H. D. Lewis does not attempt an exhaustive survey of recent controversies about the mind-body problem. His plan is to select some typical and influential discussions of the question and subject those to fairly detailed examination. The first position on which he comments, in chapter 1, is that of Professor Gilbert Ryle in his The Concept of Mind as well as the philosophy of Descartes. Lewis develops his basic point that the behaviourist and physicalist leanings of contemporary philosophers are due to the failure to recognise the essential elusiveness of the activities of minds, not in the sense that we do not properly know what they are in themselves, but in the sense that we cannot lay hold upon them in the same way as events or entities in the world.
Lewis turns in chapter 2 to discussing a distinction that Ryle makes between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’ then continuing on from here to the issue of action as voluntary. This is a distinction we can all easily recognise and allow; and that lends much plausibility to Ryle’s contentions until we look more closely at the way Ryle understands it. Lewis claims that the point, according to Ryle, is that in the case of ‘knowing how’ we are not having knowledge of this or that truth but simply displaying the ability to do certain sorts of things. ‘Knowing how’, then, as Lewis claims, consists in having and exercising determinable dispositions in a variety of ways as occasion requires, and, therefore, to be dispensing with any occurrence beyond the observable performance considered as an exercise of a skill or capacity. The dual process involved is not that of one act preceding another, but of one act having a mental and a physical component.
In Lewis’s criticisms of Ryle in chapter 3, he tries to make it plain that the mistakes which Ryle seems to me to be making come about through his impression that alleged mental processes must be some kind of ghostly double of the witness-able performances of persons. This is an understandable error, although to Lewis it by no means justifies the excesses in which Ryle seems to indulge. The lesson above all which Lewis presents from a study of Ryle’s work is how radically different the mind is from the body and how elusive are the activities of minds, not in the sense that we do not know what they are in themselves.
The best way that Lewis can advance the subject is in his account in chapter 4 of positions which have much in common with that of Professor Ryle but are also sufficiently different to be of interest. He begins with the views of Professor Stuart Hampshire as he presents them in his works, namely Thought and Action. Lewis asserts Hampshire and Ryle are firm in their rejection of anything approaching a Cartesian position, and Hampshire is bolder in the affirmation of the materialistic strain in his thought. Lewis approaches Hampshire’s main themes in his repeated insistence that there can be no completely detached items of experience to be identified on their own account. He then passes to a more questionable move, namely Hampshire’s suggestion that the method of identification of items within the course of our own experience as such is no different from the way we specify and single things out in the external world.
Lewis turns to Professor John Passmore’s assumption, found in Philosophical Reasoning, that the many applications of the word dualism have enough in common to enable them all to be exposed to some very general objections to the standpoint they all are taken to represent. To Lewis this seems a very big assumption and an approach to the subject that may do much to obscure the real issues and the relevant arguments. In Lewis’s opinion, Passmore insists that not only is it impossible to know the relation between forms and particulars, but that there cannot be such a relation. For if the forms are required in any way to make the particulars what they are, they must somehow become particular themselves and their role in any other way is rendered useless. As far as Lewis is able to glean, what Passmore means is this: ‘Minds, on the view he opposes, can only obey mental laws and bring about mental effects; bodies obey physical laws and only affect bodies’. It does not seem to Lewis that Passmore has justified his claim that philosophy can ‘show that dualism is untenable’.
Hallucinations, mental images and dreaming do have particular relevance to questions of interiority, and it is thus not surprising that chapter 6 focuses on those who are most eager to rebut any kind of dualism of mind and body, who take the bold course of denying that the phenomena instanced should be thought to constitute any kind of experience. Lewis begins by discussing Professor Norman Malcolm’s work, Dreaming. He first tries to make clear that Malcolm has no intention of denying that we dream. Lewis warns us not to identify Malcolm’s position with that of writers who identify the dream with certain impressions we have on waking. The dream and the waking conviction are not one and the same thing. It seems evident to Lewis that Malcolm’s position requires us to draw a particularly sharp distinction between waking and dreaming such that one is a process or experience and the other not at all so. Do not the processes of gradually falling asleep and of slowly pulling ourselves awake again make such a radical bifurcation extremely implausible? This is the crux of the matter to Lewis. Is verification, in the sense that Malcolm has in mind, the sole criterion?
It is time, therefore, to look at examples of this modified and seemingly less daunting form of monism, and Lewis begins in chapter 7 with a position that lies nearest to the ones he has already examined, a position which is not very easy to characterise as it seems initially to grant us more than is in fact intended. The view to which Lewis refers is that of Professor Peter Strawson and especially what he says about individuals and language in the chapter entitled ‘Persons’ in his book Individuals. Lewis also discusses two supplementary arguments used by Strawson in the same context. The first is Strawson’s reply to a possible defence of Cartesianism. In the second supplementary argument, Strawson again presents the alternative to his own position in what Lewis considers another misleading way. Strawson declares that, whereas we should ascribe state of consciousness and corporeal entities to the very same things, we are tempted to think of a person as a sort of compound of two kinds of subjects: a subject of experiences, on the one hand, and a subject of corporeal attributes, on the other.
Based upon the sort of interactionist thesis that Lewis has been presenting, some may have misgivings about dualism, and this is the subject of the eighth chapter. Such difficulties are presented very neatly and forcibly by Professor R. J. Hirst in his book, Problems of Perception. It is in truth surprising that Hirst, and other opponents of dualism, should have overlooked the fact that the case for private mental experiences, distinct from physical occurrences, is in many respects as strong in the case of animals as it is in the case of human beings, and that it is in these terms that the position would normally be defended. Lewis argues that in being aware of the sensation of the mind, whatever at the time we take it to be, we are also immediately aware that we are aware of it. The awareness of mind and the sensation are not the same thing. In short, the distinction Lewis draws between private experience and observable behaviour does not arise directly from the distinction between the more specifiable rational and reflective experiences of human beings and the more limited experiences of beings who have not the use of reason.
Lewis turns in chapter 9 to some further versions of the identity thesis. These draw away yet further from the position and method of argument found in Ryle’s work, although at certain points they have at least a formal indebtedness to him. The position Lewis wishes to examine most closely is that of Professor Herbert Feigl, who has wrestled with the position of the relation of mind and body in more than one place, but sustains his view in a much discussed essay titled ‘The “Mental” and the “Physical”’. In addition to this, Lewis continues to discuss a position very similar to that of Feigl, and in some ways much indebted to it, is that of Professor J. C. C. Smart in his Philosophy and Scientific Realism. Lewis closes with a discussion of the main defence offered by Anthony Quinn in a paper on ‘Mind and Matter’. Quinn’s position is that room must be found, in any adequate theory, for that consciousness of ourselves which it seems certain, as a matter of common experience, that we all enjoy.
It is Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity by Sydney Shoemaker that Lewis comments on throughout chapter 10. Lewis believes this could be described as a defence of a form of the identity hypothesis, but the way the position is maintained and defended by Shoemaker makes it far less disturbing to the dualist than the usual form of the identity thesis, and Lewis asserts that it is questionable whether the arguments finally adduced by Shoemaker probe an identity of mind and body in a way which any sensible dualist would wish to dispute. One factor which Lewis considers to hinder Shoemaker severely from entertaining these possibilities and investigating them is the place he rightly gives to memory in the co-ordination of experience by which we make sense of it and identify things and one another. The way would then have been open also for Shoemaker to appreciate better just why it is that our own identity is also final and irreducible. It is to this theme that Lewis turns to in the following chapter.
The philosophical discussion of the problem of self-identity has, in Lewis’s opinion, been much bedevilled by the fact that philosophers have had this sense of their own ultimate indivisible identity at the back of their minds but, not properly grasping just how irreducible it is, they have sought, with varying degrees of ingenuity, to account for it in terms of other senses of being the same person. Lewis’s concern at present is not, therefore, with obscure phenomena of the mental life. This is not because he desires to maintain that everything about humans is perfectly transparent or evident, in principle, to ordinary or causal inspection. There may indeed be, in Lewis’s judgment, various levels of mental life. All the same, Lewis maintains that consciousness and our continued identity are, in a very radical sense, mysterious and elusive. They are so in the sense that there is no special way in which they can be characterised. This holds quite independently of any view we may have about the external world or physical reality.
Lewis maintains in chapter 12 that if we have some kind of private or privileged access to our own experiences, there can only be knowledge of other minds in some indirect or mediated way, whatever they may be. This is the unavoidable corollary of all that he has been maintaining; indeed, it is not so much a further point as another way of looking at the same point. But many writers have found this feature of a dualist view very hard to digest. The idea of the person, as Lewis presents, is thus thought to involve the body in an unavoidable way, and the wedge must not be driven too firmly between them. Professor A. J. Ayer provides an extremely interesting example of this situation, and Lewis here makes a closer reference to Ayer’s view in order to illustrate his own main point. Lewis argues that if we hold that what we learn about one another is not just about our physical processes or dispositions, but about some further quite distinct mental process, the obvious conclusion appears to be that we learn what these mental processes are like by inference from what we observe of bodily states.
Lewis concerns himself next with what he considers to have already become an established classic, namely Martin Buber’s ‘I-Thou’ relationship. For what is of the utmost importance in Buber’s thought is just the recognition of the irreducible way in which an individual confronts a ‘Thou’. But, if Lewis is right, the clue to what is central and most impressive in Buber’s teaching, and the way to avoid the pitfalls along the course he is taking, is to have due appreciation of the elusiveness of the self in its ultimacy and distinctness whereby it is more than its experiences of its aptitudes and character, but more in a way which cannot in turn be described or characterised any more than it could be thought to subsist in isolation from its experiences and the propensities which condition them.
Chapter 14 turns to a discussion of Hegel’s work that was given its shape most decisively by the need to cope with a problem Kant bequeathed to his successors. According to Kant, we can only have knowledge of objects which are conditioned or affected in certain ways by the fact that we know or experience them. This does not, for Kant, make the knowledge viciously subjective. He starts from the fact that we know or experience a world of objects which are not of our own creation. But this presents many problems for Lewis, especially where the sharp bifurcation of the self into an empirical and a noumenal self is concerned. Lewis feels that the dilemma in which Kant placed himself is more understandable in the case of our knowledge of God than of other things in themselves. Idealists have sought in various ways, as Lewis shows us, to cope with these problems. They pointed out that good may often come out of bad and, if we understood all, we would see that all evil contributed in some way to an eventual good which compensated for it.
From this, Lewis turns in chapter 15 to a discussion of different forms of monism and mysticism, comparing and contrasting them to the dualist approach that he has been seeking to defend. A division is made early on between Western and Eastern philosophies of monism, in order to show how different forms of monism can be highly dissimilar to one another. Lewis continues on in this chapter to bring in the opposing forces of good and evil, and how mysticism and monism are able to approach these issues, although they are much different than to that of the dualist approach. The main point of Lewis’s debate rests on the ideas and notions of Professor W. T. Stace, as presented in his Mysticism and Philosophy.
The self that emerges from Lewis’s examination of the topic, as seen in the final chapter, is elusive in the sense that no objective account can be given of the nature of its identity, nor of the manner in which experiences belong to it. The denial of the possibility of a criterion of personal identity also seems to render the self essentially characterless, for there can be no more than a contingent connection between it and any particular body, having the history that it has.
The opening chapter of Freedom and Alienation is offered as a summary, with some new emphases, on what Hywel Lewis has said previously about persons and their identities. His initial point is put bluntly since it has been a focus of many previous lectures, that there is a radical difference between mental events and those that are physical, however closely they may affect one another. Lewis argues that there are two ways in which a person can be identified. One is by description. The second is found in answering what it means for these peculiarities and experiences to be part of an individual and attributed to that person’s self. Lewis’s answer to this is that each one knows him- or herself in the fact of being that person and having any experiences whatsoever. We do have to say, though, that the ‘self’ is more than the course of its experiences. It has experiences, but the ‘self’ is at the same time not an entity quite apart to which it is incidentally related. At this stage of Lewis’s argument it is most essential that the reader hang on to this seemingly paradoxical position. An addendum focuses on the logical limits and constraints placed upon human will. Lewis utilises arguments of O’Shaughnessy, Vesey, and Cohen to outline the limitations of will, and which of these may be flexible to increased human will, even though he does not doubt that there are eventual limits to will.
Lewis follows the opening chapter with a discussion on punishment and responsibility, which are claimed to be closely related. The most obvious form of this claim is that punishment is thought to be inflicted properly only on the guilty in respect of some failure to make appropriate use of their responsibility. At some point there exists a presumption of guilt. On the other hand, it is thought that the notion of responsibility itself has to be understood in terms of liability to punishment. As Lewis points out, this brings about the issue of what is legally versus morally right and wrong. The most direct way to bring out the radical difference between law and morality is to note that it is possible to do grievous wrong morally without contravening any law of the land, and, on the other hand, to commit a serious crime and be morally innocent or indeed worthy of great esteem. Does this mean that Lewis goes along with Nowell-Smith and the like? Certainly not, but the point at which he parts company precedes the points which he has in common with them and the concessions he has made.
The third chapter thus continues the discussion of morality by comparing moral worth to moral choice. Lewis claims that when we consider certain features of our conduct we seem forced to recognise in them some value or dis-value, in various degrees, which is unique and distinct from other evaluations. He continues with a lengthy discussion of what can and cannot be considered moral worth. From this, Lewis is able to posit that the condemnation which is appropriate to moral evil and reflects its nature calls for one’s conduct to be under one’s own control in a more absolute way. But when this sort of freedom is mooted, or thought to be genuine, certain familiar objections present themselves at once. First of all there is the reference to the obvious continuity of character and conduct. The second objection is that an action which does not flow from our characters does not properly reflect the person we are; it is more as if something blindly happened to me by sheer chance. In addition to this, Lewis distinguishes between moral choice and making a moral decision. The proper moral choice is not the question how we decide what we ought to do, and what this involves, but rather whether, when we have reason to believe that we ought to do something, we will in fact do so.
At this point, Lewis drives his argument towards the role of freedom in regard to an individual’s character. He begins with a discussion of self-determination, starting with Hegel and drawing upon Kant, to show: ‘how the self, as subject in experience, permeates all experience and affects the self as agent as well as subject’. Within the unity of our awareness, our desires are viewed in relation to one another in a way that changes their strength and quality. It is another matter entirely whether this form of self-determination meets the requirements of freedom in the properly moral sense. Self-determination in the present sense remains a form of determinism. However much we present its internal character, the result at any time cannot be other than it is. What Bradley and so many other philosophers have to offer, Lewis claims, is only a superior form of determinism. Moreover, the freedom which is envisaged here is a matter of degree. Lewis asks the reader to recall the way Plato extolled the freedom of the man who had attained mastery of himself in a balanced personality. But Plato is discussing the just man, and the unjust is at the opposite extreme. All Lewis needs to establish at the moment is that for most persons the dark areas in which we find ourselves little disposed to what we deem best and highest are little reduced and leave us with a constant challenge to rise above the infirmities of our nature in response to the call of duty. We do not have eruptions into moral existence; we are moral agents all the time, even though there is much in the ongoing course of our lives that is not explicitly moral or ethical.
Lewis has been setting out the view that moral responsibility requires a choice between open alternatives, a choice such that it could be different even though everything else remained the same. Thus, chapter 5 predominantly contains a discussion of what choice entails. He turns to the sequel to Nowell-Smith’s first article, his Determinists and Libertarians, and is concerned specifically with the difficulty Nowell-Smith finds in the notion of having immediate awareness of the open nature of some of the choices we make. The real question is whether there is, or can be, an immediate awareness of freedom. To be quite explicit, Lewis claims that there are two matters we should distinguish here, the circumstances and our own state of mind. In a very general sense we may be said to be choosing all the time; all our conduct is choice, since it flows from the alignment from moment to moment of our lives and our understanding of our situation. But, as Lewis points out, what we have first to note here is that the variations in the uses of freedom, and its synonyms, are much to be expected and must not be straightaway invoked to settle major issues in philosophy. This brings us to the crux again: if there is no case to be made for the view of the self as more than its particular states and attributes, the case of the libertarian with whom Nowell-Smith is concerned falls to the ground. Lewis argues that Nowell-Smith takes it that determinists and indeterminists alike are extensively committed to a crudely mechanical analogy for character and conduct.
The ideas of motive and intention have played an integral part in Lewis’s discussion of moral evaluation, and are the main focus of chapter 6. This is not surprising, for intention is thought to include the whole or some important part of what an agent anticipates as the result of his action. In addition, it seems evident to Lewis that what a person supposes will come about in the course of his conduct is in some way a main consideration in the evaluation of what he is doing. While a motive is sometimes thought to be that part of our intention, two philosophical debates stem from here. Firstly, the meaning of motive was apt to be extended to include feelings such as love or hate. It was also pointed out, as a second complication, that one cannot summon up feelings such as love or compassion immediately on some occasion, any more than we could so expel a feeling of hate. The other issue is the idea of motive as the disposition or trait of character of which an action on a particular occasion is the expression. Lewis claims this to be a specious argument, though, and a proper exception could only be found if we go, as the libertarian does altogether, beyond the sphere where an action is explained by the invocation of a disposition or trait of character. The point of Lewis’s argument is to note the needless complications some writers bring on themselves by thinking of an action in this encompassing way, as being the outward performance in certain conditions.
Chapter 7 turns the philosophical discussion towards the notions of guilt and alienation. A person is considered guilty in the moral sense if, in the exercise of the freedoms already described, he complies with his own wishes at the time rather than what seems to him the course of his duty. Lewis’s argument is that an agent, in a properly moral situation, cannot make an effort of will to comply with what seems to him morally required or fail to make it and yield to the promptings of prevailing inclinations without being aware of the duty confronting him, as he then understands it, and the strain imposed by the contrary pull of what he otherwise prefers. Without this the choice involved would be meaningless. The control of our will, and its exercise in free choice, as Lewis claims, is not suspended in our private inner existence, and this is why many feel guilty for what they have never admitted and which may not be evident to the outward observer. This is exceptionally true in religion. For here more than anywhere we have to do with the other not just in terms of ontology and our distinctness, but in the sense of a reality that is altogether beyond all finite conditioned existence. It does not in the least follow, to Lewis, that those who believe in God can think lightly of the way their transgressions are offensive to God. But, while juristic metaphors and talk of the wrath of God have their place here, Lewis suggests that we get closer to the truth of the matter when we take our cue from our own personal relations and how they are marred and again restored.
One must admit that it is not only from writers of fiction that we learn of inwardness and the desolation that comes from being enclosed within. Philosophers have also been much occupied with it, and this is the focus of the eighth chapter. Lewis briefly discusses the aspect of solitude from an extensive scope of authors, including: John Gardner’s Grendel, Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good, and also works by Plato and Bertrand Russell. It should suffice here in Lewis’s presentation to say that there is no question of establishing a correlation by explicitly inspecting the minds of other persons. This is entirely more a matter of making sense of the pattern of events within our perceptual experience, with seemingly immediate responses to our own initiatives, which would be totally bewildering if not ascribed to ways in which agents other than ourselves affect the course of our own experience and impose their will upon us in some ways.
Experience, though, is bound to be private in itself, however readily known to others in further ways; it is thus bound to be so for finite creatures, but not for God. This is no fabrication and is the main thrust of Lewis’s discussion in chapter 9 on the great divide between the finite and infinite. Lewis claims that the way we must think about God is radically different from the way we must think about everything else: what holds of necessity about ourselves need not be the case for God; nothing for man is ex nihilo. But this is where Lewis needs to be wary, for many have passed from their realisation of the essential omnipresence of God, and the inevitable openness of our lives to transcendent being, to the wholly unwarranted supposition that our own existence is ‘simply the existence of the transcendent in us’. As Lewis is apt to remind us, this type of thinking belies all that transcendence itself involves. There is, in simpler terms, a dualism of man and God and of individual persons and their environment. This does not, however, make any finite reality self-subsistent. We depend on one ultimate source of all being, and we depend more immediately on one another and the world around us. This dependence is not in question, but dependence is one thing and identity is another. What Lewis is claiming is that the distinct identity of persons is ultimate, however sharp our limitations and the conditions within which we find we can function.
The concluding chapter of Lewis’s discussion on freedom looks at the notion of salvation as based upon the relationships that individuals have among themselves, their environment, and beyond. His claim is that what is important for us centres directly on who we are as persons and our personal relations to one another. This is a relationship, not a merger. These conditions are pre-eminent in the case of religion. The relationship with God is a special one, not only because of its prime importance, but also because God has no visible or bodily presence such as sustains our ordinary interaction with one another. However, the most that Lewis is venturing to insist upon here is that the relevance of the idea of salvation, and the means of achieving it, must be understood on the basis of what we find significant in personal relationships and the ways in which they are marred and mended. His final point concerns humanity’s essentially social situation. Lewis has been concerned throughout with individual salvation, and that is what he thinks salvation is in itself: the reclamation of persons or, in the traditional terms, the saving of souls. We draw upon our immediate social environment and contribute to it, and this in turn owes much to a network of social relationship within our community and beyond it.