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Lecture IX: The Realm of Minds Continued

The last lecture was devoted to the region of subjectivity, of personal intentionality. This region was a region of higher-order phenomena which were either of bodily phenomena directly, or after a certain number of removes. There might be an appearance of a body, slanted and illustrated in a certain manner, and there might be a recognition of this appearance and its characters, and perhaps even a recognition of this recognition. Everywhere in the realm of mind there is an open possibility of what Husserl calls Einschachtelung, the emboîtement or encapsulation of simpler references in more complex ones. Thus there can be recollections of recollections, reflections upon reflections, conceptions of conceptions, modellings of modellings, symbolizations of symbolizations, imaginings of imaginings and so on, and there may also be the mixed cases of Einschachtelung as where we recall a perception, refer symbolically to an imagination, etc. A vast symbolism, with many primitive ideas and axioms, would be required to do justice to this intentional ‘logic’, but, as it would be open to much controversy, and would involve probabilistic rather than rigorous theorems, it will perhaps never be carried far by the symbolists. There is so much utterly trivial material that can be treated with so much rigour, that it is doubtful whether anything so important and so non-rigorous as the mind and its acts will ever receive full symbolic attention. It is also doubtful whether, with all the difficulties of introspection, many will recognize that at least the first few levels of such higher-order phenomena represent possibilities that can be observably instantiated, that are in fact of quite frequent occurrence.

One route of ascent to higher-order phenomena was, as we saw, the Cartesian route through illusion and error, and hence states of mind are given, from the first, as essentially phenomena that can be of objects and states of affairs which do not exist, which may in fact be logically incapable of existing. It is the privilege of mind to embrace the false as much as the true, the absurd as much as the valid and evident. What one must here be at pains to fight to the death is, on the one hand, the resolution of what a state of mind is falsely of, into so-called constituents which do exist, thereby destroying the phenomenological direction of the thought-reference entirely—a thought of a ghost is a thought of a ghost, and not a thought of separate ghost-properties or anything else—or on the other hand the creation of a world of non-existent entities, whether in the mind or outside of it. Things afterwards recognized as non-existent may indeed make their bow among first-order phenomena, but they do so only in virtue of intentional states which are of them, and when their bracketed status is realized, they can no longer be taken out of their brackets and made genuine subjects of predications. We can say what they are thought of as being, but not what they are, except, of course, by an understandably relaxed manner of speaking. But there is nothing in the ‘ofness’ of mental reference which rules out a coincidence between what the reference is of and a genuine subject of predications. It is part of what we mean by a mental reference that something may be as something is thought of as being. To talk of ‘coincidence’ in this situation is to talk metaphorically, but, as a metaphor, it expresses the way the situation looks to the reflective observer when, after something has hovered before him as a mere possibility, it suddenly loses itself in what seems a solid reality. We may be criticized for bringing metaphysical issues of reality and unreality into a phenomenological study of the conscious appearances. But even in the conscious appearances there will have to be a contrast between what we take to be real, on the one hand, and what we bracket as unreal, on the other, and there is, moreover, a self-corrective trend in the phenomena whereby, through their own bracketings of their own over-generously conceded phenomena, they end by giving us something that we cannot help regarding as unbracketable.

The view we have achieved does not, further, commit us to putting the bodily, as it is now seen, outside of the mental. Not only is it of the essence of mental phenomena to be in the last resort of bodily phenomena, to represent a ‘concentration’ or ‘interiorization’ of these, but it is also of the essence of mental phenomena to exteriorize themselves in and through bodies. And there is nothing basically empirical and contingent in the relation of what is concentrated and interior to what is extended and exterior. We do not merely find that a certain inner feeling or impulse or grasp expands into these or those acts, movements, images, etc., or that the latter contract into the former: barring strange exceptions and interferences, the one set could only expand or contract into members of the other. The kind of ‘feeling’, e.g., to which words like ‘weak’, ‘impotent’, ‘helpless’ are appropriate expands into corresponding behaviour, and vice versa.

We have, further, repudiated any solipsistic account of the realm of minds. Each mental intention detaches itself from a background of other mental intentions that stand together with it as parts of a single, many-rayed attitude, and stands in contrast to other possible intentions that are separated from it, and that are not given as parts of a single many-rayed attitude. These separated, alien mental ‘rays’, or rather their possibility, are as much given with any mental intention as the whole of space is given with any spatial object: we may in fact speak of a space of intentions or mental references which is as much a space for possible experience as are the frameworks of space and time. Mental space, however, differs from physical space in that there is nothing gradual or continuous about its separated points: if intentions are separated, they are absolutely so, and they remain so however similar they may be in content, or however near their viewpoints may be in space. Even were those viewpoints to coincide, they need not therefore coincide: there is nothing absurd in the idea of two separated contemporaneous views or feelings of the same region of space from the same bodily focus of perception. The relation of mental separateness is, further, a relation of which no instance can be adequately given either through the senses or reflectively. There is nothing absurd in this situation: the relation is categorial, and what would be absurd is if it were open to any sort of detailed instantial observation.

It is here that we must contrast our approach with that of the verificationism which argued that, while we may have all sorts of ‘pictures’ of foreign experiences, formed by imaginative self-injection into other people's, or even animals' or things' ‘shoes’, what are of moment in such references are only the physical tests or criteria through which making such references is validated. In such a type of a view models of discourse and reference are constructed which have none but a decorative place for the experiences of others, perhaps even for one's own experiences: these latter can be introduced, at best, only in a secondary manner, their test being the queer things people spontaneously say when normal occasions for speaking seem absent, e.g. in reporting dreams, describing personal feelings, etc. The use of these public models has a curious fascinating cogency: though not arguments, they operate like arguments, and appear to prove the senselessness of what they are unable to represent. It is as if someone were to try to demonstrate the flatness of the earth by using only maps drawn in plane projections. Obviously nothing whatever emerges from a system of public language-games but that there are some things that we can very well understand, and that we can very well render understandable to others, though we cannot explain how we do this in terms of what we can publicly point out or show: it is the merely auxiliary, touching-off role of the so-called ‘criteria’ that they demonstrate rather than their essential, deeply illuminating function. There is, moreover, a profound irony in the whole development of verificationistic thought out of its first solipsistic into its public, physical phase. Its first founder, with his deeply narcissistic, schizoid temperament, gave abundant evidence of being one of the few wholly serious solipsists that have ever existed: his writings, too, are frank in their expressed leaning towards solipsism. But what at once became plain to him as he reflected on the matter was that solipsism seriously entertained immediately swings over into the purest of realisms:1 if there is no possibility and no sense in seeking to pass beyond the limits of my own experience, there ceases to be sense in treating it as personal and subjective. It makes no sense to say that I alone feel, think, etc., if there is no conceivable other to which I could oppose myself. If solipsism therefore becomes absolute, all discussions of language and meaning can blessedly take place in the clear daylight of objectivity, without any cross-lights from the inner life of anyone. It is hence not remarkable that we should come to deny the possibility of a language, whose meanings are not pinned down by physical criteria, and which is not, in reality, a purely physical language. What is remarkable is that this denial has been acclaimed in many quarters as the final refutation of solipsism, a refutation so much desired by all scientific, objectively-minded people. Whereas it was the product of a mind much more interested in its own self-torments than in scientific objectivity, and one of the most uncompromisingly self-absorbed and self-contained minds that ever existed.

Our treatment so far has had a certain artificiality in that we have spoken of separated mental states or intentions rather than about the minds or souls or thinking persons that have them. It is plain that a state of mind is not a phenomenon as frequently and as readily selected as is the mind whose state it is. Descartes, who has been our main guide in our journey into the field of mind has certainly not hesitated to pass from the thought which affirms or doubts the existence of the natural world, to the permanent thinker who has this thought. The move from thoughts to a thinker was, however, made dubious by the empiricists, first by Locke, who professed only to have an extremely negative idea of his own thinking substance, and then by Hume who could discover no impression of it, and hence felt quite unable to form an idea of it. Doubts as to the ‘genuineness’ of an ego then became standard in philosophy, even among non-empiricists. Kant made the reference of experiences to an ‘I’ an empty piece of formalism which did nothing to prove the existence of a genuine, substantial unity, Fichte gave it a being inseparable from its own self-belief, Hegel identified it with the pure universality present in all categories, whereas later thinkers have seen more substantiality in the single experience or ‘passing thought’. Husserl began his philosophical career by questioning whether any ego was needed to bind together the thought-intentions which make up a single mental life,2 but in the later Ideas towards a Pure Phenomenology of 1913 he said that mental intentions or noeses required a pure ego as a central point of co-ordination, and in his Cartesian Meditations worked out a complex egology resembling the monadology of Leibniz. The fortunes of the ego have remained dim in recent philosophy: Russell and Moore have treated it with scepticism, while Wittgenstein has compared the use of the word ‘I’ to a self-demonstrating gesture like putting up one's hand. More recent thinkers have abandoned attempts to arrange thoughts by a reference to a system of pure Cartesian egos or thinking substances: they must be arranged through their connection with persons in which localized, extended, bodily existence is quite as important as, or more important than, the possession of interior mental activities.

The personal pronoun ‘I’ is, as Wittgenstein teaches, a peculiar linguistic instrument; one of its functions is undoubtedly the relatively abstract one of calling attention to the speaker in his more grossly identifiable public phases, and marking him out as the speaker or writer of the sentence in which the word occurs. But obviously the personal pronoun in question also has an important interior use, and is employed by the conscious person to describe himself as he appears to himself, both for his own benefit and for the benefit of other conscious persons, who themselves often perform similar exercises. For many quite simple persons, as well as for many most sophisticated ones, there is a highly complex phenomenology of the inner life, of how things look and feel to them personally, and in the description and categorization of this life the word ‘I’ recurs, and must recur, very frequently. Of a private language in the sense of one that would deal with matters incommunicable to other minds, it is not easy to say much in this context, as it is not easy to know what such incommunicable matters could be. Certainly they are not important structures and features of the interior life, as these are all thoroughly communicable, and are in fact part and parcel of any communication. The public, the physical, the real, only make sense in opposition to the private, the interior, the possibly delusive or erroneous. And even if we restrict ourselves to the qualitative stuff of experience, it would be strange to accord communicability to words like ‘red’, ‘round’ in their public use, while refusing to accord it to their modified use to describe personal sense-experience. Possibly a man might have sense-experiences or feelings of some unique kind which no one else could share: this, if it happened, would be an uninteresting and contingent limitation, though, if it happened, it is not clear why we should not stretch the use of the word ‘language’ to cover a man's talk about it to himself, especially as this might involve several mutually confirming criteria. Wittgenstein, usually so liberal in letting people ‘say what they like’, is here adamant in his insistence that they should not be allowed to speak thus privately. But his prohibition is here void of all interest, since the interior life is not interior in the sense of being inaccessible to others, but in the sense of permitting only a certain sort of access to them, an access appropriate to those other people's state, and involving a ‘going through’ of bodily signs—the entry into certain analogical introspective descriptions, and the use of certain ideas not derived from sensory or introspective encounter.

The use of the word ‘I’ in interior phenomenological description is, in fact, of immense complexity and richness as well as of abundant inconsistency: whatever can be said of the ego, it cannot be said not to be a phenomenon. There is the broad use of the word to oppose one part of the phenomenal world, including a certain body and certain bodily instruments and possessions, as well as innumerable interior acts and intentions, to other objects and people and interior states which are put wholly outside of these first. The first are all said by me to me mine, and I am said to be active in them or revealed in them, and, in regarding them as mine, I view them with a depth of feeling and understanding and attentive concern which I do not lavish on others. And, as interior acts and intentions, these have a screened quality and an indirectness of public access, that makes them peculiarly mine. But there is nothing puzzling, nor contrary to the phenomena, in the fact that the body, bodily instruments and interior acts and possessions which I call ‘mine’ should not be called so by others, but that they should use the words ‘I’ and ‘mine’ of other bodies, bodily possessions and sets of interior acts. There is much in this which resembles the way in which views systematically change as one moves from place to place, though in this case the movement from place to place is limited to imagination and thought.

But there are countless cases in which the words ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are used for one side of oppositions which occur within the whole territory of what is in a broader sense ‘mine’. Thus what I actively espouse is in a deeper sense ‘mine’ than what I passively undergo, or what is perhaps violently forced on me from without: activity, passivity and compulsion are all ego-phenomena and meaningless in default of an ego. In a similar manner my warmer feelings are in a deeper sense given as mine than my cooler judgements and preferences. But my egohood, if such a word can be tolerated, manifests its independence by its extraordinary shifting character: there is no function or aspect of my interior life with which it cannot be warmly identified, and from which it cannot be coldly extruded. I am at times a slave to my own calm resolutions as at other times to my passions, I can be identified with my patriotism and stand outside of my conscience or my religion, and so on. And there are of course cases of interior schism, as with the Martha and Mary who lived together in St Teresa, where it simply is not clear where the main weight of egohood is concentrated, and there are cases of ‘depersonalization’ where egohood seems to have vanished from the interior picture, and where all resolutions, judgements and even emotional reactions seem impersonal processes or the acts of other persons. In all these bizarre but indubitable phenomena a subtle contrast is present: it is I, Teresa, who am both Martha and Mary, two personalities which in a manner exclude one another, and it is I, Amiel or whoever, in whom there is no longer any central self at all. It is perhaps not being untrue to the phenomena to see in these interior doublings and lapses of egohood phenomena dependent upon the more fundamental distinction of myself from what are, in full seriousness, other persons. (Though possibly it will be by analogy with such internal doublings and lapses that we may in the end cast light on some of the strangest puzzles of the human cave.) It is only because I can oppose my bodily states and my inner orientations to those of others, that I can come to conceive analogous oppositions within myself.

The opposition of my states of mind or body to yours or his is, as we have said, a somewhat different opposition from the mere opposition of this state of mind to that other separated state of mind, which we considered in the last lecture. The former is the more natural, seemingly more basic distinction, and appears as the ground of the latter. We are in some sort giving a reason for the total separateness of two states of mind, concerned perhaps with precisely the same matters in precisely the same manner, by saying that the one state of mind belongs to one person or ego, whereas the other belongs to another such person or ego. There is, however, an alternative approach to the matter, greatly favoured by many, in deference to whom we have delayed our dealings with an entity so suspect as the ego, according to which egohood and ego-belongingness are matters fully explicable in terms of the relations of intentions or experiences rather than the other way round. The main function of egohood and ego-belongingness is obviously to cement interior states, and also, peripherally, bodily states together, and it is tempting to make this function their whole being, to resolve egohood and ego-belongingness into the mutual cohesion of interior states, and of the bodily states which represent their sensitive and practical extensions. Contemporary ego-belongingness will, e.g., be nothing beyond the non-separateness of states which contribute to a single total mental orientation, whereas successive ego-belongingness can be resolved into the steady causal genesis of mental intentions out of earlier ones or in the various direct or indirect relations of a kind involving ‘memory’.

It is not necessary, in a phenomenological study, to concern ourselves with reductive treatments which go quite beyond the appearances. Their chief value lies in the fact that, by their plain unacceptability, they bring to the fore sides of egohood and ego-belongingness that might otherwise seem abstract and obscure. Being non-phenomenological attempts to explain or economize, they form a good preface to a true phenomenology. For it is a plain fact that it is not because some event comes before us as having certainly happened in the past, and as having happened to someone, and that without inference or information, that we attribute the experience of it to ourselves, and say that we now remember it. We say that we remember it, because we are assured that we and no other lived through it, and in default of such assurance it would appear merely as a piece of clairvoyant time-probing. And where we are assured, whether rightly or wrongly, that we did live through a certain experience in the past, we are not deterred from holding this by our total lack of memory of the experience in question: documents and diaries may assure us of experiences we no longer remember, since it is in principle possible that we may be the person whose experiences they record and which we can no longer call to mind. The same holds in the case of affinity or lack of affinity with our present experience: memory may assure us of experiences utterly unlike those we now own, and St Augustine, e.g., may say that his whole life prior to his conversion was, except in dreams, as that of another person, for being as that of another person is not the same as being another person's experiences. And there is no reason, in principle, why we should not have had experiences that we do not remember and that are also utterly unlike those we now have.

The whole situation comes out even more clearly if we turn from the unpractical past to the practical future: our concern for our own future state is not bounded by any thought of memories or affinity or causal inheritance, let alone of bodily identity or of any other empirical property. Were I credibly assured, as I meaningfully might be, that I should, after a certain interval, wake up in complete forgetfulness of all I had previously done and undergone, and with changed traits and a complete lack of any normal causal inheritance, I might be deeply and personally perturbed by such a piece of information, and might further, accordingly as I was led to believe that I would be happy or unhappy in my new state, be assailed by poweful feelings, and also be led to take various practical measures, which would provide for my future well-being, should I believe that my future state would be precarious or unhappy. Nothing rouses us to greater practical concern than the belief that certain experiences will be our own, and the belief that they will be our own has no connection with any empirical test. Whereas if I were credibly assured, as I meaningfully might be, that someone else would shortly take over, or seem to take over, my memories, my personal traits and my whole causal inheritance, and would then be in a happy or a most unhappy state, I should feel towards the whole prospect, despite its profound linkage with myself through every tie of character and memory, only the most remote, altruistic concern, such as I might feel for ‘fellow-souls’ in distant parts of the universe. Phenomenologically, therefore, there is a significance attaching to ‘egohood’ and to ‘ego-belongingness’ which perfectly refutes all verificationistic or ‘criteriological’ theories of meaning. There is, and can be nothing in virtue of which any experience will be mine beyond the fact that it will be mine, and we perfectly understand what this means.

All this does not mean, of course, that belongingness to the same ego cannot be seen, with the most undoubted clearness, to involve all sorts of highly probable relations which will afford firm assurance of its presence. Experiences belonging to the same ego must tend to grow out of each other causally, must tend to have many links of affinity, must tend to incorporate many direct assurances or memories of their predecessors, and so on, as is not the case in regard to states belonging to different egos. Our direct assurances of our own identity through a long putatively remembered past, and the similar assurances of other persons, as well as all evidences of character and attitude, down to evidences of a merely documentary or bodily sort, valuable for other persons and sometimes even for ourselves: all point intrinsically to an identity which they none the less do not constitute, and cannot absolutely establish. We are assured without further ground of being the person who had the experiences X and who did Y and also Z, and we are assured on many definite grounds of being the person who had the experience M and who also did N, and we are likewise assured on many grounds that a person X, whom we have seen in the flesh, is the person who had the experiences Q, did P and underwent R, etc. But these assurances and their grounds, if any, are not the identity that they set before us, and assure us of, though they are the quite indispensable, reliable approaches to it, guaranteed by an intrinsic probability. The content of an idea, a phenomenon, is one thing, and the matters which certify it another, even if they frequently overlap, and have profound, necessary ties with one another.

The identity of an ego is therefore phenomenologically given as essentially a ‘deep matter’, something ‘metaphysical’ and ‘transcendental’, if one likes, but of which one can hope to have all degrees of assurance short of absolute certainty. That the identity of an ego is such a ‘deep matter’ comes out, further, in what we may call the endless ‘openness’ of each person to imaginative experiment: he can, without absurdity, put himself into any and every conscious position, can in principle ‘identify himself’ with any and every conscious person, whether living, dead or unborn, or inscribed only on the pages of fiction or mythology. This identifiability in principle becomes an identification in imaginative practice in the case of the insane or of men of imaginative genius. Even philosophers who have analysed themselves, without remainder, into mere streams of impressions or sense-data, are yet quite willing to perform remarkable imaginative experiments in which, as they say, ‘they’ experience sense-data such as neither they nor anyone else has ever actually experienced, a procedure not plainly justifiable nor even meaningful on their austere premisses.

The absolute ‘openness’ of the ego, its free variability of content, is, further, phenomenologically manifest in certain important experiences, of which certain acts of voluntary decision are the most notable. When voluntary decision was first experimentally studied in the laboratories of Würzburg and Louvain, and later also in England, the shocking discovery was made that people who made decisions reported themselves as aware of causality or ‘action’ springing from a self or subject which was also a naked or pure subject, quite devoid of ascertainable qualities. It did not make sense to say that such a thing could be or be observed, Hume himself had authoritatively ruled that a pure self was unwitnessable, and yet this was what came before people in living experience, and was therefore part of the phenomenology of the situation. Whether or not all volitional situations can be held to reveal such a pure or naked ego, there are certainly some that do so, those decisions, in particular, where primary impulses have sunk low, or are strictly controlled, where reasons of a compelling sort are lacking or are evenly balanced, and where choice bears the essential marks of the arbitrary. Possibly such seemingly uncompelled, imperfectly motivated choices have secret deciding causes or reasons, associative tendencies which put one alternative before us rather than another, suppressed trends which lead remorselessly to their unuttered goals, etc. But in the phenomena as they come before us there is no such hidden motivation or causation. Our choice represents an exercise in pure self-determination: from being uncomitted to any one alternative rather than another, we have come to be committed to one given alternative. Whether or not arbitrariness is to be admitted as ultimately real, we shall not here determine, but it is a genuine idea, and it represents a type of causality that accords well with another genuine idea, that of a pure subject or ego. No one would wish to suggest that it is the idea of the ego that it should always act thus arbitrarily, that it should at all times exercise the unfettered freedom attributed to it by Sartre and some others. The arbitrary can be held to make sense only in a context of the non-arbitrary, and a subject can only be a subject if it is also to a large extent a substance, and if much of its action issues from it with the comfortable predictability of a stone running downhill. Subjects are in any case not given as purely immaterial beings, but as beings active in the flesh, and as fleshey beings they must have many of the properties of ordinary bodily realities.

The ‘deep character’ of the ego means, further, that, while positive signs may point strongly towards its identity, the absence of such signs will by no means tell so strongly against it. Though I may not remember many acts and experiences that occurred in the past, it is still perfectly possible that I lived through them, and bodily and documentary evidence may do in lieu of memory. It is, of course, part of the idea of being the same person or ego that I should tend in favourable circumstances to gain or regain memories of the acts and experiences in question, since sameness of personal being, though not the same as consciousness of this sameness, is none the less given as having a tendency to announce itself in the latter, to become evident to the selfsame being that is in question. Speculative extensions of the ego's conscious life beyond its present embodiment, and not at present accessible to memory, are therefore not ruled out by the idea of the ego, though they remain merely empty and gratuitous as long as no situation is envisaged in which memories of them will become possible, and as long as such memories cannot be fitted into a general scheme of authentication involving not only the facts of the earthly past, but also much detailed otherworldly machinery, possibly including something like a ‘subtle’ body that persists before and after this life.

In the same manner the idea of the ego allows for all those recorded splittings of consciousness whose phenomenology was so vivid and so various, even the splitting known as ‘co-consciousness’, when it seems literally true that a man's right hand does not know what his left hand is doing. For the separateness of mental orientations which we saw to be a primitive idea would not seem to be incompatible with a common ego-belongingness, though it would remain a gratuitous supposition unless there were some definite way of bringing the separated streams of experience together once more. Speculative extensions of ego-identity to cover the separated states of what are now regarded as different persons, are likewise not to be rejected as gratuitous, provided we are ready to conceive, as some Indian scriptures seem ready to conceive, of definite states and disciplines through which such personal difference can be really transcended. In default of such a detailed working out, such ideas are valuable only as suggesting that the grammar of the personal pronouns is not quite so rigid and exclusive as Wittgenstein and others have supposed.

We have therefore arrived at a complex egological system, a non-windowless monadology, as entering into the idea of any phenomenon involving the second-order ‘ofness’ or directedness to objects characteristic of mentality. The view that Descartes was only entitled to pass from the delusive outer world to the reality of a passing thought concerning it, and not to that of a thinker who has that thought, is only one more case of that idle hypostatization of abstractions, and that manipulation of empty formal possibilities, which too often passes itself off as an unsuperstitious empiricism. Quite obviously a thought, however passing, is a thought of someone who might have been thinking otherwise, and it is a thought which by its nature points back to a past background, and to future possible developments, which will all be parts of the life of the same conscious person. No thought has any conceivable content that can be held apart from the possible situations that might, in the future, illustrate it or help to verify it or carry it on to yet further completion: a thought is essentially a point in discourse or in drama, a node in an ever developing theme or debate or policy. It is, of course, conceivable that a thinking personal being might be absurdly short-lived: a heavenly potentate might, to illustrate a conceptual point, bring it into being at one instant and blot it out at the next. But even so what was thus created would be in principle endless, extensible ad infinitum, and it would presuppose the existence of the potentate and his interlocutors and their long-term concerns. The temporal and social dimensions of mind can be gravely reduced, but they cannot be conjured away altogether, and they tend in principle towards indefinite extension.

Much the same may be held to be true of what we may now boldly call the corporeal dimension of mind, which is not, of course, to be confused with the limiting idea of inert bodiliness that we considered in a former lecture. The monadology we are sketching is in no sense incorporeal or anti-corporeal, bodies and their animated behaviour being in fact the channels through which egos give full intuitive illustration, as well as full certitude, to their inwardness, carry it out in a through and through concrete, provably real manner. Even for purposes of an ego's own complete self-understanding a full bodily enactment of what it means or aims at may well be necessary. Nor is our monadology windowless, since the organs of sense are the natural windows of the monads through which they see the full carrying-out of the other monads' attitudes or intentions. The character of an inner state comes across in the gestures that express it, and in the fancifully modified introspective language that describes it, only because such gestures, and the normal sense of such language, have a true affinity with it, because they represent something that is continuous with it and that fully deploys it, not some adventitious outward sign that might have been wholly different. It seems clear that there can be no communication among egos that does not either ultimately look backward upon or ultimately look forward towards some such detailed sensuous and bodily deployment. An ego may involve an aspect of metaphysical depth and purity, but it must possess contingent and variable as well as transcendental and necessary properties if it is to be a fully concrete being at all, and these must, in the last resort, point to possible bodily manifestation and realization. Egos can certainly be given to each other as ‘bodiless presences’, as they in fact often are given when we dwell in certain recollecting or prayerful intentions upon our friends, whether living or dead. But such a givenness, if it is not to be wholly empty, must ‘condense’ many bodily as well as spiritual traits. Thoughts, we know, may be impalpable, imageless intentions, but this does not hinder them from being of things gross and palpable. The pattern of an odd gait or a twisted smile may survive intentionally when all sensuous matters have been laid to rest, and any paradox that this may involve is an affair of this world and of our present experience, and not of some other. Egos may likewise communicate telepathically, but for such communication to be a full personal communion and not a communion with a phantasm, there must be further earthly or unearthly perceptions to vouch for it or fulfil it: the person we are communicating with must be able to muster as complete a set of manifestations and trails of evidence as the other persons of our normal acquaintance. Hence the numerous normal checks, documents in safes, visits to places, etc. put upon telepathic communications. We may, if we like, make imaginative experiments in which egos are revealed in several bodies or in which they animate pens, move furniture, exist as detached voices, etc., but all this will not differ in principle from ordinary common-or-garden embodiment. And if we pursue speculative extensions beyond the limits of this life, then, as anyone who has read the literature of speculative mysticism well knows, the so-called disembodied spirits of another world really dispose of much that is bodily: they achieve full expression by way of the use, and the rapid transformation and locomotion, of subtle, ‘spiritual’ bodies of various sorts. And even if we conceive of egos whose whole life is concentrated into pure pulses of thought, like the dwellers in the formless worlds of Buddhism, or the Thomist angels whose representation of each other, since they are pure forms, is only through ‘similitudes’, then we must still conceive of a possible concrete carrying out of the content of their thought-intentions, as well as of the style and continuous drift of those thought-intentions themselves, which would point remotely and ultimately to something sensibly illustrated and bodily. The conclusions we have arrived at are not far from those of many modern linguistic philosophers, though for us they depend on the deep essence of conscious egos, and not on their merely conversational or other discursive needs.

The egology we have constructed or rather found in the phenomena tends, however, to be mystifying if we do not work out the various ways in which an ego can be conscious or active, if we do not, in short, sketch the broad form of an intentional psychology. These ways are in no sense co-ordinate, but belong rather to quite different fields, and it is only by going along all of them that we may hope to frame the idea of an ego, or of a system of egos, in full lucidity. By anticipation we may distinguish in the life of an ego sentient, referential, thetic and dynamic aspects, all irreducibly different and irreducibly different in their differences.

Under the sentient aspect of ego-life we include all those modes of experience which are, as we held, only facultatively intentional, which are intrinsically such as to permit a referential use, or a variety of referential uses, without themselves being explicit cases of intentionality or reference. We shall include in such sentience all the bodily sensations spoken of by ordinary people, which are not the same as the well-distanced kinaesthetic and thermal and algedonic sensations of the introspective psychologists, or the sense-data of philosophers, experiences which may be used to present ordinary or reduced objects, but which are themselves ways in which we feel or are affected, and so are distinct from any objects or detached data they might help to bring before us. To this sentient aspect of ego-life the higher senses of vision, touch, hearing, etc. contribute to the extent that they are present in non-objectifying, personal forms, as happens for instance when we gaze ‘unseeingly’ at things before us or experience light and shadow playing on closed eyelids. There are truly such things as visual sensations, but they are rarer and stranger than philosophers have tried to make them.

In this sentient zone of ego-life we should also wish to include all those facultative awarenesses of our own total inner states and their directions, their speeds, variations, retardations, transitions and sheer trends and tendencies, which we unhesitatingly say that we ‘feel’. Even where there is nothing so developed as reflection, there are always the materials for it, and this leads, as we have seen, to such doctrines as the Sartrian pre-reflexist Cogito or the Aristotelian doctrine of a reflexive awareness comprehended εν παρεργω in every percept. In the ego's sentient aspect we should further wish to include countless condensed, inexplicit consciousnesses which exist rather as total ‘atmospheres’ than as definitely directed references. The ordinary speaker has a background ‘sense’ of many matters which corresponds to this description, and the Würzburg school spoke of a Bewusstseinslage or vague posture of consciousness, which they contrasted with a Bewusstheit whose direction was explicit and clear.

It is arguable that many of our experienced emotions and impulses fall into the last-mentioned category: they are condensed conscious atmospheres out of which a clearer consciousness of the trends of behaviour and interior experience is ready to develop. Emotions and impulses themselves are dynamic rather than conscious phenomena, but there are both clear awarenesses and condensed ‘feelings’ of their policies and targets, and it is these last-named ‘feelings’ that are here in question.

As said before, the metaphorical word ‘condensation’ is used seriously to indicate a basic character of our interior life. To all the states roughly catalogued under the heading of ‘sentience’, the Husserlian notion of hyle, mental stuff, is applicable: they may not themselves be intentional states, but they have more than an accidental, external relation to the latter. It is by living through them that we are able to make certain intentional references, and their relation to these references is like the Aristotelian relation of the concave to the convex: it is, as it were, by being mentally concave that we can become aware of what is non-mentally convex. This sentient aspect of ego-life is further all important since it represents the nearest that mind can get to dispossessing itself of its higher-order character, of being itself simply a certain sort of thing, and not merely, at a second remove, of things that are of certain sorts. If we are forced in the end to embrace the immaterialism which most deeply critical thinkers find inescapable, then we may perhaps find in sentience a substitute for first-order physical being.

From sentience with its facultative directedness to objects we pass to explicitly referential presentational states of mind in which something or other is set before the conscious person for his consideration or his notice. There are, as we have indicated, fascinating phenomenological variations in the manner in which such presentation may be effected, of which variations we can now only mention three. We may dwell, first, on the centrally important distinction between those presentations, those references, in which objects are given focally or attentively and those presentations in which they are given inattentively or marginally, a difference in the very character of consciousness qua consciousness, by which more than anything it reveals its presence and makes plain what it is. The older introspective psychologists wrote valuably on the topic of attention, but it is doubtful whether more than a tithe of its phenomenological richness and depth has been explored by philosophers.

Side by side with variations in attentional illumination are the quite different variations which, following Husserl, we may call differences in fulfilment. Our consciousness of anything may be more or less perfectly and concretely illustrated, according as the actual thing seems to stand before us with its features in the fullest degree manifest, or according as we merely nod towards it mentally or are inwardly intent upon it without any such wealth of fulfilling illustration. To every situation that might come before us ‘intuitively’ or concretely there is the possibility of a corresponding (more or less) empty presentation, and every empty presentation contrasts with a fulfilment in which all that it is of is concretely given, the thing itself present to us as it really is.

Finally, in addition to these two distinctions of the focal and the marginal, and of the empty and fulfilled, we have innumerable distinctions of conscious ‘fight’ or ‘angle’, according as things are approached as being this or as being that, are approached predicatively, or relationally, or enumeratingly, or denyingly, or alternatively, or hypothetically, or generally, or in any of the ways which a good logic distinguishes, and which are by no means merely symbolic or formal, but basic to all human, and doubtless to some animal life. These are matters of such vast variety and complexity that we can only mention them here, though we may say more in our second series of lectures.

Involving a great novelty in principle are the references which not solely set objects and states of affairs before us, the ego, but also involve the new note of belief, the claim to present reality, what actually exists or what actually is the case. Following Husserl we may here speak of thetic acts of mind. Cutting across an immense tangle of derivative phenomena, we may see as the preconditions of this new set of phenomena (a) a recognition of the bracketed or merely intentional status, the position of something which is referred to or given, but which is none the less not a genuine subject of predicates, nor capable of being shifted out of its object-position except in a manner of speaking (as in the present sentence); (b) an energetic rejection of brackets in a given case. To think believingly is to understand what it is to be wrong or deluded and to hold the firm thought of not being wrong or deluded now. Belief, accordingly, is a highly derivative, second-order affair, a return to an unbracketed, uncritical consciousness, but a return to it after bracketing has at least been tried out, a feat which a primitive or an animal mind could not compass. The whole capacity of first considering, and then energetically disregarding, the conceived possibility of delusion and error, is so novel and unique, that it may well be set alongside of sentience and presentation as a totally new conscious phenomenon, which however presupposes those that went before it, as Brentano also recognizes in his theory of judgement. How our account will deal with the situation of partial belief where there are several claimants to unbracketedness, cannot be worked out in the present context.

If we turn, finally, to the dynamic side of ego-life we are no longer dealing with the simple intentionality of consciousness which can be complete at a moment: we are dealing with the way personal states grow out of other personal states in time, or with their tendency thus to grow out of one another. Here belongs all the impulsive, conative side of mental life, and here belong also all of our emotional disturbances, and the manner in which our various personal states grow out of one another extends also to our bodies and their overt movements, which merely carry out more explicitly and effectively what our fantasies and interior stirrings already are after. What we have before us is, in fact, an immense behaviourism, only it is a Rylean behaviourism not confined to overt acts, or readinesses for such overt acts, but also to interior imaginings and thinkings that we do in our heads, and to the readinesses for such interior imaginings and thinkings. And it covers our cognitive and contemplative, as much as our so-called active life, asking questions, dwelling on themes, suggesting answers, noting differences, etc. These are all cases of conscious drift, characterizable as much by what they tend towards as by what they momentarily present or are. This behaviourism, overt or covert, actual or dispositional, lies in a different temporal and dynamic dimension from the sentience, the presentation and the belief we have been studying, and the philosophers who have merely co-ordinated it with them, or them with it, have gravely misrepresented our conscious life.

In this misrepresentation they have been aided by the fact that our various conscious drifts all necessarily tend to be accompanied by vague feelings or presentations of themselves, feelings of ease and difficulty, of liking and dislike, of excitement and calm, of aggression and withdrawal, of fascinated interest, of weariness, of depression and what not. These feelings are the transient epiphenomena of the dynamic drifts of mental and bodily activity. That the ego, having various mental states, and, by sensational infusion, various bodily states as well, should feel the drifts that run through these states, presents no sort of difficulty or obscurity, nor is it difficult and obscure that it should feel itself as the source of some of these drifts and trends and as passively undergoing others. The intense ego-activity of sticking to some hard task is a phenomenon as well known as the contrary phenomenon of easy surrender or alien compulsion: we know what it is to be actively sustaining a given frame of mind or body and to be passively drifting on towards other similar states. And of course, in all these conditions, as well as in the sentient, presentative and believing conditions previously sketched, we understand the possibility of being in the opposite condition to that in which we are. The ego therefore always emerges in its character of openness and negativity in contrast with its determinate acts and states.

We may now conclude our study of the phenomenology of the ego and the system to which it belongs. What we have said maps a vast territory rather than drawing any of its details with accuracy. What we have next to consider is the dialectical doom of all this elaborate phenomenology, the possibility of deep inner strains of discrepancy and absurdity in the whole well-constructed picture which will force us on to something else. Since we are already somewhat beyond what some men's commonsense finds convincing, we shall have more and more difficulty in being lucid and persuasive. In the last lecture of the present series we shall compass the collapse of the whole world of separated, communicating minds that we have just set up.

  • 1.
    Tractatus Logico-philosophicus, 5. 64
  • 2.
    Logische Untersuchungen, v, § 8.