The Concept of Mind

The Concept of Mind is a 1949 book by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in which the author argues that "mind" is &quo

713 131 34MB

English Pages 0 [340] Year 1949

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

The Concept of Mind

Citation preview

UP-8

UNIVERSITY PAPERBACKS

$2.25

in

Canada $2.50

The Concept of

MIND Mytb Knowing How and Knowing That The Will

Descartes*

GILBERT RYLE

Emotion Dispositions and Occurrences Self -Knowledge

Sensation and Observation Xmagination

The

Intellect

Psychology

"I have read it with the utmost pleasure. It is ... excitingly revolutionary and beautifully sane. ... I would wish for it the widest possible reading among laymen as well as philosophers." .

.

.

— Harry A. Overstreet

BARNES & NOBLE

1

BARNES & NOBLE EDUCATIONAL PAPERBACKS The books

listed

below comprise seven

series of quality

paperbacks

for students

and

for adult readers:

— ^1-200 Outline summarizes essentials o college subject), and hobbies), Everyday Handbooks — —201-300 (self-teaching books on academic subjects, writer work each book). American Authors and Critics Series — ^ACl-100 (biography and study philosophy), University Paperbacks — ^UPl-100 (original works and reprints important works which hove influenced contemporary thought), Unwin Books — — 500-600 work), Barnes & Noble Art Series — ^601-700 (each colorful 90-page book treats a major

College Outline Series

(eacti

of

tlie

skills,

of

in

history,

in

s

literature,

(reprints of

artist's

Barnes & Noble Focus Books

—^701-800

(The majority of these books

for

sell

$1.00

(each title presents a topic in depth

to $1.95.

Many

in

128 or fewer pages).

are available in cloth bindings at higher prices.)

EDUCATION, STUDY AIDS

ART Bosch, 610

Hiroshige, 615

Braque, 61 Canaletto, 606 Chagall, 612 Constable, 6)4 Goya, 603 El Greco, 616 Hals, 609

Klee, 608

Manet, 607 Renoir, 602 Titian, 613 Toulouse-Lautrec, 604

Van Gogh, 605

College Entrance Counselor, 407 College Entrance Examinations, 408 Education, History of, 9 Examinations, How to Write Better, 36 Examinations in College, How to Take, J06 Memory, How to Improve Your, 273 Notescript, 232

Vermeer, 601 Art and Anatomy, 278 Art, History of, 95 Paintings of the Western World, 28?

Study, Best Methods of, 28 Thinking with a Pencil, 206

DRAMA, MUSIC

Africa's Freedom, 521 American Colonial & Rev. Hist., 71 American History at a Glance, 245 American Historical Documents, 700

HISTORY, POLITICAL SCIENCE

Ballet: Guide to, 282 Julius Caesar, Outline-Guide (Ribner),

702

Macbeth, Outline-Guide (McCutchan), 701 Music, History of, 55 Music, Instruments of (Donington), UP39 Music, Introduction to, 109 Opera, Introduction to, 262 Playboy of Western World and Riders to the Sea (Synge), 5?2 Play Production, 73 Shakespeare: Art, Artifice in (Stoll), UP23 Shakespeare's Plays, Outlines of, 25 Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes (Campbell), UP!

ECONOMICS, BUSINESS, LAW Accounting, Elementary, 39 Accounting Problems (with solutions), 85 Business Law, 40 Business Management, 92 Business Writing, 96 Corporation Finance, 7 Economic History of U. S., 84 Economics, A Dictionary of, 266 Economics, Principles of, 8 Economic Thought: Hist., 62

Job You Want, How You Can Get, 292 Law: Your Introduction, 286 Law Guide for All, 210 Marketing, 83 Money and Banking, 69 Shorthand, 225 Statistical Methods, 27 Statisticians, Tables for, 75 Typewriting, Touch, 229

ENGLISH English Composition, 102 English Grammar (Curme), 67 Errors in English: Ways to Correct Them, 240 Journalism, New Survey of, 15 Letters for All Occasions, 237

Punctuation for Clarity, 253 Punctuate It Right! (Show), 255 Research and Report Writing, 78 Speech, 89 Speech, Everyday, 239 It

Vocabulary, Twelve Ways to Build, 293 Writer's Book, 265 Writing Term Papers and Reports, 37 (This

list is

European Liberalism: Rise of (Loski), 509 Europe since 1815, 72 Government, American, 74 Government, State and Local, 7 72 India's Freedom (Nehru), 570 Latin American History, 76 Medieval People (Powers), UP49 Middle Ages, History of, 79 Political Ideals (Russell), 575 Political Science, 22 Political Theory, Greek (Barker), UP3 Political Thought, 16 Cent: Hist. (Allen), Politics: Introduction to fLoski), 506

UP4

World, 76 Portraits of Power, UP47 Power: New Social Analysis (Russell), 507 Russia, History of, 66 Spain in America (Bourne), UP38 Trotsky, The Essential, 576 United States: Hist., 2 vs., 29 30 Western Civilization: Hist., 2 vs., 7 70-7 7 7 Western World: Brief History of, 284 World Atlas (5 colors), 230 Politics,

World since 1914, 37

LANGUAGES, TRAVEL European

Cities,

Guide

to 32, 257

French for Beginners, 252 French Grammar, 35 German for Beginners, 277

German Grammar, 34

Right! (Shaw) 279 Technical Writing, 43 Spell

American Politics, Dictionary of, 267 Ancient History, 7 Ancient, Medieval, Modern History, 2 British Common People, 1746-1946, UP26 Constitution of the United States, 77 Elizabethan Life: Town, Country, UP33 England, History of, 70 English People, Hist: 19 Cent., 6 vs., UP75-20 English Wayfaring Life: Middle Ages, UP36 Essential Left, The (Marx, Engels, Lenin), 503 Europe, 1500-1848, 7 7

Italian for Beginners, 274 Latin (introductory course), 704 Russian for Beginners, 287 Spanish for Beginners, 277

Spanish Grammar, 42 Langenscheidt English-foreign language dictionaries

continued inside the back cover.)

Sc^

&Jp^ci^^r^r.c

:>pprpppar^ prarrjrp

do

a bit

what

or pre-

rhesp pi-oposiHons or

of theory and then

to

do

a bit

of practiced) Certainly

we

often

do not only

reflect

before

we

act but reflect

The chess-player may require some time in moves before he makes them. Yet the general

in order to act properly.

which

to plan

assertion that

liis

all

the consideration

intelligent

when

it

tion

often very swift and

shall

is

is

performance requires to be prefaced by

of appropriate propositions

rings unplausibly, even

apologetically conceded that the required considera-

may go

quite

argue that the intellectualist legend

unmarked by is

false

the agent.

and that when

I

we

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

30

a performance as intelligent, this does not entail the double operation of considering and executing. Firfyt^ there are m any dasses of pprformanf^n Wnnwing n parr hp to do som efbing. ie of his having a parHrnlar rapadty in a he knows

or he does not

this fact

w

i

limited degr ee.

An

ordinary chess-player

well but a champion still

much

knows

it

better,

knows

the

game

pretty

and even the champion has

to learn.

This holds too,

as

we

now

should

expect, of understanding.

An

ordinary chess-player can partly follow the tactics and strategy of a champion perhaps after much study he will completely understand the methods used by the champion in certain particular matches. But he can never wholly anticipate how the champion will fight his next contest and he is never as quick or sure in his interpretations of the champion's moves as the champion is in making or, perhaps, ;

in explaining them.

Learning how or improving in abihty

is

not like learning

thai

or acquiring information Truths can be imparted, procedures can .

only be inculcated, and while inculcation

is

a

gradual process,

what moment someone became apprised of a truth, but not to ask at what moment someone acquired a skill. 'Part-trained' is a significant phrase, imparting

is

relatively sudden.

'part-informed'

is

It

makes

not. Training

the pupils have not yet

is

sense to ask at

which any longer quite

the art of setting tasks

accompHshed but

are not

incapable of accomplishing.

The notion of misunderstanding difEculties.

When

raises

no general

theoretical

the card-player's tactics are misconstrued

opponents, the manoeuvre they think they discern

is

by

his

indeed a

)

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

60

manoeuvre of the game, though it happens not to be his manoeuvre. Only someone who knew the game could interpret the play as part of the execution of the supposed manoeuvre. Mis; understanding is a bv-product of kno wing hnw. Only a person possible

who

is

master of the Russian tongue can make the Russian expression. Mistakes are exerrises of

at least a partial

wrong

sense

of

a

rr>mppfpnrp«;.

Misinterpretations are not always due to the inexpertness or

of the spectator; they are due sometimes to the carelessand sometimes to the cunning of the agent or speaker. Sometimes, again, both are exercising all due skill and care, but it happens that the operations performed, or the words spoken, could actually be constituents of two or more different undertakings. The first ten motions made in tying one knot might be identical with carelessness

ness

the

first

ten motions required for tying another, or a set of premisses

suitable for estabhshing

one conclusion might be equally

The

for estabhshing another.

be acute and well-grounded. Feinting

is

onlooker's misinterpretation It is careless

the art of exploiting

tliis

suitable

may

then

only in being premature.

possibility.

It is obvious that where misunderstanding is standing is possible It would be absurd to suggest .

possible,

unde r-

that perhaps

we

always misconstrue the performances that we witness, for we could not even learn to misconstrue save in learning to construe, a learning process

which involves learning not to misconstrue. which is part of the

Misinterpretations are in principle corrigible,

value of controversy. TAjl -^ ^/^ A^^^ p/^.U^' do) Solipsism Contemporary philosophers have exercised themselves with the problem of our knowledge of other minds. Enmeshed in the dogma '

of the ghost in the machine, they have found it impossible to discover any logically satisfactory evidence warranting one person in beheving that there exist minds other than his ownCj can witness what your body does, but I cannot witness what your mind does,

and my pretensions to infer from what your body does to what your mind does all collapse, since the premisses for such inferences are either inadequate or

We

can

now

see

unknowable)

our

way

out of the supposed

discover that there are other minds in understanding

difficulty.

I

what other

KNOWING HOW AND KNOWING THAT

61

people say and do. Tn malcinp^ ^^n^p of wViar ymi ^av. in appreciating your jokes, in unmasking your chess-stratagems, in following your

arguments and in hearing you pick holes in my arguments, I am not inferring to the workings of your mind, I am following them Of course, I am not merely hearing the noises that you make, or .

merely seeing the movements that you perform. I am understanding what I hear and see. But this understanding is not inferring to.QCClllt.causes. It

To

find that

appreciating

is

how

the operations are conducted.

most people have minds (though

idiots

and

infants

simply to fmd that thev are able and prone to do in arms do not) certain sorts of things, and this we do by wimessing the sorts o f is

things they do. Indeed

other minds;

we

we do

discover

not merely discover that there

what

specific quahties

character particular people have. In fact specific

matters long before

propositions as that

other than our

sponges are inert,

John Doe has

own;

we

we

intellect

are famihar

are"

and

with such

can comprehend such general a

mind, or that there

we know warm and active,

just as

soft, kittens are

long before

we

of

exist

minds

that stones are hard and

potatoes are cold and

can grasp the proposition that kittens are

material objects, or that matter exists.

which I can fmd out about you only, or best, through being told of them by you. The ocuhst has to ask his chent what letters he sees with his right and left eyes and how clearly he sees them; the doctor has to ask the sufferer where the pain is and what sort of a pain it is; and the psychoanalyst has to ask his patient about his dreams and daydreams. If you do not divulge the contents of your silent soliloquies and other imaginings J have no other sure way of finding out what you have been saying or picturing to yourself But the sequence of your sensations and imaginings is not the sole field in which your wits and character are shown perhaps only for lunatics is it more than a small comer of that field.^fmd out most of what I want to know about your capacities, interests, likes, dislikes, methods and convictions by observing how you conduct your overt doings of which by far the most important are your sayings and writings.jl t is a subsidiary question how you conduct your imaginings, including yo ur ima gined monologue s. Certainly there are

some

things

;

,

CHAPTER

III

THE WILL (i) Foreword.

Most

of the mental-conduct concepts whose

logical behaviour

we examine in this book, are famiHar and everyday concepts. We all know how to apply them and we understand other people when they apply them, (^hat is in dispute is not how to apply them, but how to classify therru or in what categories to put them.^ The concept of voHtion is in a different case. We do not know in daily Ufe how to use it, for we do not use it in daily Hfe and do not, consequently, learn by practice how to apply it, and how not to misapply

it.

Itjs

an

artific ial

concept.

We

have to study certain

fmd out how it is to be manipulated. follow from its being a technical concept

speciaHst theories in order to It

does not, of course,

that

it is

an illegitimate or useless concept. 'lonisation' and

*off-side*

are technical concepts, but both are legitimate and useful. 'Phlogiston'

and 'animal

no

spirits'

v/ere technical concepts,

now

though they have

utihty. I

hope to show

that the concept

of volition belongs to the

latter

tribe.

The Myth of Volitions.

(2)

It

the

is

some

in

importantserise_tripartite, that

are just three ultimate classes

Soul,

we

of mental

processes.

are often told, has three parts, namely.

and Will;

or,

more solemnly,

the

Mind

i31ode and_the

Conativejmode.

not self-evident, it is

treated as

it is

Tms

one of the curios of theory. 62

The Mind or ,

Feeling

mode, the EmotionaL-

tradition^"3ogma

up any attempt

that

that there

Thought

such a welter of confusions and

best to give

is,

or Soul functions in three

irreduciEIy different modes, the Cognitive

that

axiom

has for a long time been taken for an indisputable

Mind

to re-fashion

is

not only

false inferences it. It

should be

THE WILL The main whole

object of this chapter

not,

is

however, to discuss the discuss, and discuss

theory of mind but to

trinitarian

destructively,

63

one of

ingredients.

its

I

hope

to refute the doctrine

that there exists a Faculty, immaterial Organ, or Ministry, corresponding to the theory's description of the 'Will' and, accordingly,

what it from the start that this refutation will not invalidate the distinctions which we all quite properly draw between voluntary and involuntary actions and between strong-willed and weak-willed persons. It will, on the contrary, make clearer what is meant by 'voluntary' and 'involuntary', by 'strong-willed' and 'weak-willed', by emancipating these

that there occur processes, or operations, corresponding to

describes as 'voUtions'.

ideas

from bondage

I

must however make

it

clear

to an absurd hypothesis.

Volitions have been postulated as special acts, or operations,

'in

the rnind by_means o fjwhi ch a mindsets its ideas translated into £a€ts. I think of some state of afFairswHich 1 wish to conielnto^ existence in the physical world, but, as my thinking and wishing are ',

unexecutive, they require the mediation of a further executive

mental process. So

I

perform

muscles into action. Only

such a volition can

I

a

when

somehow puts my movement has issued from

vohtion which

a bodily

merit praise or blame for what

my

hand or

tongue has done. It

will be clear

extension of the

why

I

reject this story. It

myth of the ghost

is

just an inevitable

in the machine.

It

assumes that

there are mental states and processes enjoying one sort of existence,

and bodily on the one

states

stage

and processes enjoying another. An occurrence never numerically identical with an occurrence

is

on

the other. So, to say that a person pulled the trigger intentionally

is

to

express

at

least

a

conjunctive

proposition,

asserting

the

occurrence of one act on the physical stage and another on the

mental stage; and, according to most versions of the myth,

it is

to

express a caudal proposition asserting that the bodily act of pulling ,

the trigger

was the

effect

of

a

mental act of wiUing to pull the

trigger.

According to the theory, the workings of the body are motions of matter in space. The causes of these motions must then be either other motions of matter in space or, in the privileged case of human beings, thrusts of another kind. In some way which must forever remain a mystery, giental thrusts, which are not movements of

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

64

matter in space, can cause muscles to contract. intentionally pulling the trigger

is

To

describe a

man

as

to state that such a mental thrust

did cause the contraction of the muscles of his finger. So the language o f VoHtions' is the lanp:uage of the para-mechanical theory ortKe

mind, will',

If a theorist speaks

no

further evidence

without qualms of VoHtions', or 'actTbf needed to show that he swallows whole

is

the dogma that a mind is a secondary field of special causes. It can be predicted that he will correspondingly speak of bodily actions as 'expressions' of mental processes. He is likely also to speak ghbly of 'experiences', a plural noun commonly used to

denote the postulated non-physical episodes which shadow-drama on the ghostly boards of the mental

{The

we

first

constitute the stage.

objection to the doctrine that overt actions, to which

ascribe inteUigence-predicates, are results

operations of willing

our conduct in

of counterpart hidden Despite the fact that theorists have,

this

own

recommended

this.

and Saint Augustine, recommended us to describe way, no one, save to endorse the theory, ever

since the Stoics

describes his

is

conduct, or that of his acquaintances, in the No one ever says such things as that at

idioms.

10 a.m. he was occupied in willing

this or that, or that he performed and easy voHtions and two slow and difficult voHtions between midday and lunch-tim^An accused person may admit or deny that he did something, or that he did it on purpose, but he never admits or denies having willed. Nor do the judge and jury require to be satisfied by evidence, which in the nature of the case

five quick

could never be adduced, that a voHtion preceded the pulling of the trigger. NoveHsts describe the actions, remarks, gestures and grimaces, the daydreams, deliberations, qualms and embarrassments

of their characters; but they never mention their voHtions. They would not know what to say about them. tBy what sorts of predicates should they be described? Can they be sudden or gradual, strong or weak,

Can they be suspended? Can people be

difficult

or easy, enjoyable

or disagreeable ?

accelerated, decelerated, interrupted,

or

efficient

or inefficient at them?

Can

we take lessons in executing them ? Are they fatiguing or distracting ? Can

I

do two or seven of them synchronously? Can

executing them? things, or I

forget

Can

I

while dreaming?

how

to

I

remember

execute them, while thinking of other

Can they become

do them? Can

I

habitual?

mistakenly beheve that

I

Can have

THE WILL executed one, when I

have not, or that

I

moment was

have? At which

the

When he set breath? When he

to take the high dive?

took

his first

deep

— Go', but did not

I

65

have not executed one, when

boy going through foot on the ladder?

a voHtion

When

he

counted off 'One, two, three

go? Very, very shortly before he sprang? What

would his own answer be to those questions ?J] Champions of the doctrine maintain, of course, that the enactment of vohtions is asserted by impHcation, whenever an overt act

described as intentional, voluntary, culpable or meritorious;

is

they assert too that any person

know

that

he

is

willing

is

when he

not merely able but bound to is

doing

so, since

vohtions are

men and women fail to mention their vohtions in their descriptions of their own behaviour, this must be due to their being untrained in the defined as a species of conscious process._S o if o rdinary

of their inner, as distinct from their overt, behaviour. However, when a champion of the doctrine is himself asked how long ago he executed his last voHtion, or how many acts of will he executes in, say, reciting 'Little Miss Muffet' dictions appropriate to the description

backwards, heis_a^t_tQ- confess to finding

answ€f^ diough these

difficulties

difficulties in

giving the

should not, according to his

own

theory, exist.

men

If ordinary all that,

more

never report the occurrence of these

frequently than headaches, or feelings of boredom; if ordinary

vocabulary has no non-academic names for

how

acts, for

according to the theory, they should be encountered vastly

thcm;^we do not know

to sctdc simple questions about their frequency, duration or

strength, then

it is

fair to

conclude that their existence

is

not asserted

on empirical grounds?] The fact that Plato and Aristode never mentioned them in their frequent and elaborate discussions of the nature of the soul and the springs of conduct is due not to any perverse nec^lcct by them of notorious ingredients of daily hfe b ut to the hist orirni grmmsmnrp rhnf rhrv were not acquainted with a special hypothesis the acccpta n(;;r ofwliirl rests not on the discovery but on the postulation^ of these ghostly thrusts i

.

The second

objection

is this.

It is

admitted that one person can

never wimess the vohtions of another; he can only infer from an observed overt "acfion to the voIitionfromTwhich it resulted, and then only if he has any

was

a

vDluntary

good reason

acti on,

and

to bcUeve that the overt action

riot a reflex

or habitual action, or one

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

66 resulting

from some

external cause . [ It follows

schoolmaster, or parent ever

knows

no judge, which he

that

that the actions

judges merit praise or blame; for he cannot do better than guess that the action was willedTjEven a confession by the agent, if such

were ever made, that he had executed a vohtion before hand did the deed would not settle the question. The pronouncement of the confession is only another overt muscular

confessions his

action.

The

curious conclusion results that though voHtions were

our appraisals of actions,

called in to explain

what they

just

fail

to provide. If

this

we had no

explanation

is

other antecedent

grounds for applying appraisal-concepts to the actions of others, should have no reasons at aU for inferring from those actions

we

to the voHtions alleged to give rise to them.

Nor

could

it

Supposing, what either

from the



is

his

own

not the

is

case, that

he could

of wiU to puU the trigger

just before he pulled

not prove that the pulling was the

effect

of

movements

mysterioi^Oso, for aU he knows, his vohtion other

know

for certain,

of consciousness, or from findings of introspection, that he had executed an

llLgonnection between voHtions and \^

that

the effect of a given vohtion.

alleged direct dehverances

the alleged direct act

know

be maintained that ths^agenthimselfcan

any overt action of

movement as its

had some other event

effect

for

its

it,

this

would The

that willing. is

may

allowed to be have had some

and the pulling of the trigger

may have

cause.

it would be improper to burke the point that the between vohtion and movement is admitted to be a mystery. It is a mystery not of the unsolved but soluble type, like the problem of the cause of cancer, but of quite another type.

Thirdlv,

c onjaectipn

The

episodes supposed to constitute the careers of minds are assumed

to have one sort of existence, while those constituting the careers

of bodies have another sort; and no bridge-status is aUowed. Transactions between minds and bodies involve links where no links can be. That there should be any causal transactions between minds and matter conlHcts with one part, that there should be none conflicts with another part of the theory. Minds, as the whole legend describes them, are what must exist if there is to be a causal explanation of the inteUigent behaviour of human bodies; and minds, as the legend describes them, Hve on a floor of existence defined as being outside the causal system to which bodies belong

67

THE WILL

Fourthly, although the prime function of volitions, the task originate for Thrpfformance of which they were postulated, is to bodily movements, the argument, such as it is, for their existence

some mental hap penings also must resukjromacts of wiliCyoUtions were postulated to be that which makes~acrnms voluntary, resolute, meritorious and wickedjBut predicates of these sorts are ascribed not only to bodily movements but also to

entails that

operations which, according to the theory, are mental and not physical operations. A thinker may ratiocinate resolutely, or imagine

Hmerick and he may Some mental proce sses ^^'^'^^ ^rrr^^A\r^^ tn ^^''^'^^ fr^TT vf^hHons. So what of fhf ^[^^n ^^n, volitions themselves? Are they voluntary or involuntary acts of mind? Clearly either answer leads to absurdities. If I cannot help-

may

he

wickedly;

try

to

compose

a

meritoriously concentrate on his algebra.

willing to pull the trigger,

pulling

it

would be absurd

it

as Voluntary'. But if

my

to describe

my

voHtion to pull the trigger

is

voluntary, in the sense assumed by the theory, then it must issue ^ from a prior voHtion and that from another ad infinitum. It has been suggested, to avoid this difficulty, that voHtions cannot be described as either

voluntary or involuntary. 'VoUtion'

type to accept either predicate. If also of the wrong and 'wicked', 'good' and

t)^pe to

it is

those moralists

who

so, it

is

a

term of the wrong

would seem

to follow that

accept such predicates as 'virtuous'

which might embarrass

'bad', a conclusion

use volitions as

the sheet-anchor of their

systems. In short, then, the doctrine of voUtions

makes

a

is

a causal hypothesis,

was wrongly supposed that the question, 'What voluntary?' was a causal question. This movement bodily

adopted because

it

of the general supposition that the question, 'How are mental-conduct concepts appUcable to human behaviour?' is a question about the causation of that supposition

is,

in fact, only a special twist

behaviour.

Champions of fact that

they and

the doctrine should have noticed the simple all

other sensible persons

knew how

to decide

questions about the voluntariness and involuntariness of actions and about the resoluteness and irresoluteness of agents before they had ever heard of the hypothesis of the occult inner thrusts of actions.

They might then have

realised that they

were not elucidating the

criteria already in efficient use, but, tacitly

assuming their validity,

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

68

were trying to

them with hypothetical occurrences of a this correlation could, on the one

correlate

para-mechanical pattern/Yet

hand, never be scientificalty estabhshed, since the thrusts postulated were screened from scientific observation; and, on the other hand,

would be of no

would not would on the presupposed vahdity of those appraisals. ]Nor would it elucidate the logic of those appraisal-concepts, the inteUigent employment of which antedated the invention of this causal hypothesis. it

assist

practical or theoretical use, since

our appraisals of actions, depending

we

as

it

it

of volitions, it and authentic processes with which vohtions are sometimes wrongly identified. People are frequently in doubt what to do; having considered alternative courses of action, they then, sometimes, select or choose one of these courses, frhis process of opting for one of a set of alternative courses of action is sometimes said to be what is signified Before

is

expedient

bid

farewell

consider

to

to

certain

the

doctrine

quite

familiar

by 'voHtion'r^ut this identification will not do, for iiiost_yQliintary actions do not issue out of conditions of indecision and are not therefore results of settlejments of indecisions. Moreover it is notorious that a person may choose to do something but fail, from weakness of will, to do it; or he may fail to do it because some circumstance arises after the choice is made, preventing the execution of the act chosen. But the theory could not allow that vohtions ever

would have voluntary

fail

to result in action, else further executive operations

to be postulated to account for the fact that sometimes

actions

are

And

performed.

finally

process

the

of

^g^ag for one of them is itself subject to appraisal-predicates. But if, for example, an act of choosing is describable as voluntary, then, on this suggested showing, it would have in its turn to be the result of a prior choice to choose, and that from a choice to choose to choose. The same objections forbid the identification with vohtions of such other famihar processes as that of resolving or making up our dehberating between alternatives and

.

.

.

minds to do something and that of nerving or bracing ourselves to do something. I may resolve to get out of bed or go to the dentist, and I may, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth, brace my:ielf to then,

do

so,

but

I

may

still

backshde. If the action

according to the doctrine,

unexecuted.

Again,

the

the vohtion to

operations

of resolving

is

do and

not done, it

is

also

nerving

THE WILL

69

members of the

ourselves are themselves

class

of creditable or

dis-

creditable actions, so they cannot constitute the peculiar ingredient

v^hich, according to the doctrine,

is

the

common

condition of

an)-

performance being creditable or discreditable.

D istinction

The

(3)

between Voluntary and Involuntary

should be noticed that while ordinary folk, magistrates,

It

words 'voluntary' and one way, pliilosophers often apply them

parents and teachers, generally apply the 'involuntary' to actions in in quite another

way.

employm ent 'voluntary' and 'in voluntary* few minor elastickieSjj,s^djectiyesa£ply^ jwhich_qught not to bejd one. We discuss whether someone's action was voluntary or not only when the action seems to have been his fault. He is accused of making a noise, and the guilt is liis, if the action I

n

the irinost ordinary

arc used.iWith_a

was voluntary, he

satisfies

way

laughing; he has successfully excused liimself, if

like

it

we

in ordinary life

someone

was involuntary,

like a sneeze. In the same of responsibility only when charged, justly or unjustly, with an ojBfcnce. It makes

us that

is

raise questions

whether a boy was responsible for breaking window, but not whether he was responsible for finishing his

sense, in this use, to ask a

homework

in

good

time.

that he got a long-division

fault,

do not ask whether

sum

right, for to get a

it

was

sum

his fault

right

is

not

wrong, he may satisfy us that liis failure was not perhaps because he had not yet been shown how to do such

a fault. If he gets liis

We

it

calculations.

In this ordinary use, satisfactory, correct or

involuntary. N(;^jrhrr

i

then,

it

is

absurd to discuss whether

admirable performances are voluntary or

j^pnlpnrinn

nor

p^^ culpation is

in poin t.

We

neither confess to authorship nor adduce extenuating circumstances; neither

plead

'guilty'

nor plead 'not guilty'; for

we

are

not

accused.

But philosophers,

in discussing

what

constit

or involuntary, tend to describe as voluntary not only_^pre^ hensible but also meritorious actions, not only tilings that are

The motives underlying their unwitting extension of the ordinary sense of

someone's,.^l^k^but also tilings that are to his ^rcdit.

voluntary', 'involuntary' and 'responsible' will be considered later.

For the

moment

it is

worth while

to consider certain consequences

70

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

which follow from

it.

In the ordinary use, to say that a sneeze

was and to say that a laugh was voluntary is to say that the agent could have helped doing it. (This is not to say that the laugh was intentional. We do not laugh on purpose.) The boy could have got the sum right which he actually got wrong he knew how to behave, but he misbehaved he was competent to tie a reef-knot, though what he unintentionally produced was a granny-knot. His failure or lapse was his fault. But when the word 'voluntary' is given its philosoinvoluntary

to say that the agent could not help doing

is

it,

;

;

phically stretched use, so that correct as well as incorrect, admirable as

well as contemptible acts are described as voluntary,

by analogy with

the ordinary use, that a

can also be described

as

having been

boy who

it

seems to follow

gets his

'able to help

it'.

sum It

right

would

to ask: Could you have helped solving the Could you have helped drawing the proper conclusion? Could you have helped tying a proper reef-knot ? Could you have helped seeing the point of that joke? Could you have helped being kind to that child? In fact, however, no one could answer these questions, though it is not at furst obvious why, [fit is correct to say that someone could have avoided getting a sum wrong, it is incorrect

then be proper riddle?

to say that he could have avoided getting

The

solution

is

simple.

When we

it

right. "^

someone could have it was his fault that how to do the rig ht thing.

say that

avoided committing a lapse or error, or that

he committed

it,

w_e_jnean that he kne

w

or was competent rn do sq l^in-'^Jnot exercise his ,

c ompetence.

He was

knowledg e

or

not trying, or not trying hard enough. But~

when a person has done the right thing, we cannot then say that he knew how to do the wrong thing, or that he was competent to make mistakes. For making mistakes is not an exercise of comknowledge knowledge how. It is true in one sense of 'could' that a person who had done a sum correctly could have got it wrong; in the sense, namely, that he is not exempt from the habihty to be careless. But in another sense of 'could', to ask, 'Could you have got it wrong ?' means 'Were you sufiiciendy intelligent and well-trained and were you concentrating hard enough to make a miscalculation?', and this is as siUy a question as to ask whether someone's teeth are strong enough to be broken petence, nor

how,

it is

is

the commission of shps an exercise of

a failure to exercise

by cracking

nuts.

THE WILL The

tangle of largely spurious problems,

Freedom of the Will,

of the

71

partly derives

known

from

as the

problem

unconsciously

this

stretched use of 'voluntary' and these consequential misapplications

of different

senses

The

task

first

undistorted use

of is

by

not have helped'

'could'

and 'could have helped'.

to elucidate

and

'his

boy

meant

is

in their ordinary,

of

these expressions are used

as

fault',

in deciding concrete questions

If a

what

'voluntary', 'involuntary', 'responsible', 'could

guilt

and innocence.

has tied a granny-knot instead of a reef-knot,

was

by

we

he and then by cstabhshing that his hand was not forced by external coercion and that there were no satisfy ourselves that it

knew how

his fault

establisliing that

first

to tie a reef-knot,

other agencies at

work

preventing

him from

tying the correct knot.

We estabhsh that he could tie reef-knots by finding out that he had been taught, had had practice, usually got them

by finding

right, or

and correct knots tied by others, or by finding that he was ashamed of what he had done and, without help from others, put it right himself. That he was not acting under duress that he could detect

numb

or in panic or high fever or with in the

way

in

which we ordinarily discover

fmgers,

discovered

is

that highly exceptional

incidents have not taken place; for such incidents

too remarkable to have gone unremarked,

would have been by the boy

at least

himsel f.

The first question which we had to decide had notliing to do with the occurrence or non-occurrence of any occult episode in the boy's stream of consciousness; it was the question whether or not he had the required higher-level competence,

knowing how

to

We

reef-knots.

tie

were

not,

at

that

this

of

stage,

whether he committed, or omitted, an extra pubhc or private operation, but only whether he possessed or lacked a

inquiring

certain

intelligent

capacity.

tunattainabl e) Wnnwlprlp-p

mvprf

(-aiKP-nvp]-r nffert

tr^i fli

prnpodHnn,

ja£lhc_tru th or falsity of a



Wfnr nn

nf the

w

r fiprl n^ or fnl^ty of

tb ^

pnrrir] i]nr

_a

\^ut f]]^ fnft-^in^jp)

complex and

"^«-

p '^

kuowltdg^

partially ge neral hypothetical

proposition r^or. /in short, that he did tie a^adow^ reet- or granny-knot behind the scenes, but that he could have tied a real one with this rope and would have done so on this occasion, if he

had paid more heed to what he was because,

knowing how

doin^The

lapse

was

to tie the knot, he stm did not tie

it

his fault

correctly.

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

72

Consider next the case of an act which everyone would decide

was not the inquiry

agent's fault.

A

boy

turns out that he left

it

arrives late for school

home

at the usual time,

and on did not

dally on his way to the omnibus halt and caught the usual omnibus. But the vehicle broke down and could not complete the journey. The boy ran as fast as he could the rest of the way, but was stiU late. Clearly all the steps taken by the boy were either the same as those which normally bring him to school in time, or were the only steps open to him for remedying the effects of the breakdown. There was nothing else that he could have done and his teacher properly recommends him to follow the same routine on future occasions. His late arrival was not the result of a failure to do what he was capable of doing. He was prevented by a circumstance which was not in his power to modify. (Here again the teacher is judging an action vdth reference to the capacities and opportunities of the agent; his excuse is accepted that he could not have done better than he did.^The whole question of the involuntariness of his late arrival is decided without the boy being asked to report any dehverances of consciousness or introspection about the execution or non-execution of any voHtions. It makes no difference if the actions with which an agent is charged either are or embody operations of silent soliloquy or other operations with verbal or non-verbal images. A shp in mental arithmetic is the pupil's fault on the same grounds as a shp made in written arithmetic; and an error committed in matching colours in the mind's eye may merit the reproach of carelessness in the same way as an error committed in matching colours on the draper's the agent could have done better than he did, then he counter.

^

could have helped doing

it

badly

as

as

he did.|

Besides considering the ordinary senses of Voluntary', voluntary', 'responsible',

we

should notice

of

'effort

will',

as

'my

fault*

well the ordinary uses of such expressions as

'strength

of

will'

described as behaving resolutely cult,

not to

much

let his

'irresolute'.

A

person

in the execution

of

is

diffi-

one

who

grumble and not to

attention be diverted, not to

He

or often about his fatigue or fears.

or drop things to which he is

and

when

protracted or disagreeable tasks he tends not to relax his

efforts,

think

'in-

and 'could' or 'could not help*,

is

has set his hand.

A

does not shirk

weak-willed person

easily distracted or disheartened, apt to

convince

THE WILL

73

more

suitable or that the reasons

himself that another time will be

were not after all very strong.vJSTote no part of the definition of resoluteness or of irresoluteness

for undertaking the task it is

a resolution should actually

firmly

resist

have been formec^

that that

A resolute man may

temptations to abandon or postpone his task, though

he never went through a prefatory ritual-process of making up his to complete it. But naturally such a man will also be disposed perform any vows which he has made to others or to himself.

mind to

man

Correspondingly the irresolute out

his often

numerous good

will be likely to

fail

resolutions, but his lack

to carry

of tenacity

of purpose will be exhibited also in surrenders and slacknesses in courses of action which were unprefaced by any private or public undertakings to accomplish them. Strength of will

is

a propensi ty the eYfrri^fs n f wKirVi rn^j-

in sticking to tasks; that

sist

Weakness of

will

is

is.

m

niTl biding

having too

httle

performances in which strength of will

is

of

JotciicJ oi divated.

this

exerted

propensity.

may

The

be perform-

ances of almost any sort, intellectual or manual, imaginative or administrative.

It is

not a single-track disposition or, for that and

other reasons, a disposition to execute occult operations of one special kind.

/By 'an eflfort of will' is meant a particular exercise of tenacity of purpose, occurring when the obstacles are notably great, or the

may, but need of a ritual character, of nerving or adjuring oneself to do what is required; but these processes are not so much ways in which resoluteness is shown as ways in which fear of irresoluteness manifests counter-tem.ptations notably strong.*) Such efforts not,

be accompanied

by

special

processes,

often

itself

Before

we

leave the concept or concepts of voluntariness,

further points need to be made. (iT)Very often

done voluntarily

we

to things suffered under compulsion.

two

oppose things

Some

soldiers

are volunteers, others are conscripts;

voluntarily, others are carried

some yachtsmen go out to sea out to sea by the wind and tide.

Here questions of inculpation and exculpation need not arise. In asking whether the soldier volunteered or was conscripted, we are asking whether he joined up because he wanted to do so, or whether he joined up because he had to do so, where 'hadjo^^oj^iliJad matter what he wanted'. In asking whether the yachtsman went out

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

74

of his own accord or whether he was carried out, we are asking whether he went out on purpose, or whether he would still have gone out as he did, even if he had meant not to do so. Would bad news from home, or a warning from the coastguard, have stopped him? to sea

What is involuntary, in this use, is not describable as an act. Being carried out to sea, or being called up, is something that happens to a person, not something which he does. In this respect, this between voluntary and involuntary differs from the have in mind when we ask whether someone's tying of a granny-knot, or his knitting of his brows, is voluntary or involuntary. A person who frowns involuntarily is not forced to frown, as a yachtsman may be forced out to sea; nor is the careless

antithesis

antithesis

we

boy forced to tie a granny-knot, as the conscript is forced to join the army. Even frowning is something that a person does. It is not done to him. So sometimes the question 'Voluntary or involuntary ?* Qieans 'Did the person do it, or was it done to hiiiL?' sometimes it presupposes that he did it, but means 'Did he do it with or without heeding what he was doing?' or 'Did he do it on purpose or ;

inadvertently, mechanically, or instinctively, etc.

^T^When he does

it

a person does

on purpose or

is

something voluntarily, in the sense that

trying to

do

his action certainly reflects

it,

some quaUty or

quaUties of mind, since

point to say) he

is

in

?'

some degree and

(it is

in

more than

a verbal

one fashion or another

minding what he is doing. It follows also that, if linguistically equipped, he can then tell, without research or conjecture, what But, as will be argued in he has been trying to accomplish. Chapter V, these implications of voluntariness do not carry with them the double-life corollaries often assumed.^© frown intentionally is not to do one thing on one's forehead and another thing in a second metaphorical place; nor is it to do one thing with one's brow-muscles and another thing with some non-bodily organ. In particular, it is not to bring about a frown on one s forehead by first bringing about a frown-causing exertion of some occult non-muscle. 'He frowned intentionally' does not report the

occurrence of two episodes.

It

reports the occurrence

of one episode,

but one of a very different character from that reported by 'he frowned involuntarily', though the frowns might be photographically as similar as

you

please.

(4)

^^leedgttLofjhLW^lL, It

the voluntariness of

and

some philosophers' discussions of words 'voluntary', 'involuntary' not with their ordinary restriction to

has been pointed out that in actions, the

'responsible' are used,

lapses

or apparent lapses, but with a wider scope covering

all

performances which are to be adjudged favourably or unfavourably

by any is

of excellence or admissibihty. In

criteria

their use, a person

described as voluntarily doing the right thing and as voluntarily

doing the wrong thing, or

which he

for

him

to Wiidn«L

Now

is

as

being responsible not only for actions

subject to accusation, but also for actions entitling

It is

used, that

the philosophers

is.

as a

who

synonym of 'intentional

have worked with

usage have had a strong intellectual motive for doing

.

this stretched so.

They

felt

of terms by which to demarcate those things and occurrences to which either plaudits or stricture s are appropriate from those to which neither are appropriate. Without such an apparatus it would, they felt, be impossible to state what are the quahfications for membership of the realm of Spirit, the lack of which entails relegation to the realm of brute Nature. The main source of this concern to discover some pecuHar element present, wherever Spirit is present, ami absent, where it is absent, was alarm at the bogy of Mechanismflt was believed that the physical sciences had established, or were on the way to establishing, that the things and events of the external world are rigidly governed by discoverable laws, laws the formulations of which admit no appraisal-wordsT^ Tr was fpir ^haf all external the need for an apparatus

happenines are cn nfippd wirKin ^causation.

The

genesis,

th^p

irnn

g f:ooves of mechanica l

the properties and the courses of these

happenings were, or would be, totally explained in terms of measurable and, it was supposed, therefore purposeless forces. To salve our right to employ appraisal-concepts, the field of their proper application had to be shown to lie somewhere else than this external

world, and an internal world of unmeasurable but

purposeful forces was thought to do the trick, 'yolitions'-ikeing already nominated as the required outputs of internal forces,

it

was

then natural to suppose that voluntariness, defmed in terms of

propagation by vohtions, was the

common

and peculiar element

which makes occurrences spiritual. Scientific propositions and appraisal-propositions were accordingly distinguished as being

— A.L.^M^tX^ THE CONCEPT OF MIND

76

of what takes place in the external world and descriptions of what takes place in the internal world at least

respectively descriptions



until

psychologists claimed that their assertions

were

of what takes place iti the inner world. que stion whe ther human bein gs can merit

scientific

descriptions

The

blame was consequently construed

as

or

praise

thTquestion wEether volitionT

are effects.

The Bo^y of Mechanism .

({$)

j —"whenever

^

a

new

science achieves

enthusiastic acolvte s always fancy that

by extension of

all

its

first

big successes,

questions are

now

its

soluble

methods of solving its questions. At one time theorists imagined that the whole world was nothing more than a complex of geometrical figures, at another that the whole world was describable and expHcable in the propositions of pure arithmetic. Chemical, electrical, Darwinian and Freudian cosmogonies have its

enjoyed their bright but brief days. 'At long

also

always say, 'we can give, or difficulties

and one which

is

last',

the zealots

at least indicate, a solution

of

all

unquestionably a scientific solution'.

The physical sciences launched by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Boyle secured a longer and a stronger hold upon the cosmogonybuilders than did either their forerunners or their successors. People

tend to treat laws of Mechanics not merely

still

scientific laws,

They tend

but

as,

in

some

as the ideal

sense, the ultimate

type of

laws of Nature.

hope or fear that biological, psychological and one day be 'reduced' to mechanical laws left unclear what sort of a transaction this 'reduction'

to

sociological laws will

though

would I

it is

be.

have spoken of Mechanism as a bogy. The fear that minded persons have felt lest everything should turn

theoretically

out to be expHcable by mechanical laws

is

a baseless fear.

And

it is

not because the contingency which they dread happens not to be impending, but because it makes no sense to speak of such a contingency. Physicists may one day have found the answers to all baseless

physical questions, but not ]^ Yi ^ tliaf ^h.^

y ^^^^

fr>nnrl

all

questions are physical questions.

anrLatfiIl-£nd may,

rti

The

nnp sense of the

mefaphor jral verb, govern everything ihat happens, but thev do ordain everything that hap pens. Indeed they do not ordain anything that happens. Laws of nature are not fiats.

Xiot

THE WILL

An

may

illustration

spectator,

who

is

He

elucidate this point.

at a

scientifically trained is

chessboard in the intervals between the

does not yet see the players making the moves. After a

time he begins to notice certain regularities. as

A

not acquainted with chess or any other game,

permitted to look

moves.

77

'pawns', normally

move

only one square

known

The

pieces

at a

time and then only

to us

when they move known to us as 'bishops' only move diagonally, though they can move any number of squares at a time. Knights always make dog-legged moves. And so on. After much forwards, save in certain special circumstances diagonally.

The

pieces

worked out all the rules of chess, moves of the pieces are made by people whom we know as 'players'. He commiserates with them upon their bondage. "Every move that you make", he says, "is governed by unbreakable rules; from the moment that one of you puts his hand on a pawn, the move that he will make with it is, in most cases, accurately predictable. The whole course of what you tragically dub your 'game' is remorselessly pre-ordained; nothing in it takes place which cannot be shown to be governed by one or research this spectator will have

and he

is

then allowed to see that the

other of the iron rules. Heartless necessity dictates the play, leaving in it for intelligence or purpose. True, I am not yet competent to explain every move that I witness by the rules that I have so far discovered. But it would be unscientific to suppose that

no room

there arc inexplicable moves.

which

I

hope

explanations

the

There must therefore be further rules, and which will satisfactorily complete

to discover

which

have inaugurated." (The players, of

I

course, laugh and explain to

governed, not one of them

move my

is

him

that

though every move

is

ordained by the rules^"True, given that

you can predict with certainty that it end on a square of the same colour as that from which it started. That can be deduced from the rules. But that, or how far, I

I

start to

bishop,

will

shall

move my

bishop at

this

or deducible from, the

or that stage of the

game

is

not stated

There is plenty of room for us to display cleverness and stupidity and to exercise deliberation and choice. Though notliing happens that is irregular, plenty happens in,

that

the

is

surprising, ingenious

games of

game

rules.

and

silly.

The

rules are the

same

for

all

chess that have ever been played, yet nearly every

that has ever

players can recall

been played has taken a course for which the

no

close parallels. Thc_rules are unalterable, but

THE CONCEPT OF MIND

78 t

he games are not uniform. The rules prescribe what the players not do everything else is permitted, though many moves

may

;

would be bad tactics. "There are no further rules of the game for you to discover and the 'explanations' which you hope to find for the particular moves

that are permitted

we make

of course, be discovered, but they are not explanations in terms of rules but in terms of some quite different things, namely, such things as the player's consideration and apphcation of tactical principles. Your notion of what constitutes that

can,

an explanation was too narrow. The sense in which a rule 'explains' a

move made

which

in

conformity with

it is

a tactical principle explains a

not the same

move,

for

tactical principles involves

no question of these the game." there

is

This illustration physics are very

Nature

is

is

much

knowing

that every move Knowing how to

all

that obeys a tactical principle also obeys a rule.

apply

as the sense in

the rules of the game, but

principles being 'reducible' to rules

of

not intended to suggest that the laws of like the rules

not a game and

its

of

chess; for the course

laws are not

conventions^' What the illustration

human

of

inventions or

meant to bring o ut is the fact thereJsjiQJ:Qhtracliction in sayingjh at one and the sam e process ^ittVi as the rnnyf of a bi