refuse su ch a licence to in fer that
som ethin g is n ot the case, an d we com m on ly w ord th is refu sal b y
sayin g th at it can b e the case, or th at it is possibly the case. T o say
th at som eth in g can be th e case docs not en tail th at it is the case, or
that it is n o t the case, or, o f course, th a t it is in suspense betw een
b ein g and n ot b ein g th e case, b u t on ly th at th ere is n o license to
in fer fro m som eth in g else, specified or unspecified, to its not being
th e case.
T h is gen eral account also covers m ost ‘if-th en ’ sentences. A n ‘if-
then’ sentence can n early alw ays be paraphrased b y a sentence con­
tain in g a m odal expression, and vice versa. M o d al an d h yp oth etical
sentences have the sam e force. T a k e a n y o rd in ary ‘ if*then’ sentence,
such as ‘ if I walk un d er th a t ladder, I shall m eet trouble d u rin g the
d a y ’ an d consider how we should co llo q u ially express its con trad ict­
ory. It will not do to attach a ‘n o t’ to th e protasis verb, to th e apodosis
verb, or to both a t once, fo r the results o f a ll th ree operations w ould
D ISPO SITIO N S AND O CCU RREN CES I23

be eq u a lly superstitious statem ents. It w ould do, b u t it w ould not bs


con ven ien t or co llo q u ial to say 'N o , it is not the case th at if I walk
under a lad d er I sh all have trouble.’ W e should ord in arily reject ths
superstition b y sa yin g ‘N o, I m ig h t w alk un der the lad d er and not
h ave trouble' or ‘ I cou ld w alk u n d er it w ith ou t h a v in g trouble’ or,
to gen era lize the rejection, ‘trouble does not necessarily com e to
people w h o w alk un d er ladders’. C on versely the origin al superstitious
statem en t could h ave been w orded ‘I cou ld n o t w alk un der a ladder
w ith ou t exp erien cin g trouble d u rin g the d ay’. T h e re is on ly a stylistic
difference betw een the ‘ ii-th en’ idiom an d the m odal idioms.
It m ust, how ever, n ot be forgotten th a t there are other uses of
‘if ’, ‘m u st’, an d ‘ can ’ w here this equivalen ce does n ot hold. ‘If' some­
tim es m eans ‘even th ou gh ’. It is o ften used in g iv in g conditional
u n d ertakin gs, threats, and w agers. ‘C a n ’ and ‘m ust’ arc sometimes
used as vehicles o f non -theoreiical perm issions, orders, and vetoes.
T ru e , there are sim ilarities betw een g iv in g or refu sin g licences to
in fer and g iv in g or refusing licences to do o th er things, b u t there are
b ig differences as well. W e do not, fo r instance, n atu rally describe ts
true or false th e doctor's ru lin g ‘ the p atien t m ust stay in bed, can
d ictate letters, b u t m ust n o t sm oke’; w hereas it is q uite natural to
describe as true or false such sentences as ‘a syllogism can h ave two
universal premieees', ‘whales ennnot live w ith ou t su rfacin g from time
to tim e', ‘a fre e ly fa llin g body m u st b e a cceleratin g’, an d ‘people who
w alk under ladders need not com e to disaster d u rin g the d a y ’. T h e
e th ical uses o f ‘m ust’ , ‘m ay’ , an d ‘ m ay n o t’ h ave affinities w ith both.
W e are read y to discuss th e tru th o f eth ical statem ents em bodying
such words, b u t th e point o f m ak in g such statem ents is to regulate
parts o f people’s conduct, o th er than th eir inferences. In h avin g both
these featu res th ey resem ble the treatm en t recom m endations given
to doctors b y th eir m edical text-books, rather than the regimen-
instructions g iven b y doctors to their patients. E th ical statem ents, as
d istin ct fro m particular ad h o m in em behests and reproaches, should
be regard ed as w arrants addressed to a n y p oten tial givers o f behests
an d reproaches, a n d n o t to the actu al addresses o f su ch behests and
reproaches, i.e. n ot as personal action-tickets b u t as im personal in-
jun ction-tickets; n ot im peratives b u t ‘law s’ th at on ly such things as
im peratives and punishm ents can satisfy’. L ik e statute laws th ey arc
to be construed n ot as orders, b u t as licences to g ive and enforce
ot ilc i s.
W e m ay now return from th is general discussion o f the sorts of
job s p erform ed b y m odal sentences to consider certain specific differ-
124 THE c o n c e pt of m in d

enccs betw een a few selected ‘can ' sentences, used for d escribin g
personal qualities.
T o say ih a t John D o c car. sw im differs fro m sa y in g o f a pu ppy
that it can swim . F o r to say that th e p u p p y can sw im is com patible
w iih sa yin g th at it has n ever been tau gh t to sw im , or had practice in
sw:m m ing, w hereas to say th at a person can sw im im plies th a t he
has learn ed to sw im an d h as not forgotten . T h e capacity to acquire
capacities b y b ein g ta u g h t is not indeed a h um an peculiarity. T h e
puppy can be ta u g h t o r drilled to beg, m u ch as infant* a rc taugh t
to w alk an d use spoons. B u t som e kinds o f learn in g, in clu d in g the
way in w hich m ost people learn to sw im , in volve th e understanding
and application eith er o f »poken in structions or at least o f staged
dem onstrations; and a creature th at can learn th in gs in these w ays
is un hesitatin gly conceded to h a ve a m ind, w here th e teach ab ility
o f the d o g and in fa n t leaves us h esitan t w h eth er o r not to say th at
they y et q u a lify fo r th is certificate.
T o say that R ich ard R oe can sw im (for he can learn to swim) is
to >ay th a t he is com petent to follow and apply such instructions and
dem onstrations, th o u g h h e m ay n o t yet h ave b egu n to do so. It
w ould be w ron g to pred ict about h im , w h at it w ould be rig h t to
prcdict about an idiot, th at since he now flounders helplessly in the
wan»r, h e w ill still floun der helplessly a fter he has been given tuition.
T o say th at you can sw im (if you try) is to use an interesting in ter­
m ediate sort o f ‘ca n ’. W h ereas John D oe does not now h ave to try
to swim , an d R ich ard R oe cannot yet sw im , how ever hard he tries,
you know w h at to do, b u t only d o it, w hen yo u ap p ly y o u r w hole
m in d to the task. Y o u h a ve understood the instructions and dem on ­
strations, b u t still have to give yo u rself practice in th e application
o f them . T h is learn in g to apply instructions b y deliberate and
perhaps difficult and alarm in g practice is som eth in g else w hich we
regard as peculiar to creatures w ith m inds. It ex h ib its qualities o f
character, th ou gh qualities o f a differen t order fro m those exh ibited
b y th e pu ppy th a t shows tenacity an d cou rage even in its play, since
the novice is m ak in g him sel: d o som eth in g difficult and alarm in g
with th e in ten tion to develop h is capacities. T o sa y that he can
swim i f he tries is, therefore, to sa y b oth th at he can understand
instructions a n d also that h e can in ten tio n ally d rill h im self in ap p ly­
ing them .
It is not difficult to th in k o f m an y o th er uses o f ‘car.' an d ‘able*.
In ‘John D o e has been able to sw im since he was a boy, b u t now
he can in ve n t new strokes' ws h ave on e such use. ‘C a n in ven t’ docs
DISPOSITION’ S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 125

not m oan ‘has learn ed an d n ot fo rg o tten h ow to invent'. N o r is it at


all lik e th e ‘can ’ in ‘can sn eeze’. A g a in th e ‘can’ in ‘can d efeat all
b u t ch am p io n sw im m ers’ docs not have th e sam e forcc as cith er
th at in ‘can sw im ’ or th a t in ‘can in ven t’. It is a ‘ca n ' w hich applies to
race-horses.
T h e re is on e fu rth e r fe a tu re o f ‘ca n ’ w h ich is o f special pertinence
to o u r cen tral them e. W e o ften say o f a person, or o f a p erform in g
anim al, th at h e can do som ethin g, in th e sense th at h e can do it
correctly or well. T o say th a t a child can spell a w ord is to say that
h e can give, n o t m erely som e collection or o th er o f letters, b u t the
rig h t collection in th e rig h t order. T o say th at h e can tie a reef-knot
is to say n ot m erely th a t w hen h e p lays w ith bits o f strin g, som etim es
reef-knots and som etim es gran n v-kn ots are produced, b u t th a t reef-
knots are produced w henever, o r n early w henever, reef-knots are
required, o r a t least th a t th ey arc n early alw ays produced w hen
required an d w hen th e ch ild is tryin g. W h e n w e use, as we often
do use, th e phrase ‘can tell’ as a paraphrase o f ‘kn ow ’, we m ean b y
‘tell’ . ‘tell co rrectly’. W e d o not sa y th at a ch ild can tell the tim e,
w hen all th at h e does is d eliver ran dom tim e-of-day statem ents, but
o n ly w hen he re g u la rly reports th e tim e o f d ay in co n fo rm ity w ith
th e position o f the h an d s o f th e clock, or w ith th e position o f the
sun, w h atever thc3c positions m a y be.
M a n y o f th e perforraance-verbs w ith w hich we describe people
an d, som etim es w ith q ualm s, an im als, sig n ify th e occurren ce not just
o f actions b u t o f su itab le or correct actions. T h e y sign ify achieve­
m ents. V erb s lik e ‘spell’ , ‘ca tch ’, ‘solve’, ‘find’ , ‘ w in’ , ‘cu re’, ‘score’,
‘deceive’ , ‘persuade', ‘arrive’, a n d cou n tless others, sig n ify n o t m erely
th a t som e p erfo rm an ce has been g o n e th ro u g h , but also th a t som e­
th in g has been b ro u g h t off b y the a gen t g o in g th rou gh it. T h e y are
verbs o f success. N o w successes are som etim es d u e to luck; a cricketer
m a y score a b o u n d a ry b y m a k in g a careless stroke. B u t w hen we say
o f a person th at h e can b rin g off tilin g s o f a certain sort, such as
solve an agram s or cu re sciatica, we m ean th at h e can b e relied on to
succeed reasonably o ften even w ith ou t th e aid o f luck. H e know s how
to b rin g it off in n orm al situations.
W e also use correspon ding verbs o f failu re, like ‘ m iss’, ‘m isspell’,
‘drop* ‘lose’, 'foozle*, and ‘m iscalcu late’. It is an im portan t fa c t that if
a person can spell or ca lcu late, it m ust also be possible fo r him to
m isspell an d m iscalculate; b u t th e sense o f ‘can ’ in ‘can spell’ and
‘can calcu late’ is q u ite differen t fro m its sense in ‘can m isspell’ and
‘can m iscalcu late’. T h e one is a com petence, th e o th er is not another
TH E C O N C E P T OF \tlN D

com petence b u t a lia b ility. F o r ccrtain purposes ir is also necessary


jo notice th e fu rth e r d ifference betw een b oth these senses o f ‘can ’
and th e sense in w hich it is tru e to sa y th a t a j>er$on can n o t solve an
anagram in correctly, w in a race un successfully, find a treasure un ­
availing!)', or prove a theorem in valid ly. F o r this ‘can n o t’ is a logical
'cannot'. It says n o th in g a b o u t people’s com petences or lim itations,
but o n ly th at, for instance, 'solve in co rrectly’ is a self-contradictory
expression. W e shall see later th at the epistem ologist’s h an kerin g
for som e in corrigib le sort o f observation derives p artly fron t his
failure to notice th at in one o f its senses ‘observe’ is a verb o f success,
so th at in this sense, ‘m istaken observation ' is as self-contradictory
an expression as ‘in valid proof* or ‘unsuccessful cu re’. B u t ju st as
'invalid a rg u m en t’ an d 'un successful treatm en t’ are logically per­
missible expressions, so ‘ inefficient’ o r ‘u n a v a ilin g observation ’ is a
perm issible expression when ‘observe’ is used not as a ‘find’ verb but
as a ‘h u n t’ verb.
E n o u g h h as been said to show th a t th ere is a wide variety o f types
o f 'can ’ w ords, and th a t w ithin this class there is a w ide variety o f
types o f capacity-cxpressions an d liability-exprcssions. O n ly som e o f
these capacity-cxprcssions an d liability-expressions are peculiar to the
description o f h um an b e in g s,b u t even o f these th ere arc various types.

T en d en cies are d ifferent from cap acities and liabilities. ‘W o u ld


if . . . ’ differs from ‘co u ld ’ : and ‘reg u la rly does . . . w hen . differs
from ‘can’ . R o u g h ly , to say ‘can ’ is to say th a t it is not a certainty
that som eth in g w ill not be the ease, w hile, to say ‘tends,’ ‘keeps on',
or 'is prone’, is to say th at it is a good bet th at it w ill be, or was, the
case. So ‘ tends to’ im plies ‘ca n ’, b u t is not im plied b y it. ‘F id o tends
to how l w hen the m oon shines’ says n o m ore than ‘it is not true that
if the m oon shines, F id o is silent'. It licenses the hearer not on ly n ot
to rely on h is silcn cc, b u t positively to exp ect barking.
B u t there a rc lots o f types o f tend ency. F id o ’s tendency to get
m ange in the su m m er (unless sp ecially dieted) is not th e sam e sort
c f th in g as his ten d en cy to b ark w hen the m oon shines (unless his
m aster is gru ff w ith him), A person’s b lin k in g a t fa irly regular
intervals is a different sort o f tendency fro m h is w ay o f flickerin g his
eyelids when em barrassed. W e m igh t call th e latter, w hat we should
r o t call the form er, a ‘m an n erism ’.
W'e distin guish betw een som e beh avio u r tendencies and som e
others b y ca llin g som e o f th em ‘pure h ab its’, others o f them ‘tastes',
‘interests’, ‘ bents’, a n d ‘h o bbies’, an d yet others o f them ‘jo b s’ and
D IS P O S IT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 127
'occupations’ . It m ig h t be a pu re h a b it to draw on the rig h t sock
before the le ft sock, a h o b b y to g o fishing w hen w ork and weather
perm it, and a jo b to d rive lorries. It is, o f course, easy to th ink o f
borderline cases o f reg u lar b eh aviou r w h ich we m igh t hesitate to
classify; som e people's jo b s arc th eir hobbies an d som e people’s
job s and hobbies are n early pure habits. B u t we are fa irly clear
about th e distin ction s betw een th e concepts them selves. A n action
done from pu re h a b it is one th a t is n ot don e on purpose and is one
th a t th e a g e n t need n o t b e able to report h a v in g done even im m edi­
ately a fter h a v in g d on e it: his m in d m a y h ave been on som ething
else. A ctio n s p erform ed as parts o f a person’s jo b m ay b e don e b y
pure h ab it; still, he docs not p erform th em w hen not on the job. T h e
soldier does n ot m arch , w hen h om e on leave, b u t o n ly when he
know s th a t he h as got to m arch , or o u g h t to m arch . H e resum es and
drops th e h a b it when he puts on and takes off his uniform .
Exercises o f h obbies, interests, an d tastes are perform ed, as we say,
‘for pleasure’. B u t this phrase can be m islead in g, since it suggests
th at these exercises are p erform ed as a s o n o f investm ent from
w hich a d ivid en d is an ticip ated . T h e tru th is the reverse, nam ely
th at we do these th in gs because we lik e d o in g them , or w ant to do
th em , and n ot because we lik e or w an t so m eth in g accessory to them .
W e invest m u cap ital ic lu c iu n d y la ilic liupe o f g e ttin g dividends
w hich will m ake the o u tla y w orth w hile, and if we w ere offered the
ch an ce o f g e ttin g the d ivid en d s w ith ou t in vestin g the capital, we
should g la d ly abstain fro m m a k in g the ou tlay. B u t the a n g ler would
n ot accept or understand an offer o f the pleasures w ith o u t the activi­
ties o f an glin g. It is a n g lin g th a t he enjoys, n o t som ethin g th at
a n g lin g engenders.
T o sa y th a t som eone is now e n jo y in g or d islik in g som ethin g entails
th a t h e is p a yin g h eed to it. T h e re w ou ld be a con tradiction in say­
in g th at the m usic pleased h im th o u g h h e was p a y in g n o attention
to w hat h e heard. T h e re w ould, o f course, b e no contradiction in
sa y in g th a t h e was listen in g to th e m u sic b u t n either en jo yin g nor
d islikin g it. A c co rd in g ly , to say th at som eone is fo n d o f or keen on
a n g lin g en tails n o t m erely th a t he tends to w ield his rod b y the
river w hen he is not fo rced or ob liged not to do so. b u t th a t he tends
to d o so w ith his m in d on it. th at he tends to b e w rapped up in d ay­
dream s and m em ories o f a n g lin g , and to be absorbed in conversa­
tions and books on th e subject. B u t th is is n o t th e w hole story. A
conscientious reporter tends to listen in ten tly to the words o f pu b lic
speakers, even th o u gh h e w ould n o t do this, if h e were n o t obliged
TH E C O N C E P T O F MIND

to do it. H e docs not d o it w h en off d u ty. In these h ou rs h e is, perhaps,


«'em to d evote h im self to a n g lin g . H e does not h a ve to try to con­
centrate on fishing as he h as to try to concenirate on speeches. H e
concentrates w ith ou t tryin g. T h is is a la rg e part o f w h at ‘k e e n on*
in cans.
Besides pure h ab its, jobs, and interests th ere are m an y o th er types
of h ig h er level tendencies. Som e b eh a vio u r regularities are adheren-
ces to resolutions o r policies im posed b y th e agen t on h im self; som e
are adheren ccs to codes or religion s inculcated in to h im b y others.
A ddiction s, am b ition s, m issions, loyalties, devotions, and chronic
negligences are all b eh a vio u r tendencies, b u t they are tendencies o f
very differen t kinds.
T w o illustration s m ay serve to b rin g o u t some o f th e differences
between capacities and tendencies, or betw een com petences and
pronenesses. (a) B oth skills an d in clin ation s can be sim ulated, but
wii use ab u sive nam es like ‘ch arlatan ’ a n d ‘q uack’ fo r th e frau d s w ho
pretend to be able to b rin g th in gs off, w hile w e use th e abusive w ord
'hypocrite’ fo r th e frau d s w h o affect m otives and h ab its. (¿>) Episte-
m ologists a rc apt to perplex them selves an d their readers over the
distinction betw een kn ow ledge an d b elief. Som e o f th em su ggest th at
these d iffer o n ly in d egree o f so m eth in g or other, an d som e th a t they
differ in the presence o f som e Introspectiblc ingredient in know ing
which is absent from b elievin g, or vice versa. P art o f th is em barrass­
m ent is d u e to th eir supposing th at ‘ know ’ an d Ibelicvc’ sign ify
occurrences, b u t even w hen it is seen th a t both are dispositional
verbs, it has still to b e seen th at th ey are dispositional verbs o f q uite
disparate types. ‘K n o w ’ is a cap acity verb, an d a cap a city verb o f th at
special sort th a t is used fo r sig n ify in g th at th e person described can
bring things off, or g e t th in gs righ t. ‘B elieve’, on th e o th er h an d , is a
tendency verb and one w h ich docs nor connote th a t a n y th in g is
brough t off o r g o t righ t. ‘B e lie f’ can b e qualified b y such adjectives
as ‘obstin ate’, ‘w averin g’ , ‘u n sw ervin g’, ‘unconquerable’ , ‘stupid’,
‘fan atical’, ‘w hole-hearted’ , ‘in term itten t’ , ‘passionate’, and ‘childlike*,
adjectives som e or all o f w h ich are also appropriate to su ch nouns
as ‘trust’, ‘lo y a lty ’, ‘b en t’ , ‘aversion’, ‘h ope’ , ‘habit’, ‘ ze a l’, an d ‘ad d ic­
tion’ . B eliefs, lik e h ab its, can b e inveterate, slipped into an d given
up; like partisanships, devotions, a n d hopes th ey can be blind and
obsessing; like aversions an d ph obias th e y can b e unacknow ledged;
lite fash ion s an d tastes th e y can be contagious; lik e loyalties and
anim osities th ey can be in d u ced b y tricks. A person can b e urged or
entreated n o t to b elieve th in gs, an d h e m a y try, w ith o r w ithout
D IS P O S IT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 129

success, to cease to d o so. Som etim es a person says tru ly ‘ I cannot


help b e liev in g so a n d so’ . B u t none o f these dictions, or their nega­
tives, are applicable to know ing, since to know is to be equipped to
g e t som eth in g rig h t an d n o t to tend to act or react in certain
m anners.
R o u g h ly , ‘believe’ is o f the sam e fa m ily as m otive words, where
‘know ’ is o f th e sam e fa m ily as sk ill w ords; so we ask how a person
know s this, b u t o n ly w h y a person believes that, as we ask how a
person ties a clove-h itch , b u t w h y he w ants to tie a clove-hitch or
w h y he alw ays ties gran n y-kn ots. S kills h a ve m ethods, w here habits
and in clin ation s h ave sources. S im ilarly, we ask w h at m akes people
believe or dread th in gs b u t n o t w h at m akes them know or achieve
tilings.
O f course, b e lie f an d kn ow ledge (when it is know ledge that)
operate, to pu t it cru d ely, in th e sam e field. T h e sort o f things that
can be d escribed as know n or unknow n can also be described as
believed or* disbelieved, som ew hat as th e sorts of things d ia t can be
m an u factu red are also th e sorts o f th in gs th a t can b e exported. A
m an w h o believes th a t th e ice is dan gerou sly th in gives warnings,
skates w arily a n d replies to p ertinen t question s in the sam e ways as
the m an w ho know s th a t it is d an gero u sly thin; an d if asked w hether
h e know s it fo r a fact, h e m ay u n h esitatin gly claim to d o so, until
em barrassed b y the question how he fou n d it out.
B e lief m ig h t be said to be like know ledge an d u n like trust in
persons, zeal fo r causes, or ad d iction to sm oking, in th a t it is ‘proposi-
tion al’ ; b u t this, th o u gh n o t fa r w rong, is too narrow . C ertain ly to
believe th at th e ice is d an gerou sly thin is to b e unhesitant in telling
on eself a n d others th at it is thin , in acquiescing in other people’s
assertions to th at effect, in o b jectin g to statem ents to the contrary,
in d raw in g consequcnces fro m th e origin al proposition, and so forth.
B u t it is also to b e prone to skate w arily, to shudder, to dw ell in
im agin atio n on possible disasters and to warn o th er skaters. It is a
propensity not o n ly to m ak e certain theoretical m oves b u t also to
m ak e certain execu tive and im agin ative m oves, as w ell as to h ave
certain feelin gs. B u t these things h a n g togeth er on a com m on pro-
positional h ook. T h e phrase 'th in ice’ w ould o ccu r in the descriptions
alike o f the shudders, the w arnin gs, the w ary skatin g, the declara­
tions, the inferences, th e acquiescences, and th e objections.
A person w h o know s th a t the ice is thin, and also cares w hether
it is th in o r th ick, w ill, o f course, be ap t to act and react in these
w ays too. B u t to say th a t h e keeps to th e ed ge because he know s
C-W.-S
13O T H B C O N C E P T OK M I N D
th a t the ice is th in , is to em ploy q u ite a different sense o f ‘ becausc\
or to give quite a different sort o f ‘exp lan atio n ’ , from th a t conveyed
by sayin g th at h e keeps to the edge because he believes th at the ice
is thin.

(4) M en ta l O ccurrences
T h e re are hosts o f w ays in w hich we describe people as now en­
gaged in this, as freq u en tly u n d ergo in g th at, as h avin g spent several
m inutes in a n activity, or as b ein g q u ick or slow to ach ieve a result.
A n im porrant sub-class o f such occurrences are those w hich exh ib it
qualities o f ch aracter an d intellect. It m ust be noticed fro m th e start
th at it is one th in g to say th at certain h um an actions and reactions
exh ib it qualities o f ch aracter and intellect; it is, b y an unfortunate
lin gu istic fashion, q u ite an oth er th in g to say th a t th ere occu r m ental
acts or m ental processes. T h e latter expression trad itio n ally belongs
to the two-worlds story, the story that som e th in gs exist or occur
'in th e physical w orld ’, w hile o th er th in gs exist and occu r not in that
w orld b u t in another, m etap h orical place. R ejection o f this story
is perfectly com patib le w ith reta in in g the fa m ilia r distinction be­
tween, say, b a b b lin g an d ta lk in g sense or betw een tw itch in g and
signalling, nor does acceptance o f the tw o-w orlds story in an y degree
cla rify or consolidate this distinction.
I b egin by co n sid erin g a b attery o f concepts all o f w hich m ay
be brough t under th e useful because vag u e h e a d in g o f ‘ m in d in g’.
O r th ey could all alike be described as ‘heed concepts’ . I refer to
the concepts o f n oticin g, ta k in g care, atten d in g, ap p lyin g one’s
m ind, concentrating, p u ttin g one’s h eart in to som ethin g, th in k in g
w hat on e is d o in g, alertness, interest, ¡ntcm ncss, stu d yin g, an d try­
ing. 'A b sen ce o f m in d ’ is a phrase som etim es used to sign ify a con­
dition in w hich people act or react w ith ou t h eed in g w h at th ey are
doing, or w ithout n o ticin g w h at is g o in g on. W e also h ave in E n glish
a m ore special sense o f ‘m in d in g ’, in w hich to say that a person
m inds what he cats is to say• n o t o n lv* th a t he notices w hat h e eats,
b u t fu rth er th a t he cares w h at he cats. E n jo y in g an d d islik in g entail,
b u t are not en tailed b y, h eedin g. ‘E n jo y ’ and ‘dislike’ belong to the
large class o f verbs w hich alread y connote h eedin g. W e cannot, w ith­
ou t absurdity, describe som eone as absen t-m indedly pondering,
searching, testing, d eb a tin g, p lan n in g, listening, or relishing. A m an
m a y m utter or fidget absent-m ind edly, b u t if he is calcu la tin g , or
scrutin izin g, it is red u n d an t to say th a t h e is p ayin g heed to what
he is doing.

I
D ISP O SIT IO N S AND O CC U R R EN CE S 131

M in d in g, in all its sorts, can vary in degree. A driver can d rive a


ca r w ith great care, reasonable care, or slig h t care, an d a student can
concentrate h ard or not very hard. A person can n ot alw ays tell
w hether he has b een ap p lyin g his w hole m ind, or on ly part o f
it, to a task, in w h ich h e has been en gaged. T h e c h ild w ho tries to
co m m it a poem to m em ory m ay th in k th a t h e h as been atten din g
hard, for h e glued h is eyes to the page, m uttered the words, frow ned,
and stopped up h is ears. B u t if, w ithout there h avin g been any
distractions or interruptions, h e still can n o t recite th e poem , say w hat
it was about, o r find a n y th in g am iss w ith the erroneous versions
rccited b y his com panions, his cla im w ill be rejected by the teacher
an d even, perhaps, w ithdraw n b y him self.
Som e traditional accounts given o f consciousness h ave been, at
least in part, attem pts to c la rify the concepts o f h eed , usually b y
cla im in g to isolate som e un iq u e in gred ien t com m on to them all. T h is
com m on in gred ien t has com m on ly b een described in the idiom of
con tem plation or inspection, as if p art o f the difference between
h a v in g a tickle and n oticin g it, or betw een read in g a paragraph and
stu d yin g it, consisted in th e fa ct th at th e h a v in g o f th e tickle and
the read in g o f th e paragraph take placc, m etap h o rically, in a good
lig h t an d un d er the eyes o f the person concerned. B u t so fa r from
h eed in g b ein g a sort o f in spectin g or m on ito rin g, inspecting and
m o n ito rin g are them selves special exercises o f heed; since w hether
a person is d escribed litera lly or m etap h orically as a spectator, it is
alw ays significant to ask w h eth er h e has been a carefu l or careless
spectator, a vigilan t or a drow sy one. T h a t som eone h as been care­
fu lly w atch in g a b ird on th e law n does not en tail th a t he has also
been m etaph orically ‘w atch in g’ his w atch in g; an d th a t he has been
ap p lyin g h is m in d to th e cartoon th a t he has b een d raw in g does not
entail th a t h e has been eith er w atch in g his fingers a t their w ork or
w atch in g a n y th in g else a t w ork. D o in g som ethin g w ith h eed does not
consist in co u p lin g an execu tive p erform an ce w ith a piece o f theoriz­
ing, in vestigatin g, scru tin izin g, or ‘co g n izin g ’ ; or else d o in g an yth in g
w ith h eed w ould in vo lve d o in g an infinite n u m b er o f th in gs w ith
heed.
T h e m otives fo r m isdescrib in g heed in the con tem p lative idiom
d erive p artly from th e gen eral in tellectu alist tradition, accordin g to
w hich th e o rizin g is th e essential fu n ctio n o f m inds, an d m eta­
phorical co n tem p latio n is th e essence o f th eorizin g. B u t there is a
fu rth e r and m ore rep u tab le m otive. It is q u ite tru e th a t i f a person
has b een d o in g o r u n d ergo in g so m eth in g and has been p ayin g heed
I32 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

to w hat he was d o in g or undergoing, h e can them tell w h at h e has


been d o in g o r u n d ergo in g (provided th a t h e has learned the arts o f
telling); and he can fe ll it w ith ou t ru m m a g in g fo r evidence, w ithout
draw ing an y inferences and w ith o u t even m om en tarily w ondering
w h a t he sh ou ld say. it is already on th e rip o f h is ton gu e a n d h e iclls
it w ith o u t h esitation or research as h e tells a n y th in g th a t is fam iliar
o r obvious. A n d as o u r standard m odels o f obviousness are taken
from th e field o f fa m ilia r tilings seen fro m ad van tageou s points o f
view in g o o d lig h ts, we n atu rally lik e to describe all abilities to tel!
things w ith ou t w ork o r hesitation as issuing from som eth in g like
seeing. H en ce we lik e to speak o f ‘seeing’ im plication s an d ‘seeing’
jokes. B u t th o u gh references to seeing fa m ilia r th in gs in favou rab le
circum stanccs m a v4 illustrate,9 th e Jv can n o t elu cid ate th e notions o f
fa m ilia rity an d obviousness.
L a te r on we sh all h a ve to consider how th e readiness to tell w hat
on e’s action s a n d reactions have been is in volved in h a v in g paid som e
h eed to them . H ere it is necessary to poin t o u t th at readiness to
answer questions ab o u t one's action s and reactions does not exh au st
th e heed we p a y to them . D riv in g a car w ith care reduces th e risk
o f accidcnts as well as en ab lin g the d river to satisfy interrogations
a b o u t his operations. A p p ly in g o u r m inds to things does not q u alify
us o n ly to g ive veracious reports about them , an d absence o f in iu d
is b etrayed b y o th e r th in gs th an m erely b e in g nonplussed in the
witness-box. T h e con cept o f h eed is not, save per accidens, a cognitive
concept. In vestigation s are not th e o n ly occu p ation s in w h ich we
apply o u r m inds.
W e m ay now turn to a new featu re in th e logical b eh avio u r o f heed
concepts. W h en a person hum s as he w alks, he is d o in g two things
a t once, eith er o f w h ich h e m igh t in terru p t w ith ou t in terru p tin g the
other. B u t w hen we speak o f a person m in d in g w h a t h e is saying,
o r w h at he is w histlin g, we are not sa yin g th a t he is d o in g tw o things
a t once. H e co u ld not stop h is read in g, w h ile co n tin u in g h is atten ­
tion to it, or h a n d over th e controls o f h is car, w hile co n tin u in g to
exercise care; th o u g h h e conld, o f course, con tin u e to rea d b u t cease
to attend, or con tin ue to drive b u t cease to ta k e care. Sin ce the use
o f such pairs o f active verbs as ‘read’ and ‘a tten d ’ or ‘drive’ an d ‘take
care* m a y su ggest th at there m ust be tw o synch ron ou s an d perhaps
cou pled processes g o in g on w hen ever bo th verbs are properly used,
it m a y be h elp tu l to rem em ber th at it is q u ite id io m atic to replace
the h eed verb b y a h eed adverb. W e com m on ly speak o f readin g
atten tively, d rivin g carefully, and co n n in g studiously, a n d this usage
D IS P O S IT IO N S AND O CC U R R EN CE S 133

h is rhe m erit o f su ggestin g th a t w h at is being described is one


operation w ith a special ch aracter and nor two operations executed
ir. d ifferent ‘places’, w ith a peculiar cab le between them.
W h a t th en is this special ch a ractcr? T h e question is perplexing,
since the w ays in w h ich heed adverbs q u a lify the active verbs to
w hich th ey arc attach ed seems q u ite un like the ways in w hich other
adverbs q u a lify their verbs. A horse m ay b e described as running
q u ickly or slow ly, sm oothly or jerk ily, straight or crookedly, and
simple observation or even cin em atograph films enable us to decidc
ir. w hich m an n er th e horse was ru nn in g. B u t when a m an is des­
cribed as d rivin g ca refu lly, w h istlin g w ith concentration or eatin g
absent-m indedly, th e special ch a ra ctcr o f h is activity seem s to elude
the observer, the cam era an d the dictaphone. Perhaps knitted brows,
taciturn ity an d fixity o f g a ze m ay be evidence o f intcntness; but
these can be sim ulated, or they can be p u rely habitual. In a n y ease,
ir. d escribing h im as ap p lyin g his m ind to th e task, we do not m ean
that this is how he looks and sounds w hile engaged in it; w c should
not w ithdraw a statem en t to the effect th at h e had been concentrat­
ing m erely on b e in g told th at his expressions and m ovem ents had
been tranquil. B u t if th is special ch aracter is unw itncssable. wc seem
forced to say cith er th a t it is som e h idden concom itant o f th e opera-
cum u j w hich it i.s ascribed, or th at it is some m erely dispositional
properly o f the agen t; eith er th at w h istlin g w .th con centration is a
tandem occurrence, the m em bers o f w hich occur in different ‘places’,
or th at the description o f the w histling as done w ith concentration
m entions one overt occurrence and m akes some open h yp o th etical
statem ent ab o u t its author. T o accept th e form er suggestion w ould
be to relapse in to the two-worlds legen d. It w culd also in volve us in
the special difficulty th a t since m in d in g would then b e a different
activity from the overt a ctiv ity said to b e m inded, it w ould be im ­
possible to exp lain w h y th at m in d in g co u ld not g o on b y itself as
h u m m in g can go on w ithout w alkin g. O n th e o th er hand, to accept
the dispositional accoun t w ould ap p aren tly irn o lve us in sayin g that
though a person m a y properly be described as w h istlin g now, he
cannot b e properly described as con cen tratin g o r ta k in g care now;
and we know q u ite w ell th at su ch descriptions arc legitim ate. But
this poin t m ust be exam in ed m ore fully.
I f we w an t to find o u t w hether som eone h is been n oticin g w hat
he has been read in g, we are gen erally co n ten t to decide ih c question
bv cross-questioning h im not lo n g afterw ards. I f h e can n o t tell us
a n yth in g ab o u t th e g ist or the w ord in g o f th e chap ter, if he finds no
134 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

fa u lt w ith other passages w h ich con trad ict d ie o rigin al chapter, or


if he expresses surprise on b ein g in fo rm ed o f som eth in g already
m entioned in it, then, unless he has suffered concussion in the in­
terim , or is n ow excited or sleepy, we are satisfied th a t h e d id not
n on ce w hat he read. T o n otice w h at one reads entails b ein g prepared
to satisfy some such subsequent tests. In a sim ilar w ay, certain kinds
o f accidents or near-accidents w ould satisfy us th at the d river had
not been takin g care. T o take care entails b ein g prepared fo r certain
sorts o f em ergencies.
B u t this cannot b e th e w hole story. F o r one th in g, th ere are p len ty
o f o th er process verbs w hich carry analogous dispositional properties
w ith them chough th ey can n ot be ran ked w ith h eed verbs. ‘H e is now
d y in g ’, ‘coin in g to\ w eaken in g’, 'he is now b ein g h yp n o tized ’ , ‘anaes­
th etized ’ , ‘im m u n ized ’ a re all occurrence reports th e truth o f w hich
requires some testable h yp o th etical statem ents about h is fu tu re to
be true. A n d , on th e o th er side, not o n ly is it allow able to describe
som eone as now th in k in g w h at h e is sayin g, as in term itten tly notic­
in g the hardness o f h is ch air, or as startin g an d ceasin g to concen­
trate, but it is proper to order or request som eone to ap p ly his m ind,
as it is n ot proper to o rd er him to be ab le or lik e ly to do things. W e
know , too. that it can b e m ore fa tig u in g to read atten tively than to
read inattentively. So w hile we are certain ly sayin g som ethin g dis­
positional in a p p ly in g such a h eed con cept to a person, we are cer­
ta in ly also sa yin g so m eth in g episodic. W e are sayin g th a t he did
w hat h e d ie in a specific fram e o f m ind, an d w hile the specification
o f the fram e o f m in d requires m ention o f w ays in w h ich h e was
able, read y or lik ely to act an d react, h is a ctin g in that fram e o f
m ind was m e lf a d o c k a b le occurrence.
T o restate th e problem , it is possible, i f not very com m on, fo r tw o
o r m ore overt action s d on e in q u ite dissim ilar fram es o f m ind to
be ph otograph ically an d gra m o p lio n ically as sim ilar as you please.
A person p .ayin g a piece o f m usic on th e piano m a y be d o in g this
fo r h is own pleasure, o r to please an audien ce, or fo r practice, or for
in stru ction ou rp oses, or under duress, or as a p aro d y o f another
pianist, or quite ab sen t-m ind edly an d b y sheer rote. So, since die
differences betw een these perform ances cannot alw ays be photo­
grap h ically or g ram o p lio n ically recorded, we are tem pted to say
th at th ey consist eith er in th e con com itan t occurrence o f som e in­
ternal actions and reactions, detectable o n ly b y the perform er, or
else in the satisfaction b y th e overt perform ances o f different open
hypoth etical statem ents. In o th er words, d ie description o f the player
D ISPO SITIO N S AND O CCU RREN CES I35

as p la y in g ‘H o m e Sw eet H om e’ as a dem onstration o f h o w it should


be played has an internal co m p lex ity, in respect o f one clem en t o f
w hich it differs from th e description o f h im as p la y in g ’H o m e Sweet
H o m e' in parody o f an oth er p layer, th o u gh in respect o f their wit­
nessed elem en t th ey arc sim ilar. A re these com plex descriptions o f
o u tw ard ly sim ilar occurrences to be con strued as descriptions o f
con ju n ction s o f sim ilar overt w ith dissim ilar covert occurrcnces, or
are th eir differences to b e construed in an o th er w ay? D o th e y assert
d ual m atters o f fa ct, or sin gu lar m atters o f fact, w ith d ifferen t in-
ference-w arrants appended?
N e ith e r option seems acceptable, th o u g h th e second provides an
indispensable part o f th e answer. L ik e m ost dich otom ies, the logi­
cians’ d ich o to m y ‘either catego rical or h yp o th etica l’ n eeds to be
taken w ith a pin ch o f salt. W c h ave here to do w ith a class o f state­
m ents the jo b o f w hich is to straddle ju s t this g u lf. S ave to those
w h o a re spellbound b y dich otom ies, th ere is n o th in g scandalous in
th e notion th a t a statem en t m ay be in som e respects lik e statem ents
o f b rute fa c t an d in o th er respects like inference-licences; or th a t it
m a y be a t o n cc n arrative, exp lan atory, an d co n d itio n ally predictive,
w ith ou t b ein g a co n ju n ctive assem blage o f d etach ab le sub-state­
m ents. E ve ry statem en t to the effect th at som eth in g is so because
som eth in g else is th e case, requires, in order 10 be true, both
that ccrtain m atters o f fa c t ob tain , an d th a t there is a license to
in fer o n e fro m th e oth er. N o r is su ch a statem en t one o f w hich an
ob jecto r m ig h t sa y th at p art o f it was true, b u t the o th e r part was
false.
T h e co llo q u ial accusation 'Y o u w ould m iss the last tr a in ’ not on ly
reproaches the cu lp rit fo r h a v in g m issed th e train , b u t also declares
th a t h e could h ave b een exp ected to do so. T h e error th a t he has in
fa c t com m itted is just one o f th e tilin gs th a t cou ld h a v e been pre­
dicted. It was ju s t like h im to d o w h at h e did. T h e accusation
em bodies a p a rtia lly satisfied open h yp o th etical statem ent. It is not
an d could not be w h o lly satisfied, for it cou ld also h ave been predicted
th a t i f h e had g o n e to a telephonc-booth (w hich perh aps he did
not), he w o u ld not h a ve h ad th e rig h t ch an ge, and if he h a d m eant
to post a letter (w hich perhaps he did nor) he w ould h a v e missed
the last collection . I sh all ca ll statem ents lik e ‘Y o u w o u ld d o the
th in g you d id ’ ‘se m i-h yp o th etica r or ‘m on grel categorical statem ents’.
M ost o f the exam ples o rd in arily ad d u ced o f catcgo rical statem ents
are m ongrel categoricals.
C orresp on d in gly, to say th at som eone h as don e so m eth in g, pay-
I36 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

m g som e h eed to w hat he was d o in g, is not o n ly to say th at h e was,


e.g. ready fo r an y o f a variety o f associated tasks and tests w hich
m igh t have cropped up b u t perhaps d id not; it is also to sa y th at
he was ready fo r th e task w ith w hich he actu ally coped. H o was in
th e m ood or fram e o f m ind to do, if required, lots o f th in gs w hich
m ay n ot h ave been a ctu a lly required; and he was, ipso facto, in the
m ood or fram e o f m in d to do at least this one th in g w hich was
actu a lly required. B e in g in th a t fram e o f m ind, h e w ould do th e
th in g he d id , as w ell as, if required, lots o f o th er th ings none o f
w hich is he stated to h ave done. T h e description o f him as m in d in g
w hat he was d o in g is ju st as m uch an exp lan atory report o f an actual
occurrence as a conditional prediction o f fu rth er occurrences.
Statem ents o f this type are not peculiar to descriptions o f the
h igh er level actions a n d reactions o f people. W h e n a sugar-lum p is
described as dissolving, som ethin g m ore episodic is b ein g said than
w hen it is described as soluble; b u t som eth in g m ore dispositional
is b ein g said th an w hen it is described as m oist. W h e n a b ird is
described as m igratin g, som eth in g m ore episodic is b ein g said than
w hen it is described as a m igran t, b u t som eth in g m ore dispositional
is b ein g said than w hen it is descril>ed as flyin g in the direction o f
A frica . T h e su gar-lum p and th e b ird w ould, in th e given situation,
do w liat they actu ally d o as well as lots o f other specifiable things,
i f certain specifiable con d itions obtain ed, w hich m ay not obtain.
T ile description o f a bird as m igratin g has a greater com plexity
than the description o f it as fly in g in the direction o f A frica , b u t this
greater co m p lexity does not consist in its n arratin g a larger num ber
o f incidents. O n ly one th in g need b e g o in g on, nam ely th at the
b ird be a t a p articu lar m om ent fly in g south. ‘It is m igra tin g' tells
n o t m ore stories, b u t a m ore pregn an t story than th a t told b y ‘It
is flyin g south’. It can be w rong in m ore w ays and it is instructive
in m ore ways.
T h is poin t is con n ccted w ith a very com m on use o f ‘because',
one w hich is different from all the uses previou sly distinguished.
T h e tw o statem ents ‘the bird is fly in g sou th ' and ‘the bird is m igrat­
in g ’ are both episodic reports. T h e question ’W h y is the bird flyin g
so u th ?’ could be answ ered q u ite properly b y sayin g ‘Because it is
m igratin g’. Y e t the process o f m igra tin g is not a differen t process
from that o f fly in g south; so it is not the cause o f th e bird’s flyin g
south. N o r, since it reports an episode, docs th e sentence ‘because
it is m igra tin g' say the sam e sort o f th in g as is said in 'because it is
a m igran t'. W e m ust say th at ‘it is m igratin g1 describes a ily in g
D IS P O S IT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 137
process in term s w h ich are partly an erd ofal, hnr are also partly
prcdicrive and ex p lan ato ry. I t does n o t state a law, b u t i: describes
an jv e n t in term s w h ich are law -im pregnated. T h e verb ‘m igrate’
carries a b io lo gical m essage, as th e verb ‘ dissolve' carries a m essage
from ch em istry. ‘It is m igratin g’ w arran ts th e inference ‘it is a
m igrant’ , as ‘it is dissolvin g’ warrants th e in feren ce ‘it is soluble'.
So, too, w hen it is asked w hy a person is read in g a certain book,
it i> o ften correct to reply ‘because h e is interested in w hat h e is
reading’. Y e t b e in g interested in read in g th e book is not doing
o r un d ergoin g tw o th in gs, such th a t (he interest is th e cause o f th e
reading. T h e interest exp lain s th e read in g in th e sam e general w ay,
though n o t th e sam e specific w ay, as th e m ig ra tin g explains the
flyin g south.
I h ave pointed o u t a fa c t about heed concepts, nam ely th a t it is
proper to o rd er o r request som eone to pay heed, exercise caution,
take notice, stud y h ard , an d so on. It is eq u ally proper for a person
to tel! h im se lf to d o so. N ow p aten tly o n e can n ot order a person
m erely to p a y heed, or m erely to take notice. F o r th e order to be
obeyed o r disobeyed, it m ust be understood as specifying ju st w hat
is to b e done w ith heed. A pupil, a proof-reader, and an oculist’s
patient m ig h t all b e told , for exam ple, to read carefu lly a certain
paragraph; the pu pil w ill be d isob eyin g h is instructions, if he notices
the m isprints b u t n o t th e argum ent; th e proof-reader will be dis­
o b eyin g h is instructions, if he atten ds to the argu m en t but does not
detect the m isprints; w hile the ocu list’s patien t is intended to report
neither on che a rg u m en t nor on the m isprints, b u t only on the
b ltrred n ess o r sharpness, the blackncss or greyness, the slantingness
or th e uprightness o f th e printed letters. C le a rly this is tru e o f
heeding in general. A person can n o t be described m erely as takin g
interest, b e in g absorbed or trying; h e m ust be, fo r exam ple, reading
a lead in g article w ith interest, fishing ab sorb ed ly or tryin g to clim b
this tree. E n jo y ’ and ‘d islike’ sim ilarly req uire supplem entation by
the particip le o f a specific active verb su ch as ‘sw im m ing', ‘listening
to Bach’, and ‘d o in g nothing*.
W h en a person is described as a p p ly in g his m ind to som e such
specifiable action o r reaction, it is legitim ate to say th a t he is, in a
ceitain sense o f th e verb, ‘ thin king’ or ‘h eed in g’ w hat h e is d oin g or
experiencing or ‘a p p lyin g h is m in d’ to it. T h is does not m ean th at
h e is necessarily co m m u n in g w ith h im self about w h at he is d oin g
or experien cin g. H e need not, th o u g h h e m ay, b e m urm urin g to
him self com m ents, strictures, instructions, encouragem ents, or
*3 ^ THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

diagnoses, th o u gh if he is d o iu g this, it is again a p roper question


to ask w hether or not he is th in k in g w hat he is m u rm u rin g. Som e­
times an ad d ict o f discourse, lik e H am let, is th o u g h t n ot to be
a p p lyin g his m ind to a g iv en task ju s t because he is ap p lyin g his
m ind to the secon dary task o f discoursing to h im se if about his
prim ary task; and som etim es a person w ho should be tryin g to
converse in F ren ch a ctu ally distracts h im seif fro m his proper
business b y con versin g w ith h im self in E n glish a b o u t how he is
con d u ctin g it. T h in k in g o r h eed in g w h at one is d o in g does not
entail con stan tly or recu rren tly m ak in g in telligen t prose moves.
O n the con trary, m ak in g in telligen t prose m oves is ju s t one exam ple
am ong others o f th in k in g or h eed in g w h at one is d o in g , since it is
sayin g things, th in k in g w h at one is saying. It is one species, not the
causal con dition o f h eed fu l perform ance. B u t certa in ly didactic
telling, in telligen tly g iven an d in telligen tly received, is often an
indispensable gu id e to execution. T h e re are m an y things w hich
we cannot do, or d o well, unless we p a y h eed to appropriate and
tim ely instructions, even when we ourselves have to b e the authors
o f those instructions. In such cases, tryin g to do th e th in g involves
both tryin g to g ive on eself the rig h t instructions a t th e rig h t tim e
and try in g to follow them .
W e should now consider a type o f action w hich , th o u gh quite
uninventive, involves som e degree o f h eed , as in stin ctive and purely
habitual or reflex actions do not involve heed. A sold ier w ho fixes
his b ayo n et in obedience to an order m a y g o th rou gh ju st the same
m ovem ents as on e w ho fixes h is bayonet fo r a n y o th e r purpose.
'O b ed ien tly' docs n ot sign ify a m u scu larly p ecu liar m anner o f
operating. N o r does it denote, o r connote, a n y self-com m u n in gs or
self-instructings. F o r h e has not been ordered to d o these things,
and if he does them th ey do not exp lain aw ay h is bayon et-fixing,
since fo llo w in g self-instructions w ould sim p ly b e a n o th er instance
o f actin g obedien tly. Y e t fixin g his b ayon et o b ed ie n tly is certain ly
fixing his b ayon et w ith, in som e sense, th e th o u gh t th a t this is w hat
he was told to do. l i e w ould n o t h ave done it, had th e order been
different or been m isheard, and if asked w h y he d id it, he w ould
un h esitatin gly reply b y referrin g to the order.
N o r is h e d o in g tw o things, n am ely b o th fixin g h is b ayo n et and
o b eyin g an order, any m ore than the m ig ra tin g b ird was both
flyin g south an d d oin g or u n d ergo in g som eth in g else. H e obeys the
order b y fixing his bayonet. T h e question, 'did he h e e d the o rd er?’
is quite satisfactorily answ ered by, ‘ yes, he fixed h is b ayo n et the
D ISP O SIT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 139

m om ent the ord er was g iv en ’. B u t, o f course, he m igh t not have


heard the order and m erely fixed h is b ayon et fo r fu n at what
happened to b e the rig h t m om ent. In th at case it w ould be false
to say th at h e h ad fixed his b ayon et in obedience to an order.
W e m ig h t sa y that his p rim ary o b ject was to o b ey w hatever
order was g iv en h im b y h is sergeant. I f we ask T o w hat was he
ap p lyin g his m in d ?’ the answ er is ‘ to h is orders’. H e was only set
to fix his b ayon et, if this were to be the th in g his sergeant was to
tell him to do. T h e description o f h is fram e o f m in d contains a
direct referen ce to h is orders and only an oblique, bccause condi­
tional. referen ce to fixin g h is bayonet. H is action o f fixing his bayonet
is, so to speak, executed in inverted com m as; he does it as the
p ariicu lar th in g actu a lly ordered. H e w ould h ave don e som ething
else, h ad the order b een different. H e is in th e fram e o f m ind to do
w hatever he is ordered, in clu d in g fixin g h is bayonet. H is fixing it
is con d ition ally retro-predictable an d a value o f the variable con di­
tion has been fulfilled.
S im ilarly a m im ic docs, perhaps, n o th in g b u t u tter som e words,
or m ake som e gesticulations, b u t h e produces precisely these words
and gesticulation s o n ly as representing the precise w ords and gesticu­
lations o f th eir origin al author. H a d the origin al auth or spoken
or acted in a n y o th er w ay, the m im ic w ould h ave done so too. He
docs not h a ve co n co m itan tly to be tellin g h im self or h is com panions
that this is h ow th e original au th o r spoke and gesticulated. Show ing
how h e talked an d sh ru gged need not be prefaced or accom panied
b y a n y descriptive com m entary; som etim es it cannot be so prefaced
or accom panied, since descriptive skill ¡s often inferior to histrionic
skill. T h e m im ic produces his w ords and shrugs as facsim iles o f
those o f the su bject m im icked, b u t h e does n o t h ave to be cu rren d y
asserting th at th e y arc facsim iles.
B u t w hat is the fo rce o f this w ord ‘as’, w hen w c sav th a t an agent
does so m eth in g as the action ordered or as a facsim ile or as practice
or as a m eans to an end or as a gam e; or, in gen eral, as the execution
o f a specific p rogram m e? W h a t is th e difference betw een go in g
m erely m ech an ically th rou gh certain m ovem ents and trying to
satisfy som e specific requirem en t b y g o in g th rou gh , perhaps, per­
fectly sim ilar m ovem en ts? O r w hat is the difference betw een fixing
bayonets in com pliance w ith a com m and and fixin g bayonets in order
to fight?
It is n o t en ough , th o u gh it is true, to say th at the soldier fixes his
bayonet on purpose, nam ely on purpose to d o w h at h e is told, or on
140 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

purpose to d efen d him self, since o u r present question am ou n ts to


th is: G iven th at ‘the bird is m ig ra tin g ' a n d ‘ the soldier is obediently
fixing his bayonet* are bcth m ongrel categorical statem ents, w h at is
the difference betw een w hich we sig n a lize b y sa y in g that the
soldier is, but the bird is not, ap p lyin g his m in d or a ctin g on purpose?
A t least a m in im al parr o f th e answer is this. T o say th at a sugar-
lum p is dissolving, a bird m igratin g, or a m an b lin k in g does not
im p ly chat the su gar has learned to go liquid, th a t the bird has
learned to fly so u th in the au tu m n , or th at th e m an has learned to
blink when startled. B u t to say th at a soldier o b ed ien tly fixed his
bayonet, or fixed it in order to defen d him self, does im p ly th a t he
has learned som e lessons an d not fo rgo tten them . T h e new recruit,
on h ea rin g the ord er to fix bayonets, or on seeing a n enem y soldier
approaching, does not know w hat to d o w ith his bayonet, h ow to
do it, o r w hen to do it, and w hen not to d o it. H e m a y not even know
how to construe or o b ey orders.
N o t all acquired capacities or propensities can b e classed as
qualities o f m ind. T h e habit o f g o in g to sleep on on e's rig h t side
is n ot a q u a lity o f im ellcci o r ch aracter; the habit o f sayin g T w ecd le*
dee’, aloud or in on e’s head, on h ea rin g th e w ord ‘T w eed led u m ’, is
a trick we have picked up, th o u gh we should h ard ly claim it as a
trick th at we have learnt. It sticks b u t we did not try to g e t it to
stick; n or d o we ord in arily use or apply it. P ick in g up th ings by
rote w ithout try in g to do so is the van ish in g-poin t o f learn in g. Even
learn in g rhym es b y heart, w hen don e w ith application , th o u gh it is
a prim itive form o f learning, does gen erate n ot o n ly th e trum pery
cap acity to recite those rhym es, but also the m ore valu ab le capacity
to learn all sorts o f o th ei th in gs b y heart, as w ell as the still more
valuable cap acity to gen erate all sorts o f capacities b y study. It is a
prim itive lesson in b eco m in g generally teachable.
C h ild ren , sem i-literates, old-fash ion ed soldiers, and som e peda­
gogues tend to suppose th at b e in g tau gh t and trained consist in
becom ing able m erely to echo the e x a c t lessons tau gh t. B u t thi>
is an error. W e should not say th at the ch ild h ad done m ore than
l>cgin to learn his m ultiplication-tables if all he cou ld do w ere to
go th ro u gh them correctly from b eg in n in g to end. l i e has not
learned them properly unless he can prom p tly g ive the rig h t answer
to an y snap m ultip lication problem (lower than 1^ x13 ). and unless
he can ap p ly his tables by tellin g us, e.g. how m any toes there arc
in a room in w h ich there are six people. N o r is a m an a trained
rock-clim ber w ho can cope on ly w ith th e sam e n ursery-clim bs over
D ISP O SIT IO N S AND O C C U R R E N C E S 14/

which h e was tau gh t, in conditions ju st lik e (hose in w hich h e was


taught, and th en o n ly b y g o in g th ro u gh the very m otions w hich
he h ad been then m ad e to perform . L e a rn in g is b ecom in g capable
o f d o in g som e correct o r su itable th in g in any situations o f certain
general sorts. It is b eco m in g prepared fo r variable calls within
ccrtain ranges.
T o describe som eone as now d o in g som eth in g w ith som e degree
o f som e sort o f h eed is to say n ot m erely th a t he h as h ad som e such
preparation, b u t th a t he is a ctu a lly m eetin g a concrete ca ll and so
m eeting it th a t h e w o u ld h ave m et, o r w ill m eet, som e o f w hatever
other calls o f th at ran ge m ig h t h ave croppcd up, or m a y crop up.
He is in a ‘re a d y’ fra m e o f m in d , fo r h e bo th docs w h at h e docs
with readiness to d o ju s t th a t in ju st this situation and is read y to do
some o f w hatever else he m a y be called on to do. T o describe a
driver as ta k in g care does n o t entail th a t it has occurred to him
that a d o n k ey m a y b o lt ou t o f rhat side street. Me can b e ready for
such con tin gen cies w ith o u t h a v in g an ticipated them . Indeed, he
m igh t h a ve an ticip ated th em w ith ou t b ein g read y fo r them .
K arlier in this ch ap ter I u n d ertook to exp lain w h y it is that
though a p p lyin g o n e ’s m ind to a task does not consist in couplin g
an in spectin g or research in g operation w ith th e perform an ce o f th at
task, y e t we exp ect a person w ho applies h is m in d to a n yth in g to
be able to tell, w ith o u t research, w h at h e h as been en gaged in or
occupied w ith. H e ed in g is not a secon d ary occup ation o f th eorizing,
yet it seem s to en tail h a v in g a t th e tip o f o n e’s tongue the answers
to th eoretical question s about one’s p rim ary occupation. H ow can
I h ave kn o w led ge o f w h at J have been n on-absentm in dcdly d oin g
or fe elin g , unless d o in g or fe e lin g som eth in g w ith m y m in d on it
at least incorporates som e stu d y o f w h at I am d o in g or feelin g ? How
could I now describe w hat I had not previou sly inspected?
P a rt o f the answ er seem s to be this. N o t all talk, and certainly
not th e m ost ru d im en ta ry talk, consists in im p artin g item s o f general
know ledge. W e d o n o t, fo r instance, b egin b y te llin g the in fan t
the nam es o f th in g s in w h ich he is at th e m om en t not takin g an
interest. W e b egin b y te llin g h im the nam es o f th in gs in w hich
he is then a n d th ere ta k in g an interest. U se o f the nam es o f th ings is
thus in jected into in terest in the things. In a p artially sim ilar w ay
we g ive the ch ild instructions, counsels, dem onstrations, rebukes,
and en cou ragem en ts fo r w hat he is cu rren tly essaying; w c do not
wait u n til he is un occup ied, b efore we tcach h im how things should
bs done. N o r does the fa c t th at th e co a ch in g is con curren t w ith
14-2 TH E C O N C E P T OF MIND

th e perform an ce n ecessarily render it a distraction fro m th a t per­


form an ce. T r y in g to co m p ly w ith the teach in g is part o f tryin g to
do the th in g, and as th e ch ild learn s to d o the th in g, h e also learns
to understand b etter an d a p p ly b etter th e lessons in d o in g the thing.
H en ce h e learns, too, to dou b le rhe roles o f in stru ctor an d pupil;
h e learn s to co ach h im self an d to heed h is own coach in g, i.e. to
suit his deeds to h is ow n words.
T h e good referee does not blow h is w h istle at every m om ent o f
the gam e, n o r does the trained p layer cease to apply his m ind
to the gam e w hen ever he atten ds to th e referee’s w histle; rather,
he shows th at h e is n ot ap p lyin g h is m in d to the gam e unless he
docs attend to the whistle. W e arc all train ed in som e degree to be
ou r ow n referees, an d th o u g h we are not, all or m ost o f the tim e,
blo w in g o u r whistles, w e are m ost o f th e tim e rea d y or h alf-ready
to blow them , if the situ ation requires it, an d to com p ly w ith
th em , w hen th ey are blown.
T h e referee’s in terven tions in the g a m e are n o rm ally perem ptory
rather than descriptive o r in form ative. H e is there to h elp the gam e
to g o on rather th an to satisfy th e journ alists a b o u t w h at is g o in g
on. H e gives ru lin gs a n d rebu kes rath er th an reports. B u t to b e read y
to give an appropriate ru lin g, w hen the state o f th e g a m e requires
It, Is also to be re a d y to g ive a report, if the journalists clam our
fo r ir. H e know s w h at fiats to give, so h e know s w hat fa cts to report.
B u t h e does not h ave to stu d y his fiats in order to g lea n som e facts.
R o u g h ly , he needs o n ly to ad ju st his tone o f voice - to tell prosaically
w hat he m ig h t otherw ise h a ve bellow ed perem ptorily, o r ruled
incisively. T e llin g th in gs in the in d icative m ood is tellin g them
in the m ost sophisticated, because m ost dispassionate m anner.
S im ilarly, we, if d u ly train ed, can , m u ch o f th e tim e, deliver to
ourselves th e in ju n ction s, suggestions, an d verdicts th at are more
or less p ertin en t an d co n trib u tory to w h atever is at th a t m om ent
occu p yin g us. W h e n we m ak e the transition from tellin g ourselves
the p ertin en t ad m o n ito ry or ju d icia l th in gs to te llin g questioners
(who m a y also be ourselves) th e correct descriptive th in gs, we have
to do, n o t research, b u t re-w ording. K n o w in g w hat to say pertinen tly
to som e requirem ents is kn ow in g also w hat to say p ertin en tly to
o th er requirem ents. W h e re w e can n o t ta lk m u ch to ourselves as
coaches or ju d g es, as in in v e n tin g jokes, read in g characters, or
com posin g lyrics, we also can n o t tell inquirers m u ch a b o u t w hat
we arc doing. W e th en speak o f "inspiration’ an d ‘in tu itio n ’, and this
exem pts us fro m h a v in g to answ er questions.
D ISPO SITIO N S AND OCCURRENCES 143

(5) A ch iev em en ts
T h e re is an oth er class o f episodic words w hich , fo r ou r purposes,
m erit special attention, n a m e ly th e class of episodic w ords w hich I
h ave elsew here lab elled ‘ach ievem en t words’ , ‘success w ords’, or
‘g o t it w ords’ , together w ith th eir antitheses th e ‘fa ilu re w ords' or
‘m issed it w ords’. T h e se are g en u in e episodic words, fo r it is certainly
proper to say o f som eone th a t h e scored a goal at a particular
m om ent, repeatedly solved an agram s, or was q u ick 10 see the joke
or find the thim ble. Som e w ords o f this »lass sign ify m ore or less
sudden clim axes or dénouem ents; others sig n ify m ore or less pro­
tracted proceedings. T h e th im b le is fou n d , th e opponent check­
m ated, or the race won, at n specifiable instant; b u t the secret m ay
be kept, ih e en em y h eld a t bay, or the lead be retained, th ro u gh o u t
a lon g span o f time. T h e sort o f success w hich consists in descryin g
the haw k differs in th is w ay fro m the sort o f success w hich consists
in k e ep in g it in view.
T h e verbs with w h ich we ord in arily express these greetin gs and
keepings are active verbs, su ch as Svin:, ‘u n earth ’, ‘find’, ‘cure’,
‘convince’, ‘prove’ , ‘ch ea t’ , ‘ u n lock’, ‘safegu ard’, an d ‘con ceal’ ; and
this g ram m atical fa c t has tended to m ak e people, w ith th e exception
o f A risto tle, o b lm o u * to th e différences o f logical b eh aviou r betw een
verbs o f this class and o th er verbs o f activity or process. T h e
differences, for exam ple, betw een k ic k in g and scorin g, trea tin g and
h ealin g, h u n tin g and finding, c lu tc h in g and h o ld in g fast, listen ing
and h earin g, lo o kin g an d seeing, travellin g and arrivin g, h ave been
construed, if they h a ve b een n o ticed at *11, as differences betw een
coordin ate species o f a ctiv ity or process, when in fa c t the differences
are o f q u ite an other kind. It has been all th e easier to overlook
these differences, since we very o ften borrow ach ievem en t verbs
to sig n ify th e perform an ce o f the corresponding task activities, w here
the hopes o f euccce« are good. A ru nn er m i.y b e described as w inning
his race fro m the start, despite th e fa c t that h e m a y not win it in
th e end; an d a doctor m ay boast th a t he is cu rin g h is patient’s
pn eum on ia, when h is treatm en t does n ot in fact result in the antici­
p ated recovery. H e a r’ is som etim es used as a syn on ym o f 'listen'
and ‘ m en d’ as a synonym o f ‘try to m end'.
O n e b ig d ifference betw een th e lo gical fo rce o f a task verb and
th a t o f a corresponding ach ievem en t verb is th at in ap p lyin g an
ach ievem en t verb we a re assertin g that som e state o f affairs obtains
over an d ab ove th at w h ich consists in the p erform an ce, if an y, o f
14 * T H E C O N C E P T O F MIN'D

the subservient task a ctivity. F o r a runner to w in, n o t o n ly m ust he


run b u t also his rivals m ust b e a t the tap e la ter th an he; for a doctor
to effect a cu re, his p atien t m u st b o th b e treated an d be well again;
fo r the searcher to find th e th im b le, th ere m ust be a th im b le in
the p la ic lie iiiiUcaies a t ih c m om en t w hen he indicates it; an d for
the m ath em atician to prove a theorem , th e theorem m ust be true
and follow from the prem isses from w hich he tries to show th at it
follows. A n au to b io grap h ical acco u n t o f the agen t’s exertions and
feelings does n ot b y itse lf tell w hether lie has b ro u gh t off w h at he
was crying to b rin g off. H e m a y rash ly claim the exp ectcd success,
but he will w ith draw his claim if he discovers that, despite his
h avin g done the best h e cou ld, so m eth in g has still go n e wrong.
I w ithdraw m y claim to h ave seen a m isprint, or con vin ccd the
voter, if I find th at there was no m isprint, or that the voter has cast
his vote fo r m y opponent.
It is a consequence o f th is gen eral point that it is alw ays signifi­
cant, th o u gh not, o f course, alw ays true, to ascribc a success partly
or w h o lly to luck. A clo ck m a y be repaired by a random jo lt and
the treasure m ay b e un earthed b y th e first spade-thrust.
It follows, too, that there can be achievem ents w h ich are prefaced
by no task perform ances. W e som etim es find things w ithout search­
ing, secure appoin tm en ts w ith o u t a p p lyin g, and arrive at true
conclusions w ithout h a v in g w eighed the evidence. T h in g s thus got
w ithout work are o ften described as ‘g iv en ’. A n easy catch is ‘g iv e n ’,
a harder catch is ‘offered', a difficult catch is ‘ m ace’.
W hen a person is described as h a v in g fou gh t and won. or as
havin g jo u rn eyed an d arrived, he is not being said to h ave done
two things, b u t to have don e one th in g w ith a ccrtain upshot. Sim i­
larly a person w ho has aim ed an d m issed has not follow ed up one
occupation b y an oth er: he has don e one th in g, w hich was a failure.
So, w hile wc cxp ect a person w ho has been tryin g to ach ieve som e­
thing to be able to say w ith ou t research w h at he has been engaged
in, we d o n o t cxp ect h im necessarily to be able to say w ithout re­
search w h eth er he has achieved it. A ch ievem en ts and failures are
not occurrences o f the righ t type to be o b jccts o f w h at is often, if
m isleadingly, called ‘ im m ediate aw areness’. T h e y are not acts,
exertions, operations, or perform ances, b u t, with reservations for
purely lu c k y achievem ents, th e fa ct th a t certain acts, operations,
exertions, or perform an ces h ave h ad ccrtain results.
T h is is w h y we can sign ifican tly sa y th at som eone has aim ed in
vain or su ccessfu lly, b u t not th a t h e h as h it the target in vain or
D ISPO SITIO N S AND O CCU RR EN CES I45

successfully; th a t h e has treated h is patien t assiduously or un-


ass:duously, b u t not th at he has cu red h im assiduously o r un-
assiduously; that h e scanned the h ed gerow slow ly or rapidly,
system atically, o r h a p h a zard ly, b u t n ot th a t h e saw the nest slow ly
o r rap id ly, system atically, or h ap h aza rd ly. A d v erb s proper to task
verbs are not g en era lly proper to ach ievem en t verbs; in particular,
heed adverbs like ‘ca re fu lly’, ‘attentively*, ‘stu d iou sly’, ‘vig ila n tly’ ,
‘conscientiously', an d ‘pertinaciously' ca n n o t be used to q u a lify such
cogn itive verbs as 'discover*, ‘prove’, ‘solve’, ‘d etcct’, or ‘see’, a n y
more than th ey can q u a lify such verbs as ‘arrive’, ‘repair*, ‘buy*, or
‘conquer’.
T h ere are m an y episodic verbs w hich are used to describe item s
in the in quisitive life o f hum an b ein gs, an d th e failu re to notice
that som e o f these verbs are ach ievem en t verbs while others are
task verbs has been the source o f som e gra tu ito u s puzzles and,
accordingly, o f som e m ystery-m on gerin g theories. Special cogn itive
acts an d operation s h ave been postulated to answ er to such verbs as
‘see’, ‘h ear', 'taste’, ‘d ed u ce’, and ‘recall’ in th e w ay in w hich fam iliar
acts a n d operations d o answer to such verbs as ‘ kick’ , ‘run', ‘look',
‘listen', ‘w ran gle', an d ‘te ll’ ; as if to describe a person as lookin g
and seein g w ere like d escribin g h im as w alk in g ar.d h u m m in g
instead o f b ein g like describing h im as a n g lin g an d catch in g, or
searching an d finding. B u t perception verbs can not, like scarch
verbs, b e qualified b y such adverbs as ‘ successfully’, ‘in vain’ ,
‘m ethodically*, ‘in efficien tly’, ‘lab oriou sly’, la z ily ', ‘rapidly*, ‘care­
fu lly’, ‘relu cta n tly’ , ‘zea lo u sly’, ‘o b ed ien tly', ‘ d eliberately’, or ‘con­
fidently’. T h e y do n ot stand fo r p erform an ces, or ways o f b ein g
occupied; a fortiori th e y d o n o t stan d fo r secret perform ances, or
ways o f b ein g p rivily occupied. T o p u t it cru d ely, they b e lo n g not
to the vo cab u lary o f the player, b u t to th e vo cab u lary o f the referee.
T h e y a re n ot tryin gs, b u t things g o t b y try in g or b y luck.
Epistcm ologists have som etim es io n fc*sctl tv finding the supposed
cognitive activities o f seeing, h earin g, and in ferrin g oddly elusive.
I f I descry a h aw k , I find the h a w k b u t I do not find m y seeing o f
the haw k. M y seein g o f the hawk seem s to be a q ueerly transparent
sort o f process, tran sparent in T h a t w hile a h aw k is detected, n oth in g
else is detected an sw ering to the verb in ‘see a haw k’. B u t the
m ystery dissolves w hen w e realize th at ‘see*, ‘descry’, and ‘find’ are
not process words, exp erience w ords, or a ctiv ity words. T h e y do
not stand fo r p erp le x in g ly undetectable actions or reactions, an y
more than ‘w in’ stands fo r a p e rp le x in g ly undetectable b it o f run­
146 TH E CO N CE PT OF M IN D

n in g, o r ‘u n lock’ fo r an un rcported b it o f key-turn in g. T h e reason


w h y I cannot ca tch m yself seeing or d ed u cin g is th a t these verbs
arc o f the w ron g ty p e to com plete th e phrase ‘catch m yself. . .
T h e questions ‘W h a t are you d o in g ? ’ and ‘W h a t was h e u n d ergo in g?’
can n ot be answ ered b y ‘seeing’ , ‘co n clu d in g ’, or 'ch eckm atin g'.
T h e distinction betw een task verbs and ach ievem en t verbs or ‘try'
verbs and ‘g o t it' verbs frees us from an o th er theoretical nuisance. It
has Ion* been realized th a t verbs like ‘kn ow ’, ‘discover*, ‘solve’,
'prove', ‘perceive’ , 'see’, and ‘observe’ (at least in certain standard
uses o f ‘observe’) are in an im portan t w ay in cap ab le o f b e in g q u ali­
fied b y adverbs like ‘erron eously’ and ‘in correctly’ . A u to m atically
construing these an d kind red verbs as stan d in g fo r special kinds o f
operations or experiences, som e epistcm ologists have fe lt them selves
o b liged to postulate th at people possess certain special in q uiry
procedures in fo llo w in g w hich th ey are su bject to n o risk o f error.
T h e y n<ed not, in d eed th ey cannot, execu te th em ca refu lly, fo r th ey
provide n o scope fo r care. T h e logical im possibility o f a discovery
b ein g fruitless, o r o f a p roof bein g in valid , has been m isconstrued
as a quasi-causal im possibility o f g o in g astray. I f o n ly the proper
road were follow ed, o r i f o n ly th e proper fa c u lty were given its head,
incorrigible observations or self-evident intuitions could n ot help
en su in g So m en are som etim es in fallib le. S im ila rly i f h ittin g the
b u ll's eye w ere construed as a special kin d o f aim ing, or if curing
w ere construed as a special k in d o f treatm ent, then, since neither
could, in logic, be a t fa u lt, it w ould follow th a t there existed special
fault-p roof w ays o f aim in g an d doctorin g. T h e r e w ould exist some
tem porarily in fa llib le m arksm en an d som e o ccasionally in fallible
doctors.
O ther epistcm ologists, properly d isrelish in g th e ascription o f even
tem porary in fa llib ility to h u m an beings, h a ve taken up an eq u ally
im possible position. A g a in au to m a tically con stru in g these achieve­
m en t verbs as sta n d in g for special kinds o f operations or experiences,
th e y have asserted th at the operations or experiences fo r w hich thev
stand are, after all, n ot fault-proof. W e can know w hat is not the
case, prove th in gs fallacio u sly, solve problem s erroneously, and
see what is n ot there to be seen, w h ich is like sa y in g th at we can
h it th e bull’s eye w ith an ‘outer’, cu re a p atien t b y ag g ra v atin g his
com plaint, or w in a race w ith o u t b ein g first a t th e tape. T h e re is,
o f course, no in co m p atib ility betw een losing a race an d lod gin g
a claim to h a ve won it, or betw een ag g ra v atin g a com p lain t and
boasting o f h a v in g cured it. M erely sayin g ‘ I see a h aw k’ does not
D I S P O S I T I O N S AMD O C C U R R E N C E S I47

entail th a t there is a haw k there, th o u g h sa y in g tru ly ‘I sec a haw k'


does en tail this.
T h is assim ilation o f certain so-called cognitive verbs to the general
class o f ach ievem en t verbs m u st n o t be supposed to elu cid ate every­
thing. T h e fa c t iliat the logical b eh avio u r o f 'deduce* is 111 some
respects lik e th a t o f ‘score1, ‘ch eck m ate’ , or ‘u n lo ck ’ does not involve
th a t it is in eve ry respect like th at o f a n y o f them ; nor is arrivin g
a t a conclusion in e ve ry rcspect like a rrivin g in Paris. M y argu m en t
has b een in ten ded to have th e p red o m in an tly n egative point o f ex­
h ib itin g b o th w h y it is w rong, an d w hy it is tem p tin g, to postulate
m ysterious actions and reactions to correspond w ith certain fa m ilia r
b io grap h ical episodic words.
CHAPTER VI

SELF-KNOW LEDGE
*

(i) Forew ord


A n a t u r a l cou n terp art to ih c th eory th a t m in ds constitute a
w orld o th er than ‘th e p h ysical w orld’ is th e th eory th a t there exist
w ays o f discoverin g the con tents o f this o th er world w hich are
counterparts to o u r w ays o f discoverin g th e con ten ts o f the physical
world. In sense perception we ascertain w h a t exists an d happens in
space; so w hat exists o r happens in the m in d m ust also b e ascertained
in perception, b u t perception o f a différent and refined sort, one not
req u irin g the fu n c tio n in g o f gross b o d ily organs.
M o re than this, it has been th o u g h t necessary to show th a t m inds
possess powers o f ap p reh en d in g th eir ow n states an d operations
superior to those th e y possess o f ap p reh en d in g facts o f th e external
w u ik l. I f I a m t o k n o w , b e l i e v e , g u e s s , <.u e v e n w o iu lci a n y th in g
about the th in gs and h appenings th a t are outsid e m e, I m ust, it
has been supposed, en jo y con stan t and m istake-proof apprehension
o f these selfsam e co g n itive operations o f m ine.
It is o ften h eld th erefore (f) th a t a m in d can n ot h elp being
con stan tly aw are o f all th e supposed occu p an ts o f its private stage,
and (2) th at it can also d elib era tely scru tin ize b y a species o f non-
sensuous perception a t least som e o f its own states and operations.
M oreover both tins constant aw areness (gen erally called ‘conscious­
ness’), and th is non-sensuous in n er percep tion (generally called
‘introspection’) h ave been supposed to b e exem p t from error. A
m ind has a tw ofold P rivileg ed A ccess to its ow n doings, w hich m akes
its self-know ledge superior in q u ality , as w ell as prior in genesis, to
its grasp o f o th er things. I m a y d o u b t th e evid en ce o f m y senses but
not th e d eliveran ces o f consciousness or introspection.
O n e lim itatio n has alw ays been conceded to the m in d ’s power
o f fin d in g m e n ia l states an d operations, n a m e ly th at w hile I can
h a ve d irect kn o w led ge o f m y ow n states an d operations, I cannot
h ave it o f yours. I am conscious o f all m y ow n feelin gs, volitions,
em otions, and th in kin gs, a n d I in trosp ectively scru tin ize som e o f
SELF-KN O W LED G E 149

them. B u t I can n ot in trosp ectively observe., or be conscious o f, the


workings o f yo u r m ind. I can satisfy m y se lf that you h ave a m ind
a t all o n ly b y co m p lex and fra il in feren ces from w h at yo u r body
does.
T h is T h e o ry o f the tw ofold P rivileged A ccess lias won so stron g a
hoid on th e th o u g h ts o f philosophers, psychologists, an d m an y la y­
m en th a t it is now o ften th o u g h t to be en o u gh to s a y , on b e h a lf o f
the d o gm a o f the m in d as a second th eatre, th at i:s consciousness and
introspection discover the scenes enacted in it. On the view fo r w hich
1 ¿m a rg u in g consciousness and introspection cannot be w hat they
arc officially described as being, since th eir supposed objects are
m yths; b u t ch am pions o f the d ogm a o f the gliost in the m achine
tend to argu e th a t the im puted ob jects o f consciousness an d intro­
spection can n o t be m yth s, since w e are conscious o f them and can
introspectively observe them . T h e rea lity o f these objects is g u aran ­
teed b y th e ven erable credentials o f these supposed w ays o f finding
them.
In this chapter, then, I try to show th a t th e official theories o f con­
sciousness and introspection are logical m uddles. B u t I am not, o f
course, try in g to establish th a t we d o n ot or cannot know w hat there
is 10 know about ourselves. O n the co n trary, I shall try to show how
we attain such kn ow led ge, b u t o n ly a fte r I h are proved th at this
know ledge is not a tta in ed b y consciousness or introspection, as these
supposed P rivileged Accesses are n orm ally described. L est a n y reader
feels d espondency a t th e th o u gh t o f b ein g deprived o f his tw ofold
Privileged A ccess to h is supposed in n er self, I m ay add th e con­
solatory u n d ertakin g th a t on the accoun t o f self-know ledge th a t I
shall give, know ledge o f w h at th ere is to be know n ab o u t oth er people
is restored to app roxim ate p arity w ith self-know ledge. T h e sorts o f
things th a t I can find ou t ab o u t m yself are th e sam e as the sorts o f
things th at I can find o u t about o th er people, and the m ethods o f
finding them out arc m u ch th e sam e. A residual difference in the
supplies o f the requisite d a ta m akes som e differences in degree
between w hat I can know about m yself and w hat I can know about
you, b u t these differences are not all in fa vo u r o f self-know ledge. In
certain q uite im portan t respects it is easier fo r m e to find o u t w hat I
want to know ab o u t you than it is fo r m e to find o u t the sam e sorts
o f th in gs ab o u t m yself. In certain o th er im portant respects it is
harder. B u t in principle, as d istin ct fro m practice, John D oe’s ways
o f finding ou t ab o u t John D oe a rc the sam e as John D o c’s w ays o f
finding out ab o u t R ich ard Roe. T o drop the hope o f P rivileged
15° THE c o n c e p t o f m ind

Access is also to drop the fe a r o f ep istcm ological isolationism ; we


lose th e bitters w ith th e sweets o f Solipsism .

(2) Consciousness
B efore startin g to discuss the philosophers’ con cep t or concepts o f
consciousness, it is ad visab le to consider som e w avs * in w hich the
words ‘conscious’ and ‘consciousness’ are used, w hen un com m itted to
special theories, in o rd in ary life.
(a) People o ften speak in this w ay; th e y say, ‘I was conscious that
(he fu rn itu re h ad been rearran ged', or, ‘I was conscious th at he was
less frie n d ly th an usual'. In such con texts the w ord ‘conscious’ is
used instead o f w ords lik e ‘fo u n d o u t', ‘realized ', and ‘discovered’ to
indicate a certain n otew orth y nebulousness an d con sequen t inarti­
culateness o f th e apprehension. T h e fu rn itu re looked different som e­
how, but the observer could n ot say w h at the differences were; or
:he m an ’s attitu d e was u n accom m od atin g in a n um b er o f ways, b u t
the speaker cou ld not en um erate or sp ecify them . T h o u g h there are
philosophically in terestin g problem s about vagueness as well as
about th e in exprcssib ility o f th e very n ebulous, th is use o f ‘conscious’
does n ot en tail the existen ce o f a n y special faculties, m ethods, or
channels o f apprehension. W h a t we are conscious o f, in this sense,
m ay be a p h ysical fa ct, or a fa c t a b o u t som eone else’s state o f m ind.
(b) People o ften use ‘conscious’ and ‘self-conscious’ in describing
the em barrassm ent exh ib ited b y persons, esp ecially y o u th fu l persons,
who a rc an xiou s ab o u t th e opinions h eld b y others o f th eir qualities
of ch aracter or intellect. Shyness an d affectatio n are w ays in w hich
self-consciousness, in this sense, is co m m o n ly exh ibited.
(c) ‘Self-conscious’ is som etim es used in a m ore g en eral sense to
indicate th at som eone has reached the stage o f p a y in g h eed to his
own qualities o f ch a ra ctcr or in tellect, irrespective o f w h eth er or not
he is em barrassed ab o u t o th er people’s estim ation o f them . W h en a
boy begins to notice th a t h e is fon der o f arith m etic, or less hom e­
sick, than are m ost o f his acqu ain tan ces h e is b e g in n in g to be self-
conscious, in this en larged sense.
Self-consciousness, in th is en larged sense is, o f course, o f prim ary
im portance fo r the con d u ct o f life, an d the con cept o f it is therefore
o f im portan ce fo r E th ics; b u t its in genu ous use entails no special
doctrines about how a person m akes and ch ecks h is estim ates o f
his own q u alities o f ch aracter and in tellect, or h ow h e com pares them
with those o f h is acquaintances.
T h e F reu d ian idiom s o f the ‘U nconscious’ an d the ‘Subconscious’
S I LF-K N O W LED G R 151

are closely connected w ith this use o f ‘conscious’ ; fo r a t least part o f


w h at is m ean t b y describing jealou sy, phobias or erotic im pulses as
‘unconscious’ is th a t th e victim o f them not o n ly does not rccognize
th eir strength, o r even existence, in h im self, b u t in a certain w ay
mill not rccogn ize them . H e shirks a part o f th e task o f appreciat­
in g w hat sort o f a person he is, or else he system atically biases his
appreciations. T h e epistem ological question how a person m akes
his estim ates or m is-estim atcs o f his ow n dispositions is not, or need
not be, b egged b y the F reu d ian acco u n t o f th e aetiology, diagnosis,
prognosis, an d cu re o f the tendencies to sh irk an d bias such esti­
m ates.
(rf) Q u ite different front the fo rego in g uses o f ‘conscious’, ‘self-
conscious’, and ‘unconscious’, is th e use in w h ich a num bed or
anaesthetized person is said to h ave lost consciousness from his feet
up to his knees. In this use ‘conscious’ m eans 'sensitive’ or ‘sentien t’
and ‘unconscious' m eans anaesthetized or insensitive. W e say th at a
person has lost consciousness w hen he has ceased to be sensitive to
an y slaps, noises, pricks, or sm ells.
(c) D ifferent fro m , though closely connected w ith this last use,
there is the sense in w hich a person can b e said to be unconscious o f
a sensation, w hen h e pays n o heed to it. A w alker en gaged in a
heated dispute m ay b e unconscious, in this sense, o f th e sensations
in his blistered heel, and th e reader o f these w ords was, w hen he
began this sentence, probably unconscious o f th e m uscular and skin
sensation in the back o f his neck, or in his left knee. A person m ay
also b e unconscious or unaw are th a t he is frow n in g, b eatin g tim e
to th e m usic, or m utterin g.
‘C onscious’ in th is sense m eans ‘h eed in g *, a n d it m akes sense to
say th a t a sensation is hardly noticed even w hen th e sensation is
m oderately acu tc, n am ely w hen the victim 's attention is fixed very
stron gly on som eth in g else. C onversely, a person m ay p a y sharp heed
to very fa in t sensations; when, for instance, h e is scared o f appen­
dicitis, he w ill b e acutely conscious, in this sense, o f stom achic
tw inges w hich a rc n ot at all acute. In this sense, too, a person m ay
be keenly conscious, h ard ly conscious, or q uite unconscious o f feel­
ings like tw inges o f an xiety, or qualm s o f doubt.
T h e fact th at a person takes h eed o f h is organ ic sensations and
feelin gs docs n o t entail that h e is exem pt fro m error about them .
H e can m ake m istakes about th eir causes a n d h e can m ake m is­
takes a b o u t their locations. F u rth erm ore, he can m ake m istakes
a b o u t w h eth er th ey are real o r fan cied , as hypochondriacs do.
152 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

H eeding* does n o t d en ote a peculiar con d u it o f cogn itive certainties.


Philosophers, ch iefly since D escartes, h a ve in th eir theories o f
know ledge an d co n d u ct operated w ith a con cept o f consciousness
w hich h as relatively little affinity w ith a n y o f th e concepts described
above. W o rk in g w ith the n otion o f th e m in d as a second theatre, the
episodes enacted in w h ich en joy th e supposed status o f ‘ the m en tal’
and corresp on d in gly la ck the supposed status o f ‘the physical’,
:hinkers o f m an y sorts h a ve laid it dow n as th e cardinal positive
oroperry o f these episodes that, w hen they occur, th ey occu r con­
sciously. T h e states and operation s o f a m in d are states and opera­
tions o f w h ich it is necessarily aw are, in som e sense o f ‘aw are’, and
:his awareness is in capable o f b ein g delusive. T h e th in gs th a t a
m ind docs or experiences are self-in tim atin g, and th is is supposed
to b e a featu re w h ich ch aracterizes diese acts an d feelings not ju st
som etim es b u t alw ays. It is part o f th e definition o f th eir b ein g
m ental th at th eir occurrence en tails th at th ey are self-intim ating.
If I th in k , hope, rem em ber, w ill, regret, h ear a noise, or feel a pain,
I m ust, ipso facto, know th a t I d o so. E ven if I dream th at I see a
dragon, I m ust be apprised o f m y dragon-seeing, th ou gh , it is often
conceded, I m a y n o t know th at I am dream ing.
It is n atu rally difficult, if one denies the existen ce o f th e second
theatre, to elu cíd ate w hat is m ean t by describing th e episodes w hich
are supposed to ta k e place in it as self-intim ating. B u t som e points
are d e a r en o u gh . It is n ot supposed th a t w hen I am w ondering, say,
what is th e answ er to a p u z z le and am ipso facto consciously d oin g
so, th at I am syn ch ro n ou sly p erform in g two acts o f atten tion, one
to the p u z zle and the o th er to m y w ond ering about it. N o r, to
gen eralize this point, is it supposed th a t m y act o f w ondering and its
self-intim ation to m e are tw o distinct acts or processes indissolubly
welded together. R ath er, to relapse perforce in to sim ile, it is supposed
that m ental processes are phosphorescent, lik e tropical sea-water,
w hich m akes itself visible b y the ligh t w h ich itself em its. O r, to use
another sim ile, m en ial processes are ‘overheard’ b y the m in d whose
processes th ey are, som ew hat as a speaker overhears the w ords he is
h im self uttering.
W h e n the epistem ologists’ concept o f consciousness first becam e
popular, it seem s to h ave been in p art a transform ed application o f
che P rotestant notion o f co n scien ce T h e P rotestant h ad to h old that
a m an could know the m oral state o f his soul an d th e wishes o f G od
w ithout the aid o f confessors and scholars; th ey spoke th erefore o f
the G od-given ‘lig h t’ o f private conscience. W h e n G alileo ’s and
SELF-KN O W LED G E ¡5 3

D escartes’ representations o f th e m ech an ical w orld seem ed to require


th at m inds should b e salved fro m m echan ism b y b ein g represented
as co n stitu tin g a d up licate w orld, the need was felt to explain how
the contents o f th is gh o stly w orld could b e ascertained, again w ithout
the h elp o f sense perception. T h e m etaph or o f ‘lig h t’ seem ed pecu­
liarly appropriate, since G alilean science d ea lt so la rgely w ith the
optically discovered w orld. ‘C onsciousness’ was im ported to p lay in
the m en tal w orld th e p a rt p layed b y lig h t in th e m echan ical world.
In th is m etaph orical sense, th e contents o f the m ental world were
th o u g h t o f as b e in g self-lum inous or refulgent.
T h is m odel w as em ployed again b y L o ck e when he described the
observational scrutin y w hich a m in d can from tim e to tim e turn
upon its cu rren t states an d processes. H e called this supposed inner
perception ‘reflexion’ (our ‘introspection’), borrow ing th e w ord
‘reflexion’ fro m th e fa m iliar optical phenom enon o f th e reflections
o f faces in m irrors. T h e m in d can ‘ see’ o r ‘look a t’ its own operations
in th e ‘lig h t’ given off b y them selves. T h e m y th o f consciousness is
a piece o f para*optics.
T h e se sim iles o f 'over-hearing*, ‘ phosphorescence’, o r ‘self­
lum inousness’ suggest an other distin ction w hich needs to b e made.
It is certa in ly true th a t w hen I d o, feel, or witness som ething. 1
usually could an d freq u en tly do pay sw ift retrospective heed to w hat
I h ave ju s t done, felt, or witnessed. I keep, m u ch o f th e tim e, some
sort o f lo g or score o f w h at occupies m e, in such a w ay that, i f asked
w hat I h ad ju s t been h earin g or p ictu rin g or saying, I could usually
g ive a correct answer. O f course, I can n o t alw ays b e actu a lly h arkin g
back to the im m ed iate past; o r else, w ith in a few seconds o f being
called in the m orn in g, I should b e recallin g th at I h ad ju st been
recallin g th at I h ad ju st been recallin g . . . h ea rin g th e knock on the
door; on e event w ould generate an endless scries o f recollections o f
recollections . . . o f it, le a v in g n o room fo r m e to pay h eed to any
subsequent happen in g. T h e re is, h ow ever, a proper sense in w hich
I can be said g en era lly to know w h at has ju st been en gagin g m y
n otice or h alf-n otice, n am ely th a t I gen erally could g iv e a m em ory
report o f it, if th ere was occasion to d o so. T h is does not exclude
th e possibility th a t I m ig h t som etim es give a m isreport, fo r even
short-term rem iniscence is not exem p t fro m carelessness o r bias.
T h e point o f m en tio n in g this fa c t th at we gen erally could, if re­
q u ired , report w hat had just been en g a g in g o u r notice is th at con­
sciousness, as the prevalent view describes it, differs from this log-
keepin g in on e o r tw o im portant respects. First, accord in g to the
154 THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

theory, m en tal processes are conscious, not in th e sense th a t w c do


or co u ld report on them post m ortem , b u t in th e sense th at their
in tim ation s o f th eir ow n occurren ces are properties o f those occur­
rences an d so are n ot posterior to them . T h e supposed deliverances
o f consciousness, if verb ally expressible a t all, w ould b e expressed
in the present, not in th e past tense. N e x t it is supposed th a t in
b ein g conscious o f m y present m en tal states an d acts I know w hat
I am exp erien cin g an d d o in g in a non-dispositional sense o f 'know ';
th at is to say, it is not m erely the case th a t I cou ld, i f occasion
d em anded, tell m yself or you whac I a m exp erien cin g and doing,
b u t th at I am a ctiv e ly cognisan t o f it. T h o u g h a dou b le act o f atten­
tion docs n ot occur, y e t w hen I discover th at m y w atch has stopped,
I am syn ch ron ously d iscoverin g th at I am discoverin g th at m y
w atch has stopped; a truth ab o u t m y se lf is flash ed or shone upon m e
a t the sam e m om en t as a truth ab o u t m v/ w atch is ascertained b v/ me.
I shall argu e th a t consciousness, as so described, is a m yth and
shall p ro bab ly th erefo re be con stru ed as a rg u in g th a t m ental pro­
cesses arc, in som e m o rtify in g sense, unconscious, perhaps in th e sort
o f w ay in w hich I o ften can n o t tell o f m y ow n h ab itu al and reflex
m ovem ents. T o safegu ard again st this m isinterpretation I say q u ite
su m m arily first, th a t we d o u su ally know w hat w c are about, b u t
th at n o phosphorcscencc-story is required to exp lain how we are
apprised o f it; second, th a t k n o w in g w hat we are about docs n ot
entail an incessant actu al m o n ito rin g or scru tin y o f o u r doings and
feelin gs, b u t on ly th e propen sity in ter alia to avow th em , when we
are in the m ood to d o so; and, th ird, th a t th e fa c t th a t w e gen erally
know w hat we a rc ab o u t does n ot entail ou r co m in g across an y h ap ­
penings o f g h o stly status.
T h e rad ical o b jectio n to th e th eory th a t m inds m ust kn ow w hat
th ey are about, because m en tal h ap p en in gs are b y definition con­
scious, or m etap h o rically self-lum inous, is th at there are n o such
h appen in gs; there a rc n o occurrences ta k in g place in a second-status
world, since th ere is no such status an d no su ch w orld and con­
sequently no need fo r special m odes o f a cq u ain tin g ourselves w ith
the d en izen s o f such a world. B u t there are also o th er objections
w hich do not depend fo r th eir acceptance upon the rejection o f the
dogm a o f th e gh ost in the m achine.
F irst, an d th is is not in ten ded to b e m ore th an a persuasive arg u ­
m ent, no on e w ho is u n com m itted to a philosoph ical th eory ever
tries to vin d icate a n y o f his assertions o f fact b y sayin g th a t he
fo u n d it o u t ‘fro m consciousness', o r ‘as a d irect deliverance o f con­
SELF-KN O W LED GE *55

sciousness*, or ‘from im m ediate awareness’ . H e w ill b a ck up some o f


h is assertions o f fa ct b y sayin g th a t h e h im se lf sees, hears, feels,
sm ells, or tastes so an d so; he w ill back up o th er such statem ents,
som ew hat m ore ten tatively, by sayin g th a t he rem em bers seeing,
hearing, feelin g, sm ellin g, o r tasting it. B u t if asked w hether he really
knows, believes, infers, fears, rem em bers, or sm ells som ething, he
never replies, ‘O h yes. certainly I do, fo r I am conscious and even
vivid ly conscious o f d o in g so.’ Y e t just such a rep ly should, accord­
in g to th e doctrine, b e h is final appeal.
N e x t, it is supposed th at m y bein g conscious o f m y m ental states
and operations eith er is m y kn ow in g them , or is th e necessary and
sufficient g ro u n d tor m y doing so. But to sa y th is is to abuse the
logk* an d even th e g ra m m a r of the verb ‘to kn ow ’. It is nonsense to
speak o f kn o w in g, o r not know ing, th is clap o f th u n d er or that tw inge
o f pain, this coloured su rface or th at act o f d raw in g a conclusion or
seeing a jo ke; these a rc accusatives o f th e w rong types to follow the
verb ‘to know .’ T o know and to be ignorant are to know and n ot to
knew th a t so m eth in g is the case, fo r exam ple, th a t th at rum ble is a
clap o f th u n d er or th at th at coloured surface is a checse-rind. A n d
this is ju s t th e poin t w here the m etap h or o f lig h t is unhelpful. Good
illum in ation h elps us to see checse-rinds, b u t we could not say ‘ the
ligh t whs ux> bad fo i m e to kuow ilic tliccsc-iin d ,’ iin cc kn ow in g is
not th e sam e sort o f th in g as lo o k in g at, an d w hat is known is not
the sam e sort o f th in g as w hat is illu m in ated . T ru e , we can say
‘ow ing to the darkness I cou ld not rcco gn ize w h at I saw far a cheese-
rind’ , b u t a g a in reco g n izin g what I see is not another optical per­
form ance. W e d o not ask fo r one torch to h elp us to see and an other
to help us to reco g n ize w ha; we see. So even if there were some
analogy betw een a th in g’s being illu m in ated an d a m en:al process’s
being conscious, it w ould not follow th at fhe ow ner o f the process
would rcco gn ize th a t process fo r w hat it was. It m igh t conceivably
explain h ow m ental processes w ere discernible b u t it cou ld not
possibly exp lain how w c ascertain truths and avoid or correct m is­
takes about them .
N e xt, th ere is n o contradiction in asserting th at som eone m igh t
fail to reco gn ize his fram e o f m ind fo r w hat it is; indeed, it is
notorious th a t people constantly do so. T h e y m istakenly suppose
them selves to know thin gs w hich are actu ally false; they deceive
them selves ab o u t th eir own m otives; th ey arc surprised to notice the
clock stoppin g tickin g, w ithout th eir havin g, as th ey think, been
aware th a t it h a d b een ticking; th ey d o not know that th ey are
156 th e C O N C E P T OF M IND

dream in g, w hen th ey are dream in g, a n d som etim es th ey are n ot sure


that th ey are n o t d ream in g, w hen th ey are aw ake; and th ey den y, in
good fa ith , th at th ey are irritated o r excited , w hen th e y are flustered
in on e or o th er o f those ways. I f consciousness was w h a t it is described
as bein g, it w ould b e lo gica lly im possible fo r su ch failu res an d m is­
takes in recogn ition to take place.
F in a lly , even th o u g h th e self-intim ation supposed to b e in h eren t
in a n y m en tal state or process is n o t described as req u irin g a separate
act o f atten tion , or a s co n stitu tin g a separate co g n itive operation, still
w hat I am conscious o f in a process o f in ferrin g , say, is different
from w h at the in ferrin g is an apprehension of. M y consciousness is o f
a process o f in ferrin g, b u t m y in ferrin g is, perhaps, o f a geom etrical
conclusion fro m geo m etrical premisses. T h e verbal expression o f m y
inferen ce m igh t be, ‘ becausc this is an equilateral trian gle, therefore
each an gle is 60 degrees’, b u t th e verbal expression o f w h at I am
conscious o f m ig h t be ‘ H ere I am d e d u cin g su ch a n d such from so
and so'. B u t, i f so, th en it w ould seem to m ak e sense to ask w hether,
accord in g to the doctrine, I am n o t also conscious o f b ein g conscious
o f in ferrin g, th a t is, in a position to say ‘H e re I am sp ottin g the
fa c t th a t here I am d e d u cin g such an d su ch fro m so a n d so'. A n d
then th ere w ould be no stopping-placc; there w ould h a v e to be an
infinite n um b er o f onion-skins o f consciousness em b ed d in g an y
m en tal state o r process w hatsoever. I f this conclusion is rejected, then
it w ill h ave to be allow ed th a t som e elem en ts in m en tal processes
a rc n o t them selves th ings we can b e conscious o f, n am ely those
elem ents w hich con stitute th e supposed outerm ost self-intim ations
o f m en tal processes; an d then ‘conscious’ could n o lon ger b e re­
tained as part o f the definition o f ‘m en tal’.
T h e argu m en t, then, th at m ental events are auth en tic, b ecau sc the
deliverances o f consciousness are d irect an d un im p each ab le testi­
m o n y to th eir existence, m ust b e rcjectcd . So m ust th e p a rtly parallel
argu m en t from th e findings o f introspection.

(3) Introspection
‘Introspection’ is a term o f a rt and one fo r w hich little use is fo u n d
in th e self-descriptions o f un theoretical people. M ore use is fo u n d
for th e ad jective ‘in trospective’, w h ich is ord in arily used in an
innocuous sense to sig n ify th at som eone pays m ore h e e d th an usual
to theoretical and p ractical problem s ab o u t h is ow n ch aracter, a b ili­
ties, deficiencies a n d oddities; th ere is often th e extra suggestion
th a t the person is a b n o rm a lly an xio u s ab o u t these m atters.
SE L F-K N O W I.E D C E I57

T h e technical term ‘introspection* has been used to denote a sup­


posed species o f perception. It was supposed th a t m u ch as a person
m a y a t a p a rticu lar m om en t b e listen in g to a flute, savou rin g wine,
or reg ard in g a w aterfall, so h e m a y be ‘reg ard in g ’, in a non-optical
sense, som e cu rren t m en tal state o r process o f his own. T h e state
or process is b e in g d elib erately an d atten tively scru tin ized and so
can b e listed a m o n g th e objects o f his observation. O n th e other
h an d, introspection is d escribed as b e in g u n lik e sense observation in
im portan t respects. T h in g s looked at, o r listened to, are pu b lic
objects, in prin ciple observable b y an y su itably placed observer,
w hereas o n ly the ow ner o f a m ental state or process is supposed to
b e able in trosp ectively to scru tin ize it. Sense perception, again , in­
volves the fu n ctio n in g o f b o d ily organs, su ch as th e eyes, th e ears, or
the tongue, w hereas introspection involves the fu n ctio n in g o f no
b o d ily organ. la s t l y , sense perception is never exem p t from the
possibility o f dullness or even o f illusion, w hereas, anyh ow accordin g
to the b o ld er theories, a person’s pow er o f observin g h is m ental
process is alw ays perfect; h e m a y not h ave learn ed h ow to exploit
his pow er, o r how to arran ge or d iscrim in ate its findings, b u t he is
im m u n e from a n y coun terparts to deafness, astigm atism , colour­
blindness, d a zzle , or itíuscae volitantes. In n e r perception, on these
theories, acts a stan dard o f veridical perception, w h ich sense percep­
tion can n ever em ulate.
T h e findings o f introspection arc rep uted to differ in one w ay a t
least fro m the supposed d eliveran ces o f consciousness; introspection
is an a tten tive operation an d one w h ich is on ly occasionally per­
form ed , whereas consciousness is supposed to be a con stan t elem ent of
all m ental processes and on e o f w hich th e revelation s do n ot require
to be receipted in special acts o f atten tion. M oreover we introspect
w ith th e in ten tio n o f fin d ing th e answ ers to p articu lar problem s,
whereas we arc conscious, w heth er we w ish it or not; everyone is con­
stan tly conscious, w hile aw ake, b u t o n ly those people introspect w ho
are from tim e to tim e interested in w hat is g o in g on in th eir m inds.
It w ould b e ad m itted th a t o n ly people w ith a special train in g ever
speak o f in tro sp e ctin g ’, b u t in such phrases as ‘he ca u g h t him self
w on d erin g h ow to d o so and so\ or ‘w hen I catch m y self g e ttin g into
a panic, I d o such an d su ch ’ , th e plain m an is expressing at least part
o f w hat is m ean t b y th e word.
N o w supposin g (w hich it is the n egative ob ject o f this book to
deny), tb a t th ere d id exist events o f th e postulated gh ostly status,
th ere w ould still b e ob jection s to th e in itia lly plausible assum ption
158 TH E C O N C E PT OF MIND

th at there also exists a species o f perception cap ab le o f h a v in g any


o f these events fo r its p rop rietary objects. F o r one th in g , the occu r­
rence o f such an act o f in n er perception w ould req u ire th at the
observer co u ld atten d to tw o th in gs a i th e sam e tim e. H e w ould, for
exam ple, b e b o th resolvin g to g e t up early an d co n co m ita n tly observ-
in g his act o f resolvin g; atten d in g to th e p ro gram m e o f risin g betim es
and p ercep tu ally a tten d in g to h is atten d in g to this program m e. T h is
objection is not, perhaps, lo gica lly fa ta l, since it m ig h t b e argued
th a t som e people can, an yh o w a fte r practice, com bin e atten tion to
the control o f a ca r w ith atten tion to th e con versation . T h e fact
th a t wc speak o f u n d ivid ed atten tion suggests th at th e division o f
atten tion is a possibility, th o u gh som e people w ould d escribe the
division o f atten tion as a rapid to-and-fro sw itch o f atten tion , rather
than as a synch ron ous distrib ution o f it. B u t m an y people w ho
b egin b y b ein g con fid ent th a t th ey do introspect, as introspection is
officially described, b ecom e d u b iou s th at th ey d o so, w h en th ey are
satisfied th a t th ey w o u ld h a v e to 1)0 atten d in g tw ice a t o n c c in order
to d o it. T h e y arc m ore sure th a t th e y do n ot a tten d tw ice at once
than that th ey d o introspect.
H ow ever, even if it is claim ed th a t in in trosp ecting w o are atten d ­
in g tw ice a t on ce, it w ill be allow ed th a t th ere is som e lim it to the
n um b er o f possible synch ron ous acts o f atten tion, an d from this it
follow s th a t th ere m ust b e som e m en tal processes w h ich are unintro-
spectible, n am ely those introspections w h ich in corp orate the m ax i­
m u m possible n u m b er o f synch ron ou s acts o f attention. T h e question
w ould then arise fo r the h old ers o f th e th eory how these acts w ould
b e fo u n d occu rrin g, since if this kn ow ledge was n o t introsp ectively
go t, it w ould follow th a t a person’s kn ow led ge o f his ow n m ental
processes could n ot alw ays b e based on introspection. B u t if this
know ledge does n ot alw ays rest on introspection, it is open to ques­
tion w heth er it ever does. T h is objection m ig h t be cou n tered b y
appeal to th e o th er form o f P rivileged A cccss; we k n o w th at we
introspect n o t b y in trosp ectin g on o u r introspections, b u t from the
d eliverances o f consciousness. T o the guests o f C’h aryb d is, Scylla
appears the m ore h osp itab le resort.
W h e n psychologists w ere less cau tiou s than th ey h a ve since be­
com e, th ey used to m ain tain th at introspection was th e m a in source
o f em pirical in form ation ab o u t the w orkings o f m inds. T h e y were
not u n n atu rally em barrassed to discover th a t th e em p irical facts
reported b y on e psychologist som etim es conflicted w ith those re­
ported b y another. T h e y reproached one an oth er, often ju stly , with
SELF-KN O W LED G E 159

h a v in g professed to find b y introspection ju st those m en tal pheno­


m en a w hich th eir preconceived Theories had led them to expect to
find. T h ere still occu r disputes w hich sh ou ld be fin ally soluble by
introspection, i f th e jo in t theories o f the in n er life and inner percep*
tion were true. T h e o rists dispute, fo r exam p le, w heth er there are
activities o f conscience d istin ct from those o f in tellect and distinct
fro m habitual d eferen ces to taboos. W h y do th ey not look and sec?
O r, if they d o so, w h y d o th eir icp o rts not ta lly ? A g a in , m an y people
w ho th eorize about h um an co n d u ct d eclare th at th ere o ccu r certain
processes su i generis an sw ering to th e description o f ‘volitions’; I
h ave argued th a t th ere are n o su ch processes. W h y d o we argu e
ab o u t the existen ce o f these processes, when th e question o u gh t to
be as easily d ecid ab le as the question w h eth er or not th ere is a sm ell
o f onions in the larder?
T h ere is one last objection to b e m ad e again st th e claim s fo r intro­
spection. th at m ade b y H um e. T h e r e are som e states o f m ind which
can n ot be co o lly scru tin ized , sincc th e fa ct th a t w e are in those
states involves th at w e are n ot cool, or the fa c t thar w e are cool
involves th at w e a rc not in those states. K o one cou ld introspectively
scrutinize the state o f p an ic or fu ry , since th e dispassionateness exer­
cised in scientific observation is. b y the definition o f ‘pnnic’ and
‘fu ry ’ , not th e state o f m in d o f the victim o f those turbulences.
Sim ilarly, since a convulsion o f m errim en t is n o t the state o f m ind
o f the sober exp erim en talist, th e en joym en t o f a joke is also not an
introspeccible h app en in g. Srates o f m in d su ch as these m ore or less
violent agitations can be exam in ed o n ly in retrospect. Y e t n oth in g
disastrous follow s from this restriction. W e are not shorter o f infor­
m ation about pan ic o r am u sem en t rhan ab o u t o th e r stares o f m ind.
I f retrospection can g iv e us th e data we need fo r ou r know ledge o f
som e states o f m in d , th ere is n o reason w h y it should not do so for
all. A n d this is just w h at seem s to be suggested b y th e popular
phrase :to catch on eself d o in g so and so'. W e catch , as we pursue
and overtake, w hat is alread y ru n n in g aw ay from us. I ca tch m yself
d ayd ream in g ab o u t a m ountain walk after, perhaps v ery shortly
after, I have b egu n th e d ayd ream ; or I catch m y self h u m m in g a par­
ticu lar air o n ly w hen th e first few notes h a ve a lre a d y been hum m ed.
R etrospection, prom p t or delayed, is a gen u in e process an d one w hich
is exem pt from the troubles en su in g fro m th e assum ption o f m ultiply
d ivid ed atten tio n : it is also e x em p t from the troubles en su in g from
th e assum ption th at violent agitation s co u ld he T h e objects o f cool,
con tem porary scrutin y.
T H E C O N C E P T OF M I N D

P art, then o f w h at people h a ve in m in d, w hen th ey speak


fa m ilia rly o f introspecting, is this au th en tic process o f retrospection.
B u t there is n o th in g in trin sically ghostly ab o u t th e objects o f ret­
rospection. In th e sam e w ay th a t I can catch m y se lf daydream ing, I
can catch m yself scratch in g; in the sam e w ay th at I can cs.tch
m y se lf engaged in a piece o f silen t soliloquy, I can catch m yself
sayin g som ething aloud.
It is true <,nd im portan t th at w hat I recall is alw ays som ething
expressible in the form ‘m y se lf d o in g so a n d so*. I rccall not a clap of
th u n d er b u t h earin g the clap o f thunder; or I catch m yself sw ear ng,
but I do not, in th e sam e sense, catch you sw earing. T h e objects o f
m y retrospections are item s in m y autobiography. B u t alth o u gh per­
sonal. th ey need not be, th o u gh th ey can be, p rivate or silent item s o f
th at autobiography. ! can recollect seeing th in gs ju st as m u ch as I
can recollcct im a gin in g things, m y overt acts ju st as well as m y sen­
sations. I can report the calcu latio n s that I h ave been d o in g in m y
head, b u t I can also report the calculations th a t I h ave been d cin g
on the blotter.
R etrospection w ill carry som e o f the load o f w hich introspection
has been nom inated fo r th e porter. Bui it w ill not carry all o f it and
in p articu lar it w ill not ca rry m an y o f the p h ilosop h ically precious or
fragile parccU. A sid e fio a i the fact that even prom p t recollection is
su bject both to evaporations an d to dilutions, how ever accu rately I
m a y re co iled an action or feelin g , I m ay still fa il to recognize its
nature. W h eth er y esterd ay’s tw in ge w hich I rccall today was a pang
o f gen u in e com passion or a tw in ge o f guilt, need not be a n y the more
obvious to me fo r th e fa ct th a t m y m em ory o f it is vivid. C hronicles
are n ot exp lan atory o f w h a t th ey recoid.
T h e fa ct that retrospection is autobiograph ical does n ot im p ly that
it gives us a Privileged A ccess to facts oi a special status. B u t o f course
it does g ive us a mass o f data con tributory to ou r appreciations o f our
own con d u ct and qualities o f m ind. A d iary is not a chrom clc of
gh o stly episodes, b u t it is a valu ab le source o f inform ation ab o u t the
diarist’s character, wits, an d career.

(4) Self-K now ledge w ithout P rivileged A ccess


It has been arg u ed from a num b er o f directions th a t w hen we speak
o f a person’s m ind, we are not sp eakin g o f a second theatre o f special-
status incidents, but o f certain w ays in w hich som e o f th e incidents o f
his one life arc ordered. H is life is not a dou b le series o f events taking
place in tw o different kinds o f stuff; it is one concatenation o f events,
SELF-KN O W LED G E l6 l

th e differences betw een som e an d o th er classcs o f w hich la rg e ly con­


sist in th e a p p lica b ility or in ap p licab ility to th em o f lo g ica lly different
types o f law-propositions and law -like propositions. A ssertion s about
a person's m in d are therefore assertions o f special sorts ab o u t that
person. So questions ab o u t th e relations betw een ft person a n d his
m in d , like those a b o u t th e relations betw een a person’s b o d y an d his
m in d are im proper questions. T h e y are im proper in m uch th e sam e
w ay as is th e question, 'W h a t transactions go on betw een th e H ouse
o f C om m on s and th e British C o n stitu tio n ?’
It follow s th a t it is a logical solecism to speak, as theorists often do,
o f som eone’s m in d k n o w in g this, or ch oosin g that. T h e person h im ­
self know s th is and chooses ihat, th o u g h th e fa ct th a t h e does so can,
i f desired, b e classified as a m ental fa c t a b o u t th at person. In p artly
th e sam e w a y it is im proper to speak o f m y eyes seeing this, or m y
nose sm ellin g th at; w e should say, rather, th a t 1 see this, or I sm ell
th at, an d th a t these assertions ca rry w ith th em certain facts about
m y eyes a n d nose. B u t th e a n a lo g y is not cx a c t, fo r w hile m y eyes
an d nose are organ s o f sense, 'm y m in d’ does not stan d fo r another
organ. It signifies m y ab ility an d proneness to d o certain th ings and
n o t som e piece o f personal apparatus w ith o u t w h ich I cou ld or w ould
n o t do them . S im ila rly th e British C o n stitu tion is n o t an o th er British
political institution fu n ctio n in g alon gsid e o f th e C iv il Servicc, the
Ju d iciary, th e E stab lish ed C h u rch , th e H ouses o f P arliam en t, and
th e R o y a l F a m ily . N o r is it the sum o f these institutions, or a liaison-
staff betw een them . W c car. say th a t G re a t B rita in has gon e to the
polls; b u t we can n ot sa y th a: th e B ritish C on stitu tion h as go n e to the
polls, th o u g h the fa ct th a t G reat B ritain h as gon e to th e polls m igh t
be described a s a constitutional fa c t ab o u t G re a t B ritain.
A c tu a lly , th o u g h it is not alw ays con ven ien t to avoid th e practice,
th ere is a considerable logical h a za rd in u sin g th e nouns ‘m in d ’ and
‘m in d s’ a t all. T h e idiom m akes it too easy to construct logically
im proper con ju n ction s, disjunctions, a n d cause-effect propositions
such as ‘so a n d so took place n o t in m y b o d y b u t in m y m in d ', ‘m y
m in d m ad e m y h a n d w rite', ‘a person’s b o d y an d m in d in teract upon
each o th er’, an d so on. W h e re lo gical can d ou r is req uired fro m us, we
o u g h t to fo llo w th e exam p le set b y novelists, biographers, an d diarists,
w ho speak o n ly o f persons doing an d u n d erg o in g things.
T h e questions ‘W h a t know ledge can a person g e t o f th e workings
o f h is ow n m in d ? ’, an d ‘H ow docs h e g e t it?* b y th eir very w ording
su ggest ab su rd answers. T h e y su ggest th at, fo r a person to know that
h e is la zy , or h as d on e a sum ca re fu lly , he m u st h ave taken a peep
1 62 TH E C O N C E PT OF MIND

into a w indow less cham ber, illu m in ated b y a very peculiar sort o f
light, an d on e to w hich on ly he has access. A n d w hen the question is
construed in th is sort o f w ay, th e p arallel questions, 'W h a t know«
ledge can one person g e t o f the w orkings o f an o th er m in d ?’ an d 'H ow
does he g e t it? ’ b y th eir very w o rd in g seem to preclude a n y answ er
at all; for th ey su ggest th a t one person cou ld o n ly know that another
person was la zy , or h ad done a sum ca rcfu lly , b y peering in to an oth er
secret ch am b er to w h ich , ex hypo th e si, h e has no access.
In fa ct the p roblem is n o to n e o f this sort. It is sim p ly the m eth odo­
logical question, h ow we establish, an d how we app ly, ccrtain sorts o f
law-like propositions ab o u t the overt an d th e silent b eh aviou r o f
persons. I co m e to appreciate th e skill and tactics o f a chess-player b y
w atching h im an d others p layin g chess, an d I learn that a certain
pupil o f m ine is la zy , am bitious, and w itty b y follow in g h is w ork,
n oticin g his excuses, listening to his conversation, an d com paring his
perform ances w ith those o f others. N o r docs it m ake an y im portan t
difference if I happen m yself to b e th at pupil. I can indeed then listen
to m ore o f h is conversations, as I am the addressee o f his unspoken
soliloquies; I n otice m ore of his excuses, as I a m never absent, w hen
they are m ad e. O n the other h an d , m y com parison o f h is perform ­
ances w ith those o f oth ers is m ore difficult, since the exam in er is him -
je lf wkiufc the ex a iu in a u o n w h ich m akes n eu trality hard to preserve
and precludes th e dem ean our o f th e can didate, w hen under interro­
gation, from b e in g in go o d view.
T o repeat a point previously m ade, the question is not the cnvelope-
question *How d o I d iscover th a t I or you h ave a m in d ? ' b u t the ran ge
o f specific questions o f th e pattern, ‘ H ow d o I discover that I am
m ore unselfish th an yo u ; that I ca n d o lo n g division well, b u t differen­
cial equations o n ly badly; that you suffer fro m certain phobias and
:end to sh irk fa cin g certain sorts o f facts; th at I a n m ore easily
irritated than m ost people but less su b ject to panic, vertigo, or m or­
bid conscientiousness?’ Besides such p u re dispositional questions
:here is also th e ra n g e o f p articu lar p erform an ce questions an d occu r­
rence questions o f th e patterns, T Io w do I find o u t th at 1 saw th e joke
and tliat you d id not; th at your action took m ore courage than m ine;
:h at the service I ren dered :o you was rendered from a sense o f d u ty
and not from exp ectatio n o f kud os; that, th ou gh I d id not fu lly un der­
stand w h at was said a t the tim e, I did fu lly understand it, w hen I
went over it in m y h ead afterw ards, w hile you understood it p erfectly
from the start; th at I was fueling h om esick yesterd ay?’ Q uestions o f
these sorts offer n o m ysteries; we know q u ite w ell how to set to w ork
SELF-KN O W LED G E 163

to find out the answers to th em ; an d th o u gh often we cannot finally


solve them an d m ay h a ve to stop short a t m ere conjecture, yet, even
so, n e h ave no d o u b t w h at sorts o f inform ation w ould satisfy our
requirement*?, if we could get it; an d we know w hat it w ould b e like
to get it. F o r exam ple, a fter listen in g to an a ig u u ic u l, you aver that
you understood it p erfectly; b u t yo u m a y b e deceivin g yourself, or
tryin g to deceive m e. I f we then part fo r a day or two, I am n o longer
in a position to test w h eth er or n o t you did understand it perfectly.
B u t still I know w h a t tests w ould h a ve settled the point. I f yo u had
pu t th e argu m en ts into y o u r own words, or translated it into F ren ch;
if you h a d invented appropriate concrete illustrations o f the
generalizations and abstraction s in th e argum ent; if you h ad stood
up 10 cross-questioning; if you had correctly draw n fu rth er conse­
quences from different stages o f th e a rgu m en t and indicated points
where the th eory was inconsistent w ith o th er theories; if you had
inferred correctly from the n atu re o f the argum ent to the qualities
o f intellect an d ch aracter o f its au th o r an d predicted accu rately the
subsequent develop m en t o f his th eory, then I should h ave required
no furth er eviden ce th at you understood it perfectly. A n d ex actly
th e sam e sorts o f tests w ould satisfy m e th at I had understood it
perfectly: th e sole differences w ould be th a t I should p ro b ab ly not
have voiced aloud the expression» o f ttiy Ueilucuous, illustrations, etc.,
b u t told them to m yself m ore p e rfu n cto rily in silent soliloquy; and
I should p ro b ab ly have b een m ore easily satisfied o f the com pleteness
o f m y un d erstan d in g than I was o f yours.
In sh ort it is part o f th e m eaning o f ‘you understood it* that you
could have don e so an d so and w ould h ave don e it, if su ch an d such,
and the test o f w heth er you understood it is a rar.ge o f perform ances
satisfyin g th e apodoses o f these gen eral hypothetical statem ents. It
should be noticed, on the on e h an d, th a t there is n o single nuclear
perform ance, o vert or in y o u r h ead, w h ich w ould determ ine th a t you
had understood th e argu m en t. E ven if you claim ed th a t yo u had e x ­
perienced a flash or click o f com prehension an d had actu ally done so,
yo u w ould still w ith draw yo u r o th er claim to have understood the
argum ent, if you fo u n d th a t you could not paraphrase it, illustrate,
expand or recast it; an d you w ould allow som eone else to have under­
stood it w ho could m eet all exam ination-questions ab o u t it, b u t re­
ported no click o f com prehension. It should also be noticed, on the
other h an d, that th ou gh there is no w ay o f specifyin g how m an y or
w hat sub-tests m ust b e satisfied fo r a person to q u a lify as h avin g
perfectly understood the argu m en t, this does not im p ly that n o finite
164 TH E CO N CEPT OF M IN D

set o f sub-tests is ever enough. T o settle w heth er a hoy can d o long


division, w e do not req uire h im to try ou t h is h an d on a m illion , a
thousand, or even a hundred different problem s in long division. W e
should n ot be q u ite satisfied a fte r one success, b u t we should n o t re­
m ain dissatisfied a fte r twenty, provided th at th ey were ju d iciou sly
variegated and th a t he had not done them before. A good teacher,
who not o n ly recorded th e boy's correct an d incorrect solutions, b u t
also w atched h is proced u re in reach in g th em , w ould b e satisfied m uch
sooner, a n d he w ould b e satisfied sooner still i f h e got the b oy to
describe and ju s tify the constituent operations th a t he perform ed,
though o f course m a n y boys can do lo n g division suir.s w h o cannot
describe or ju s tify th e operations p erform ed in d o in g them .
I discover m y or yo u r m otives in m u ch , th o u gh not quite th e sam e
way as I discover m y or your abilities. T h e b ig practical difference is
that I can n ot p u t th e subject th ro u g h h is paces in m y in q u iries into
his inclinations as I can in m y inquiries into h is com petences. T o dis­
cover how con ceited or patriotic you arc, I m ust still observe yo u r
conduct, rem arks, dem eanour, an d tones o f voice, b u t I cannot su bject
you to exam ination-tests o r experim ents w hich you reccgn ize as such.
Y o u would h ave a special m otive fo r respon ding to such experim ents
in a p articu lar w ay. F ro m m ere conceit, perhaps, you w ould tr y to
behave self-effacingly, or from m ere m od esty yo u m ight try to behave
conceitedly. N o n e the less, ord in ary d a y to d a y observation n orm ally
serves sw iftly to settle su ch questions. T o be conceited is to ten d to
boast o f o n e’s ow n excellences, to p ity or rid icu le th e deficiencies o f
others, to d ayd re am ab o u t im agin a ry trium phs, to rem inisce about
actual trium ph s, to w eary q u ick ly o f conversations w hich reflect un ­
favou rab ly upon oneself, to lavish one's society upon distin guished
persons an d to eco n o m ize in association w ith th e undistinguished.
T h e tests o f w h eth er a person is conceited are th e actions h e takes and
the reactions h e m anifests in such circum stances. N ot m an y anec­
dotes», sneers, or sycophancies arc required fro m th e subjcct fo r the
ordinary observer to m ake up h is m in d , unless th e candidate an d the
exam iner happen to b e identical.
T h e ascertainm ent o f a person’s m en tal capacities and propensities
is an in d u ctive process, a n in d u ction to law -like propositions fro m
observed actions an d reactions. H av in g ascertained these long-term
qualities, we exp lain a particular action or reaction b y a p p ly in g the
result o f such an introduction to the new specim en, save w here open
avowals let us know the explanation w ith o u t research. T h e se in d u c­
tions a re not, o f course, carried o u t un der lab oratory conditions, or
SELF-KN O W LED GE 165

w ith an y statistical app aratus, a n y m ore than is the shepherd’s


w eather-lore, or the g en eral p ractitioner's u n d erstan d in g o f a particu­
lar patient's constitution. B u t they are o rd in arily reliab le en ou gh . It is
a truism to say th at th e app reciation s o f ch aracter and the exp lana­
tions of co n d u ct given b y critical, u n p reju d iced an d h u m an e ob­
servers, w ho h ave h a d a lot o f exp erien ce an d take a lot o f interest,
tend to b e b o th sw ift an d reliable; those o f inferior ju d ges tend to be
slower a n d less reliable. S im ila rly th e m arks aw arded b y practised
a n d keen exam in ers w h o know th eir su b ject well an d are reasonably
sym pathetic tow ards th e can d id ates tend to be about righ t; those o f
inferior exam in ers tend to scatter m ore w id ely from the proper order.
T h e point o f these truism s is to rem in d us th a t in real life we are q uite
fam iliar w ith th e tech n iq u es o f assessing persons and a cco u n tin g for
th eir actions, th o u g h acco rd in g to th e stan dard theory n o su ch tech­
n iques co u ld exist.
T h e re is one class o f persons w hose q u alities and fram es o f m in d
are specially difficult to appreciate, n a m e ly persons w ho sim ulate
qualities w h ich th e y lack an d dissim ulate q u alities w h ich th e y possess.
I refer to h yp o critcs an d ch arlatan s, th e people w ho pretend to
m otives an d m oods an d th e people w h o pretend to abilities; th at is,
to m ost o f us in som e stretches o f ou r lives and to som e o f u s in m ost
stretches o f o u r lives. I t is alw ays possible to pretend to m otives and
abilities o th er th a n on e’s rea l ones, or to pretend to strengths o f
m otives a n d levels o f a b ility o th er than th eir real strengths and
levels. T h e theatre could n ot exist, if it was not possible to m ake such
pretences and to m ake th em efficiently. It is, m oreover, alw ays pos­
sible for a person to ta k e others or h im self in b y actin g a part (as the
spectators are n o t taken in a t the th eatre, since th ey have paid to see
people a ct w ho advertise them selves as actors). A t first sigh t it seems,
th en , that n o on e ca n ever h ave proper kn ow ledge o f his own m ind,
or o f (he m inds o f others, since th ere is no kin d o f observable be­
h aviour o f w h ich w e can say, ‘n o one cou ld possibly b e p u ttin g that
on’. C ertain ly we do n o t o rd in arily feel p ractically em barrassed b y
this possibility, b u t som e people feet a th eoretical em barrassm ent,
since if a n y p articu lar action or reaction m ig h t b e a piece o f sh am ­
m in g, m ig h t not e ve ry action or reaction be a piece o f sh am m in g?
M ig h t not a ll o u r appreciations o f the co n d u ct o f others and o f ou r­
selves be u n ifo rm ly d elu d ed ? People som etim es feel an analogous
em barrassm ent a b o u t sense perception, fo r since there is n o th in g to
prevent a n y p articu lar sensible appearan ce fro m b e in g an illusion,
th ere seems to b e n o th in g to p reven t all o f th em from b ein g illusions.
TIIE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

H ow ever, the m enace o f universal sh am m in g is a n err.pty m enace.


W c know w hat sh am m in g is. It is d elib erately b eh avin g in ways in
which o th er people b eh ave who are n o t sh am m ing. T o sim ulate co n ­
trition is to p u t on gestures, accents, words, and deeds like those o f
people w ho are contrite. Both the h yp ocrite and th e people w hom he
deceives m ust therefore know w hat it is like fo r som eone to be con­
trite an d n o t m erely to be pretending to be contrite. I f we were not
usually correct in sizin g up contrite people as contrite, we could not
be gu lled into th in k in g that th e h ypocrite was really contrite.
Furtherm ore, we know what it is like to be h ypocritical, n am ely to
try to appear actuated b y a m otive o th er than one’s real m otive. W e
know th e sorts o f tricks the hypocrite m ust use. W e poi-sess, th ou gh
we cannot alw ays app ly, th e criteria b y w hich to ju d g e w hether these
tricks are b ein g used or not and w heth er they are b ein g used clcverly
or stupidly. So som etim es wc can. and som etim es wc cannot, detect
hypocrisies; b u t even when wc cannot, we know w h at sorts o f extra
clues, if we could secure them , w ould betray the hypocrite. W e should,
for exam ple, like to see how h e w ould act if told th a t the cause for
which he professed devotion required h a lf his fortu n e or his life. A ll
that we need, th o u g h wc often can n ot get it, is an experim entum
crttcis, ju st as th e doctor often needs but can n ot g e t an experim entum
crucis to decide betw een two diagnoses. T o establish hypocrisy and
charlatanry is an in du ctive task w hich differs from the ord in ary in ­
ductive tasks o f assessing m otives an d capacities only in b ein g a
sccond order induction. It is try in g to discover w hether som eone is
tryin g to m odel h is actions cn w h at he and we h ave in du ctively dis-
ODvercd to be th e beh aviou r of people w ho arc n o t sham m ing. W h en
we an d the h yp o crite h ave learned how h ypocrisy is exposed, wc
m ight have to cope w ith the sccond order h ypocrite, th e double-
bluflcr w h o has learn t how not to act like a first order hypocrite.
T h ere is no m ystery ab o u t sham m ing, th ou gh it is a tautology to say
that skilful «ham m ing is h a u l to d etect an d th a t succcssful sh am m in g
is undetected.
So fa r we h ave b een considering ch iefly those bran ds of self-know ­
ledge and the know ledge o f others w hich consist in the m ore or less
judicial assessm ent o f long-term propensities an d capacities, together
with the application o f those assessm ents in explanations o f p articu ­
lar episodes. W e h ave been considerin g how we interpret or u n der­
stand courses o f conduct. But th ere rem ains an o th er sense o f ‘know ’
in w hich a person is com m only said to know w h at he is at this
m om ent doin g, th in k in g, feelin g, etc., a sense w h ich is nearer to w hat
SELF-KN O W LED G E 167

the phosphoresccnce-theory o f consciousness tried, b u t failed , to des­


cribe. T o b rin g ou t th e fo rce o f th is sense o f ‘know’, w c should con­
sider first certain kin d s o f situations in w hich a person adm its th at he
did not know a t the tim e w hat h e was d o in g, alth o u gh w hat he was
doing was n o t an autom atism b u t a n in telligen t operation. A person
tryin g to solve a cross-word p u z z le is confronted b y a n anagram ;
after a short or lon g pause he g ets the answ er, but den ies th at h e is
aware o f ta k in g a n y specifiable steps, or follow ing a n y specifiable
m ethod, to g e t it. H e m a y even sa y th a t he was th in kin g, and knew
(hat h e was th in k in g , a b o u t som e o th er part o f th e p u zzle. H e is in
some d egree surprised to find th at h e h as g o t the answ er to the ana­
gram , fo r h e h ad not been aw are o f g o in g through a n y sh u fflin g and
reshuffling operations, or considering an y o f :he unsuccessful re­
arrangem ents o f th e letters. Y e t h is solution is correct an d he m ay
repeat, his success several tim es in th e course of solving the whole
pu zzle. O u r im prom p tu w itticism s o ften tak e us b y surprise in the
same sort o f way.
N ow u su ally w e a re n o t surprised to catch ourselves h avin g
w histled, planned, or im a gin ed so m eth in g and we say, if asked, that
we are n o t surprised, because we knew we were d o in g these things,
whiie we w ere d o in g th em . W h a t sort o f a rider are w e a d d in g w hen
w c »ay 4I d id so am i so m id kuew a t ilie tim e iltai I was d oin g it’?
T h e tem p tin g rep ly is to say ‘ W ell, w h ile I was d o in g the th in g, it
m ust h a ve flashed or daw ned upon m e th at I was d o in g it; or, if the
action was a protracted one, it m ust h a ve kep t on flash ing or daw ning
on me th a t I was d o in g the th in g ’. Y e t these m etaphors o f flash ing
and d aw n in g leave us uneasy, fo r we do not ordinarily recall an y
such occurrences, even w hen we are q u ite sure that we knew w hat wc
were doing, w'hile w e w ere d o in g it. M oreover, if th ere h a d occurred
a n y such flash in gs or d aw nin gs, th e sam e question w ould arise once
more. D id you know th a t you w ere g e ttin g these ligh tin gs-u p , when
they w ere on, and th a t y o u w ere not g e ttin g them , w hen th ey were
n ot on ? D id it flash on you th at it w as flash in g on yo u th at you were
w'histling? O r is yo u r k n o w in g th a t som eth in g is g o in g od not alw ays
a m atter o f so m eth in g flash in g on you?
W h en a person is described as not b ein g surprised w hen som ething
takes place, he can also be described as h a vin g expected it or h avin g
been prepared fo r it. B u t we use ‘exp ect’ in a- least two m arkedly
different ways. Som etim es we m ean th at at a particular m om ent he
considered an d acceptcd th e proposition th at the event w ould, or
w ould p ro b ab ly, take place; in this sense, th ere w ould be an answer
i68 THE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

to th e question, ‘E xa ctly when d id you m ake this fo reca st?’ Bur som e­
tim es we m ean th at w hether or not he ever w ent throu gh th e process
o f m ak in g such a forecast, he w as continuously prepared o r ready for
the th in g to happen. T h e gard en er w ho, in this sense, exp ects rain
need not b e repeatedly sw itch in g his attention from ga rd e n in g tasks
to silem or vocal prognostications o f rain; h e ju st leaves th e watering-
can in the tool-shed, keeps his coat h an d y, beds out m ore seedlings,
and so on. H e anticipates th e ra in not b y delivering occasional or in ­
cessant verbal presages, b u t b y g a rd e n in g appropriately. A l l the after­
noon he is ready and m akin g re a d y fo r rain. It m a y be objected, ‘O h,
but h e m ust b e constantly con sid erin g the proposition th at it will
rain. T h a t is w hat m akes h im keep his coat h a n d y an d th e watering-
pot in th e shed.’ B u t the answ er to this is easy. ‘T e ll m e at w hich
particular m om ents he told h im self or others th at it was g o in g to rain,
and th e n tell m e w heth er he w as or was not exp ectin g rain in the
in tervals betw een those prognostications/ H e prognosticated rain at
this, th at, and the o th er m om ent, because he was all the tim e expect­
in g rain ; and h e kept his coat h a n d y an d the w atering-can in d ie
shed fo r the sam e reason. In th is sense ‘exp ect’ is used to sign ify not
an occurren ce b u t a stan d in g con dition or fram e o f m ind. H e is all
the afternoon in the fram e o f m in d to say certain thin gs in the fu tu re
tense in ccrtain contingencies, as well as to con du ct his gardening-
operations in certain ways, to keep his coat h an d y a n d so on. T o
expect, in this sense, is to b e prepared; and the g iv in g o f w arnings,
private or public, is on ly one sort o f precaution ary m easure am on g
others. So when we say th at th e gardener w as not taken b y surprise b y
the rain, or th at he was sure th a t it was g o in g to rain, or th a t h e was
re a d y for rain, we arc not referrin g, save per accidens, to a n y internal
flashes o f foresight, or to a n y silen t or vocal utterances in th e fu tu re
tense. A ll his afternoon activities, h orticu ltural and verb al, were
perform ed in a rain-expectant fra m e o f m ind.
T h is lesson can b e applied to our problem . T h e re are m an y tasks
in w h ich we are from tim e to tim e en gaged th e execu tion o f which
requires continued application; d oin g the second step requires h avin g
done the first step. Som etim es th e earlier steps stand to th e later as
m eans to ends, as we la y th e tab le in order to h ave a m eal. Som e­
tim es the earlier steps stand in som e o th er relation to th e later; we
do n ot eat the first course in o rd er to eat the second, or b e g in to hum
a tu n e in order to finish h u m m in g it. V e r y often an un dertaking,
th o u gh it requires consecutive app lication , is o n ly artificially divisible
into steps or stages, b u t it still rem ain s significant to say th a t it m igh t
SELP-K N O W LED G E 169

b e broken ofF short, w h en o n ly ab o u t h a lf or ab o u t three-quarters


accom plished. N o w if th e agent is ca rry in g ou t such a serial operation
with a n y d egree o f heed, he m ust a t a n y g iv en stage in it h ave in
m ind, in som e sense, w hat is to b e don e n e x t an d w h at has already
been done; h e m ust h ave kept u ai.k o f w here lie h as g o t to an d he
m ust be exp ectin g, or even in ten d in g, to be g e ttin g on to the stages
a fter the present stage. T h is is som etim es expressed b y sayin g that,
in a n yh o w those serial undertakings th a t a rc m ore or less in telli­
g e n tly perform ed, th e agent m ust h ave h a d fro m th e start a plan or
program m e o f w h at he is to d o and he m ust con tin u ou sly consult this
plan as he progresses. A n d this does freq u en tly happen. B u t it cannot
alw ays happen, an d even when it does h app en , this construction and
consultation o f program m es is not en ough to exp lain th e consccutive
an d m eth od ical prosecution o f th e u n d ertak in g , since constru ctin g
and con su ltin g plan s a rc them selves serial operations in telligen tly
and con secu tively prosecuted, and it w ould b e absurd to suggest that
an infinite series o f serial operations m ust precede the in telligen t per­
form an ce o f a n y serial operation. N o r can in term itten t consultation
o f a plan exp lain h ow w c know w h at to be g e ttin g on w id i betw een
the consultations, how w c know w hich item s o f th e p la n to consult
a t different stages in th e task, or how we know th a t w hat w e are now
d o in g is in acco id a u cc with ih e recen tly consulted plan.
T h e prim e sense in w hich a person en gaged in a non-sudden task
has it in m in d w h at is to be don e at later stages is th at he is ready
to perform step th ree when th e occasion requires, n am ely w hen step
tw o is com pleted; and, w hat goes w ith this, th a t he is read y to tell
h im self or th e w orld w h at he w ould h a v e gon e on to do, if he had
n ot been prevented. W h ile en gaged in a n y g iv en step, he is pre­
pared fo r w h at should or m ay follow , an d w hen it does follow , he
is n o t surprised. In th is ser.se h e m ay b e aliv e to w h at h e is d o in g all
the tim e he is d o in g it, even th o u gh his attention is concen trated
on his task an d is not divided betw een the task an d an y contem ­
plations o r ch ro n iclin gs o f his prosecution o f it.
In o th er cases, as w hen h e su dden ly m akes an unprem editated
w itticism , h e is surprised to find w h at he h as done an d w ould not
describe h im self as havin g kn ow n w hat h e was d o in g, w hile h e did
it, or even as h a v in g been try in g to m ake a joke. T h e sam e th in g is
true o f o th er sudden acts perform ed on the spur o f the m om ent. T h e
action m ay w ell be th e righ t action to have perform ed, b u t the agent
does not kn ow h ow h e cam e to p erfo rm it, as h e w as unprepared for
it. H is b e in g unprepared for it is n o t the effect or th e cause o f his
¡7 0 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

not kn o w in g w h a t h e was doing; it is th e sam e th in g , d ifferen tly


expressed.
U n like th e m an w h o w ith surprise catch es h im self m a k in g a good
im prom ptu joke, th e m an w ho pursues a new argu m en t is ord in arily
alive to w hat he is doing. H e m a y be surprised b y the conclusion at
w hich he arrives, b u t he is n o t surprised to find h im self a rriv in g at a
conclusion. H is progressive operation o f reasoning was a d isplay o f
his effort to reach one. So he knew w hat h e was then doin g, not
in the sense th a t h e h ad to d ilu te his consideration o f h is premisses
w ith o th er acts o f co n sid erin g his consideration o f th em - he need
not have had an y such side-issues flash or daw n upon h im — b u t in
the sense th a t he was prepared n ot o n ly for the steps in reasoning
th at h e was to take, b u t also for a variety o f o th er eventualities,
m ost o f w h ich never occurred, such as b ein g asked w h a t h e was
doing, w hat justification h e h ad fo r ta k in g th is rath er th a n th at line,
an d so forth . T h e phosphorescence-theory o f consciousness was in
part an attem p t to construe concepts o f fram es o f m in d like ‘pre­
pared’ , ‘rea d y’, ‘on the q u i vive\ ‘b earin g in m in d ’, ‘w ould n o t be
surprised’, ‘exp ect’, ‘rea lize’, a n d ‘alive to’ as con cep ts o f special
internal happenings.
T h e sam e sort o f accoun t h olds good o f n ot-forgettin g. W h en a
person e n g a g ed in conversation reaches th e m id d le o f a sentence,
h e has o rd in arily not fo rgo tten how his sentence b egan . In som e
sense he keeps con tin uou s track o f w h at he has a lrea d y said. Y e t it
w ould be absurd to suggest th a t he accom panies every w ord th at he
utters w ith an in tern al repetition o f all its predecessors. A p a rt from
th e physical im possibility o f recitin g the previous seventeen w ords
in the m om ent w hen th e eigh teen th word is ju s t g iv in g p lace to the
nineteenth, the process o f repetition is itself a serial operation, the
. execution o f the la ter parts o f w h ich w ould again req uire th a t its
auth or had kep t track o f its earlier parts. N ot-to-h ave-forgotten can­
n o t be described in term s o f the perform an ce o f actu al rem iniscences;
on the con trary, rem iniscences are o n ly one kin d o f exercise o f the
condition o f n ot-liavin g-forgottcn . B earin g in m in d is n o t recallin g;
it is w hat m akes recallin g, a m o n g o th er things, possible.
T h u s the in telligen t co n d u ct o f serial operations does en tail that
the agent is th ro u gh o u t th e progress o f the operation au fait both
w ith w hat he h as com pleted and w ith w hat rem ain s to d o , b u t it does
not entail th at th e perform an ce o f such operations is b a ck ed up by
any second ord er p erform an ce or process o f m o n ito rin g th e first
order perform ance. O f course an agen t can , fro m tim e to tim e, if he
SELF-KN O W LED GE 171

is prom pted to do so, an n o u n ce to h im se lf o r th e w orld ‘H allo , here


1 am w h istlin g “ H om e Sw eet H o m e” Hi? a b ility to d o so is part o f
w hat is m ean t by sa y in g th at he is in th a t p articu lar fram e o f m ind
th at we call ‘ being a liv e to w h a t h e is d oin g’. B u t not o n ly is his
actu a lly m a k in g su ch an n oun cem en ts not entailed b y the fa ct that
he is con cen tratin g on w h istlin g this tune, b u t his concentration
w ould be b ro ken each tim e h e produced such a com m en tary.
I h ave so fa r illustrated w h at I m ean hv a serial perform ance b y
such rela tiv ely brief operations as w histlin g a tu nc, o r u tterin g a
sentence. B u t in a slig h tly looser a n d m ore elastic sense, an entire
conversation m ay be a serial p erform ance; and so m ay be the conduct
o f one's w ork and recreation d u rin g a d a y or a year. E a tin g porridge
is a non-sudden perform ance; b u t so is eatin g breakfast; g iv in g a
lectu re is a serial p erform an ce, b u t so is g iv in g a course o f lectures.
N o w in alm ost the sam e w ay as a person m a y be, in this sense,
aliv e to w hat h e is d o in g, he m ay he alive to w h at som eone else is
doing. In th e seiial operation o f listen in g to a sentence or a lecture
delivered b y som eone else, th e listener, like th e speaker, docs not
altogeth er forget, y e t n or does h e have constantly to recall the earlier
parts o f tile talk, an d he is in som e degree prepared fo r the parts
still to com e, th o u gh he d ocs not h ave to tell h im self how he expects
th e acntcncc o r lcctu rc to g o on. C erta in ly his fram e o f m in d ia co n ­
siderably different from th a t o f th e speaker, since th e speaker is,
som etim es, creative or in ven tive, w hile the listener is passive and
receptive; the listener m ay be freq u en tly surprised to find the speaker
sayin g som ethin g, w h ile th e speaker is only seldom surprised; the
listener m a y find it hard to keep track o f th e course taken b y the
sentences and argum ents, w hile the speaker ca n d o th is q u ite easily.
W h ile the speaker in ten ds to say certain fa irly specific things, his
hearer can an ticip ate o n ly ro u g h ly w h a t sorts o f topics are g o in g to
be discussed.
B u t th e differences a re d ifferen ces o f degree, not o f kind. T h e
superiority o f the speaker's kn ow led ge o f w hat h e is d o in g over that
o f th e iistener coes not in dicate th at he has P rivileged A ccess to
facts o f a type in evitab ly inaccessible to the listener, b u t o n ly that
h e is in a very good position to know w hat th e listener is often in a
very poor position to know . T h e turn s taken b y a m an ’s conversation
do not startle or perplex h is w ife as m u ch as th ey h ad surprised and
p u zzled his fiancee, n or do close colleagues h ave to exp lain th em ­
selves to each other as m u ch as th ey have to exp lain them selves to
th eir new pupils.
I ?2 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

I h ave, fo r expository purposes, treated as separate th ings the w ay


in w h ich an o rd in ary person is o rd in arily alive to w h at, a t a par­
ticular m om ent, h e is occup ied w ith an d th e ways in w hich ju d icia lly
m inded persons assess the ch aracters a n d explain the actions o f
other* an d o f them selves. T h e r e are u n d ou b ted ly m a n y b ig differen­
ces. T o appraise or exam in e requires special gifts, interests, training,
experience, pow ers o f com parison an d gen eralization , a n d im par­
tiality; w hereas m erely to b e alive to w hat one is w h istlin g or w here
one is w alkin g, is w ith in the capacities o f an ordinary ch ild . N o n e
tlie less, th e m ost n aive kn ow ledge o f w h at one is d o in g shades into
the m ost sophisticated appreciations o f particular perform ances,
ir.uch as the ch ild ’s in terest in th e robins on die bird table shades
ic to orn ith ology. A b o y w o rk in g o u t a n arith m etical problem is alive
in the m ost prim itive w ay to w hat he is d oin g; for w h ile he is th in k ­
in g ab o u t n u m b ers (and n o t ab o u t th in k in g about num bers), he docs
not forger th e earlier stages o f his reck o n in g, he bears in m in d the
rules o f m u ltip licatio n , a n d h e is n ot surprised to find h im self arriv­
in g at th e solution. B u t h e differs o n ly in degree o f alertness, cau tion
and sophistication fro m th e b o y w ho checks his results, fro m th e boy
who tries to find o u t w here h e has m ad e a m istake, or fro m th e boy
who spots an d exp lain s th e m istakes in the calculations o f som eone
else; th is last boy, again , differs on ly in d egree from th e cooperative
parent, the professional teacher, or th e exam iner. T h e b o y w ho is
just cap able o f w o rk in g o u t a sim ple sum is probably not yet able
to state precisely w h at he is doin g, or w h y h e takes th e steps that
he takes; the exam in er can evalu ate the actu al perform ances o f the
candidates in a fa irly precise an d h ig h ly fo rm alized system o f m arks.
But h ere aga in th e in articulateness o f the beginner's kn ow ledge o f
w hat he is d o in g shades b y a series o f gradations into the exam in er’s
num erical appraisal code.
A person’s know ledge ab o u t h im self and others m a y be distri­
buted betw een m an y ro u g h ly d istin gu ish ab le grades y ie ld in g corres­
pondingly num erous ro u g h ly d istin gu ish ab le senses o f ‘kn ow ledge’.
H e m a y b e aw are th a t h e is w h istlin g T ip p e r a r y ’ and not know that
he is w h istlin g it in order to g ive th e appearance o f a sang-froid
w hich he does n o t feel. O r, again, he m a y be aw are th a t he is
sh am m in g sang-froid w ith o u t kn ow in g th a t the trem ors w hich he
is try in g to h id e d erive fro m th e agitation o f a g u ilty conscience. H e
m ay know th at lie has an uneasy conscience and not know th at this
issues from som e specific repression. B u t in none o f the senses in
which w e o rd in arily consider w hether a person does or does not
SELF-KN O W LED GE 173

know som eth in g a b o u t him self, is th e postulate o f a P rivileged


A ccess necessary o r h elp fu l fo r th e exp lan atio n o f how h e has
achieved, o r m ig h t h ave achieved, th is kn ow ledge. T h e re are respects
in w h ich it is easier fo r m e to g e t su ch kn ow led ge ab o u t m yself than
to get it about, som eone else; iliere arc o ilie r tespects ¡11 w hich ¡1 is
harder. B u t these differences o f fa c ility do not d erive from , or lead
to, a difference in k in d between a person’s know ledge ab o u t him self
and h is know ledge about other people. N o m etaph ysical Iron C u rtain
exists com pellin g us to b e for ever absolute stran gers to on e another,
th o u g h ord in ary circum stances, togeth er w ith som e deliberate
m anagem ent, serve to m aintain a reasonable aloofness. S im ila rly no
m etaphysical looking-glass exists co m p ellin g us to b e fo r ever com ­
pletely disclosed a n d explained to ourselves, th o u g h from th e every­
d a y con d u ct o f o u r sociable an d unsociable lives w e learn to be
reasonably conversant w ith ourselves.

(5) D isclosure by U n studied TalJ(


O u r know ledge o f o th er people an d o f ourselves depends upon
o u r n oticin g how th e y and w e behave. B u t there is on e tract o f
h um an beh aviour on w hich we pre-em in en tly rely. W h e n the person
exam in ed has learned to talk an d w h en h e talks in a lan gu age
well know n to us, we use part o f h is ta lk as the prim ary source o f
ou r in form ation about him , th at part, n am ely , w h ich is spontaneous,
fran k, a n d unprepared. I t is, o f course, notorious th a t people are
freq u en tly reticen t a n d keep th in gs b ack , instead o f lettin g them
out. I t is notorious, too, th at people a rc freq u en tly insincere and
talk in m anners calculated to g ive false im pressions. B u t the very
fa ct th a t utterances can be gu a rd ed an d studied im plies th a t u n ­
guard ed , unstudied utterance is possible. T o l>e reticen t is deliber­
ately to refrain fro m b e in g open, an d to b e h yp o critica l is d eliberately
to refrain fro m sayin g w hat com es to one’s lips, w h ile p reten d in g to
sa y fra n k ly th in gs on e does not m ean. In a certain sense o f ‘ n atural’ ,
th e n a tu ra l th in g to d o is to speak one’s m in d , a n d th e sophisticated
th in g to d o is to refrain from d o in g this, or even to pretend to do
this, w hen on e is n ot really d o in g so. F u rth erm o re, n o t o n ly is un ­
studied ta lk n a tu ra l or unsophisticated, it is also th e n orm al w ay
o f talkin g. W e h a ve to take special pains to k eep th in gs back, only
because lettin g th em o u t is ou r n orm al response; an d we discover
th e techniques o f in sincerity o n ly fro m fa m ilia rity w ith th e m odes
o f u n fo rced conversation th a t are to be sim ulated. T o say this is
n o t to accord eth ica l laurels to h u m a n nature. U n studied utterance
174 THE CO N CEPT OF M IND

is n ot h on esty o r can d ou r. H on esty is a h ig h ly sophisticated disposi­


tion, fo r it is th e disposition to ab stain fro m in sin cerity, ju st as
candour is the disposition to abstain from reticcnce. A person could
not be h on est or can d id w ho h ad n ever know n in sin cerity or reti­
cence, an y m ore th a n a person co u ld b e insincere or reticent w ho
had n ever kn ow n in gen u ou s a n d open utterance.
T h e re are other kind s o f studied utteran ce, som e o f w hich w ill have
to be discussed a t a la te r stage, th a t b e lo n g not to n orm al sociable
conversations b u t o n ly to m ore serious affairs. T h e p h ysician , th e
jud ge, th e preacher, th e p olitician , th e astronom er, an d th e geom etri­
cian m a y g iv e th eir counsels, verdicts, hom ilies, theories, and
form ulae b y word o f m o u th , b u t th e y are then ta lk in g n o t in the
sense o f ‘ch a ttin g ’ b u t in the sense o f ‘p ro n o u n cin g’ or ‘propoun din g’.
Perhaps th ey prepare, b u t at least th ey w eigh , th eir words. T h e y do
r.ot say the first th in g s th a t co m e to th eir lips, fo r th eir discourse
is disciplined. W h a t th ey say w ould, un like spontaneous chat,
generally tolerate b e in g w ritten dow n an d even printed. It is not
im prom ptu or spontaneous, let fa ll, or b lu rted out, b u t delivered.
T h e ir au th ors are con sid erin g w h at to sa y a n d how to sa y it, in
order to produce precisely th e rig h t effect. IT iis sort o f talk is
literally prosy.
W c need 10 co m ra si norm al u n studied talk b oth w ith studied
conversational talk an d w ith studied non-conversational talk, fo r it
is th e basis o f both o f them . W e use un studied, con versational talk
not o n ly before we learn to converse g u a rd e d ly an d in sin cerely and
before we learn to discourse w eigh tily; we also con tin ue to occu p y
a good p a n o f o u r ta lk in g d a y in sayin g th e first th in gs th a t com e
to our lips. C am o u flag e an d g ra v ity a re o n ly in term itten t necessities.
It is not o n ly in o u r unem barrassed, un calcu lated colloquies w ith
others th at we say the first th in gs th at com e to o u r lips; we d o so
also in the easy, u n b u tto n ed colloquies th a t we h old , com m on ly in
silence, w ith ourselves.
In unstudied ch a t w e talk ab o u t w hatever we are a t the m om en t
chiefly interested in. It is not a rival interest. W e ta lk ab o u t the
garden fro m the m o tive th a t prom pts us to in spect an d potter in
the garden, n am ely interest in the gard en . W e ch a t ab o u t ou r d in n er
not because we are n o t interested in ou r din n er, b u t because we
are. W c m ay talk a b o u t o u r d in n er because we are h u n g ry , ju st as
we eat it because w c a re h u n g ry ; and w e can n o t easily h elp talkin g
about d ie steepness o f the h ill, for th e sam e reason th a t we cannot
easily h elp o u r steps fla g g in g as w e clim b it. Spontaneous utterance
SELF-KN O W LED G E I75

is n ot a collateral, co m p e tin g interest, it is an cxercise a u x ilia ry to


th e taking o f a n y in terest in a n y th in g w hatsoever.
A person w ho is an n oyed w ith a kn otted shoe-lace is, if he has
learned to talk, also in th e m ood to use a verbal expression o f
annoyance w ith ii. H e talks ab o u t it in a fie ifu l lone u£ voice. W h a t
he says, to g eth er w ith h is w ay o f sa y in g it, discloses o r lets us know
his fram e o f m in d, ju s t because h is u n studied using o f th at expres­
sion is on e o f th e th in gs that h e is in the fram e o f m in d to do.
T o tu g fr e tfu lly a t th e shoe-lace m ig h t be another. H e is sufficiently
aggravated b y th e k n o t to talk a ggra v ated ly about it.
U nstudied utteran ces are not, on th e one hand, effects o f the
fram es o f m in d in w h ich th e y are used, since fram es o f m in d arc n ot
incidents; b u t nor, on the o th er hand, are th ey reports about those
fram es o f m in d. I f th e Iorry-drivcr asks u rgen tly, ‘ W h ich is th e road
to L o n d o n ?’ h e discloses h is a n xiety to find out, b u t he docs not
m ake an au to b io grap h ical or p sych ological pronouncem ent about
it. H e says w h at h e says not from a desire to inform us or h im self
ab o u t h im self, b u t fro m a desire to g e t on to the rig h t road to
London. U n stud ied utterances arc not self-com m ents, th ou gh , as we
shall shortly see, th e y con stitute o u r p rim ary evidence fo r m akin g
sclf-com m ents, w hen we com e to b e interested in m ak in g them .
N ow m a n y un studied utteran ces em b o d y exp licit interest phrases,
or what I h a ve elsew here b een ca llin g ‘avow als’, like ‘I w an t’, ‘I hope',
*1 intend’, ‘I d islike', ‘I am depressed’, ‘ I w ond er1, ‘ I guess’ , an d ‘I feel
h u n g ry’; and th e ir g ra m m a r m akes it tem p tin g to m isconstrue all
th e sentences in w hich th ey occur «is self-descriptions. Hut in its
prim ary em p lo ym en t ‘I w a n t . . is n ot used to co n v ey inform ation,
b u t to m ak e a request or dem and. It is n o m ore m ean t as a con trib u ­
tion to gen eral kn o w led ge than ‘please’. T o respond w ith ‘d o y o u ? ’ or
'how do you k n o w ?’ w ould be g la rin g ly inappropriate. N o r, in th eir
prim ary em ploym en t, are i h a te . . a nd ‘I in ten d . . .* used for
th e purpose o f te llin g the h earer facts ab o u t the speaker; or else we
should not b e surprised to h e a r them uttered in th e cool, in form a­
tive tones o f voice in w h ich we say ‘he h a t e s . . . ’ and ‘th e y in te n d .. .
W e expect them , on th e con trary, to be spoken in a revolted and
a resolute tone o f voice respectively. T h e y are th e utterances o f
persons in revolted an d resolute fram es o f m ind. T h e y are things
said in detestation an d resolution an d not things said in order to
advance b io grap h ical know ledge a b o u t detestations a n d resolutions.
A person w ho notices th e u n studied u tteiances o f a speaker,
w h o m ay o r m a y n o t b e h im self, is, if his interest in the speaker has
176 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

th e appropriate d irectio n an d if h e kn ow s th e lan g u a g e in w hich


th e utterances are m ad e, esp ecially well situated to pass com m ents
upon the q u alities an d fram es o f m in d o f th eir author. W h ile
c a rcfu l o b servation o f the su b ject’s o th er b eh aviou r, su ch as his
o th e r overt actions, h is hesitation s, an d h is tears and lau gh ter, m ay
tell h im m u ch , th is b eh aviou r is n o t e x officio m ad e easy to witness,
or easy to interpret. B u t speech is e x officio m ad e to b e h eard and
m ade to be construed. L e a rn in g to talk is learn in g to m ake one­
self understood. N o sleu th -like pow ers are required for m e to find
o u t from th e w ords a n d tones o f voice o f yo u r un studied talk,
or even o f m y ow n u n stu d ied talk, th e fram e o f m in d o f the
talker.
W h e n talk is g u a rd e d - an d often w e d o n o t know w heth er it
is so o r not, even in th e avow als w c m ake to ourselves — sleuth-like
qualities d o h a v e to b e exercised. W e now h a v e to in fer fro m w hat is
said and done to w h at w ould h ave been said, i f wariness had not
been exercised, as w ell as to th e m otives o f th e wariness. F in d in g
o u t w h at is on th e pages o f an open b ook is a m atter o f sim ple
readin g; finding o u t w h at is on the pages o f a scaled book requires
h ypoth eses and evidence. B u t the fa c t th a t concealm ents h ave to be
penetrated does not im p ly th a t non-concealm ents h a v e to be
penetrated.
O n e o f the th in gs o ften signified b y ‘self-consciousness’ is the
notice we take o f o u r ow n unstudied utterances, in clu d in g our
exp licit avow als, w heth er these are spoken aloud, m u ttered , or said
in o u r heads. W e eavesdrop on o u r ow n voiced utterances an d our
own silent m onologues. In n o ticin g these we are p reparin g ourselves
to d o so m eth in g new, n a m e ly to describe th e fram es o f m in d w hich
these utteran ces disclose. B u t th ere is n o th in g in trin sically pro­
p rietary ab o u t th is activity. I can p a y h eed to w h at I overhear you
sayin g as w ell as to w h at I o verh ear m y se lf sayin g, th ou gh I cannot
overhear y o u r silent co lloq u ies w ith you rself. N o r can I read yo u r
diary, i f you w rite it in ciph er, o r keep it under lock a n d key.
Indeed, n ot o n ly is this sort o f self-study th e sam e in kin d as the
stu d y o f th e u n gu ard ed a n d later also th e gu ard ed utterances o f
others, b u t we learn to m ak e this stu d y o f o u r ow n ta lk from first
ta k in g part in the p u b lic discussion o f an yo n e’s talk as w ell as from
read in g novelists’ illu strative d ep loym en t o f th eir characters' talk,
to g eth er w ith th eir ex p la n a to ry descriptions o f it.
C ritical readers m a y ask w h y I h a v e refrain ed from u sin g the
verb ‘to th in k ' in stead o f su ch triv ia l verbs as 'ta lk ', ‘ch a t', ‘converse’,
SELF-KN O W LED GE I77

and l e t o u t’ , since clearly th e utterances w hich I h a ve been m ention­


in g are, o rd in a rily, pertin en t utterances, the authors o f w hich mean
w hat th ey say; I h a v e been m en tio n in g sign ifican t and in telligible
speech an d n o t th in g s lik e guffaw s, b ab b lin g s, or rigm arole. M y
reasons are tw o, and arc closely connected. F irst, th e utterances 1
h ave been co n sid erin g b elo n g to sociable in terch an ges o f conversa­
tion betw een speakers an d hearers, w ho m a y b e on e and th e sam e
persons. T h e ir p o in t is a con versation al point. Since m a n y o f the
utterances th at con stitu te a conversation are n ot in the in dicative
m ood, b u t arc questions, com m ands, com plaints, quips, scoldings,
co n gratu latio n s, etc., w e can n ot in th eir case speak o f those epistem-
ological d arlin gs the ‘th o u gh ts’ , ‘ju d g e m e n ts’, or ‘propositions’ ex­
pressed b y th em . Secon dly, we tend to reserve the verb ‘to th in k’
fo r th e uses o f those studied a n d severely d rilled utterances w hich
con stitute theories a n d policies. N o w we learn to ch at in the
nursery, b u t we h ave to g o to school to learn even the ru dim en ts o f
th eorizin g. T h e tech n iques o f th e o rizin g are learn ed in set lessons,
w hile con versation al speech is acq u ired alm ost en tirely b y con­
versing. So th e use o f sentences, an d p articu larly o f certain sorts
o f in d icative sentences, fo r th e special ends o f propoundin g, i.e.
p ro vid in g prem isses a n d d e liv e rin g conclusions, is a belated and
sophisticated use, an d n ecessarily com es later th an th e conversational
uses o f sentences an d phrases. W h e n a th eo ry o r a b it o f a theory
is voiccd alo u d , in stead o f b e in g con veyed in its proper m ilieu o f
print, we h esitate to call the vo icin g b y th e n am e o f ‘ ta lk ’ and we
should flatly refuse to call it ‘ch a t’ o r ‘conversation’. It is m eant
d id actically, not sociably. It is a kin d o f w ork, w hereas unstudied
ch at is n o kin d o f w ork, not even easy o r agreeab le work.

(6) T h e S elf
N o t o n ly theorists b u t also q u ite unsophisticated people, in cludin g
y o u n g ch ild ren , find perplexities in the notion o f T . C h ildren
som etim es p u z zle th eir h ead s w ith su ch questions as, ‘W h a t w ould
it be like if I b ecam e you an d y o u b ecam e m e ? ’ and ‘W h e re was
I b efore I b e g a n ? ’ T h e o lo g ia n s have been exercised over the question
‘W h a t is it in an in d ivid u al w hich is saved or d a m n e d ?’, and
philosophers h ave sp eculated w heth er ‘I’ denotes a peculiar and
separate substance an d in w h at consists m y indivisib le and con­
tin u in g id en tity. N o t all su ch p u zzles arise from th e unw itting
adoption o f th e p ara-m ecban ical hypothesis, an d I propose in this
section to try to d o ju stice to one p articu lar fa m ily o f su ch enigm as,
T7S TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

th e ex p o u n d in g an d so lvin g o f w hich m a y be o f som e general


theoretical interest.
T h e en igm as that I have in m ind all turn on w hat I shall call the
‘system atic elusiveness’ o f the concept o f T . W h en a ch ild, like
K im , h a v in g no theoretical com m itm ents or equipm ent, first asks
him self, ‘W h o or W h a t am I ? ’ h e docs n ot ask it fro m a desire to
know his ow n surnam e, age, sex, n ationality, o r position in the
form . H e know s all his ord in ary personalia. H e feels th at there is
som ething else in th e b ackgrou n d fo r w hich his *1* stands, a som e­
th in g w h ich has still to b e described a fter all his o rd in ary personalia
have been listed. H e also feels, very vagu ely, th at w h atever it is th a t
h is T stands for, it is som ething very im portant and q u ite unique,
un ique in th e sense th at neither it, nor a n y th in g lik e it, belongs
to anyone else. T h e re co u ld o n ly b e one o f it. P ron ou n s lik e ‘yo u ’»
‘ she’, and V e ’ feel q u ite u n m ystifvin g , w hile T feels m ystifyin g.
A n d it feels m ystifyin g, an yh ow in part, because th e m ore th e child
tries to p u t his finger on w hat T stands for. the less d ocs b e succced
in d o in g so. H e can catch o n ly its coat-tails; it itself is alw ays and
ob d u rately a pace ahead o f its coat-tails. L ik e th e shadow o f one’s
own h ead , it will n ot w ait to be jum ped on. A n d y e t it is never
very fa r ah ead ; indeed, som etim es it seem s not to b e ahead o f the
pursuer at all. I t evades capture b y lo d gin g itself inside the very
m uscles o f th e pursuer. It is too n ear even to b e w ithin arm 's reach.
T h eorists h ave fo u n d them selves m ocked in a sim ilar w ay b y
the co n cep t o f T . E ven H u m e confesses that, w hen h e has tried to
sketch all th e item s o f his experience, lie h as fo u n d n o th in g there
to answer to th e word T , an d yet h e is n ot satisfied th a t there does
n ot rem ain som eth in g m ore and som ethin g im portant, w ithout
w hich h is sketch fa ils to describe his experience.
O ther epistem ologists have felt sim ilar qualm s. S h o u ld I, or should
I not, put m y kn ow in g se lf dow n on m y list o f th e sorts o f things
th at I can h a v e kn ow ledge o f? I f I say ‘no’, it seem s to reduce m y
kn ow in g se jf to a th eoretically infertile m ystery, yet i f I say ‘ yes',
it seem s to reduce th e fishing-net to on e o f th e 0shcs w h ich it itself
catches. It seem s h azard ou s eith er to allow or to d e n y th at the
ju d g e can b e p u t in to the dock.
I sh all try before lo n g to explain this system atic elusivencss o f
the notion o f T and with it th e apparent non-parallelism between
the notion o£ T a n d the notions o f 'y o u ' and ‘he*. B u t it is expedient
first to con sid er som e points w hich h o ld good o f all personal
pronouns alike.
S E L F - K N O W L E D C-E 179

People, in clu d in g philosophers, ten d to raise th eir questions about


w hat constitutes a se lf b y askin g w hat the w ords T and ‘yo u ’ are
the nam es of. T h e y arc fam ilia r w ith the river o f w hich ‘T h a m es'
is th e n am e an d w ith the d o g called ‘F ido’. T h e y are also fam iliar
w ith the persons o f w hom ih c ir acquain tan ces’ an d their ow n sur­
nam es are the surnames. T h e y then feel vagu ely chat since ‘I’ and
‘you’ are n o t public surnam es, th e y m ust be nam es o f an oth er and
queer sort and m ust in consequence be :hc nam es o f som e extra
in d ivid u als hidden aw ay b eh in d or inside the persons w h o are
know n ab road b y their o rd in ary surnam es an d C h ristian nam es. A s
pronouns are no: registered at Som erset H ouse, th eir owners m ust
be differen t, som ehow, from th e ow ners ol th e C h ristian and sur­
nam es w h ich are registered there. B u t this w ay o f bro ach in g the
question is m istaken fro m the start. C ertain ly T and ‘yo u ’ are not
regular proper nam es like ‘F id o ’ an d ‘T h a m es’, but th e y are not
irregular proper nam es either. T h e y a rc net proper nam es, or names
at all, a n y m ore th an ‘today* is a n ephem eral nam e o f the current
day. G ratu itou s m ystification b egin s fro m the m om ent th at we start
to peer aroun d for the beings n am ed b y our pronouns. Sentences
co n tain in g pronouns do, o f course, m ention iden tifiab le people,
b u t the w ay in w hich the people m entioned are identified b y pro­
nouns is q u ite dilTcieuc £10111 ilitr way in which th ey arc ideutiiied by
proper names.
T h is difference can be provision ally indicated in the follow ing
m anner. T h e r e is a class o f w ords (w hich for ease o f reference m ay
be called ‘in d ex words') th at in dicate to the h earer o r reader the
p articu lar th in g , episode, person, place, or m om ent referred to. T h u s
‘now ’ is an in d ex word w h ich in dicates to the h earer o f the sentence
‘th e train is now g o in g over the b rid g e' th e p articu lar m om en t o f the
crossing. T h e word ‘n ow ’ can , o f course, be used a t a n y m om en t o f
any d a y or n igh t, b u t it does n o t m ean w hat is m ean t b y ‘a t any
m om ent o£ a n y day or n ig h t’. It indicate* th at p a rticu lar m om ent
a t w hich the hearer is in ten ded to h e a r the w ord ‘now ’ b e in g uttered.
T h e m om ent at w h ich the train crosses t i e b rid g e is in dicated b y
th e utteran ce a t th at m om en t o f th e word ‘now ’. T h e m om ent at
w hich ‘now ’ is b reathed is the m om en t w h ich it indicates. In a
p artly sim ilar w ay th e word 'th a t' is of:en used to in dicate the
p articu lar th in g at w h ich the speaker’s index fin ger is p o in d n g at the
m om ent when he b reathes o u t th e w ord ‘that\ ‘H ere’ indicates, some­
tim es, th at particular place fro m w h ich the speaker propagates the
noise ‘h ere’ in to the su rro u n d in g air; an d the p age indicated b y the
THE C O N C E PT O F MIND

phrase ‘this p age’ is th e page o f w h ich th e printed w ord ‘this’ occupies


a parr. O th er in d ex words in dicate in d irectly. 'Y e ste rd a y ’ indicates
the d a y before th at on w hich it is uttered, or p rin ted in a newspaper;
‘ then’, in certain uses, indicates a m om en t o r period stan d in g in a
specified relation w ith that in w h ich it is h eard o r read.
N o w pronouns lik e T a n d ‘y o u ' are, an yh o w sometimes» direct
in d ex words, w hile others, lik e ‘h e' a n d ‘th e y ’ and, in som e uses,
*we’ are in d irect in d ex words. T can in d icate th e p articu lar person
fro m w hom the noise T , o r th e w ritten m ark T , issues; ‘y o u ’ can
in d icate th e on e person w ho hears m e say ‘yo u ’, or it can in dicate
that person, w hoever h e is (and th ere m a y b e several) w h o reads the
‘you’ th at I write, or h a ve printed. In all cases th e p h ysical occurrence
o f an in d ex w ord is b o d ily an n exed to w h a t th e w ord indicates.
H en ce ‘y o u ' is not a queer n am e th a t I a n d others som etim es g ive
yo u ; it is an in d ex word w hich , in its p articu lar conversational
setting, indicates to yo u ju st w ho it is to w hom I am addressing
m y rem arks. T is n ot an extra nam e fo r an extra b ein g; it indicates,
w hen I say or w rite it, the sam e in d ivid u al w h o can also b e addressed
b y the proper n am e ‘G ilb ert R y le ’. *1* is not an alias fo r ‘G ilb ert
R y le ’ ; it indicates th e person w hom ‘G ilb ert R y le ’ nam es, w hen
G ilb ert R y le uses T .
B u t d iis is fa r fro m b ein g th e w h o le story. W e h ave now to
notice th at we use o u r pronouns, as w ell as o u r proper nam es, in a
wide variety o f different w ays. F u rth er m ystifications h ave arisen
fro m the detection, w ithout the com prehension o f contrasts betw een
such differen t uses o f ‘F an d, to a lesser exten t, o f ‘y o u ’ an d ‘he'.
In the sentence ‘I am w arm in g m y se lf b efo re th e fire', th e word
‘ m yself’ could be replaced b y ‘ m y b o d y’ w ith o u t sp oiling th e sense;
b u t the pronoun ‘I ’ could not b e rep laced b y ‘m y b o d y’ w ithout
m a k in g nonsense. Sim ilarly th e sentence ‘C rem ate m e a fte r I am
go n e' says n o th in g self-an nih ilatin g, since th e ‘m e’ an d the T are
b ein g used in different senses. So som etim es w e can , a n d som etim e*
we can n ot, paraphrase the first personal p ronou n b y ‘m y b o d y ’,
T h e re are even som e eases w here I can talk ab o u t a p art o f m y body,
b u t can n ot use ‘I ’ or ‘ me' for it. I f m y h air w ere scorched in a fire,
I could say ‘I w as n o t scorched; o n ly m y h a ir was’ , th o u g h I could
never say ‘I was n ot scorched; o n ly m y face an d h an d s w ere’ . A part
o f the b o d y w h ich is insensitive an d ca n n o t be m oved at w ill is
m ine, b u t it is not part o f m e. C on versely, m ech an ical auxiliaries
to the b o d y, su ch as m otor-cars and w alking-sticks, can be spoken of
w ith T an d ‘m e'; as in ‘I co llid ed w ith th e pillar-box', w h ich m eans
SELF-KN O W LED G E l8 l

the sam e th in g as ‘the c a r w h ich I was d riv in g (or w hich I owned


and was h a v in g d riven fo r m e in m y presence) collid ed w ith the
pillar-box*.
L e t us now consider som e con texts in w h ich T a n d ‘m e' can
certain ly not be replaced b y ‘m y b od y’ or ‘ m y leg ’. I f I sa y ‘I am
an n oyed th a t I was cu t in th e collision ’, w h ile I m ig h t accept the
substitution o f ‘m y leg was cu t’ fo r ‘I was cu t’, I should n o t allow
‘I am an n o yed ' to b e reconstructed in a n y such w ay. It w ould be
sim ilarly absurd to speak o f ‘m y h ea d rem em b erin g’, ‘m y brain
d o in g lo n g division ’, or ‘ m y b od y b a ttlin g w ith fa tig u e’. P erhaps it
is because o f the ab su rd ity o f such collocation s th a t so m a n y people
have fe lt d riven to describe a person as a n association betw een a
b o d y an d a non-body.
H ow ever, we are n ot y e t at the en d o f ou r list o f elasticities in
the uses o f T and ‘m e’ ; fo r w e find fu rth e r contrasts b reak in g out
betw een uses o f th e first personal pronoun in w hich none can be
paraphrased b y m ere references to th e b od y. It m akes perfect sense
to sa y th a t I c a u g h t m y se lf ju st b eg in n in g to dream , b u t not that I
ca u g h t m y b o d y b eg in n in g to dream , o r th a t m y b o d y ca u g h t m e
d o in g so; an d it m akes sense to sa y th a t a ch ild is tellin g h im self a
fairy-story, b u t nonsense to m ake h is b o d y cith er narrator o r auditor.
C ontrasts o f these types, perhaps ab o ve all th e contrasts advertised
in descriptions o f exercises o f self-control, h a ve in d u ced m any
preachers and som e th in kers to speak as if an o rd in ary person is
re a lly som e sort o f com m ittee or team o f persons, all laced togeth er
inside on e skin; as if th e th in k in g an d veto in g T w ere one person,
and th e g re e d y or la z y T were an oth er. B u t this sort o f p icture is
o b viou sly o f no use. P a rt o f w hat w c m ean b y ‘person’ is som eone
w h o is cap able o f ca tch in g h im self b e g in n in g to dream o f telling
h im self stories an d o f cu rb in g h is ow n greed. So th e suggested reduc­
tion o f a person to a team o f persons w ould m erely m u ltip ly the
n um b er o f persons w ith o u t ex p la in in g h ow it is th a t on e and the
sam e person can b e both narrator an d auditor, or b o th v ig ila n t and
dream y, b o ih scorched an d am azed a t b e in g scorched. T h e begin­
n in g o f the required exp lan atio n is th a t in such a statem en t as 1
ca u g h t m yself b eg in n in g to dream ’ , th e tw o pronouns are not
nam es o f d ifferent persons, since th ey are n o t nam es a t all, but
th a t th e y are in d ex w ords b e in g used in different senses in differen t
sorts o f con text, ju st as we saw was th e case w ith the statem ent ‘I
am w arm in g m yself b y th e fire' (th ou gh th is is a different difference
o f sense fro m th e other). In case it seem s un p lau sible to sa y that
THE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

insice on e sentence th e tw ice used first personal pronoun can b oth


indicate th e sam e person an d also h ave tw o differen t senses, it is
en o vg h fo r ih c m om en t to poin t out th a t the sam e th in g can
happen even w ith o rd in ary proper nam es and personal titles. T h e
sentence ‘a fte r her w ed d in g M iss Jones w ill n o longer be M iss Jones'
does not say th at the p articu lar w om an w ill cease to b e herself, or
cease to be the sort o f person she now is, b u t o n ly th at she w ill h ave
changed her nam e an d status; an d th e sentence ‘a fte r N ap oleon
returned to F ran ce, he was N ap o leo n no lo n g er’ m igh t m ean o n ly
th a t his q u alities o f gen eralsh ip had altered, and is obviou sly
analogous to th e fa m ilia r expression ‘ I am not m y se lf’. T h e state­
ments ‘I was ju s t b eg in n in g to d rea m ’ an d ‘I c a u g h t m yself ju s t be­
gin n in g to d ream ’ are statem ents o f lo g ica lly different types, and it
follow s from their b ein g o f different types th a t ih c pronoun T is
being used w ith a different logical force in the tw o sentences.
In con sid erin g specifically h u m an b eh avio u r - behaviour, th a t is,
w hich is u n achieved b y anim als, in fan ts, and idiots - we sh ou ld for
several reasons notice th e fa ct th a t som e sorts o f actions are in
on e way or an oth er con cern ed w ith, o r are operation s upon, o th er
actions. W h e n one person retaliates upon an other, scoffs at him ,
replies to h im or plays hide-and-seek w ith h im , h is action s h ave to
do, in on e w ay o r another, w ith certain actious o n the p a n o f the
other; in a sense to be specified later, the p erform an ce o f the form er
involves the th o u g h t o f the latter. A n action on th e part o f one
agent co u ld not b e on e o f sp yin g or ap p lau d in g, unless it h a d to do
w ith the actions o f an oth er agent; n or could I b eh ave as a custom er,
unless yo u or som eone else beh aved as a seller. O n e m an m ust g ive
evidence if an other is to cross-exam ine h im ; som e people m ust be
on the stage, if oth ers are to be d ram a tic critics. It w ill som etim es
be convenient to use th e title ‘h ig h e r order actions’ to denote those
the descriptions o f w h ich in volve th e o b liq u e m ention o f other
actions.
Som e, b u t not all. h ig h e r order actions in fluen ce th e agen t dealt
with. I f I m erely co m m en t on yo u r actions behind yo u r b ack, m y
com m ent h as to do w ith y o u r actions in th e sense th a t m y perform ­
ance o f m y act involves the th o u gh t o f yo u r perform an ce o f yours;
but it does not m o d ify yo u r actions. T h is is esp ecially d e a r w here
the com m entator or critic is o p eratin g a fte r the d eath o f the agent
on whose doin gs h e passes h is ju d gem en ts. T h e historian cannot
chan ge N ap o leo n ’s co n d u ct o f th e battle o f W aterlo o . O n th e other
hand, the m om en t a n d th e m eth od s o f m y a tta ck in g do affect the
SELF-KN O W LED G E 183

tim in g an d th e techniques o f y o u r defence, and w h at I sell has a lot


to do w ith w hat you buy.
N e x t, w hen I speak o f the action s o f one a gen t h a v in g to do with
those o f another, I d o not e xclu d e those actions w hich are perform ed
under th e m istaken im pression th a t the other is d o in g som ethin g
w hich ho is n ot really doin g. T h e ch ild \*ho applauds m y skill in
preten d in g to be asleep, th o u g h I h a ve in fa ct rea lly fallen asleep,
is d o in g som ething w hich , in th e req uired sense, presupposes that I
am preten d in g; and R obinson Crusoe really is h a v in g conversation­
ally to do w ith his parrot, if h e believes, or h a lf believes, th a t the
bird follow s w hat he says, even i f this b e lie f is false.
F in a lly, there are m an y kinds o f dealiugs w hich are concerned
w ith subsequent, or even m erely possible, or probable, actions. W h en
I b ribe you to vo:c fo r m e, y o u r votin g has not y e t taken place and
m a y n ever ta k e place. A referen ce to your vote enters into the
description o f m y bribe, b u t th e reference m ust be o f the pattern
‘th at you sh all vote for m e\ a n d n o t o f the p attern 'because you
did vote’, or ‘because I th o u g h t th at yo u d id vote fo r m e', In the
sam e w a y m y talkin g to you presupposes on ly in th is w ay yo u r
u n d erstan d in g and a g ree in g w ith m e, nam ely th at I talk in order
th at you m a y understand and agree w ith me.
60 w hen Joh n D o e counters, dctccts. icp o its, p aiod lcs, exploits,
applauds, m ocks, abets, copies, or interprets som ethin g done b y
R ich ard Roe, any description o f h is action w ould h a ve to em body
an o b liq u e m ention o f th e th in g done, o r supposed to b e done, by
R ich ard R oe; whereas n o such description o f John D o e ’s behaviour
w o u ld h ave to enter into the description o f th a t o f R ich ard R oc. T o
talk about Joh n D o c’s detection or m ockery w ould involve, b u t not
be in volved in, talkin g ab o u t w h at h e h ad been d etectin g or m ock­
in g, and th is is v h a t is m ean t b y sa y in g (hat John D oe’s action is
o f a h ig h er order th an th at o f R ich ard Roe. B y ‘h ig h er’ I do not
m ean ‘loftier*. B lack m ailin g a deserter is of a h ig h e r order than hia
desertion, and advertisin g is o f a h ig h e r order than selling. R ecol­
le ctin g th e d o in g o f a kindness is n o t nobler than th e d o in g o f it,
b u t it is o f a h igh er order.
It m a y b e h yg ien ic to rem em ber that th o u g h the actions o f
rep ortin g or com m en tin g on th e actions o f others b eh in d their
backs is one species o f h ig h e r order action, it has no special priority
o ve r the o th er w ays o f d e a lin g w ith these actions. K eep in g an
academ ic tally o f w hat R ich ard R o e does is o n ly one w ay in w hich
John D o e takes steps ab o u t R ich a rd R o e’s steps. T h e construction
18 4 THE c o n c e p t o f m in d

and p u b lic o r private use o f sentences in the in d icative is not, as


intellectualists love to think, cith er Joh n D oe’s indispensable first
m ove o r h is U top ian last move. B u t this point requires us to consider
the sense in w h ich perform in g a h ig h er ord er action ‘involves th e
th o u gh t o F d ie corresponding lower order action. It does not m ean
th at if, fo r exam ple, I am to m im ic yo u r gestures, I m ust do tw o
things, n am e ly b o th verbally describe y o u r gestures to m y self and
produce gestures co m p lyin g w ith d ie term s em p loyed in that
description. T e llin g m yself ab o u t y o u r gestures w ould in itself b e
a h igh er ord er perform ance, a n d one w h ich w ould eq u a lly in volve
the th o u g h t o f yo u r gestures. T h e phrase ‘involve th e th o u gh t o f
does n o t sig n ify a casual transaction, or the con com itan ce o f a
process o f o n e sort w ith a process o f an oth er sort. A s com m en tin g
on y o u r gestures, to be com m enting, m ust itself b e th in k in g in a
certain w ay o f y o u r gestures, so m im ick in g th em , to b e m im icry and
n ot m ere replica, m ust itself be th in k in g in a certain w a y o f your
gestures. B u t o f course this is a strained sense o f ‘ th in k in g ’; it does
not denote an y sort o f pon dering or entail the enun ciation o f any
propositions. I t m eans that I m u st kn ow w h a t I am d o in g and, since
w h at I am d o in g is m im ickin g, I m ust know th e gestures you m ade
and b e u sin g th a t know ledge, u sin g it in the m im ick in g w ay and
not in th e rep ortin g or com m entin g way.
H ig h e r order action s are n o t instinctive. A n y o n e o f them can be
done efficiently or inefficiently, appropriately or inappropriately,
in telligen tly o r stupidly. C h ild ren have to learn how to perform
them . T h e y h a ve to learn h ow to resist, parry, and retaliate, how to
forestall, give w ay, a n d cooperate, how to exch an g e a n d h a ggle, re­
w ard and punish. T h e y h ave to learn to m ak e jokes again st others
an d to see som e jo k e s against them selves, to ob ey orders and give
them , m ake requests a n d g ran t th em , receive m arks an d aw ard them .
T h e y h a ve to learn to com pose and follo w reports, descriptions, and
com m entaries; to understand and to g ive criticism , to accept, reject,
correct, and com pose vcrdicts, ca tech ize, and be catech ized . N o t
least (and also not soonest) th e y h ave to learn to keep to them selves
things w h ich th ey are inclined to d ivu lge. R eticence is o f a h igh er
order th an unreticence.
M y ob ject in d ra w in g atten tion to these truism s o f the playroom
and th e schoolroom can now be seen. A t a certain stage th e child
discovers th e trick o f d irectin g h ig h e r o rd er acts upon his own
lower ord er acts. H a v in g been separately victim a n d au th o r o f jokes
coercions, catechism s, criticism s, and m im icries in th e inter-personal
SELF-KN O W LED GE 18 5

dealings betw een o th ers an d h im self, he finds o u t how to p lay both


roles a t once. H e has listened to stories b efore, and he has told
stories before, b u t n ow h e td ls stories to his ow n enthralled ear. l i e
has been detected in insincerities an d h e has detected the insincerities
o: others, b u t now he applies th e techniques o f detection to his ow n
insincerities. H e finds th a t he can g ive orders to h im self w ith such
au th o rity th a t h e som etim es obeys them , even w hen reluctant to do
so. Self-suasion a n d self-dissuasion b ecom e m ore or l-sss effective.
H e lea m s in adolescence to ap p ly to his ow n behaviour m ost o f
those h ig h er o rd er m ethods o f d ealin g w ith th e yo u n g th a t arc
regu larly practised b y adults. H e is th en said to be grow in g up.
M oreover, ju s t as h e had earlier acqu ired not on ly th e ability,
but also th e in clin ation to direct h ig h er order acts upon th e acts o f
others, so he n ow becom es prone, as w ell as com petent, to d o the
same upon his ow n behaviour; an d ju s t as he h ad earlier learned to
cope n o t o n ly w ith th e particular perform ances o f others, but also
w ith th eir dispositions to conduct such perform ances so he now
becom es in som e d egree both able a n d read y to tak e steps, theoretical
and practical, a b o u t h is own habits, m otives, and abilities. N o r are
his ow n h ig h e r ord er perform ances, o r h is dispositions to perform
them , in a n y w ay exem p ted fro m ju st th e sam e treatm ent. F o r any
p srto im an ce o f a n y order, it is alw ays possible th at there sh ou ld be
perform ed a variety o f h ig h er order actions about it. I f I ridicule
som ething done b y you, or b y m yself, I can , but usually do n ot
go on to pass a verbal com m en t on m y am usem ent, apologize for
it, or le t others into th e joke; and th en I can g o on to applaud
or reproach m yself fo r d oing so, an d m ake a note in rr.y d ia ry th at
I h a ve done this.
It w ill b e seen th a t w h at is h ere u n d er discussion covers m u ch o f
both w h at is o rd in arily called ‘self-consciousness’ and w h at is
ord in arily called ‘self-control', th o u gh it covers m u ck m ore than
them. A person can, indeed, and m ust a ct som etim es as reporter
upon h is ow n d o in gs and som etim es as p refect regu latin g h is own
conduct, b u t these h ig h e r order self-dealings are only tw o ouc of
in n um erable bran ds, ju st as th e corresp on d in g inter-personal deal­
ings are o n ly tw o ou t o f innum erable brands.
N o r m ust it be supposed that th e reports w h ich a person m akes to
him self upon his ow n doings, or th e régim es w h ich he imposes upon
his own con d u ct are in evitab ly free fro m b ias or carelessness. M y
reports on m y se lf are su bject to th e sam e kin d s o f dcfects as are m y
reports on yo u , an d th e adm onitions, corrections, and injunctions
TH E C O N C E PT OF MIND

w hich I im pose on m y se lf m a y show m e to b e as in effectual or ill-


advised as does m y d iscip lin in g o f others. Self-consciousncss. if the
word is to be used a t a ll, m ust n o t b e described on th e h allow ed para-
optical m odel, as a torch that illu m in ates itself b y beam s o f its own
lig h t reflected fro m a m irror in its ow n insides. O n th e con trary it is
sim ply a special case o f an o rd in ary m ore or less efficient h a n d lin g o f
a less or m ore honest and in telligen t witness. S im ilarly, self-control is
not to b e likened to the m an agem en t o f a p a rtia lly disciplined subor­
din ate b y a superior o f perfect w isdom a n d au th ority; it is sim p ly a
spccial ease o f th e m an agem en t o f an o rd in ary person b y an ordinary
person, n am ely w here John D o e, say, is ta k in g both parts. T h e truth
is not th at there occu r som e h ig h e r order acts w h ich arc above criti­
cism , b u t th at a n y h ig h e r order act th at occurs can itself be criti­
cized; not th at som ethin g u n im p rovab le does take place, b u t th at
n o th in g takes p lace w h ich is not im p rovab le; not th a t a n y operation
is o f th e h igh est order, but th at for a n y operation o f a n y order there
can be operations o f a h igh er order.

(7) T h e System atic Elusiveness o f T


W e a re now in a position to acco u n t fo r the system atic elusiveness
of th e n otion o f T , an d the p a rtia l non-parallelism betw een it and
th e notion o f ‘y o u ’ or ‘lie’. T o concern on eself about on eself in any
w ay, theoretical or practical, is to p erform a h ig h e r o rd er act, ju st as it
is to concern o n eself about a n y b o d y else. T o try. fo r exam p le, to de­
scribe w hat one has ju st dDne, or is now doin g, is to com m en t upon
a step w hich is not itself, s*vc per accidens, one o f com m entin g. B u t
the operation w h ich is the co m m en tin g is not, a n d cannot be, th e
step on w hich th a t com m entary is b ein g m ad e. N o r can an act of
rid icu lin g be its ow n butt. A h ig h e r o rd er action cannot be the
action upon w h ich it is perform ed. So m y co m m en tary on m y per­
form an ces m ust alw ays be silent a b o u t one p erform an ce, n am ely
itself, and th is perform an ce can be the target o n ly o f an oth er com ­
m entary. Self-com m en tarv, self-ridicule, and self-adm on ition are
lo gically con d em n ed to eternal p en u ltim acy. Y e t n o th in g th a t is left
out o f a n y p articu lar com m en tary or ad m o n itio n is privileged th ereb y
to escape com m en t or ad m onition fo r ever. O n the con trary it m a y be
th e target o f th e very n ex t co in m cn t or rebuke.
T h e point m ay be illustrated in th is w ay. A singing-m aster m igh t
criticize the accents or notes o f a pu pil b y m im ick in g w ith e x a g g e ra ­
tions each w ord th at the pu pil sang; and if the pupil san g slow ly
en ough , the m aster could parody ea ch w ord su n g b y th e pu pil before
SELF-KN O W LED GE 187

the n e x t cam e to be uttered. B u t then, in a m ood o f hum ility, the


singing-m aster tries to criticize h is ow n sin gin g in the sam e w ay, and
more than th a t to m im ic w ith exaggerations each word that he utters,
in clud in g those th at h e utters in self-parody. It is a t once clear, first,
that he can never g e t b eyon d che very earliest word o f his song and,
secDnd, th at a t a n y g iven m om ent h e has uttered one noise w hich
ha? ye t to be m im icked - and it m akes no difference how rap idly he
chases his notes w ith m im icries o f th em . H e can , in principle, never
catch m ore than the coat-tails o f th e o b ject o f his pursuit, since a
word can n ot be a p aro d y o f itself. N o n e th e less, th ere is r,o word th at
he sings w hich rem ain s unparodicd; h e is alw ays a d a y late for the
fair, b u t every d a y he reaches the p lace o f yesterd ay’s fair. H e never
succeeds in ju m p in g on to th e shadow o f his ow n h ead , yet he is never
more than one ju m p behind.
A n ordin ary review er m a y review a book, w hile a sccond order
reviewer criticizes review s o f the book. B u t th e second order review
is not a criticism o f itself. It c m o n ly b e criticized in a f ir i h e r third
order review. G iven com plete editorial patience, a n y review o f an y
order could be pu b lish ed , th cu gh a t no stage w ould all the reviews
have received critical notices. N o r can every a ct o f a diarist be the
topic o f a record in his d ia ry; for th e last en try m ade in his d iary still
dem ands th at the m a k in g o f n should iu its tu rn be chroniclcd.
T h is, I th in k, exp lain s th e fe e lin g th a t m y last year's self, or m y
yesterday's self, co u ld in principle be ex h a u stively described and
accounted for, an d chat y o u r past or present se lf cou ld be exhaustively
d cjcribed and accoun ted fo r b y m e, b u t th a t m y to d ay’s self perpetu­
ally slips ou t o f a n y h o ld o f it th at I try to take. It also explains the
apparent non-parallelism betw een the notion o f T an d d iat o f ‘you’ ,
w ithout con struin g th e elusive residu um as a n y kin d o f ultim ate
m ystery.
T h ere is an other th in g w hich it explains. W h e n people consider
the problcm e o f the Freedom o f th e W ill an d try to im agine their
own careers as an alogous to those o f clocks or water-courses, th ey
tend to b o ggle a t the idea th at th eir ow n im m ediate futu re is already
un alterably fixed a n d predictable. It seem s absurd to suppose that
what I am ju st ab o u t to think, feel, or d o is alrea d y preappointed,
though people are ap t to find n o su ch a b su rd ity in the supposition
th at the fu tu res o f o th er people a re so preappointed. T h e so-called
‘feelin g o f spontaneity* is closely connected w ith this in a b ility to
im agine th at w h at I am going to th in k or d o can already be an tici­
pated. O n the o th er h an d, when I consider w h a t I th ou gh t an d did
1 88 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

yesterday, th ere seem s to b e no ab su rd ity in su pposin g th a t th at


could h ave been forecast, b efo re I d id it. It is on ly w hile I am
a ctu a lly tryin g to p red ict uiy own n e x t m ove th a t the task feels like
th a t o f a sw im m er try in g to overtake the w aves th a t he sends ah ead
ot him self.
T h e solution is a s before. A p red ictio n o f a deed or a th o u g h t is a
h ig h er order operation, the p erfo rm an ce o f w h ich can n o t he am o n g
th e th in gs considered in m ak in g th e prediction . Y e t as th e state o f
m ind in w hich I am ju st b efo re I d o so m eth in g m ay m ak e som e
difference to w hat I do, it follow s th a t I m u st overlook a t least one
o f th e d ata relevant to m y prediction. S im ilarly, I can g iv e you the
fu llest possible advice w ha: to do, b u t I m u st om it one piece o f cou n­
sel, sincc I can n ot in th e *ame b reath advise you how to take th at
advice. T h e r e is th erefo re no p arad ox in sa y in g th a t w h ile n o rm a lly
I am not a t all surprised to find m y se lf d o in g or th in k in g w h a t I do,
yet w hen I try m ost ca re fu lly to an ticip ate w h a t I shall do or th in k,
th en the ou tcom e is lik e ly to fa ls ify m y exp ectation . M y process o f
pre-en visagin g m ay d iv ert th e course o f m y en su in g b eh aviou r in a
direction a n d d egree o f w hich m y prognosis can n o t take account.
O n e th in g th at I ca n n o t prepare m y se lf fo r is th e n ex t th o u g h t th at
I am g o in g to think.
T h e fa ct th a t m y im m ediate fu tu re is in th is w a y system atically
elusive to m e has, o f course, no ten d en cy to prove th at m y career is
in prin ciple unpredictable to proph ets o th er th an m yself, or even
th at it is in explicable to m yself a fte r th e h eat o f th e action. I can
poin t to a n y o th er th in g with m y in d cx-fin ger, a n d o th er people can
point a t th is finger. B u t it can n o t b e th e ob ject a t w h ich it itself is
pointing. N o r can a m issile be its ow n target, th o u g h a n y th in g else
m ay b e throw n at it.
T h is gen eral conclusion th at a n y p erform an ce can be th e concern
o f a h ig h er ord er perform ance, b u t can n ot be the concern o f itself, is
con n ectcd w ith w hat was said earlier ab o u t th e special fu n ctio n in g
o f in d ex words, su ch as ‘ now’ , 'you ', an d T . A n T sentence indicates
w hom in p a rticu la r it is about b y b ein g itself uttered or w ritten b y
som eone in particular. T indicates th e person w ho utters it. So, when
a person utters an T sentence, h is utteran ce o f it m a y b e part o f a
h ig h e r order perform ance, n am ely one, perhaps, o f self-reporting,
self-exhortation, or self-com m iseration, an d th is perform an ce itself is
n ot d ealt w ith in the operation w hich it itself is. E ven if the person is,
for special speculative purposes, m om en tarily con cen tratin g on the
Problem o f the S elf, h e has fa ile d an d know s th at h e has fa ile d to
SELF-KN O W LED GE 18 9

carrh mnrp rfian thi* fly in g m ar-rails o f th a t w hich he was pursuing.


H is q u arry was th e hunter.
T o conclude, th ere is n o th in g m ysterious or o ccu lt about th e ran ge
o f h ig h e r order acts a n d attitudes, w h ich are apt to be in adeq uately
covered b y th e um brella-title ‘self-consciousness’. T h e y are th e sam e
in kin d as th e h ig h e r ord er acts an d attitu d es exhibited in th e deal-
ir g s o f people w ith on e another. Indeed th e fo rm er are only a special
application o f the la tte r and are learned first fro m them . I f I per­
form th e th ird ord er operation o f co m m en tin g on a second order act
of la u g h in g a t m y se lf fo r a piece o f m an u al awkwardness, I shall
indeed use th e first personal pronoun in tw o different ways. I say to
m yself, or to th e com pan y, ‘I was la u g h in g a t m yself fo r b e in g butter-
fingered'. B u t so fa r fro m this show ing th a t there are two ‘M es’ in m y
skin, n ot to sp eak, y e t, o f the th ird on e w h ich is still com m entin g on
them , it show s o n ly th a t I am a p p ly in g th e p u b lic two-pronoun idiom
in w h ich we ta lk o f h er la u g h in g a t h im ; a n d I am ap p lyin g the
m ethod o f inter-personal transaction w hich th e id iom is ordinarily
em ployed to describe.
B efore co n clu d in g th is chapter, i t is w orth m en tioning th at there
is on e in flu en tial d ifference betw een the first personal pronoun and
all the rest. T , in m y use o f it, alw ays indicates m e and only indicates
me. ‘Y o u ', ‘she', an d ‘they* indicate different people a t different times.
T is lik e m y ow n shadow ; I can n ever g e t a w a y from it, as I can get
a v a y fro m yo u r shadow . T h e re is n o m ystery ab o u t this constancy,
but I m en tion it because it seem s to endow T w ith a m ystifyin g
uniqueness a n d adhesiveness. ‘N o w ' has som ethin g o f the sam e be­
setting feelin g.
CHAPTER VII

SENSATION AND OBSERVATION


*

(i) Foreword
O n e o f th e central n egative m otives o f this book is to show that
‘m ental’ does not denote a status, such th at one can sen sib ly ask o f a
given th in g or event w heth er it is m ental or ph ysical, ’ in the m ind’ or
‘in the outside w orld'. T o talk o f a person's m in d is n o t to talk o f a
repository w hich is perm itted to house objects that so m eth in g called
‘the p h ysical w orld' is forb idden to house; it is to talk o f th e person's
abilities, liabilities, and inclinations to do and u n d ergo certain sorts
o f things, and o f th e d o in g and un dergoin g o f these th ings in the
ordinary world. Indeed, it m akes no sense to speak as i f there could
be two or eleven worlds. N o th in g but confusion is a ch ieved b y label*
lin g w orlds after particular avocations. E ven the solem n phrase ‘ the
physical w orld’ is as philosophically pointless as would be the phrase
‘the n um ism atic w orld’, ‘ the h aberdashery w orld', or “the botanical
world’.
B u t it w ill be urged in defence o f th e doctrine th at ‘ m ental’ does
denote a status th at a special footin g m ust be provided fo r sensations,
feelings, a n d im a ges.T h e laboratory sciences provide descriptions and
correlations o f various kinds o f th in gs and processes, b u t our im pres­
sions an d ideas are unm entioned in these descriptions. T h e y m ust
therefore belong som ew here else. A n d as it is patent th a t the occur­
rence o f a sensation, fo r instance, is a fa ct about the person w ho feels
the pain o r suffers th e d a zzle, the sensation m ust b e in th at person.
B u t this is a special sense o f ‘in ’, since the surgeon w ill n ot find it
under th e person's epiderm is. So the sensation m ust be in th e person's
m ind.
M oreover sensations, feelings, and im ages are th in gs the ow ner
of w hich m ust be conscious of. W hatever else m ay he contained
in his stream o f consciousness, a t least his sensations, feelings, and
im ages are parts o f th at stream . T h e y help to constitute, if th ey do
not com pletely constitute, the stuff o f w hich m inds are composed.
C ham pions o f th is argu m en t tend to espouse it w ith special confi-
SENSATION AND O BSERVATIO N I9I

dence on b e h a lf o f im ages, such as w h at ‘I see in m y m ind’s eye’ and


what I h a ve ‘ru n n in g in m y licad’. T h e y feel certain qualm s in sug­
gestin g too rad ical a divorce between sensations a n d conditions o f the
body. Stom ach-aches, tickles, an d sin gin gs in the ears have physiolo­
gical a ttach m en ts w h ich th reaten to su lly th e p u rity o f the brook
o f m ental experiences. B u t the views w h ich T see, even when m y eyes
are shut, a n d the m usic an d the voices th a t t can h ear, even w hen al)
is quiet, q u a lify a d m ira b ly for m em bership o f th e kingdom o f th«.
m:nd. T can , w ith in lim its, sum m on, dism iss, an d m odify th em at will
and the location , position, and condition of m y b od y do not appear
to b e in an y correlation w ith th eir occurrences or properties.
T h is b e lie f in th e m en tal status o f im ages carries w ith it a palatable
corollary. W h e n a person has b een th in k in g to h im self, retrospection
com m only show s h im th a t ac least a part o f w h at h as been g o in g on
has been a sequence o f words h ea rd in h is h ead, as if spoken b y him-
se.f. So th e ven erable doctrine th a t discou rsin g to oneself tinder one’s
breath is th e proprietary business o f m in ds reinforces and is rein­
forced b y , th e d o ctrin e th at the ap p aratu s o f pure th in kin g does not
belong to the gross w orld o f p h y sica l noises, b u t consists instead of
the m ore ethereal stuff o f w hich dream s are m ade.
H ow ever, before we can discuss im ages, there is a lot th at m ust
be said a b o u t sensations, a n c th is ch a p tcr is co n ccm cd en tirely w ith
the concepts o f sensation and observation. T h e concept o f im agin g
will be discussed in th e n ex t chapter.
F o r reasons d evelop ed in its last section, I am n o t satisfied w ith this
chapter. I h ave fa lle n in with the official sto ry th a t perccivin g in­
volves h a v in g sensations. But this is a sophisticated use :>f ‘sensation’.
It is not the w ay in w h ich w s o rd in arily use th e noun 'sensation’, or
the verb ‘ to fe e l’. W e ord inarily use these w ords for a special fa m ily
o f perceptions, n am ely, tactual an d kin aesth ctic perceptions and per­
ceptions o f tem peratures, as w ell as for lo ca lizab le p iin s an d dis-
ccm forts. Seeing, h earin g , tasting, an d sm ellin g d o not involve sensa­
tions, in th is sense o f the w ord, a n y m ore than seeing involves
hearing, or than fe e lin g a cold d ra u g h t involves tasting an yth in g. In
its sophisticated use, ‘sensarion’ seem s to be a sem i-physiological,
sem i-psychological rerm , the em p lo ym en t o f w h ich is allied with
certain pseudo-scientific, C artesian theories. T h is concept does not
occur in w h at novelists, biogtaph ers, diarists, or nursem aids say about
people, or in w h a t doctors, dentists, or ocu lists say to their patients.
In its fa m ilia r, unsophisticated use, ‘sensation’ does not stand for
an in gred ien t in perceptions, b u t fo r a k in d o f perception. But, neither
192 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

in its sophisticated use d o:s it s ig n ify a notion con tain ed in the notion
o f percepción. People knew h ow to ta lk a b o u t seeing, h earin g , and
fe e lin g things, b efore they h ad m astered a n y p h ysiological or psy­
chological hypotheses, or h eard o f a n y th eoretical difficulties about
th e com m unications betw een M in d s a n d th eir Bodies.
I do not know th e righ t idiom s in w h ich to discuss these m atters,
but I h ope th at m y discussion o f them in th e official idiom s m a y have
at least som e in tern al F if:h C o lu m n cfficacy.

(2) Sensations
F o r certain purposes it is con ven ien t to d iv id e sensations in to those
w h ich en ter e x officio into sense percep tion, an d those w h ich d o not;
th at is, ro u gh ly, into those w h ich a rc con nected w ith th e special
organs o f sense, n a m e ly the eyes, ears, ton gu e, nose, a n d skin, an d
those w h ich a rc connected w ith th e o th er sensitive b u t non-sensory
organs o f the b od y. B u t th is division is som ew hat arb itrary. W h e n
the eye is d a z zle d , a n d w hen the nose stings, we in clin e to ran k these
sensations w ith the organic sensations o f ach es an d prickings, and,
conversely, w hen w e h ave certain sensations in th e th roat or stom ach,
we a rc ap t to say th a t we feel the fish-bone or th e suet-pudding. A
specific m uscular sensation m ig h t be describ ed indifferently as a sen­
sation o f fatig u e, 01 a» a fe e lin g o f th e w eig h t or resistance o f the
log, an d a listener m ig h t report to one com pan ion th a t h e h eard a
very d istan t train, w hile he reported to th e o th er th a t h e could barely
distin guish th e noise from th e n orm al th ro b b in g or sin gin g in his
ears.
F o r obvious reasons we h a ve con stan tly to re fe r to the sensations
w h ich are con n ected w ith the organs o f sense, fo r we are constantly
h a v in g to m en tion w h at we see an d do n o t see, w h a t we hear, sm ell,
taste, and feel. But w e do n o t talk a b o u t these sensations ‘n eat'; we
ord in arily m ention th em o n ly in referen ce to th e th in gs or events
w h ich we a rc observin g or try in g or cla im in g to observe. People
speak o f h a v in g a glim pse, b u t o n ly in such contexts as h a v in g a
glim pse o f so m eth in g m oving. N o r d o th e y break out o f this
h ab it, w hen asked to describe h ow som eth in g looked, or sounded, or
tasted; th ey will n orm ally say th a t it lo o ked like a h aystack , that
it sounded like som ething h u m m in g , or th a t it tasted as if it h ad
pepper in it.
T h is procedure o f d escribin g sensations b y referrin g in a certain
w ay to com m on ob jects like h aystacks, th in gs th a t h u m , and pepper
is o f g re at th eoretical im portance. A h a ysta ck , fo r exam p le, is som e­
SE N SA TIO N AND O BSERVATIO N *93

th in g about the description o f w hich everyone could agree. A h a y ­


stack is som ething w h ich a n y observers could observe, and we should
e xp ect their accounts o f it to ta lly w ith one another, or at least to be
cap able o f correction un til th ey d id tally. Its position, shape, size,
w eigh t, date o f construction, com position, an d fun ction are facts
w hich an yon e could establish b y o rd in ary m ethods o f observation
and in q u iry. B u t more th a n this. T h ese m ethods w ould also establish
how th e haystack w ould look. feel, and sm ell to o rd in ary observers
in o rd in ary conditions o f observation. W h in I say th at som ething
looks like a haystack (though it m a y actu ally be a b lan k et on a
clothes-line), I am d escrib in g how it looks In term s o f w hat anyone
m ig h t exp ect a haystack to look like, w hen observed from a suitable
an gle, in a suitable lig h t, a n d again st a suitable b ackground. I am ,
th at is, com paring h ow the b la n k et looks to m e here and now, not
w ith som e o th er particular glim pse h ad b y me, or had b y som e other
particular person in a p articu lar situation , but w ith a tyj>e of glim pse
such as a n y ordin ary observers cou ld exp ect to get in situations o f
certain sorts, nam ely in situations w here they are in th e p ro xim ity of
h aystacks in d aylight.
S im ilarly, to say th a t so m eth in g tastes peppery is to say th a t it
tastes to m e now as a u y peppered vian ds would taste to a n yb od y w ith
a. aoxiim l palaic. Ii lias been suggested that I can never know that
pepper-grains do g ive d ifferent people sim ilar sensations, b u t for
th e present it is enough to point o u t th a t our ord in ary w ays o f im ­
p artin g inform ation ab o u t ou r own sensations consist in m ak in g cer­
tain sorts o f references to w h at w c th in k could be established in
an yon e's observations o f com m on objects. W e describe w h at is
personal to ourselves in n eutral or im personal term s. Indeed, our
descriptions would convey n o th in g unless cou ched in such terms.
T h e se arc, a fte r all, th e term s w hich we learned b y b ein g taught
them b y others. W e d o n ot and can n ot describe h aystacks in terms
o f thio or th at 3et o f sensations. W c d cscrib c ou r sensations b y ccrtain
sorts o f references to observers an d th in gs like haystacks.
W e follow the sam e p ractice in describing o rgan ic sensations.
W h e n a sufferer describes a pain as a stabbing, a grin d in g, or a burn­
in g pain , th o u gh he does not n ecessarily think th at his pain is given
to h im b y a stiletto, a d rill, or an em ber, still h e says w hat sort o f a
pain it is b y likenin g it to the sort o f pair, th at w ould be given to
an yon e b y such instrum ents. T h e sam e account holds o f such descrip­
tions as ‘ there is a sin g in g in m y ears', ‘m y blood ran cold', and ‘I saw
stars’. E ven to say th a t one's view is h a z y is to liken on e’s view to the
J94 t h e c o n c e pt o f m in d

way th at com m on o b jccts look to a n y observer w ho is seeing them


through an atm osp h eric haze.
T h e present poin t o f m en tion in g these w ays o f describing our sen­
sations is to show how an d w hy th ere exists a lingu istic difficulty in
discussing th e lo g ic o f concepts o f sensation. W c do not em p lo y a
‘neat' sensation vo cab u lary. W c describe p a rticu lar sensations b y re­
ferring to how com m on objects re g u la rly look, sound, and feel to any
norm al person.
Epistem ologists arc fo n d o f u sin g w ords lik e ‘pains’ , ‘ itches’ , ‘stabs',
‘glows', and ‘d a zzle s’ as if th ey were ‘n ea t' sensation names. B u t this
practice is d o u b ly m isleading. N o t o n ly d o m ost o f these w ords draw
their significance from situations in vo lvin g com m on objects like fleas,
daggers, an d radiators, b u t th ey also connote th at the person w ho has
the sensations, likes, or dislikes, or m igh t w ell like or dislike, h avin g
them. A p ain in m y kn ee is a sensation th at I m in d having; so ‘ un ­
noticed p ain ’ is an ab su rd expression, w here ‘ unn oticed *ens»tion’ has
no absurdity.«
»

T h is point can serve to introduce a con cep tu al distinction w hich


will sh ortly tu rn out to b e of cardin al im portance, nam ely, that b e­
tween h a v in g a sensation and observin g. W h en a person is said to be
w atching, scanning, or looking at so m eth in g, listen in g to it or savour­
ing it, a p a u , b u t uuly a p a n , o f w liat is m ean t is th ai he is h a vin g
\isual, au d ito ry , or gustatory sensations. B u t to be observing som e­
thing th e observer m ust also a t least l>e tryin g to find som ething out.
H is scru tin y is a cco rd in g ly describable as carefu l or careless. cursory
or sustained, m eth od ical or h ap h a zard , accu ra te or inaccurate, e x ­
pert or am ateurish . O b servin g is a task w h ich can be one o f som e
arduousness, an d we can be m ore or less successful in it an d m ore
or less good a t it. B u t none o f these w ays o f ch aracterizin g the e x e r­
cises o f one’s pow ers o f observation can be applied to rhe h a v in g o f
visual, au d ito ry, or gustatory sensations. O n e can listen carefu lly, but
not have a em gin g in o n c’a cars ca refu lly ; one can look system atically,
but on e cannot h ave dazzle-sen sation system atically; cn e can try to
discrim inate flavours, b u t one can n o t try to h ave sensations o f taste.
A g a in we observe, very often, from inquisitiveness or obedience, b u t
wc d o n o t h ave tickles from this or a n y o th er m otive. W e observe on
purpose, but we d o n o t h a w sensations on purpose, though we can
induce them on purpose. W e can m ake m istakes o f observation, but
it is nonsense to speak o f eith er m ak in g or avoid in g m istakes in
sensation; sensations can be n eith er corrcct n or incorrect, veridical
nor non-veridical. T h e y are n eith er apprehensions nor m isapprehen­
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 195

sions. O bservin g is fin d in g out, or tryin g to find out, som ething, but
h a vin g a sensation is n eith er fin din g out, nor tryin g to find out, nor
fa ilin g to find out, an yth in g.
T h is set o f contrasts enables us to say th at th ou gh m ention o f the
d egree to w hich, the w ays in w hich and the ob jects o f w h ich a person
is observant or un observant is a part o f the description o f h is wits
and character, m en tion o f h is sensory capacities, and actual sensa­
tions is n o part o f th at description. T o use an ob jectionable phrase,
there is n o th in g ‘m en tal’ ab o u t sensations. D eafn ess is not a species
o f stupidity, n or is a sq u in t a n y sort o f turpitude; the retriever’s keen ­
ness o f scent docs not prove h im in telligen t; and we d o not try to
train or sham e ch ild ren out o f colour-blindness or think o f them as
m en tally defective. It is not fo r the m oralist or the alienist, but
for the oculist, to diagn ose an d prescribe fo r im perfect vision.
H a v in g a sensation is n o t an exercise o f a q u a lity o f intellect
or character. H en ce wc are n o t too proud to concede sensations to
reptiles.
W h atever series o f sensations an in telligen t person m a y have, it is
alw ays conceivable th a t a m erely sentien t creature m igh t h ave h ad a
precisely sim ilar series; and if b y ‘stream o f consciousness’ w ere m eant
‘series o f sensations’, then fro m a m ere in ven tory o f the contents of
such a stream th ere w ould be no p o ssibility o f d ecid in g w hether
the crcature th at h ad these sensations was an an im al or a hum an
being; an idiot, lu n atic, or a sane m an; m u ch less w heth er h e was an
am bitious and arg u m en ta tive p h ilologist or a slow -w itted b u t indus­
trious magistrates* clerk.
H ow ever, these considerations w ill not satisfy th e theorists w ho
w ant to m ake th e stream o f a person's sensations, feelin gs, and im ages
the stuff o f his m in d, and thu s to back up the dogm a that m inds are
special-status thin gs com posed o f a special stuff. T h e y will u rge, quite
corrcctly, that th o u gh the ocu list an d th e dentist can m od ify the
patien t’s sensations b y a p p lyin g ch em ical or m ech an ical treatm ents
to his bodily organs, y e t th e y are deb arred fro m observin g the sensa­
tions them selves. T h e y m a y observe w h a t is p h ysio lo gically amiss
w ith th e patient’s eyes an d gum s, b u t th ey m ust rely on the patien t’s
testim ony for know ledge o f w hat he sees an d feels. O n ly the wearer
know s where th e shoe pinches. F rom th is it is argu ed , plau sib ly but
fallaciously, th at there does in d eed exist the hallow ed antithesis b e­
tween th e th in gs and events w h ich an yo n e m a y w itness and the
thin gs or events w hich o n ly their possessor m ay witness. Planets,
m icrobcs, nerves, an d eardrum s are p u b licly observable things in
196 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IND

the outside w orld; sensations, feelin gs, a n d im ages arc p rivately ob­
servable constituents o f o u r several m en tal worlds.
I w ant io show th a t this antith esis is spurious. It is true th at the
cobbler cannot w itness the tw eaks th a t I fe e l w hen the shoe pinches.
B u t it is false th at I w itness them . T h e reason w h y m y tw eaks cannot
be witnessed b y h im is n ot th a t som e Iron C u rtain prevents them
from being witnessed b y an yone save m yself, b u t th a t th ey a rc not
the sort o f thin gs o f w hich it m akes sense to say th at th e y are w it­
nessed or unwitnessed at all, even b y m e. I feel or have the tweaks,
b u t I d o not d iscover or peer at them ; th ey are not th ings th a t I find
out about b y w a tch in g them , listen in g to th em , or savou rin g them .
In the sense in w h ich a person m ay be said to h ave had a robin under
observation, it w ould be nonsense to sa y th a t he has had a tw inge
under observation. T h e re m ay be one or several w itnesses o f a road-
accident; there can n o t be several witnesses, or even on e witness, o f a
qualm .
W e know w h at it is like to h ave and to need observational aids like
telescopes, stethoscopes, an d torches for th e observation o f planets,
heart-beats, and m oths, b u t we can n ot th in k w h a t it w ould be like to
apply such in strum ents to ou r sensations. S im ila rly, th o u gh we know
w ell w hat sorts o f h an d icap s im pair o r preven t our observation of
com m on cbjccts, n am ely h an d icap s like fogs, tin g lin g fingers, and
sin gin gs in the ears, w e cannot th in k o f analogous im pedim ents g e t­
tin g betw een us and such sensations as tin gles and sin gin gs in the
ears.
In sayin g th at sensations are n ot th e sort o f things th at can be
observed, 1 d o not m ean th at th e y a rc unobservable in the w ay in
w hich infra-m icroscopic bacteria, flyin g bullets, or th e m ountains
on the other side o f the m oon, a rc unobservable, or th at th ey are
unobservable in the w ay in w hich the plan ets a rc unobservable to
the blind. I m ean so m eth in g like this. E v e ry word th at can be w ritten
dow n, except words o f one letter, has a sp elling; som e words are m ore
difficult to spell than others an d som e w ords h ave several different
spellings. Y e t if w e are asked how the letters o f th e alp h ab et are
spelled, vie h ave to answ er th at th ey cannot b e spelled a t all. B u t this
‘cannot’ does n ot m ean th a t the task is on e o f insuperable difficulty,
but o n ly that the question, ‘O f w h at letters arran ged in w hat order
docs a given letter con sist?' is an im proper question. A s letters are
n eith er easy to spell, nor in su p erably h ard to spell, so, I argu e, sensa­
tions a rc neither o bservable n or unobservable. C orresp on d in gly, how ­
ever, ju st as th e fa c t th at we m ay not even ask how a letter is spelled
SEN SA TIO N AND O BSERVATIO N 19 7

b y no m oans p reclu d e s us fro m k n o w in g p erfectly w ell how letters


arc w ritten, so- th e fa c t th a t we m a y not talk o f the observation o f
sensations b y n o m ean s precludes us fro m ta lk in g o f the notice or
heed th at p eo p le can p a y to th eir sensations, or o f the avow als and
reports th a t th e y can m ak e o f the sensations of w h ich th ey have
taken notice. H e a d ach es can n ot b e w itnessed, b u t th e y can be noticed,
and w hile it is im proper to advise a person not to peep a t his tickle,
it is q uite p roper to advise h im n ot to p a y a n y h eed to it.
W e have seen th a t o b servin g en tails h a vin g sensations; a m an could
not be described as w a tch in g a robin w h o h ad not g o t a single glim pse
o f it, or as sm e llin g a cheese w ho h ad n o t ca u g h t a whiff. (I am pre­
tending, w h at is n ot true, th at words like ‘glim pse’ and ‘w h iff stand
for sensations. T h e fa c t th at a glim pse can b e characterized as ‘clear’
or ‘un clear’ show s th a t it is an observation*w ord and not a ‘n ea t' sen-
sation-word.) A n ob ject o f observation, like a robin, or a chccse, m ust
therefore be th e sort o f th in g o f w h ich it is possible fo r observers to
catch glim pses, or to g e t whiffs. B u t m an y theorists ask us to look
aw ay from su c h com m on objects as robins an d chceses towards such
things as glim p ses an d whiffs, an d we are asked to declare th at I,
though n o b o d y else, can observe th e glim pses an d the whiffs th a t I
get, and ob serve them in th e sam e sense o f ‘observe’ as th at in w hich
an yon e can observe the robin or th e cheese. B u t to g ran t this w ould
be to g ra n t th a t if, w hen I catch a glim pse o f a robin, I can observe
th at glim pse, th en , in d o in g so, I m u st g e t som ethin g like a glim pse
or a w hiff o f th a t glim pse o f the robin. I f sensations are proper objects
of observation, then observin g them m ust carry w ith it the h avin g
o f sensations o f those sensations analogous to th e glim pses o f the
robin w ith ou t w hich I could not b e w atch in g th e robin. A n d this is
clearly ab su rd . T h e r e is n o th in g an sw ering to th e phrases ‘a glim pse
o f a glim pse’ o r a ‘w hiff o f a p ain ’ or ‘ the sound o f a tw eak’ or ‘ the
tin gle o f a tin g le ’, and if th ere was a n y th in g to correspond, the series
w ould go on f o r ever.
A g a in , w h e n a person h as been w atch in g a horse-race, it is proper
to ask w h e th er h e h a d a good or a b ad view o f it, w hether he w atchcd
it ca re fu lly or carelessly, an d w h eth er h e tried to sec as m uch o f it as
he could. So, i f it was correct to say th at a person observes his sensa­
tions. it w ould be proper to ask w heth er h is inspection o f a tickle had
been h am p ered or u n h am pered , close or casual, an d w hether he could
have discern ed m ore o f it, if h e h ad tried. N o one ever asks such
questions, an y m ore th an an yon e asks how the first letter in ‘L o n d o n ’
is spelled. T h e r e are n o such questions to ask. T h is point is partially
!< $ THE C O N C E P T OF M IND

obscured b y the fa ct that th e w ord ‘observe', th o u gh gen erally used


to cover such processes as w atch ing, listening, and savouring, or else
such achievem ents as d escryin g and d etectin g, is som etim es used as
a synonym o f ‘p a y heed to* and ‘n otice’. W a tc h in g a n d d cscryin g do
involve p ayin g heed, b u t p a y in g heed does not involve w atching.
It follow s from this th at it was w rong from the start to contrast the
com m on objects o f a n yo n e’s observation, like robins and cheeses, w ith
the supposed peculiar objects o f m y privileged observation, n am ely
m y sensations, since sensations arc not ob jects o f observation a t all.
W e do not, con sequen tly, h ave to rig up one theatre, called ‘the
outside w orld', to house the com m on objects o f an yon e’s observation,
and another, called ‘the m in d ', to house the objects o f som e m on o­
poly observations. T h e antithesis betw een ‘p u b lic' and ‘p rivate' was
in part a m isconstruction o f the antithesis betw een objects w hich can
l>e looked at, handled, and tasted, on the one hand, and sensations
w h ich are had b u t not looked at, h an d led or tasted, on the other. It is
true and even rautologous th at th e cobbler can n ot feel th e shoe
p in ch in g m e, unless the cobbler is m yself, b u t this is not because he
is exclud ed from a peep-show open o n ly to m e, b u t because it would
m ake n o sense to say th at he was in m y pain, and no sense, therefore,
to say th at he was n oticin g the tw eak th at I was having.
F u tih e i consequences follow . T h e properties w hich wc ascertain b y
observation, or n ot w ith out observation, to ch aracterize th e com m on
objects o f an yon e’s observation cannot be sign ifican tly ascribed to,
or denied of, sensations. Sensations d o not h ave sizes, shapes,
positions, tem peratures, colours, or sm ells. In the sense in w hich
there is alw ays a n answ er to th e question, ‘W h ere is?’ or 'W h e re
was the ro b in ?’ , there is no answ er to th e question. ‘ W here is?’
or ‘W h ere was yo u r glim pse o f the ro b in ?’ T h e r e is indeed a sense
in w h ich a tickle is q uite properly said to be ‘ in m y fo o t’, or a stin gin g
‘in m y nose’, b u t this is a different sense from th at in w hich bones are
in m y foot, or pepper-grains are in m y nose. So in th e m u d d led sense
o f ‘w orld’ in w hich people say th a t ‘the outside w orld’ or the ‘public
world' contains robins an d checscs, th e locations and connexions of
w hich in that w orld can b e fou n d out, there is not an oth er w orld,
or set o f worlds, it» w hich th e locations an d connexions o f sensations
can be fo u n d out; nor docs th e rep uted problem exist o f finding out
w hat are th e connexions betw een th e occupants o f the p u b lic world
and those o f a n y such private w orlds. F u rth er, w hile one com m on
object, like a needle, can b e inside or outside an other, like a h aystack,
there is no corresponding antithesis o f ‘in side’ to ‘outsid e’ ap p lyin g
SE N SA TIO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 199

to sensations. M y tw eak is not hidden from th e cobbler because ic is


inside m e, eith er as b ein g litera lly inside m y sk in , or as being, m eta­
ph orically, in a place to w hich he has no access. O n th e contrary, it
cannot be described, as needles can, as b e in g eith er internal or e x ­
ternal to a com m on object like m yself, n or a s b e in g eith er h idden or
unhidden. N o r can letters be classified as e ith e r nouns or verbs or
adjectives, or described as either o b eyin g or d isob eyin g che rules o f
E n glish syntax. It is, o f course, true a n d im p ortan t th at I am the
o n ly person w ho can g ive a first-hand a cco u n t o f the tweaks given
m e b y m y ill-fitting shoe, and an oculist w h o cannot speak m y
lan gu age is w ith ou t h is best source o f in fo rm atio n about m y visual
sensations. B u t th e fa ct th at I alone can g ive first-hand accounts o f
m y sensations does not en tail th at I have, w h at o th ers lack, the oppor­
tu n ity o f observin g those sensations.
T w o fu rth e r connected points m ust be m ad e. F irst, there is a ph ilo­
sophically u n excitin g th o u g h im portan t sense o f ‘p rivate' in w hich
o f course m y sensations are private or p rop rietary to m e. N am ely,
just as you cannot, in logic, hold m y catches, w in m y races, eat m y
m eals, frow n m y frow ns, or dream m y d ream s, so you cannot have
m y tw inges, or m y after-im ages. N o r can V e n u s h ave N ep tu n e’s
satellites, or P o lan d h ave B u lg aria’s history. T h is is sim p ly a part of
the logical fo rce o f those sentences in w h ich the accusative to a
transitive verb is a cogn ate accusative. S u ch tran sitive verbs d o not
sig n ify relations. ‘I h eld m y ca tch ’ does n o t assert a relation between
m e and a catch , su ch th at th a t catch m igh t con ceivab ly h ave been
in that relation to yo u instead o f to m e. It is n o t like ‘I stopped m y
bicycle’ ; yo u m igh t w ell h a ve an ticip ated m e in stopping m y bicycle.
N e x t, in sa yin g th at ‘I h ad a tw in ge’ docs n o t assert a relation, as
‘I had a h a t’ does, I am sayin g th at the ph rase ‘m y tw inge’ does not
stand fo r a n y sort o f a th in g or ‘ term ’. It does not even stand fo r an
episode, th ou gh ‘I h ad a tw in ge’ asserts th a t a n episode took place.
T h is is part o f the reason w hy it is nonsense to speak o f observing,
inspecting, w itnessing, or scru tin izin g sensations, since the objects
proper to su ch verbs are things an d episodes.
Y e t w hen we th eo rize about sensations, w e are fo rcib ly tem pted
to talk o f th em as if th ey w ere elusive th in gs or episodes. W e in­
ad verten tly work on such m odels as th at o f a so litary m an inside his
tent w h o sees spots an d patch es o f lig h t an d fe e ls indentations in the
inside o f th e canvas. H e th en, perhaps, wishes he could see and feel
the torches and boots th a t m ade those p a tch es o f lig h t and indenta­
tions in the canvas. B u t, alas, b e can never see those torchcs, or feel
200 TH E C O N C E P T OF MIND

those boots, as th e can vas is alw ays in ih e wav. N ow illum in ated and
• * • * *
indented bits o f canvas arc things; an d th e m om entary illum inations
an d indentations o f th e can vas are episodes. So th ey are the sorts of
objects w hich it is proper to describe as b ein g w atched, scrutinized,
and J ciccicd b y a m an inside h is tent; a n d it is also proper to speak
o f them b ein g there, b u t b ein g unw atched and undetected. M oreover
a m an who can w atch or detect illum in ated or indented canvas could
watch and d ctect torches an d boots, if th e y were n o t screened from
him . T h e situation o f a m an h a v in g sensations is, therefore, q u ite out
o f analogy w ith th a t o f the m an in the tent. H a v in g sensations is
not w atching or d etectin g objects; a n d w atching an d d etectin g th ings
an d episodes is n ot h a v in g th em in th e sem e in w hich one has
sensations.

(3) T h e Sense D a tu m Theory


It is apposite a t th is point to com m en t on a theory som etim es
known as the ‘Sense D atu m T h e o ry ’. T h is theory is p rim arily an
attem pt to elu cid ate th e concepts o f sense perception, a part o f w hich
task consists in elu cid a tin g the notions o f sensations o f sigh t, touch,
hearing, sm ellin g, and tasting.
O ur everyd a y verbs like ‘see*, ‘h e a r’, and ‘taste’ are n o t used to
designate sensations 'n eat', fo r w e speak o f seeing horse-races, h ea rin g
trains, an d tastin g vin tage wines; an d horse-races, trains, an d wines
arc not sensations. H orse-races d o not stop, when I shu t m y eyes, and
vintage w ines are n o t ob literated , w hen I h ave catarrh. W e therefore
seem to need w ays o f ta lk in g ab o u t w h a t doe« stop, w hen I shut m y
eyes, an d w h at is obliterated, w hen I h ave catarrh, w ays w h ich shall
not depend on m entions o f com m on events or liquids. A n ap p aren tly
suitable set o f nouns is easily fo u n d , since it is quite id iom atic to say
th at m y view o f th e racc is in terru pted, w hen I shut m y eyes, th a t the
look or appearan ce o f th e horses is m odified when tears flow, th at
th e flavour o f the w ine is o b literated b y catarrh, an d th at the noise
o f the train is d u lled , w hen I stop m y ears. W e can , it is suggested,
talk about sensations ‘n eat’ b y ta lk in g about ‘looks', ‘appearances’,
‘sounds’, ‘flavours’ , ‘whiffs’ , 'tin gles’, ‘glim pses’, and so on. It is sug­
gested, too, th at it is necessary to adopt som e such idiom s in order
to be able to d istin guish th e con trib u tion s m ade to ou r observation
o f com m on objects b y o u r sensations fro m those m ad e to it b y tuition,
inference, m em ory, co n jectu re, h a b it, im agination, and association.
A cco rd in g to the theory, then , h a v in g a visual sensation can be
described as g e ttin g a m o m en tary look, or visual appearance, o f som e­
SE N SA T IO N AND O B SER VATIO N SOT

thing, an d h a v in g an o lfacto ry sensation as g e ttin g a m om entary


whiff o f som ething. B u t w h a t is it to g e t a m om en tary look, or a
m om entary w hiff? A n d w h at sort o f an o b ject is th e look, or th e whiff,
w hich is g o t? F irst o f all, th e look o f a horse-race is n ot a sporting
event on a racecourse. In the w ay in w h ich everyon e can witness the
horse-race, it is n o t possible fo r everyo n e to witness th e m om en tary
look th at I g e t o f th a t race. Y o u can n ot g e t th e look th at I g et, an y
more than you can suffer th e tw eak th at I suffer. A sense datu m , i.e.
a m om entary look, w hiff, tin gle, or sound, is proprietary to on e per­
cip ie n t N e x t, th e glim p se o f a horse-race is described as a m om en­
tary p atch w ork o f colour expanses in som ebody’s field o f view. But
this has to b e qualified b y the exp lan ation th a t it is a p atchw ork of
colour expanses o n ly in a special sense. O rd in a rily w hen people talk
o f patchw orks o f colours, th ey are referrin g to com m on objects of
anyone’s observation su ch as q u ilts, tapestries, oil pain tings, stage
scenery, an d m ildew ed plaster, th at is, to flattish surfaces o f th ings in
front o f th eir noses. B u t the visual appearances or looks o f things,
which are described as colou r patches m o m en tarily o ccu p yin g p arti­
cular fields o f view , are n ot to be th o u g h t o f as surfaces o f flattish
com m on objects; th ey are sim ply expanses o f colour, not expanses
o f coloured canvas or plaster. T h e y occu p y th eir ow ner's private
visual space, th o u gh he is, o f course, su b ject to th e perm an ent tem p­
tation to re-attach them som ehow to the su rfaces o f com m on objects
in o rd in ary space.
F in a lly, th o u g h holders o f the Sense D atu m T h e o r y agree th at the
looks, sm ells, a n d tin gles th a t I g e t are inaccessible to anyone else,
th ey are n ot agreed th a t it follow s from this th a t th ey are m ental
in status or th a t th e y exist ‘in m y m in d ’. T h e y seem to ow e their
genesis to the p h ysica l an d ph ysiological conditions, b u t n ot neces­
sarily also to th e p sych o lo gical con ditions, o f th eir recipient.
H avin g, as th ey th in k, show n th at there exist su ch m om entary
and proprietary objects as looks, whiffs, sounds, an d the rest, holders
o f the th eo ry n ex t fa ce th e question. 'W h a t is it fo r th eir recip ient to
get or h ave th e m ? ’ A n d th eir answ er to th is question is sim ple. In
some statem ents o f the th eory, h e is said to p crccive or observe them ,
in a sense o f 'p erceive' a n d ‘observe’ w h ich m akes it proper to sa y th at
he sees colour patches, h ears sounds, sm ells whiffs, tastes flavours, and
feels tickles. In deed it is o ften th ou gh n ot o n ly allow able, b u t illu m i­
nating, to say th a t people d o n o t rea lly see horse-races, or taste wines;
th ey really o n ly see colour patches an d taste flavours; or else, as a
concession to o rd in ary h ab its o f speech, it is ad m itted th a t th ere is
202 T H E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

indeed a vulgar sense o f ‘see’ and ‘taste’ in w hich people m ay say that
th ey see races an d taste w ines, b u t th at fo r theoretical purposes wc
should use these verbs in a different an d m ore refined sense, saying
instead that w c sec colou r p atch cs and taste flavours.
R ecen tly, how ever, th e fash ion has grow n up o f using a new set o f
verbs. Som e holders o f the th eo ry now prefer to say that we intuit
colour p a x h e s . wc h a ve d irect aw areness o f sm ells, we have im m e­
d iate acquaintanceship w ith noises, wc arc in d irect cognitive relations
w ith tickles, or, gen erica lly, w c sense sense data. B u t w hat is the cash
value o f these fo rm id ab le locutions? T h e ir cash value is this. T h ere
are som e verbs, like ‘guess’, ‘discover’ , ‘co n clu d e’, ‘know ’ , ‘believe’,
an d 'w onder’, w hich are used on ly w ith su ch com plem ents as . that
tom orrow is S u n d a y’, or \ . . w hether this is red in k ’. T h e re are other
verbs, like ‘ peep a t’, ‘listen to’ , ‘observe’, ‘espy’, an d 'com e across’ , the
proper com plem ents o f w hich are such expressions as * ... th at robin ’,
. . the roll o f d ru m s’, and \ . . John D oe’. T h e Sense D atu m T h eo ry,
accord in g to w hich looks, whiffs and so on are p articu lar objects or
events, has th erefore to em p loy cognition verbs o f the second sort in
order to construe such verbs as ‘g e t’ and ‘ h ave’ in such expressions as
‘get a glim pse’ or ‘h ave a tickle’. It has borrow ed the ord in ary force o f
verbs like ‘observe’, ‘scan ’ , an d ‘savou r’ fo r its solemni/.ed verbs ‘in­
tu it’ , Vogu»£c\ an d ‘scii.sc’. T h e difference is th a t w hile laym en speak
o f observing a robin an d scan n in g a page o f T h e T im es, this theory
speaks instead o f in tu itin g colou r patches an d h a v in g im m ediate
acquaintanceship w ith smells.
It is not claim ed that this accoun t o f w hat it is to h ave, e.g. a visual
sensation - n a m e ly th a t it is to in tu it or espy a proprietary patchw ork
o f colours - b y itself solves th e w hole problem o f ou r know ledge o f
com m on objects. D isp u tes con tin ue about the lin kages ob tain in g
betw een horse-races, w hich we d o not ‘strictly’ or ‘d irectly’ sec, and
the looks o f them , w hich we do ‘strictly’ or ‘d irectly’ sec, but which
are not on racecourses. B u t the holders o f the th eo ry hope th at their
elucidation o f w h at sensing is w ill lead to th e elucidation o f w hat
w atch in g a horse-race is.
In particular it is claim ed th a t the th eory resolves paradoxes in
th e description o f illusions. W h en the sq u in ter reports that he sees
tw o candles, w here there is o n ly one, and w hen the dipsom aniac says
th at he secs a snake, w here no snake is, their reports can now b e re-
construed in the new idiom . T h e sq uin ter can now be said really to
be seein g two ‘candlc-looks*, an d the dip som aniac really does see one
‘snake-appcarance’. T h e ir o n ly error, if a n y, lies in their supposing
SE N SA T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 20 $
that th ere also exist two p h ysical candlcs, or one physical snake.
A gain , when a person, con fronted b y a rou nd plate tilted aw ay from
him, says th a t he sees an ellip tica l o b ject, lie is in error if he supposes
that the kitch en contains an ellip tical piece o f crockery, b u t he is
quite correct in sa yin g th a t he finds so m eth in g elliptical: fo r there
really is an cllip tical patch o f w hite in his field o f view , and h e really
does descry or ‘in tu it' it there. T o a rg u e from w h a t he finds in his
field o f view to w hat exists in th e kitch en is alw ays h azard ou s, an d in
this instance it is w rong. But w h at he finds in h is field o f view really
is (here and really is elliptical.
I shall try to prove th at this w hole th eory rests upon a logical
howler, the how ler, n am ely, o f assim ilatin g th e concept o f sensation
to the concept o f observation; and I sh all try to show that this assim i­
lation m akes nonsense sim u ltan eou sly o f th e concept o f sensation
and o f the concept o f observation. T h e th eory says th at w hen a person
has a visual sensation, on the occasion, fo r exam ple, o f g e ttin g a
glim pse o f a horse-race, his h a v in g this sensation consists in his find­
ing or in tu itin g a sensum , n am ely a patchw ork o f colours. T h is m eans
that h a vin g a glim p se o f a horse-race is exp lain ed in term s o f his
having a glim pse o f so m eth in g else, d ie patchw ork o f colours. B u t if
having a glim pse o f a horse-race entails h a v in g a t least on e sensation,
then h a vin g a glim pse o f colou r puiehes muM again involve h avin g
at least one app ropriate sensation, w h ich in its turn m ust be analysed
into the sensing o f y et an earlier sensum , and so on fo r ever. A t each
move h a v in g a sensation is construed as a sort o f esp yin g o f a par­
ticular som ethin g, o ften g rave ly called ‘a sensible ob ject’ , an d at each
move th is esp yin g m ust involve the h a v in g o f a sensation. T h e use
o f aw e-inspiring words like ‘intuit* in n o w ay exem p ts us from h avin g
to say that fo r a person to find, w atch , listen to, peep at, or savour
som ething he m ust be sensitively affected; and to be sensitively
affected is to h ave at least one sensation. So w heth er, as we ordinarily
think, we see horse-races o r w hether, as we are instructed to think,
we in tu it colour patches, th e d escryin g o f w hatever we descry
involves o u r h a v in g sensations. A n d h a v in g sensations is not b y
itself descryin g, a n y m ore than bricks are houses, or letters are
words.
A s has been shosvn earlier, th ere is an im portan t logical connexion
between the con cept o f sensation and th a t o f observing or pcrceiving,
a connexion w h ich b y itself entails th a t th ey are concepts o f different
kinds. T h e re is a con tradiction in sayin g th at som eone is w atch in g or
peeping a t so m eth in g, b u t noc g e ttin g even one glim pse o f it; or in
204 T H E C O N C E P T OF M IND

sayin g th at som eone is listen in g to som eth in g, th o u g h h e gets no


a u d ito ry sensations. H a v in g a t least on e sensation is part o f the force
o f ‘perceiving*, ‘o verh ea rin g’, ‘savou rin g’, an d the rest. It follow s that
h a vin g a sensation cannot itself be a species o f perceivin g, finding, or
espying. I f all cloth es a rc con caten ations o f stitches, ab su rd ity results
from sa yin g th at all stitches are them selves very tin y clothes.
It h as a lre a d y been rem arked earlier in this ch ap ter that there
are several salient differences betw een th e concepts o f sensations and
those o f observation, scru tin izin g, d etectin g, an d th e rest, w hich are
revealed b y the u n in tcrch a n g ea b ility o f the epithets b y w h ich the
different th in gs are d escribed. T h u s we can speak o f the m otives from
w hich a person listens to som ethin g, b u t not o f th e m otives from
w h ich he has an a u d ito ry sensation; h e m ay show skill, patien ce, and
m eth od in peering, b u t not in h a v in g visual sensations. C on versely
tickles an d tastes m a y b e relatively acu te, b u t his inspections and de­
tections can n ot b e so described. It m akes sense to speak o f som eone
refrain in g from w atch in g a race or o f his su spen ding his observation
o f a reptile, b u t it m akes n o sense to speak o f som eone refrain in g
from fe e lin g a pain, or su spendin g the tin gle in his nose. Y e t if h avin g
a tingle were, as the th eory holds, in tu itin g a special ob ject, it is not
d e a r w h y this or a n y d isco m fo rt sh ou ld not be dism issed b y suspend­
in g the in tuition o f ir.
Sensations th en , a rc n o t perceivin gs, obscrvings, or findings; th ey
are n ot d etectin gs, scannings, or inspectings; th e y are not apprehend-
ings, co gn izin gs, in tu itin gs, or know ings. T o h ave a sensation is not
to be in a cogn itive relation to a sensible object. T h e r e are n o such
objects. N o r is there a n y such relation. N o t on ly is it false, as was
argued earlier, th a t sensations can be ob jects o f observation; it is also
false th at th ey arc them selves obscrvings o f objects.
A ch am p io n o f th e Sense D a tu m T h e o r y m ig h t ad m it that, fo r a
person to b e d escribable as listen in g to a train, he m ust catch a t least
one sound an d so h a ve at least one a u d ito ry sensation, and still deny
that, b y a d m ittin g th is p oin t, he necessarily set h is foot on th e su g­
gested G a d aren e slope; h e need not concede th at, fo r a person to be
describable as h ea rin g a sound, he m ust h ave y e t a prior sensation
in his sensing o f th at sense d atu m . ‘ H a v in g a sensation’ is m erely the
vu lgar w ay o f rep o rtin g th e sim ple in tu itin g o f a special sensible
object and to say th a t a person in tu its such an ob ject does not entail
his b ein g in a n y w ay sensitively affected. H e m igh t be an an gelic
and im passive con tem p lator o f sounds an d colou r patches, an d these
m igh t be o f a n y d egree o f in ten sity, w ith o u t a n y th in g in him being
SE N SA T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 205
describable as m ore or less acu tc. H o m a y com e across ticklcs w ithout
h im self b ein g tickled , and th e w ays in w h ich h e becom es acquainted
w ith sm ells or pain s need not involve h is b ein g sensitive in a n y way
other than th at h e is cap ab le o f sim p le detection o f such things.
S u ch a d efen cc in effecc exp lain s th e h a v in g o f sensations as the
not h a v in g a n y sensations. I t avoids th e im pu ted regress b y th e heroic
device o f su ggestin g th a t sensing is a co gn itive process w hich does not
require its ow ner to b e susceptible o f stim u li, or to be describable as
eith er h ig h ly or slig h tly sensitive. B y con stru in g sensation as the
sim ple observation o f special objects, it first does aw ay w ith th e very
concept it was professin g to elu cid ate an d, in the second stage, m akes
nonsense o f the concept o f observation itself, since th is concept entails
the concept o f sensations w hich are not th em selves observings.
A lte rn a tiv e ly , th e Sense D a tu m T h e o r y m a y be d efen ded on a
different ground. It m a y b e said th at, w hatever m ay be th e logical
rules g o ve rn in g the concepts o f sensation an d o f observation, it re­
m ains a n u n ch a llen gea b le fa c t th a t in seeing I am d irectly presented
w ith patchw orks o f colours m o m en tarily o ccu p yin g m y field o f view,
in h earin g 1 am d ire ctly presented w ith noises, in sm ellin g w ith sm ells
and so forth . T h a t sense d ata are sensed is beyond question and
in d epen d en t o f theory. T w o-d im en sion al colou r patches are w hat I
see h i ilic s u ic lc s i sense o f ‘see’ ; an d these arc n o t horses an d jockcys,
b u t a t best th e looks, or visual appearances, o f horses a n d jockeys. If
there a re n o t tw o candles, th en the sq u in ter does not really see two
candles, b u t he ce rta in ly sees tw o b rig h t som ethings, and these can
b e n o th in g b u t tw o proprietary 'can dle-looks' or sense data. T h e Sense
D a tu m T h e o r y is not in v e n tin g factitio u s entities, it is m erely draw ­
in g o u r atten tion to the im m ediate ob jects o f sense w hich , from our
ordin ary preoccupation w ith com m on o b jects, we are in th e h ab it o f
cold -sh oulderin g o u t o f conversation. I f logical considerations seem
to req uire that h a v in g a sensation sh all n o t be on all fours with
d escryin g haw ks, or g a z in g a t horse-races, so m u ch the worse for
those considerations, since h a v in g a visual sensation certain ly is a
n on -in fercn tial discern in g o f a p articu lar sensible object.
L e t us consider, th en , th e h ack n eyed instance o f a person looking
at a round plate tilted aw ay fro m h im , w h ich h e m a y th erefore des­
cribe as lo o kin g cllip tical; an d let us see w hat, if a n yth in g, requires
us to sa y th a t he is d escryin g a som eth in g w hich rea lly is elliptical.
It is agreed th at the plate is n o t ellip tica l b u t rou n d, a n d fo r the
a rgu m en t’s sake we m a y concede th at th e spectator is veraciously re­
p o rtin g th at it looks cllip tica l (th ou gh rou nd plates, how ever steeply
2 06 TH E C O N C E P T OP MIND

tilted, do not u su ally look elliptical). T h e question is w h eth er the


truth o f his report th at the plate looks cllip tical im plies th at he is
really espyin g, or scan n in g, an o b jcct o f sense w hich is elliptical,
som ething w hich , n o t b ein g the plate itself, can claim to be entitled
‘a look’ or ‘a visual appcarance o f the plate'. W c m ay also gi<nii d w i
if wc arc bound to say th a t he has com e across an ob ject o f sense
which is really ellip tica l and is a visual appearance o f th e plate, then
this elliptical o b je ct is a tw o-dim ensional colour patch, m om entary
in existence an d proprietary to one percipicnt, i.e. th a t it is a sense
datum and therefore th a t there are sense data.
N ow a person w ith o u t a theory feels no qualm s in sayin g th at the
round plate m ig h t look ellip tical. N o r w ould he feel a n y qualm s in
sayin g th at th e rou n d p late looks as if it w ere clliptical. B u t he w ould
feel qualm s in fo llo w in g th e recom m endation to say th at he is seeing
an elliptical look o f a round plate. '1 h o u gh h e talks easily en ough in
some contexts o f the look o f things, and easily en o u gh in o th er con­
texts o f seein g things, he does not ord in arily talk o f seeing or of
scanning th e looks o f th in gs, o f g a z in g a t views o f races, o f catching
glim pses o f glim pses o f h aw ks, or o f d escryin g th e visual appearance
o f tree-tops. H e w ould fe e l th at, if h e m ix ed his ingredients in these
fashions, h e w ould be ta lk in g the sam e sort o f r.onsense as he w ould if
he m oved from ta lk in g o f eatin g bisLulix an d talkin g o f takin g nibbles
o f biscuits to ta lk in g o f ea tin g n ibbles o f biscuits. A n d he w ould be
quite rig h t. l i e cannot sign ifican tly speak o f ‘ea tin g nib bles’, since
‘nibble’ is a lrea d y a n oun o f eatin g, and he cannot talk o f ‘seeing
looks’, since ‘lo o k ’ is a lread y a noun o f seeing.
W h en he says th a t th e tilted plate has an cllip tical look, or looks as
if it v c r c cllip tical, he m eans th at it looks as ar. ellip tical b u t untilted
plate w ould look. T ilte d round th in gs som etim es do look q uite or
e x a c ly like u n tih ed ellip tical th in gs; straigh t sticks h a lf im m ersed
in water occasionally do look rath er like unim m ersed b en t sticks;
solid but d istan t m oun tain s som etim es do look rather like flat m ural
decorations q uite near to one's nose. In saying th a t the plate looks
elliptical, he is not ch a ra cterizin g an extra object, n am ely ‘a look’ , as
being elliptical, he is lik e n in g how th e tilted round plate does look to
how un tilted ellip tical plates do or w ould look. H e is n o t sayin g ‘ I am
seeing a flat ellip tical p a tch o f W’h ite’, b u t T m igh t be seein g an ellip ­
tical and u n tilted piece o f w hite ch in a ’. W c m ay say that the nearer
aeroplane looks faster than the d istan t aeroplane, but w c could not
say that it has ‘a faster look'. ‘L ooks faster’ m eans ‘looks as if it is
flying faster th ro u gh the a ir’. T a lk in g ab o u t the apparent speeds o f
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 207
aeroplanes is not ta lk in g ab o u t th e speeds o f appearances o f aero­
planes.
In o th er w ords, th e g ra m m a tically unsoph isticated sentence ‘the
plate has an ellip tical look’ does nor, as th e th eory assum es, express
one o f those basic relation al tru th s w hich are so m u ch venerated in
th eory an d so seldom used in d a ily life. It expresses a fa irly com plex
proposition o f w h ich on e part is both g en eral an d h ypoth etical. It is
ap p ly in g to th e a ctu a l look o f the plate a ru le o r a recipe ab o u t the
typical looks o f u n tilted ellip tica l plates, n o m atter w hether there
exist su ch p icces o f ch in a or not. It is w liat I h ave elsew here called a
m o n grel-catego rical statem en t. It is an alogou s to sa yin g o f som eone
th a t h e is b e h a v in g ju d icia lly , or ta lk in g like a pedagogue. T h e
squinter, a w a re o f his sq uin t, w h o reports th at it looks ju st as if there
were tw o can d les on th e table, or th a t he m ig h t be seeing tw o candles,
is d escrib in g how th e single can d le looks b y referrin g to how pairs o f
candles re g u la rly look to spectators w h o are not sq u in tin g; an d if,
not b ein g a w a re o f h is sq uin t, h e says th a t th ere are tw o candles on
th e table, h e is, in this case, m isa p p lyin g ju st th e sam e g en eral rccipe.
T h e expression s ‘it looks . , /, ‘it looks as if . . /, ‘it has th e appcarance
of .. *1 m ig h t be seein g . . a nd p len ty o f others o f the sam e fa m ily
contain the fo rce o f a certain sort o f open h yp o th etical prescription
app lied to a case in h an d. W h e n we say that som eone has a pedantic
appearance, we do n o t m ean to suggest chat th ere arc tw o kinds o f
ped an tic b ein gs, n am ely som e m en an d som e appearances o f men.
W e m ean th a t h e looks rath er like som e p ed antic people look. Sim i­
larly th ere a r c not tw o kinds o f ellip tica l objects, n am ely som e platters
an d som e looks; there are o n ly som e platters w h ich are ellip tical and
others w h ic h look is if th e y w ere elliptical.
In o rd in ary life th ere a rc certain w ays in w h ich we are q u ite ready
to speak o f p a tch es an d splashes o f colour. A housew ife m igh t say
th at h er sittin g-room n eeded a splash o f crim son, w ith o u t sp ecifyin g
crim son p ap er, crim son flowers, crim son rugs, or crim son curtains.
She m ig h t a sk h er h u sban d to g o ou t an d b u y ‘an exp anse o f crim ­
son . . /, le a v in g it to h im to fill in the lacu n a w ith ‘geran ium s’,
‘d istem per’, ‘ creton n e’, or w h atever else w ou ld m eet h e r requirem ents.
In a sim ilar w a y an observer p eerin g th ro u g h a gap in a h ed g e m igh t
sa y th a t h e saw an area o f yellow . . . , b u t be u n able to specify
w heth er w h a t he h ad seen w ere yellow daffodils, yellow charlock,
yellow can vas, or a n y o th er specific k in d o f com m on ob ject or m ater­
ial. T o co m p lete h is sentence h e co u ld say on ly *1 saw som ething
yellow '.
208 TH E C O N C E P T OF M IN D

In contrast w ith this o rd in ary use o f lacuna-expressions like 'a


patch o f yellow . . . ’ an d ‘a splash o f crim son som eth in g or oth er’ , the
Sense D atu m T h e o ry recom m en d s an o th er idiom in w hich we are to
say ‘I see a patch o f W h ite ' (and not ‘ I see a patch o f w hite . . . ’) or
‘he espied a tw o-dim ensional, cllip tica l expanse o f 1)1ue’ (and not ‘a
flat-lcoking, ellip tical-lo o k in g blue som eth in g or other').
N ow I am d en yin g th at h a v in g a visual sensation is a sort o f obser­
vation d cscrib able as th e sensing or in tu itin g o f colou r patches. But
I am not d e n y in g th at a w om an can properly ask h er husband to b u y
a splash o f crim son . . . , or th a t a pedestrian can properly be said to
espy an expanse o f yellow som eth in g or o th er th rou gh a h ole in the
hedge. W h a t th e Sense D atu m T h e o ry has don e is to try to skim an
ethereal cream off su ch o rd in ary lacuna-descriptions o f com m on ob­
jects; to talk as if it had fo u n d a new class o f objects, w here it h as on ly
m isconstrued a fa m ilia r ran ge o f statem ents m en tion in g how other­
wise un p articularized com m on objects are foun d to look.
T a lk in g ab o u t looks, sounds, an d sm ells, ab o u t expanses, shapes,
and colours, ju st as m uch as ta lk in g a b o u t perspectives, hazes, focuses,
an d tw ilights, is a lrea d y ta lk in g ab o u t com m on objects, since it is
ap p lyin g learned perception recipes fo r th e typ ical appearances of
com m on objects to w h atever on e is try in g to m ake ou t a t th e m om ent.
T o say th at som eone c a u g h t a glim pse, or h ea rd a sound, is already
to say m ore than w ould be involved in b a rely d escrib in g his visual
and aud itory sensations, fo r it is a lread y to ran ge w h at h e is atten d ­
in g to un d er fa irly g en eral perception recipes.
T h is poin t m ay be illustrated b y reference to th e h istoric doctrine
o f Secondary Q ualities. It was half-correcTly observed th at w hen a
com m on o b ject is d escribed as green, bitrer, ch illy, pu n gen t, or shrill,
it is b ein g ch aracterized as lookin g, tasting, feelin g, sm elling, or
sounding so and so to a sentient observer; it was correctly noticed, too,
th at conditions w hich affect his sensitivity m ak e a difference in how
th e things look, taste, feel, sm ell, or sound to him . H ow loud a train
sounds depends in part upon the distan ce o f th e observer from the
train, upon his d egree o f hardness o f h earin g , upon the direction in
w hich h is h ead is turned, upon w h eth er his ears are covered and so
forth. W h e th e r w ater o f a certain th erm om eter-tem peraturc feels
ch illy or cosy depends on the prior therm oraeter-tcm perature o f his
hands. F ro m such facts th e theoretical ju m p was m ad e to th e doctrine
th at to say that an o b ject is green is to say som ethin g ab o u t the visual
sensations o f the p a rticu lar observer w ho reports th at it is green . It
was supposed th at ‘gre en ’, ‘ b itter’, ‘c h illy ’, an d the rest are adjectives
SE N S A T IO N AND O B SER VA TIO N 20 g
which properly ap p ly to sensations a n d arc on ly im properly applied
to com m on objects. A n d then, as it is ob viou sly absurd to say th at a
sensation is a green th in g, or an cllip tical th in g, or a ch illy th in g, it
seemed necessary to allot to sensations th eir ow n peculiar objects, so
th a t‘g re en ’ m ig h t be su itably applied not to th e h avin g o f a sensation
but to a peculiar object in tern ally nursed b y th a t sensation. T h e ban
on ch a ra cterizin g com m on objects o f an yon e’s observation b y Second­
ary Q u a lity ad jectives led to the in vention o f som e counterpart, privy
objects to ca rry those ad jcctivcs. Because Secondary Q u a lity ad jec­
tives w ould not b eh ave except as predicates in observation reports,
sensations had to be construed as b ein g them selves observations of
special objects.
B u t w hen I describe a com m on o b jcct as green or bitter, I am not
reporting a fa ct ab o u t m y present sensation, th o u gh I am saying
som ething about h ow it looks or tastes. 1 am sayin g th at it would
look or taste so an d so to an yon e w ho was in a con dition and position
to see or taste properly. H en ce I d o n o t con trad ict m yself if I say th at
the field is green, th o u gh a t th e m om en t it looks greyish-blue to me;
or that the fru it is really b itter, th o u gh it appears to m e quite taste­
less. A n d even w hen I say th a t the grass, th o u gh really green , looks
greyish-blue to m e, I am still d escrib in g m y m om en tary sensation
only b y aasim ilatin g it to how com m on ob jects ilia i are really greyish-
blue n o rm a lly look to a n yo n e w ho can see properly. Secondary
Q uality ad jectives are used an d are used o n ly fo r the reporting of
publicly asccrtain able facts ab o u t com m on objects; for it is a p u b ­
licly ascertain able fa c t ab o u t a field th at it is green, i.e. that it would
look so an d so to an yon e in a position to see it properly. W h a t else
could the people w ho teach o th er people to talk, teach them about
the use o f ad jcctivcs? It m ust be n oticed th at the fo rm u la ‘it w ould
look so and so to an yo n e’ can n ot be paraphrased b y ‘it w ould look
green to an yo n e’, fo r to say th at som eth in g looks green is to sa y that
it looks as it w ould if it w ere green an d conditions w ere norm al. W e
cannot say how so m eth in g looks, or w ould look, except b y m ention­
ing the ascertain able properties o f com m on objects, and then saying
that this looks now as th a t can be exp ected to look.
So w hile it is true to say ‘th e field is green ’ entails propositions
about observers w ith certain optical eq uipm en ts and opportunities,
it is nor true th at it tells an an ecdote a b o u t its author. It is analogous
to the proposition ‘ th is b icycle costs £ 1 2 w h ich entails hypothetical
propositions about a n y actu al or possible purchaser, b u t docs not
state or en tail a n y categorical proposition alx>ut its author. T h a t an
210 THE C O N CE PT OF MIND

article has a price is a fa ct a b o u t th e article an d ab o u t custom ers, but


it is n ot a fact about an article a n d ab o u t a given custom er; still less
is it a fa ct m erely ab o u t a given custom er.
A person w ho says ‘the search ligh t is d a z z lin g ’ need not h im self
have a n y cazzle-d isco m forts; b u t still he is ta lk in g ab o u t d azzle-
discom forts in an o th er w ay, th o u gh it is a w ay w hich involves also
talkin g about the search ligh t. It is fallaciou s to a rg u e th at a search­
lig h t cannot be said to be d a zzlin g , unless the speaker is b ein g
d a zzled , and th a t th erefore daz2lingnes$ is n ot a q u a lity o f th e search­
ligh t, b u t is a q u a lity o f th at in d ivid u a l’s sense data. T o say th a t the
search ligh t is d a z z lin g docs n o t im p ly th a t it is now d a z z lin g som e­
one; it says o n ly th at it w ould d a zzle an yon e o f norm al eyesigh t who
was lookin g at it fro m a certain distance w ith ou t a n y protection. M y
statem ent 'the se arch lig h t is d a z z lin g ’ no m ore reports a sensation
that I a m h avin g than ‘th e b icyclc costs ¿ 1 2 ’ reports m oney th at I am
h an d lin g. In th e sense o f ‘su b jective’ u su ally intended, Secondary
Q ualities are n ot su bjective, th o u gh it rem ains true th a t in th e cou n­
try o f th e blind adjectives o f colou r w ould h ave no use, w hile ad jec­
tives o f shape, size, distance, direction o f m otion, an d so on w ould
have the uses th a t th ey h ave in E n glan d.
A rgu m en ts fo r th e su b jectivity o f Secondary Q ualities are apt to
h in ge ill fact upon an in terestin g verbal trick. A d je ctiv e s like 'green 1,
‘sweet', and ‘cold ’ are assim ilated to adjectives o f discom fort and their
opposites, like ‘d a z z lin g ’, ‘p ala tab le’, ‘scald in g’, an d ‘ch illy ’. E ven so,
as we h ave seen, th e conclusion draw n does not follow . T o call the
w ater ‘p ain fu lly h ot’ is not to say th a t the a u th o r o f the statem en t or
an yon e else is in pain. H ow ever, it does refer in a m ore indirect w ay
to people being in pain, and as being in pain is a state o f m ind, nam ely
one o f distress, we can say th at ‘p a in fu lly h o t' alludes in d ircctly and
in ter alia to a state o f m ind. B u t it certain ly does not follow that ‘the
water is lukew arm ’ a n d ’ the sky is b lu e' a llu d e even in this indirect
w ay to states o f m ind. ‘L u k ew a rm ’ a n d ‘blue* are n o t ad jectives o f
discom fort or gratification. O n e road m a y be described as m ore boring
than a second road an d as lon ger than a third road; b u t in the w ay in
w hich the first description does allu d e to w ayfarers feelin g bored, the
second docs n ot a llu d e to w ayfarers’ m oods a t all.
A linguistic consequence o f all this argu m en t is th at we h a ve no
em ploym en t fo r such expressions as 'ob jects o f sense’, ‘sensible object*,
‘sensum ’, ‘sense d a tu m ’, ‘sense-content’, ‘sense field', a n d ‘sensibilia’ ;
the ep iste n o lo g ist’s transitive verb ‘ to sense’ an d th e in tim idatin g
‘d irect awareness’ and ‘acq u ain tan ce’ can be return ed to store. T h e y
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N ïl I

com m em orate n o th in g m ore than the attem p t to give the conccpts of


sensation th e job s o f concepts o f observation, an attem p t w hich in­
exorab ly ended in th e postulation o f sense d a ta as counterparts to the
com m on objects o f observation.
It also follow s th a t we need erect n o private theatres to provide
stages fo r these postulated extra objects, n or p u zzle ou r heads to des­
cribe th e in describable relations betw een these postulated objects
and everyd ay things.

(4) Sensation and O bservation


It is no p a rt o f th e o b je ct o f this book to swell the ranks o f theories
o f know ledge in gen eral, or o f theories o f perception in particular. It
is, rather, one o f its m otives to show th a t a lot o f the theories th at go
b y those nam es are, or em b od y, u n w an ted para-m ech anical h ypo­
theses. W h en theorists pose such ‘wires a n d pu lleys’ questions as,
‘H ow are past experiences stored in the m in d ? ’, ‘ H ow does a m ind
reach ou t past its screen o f sensations to grasp th e ph ysical realities
outsid e?', ‘H ow d o w e subsum e the data o f sense under concepts and
categories?’, th e y are a p t to pose these problem s as if th ey were prob­
lem s ab o u t the existen ce an d in terconnexion s o f h idden bits of
gh o stly apparatus. T h e y talk as if th ey w ere d o in g som ethin g like
speculative a n a to m y or even counter-espionage.
Since, how ever, we do not regard the fa c t th at a person has a sen­
sation as a fa c t ab o u t h is m ind, w hereas the fa c t th a t h e observes
som eth in g an d th e fa c t th at h e tends n ot to observe thin gs o f certain
sorts do belon g to the description o f his m en tal operations an d
powers, it is proper to say m ore a b o u t th is difference.
W e use the verb ‘ to observe’ in tw o ways. In one use, to say th at
som eone is observin g so m eth in g is to say th at h e is tryin g, w ith or
w ithout success, to find o u t som eth in g ab o u t it b y d oin g a t least some
lookin g, listening, savou ring, sm ellin g, or feelin g. In another use, a
person is said to h ave observed som eth in g, w h en his exploration has
been succcssful, i.e. th a t h e h as fo u n d som eth in g ou t b y som e such
m ethods. V erb s o f perception su ch as ‘see’, ‘h ear’, ‘ d etect’, ‘discrim in­
ate’, a n d m an y oth ers a rc g en era lly used to record observational
successes, w hile verbs like 'w a tch ', ‘listen', ‘p ro b e’, ‘scan ’, an d ‘savour’
arc used to record observational un d ertakings, the success o f w hich
m ay be still in question. H en ce it is proper to speak o f som eone
w atch in g ca refu lly a n d su ccessfu lly, b u t n o t o f his seeing carefu lly or
successfu lly, o f his pro b in g system atically, b u t n ot o f h is discovering
system atically, a n d so on. T h e sim ple-seem ing assertion ‘I see a
212 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

lin n et' claim s a success, w here ‘ I am tryin g to m ak e o u t w hat is


m o vin g’ reports o n ly an investigation.
In o u r present in q u iry it will som etim es be conven ien t to use the
am biguous word 'observe' ju st because it can be used as w ell to sign ify
d iscovery as to sig n ify search. T h e w ords ‘perception’ and ‘perceivc*
w hich are aften used as card in a l in these inquiries, are too narrow
since th ey cover o n ly achievem en ts, as d o the specific verbs o f per­
ception ‘sec’, ‘h ear’, ‘taste’, 'sm ell', an d, in one sense, ‘feel’.
It h as alread y been rem arked th a t o b servin g entails h avin g a t least
one sensation, th o u g h h a v in g sensations does not entail observing.
W e m igh t now ask, ‘W h a t m ore is there in ob servin g than h a v in g at
least one sensation?’ B u t this fo rm u latio n o f the question is m islead­
ing, since is suggests th at visu ally ob servin g a robin consists in both
h a vin g a t least one visual sensation an d d o in g or h a v in g som ethin g
else as well, i.e. in two states or processes cou pled togeth er, as h u m ­
m in g an d w alkin g can b e cou pled together; an d this need not b e the
case. A s was a rg u e d in C h ap ter V (Section 4) th ere is a cru cial differ­
ence between d o in g so m eth in g w ith heed and d o in g it, e.g. in absence
o f m in d, but this d ifference docs not consist in h eed in g Inring a con­
com itant act, o ccu rrin g in an o th er ‘p la ce’. So we sh ou ld ask, not,
‘W h a t is an observer d oin g besides h a v in g sensations?’, but, ‘W h a t
docs th e description o f an observer em b o d y over and above the des­
cription o f h im as h a v in g those sensations?’ T h is poin t w ill be im ­
portan t before long.
W e should b egin b y dism issing a m odel w hich in one fo rm or
an oth er dom inates m an y speculations ab o u t perception. T h e beloved
b u t spurious question, ‘H ow can a person g e t beyond h is sensations
to apprehension o f extern al realities?’ is o ften posed as if the situa­
tion were like this. T h e r e is im m ured in a w indowless cell a prisoner,
w ho has lived there in so litary confinem ent since birth. A ll th at com es
to h im from th e outsid e w orld is flickers o f lig h t throw n upon his
cell-w alls and tappings h eard th ro u gh th e stones; yet from these ob­
served flashes and tappin gs h e becom es, or seem s to becom e, apprised
o f unobserved fooib all-m atch es, flow er-gardens, an d eclipses o f the
sun. H ow then does h e learn the ciphers in w hich his signals are
arranged, or even find o u t th at there a rc such th in gs as ciphers? How
can he interpret th e m essages w h ich h e som ehow deciphers, given
th at the vocabularies o f those m essages are th e vocabularies o f fo o t­
ball and asironom y an d not those o f flickers and tappings?
T h is m odel is o f course th e fa m ilia r p icture o f th e m in d as a ghost
in a m achine, about the gen eral d efects o f w h ich n o th in g m ore need
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 113

be said. Rut certain p articu lar ie fe c ts d o need to be noticed. T h e use


o f this sort o f m odel involves the exp licit or im p licit assum ption that,
m uch as the prisoner can see flickers an d h ear tappings, b u t cannot,
unfortunately, see or h ear focrball m atches, so w e can observe our
visual and other sensations, but cannot, u n fortu n ately, observe robins.
B u t this is d o u b ly to ab use the notion o f observation. A s has been
shown, on the one h an d , it is nonsense to speak o f a person w itness­
in g 1 sensation, an d , on th e uther, th e o rd in ary use of verbs like
‘observe’ , ‘espy’, ‘peer a t’ , a n d so on is in ju st such contexts as 'observe
a robin’, ‘espy a lady-bird*, and ‘peer at a b ook’. F ootb all m atches are
just the sorts o f th in gs o f w hich w e d o catch glim pses: and sensations
are the sorts o f th in g s o f w hich it w ould be ab su rd to say that a n y ­
one cau gh t glim pses. In o th er words, the prison m odel suggests that,
in finding ou t a b o u t robins an d foo tb all m atches, we have to d o som e­
thing like in ferrin g from sensations, w h ich we do observe, to birds
and gam es, w hich we never could observe; w hereas in fact it is robins
and gam es th at we observe, and it is sensations th a t we never could
obseive. T h e question, ‘IIo w do we ju m p fro m descrying or inspect­
in g sensations to b eco m in g apprised o f robins and football m atch es?'
is a spurious how-question.
N e w th ere is no un iq u e a n d ccn tral p roblem o f perception. T h e re
is a range o f p a rtia lly overlappin g questions, m ost o f w hich w ill cease
to be in trigu in g, the m om ent that a few of th em h a ve been cleared
up. W e can illu strate certain of th e problem s w h ich belong to this
range in this w ay. T o describe som eone as fin ding a thim ble is to
say som ethin g a b o u t his h avin g visual, tactual, or auditory sensations,
b u t i: is to sa y m ore th an that. S im ilarly to describe som eone as try­
in g to m ak e out w h eth er w hat he sees is a chaffinch or a robin, a
stick or a shadow , a fly on th e w indow or a m ote in his eye, is to say
som ething about his visual sensations, b u t it is to say m ere th an that.
F in ally, to describe som eone as 'seeing' a snake th a t is not there, or
as ‘U eaiing’ voices, w here all h silent, seem s to be saying som ething
about his im ages, i f not ab ou : h is sensations, b u t it is to say more
than th at. W h a t m ore is b ein g said? O r, w h at is th e specific force o f
such descriptions in respect o f w h ich th ey differ boih from one
another an d fro m ‘n eat’ descriptions o f sensations, supposing that
we could p rod ucc su ch descriptions? T h e questions, that is, are not
questions o f th e para-m echanical form ‘H ow d o w c see robin s?’, but
questions o f the fo rm , ‘H ow do we use su ch descriptions as "h e saw
a robin” ? ’
W h en we describe som eone as h a v in g d etected a m osquito in the
214 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND
room, whar m om are wr* sa yin g rhan rhar th ere was a ccreain sort of
sin gin g in his oars? W e b egin b y answ ering th at he not on ly had a
singing in his ears b u t also recogn ized or identified w h at he heard
as the noise o f a fa irly ad jacen t m osquito; an d we arc in clin ed to gc
on to say in m ore g en eric term s th a t he was not only h a v in g a sing*
in g in his ears, but was also th in k in g certain thoughts; perhaps that
he was subsum ing the sin gin g un der a concept, or th at he was
cou plin g an intellectual process w ith his sensitive state. B u t in saying
this sort o f thing, th ou gh we h a ve one foot on th e rig h t track, we also
have on e fo o t cn the w ron g track. W e are b egin n in g to g o on the
w rong track, when we say th a t th ere m ust h ave taken place such and
such conceptual or discursive processes; since this is in effect, if nof
in intention, to say th a t d etectin g a m osquito could not happen,
unless som e special b u t unobserved ghostly w heels had go n e round,
wheels whose existence an d fu n ction s only epistem ologists are clcver
en ough to diagnose. O n the o th er h an d, in sayin g this sort of thing
we are also on the rig h t track. It is certainly true th a t a m an could
not d etect a m osquito if h e d id not know w h at m osquitoes were and
w hat th e y sounded like; or if, through absent-m indedness, panic, or
stupidity, he failed to a p p ly this know ledge to the present situation;
fo r this is part o f w hat 'd etectin g' m eans.
W e do not, that is, w ant tidings or hypotheses about an y other
th in gs w h ich the listener m a y h ave privily done or undergone. Even
if there had ta.<en place three, or seventeen, such entr'actes, newi
about them would nor exp lain h ow detecting a m osquito differs from
h a v in g a shrill singing in the ears. W h a t v e w ant to know is how the
logical behaviour o f ‘he detected a m osquito' differs from th at of
‘there was a singing in his ears’, fro m that o f ‘h e tried in vain to
m ake o u t w h at was m ak in g the n oise’, and from th a t o f ‘ he m istook
it fo r the noise s f th e w ind in the telephone wires’.
L e t us consider a sligh tly different situation in w hich a person
w ould be described as n ot m erely h ea rin g som ething, an d not m erel)
listen in g to som ething, and not m erely trying to m ake ou t w hat be
was h earing, but as id e n tify in g or recogn izin g w hat he heard, nam ely
the case o f a personw ho recogn izes a tu n e.F or this situation to obtain,
there m ust be notes p la yed in h is h earing, so he m ust not be d eaf, ox
an aesth etized , cr fa st asleep. R e co g n izin g w hat he hears en tails h ear­
ing. It also entails h eed in g; the absent-m inded or distracted m an n
not follow in g the tunc. B u t m ore than this, h e m ust have m et this
tune before; and he m ust n o t o n ly have met it, b u t also have learned
it a n d n ot forgotten it. I f he d id not in this sense alread y k n o v
SEN SA TIO N AND O BSERVATION 215

the tune, h e cou ld n ot be said to reco gn ize it on listen in g to it


now.
W h a t th en is it fo r a person to know a tune, th at is to h a ve learned
and net fo rgo tten it? It certain ly docs not en tail h is b ein g able to tell
its name, fo r it m ay h a ve n o nam e; an d even if h e g a ve it th e w rong
nam e, he m ig h t still be said to know th e tune. N o r docs it en tail his
bein g able to describe the tune in words, or w rite it ou t in m usical
notation, for few o f us cou ld do that, th o u g h m ost o f us can recogn ize
tunes. H e need not even be ab le to h u m o r w histle th e tunc, th ou gh
if h e can do so, he certain ly• know s the tune: an d if h e can h u m or
whistle p len ty o f o th er tunes, b u t can n ot produce this one, even when
prom pted, we suspect th a t he does not know this tune. T o describe
him m kn o w in g the tu n e is a t th e least to sa y th a t he is cap able o f
recogn izin g it, w hen he hears it: a n d he w ill be said to recognize it,
when he hears it, if he does, som e or all o f th e fo llo w in g th in gs: if,
after hearing a b a r or two, he exp ects those bars to follow w hich do
follow : if he does not erroneously e x p ect th e previous bars to be re­
peated; if he detects om issions or errors in th e perform an ce; if, after
the m usic h ad been sw itched off for a few m om ents, he expects it to
resume ab o u t w here it does resum e; if, w hen several people are
w histling different tunes, he can p ick o u t w ho is w h istlin g this tune;
if he can b eat tim e corrcccly; if he ta n accom p an y U b y w h ir lin g or
hum m ing it in tim e an d tune, an d so on indefinitely. A n d w hen we
speak of h im ex p ectin g the notes w hich are due to follow an d n o t e x ­
pecting notes or bars w h ich are n o t d u e to follow , we do not require
that he be a ctu a lly th in k in g ahead. G iven that he is su rprized, scorn­
fu l. or am u sed , if the d u e notes an d bars d o not com e a t th eir due
tim es, then it is true to sa y th a t he was ex p ectin g th em , even though
it is false to say th a t he w en t th ro u gh a n y processes o f an ticip atin g
them .
In short, he is now re co g n izin g or fo llo w in g the tunc, if know ing
how it goes, he is now u sin g th a t kn ow led ge; an d he uses that know ­
led ge not ju st b y h ea rin g th e tune, b u t b y h ea rin g it in a special
fram e o f m in d, th e fra m e o f m ind o f b ein g read y to h ear both w hat
he is now h ea rin g and w hat h e w ill h ear, or w ould be ab o u t to hear,
if the pianist continues p la y in g it and is p la y in g it correctly. I !e knows
how it goes an d h e now hears th e notes as th e progress o f th at tune.
H e hears th em acco rd in g to th e recipe o f the tu n c, in th e sense that
w hat he hears is w hat he is listen in g for. Y e t th e co m p lex ity o f this
description o f h im as b o th h earin g the notes, as th ey com e, and listen­
in g for, or b ein g read y fo r, th e notes d ia t do, an d th e notes th at
2 i6 THE C O N C E PT OF MIND

should, com e docs not im p ly th a t h e is g o in g th ro u gh a co m p lex of


operations. H e need not, fo r exam p le, be co u p lin g w ith h is h earin g
o f the notes an y silent or m urm ured prose-m oves, or ‘ subsum ing*
w hat he hears 'u n d er th e con cept o f th e tu n e'. Indeed, if h e were told
to th in k th e th o u g h t o f ‘L illib u llc ro ’, w ith o u t producing, im agin in g,
or actu a lly listen in g to th e tune itself, he w ould say chat there was
n o th in g left fo r h im to th in k; a n d if h e w ere told th at the fa c t th a t lie
could recogn ize th e tu n e, even th o u g h p layed in various w ays in
various situations, m ean t th a t h e h ad a C o n cep t, o r A b s tra c t Idea, o f
the tune, he w ould p ro p erly o b ject th a t he could not th in k w h a t it
w ould be like to be con siderin g or a p p lyin g th e A b stra ct Idea o f
'L illib u lle ro ', unless th is m ean t m erely th a t h e could reco g n ize the
tune, w hen h e h ea rd it, d etect m istakes a n d om issions in it, h u m
snatches from it and so on.
T h is enables us to reconsider w h at was said earlier, n a m ely , th at a
person w ho rcco gn izes w h at h e hears is n ot on ly h a v in g a u d ito ry sen­
sations, b u t is also th in k in g. It is not true th at a person fo llo w in g a
fa m ilia r tunc need b e th in k in g th ou gh ts su ch th a t there m u st be an
answer to the question, ‘W h a t th ou gh ts h as h e been th in k in g ? ' or
even ‘W h a t gen eral concepts has he been a p p ly in g ? ’ It is n o t true that
he m ust have been p o n d erin g or d eclarin g propositions to h im self,
or to th e com pany, in E n glish or F ren ch ; an d it is not tru e th at he
m ust have been m arsh allin g a n y visual o r a u d ito ry im ages. W h a t is
true is th at he m ust h ave been in som e d egree vigilan t, a n d th e notes
that he h eard m ust h ave fallen as he exp ected th em to fa ll, or shocked
him b y not d o in g so. H e was n eith er m erely listen in g, as one m igh t
listen to an u n fa m ilia r air, nor yet was he necessarily co u p lin g his
listen in g w ith som e o th er process; he w as ju st listen in g a cco rd in g to
th e recipe.
T o c la rify fu rth e r the senses in w hich fo llo w in g a k n o w n tune is
an d is not ‘ th in k in g ’, let us consider the case o f a person h ea rin g a
w altz fo r the first tim e. H e does not know h ow this tu n e goes, but
since he know s how som e o th er w altz tunes go, h e know s w h a t sorts o f
rh yth m s to expect. H e is p a rtia lly b u t n o t fu lly prepared fo r the
succeeding bars, and h e can p artially b u t n o t co m p letely place the
notes alread y heard a n d now b ein g heard. H e is w ond erin g ju s t how
the tu n c goes, an d in w ond ering he is tryin g to piece ou t th e arran ge­
m ent o f the notes. A t n o m om en t is h e q u ite rea d y fo r the n o te th a t is
due next. T h a t is, h e is th in k in g in the special sense o f tryin g to
p u zzle som eth in g out.
But, in contrast w ith h im , th e person w h o alrea d y know s th e tune
SENSATIO N AND O B SER VATIO N 217

follow s the tune w ithout ar.y business o f p u z z lin g or tryin g to m ake


ou t how the tune goes. It is co m p letely obvious to h im all the time.
T h ere need be n o activity, not even a very sw ift an d very easy activity,
o f tryin g to resolve uncertainties, fo r there a re n o uncertainties. H e is
not listening in a w orrying-out w ay; he is ju st listening. Y e t he is not
m erely h ea rin g notes, fo r he is h ea rin g ‘L illib u lle ro ’. N o t on ly are
the notes clearly a u d ib le to him (perhaps th ey are not), b u t the tune
is quite obvious to h im ; and th e obviousness o f the tune is n ot a fact
alw uc his a u d ito ry sensitiveness, it is a fa c t a b o u t w h at he has learned
and n ot fo rgo tten an d his present app lication o f those lessons.
F in a lly, th o u gh follow in g a fa m ilia r tu n e entails h a v in g becom c
fam iliarized w ith it, it does not req uire g o in g th rou gh an y operations
of rem iniscence. M em ories of past h earin gs o f th e tune need not well
up, or be called up. T h e sense o f ‘th in k in g ’ in w h ich a person follow ­
in g a fa m ilia r tune can be said to be th in k in g w h at h e is h earing, is
not that th ou gh ts o f past auditions are o ccu rrin g to him . H e has not
forgotten how it goes, b u t he is not recallin g how it fo rm erly went.
R o u gh ly, to know how a tu n e goes is to h ave a cq u ired a set of
aud itory exp ectation propensities, a n d to recogn ize or follow a tune
is to be h ea rin g expected note a fter expected note. A n d th is does
not entail th e ocu rren ce o f an y other exercises o f exp ectation than
listening fo r w hat is b ein g heard and w h a t is d u e to b e heard. T h e
description o f a person hearing exp ected notes is indeed different
from th a t o f a person hearing unexpected notes and fro m th at o f
a person w h o hears notes w ith o u t a n y expectations a t all (like a
person w h o is h ea rin g but n o t listening); b u t this docs not m ean
th at there is som ethin g extra g o in g on in th e first person w h ich is
not g o in g on in th e seconc or th e third. It m eans th a t the hearing
is g o in g on in a d ifferen t w ay, th e description o f w hich difference
involves, n ot a report o f extra occurrences, b u t o n ly the ch aracteriza­
tion o f h is h ea rin g as specially schooled h earing. T h a t a person is
follow in g a tu n c is, if y o u like, a fa c t b oth ab o u t his ears an d about
his m ind; b u t it is not a conjunction o f one fa ct about h is ears and
an oth er fa c t about his m ind, or a con join t report o f o n e incident in
his sensitive life an d another in cid en t in his in tellectu al life. It is
w hat I have called a ‘sem i-hypothetical’, or ‘m ongrel-catcgorical\
statem ent.
W e can now turn to consider som e o f the kinds o f perceptual
episodes w h ich are ord in arily taken as th e stan dard m odels o f per­
ceptual recognition. W e shall see th a t th ey are in m an y im portant
respects o f a piece w ith the recognition o f a tune. I chose to start
2 l8 TH E C O N C E PT OF MIND

w ith th e exam ple o f som eone fo llo w in g a fam iliar tune, bccause this
is a protracted occupation. W e can see a gate-post in a flash, b u t we
cannot hear ‘L illib u lle ro ’ in a flash. T h e r e is h ere, con sequen tly, no
tem ptation to postulate the occurrence o f lig h tn in g intellectual
processes, processes too rapid to b e noticed, b u t in tellectu al en ough
to execute all th e H ercu lean labours dem an ded b y cpistem ologists.
W h en a person is described as h a v in g seen the thim ble, part o f
w hat is said is th a t h e has h ad at least on e visual sensation, b u t a
good d eal m ore is said as well. T h eo rists com m on ly construe this
as m ean in g th at a description o f a person as h avin g seen the thim ble
both says th a t h e h a d a t least one visual sensation an d says th at he
did or un derw en t so m eth in g else as well; and th ey ask accord in gly,
'W h a t else d id th e finder o f th e th im b le d o or undergo, such th a t he
w ould n o t h ave fo u n d the th im b le if he h ad not done or undergone
these extra th in g s?’ T h e ir queries arc then answ ered b y stories about
som e very sw ift a n d u n n oticed inferences, or som e sudden and un-
rem em berable in tellectu al leaps, or som e fetch in g up o f concepts
and clap p in g th em upon th e heads o f th e visual data. T h e y assume,
th at is, th at because the proposition ‘he espied th e th im b le’ has a
considerable logical co m p lexity, it th erefore reports a considerable
com plication o f processes. A n d as these processes are not witnessed
g o in g on, it is postulated that th ey m ust be g o in g on in a place
w here th ey can n o t be w itnessed, n am ely , in the finder’s stream o f
consciousness.
O u r an alysis o f w h at we h a ve in m ind, w hen w c say th at som eone
recognizes a tu n c, can b e applied to the new case. C erta in ly a person
w ho espies the th im b le is reco g n izin g w hat he sees, and this certainly
entails not o n ly th a t he h as a v isu a l sensation, b u t also th at h e has
alread y learned and not forgotten w h at thim bles look like. H e has
learned en o u gh o f th e recipe fo r th e looks o f thim bles to recognize
thim bles, w hen he sees th em in o rd in ary ligh ts and positions at
o rd in ary distances and from o rd in ary angles. W h e n he espies the
th im b le on th is occasion, he is ap p lyin g his lesson; he is actu ally
d oin g w hat h e has learned to do. K n o w in g how th im bles look, he is
ready to anticipate, th o u g h h e need not a ctu a lly anticipate, how it
will look, if he approaches it, or m oves aw ay from it; and when,
w ith ou t h a v in g executed an y su ch anticipations, he does approach
it, or m ove aw ay fro m it, it looks as h e was prepared for it to look.
W h e n the actu al glim pses o f it th at he gets are g o t accord in g to the
th im b le recipe, th e y satisfy his acquired expcciation-propensities;
and this is h is esp yin g the thim ble.
SENSATION’ AND O B S E R V A T IO N 2 ig
A s with the tunc, so w ith the th im b le; if the recognition is im peded
by no difficulties, if, that is, the th im b le is obvious to th e observer
from the first glance, then n o ex tra th in kin g or pondering, no
pu zzlin gs o r rem iniscences need be perform ed. H e need n ot say
an yth in g in English or in F ren ch , to h im self or to the world; he
need uot m arshal m em o ry im ages or fan cy im ages; he need not
wonder, m ake conjectures, o r take precautions; he need not recall
past episodes; he need d o n o th in g th a t w auld be described as the
th in kin g o f thoughts, th o u gh , if lin gu istically equipped, he can be
expected to b e ready to do som e o f these things, if there arises any
call to d o so. T h e sense in w hich h e is th in k in g and not m erely
h avin g a visual sensation, is th a t h e is h avin g a visual sensation in
a thim ble-seeing fra m e o f m ind. Just as a person w h o recognizes a
tune from th e first few bars is prepared both retrospectively for those
already h eard and those now b ein g h ea rd and prospectively for the
bars th at are tc follow , though he goes th rou gh no additional
operations o f preparing for th em , so a person w ho recognizes a
cow at sigh t is prepared fo r a m u ltifariou s variety o f sights, sounds,
and sm ells, o f none o f w hich need the th o u gh t actu a lly occur
to him .
T h e difficulty will probably be fe lt that even if th is sort o f account
o f the visual obviousness o f thim bles an d the au d itory obviousness
o f tunes is true, the real question rem ains unansw ered. I lo w do we
learn that there are th im b les in the first place? H ow can a person who
starts w ith m ere sensations reach the stage o f fin ding ou t that there
are ph ysical objects? B u t this is a q u eer sort o f how -question, since,
construing it in one w ay, we all know the answer perfectly well. W e
know how infants com e to learn th a t som e noises do, an d others do
not, belon g to tunes; th at som e tuneless sequences o f noises, like
nursery rhym es, have recogn izab le rhythm s; others, like dock-noises,
have recognizable m onotonies; w hile yet others, lik e rattle-noises,
arc random and disorderly. W c know , loo, d ie so n s o f gam es and
exercises b y which m others and nurses tcach th eir infants lessons
of these sorts. T h ere is no m ore o f an cpistem ological p u zzle in­
volved in describing how boys learn to bicycle. T h e y learn b y
practice, a n d we can sp ecify the sorts o f practice th a t exp ed ite this
learning.
N ow clearly stories ab o u t learn in g b y practice w ill not be felt to
give the solution o f the how -question asked above. T h is question was
not intended as a question about th e stages th rou gh w hich capacities
and interests develop, or ab o u t th e aids and im pedim ents to their

r
220 T H E C O N C E P T OK M IN D

d evelopm ent. W h a t then was in ten ded? Perhaps its poser m ig h t say
som eth in g lik e this. ‘T h e re is, perhaps, n o philosophical p u zzle about
how ch ild ren learn tunes, or reco gn ize them , w hen th ey have once
learned th em . N o r perhaps is there a p u zzle about analogous learn­
in g o f recipes in respect o f sights, tastes, an d sm ells. B u t there is a
b ig d ifference betw een lea rn in g a tu n c an d finding ou t th at there are
such things as violins, thim bles, cows, an d gateposts. F in d in g out
th at there are m aterial ob jects requires, as learn in g tunes does not,
g ettin g b e y o n d noises, sights, tastes, and sm ells to p u b lic cxistcnts
other than, and in dependent o f, ou r personal sensations. A n d b y the
m etap h orical expression ‘g e ttin g b eyo n d ’ is m ean t g e ttin g to know
that such ob jects exist on th e basis o f o rigin ally know in g o n ly that
these sensations exist. O u r p u zzle is, therefore, in accordance with
w hat principles, and from w h at prem isses, can a person valid ly con­
clu d e th a t cow s an d gate-posts exist? O r, if b y som e lu ck y instinct
he co rrectly believes such things w ith ou t inferences, b y w hat in­
ferences ca n he ju s tify these in stinctive b eliefs?’ T h a t is, th e how-
question is to be construed as a Sherlock H olm es question o f the
type ‘w h at evidence h ad th e d etective ascertained w h ich enabled
him to confirm his suspicion th at the gam ekeep er was the m urderer?'
A n d co n stru in g the question in this w ay, w e can sw iftly see that it is
an im proper question. W h en we speak o f th e eviden ce ascertained by
the d etective, we are th in k in g o f things w h ich h e or his inform ants
had ob served or witnessed, such as fingerprints fou n d on glasses and
con versation s overheard b y eavesdroppers. B u t a sensation is not
som eth in g w h ich its ow ner observes or witnesses. It is not a clue.
L isten in g to a conversation en tails h a v in g au d itory sensations, for
listen in g is h e e d fu l h earin g, an d h ea rin g entails g e ttin g auditory sen­
sations. B u t h a v in g sensations is not discoverin g clues. W e discover
clues b y listen in g to conversations an d lookin g at fingerprints. If we
could not observe som e things, we should not h ave clues fo r other
things, an d con versations are ju st the sorts o f th ings to w hich we do
listen, as fin gerprints an d gate-posts are ju st th e sorts o f things at
w hich we do look.
T h is im p ro p er how -question is tem pting, partly because there is a
tendency m ista k en ly to suppose th at all learn in g is discovery b y in­
ference fro m previou sly ascertained evidence; and then a process o f
sensing sense d ata is cast for th e role o f ascertain in g the initial
evidence. In fact, o f course, we learn how to m ake inferences from
previously ascertain ed facts ju st as we learn how to p lay chess, ride
bicycles, or recogn ize gate-posts, n am ely b y practice, reinforced,
SEN SA TIO N AND O BSERVATIO N 221

m aybe, b y som e schooling. T h e app lication o f ru les o f inference is


not a con dition o f le a rn in g b y practice; it is ju st o n e o f the countless
things learned b y practice.
A s has been show n, listen in g and lo o k in g arc n o t m erely h avin g
sensations; nor, how ever, are th e y jo in t processes o f observin g sen­
sations an d in ferrin g to com m on objects. A person listen in g or look­
in g is d o in g so m eth in g w h ich h e w ould not do, i f he w ere d e a f or
blind; or, w h a t is q u ite different, if he w ere absent-m inded, dis-
tractcd, or q u ite uninterested; or, w h a t is q u ite differen t again , if
he h ad not learn ed to use h is ears an d eyes. O b se rv in g is using one's
cars and eyes. B u t using one’s ears an d eyes docs n ot en tail using,
in a d ifferen t sense, on e’s visual a n d au d itory sensations as d u e s. It
m akes n o sense to speak o f ‘ using* sensations. It w ill not even d o to
say th at, in w a tch in g a cow , I am fin d in g out a b o u t th e cow ‘b y
m eans o f’ visual sensations, since th is too w ould su ggest th at sensa­
tions are tools, o b jects w h ich can be han d led in th e sam e sorts of
ways as th e th in gs seen an d h eard can be h an d led . A n d this would
be even m ore m islead in g than it w ould be to say th a t m an ipulatin g
a h am m er in volves first m an ip u latin g m y fingers, or th at I control
the h am m er b y d in t o f co n tro llin g m y fingers.
T h e re is a n o th er fa vo u rite m odel fo r th e description o f sensations.
A s flour, sugar, m ilk , eggs, an d cu rran ts are am o n g th e raw m aterials
out o f w h ich the co n fection er concocts cakes, o r as b ricks and tim ­
ber are a m o n g th e raw m aterials o f th e bu ild er, so sensations are
often spoken o f as the raw m aterials o u t o f w hich we con struct the
world we kn ow . A s a co u m crb last to even m ore m islea d in g stories
this story h a d som e im portan t m erits. B u t the n otion s o f collecting,
storing, sortin g, u n p ack in g , treatin g, assem bling, and arranging,
w h ich apply to th e in gred ien ts o f cakes an d th e m aterials o f houses,
do n o t ap p ly to sensations. W e can ask w h at a ca k e is m ade o f, but
not w hat kn ow led ge is m ad e o f; we can ask w h at th o se ingredients
arc to be m ad e in to, b u t not w h at is g o in g to be con cocted or con­
structed o u t o f th e visual a n d a u d ito ry sensations w hich the child
has recen tly b een having.
W e can con clud c, th en , rhat there is n o differen ce o f principle,
th o u gh th ere are p len ty o f differences in d etail, betw een reco gn izin g
tunes and reco gn izin g gate-posts. O n e such difference m ay be m en­
tioned, b efore we leave the subject. A t a fa irly early stage o f in fan cy,
the ch ild learns to coordinate, fo r exam p le, th e s ig h t red p cs, the
sound recipes, and th e feel recipes o f things like rattles and kittens;
and h a v in g begun to learn how th in gs o f p articu lar sorts can be
222 TPIE C O N C E P T O F M I N D

expected to look, sound, and feel, h e then begins to learn how th ey


behave; w hen, fo r exam p le, th e rattle or th e kitten m akes a noise
and when it m akes none. H e now observes th in gs in an experim ental
way. B u t the relatively con tem p lative business o f lea rn in g tunes
does not, b y itself, in volve m u ch coordination o f looks w ith sounds,
or give m u ch room io r exp erim en tation . B u t this is a difference o f
degree, not on e o f kind.
O ne or tw o residual points should receive b rie f notice. F irst, in
talkin g o f a person learn in g a perception recipe, 1 a m not talkin g
o f h is discoverin g a n y causal laws, such as those o f p h ysiolo gy, optics,
or m echanics. T h e observation o f com m on objects is prior t o the
discovery o f gen eral correlations betw een special kinds o f com m on
objects. N e x t, in ta lk in g o f a person k n o w in g a perception recipe,
e.g. kn o w in g how com m on ob jects are d u e to look, sound, an d feel,
I am not cred itin g h im w ith th e a b ility to form ulate or im part this
recipe. Som ew hat as m ost people know how to tie a few different sorts
o f knots, b u t are q uite in capable o f d escrib in g those knots, or
follow in g spoken or printed descriptions o f them , so we all know how
to id e n tify a cow at sigh t a very lo n g tim e b efore we can tell the
world a n yth in g ab o u t th e visible m arks b y w h ich w e recognize it,
and quite an appreciable tim e b efore we can draw , paint, or even
recogn ize pictures o l cows. Indeed, if w e did not learn to recog­
n ize th in gs on sigh t or h earin g, b efore we h ad learnt to talk about
them , we could never start a t all. T a lk in g an d understanding
talk them selves involve reco gn izin g w ords on sayin g and hearing
them .
T h o u g h I h ave draw n m ost o f m y instances o f seeing according
to perception recipes fro m cases o f non-m istaken observation, such as
esp yin g a gate-post, w here there is a gate-post, the sam e general
accoun t h old s for m istaken observations such as ‘esp yin g’ a h un ts­
m an, w here there is re a lly a p illar b o x, ‘d iscern in g’ a stick, w here
there is really a shadow , or ‘seein g' a sn ake on d ie eiderdow n,
w hen there is really n o th in g on th e eiderdow n. G e ttin g a th in g
w rong en tails w h at g e ttin g it rig h t en tails n am ely , th e use o f
a technique. A person is not careless, if h e has n o t learned a m ethod,
but on ly if h e has learn ed it and does not ap p ly it properly.
O n ly a person w ho can balan ce can lose h is b alance; o n ly a person
w ho can reason can com m it fallacies; o n ly a person w ho can dis­
crim in ate hun tsm en from pillar b oxes can m istake a p illar b ox for
a huntsm an; and o n ly a person w ho know s w h at snakes look like
can fa n cy he sees a snake w ith o u t re a lizin g th at he is o n ly fan cyin g.
SE N SA TIO N AND OBSERVATION 223

(5) P hen om en alism


It is o f topical interest to say a few w ords about a theory known as
‘Phenom enalism ’. T h is th eory m aintains th a t som ew hat as talkin g
about a crickct team is ta lk in g in certain w ays ab o u t the eleven indi­
viduals w ho com pose it, so ta lk in g ab o u t a com m on object like a
gate-post is ta lk in g in certain w ays a b o u t the sense data which
observers d o or m ig h t g e t in seeing, h earin g, an d feelin g it. Just as
there is n o th in g to report in th e history o f a cricket team , save a
certain selection o f the actions an d experiences o f its m em bers,
vh e n p la yin g , travellin g, d in in g, an d con versin g as a team , so ir is
argued, there is n o th in g m ore to be said about th e gate-post than
how it does or w ould look, sound, feel, etc. Indeed, even to talk
about h ow it looks, etc., is m isleading; fo r ‘it' is sim p ly a succinct w ay
of co llectin g m entions o f these looks, sounds, etc., w h ich it is proper
to team together. It is con ceded that this p rogram m e cannot in
fact be carried out. W h erea s w e cou ld, at th e cost o f long-windedness,
relate the fo rtu n es o f a team b y co m p ilin g accounts o f the team -
activities, h ab its, a n d sentim ents o f its several m em bers, we could
ro c a ctu a lly say all we know ab o u t the gate-post b y d escrib in g the
pertinent sensations w h ich observers h ave, or could have. W e have
no ‘jieaL’ sensation vocabu lary. W c can in fa c t sp ecify ou r sensations
only b y m ention o f com m on objects, in clu d in g persons. B u t it is
suggested th a t this is an acciden tal d efect o f lan g u ag e w hich would
be obviated in a la n g u a g e designed to m eet th e needs o f com plete
logical candour.
O n e o f th e co m m en d able m otives o f this theory was th e desire to
dispense w ith o ccu lt agen cies an d principles. Its holders fo u n d that
current theories o f perception postulated unobservable entities or
factors to endow th in gs like gate-posts w ith properties w hich sensa­
tions w ere debarred from revealin g. A gate-post is lasting, while
sensations a rc fleeting; it is accessible to anyone, w hile sensations are
proprietary; it observes causal regularities, w hile sensations are dis*
orderly; it is u n itary, w hile sensations are plural. So there had been
a tend ency to say th a t b eh in d w har is revealed to th e senses there
lie som e ulterior an d very im p o rtan t properties o f the gate-post,
nam ely th a t it is an E n d u rin g Substance, a T h in g -in -itself, a
Centre o f C ausation , an O b jective U n ity , an d a variety o f other
theorists' solem nities. P h en om en alism , acco rd in gly, attem pts to dis­
pense w ith these u n a va ilin g theorists’ nostrum s, th ou gh , as I hope
to show , it tries to dispense w ith th e nostrum s w ith ou t diagnosing
224 THE C O N C E P T OF M IN D

or cu rin g the m aladies w h ich th ey w ere v a in ly ad d u ccd to


rem edy.
P h en om en alism also derives fro m another m otive, th is tim e not
a com m en d able m otive; an d it is a m otive from w hich derived also
th e theories again st w hich Phen om enalism was a revolt. N am ely, it
supposed th a t h a v in g a sensation is itself a fin ding o f som ething, or
th a t som ethin g is ‘revealed’ in sensation. It assum ed the principle
o f th e Sense D a tu m T h eo ry, th at h a v in g a sensation is itself a piece
o f observing, and indeed th e o n ly sort o f observin g w hich , being
p ro o f against m istakes, m erited the n ain e ‘observation’. W e can only
rea lly find out b y observation fa cts ab o u t those objects w hich are
d irectly g iven in sensations, i.e. su ch th in gs as colou r patches, noises,
prickings, and whiffs. O n ly propositions ab o u t such objects were
o bservation ally verifiable. It seem ed to follow th at we cannot really
observe gate-posts an d cannot th erefore find out b y observation the
th in gs th at we all know q u ite w ell about gate-posts.
W e can now sec that bo th Phenom enalism an d the theory that
P henom enalism was opposing w ere in error from the start. T h e latter
said th a t since wc can observe o n ly sensible objects, gate-posts m ust
be p artly con stituted o f elem ents w hich can n o t be fo u n d o u t by
observation. Phenom enalism said th a t since w c can observe only
sensible objects, propositions about gaie-posts m ust b e translatable
in to propositions ab o u t sensible objects. T h e tru th is th a t ‘sensible
o b ject’ is a nonsensical phrase, so ‘propositions about sensible objects’
is a nonsensical phrase; an d so fa r fro m it b ein g true that we cannot
observe gate-posts, 'gate-posts’ is a specim en o f th e sorts o f com ­
plem ents w h ich alone can be sign ifican tly given to such expressions
as ‘John D o e is lo o kin g a t a so and so’. Such facts as th a t gate-posts
last a very lon g tim e, especially if w ell creosoted, that, u n like wisps
o f sm oke, th ey are hard and tou gh , th at, unlike shadows, an yb od y
can find th em , w h eth er by n ig h t or d a y , th at th ey support th e w eight
o f gates, but can b e consum ed b y fire, can be an d are fo u n d o u t by
observation an d experim ent. It can also be fou n d o u t in the same
w ay th a t gate-posts can look very m u ch like trees or m en; and
th at in certain conditions it is very easy to m ake m istakes about their
sizes a n d distances. C ertain ly such facts ab o u t gate-posts are not
d irectly given to sense, or im m ed iately revealed in sensation; but
n o th in g is so g iv en or revealed, since h a v in g a sensation is not a
finding.
T h is shows, too, w hy lan g u ag e docs not en ab le us to form ulate
the propositions in to which, accord in g to Phenom enalism , proposi­
SE N SA T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 11 $
tions about gate-posts sh ou ld b e translatable. It is not becausc our
vocabularies are incom plete, b u t because th ere are no such objects
as those for w hich th e extra dictions are desiderated. It is not that
we bave a vo cab u lary fo r com m on ob jects and lack a vocabu lary for
sensible objects, b u t th a t th e notion o f sensible ob jects is absurd.
N o t only is it false, then, th at id e a lly we sh ou ld talk, n ot in the
vocabulary o f gate-posts, b u t o n ly in th e vocabu lary o f sensations,
but we can n o t describe sensations them selves w ith o u t em p lo yin g
the vocabulary o f com m on objects.
T h e objection m a y be m ad e th a t it is im proper to g ive the honorific
title o f ‘observation ’ to the operations b y w h ich we and astronom ers
ordinar.ly satisfy ourselves a b o u t robins a n d spiral nebulae. N o t
on ly do we o ften m istake th in gs fo r o th er th in gs, b u t w e n ever have
a certificate g u a ra n tee in g th at we are not m a k in g su ch a m istake.
‘Observation’ o u g h t to b e reserved for a m istake-proof process.
B u t v.-hy? I f it m akes sense to ca ll on e m an a carefu l an d another
a careless observer, w h y sh ou ld we th en retract and say th at neither
is gen uin ely observing, since no d egree o f cautiousness is ever
absolute? \Ve d o n ot sa y th a t n o one ever reasons, ju st because n o
one ever h as a certificate gu a ra n teein g th at he has n o t com m itted a
fallacy, so w h y should it be supposed th a t there is a kin d o f m istake-
proof operation to w h ich alon e th e verb ‘to observe’ is consecrated?
Indeed ‘observin g’, in its task-sense, is ju s t o n e o f th e verbs to w hich
adverbs lik e ‘ca re fu lly ’, ‘carelessly’, ‘su ccessfu lly’, ‘ unavailing!)*’ are
appropriate, w h ich show s th at th ere co u ld not be a sort o f observ­
ing. in :his sense, w here there was n eith er n eed nor room fo r precau­
tions against m istakes.
O n e m otive fo r d em a n d in g a gu aran teed m istake-proof brand of
observation seem s to b e this. It w ou ld b e absurd to say th a t there
are, or m igh t be, m atters o f em pirical fa c t w hich cou ld n ot, in prin­
ciple, be fo u n d o u t b y observation; so, sincc an y ord in ary observa­
tion actually m ad e m ig h t b e m istaken , there m u st be a special sort
o f m istake-proof observation, in order th at ‘em p irical’ m ay b e defined
in terms o f it. A n d then sensing is in ven ted to p la y th is role, fo r it
is certainly im proper to speak o f a m istaken sensation. B u t th e
reason w h y sensation can n o t b e m istaken is n o t because it is a
m istake-proof o b servin g, b u t becau se it is n o t an observin g a t all. It
is as absurd to call a sensation ‘ veridical’ as to call it ‘m istaken’. T h e
senses f.re n eith er h o n est n or d cccitfu l. N o r does th e argu m en t ju stify
us in postulatin g an y o th er kind o f au to m atica lly veridical observa­
tion. A ll it requires is w h at fa m ilia r facts provide, n am ely th at
226 TH E CO N CE PT OF MIND

observational m istakes, like any others, are d eferrab le and rnrrigiKI«»;


so no em pirical fa ct w hich has in fa ct been m issed by a lapse, need
be missed b y an endless series o f lapses. W h a t is w anted is not any
peculiar certificated process, b u t th e o rd in ary carefu l processes; not
any in corrigible observations, b u t ord in ary corrigible observations;
not inoculation again st m istakes, but o rd in ary precautions against
them , ord in ary tests fo r them an d o rd in ary corrections o f them.
A scertain in g is not a process w hich bases upon a fund o f certainties
a superstructure o f guesses; it is a process o f m a k in g sure. C ertainties
are w hat we succeed in ascertaining, not th in gs which we pick up
b y accid en t or b en efaction . T h e y are the w ages o f w ork, not the
gif:s o f revelation. W h en the sab b atical notion o f ‘ the G iv e n ' has
given place to th e w eek-day notion o f ‘th e ascertained', we shall
have bade farew ell to both P h en om en alism an d the Sense D atum
Theory.
T h ere was an oth er m otive fo r desid eratin g a m istaxc-p roof brand
o f observation, n a m e ly th at it was h alf-realized th at som e observa­
tion words, su ch as ‘perceive’ , ‘ see’ , ‘d etect’, ‘hear*, and ‘observe’ (in
its ‘find’ sense) are w h at I have called ‘ach ievem en t verbs’. Just as a
peison can n ot w in a race unsuccessfully, or solve an an agram in­
correctly, since ‘w in ' m eans ‘race victoriou sly’ an d ‘solve’ m eans ‘re­
arrange co rrectly', so a person can n o t detect m istakenly, or see in­
correctly. T o say th at he has detected so m eth in g m eans that he is
not m istaken, an d to say that he secs, in its dom inan t sense, m eans
that he is not at fau lt. It is not th at th e perceiver has used a pro­
cedure w h ich prevented him fro m g o in g w rong o r set a F a cu lty to
work w h ich is fettered to in fallib ility, b u t th at the perception verb
em ployed itself con notes that he d id not go w rong. But w hen we
em ploy th e task verbs ‘scan’ , 'listen ', ‘search’, an d the rest, it always
makes sense to sa y th a t the operations denoted b y them m igh t go
wrong, or be fruitless. T h e r e is n o th in g to preven t a scrutiny from be­
in g b u n g led o r un availin g. Sim ple lo gic ‘prevents’ a ir in g , finding,
solving, an d h ittin g the bull's eye from b ein g b u n gk ’d or un avail­
ing. T h e fa ct th a t doctors cannot cu re unsuccessfully does not m ean
that th ey are in fa llib le doctors; it o n ly m eans th at there is a con­
tradiction in sa y in g th at a treatm ent w hich h as succeeded has not
succeeded.
T h is is w h y a person w ho claim s to have seen a linnet, or heard a
n igh tin gale, an d is th en persuaded th a t there was n o linnet or n igh t­
ingale, at once w ithdraw s his claim to h ave seen the linnet, or heard
the n igh tin gale. H e does not say th at he saw a lin n et w h ich was not
SE N SA T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 22 J
there, or th at h e h eard an unreal n igh tin ga le. S im ila rly, a person
w ho claim s to h a v e solved an an agram an d is then persuaded that
that is n ot the solution, w ithdraw s his claim to h a ve solved it. H e does
not say that in a 'strict' or ‘refined* sense o f th e verb h e solved a
‘solution-object’, w h ich happ ened n o t to coin cide w ith the word
cam ouflaged in th e anagram .
U n d erlyin g m ost, if n ot all. o f the view s criticized in this chapter
there seem s to be on e gen eral assum ption; tile assum ption th at w hat­
ever is know n is learn ed eith er b y inference from prem isses, or, in
the case o f th e ultim ate prem isses, b y som e sort o f n on -in fercn tial
confrontation. T h is con fron tation has been tra d itio n ally labelled
‘consciousness’ , ‘im m ed iate awareness*, ‘acq u ain tan ce', ‘d ire ct inspec­
tion’, ‘in tu itio n ’, etc., w ords w hich no on e w ith o u t an episteinological
theory to support ever uses fo r ch ro n iclin g special episodes in his
daily life.
T h is pet d ich o to m y ‘eith er b y inference or b y in tu itio n ’ seems to
have its historical origin in the deferen ce o f epistem ologists to
E uclidean geom etry. T h e truths o f geo m etry are e ith e r theorem s
or axiom s, an d since geo m etry was. fo r a tim e, the exem p la r o f
scientific kn ow led ge, all o th er procedures for fin ding o u t truths, or
establishing th em , were p iou sly m is-assim ilated to th is on e special
procedure.
B u t the assum ption o f sim ilarity is false. T h e re are lots o f different
ways o f ascertain in g th in gs w h ich are n eith er b lank acquiescent
gazings, n or ye t in ferrings. C on sid er th e replies we sh o u ld exp ect to
g e t to the fo llo w in g ‘H ow -do*you-know ?’ questions. ‘ H o w do you
know th at there are tw elve ch airs in the roo m ?’ 'B y co u n tin g them .’
‘H ow do you know th a t 9 x 17 m akes 153?’ ‘B y m u ltip ly in g them
and then ch e ck in g th e answ er b y su b tractin g 17 fro m 10 x 17/
‘H ow do you kn ow the sp ellin g o f “ fu ch sia ” ?’ ‘B y co n su ltin g the
dictionary.’ ‘H ow do you know th e dates o f th e K in g s o f England?*
'B y learn in g them b y h eart fro m a strict schoolm aster.* ‘H ow do
you know th at th e p ain is in y o u r leg and not in y o u r sh ou ld er?'
T h e y are m y le g and shoulder, aren’t th e y ? ’ ‘H o w d o you know
that the fire is o u t? ’ i looked tw ice an d felt w ith m v h a n d .’
In none o f these situations sh ou ld w e press to be to ld the steps
o f an y inferences, or the counterparts o f an y axiom s; n o r should we
gru m b le a t the adoption o f these differen t techniques o f discovery,
but only, in cases o f d o u b t, at the carelessness o f th e ir execution.
N o r do we require th a t tennis sh ou ld be p la yed as i f it w ere, at
bottom , a variety o f H alm a.
228 THE C O N C E P T OF MIND

(6) A fterth o u g h ts
A s I said in th e Forew ord, th ere is som eth in g seriously am iss with
th e discussions o ccu p yin g th is chapter. I h ave talked as if we know
how to use the con ccpt o r concepts o f sensation; I h a ve sp oken w ith
alm ost p erfu n cto ry reg ret o f our lack o f 'n eat' sensation w ords; and
I have g lib ly spoken o f a u d ito ry and visual sensations. B u t I a m sure
th at none o f this w ill do.
Som etim es we use the w ord ‘sensation’ in a sophisticated ton e o f
voice to show th a t we are conversant w ith m odern ph ysiological,
neurological and p sych ological hypotheses. W e use it in the same
breath w ith scientific w ords like ‘stim ulus', ‘ncrve-endings'. a n d ‘rods
an d cones’ ; an d w hen wc say th a t a flash o f lig h t causes a visual
sensation, wc th in k th at experim entalists arc now able, or w ill one
d a y be able, to tell us w hat sort o f a th in g su ch a visual sensation
is. B u t q uite d ifferent fro m th is is an unsophisticated use o f ‘ sensa­
tion’ an d ‘feelin g ’ ; th e sense in w hich I say, w ith o u t th in k in g about
theories, th at the electric shock gave m e a tin g lin g fe e lin g u p m y
arm , or th a t sensation is now retu rn in g to m y num bed leg. In this
use, we a rc q uite ready to say th a t a piece o f grit, or a d a z z lin g light,
gives us d isagreeable sensations in ou r eyes; b u t in this use we
should never say th at th e th in gs we ord in arily look a t g iv e us any
sensations in o u r eyes a t all. W h en the g rit is rem oved, wc c a n reply
to th e question, ‘ H ow docs you eye feel n o w ?’ B u t w hen we sw itch
ou r g a ze from the field to th e sky, we can g ive no answ er to che
question, ‘H ow has th at sw itch m odified the feelin gs in y o u r eyes?’
W e can say from o u r ow n know ledge how the view has ch an ged ; and
we can say, on h earsay kn ow ledge o f spccial theories, th a t presum ably
there h ave b een a ch a n ge o f stim uli and a ch an ge in th e reactions
o f o u r rods an d cones. B u t th ere was n o th in g w h ich we should
ord in arily call ‘a fe e lin g ' in o u r eyes a t cith er stage.
Sim ilarly, a few p u n g en t or acrid sm ells g ive us special a n d des-
crib ab lc feelin g s inside o u r noses and throats; b u t m ost sm ells give
us n o such sensations inside o u r noses. I can distinguish the smell
o f roses fro m the sm ell o f bread, b u t I d o n ot n aively describe this
difference b y sa y in g th a t roses g ive m e one, an d bread an o th er, sort
o f sensation or feelin g, as electric shocks an d h ot w ater do g iv e me
different sorts o f sensations in m y hand.
In o u r o rd in ary use o f them , the w ords ‘sensation’ , ‘feel*, and
‘feelin g’ o rig in a lly sig n ify perceptions. A sensation is a sensation of
som ething an d we feel the ship v ib ra tin g or rollin g, as w c see its
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 22 <)
flag flying, or hear its siren hooting. W e can , in this sense, feel things
d istin ctly or in d istin ctly, as we can sm ell them d istinctly or in­
distinctly. A s we see w ith ou r eyes an d h ear w ith our ears, so we feel
things with o u r hands, lips, tongues, or knees. T o find ou t w hether
or not a com m on ob ject is sticky, w arm , lissom, h ard, or gritty, we
h ave not to look, listen, sniff, or savour, b u t to feel the th in g. R eport­
in g a sensation is, in th is ordin ary, unsophisticated use, reporting
som ethinO? fo u n d o u t b y» tactual or kinaesth etic observation.
T r u e , we o fte n use ‘feel* and ‘ sensation’ in a different, though
derivative, w ay. W h e n a person w ith sore eyes says th a t there is a
gritty feelin g under h is eyelids, o r w hen a feverish person says that
his h ead feels h o t an d his feet feel cold, th ey w ould not w ithdraw
their statem ents on b ein g assured th at there was n o g rit un der the
eyelids, or th at th e h ead an d feet w ere o f th e sam e tem perature.
F o r h ere th eir ‘feel* m eans ‘feels as i f , ju st as ‘looks' often m eans
‘looks as i f . and ‘sounds’ m eans ‘sounds as i f . B u t w hat is needed
to com plete the ‘as i f clause is a reference to som e state o f affairs,
w hich, if it really obtained, w ou ld b e fou n d o u t b y feelin g in the
p rim ary sense o f this w ord - the sense in w hich ‘I feel a piece o f grit
under m y eyelid ’ w ould be w ithdraw n, w hen the speaker was satis­
fied th a t th ere was no g rit there. W e m igh t call this a 'post-
pcicepLual' use o f th e verbs ‘feel’ , ‘look’ , ’sound', and th e rest.
T h e re is, how ever, an im portant disparity betw een ‘feel* on the
one hand and ‘see’, ‘h ear', ‘taste’ , and ‘sm ell’ on th e other. A person
whose foot is n u m b ed m a y say not on ly th at h e cannot feel things
w ith his foot, b u t also th at he can n ot feel his feet, w hereas a m om en­
tarily blinded or deafened person w ould say th at he cou ld not see or
hear things w ith h is rig h t eye or rig h t ear, b u t n o t th at h e could not
see his eve *
or h ear his ear. W h en sensation returns to the num bed
fo o t its owner resum es his ab ility to report th in gs b oth about the
pavem cn: an d about the foot.
It is obvious th a t this p rim ary concept o f sensation is not a com ­
pon en t o f th e gen eric con cept o f perception, since it is ju st a specics
o f th at genus. I can see som eth in g w ith ou t fe e lin g an yth in g, ju st as I
can feel som ething w ith ou t seeing an yth in g.
W h a t :hen o f th e oth er, sophisticated sense o f ‘sensation’ , the
sense in w hich it is said th at seein g involves h a vin g visual sensations
o r im pressions? Sensations o r im pressions in this sense are not th in gs
that people m en tion , until th ey h a ve a t least a h earsay know ledge
o f physiological, p sych ological, o r cpistem ological theories. Y e t long
before they reach th is level o f edification, th ey know how to use
23° tu b co n cep t o f m ind

verbs o f perception, like 'see', ‘h ear’, ‘ taste’, ‘sm ell’, an d ‘feel’, and
they use them then ju st as th ey con tin ue to use them after edifica­
tion. So th e sophisticated con cept o f sensations or im pressions is not
a com ponent o f th eir concepts o f perception. W e could, and should,
do well to discuss w ith P lato th e notion o f peiception; if we did so,
wc should n ever h ave occasion to com plain that he h ad not yet
graduated to th e use o f the concepts o f seeing, h earing, and feelin g,
sincc he h a d not y e t been told latter-day theories ab o u t sensory
stimuli.
Physiologists an d psychologists som etim es lam ent, or boast, that
they can n ot find a bridge across the g u lf separating im pressions and
th e nervous excitation s w h ich cause them . T i c y take fo r granted
the existence o f these im pressions; it is only the m echanism o f
their causation w hich , n o t un n atu rally, perplexes them . H ow could
one question th e existence o f sense im pressions? H as it not been
notorious, at least since the tim e o f Descartes, th at these are the
original, the elem en tary an d the constant contents o f consciousness?
Now w hen we sa y th at a person is conscious o f som ething, part
o f what w c n orm ally m ean is th a t h e is ready to avow or report it
without research or special tuition. Y e t ju st th is is w h at n o one
ever does w ith his alleged im pressions. People are ord in arily ready
to tell w hat th ey see, h ear, taste, sm ell, or feel; th e y are ready, too,
to tell th at it looks as if so and so. o r th at it sounds or feels as if
such and such. B u t th ey are not ready, indeed th ey are not even
lin gu istically equipped, to tell w hat im pressions th ey arc or have
been h avin g. So the notion th a t such episodes occur does not derive
from stu d y o f w hat o rd in ary sensible people arc fo u n d telling. T h e y
are not m entioned in th e deliverances o f untutored ‘consciousness’.
Rather, the notion derives fro m a special causal h ypothesis - the
hypothesis th at m y m in d can g e t in to u ch with a gate-post, on ly if
the gate-post causes som ething to g o on in m y to d y , w h ich in its turn
causes som ething else to go on in m y m ind. Impressions are gh ostly
impulses, postulated fo r the ends o f a para-m echanical theory. T h e
very word ‘im pression’, borrow ed as it was from the description
o f dents m ade in w ax, b etrays the m otives o f the theory. It is a
philosophical m isfortun e th at the th eory was able to trade on, and
pervert, th e vocabu lary in w hich we tell the things th a t wc find out
b y feeling. It is not a sp e cia lise ’ theory, h ut a piece o f eom m on
knowledge, th at we find o u t b y sensation that things are w arm ,
sticky, vibratin g, an d tou gh . It was, accordin gly, m ad e to seem just
a mare general piece o f com m on know ledge that w c h ave sensations
S E N S A T IO N AND O B SE R V A T IO N 231

when w c sec, h ear, an d sm ell. T h e sophisticated notion o f sense im ­


pressions has been sm u ggled in un der the um brella o f th e ordinary
idea o f perception b y touch.
I m ust n ot o m it to m en tion an oth er unsophisticated use o f words
like ‘sensation' and ‘feel’. Som etim es a person w ill say, not th a t he
feels a piece o f g rit u n d er his eyelid, an d n o t th a t he feels a gritty
feelin g u n d er his eyelids, b u t that h e feels a pain in h is eye, or has
a p ain fu l sensation in his eye. N o u n s o f discom fort, lik e ‘pain’, Itc h ',
and ‘q u alm ’ com e th en