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Eighth Lecture. Consciousness Without Language

John Lucas

I am going to start this evening by pouring a little cold water on linguistics. The last two lectures have been To Mind via Syntax and To Mind via Semantics, and I want to raise some doubts. Not that I've got anything against language: I'm a language-user myself, and I have strong trade-union feelings in favour of other people who make their living by talking. But, I do want to raise certain points against it; possibly these are—the views I'm going to shoot down—are not views held by either Kenny or Longuet-Higgins. They may protest that I am either parodying, them or knocking down a straw man.

I want to argue first that the concept of consciousness is different from that of using language, and that it is perfectly possible to have somebody being conscious without being able to use language. It might seem that this would be a difficult thesis to establish, because we only know, by and large, what another person is conscious of by talking to him and getting him to tell us. This is true, and this is important, and this makes it very difficult for me to produce a counter-example. But there is one, a rather grisly or horror counter-example which comes up from medical practice. For certain operations, particularly, I think, those to do with the abdomen, it's highly desirable to relax all the muscles, and often the drug curare is used, which is so effective that it induces complete relaxation and paralysis. Also, as you may well know, different people have got different tolerances of anaesthetic, and it is possible for the standard dose not to anaesthetize someone. There are cases of people who have been both paralysed and anaesthetized, where the anaesthetic has not in fact worked, and the operation has been performed on them while they are fully conscious, but unable, because they are completely paralysed, unable to make this fact known. I am assured by medical colleagues that this is a very rare case. One of them said it is the doctor's nightmare that this might happen: I thought the patient would have something to say about that! But another, who in fact himself had been having a course of—I think it's called Valium—for another complaint, was able to be much more informative about what is called the boxed-in syndrome, the state of consciousness without the ability to do anything or to communicate anything. And from the fact that this does happen, and certainly is intelligible, it follows that consciousness is something different from language, and it is conceivable to have a person being conscious who cannot use language at that time, and I think by extrapolation we can rationally ascribe consciousness to animals who never can use language.

My second caveat about the linguistic approach is one about the focusses of attention. I want to take over here a point which I think is most fully worked out by Michael Polyani, in his Gifford Lectures of about ten years ago, Personal Knowledge, where he draws a very illuminating distinction between the focus of attention and matters of which we are subsidiarily aware. And this is particularly important for the philosophy of mind, and for our understanding of language. Normally, we take what a person says, not as being itself the object of our interest, but as being the means whereby we come to know what is our object of interest, namely what the other person is thinking. Normally—not always. There are cases, for instance, classical scholars and people who are trying to programme computers and literary critics, where the prime interest is in the language. But still, I want to argue that these are subsidiary cases, and that language as an institution arises because of our normal concern with what the other person is thinking. This of course doesn't apply only to language, it applies to the sort of behaviour which we read of as being indicative of another person's frame of mind. One example of this is that occasionally people have rather distressing facial tics—every now and again they grimace. When we first meet such a person, we are very much put off, because we take this as being a symptom of a sudden stab of toothache or mental anguish. When we come to realise that it is nothing of the sort, we cease to notice it, and very soon become entirely unaware of it. That is to say, we are interested in the facial expression of a person as being indicative of his state of mind, and as soon as we cease to regard it as being indicative of his state of mind, we cease to notice it at all, cease even to be aware of it. This point, I think, can be used within the rather traditional framework, of the problem of other minds, to make it clearer what the relation is between states of mind and states of consciousness on the one hand, and overt behaviour on the other.

Gilbert Ryle, in his book, The Concept of Mind, gives a brilliant account of what it is to be conceited or to be vain. A tendency to have one's attention wander when other people are talking; to like to be talking oneself, to be fond of telling other people how well one has done oneself; to have lots of mirrors in one's house, to keep Who's Who always open at one's own entry. And he uses this, perhaps fairly—I'm not in Who's Who, I might say—to argue that vanity is not a sensation. And I think we can concede this. But the fact that all these very different manifestations are recognisable as being manifestations of the same disposition, whatever it is, makes sense only because we have a certain integrative notion of a person thinking too much about himself. And it's because we have the idea of a man's mental attitude or state of mind that we can pool together all sorts of different manifestations, and understand them as being of the same type.

Well, those are arguments which I want to bring before you. They are some of them fairly well-worn ones, as being things to set against the linguistic approach, not by putting up barriers but by indicating alternative approaches, indicating points which need to be borne in mind; we can allow the non-metaphysical, methodological approach of Longuet-Higgins, but say that there are other methods.

Thus far, I have been somewhat negative, not positively negative, but rather wet-blanketish, and I know that Kenny might very well suggest that I've been hired by Our Dumb Friends’ League, to put in a plea for those people who can't speak their own minds. I want now to move to a rather more positive approach, and try and bring out some further notions, which will give us a key to the understanding of mind, and not just simply consciousness—I want to go beyond that, or behind it, for something which will pull together both consciousness and the use of language. I want to say that if we are to understand mind properly we should take as our way in, first and foremost, the concept of action, or of decision. At the moment you might think that I have been billed to reinstate Descartes, who started with his principle ‘cogito ergo sum’: cogito, I think; ergo, therefore; sum, I exist; last week, I tried to chisel behind Professor Longuet-Higgins by offering as a second argument a presupposition of all linguistic language. I argued ‘loquor ergo es’; I speak, therefore you are. But now I want to go one stage further back, and say ‘ego, ergo ago’: I, therefore I do. That is, I want to say that the most fundamental concept we should apply to man is that of being a rational autonomous agent, a doer. And that both the concept of consciousness and that of language-use, although independent, are nevertheless subsidiary to this concept. In saying this I don't want to say that you cannot have a state of inactive consciousness—I have just been arguing the exact reverse of that—nor do I want to say that one cannot use language idly, or else St James would have had no call to tell people to be doers of the word, not hearers only. But rather, I want to try and show that the concept of action, of decision, is one which naturally leads to the other two. To put it very crudely, I shall want to say that consciousness is what arises as the feedback of an agent from his decisions, and that language is the means by which we articulate, assess, and communicate our reasons for action.

The most fundamental form of knowledge for an autonomous being is that he should know what he is going to do. I argued earlier that other people cannot know, they cannot predict, what a person is going to do, with absolute certainty. It is up to me, as an autonomous agent, to decide what I am going to do. Perhaps, to use a linguistic argument, since I'm in the company of linguists, I'd point out that the use of the words ‘to have a mind of one's own’, or ‘to make up one's own mind’, is just this: to make a decision about what one is going to do. I want to show, first, how, if we take this as our most fundamental concept, we can see a good many of the ways in which the peculiarities of the concept of consciousness arise-First of all, since there is going to be a difference between the way in which I know what I'm going to do, namely as I decide what I'm going to do, and the way in which other people know what I'm going to do, I'm going to be in some sort of privileged position. I have a sort of knowledge which other people can't have, and this is one of the things which we mean by saying ‘I am conscious’. There's a special use of the first person singular, ‘I know’, which doesn't go over into the second and third person singular or plural. Secondly, I can not only make up my mind what I'm going to do; I can consider what I would do if circumstances had been or were different. I can shut myself up in my stove, and think what I might have been doing if it weren't snowing outside, or if I now were in the sunny south, or if I were now flying over the Alps, or if…, or if…, or if.… That is to say, an autonomous agent is not tied down to the here and now; he can make plans for other eventualities. There is a relative detachment of his thinking from everything else. And this is one of the puzzling features of consciousness. This is one of the tools that Descartes uses very ferociously to cut down all the other concepts to size. ‘I feign that I have no body; I imagine that I am not in this place; that there is no world’. Descartes is very fond of using this. I think perhaps almost too fond. Surprisingly for a Frenchman, he has not fully taken to heart the significance of the actuality of the present. I should want to argue that consciousness is in some sense anchored in the present, that to be conscious is necessarily to be conscious now. But, although consciousness is anchored in the present, it is not confined to the present. I can imagine myself being in many other situations, past, future, actual, possible. And this ‘iffy-ness’, this hypotheticality of situations I can envisage myself acting in, is one of the reasons why consciousness, and also language, preserves a very high degree of detachment from the immediate circumstances and the immediate situation in which one finds oneself.

A second point which arises from the concept of autonomy is that there is a certain logical gap between input and output. In our last lecture, last time, Longuet-Higgins was offering us as an analogy of language the programming of a computer, of giving it instructions. And then he said ‘but the other person may, of course, decide not to meet our request’. And Kenny picked this up as being a crucial concession. It shows that there is, for human beings, for autonomous agents, in contradistinction to computers and automata, a logical gap between what we tell them to do and whether or not they do it. They will do it if they please. But it's up to them to decide whether they will do it or not. This is why children are taught to say ‘please’. This also is why consciousness exists. Each person finds himself with many courses of action, and he's not bound to take any of them. He deliberates between then. He isn't bound to take them in the sense in which determinism is usually posed, and which I have argued against elsewhere; he also isn't bound to act on what seem to be very good reasons. For example, I may have a very good reason for not doing something, namely that it is hurting me to go on walking. My ankle is out of joint. This is a very good reason for not doing it—but I'm not bound to refrain from walking, in order to avoid hurting, for a sufficiently good reason. If it seems good to me, I may decide, pain notwithstanding, to go on. That is to say, in this way also, an autonomous agent may be influenced, but is not determined, by his circumstances. These circumstances are present to his mind. He weighs them, then it's up to him to decide what he is going to do. If we take deciding as the fundamental concept, then we will have to raise the question of the connection between my making a decision and actually carrying it out in overt behaviour. There will be something wrong if we had intentions which never influenced performance. There are people who, perhaps the day after Hogmanay, decide to do lots of things. But we have a special word for this, to indicate that these are not real decisions. That is to say, although it is not logically necessary for a decision to be carried out—it is possible for a decision to be frustrated, it is possible for a decision to be changed—I changed my mind what I was going to do—and sometimes even for a decision to be forgotten, and for many other weaknesses of will to occur—nevertheless, there is a conceptual tie between decision and actually carrying out the decision, and unless decisions were by and large carried out, then they wouldn't count as decisions. If you put intention and deciding as the fundamental activity of man, you will see that there is a necessary privacy of intention, coupled with, not a necessary but still a very strongly required, publicity of performance. And I want to argue it as a merit of this approach to the concept of mind that, instead of the highly implausible arguments put forward by Wittgenstein about the impossibility of a private language, and the various behaviourist analyses which have been put forward of sensations and dispositions and pains, there is an entirely innocuous connection between forming an intention and carrying it out. There would be something wrong if I not only formed my intentions in private but kept them there; if, so to speak, I had many, many intentions which I kept in pectore, and never allowed them to be manifested to the public in actual action. Or to take a more traditional way of putting it, the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

I said some time ago that I would also try and show why the concept of language-use presupposes that of consciousness, rather than the other way round. And I think the point arises because if we have any sort of language, it must tell people something that they didn't know before. Last week, Longuet-Higgins, when he was comparing language to the programming of a computer, took an exclusively second person attitude to language. He was telling the computer to do this, that, and the other. You shall perform this computation ending up with two stars and a 1. I want to add in the first person singular, and say that it's also necessary, and pre-eminently necessary, in a language, to be able to say what I shall do. We can see this, for instance, in that very primitive language which we use when we are driving. There are few expressions in driving language for telling other people what to do. Very, very occasionally you see a driver waving somebody on. There is, I believe, one expression which is neither indicative nor imperative. It goes into another mood—but almost all the signs of the Highway Code are announcing an intention.

I take this as a rather weak argument for saying that the announcement of intention is fundamental to the use of language. It explains, I think, why we need to have a language. If I am dealing with autonomous agents, only if they tell me what they are going to do, can I know as well as possible what they are going to do. It wouldn't happen in a world in which there were no autonomous agents—then we could calculate what something was going to do, and know this quite independently. But once you have an autonomous agent, someone who can decide himself what he is going to do, make up his own mind, then we need language to make public what was originally and essentially private, his decision on what he would do. Not only is it up to an autonomous agent to decide what to do. But in deciding, he is working out his own goals. I don't want to trespass on this too much, because this is what Waddington is going to talk about tomorrow; it is one of the fundamental characteristics of mind—the ability to select one's own goals. But it is important for my purposes to point out that a rational agent acts for reasons: I act for reasons; they are my reasons. Typically, I'm in a situation where there are reasons for doing something, and against doing something, and it rests with me to decide where the weight of argument lies, and to make some of these reasons my reasons, and reject the others. One of the reasons why we need language is not only to tell other people what I am going to do, but why I'm going to do it. I have to show them what my reasons are; and I suggest that a great deal of the problem which philosophers deal with, when they are concerned with states of mind and sensations, and emotions, would be much better approached, and much more clearly understood, if they were seen instead as the communication of possible reasons for action. Most obviously, I think, the concept of pain should be seen not as a sort of sensation but as a very obvious reason for not doing things. It is, as Aristotle would have called it, a φευκτον, something to be avoided. Reasons apply not only to me; I also address reasons to you. Again, this goes back to the ‘please’ argument. It is not enough to tell a person what he shall do: he has a mind of his own, and he may very well not do it. I need rather to give him reasons why he should do this, and again these are points which I hope he will become conscious of, and take into consideration himself, and allow himself to be guided by them.

I want, finally, to pick on one other facet of consciousness, which I think also arises from autonomy, and which we haven't yet discussed very much. This is the reflectiveness, and power of self-assessment or of being self-critical, which is characteristic of a conscious being. We feel that to be conscious is necessarily to be conscious that ‘I am’—cogito ergo sum—is also to be conscious that I am conscious—cognito me cogitare. And also to be conscious that I am conscious that I am conscious. And so on. And this is because I am not only able to be detached from my circumstances and envisage that I might have been in other circumstances, and acting in a different situation, but also I can be detached from myself. I can consider that I might have been other than I am, to the extent that I might have already decided to do different things. I don't want to suggest that one could be radically other than oneself, but one can think that one might have decided, instead of coming to this lecture this evening, to go to a film—‘The Anatomy of Love’ I think I saw advertised on the way in from the airport. And in this sense one stands back and sees not only that circumstances might have been different but oneself might be different, and one looks at oneself with an air of relative detachment. And this flows from the fact, and supports the fact, that the reasons which I adopt are never coercive reasons. I always could have decided to act differently, and that therefore, even when I have given all the reasons that I can, I can always ask a further question ‘All the same, shall I do it?’

This logical gap of autonomy creates the infinite regress of consciousness, the perpetual ability to reflect on one's self. It creates also what one might call the syndrome of the detachment of the ego, which is very common in our own age, particularly I think in people in their early twenties; people being able to see all sorts of arguments for this course and for that course, and see that these are very good arguments, and yet find that they absolutely fail to grip them. They just see themselves as somehow separate and slipping through all the arguments; all the arguments may form a very strong coherent web, but the soul somehow gets through the meshes, and one is left floating and adrift. It is a matter which causes great anguish, great angst, to many people, and it arises from the fact that one is conscious of oneself being able to make up one's mind differently, being something different from one's circumstances and from all the arguments which one is bringing to bear on the problem of what one should do. I don't think that this can be argued away, or can be made out to be a bad thing, or anything else; but I would give as a last thought the following one, which I find consoling, and perhaps some of you may. The same reflexiveness of consciousness which makes it possible to suffer from the detachment of the ego also provides the thought reference which gives leverage for the application of Gödel's Theorem, which I think is going to underlie almost any convincing argument for the freedom of the will. That is to say, that what gives us the greatest pain as moral agents also reinstates one of the most basic intimations of consciousness that we are free, and that it is up to us to make up our own minds what we are to do.



I want to start by entirely agreeing with John Lucas that mind is not the same thing as language and that you can have minds which do not use language. The things nearest to minds, that I'm professionally concerned with as a biologist, are activities in non-human animals, who definitely do not use language. I should certainly dignify many of them by the word ‘mind’. Even if you wanted to restrict ‘mind’ to human mental events, I think anyone who's seen a number of babies before they start talking has no doubt that they are all exceedingly different in their behaviours and their mental operations, and in fact have different minds before acquiring linguistic ability. So I should personally be very willing to go along with John Lucas in saying that language is not by any means the whole of mind. In my talk tomorrow I shall be talking a lot more about mental activities not involving language. But I noticed that John Lucas didn't stay with this point for very long, because when he started to become more positive he immediately started talking about talking again. And I would like to take up his two Latin tags. My Latin is exceedingly rusty. I spent the years from about eight to about fifteen or sixteen learning it, but then I went to another University which is not quite so deeply wedded to lost causes as John Lucas’, and I spent the rest of my life forgetting it. So perhaps I could be excused for asking something about, I think it might be, the Chomsky an deep structure of these phrases. ‘Loquor ergo es’: I speak, therefore you are. Does this simply mean ‘you can hear that I'm talking, therefore there must be somebody around for me to be talking to’, or can ‘ergo’ be taken in a stronger way, so that the sentence really means ‘it's only by my talking to you that you are’? That I think would enshrine a real fact about mind which we haven't laid sufficient stress on; namely that the human mind as we come across it, and as it talks to us, is a social construction. There is that other classical tag we learnt at school, and I've still got it more or less in mind, even with the wrong pronunciation ‘γνωθι σεαυτον’ know yourself; it may be actually impossible to do so, in the sense that you can't know yourself without knowing a lot about other people as well. It may well be, I think it probably is, the case that the self is not an isolatable thing, that you cannot be an individual isolated, and have a human mind. And in that sense ‘loquor ergo es’ would carry this much stronger connotation, that you are only brought into being by men talking.

Now the other phrase ‘ego ergo ago’. Does this mean only ‘here I am, and I can't sit still’? Or does it mean, again using ergo in a strong way (which may be stronger than Latin allows, I don't know) ‘I only exist by what I do’? I suggest that that meaning, if it is allowable of the Latin, is an important meaning. And it is very closely allied to what John Lucas was saying in the rest of his talk, because it implies that what I do has a definite enough, a firm enough, character to characterise something's existence, to make something come into existence. Simply messing around, playing around with random activities, could not be said to bring anybody into existence. If you are going to say that actions give rise to the personal existence of a continuing entity which can be called an ‘I’, then you've got to say these actions are very definite; and I think that means that they have to be actions in search of a certain goal. They have to be directed activities. Now John Lucas lays great stress that we should ourselves select our goals, that we should make up our minds. He seemed to imply that it is only if we ourselves personally make up our minds that our actions can have a definite enough character to be anything more than a random set of movements. I think the biologist would not accept this. Sub-human animals have goals, which they don't make up for themselves in any conscious way. Their goals are basically made up for them by natural selection. It is not, I think, completely necessary for mental activity, for mind, that the goals should be self-selected. I'm going to leave to my two colleagues who deal much more with the human species than I—I'm only a dilettante at the talking animal, I tend to study the non-talking animals—let them take up this point as to whether goal-directed activities, or activities which have a consistent enough character to establish a personal entity, a personal existence, necessarily demand this freewill self-selection of goals that John has been laying so much stress on? I shall be talking again about goal-directed activities tomorrow, in the biological world, and shall have very much less to say about conscious selection.

I want now to come back to a point about language and the bearing it may have on our study of mind, and make a point which I think hasn't yet been sufficiently clearly stated. A study of the way we use language is not, as I have said before, anything like a complete account of the way minds work, but I think it may be a very accessible example of one of the ways in which our minds works, open for us to analyse. When we say a sentence, we do it ‘spontaneously’—there is some sort of extraordinary telescoping of the process. We don't actually, consciously at least, start off with the deep structure in the Chomskyan sense, work it all out, and decide exactly which words have got to go where, and how to put it all together. We just say the sentence. Now, we don't always say it terribly cleverly or well—we may say it in a highly ambiguous way, and our interolocutors, as Longuet-Higgins said earlier, are usually clever enough to find out roughly what we mean. But we do it in some way in which there's very little gap between the intention and the carrying out of that intention. And I think this is so for a great many consciously directed activities other than language. Lots of things we do we don't actually think out. Take playing a shot at tennis or bicycling, or anything like that; you can't really think out exactly what you are going to do as the ball approaches you across the net. You just do it. And I think this is a rather surprising and peculiar characteristic of what our mental activities can do, the way our minds work. It does have this ability to jump over what looks like an absolute forest of detail. The people who are trying to programme computers to use language, in the sense of making and understanding sentences, are really finding just what exactly is involved in this jumping over the detail, and how you could imagine the mind does it in other contexts, such as controlling muscular activities like hitting tennis balls, and so on. That is going to be, to my mind, one of the important contributions which one is hoping to see come out of the analysis of language. I'm suggesting that there is something very much in common in mechanism between the ‘loquor’ and the ‘ago’ in John's phrases. And it seems to me very mysterious what this is, and I am hoping that the computer people will help to tell us something about it.


I'll just make one confession about these two Latin tags, the two lower ones. The first one is quite respectable, it was made up by Descartes, who had been brought up by the Jesuits, and knew Latin properly; the other two were made up by me, who spent the years from eight to eighteen learning Chemistry, and whose Latin is very bad. Therefore don't start quoting them! But what I am going to do is to agree with part of what Waddington said on ‘loquor ergo es’ Of course, it is true, as every mother knows, that babies get turned into people by being talked to. But I also want to argue a second point, that it's not of course simply by my opening my mouth that I can bring you into existence, but rather that if I am talking to you I can thereby show that I am presupposing your existence. It originally came to me arguing with an undergraduate who was trying to get me to prove that he existed. And the mere fact that one talks to a person shows something. The second one, ‘ego ergo ago’, I think shall pass, because I can see two other people who are anxious to be active, and I'll let them be so.


I want to get behind John Lucas's statements, to what is biting him. It strikes me that what John Lucas is doing is putting a little fence around the autonomy of people, as something we mustn't allow the sciences to study. Somehow or other, we must keep formal description away from this, because it is a sanctuary which somehow is not to be trespassed upon. Now, I'm not one for trampling heavily all over other people's dreams. But I don't think that it works in practice to put hedges round little bits of reality and then say they are not to be investigated. Perhaps I might amplify this point a little bit. John was saying that, when we act, we can consider reasons for taking this action or reasons against taking that one, and we can then make our minds up, but that we aren't in any way constrained by a consideration of the reasons for doing something, and we can't weigh them in a balance and let the outcome determine our action. Well, I'm not quite sure what is being, asserted here. One thing which is obvious, of course—and which I was anxious to allow in my thesis of last week—was that when one says something to somebody one says it in a very considerable degree of ignorance about their state of mind, their wishes, their inclinations, their previous experience, and so on. We are extraordinarily ignorant of one another's mental states, and the marvel is that against such odds, we can communicate at all in language. But one of the essential characteristics of human beings, which we share with other animals, is our acute sensitivity to happenings in our environment. If John asks me if I would very kindly shut the door, and at the particular moment a speck of dust gets into my eye, I might very well say ‘Wait a moment, I'm awfully sorry, a speck of dust has got into my eye’. Now a speck of dust is a very small thing, and its arrival on the surface of my eyeball is an extraordinarily unpredictable kind of event, and of course this is only one extremely trivial example of the fact that we are, in taking any action, likely to be influenced by so many different things in such a sensitive way that it is hardly surprising that our decisions are not predictable with reference merely to the reasons why one might take a particular course of action or the reasons why one might not.


I'd like to say something first of all about the relationship between consciousness and mind. John Lucas began by putting forward, rather nervously, as a difficult thesis which he thought Longuet-Higgins and I would disagree with and pounce on, the thesis that there should be, that there could be, consciousness without language. I don't know what gave him the idea that either Longuet-Higgins or I would have any objection whatever to this thesis. It seems to me a very obvious truth that there can be consciousness without language. Cats and dogs don't speak; cats and dogs see and hear and feel. Seeing, hearing, and feeling are modes of consciousness: therefore there can be consciousness without language.

Anybody who denies this is in some way or other a great fool to deny it. I say, in some way or other is a great fool, because of course very clever men have denied it. By a quaint coincidence, perhaps the cleverest man who ever denied it was Descartes, whom John Lucas said he had come here tonight not to bury but to praise, and reinstate. I think that Descartes was clearly wrong in thinking that animals lacked consciousness.

However, I do want to query the equation of mind and consciousness, which was explicitly made, I think, by Waddington, and passively consented to by Lucas. I think that the best way to approach mind is not through consciousness—not, that is to say, if we are interested in the mind as the characteristic of human beings. For consciousness is something which human beings share with non-human beings, whereas there are features which, we have been arguing, they do not share with other creatures. Among ones which have been mentioned, by myself, or by others, at earlier stages, have been the autonomy of human beings (which John Lucas stressed this evening), their ability to reflect upon themselves, their ability to think of distant times and places, their ability to prove Gödel's Theorem, their ability to speak Latin and other such elegant accomplishments. It seems clear to me that all of these abilities, with the possible exception of the ability for autonomous action, presupposes the use of language. As Waddington pointed out, it was very interesting that all John Lucas’ examples of the special characteristics of mind were very heavily linguistic. I don't see how a non-language-user, for instance, could have an asymmetry between the first person and the third person pronoun. I don't see how a non-language-user could imagine things long ago, as in Ancient Rome, or have intentions for the non-immediate future, say an intention to catch a train three weeks hence. I don't see how an animal can be self-conscious or reflect upon itself, except by the use of language with its particular reflexive properties.

I don't want to say that we oughtn't to talk about consciousness, because we are supposed to be talking about mind. Clearly this would just be being terminologically obstructive. But I do think that the crucial elements in man's uniqueness as a rational agent are concerned much more directly with his language-using ability than with the consciousness which he shares with other animals. I've already argued for one half of this, that there can be consciousness without mind as in animals. Last week we were talking about the suggestion made by Chomsky and Freud that there can be mind without consciousness, that is to say, that many of the skills and activities which exhibit mentality may not be conscious, may not be obvious to introspection.

Lucas tended to play down language because he misconceives the relationship between language and thought. He said that we are really only interested in what people say because we want to know what they are thinking, unless we happen to have special professional interests in style or computer programming. He says language arises because of our concern with what others are thinking. Now this seems to me a grotesque travesty of the truth. The great majority of the most interesting thoughts are thoughts which just couldn't be thought if there were not language. And all the thoughts to which Lucas drew our attention were thoughts which could not be thought without language. If one is going to have interesting thoughts about mathematics, about religion, about poetry, about philosophy, about science, one must have a language to have those thoughts in. It's a great mistake to think of language as merely the means of communicating to others thoughts which we could have had for ourselves without language. Language is just as much a medium for ourselves to think our own thoughts in as it is a medium for the communication of thoughts to others.


I will pick up only some of the points. I'm going not to pick up the speck in Longuet-Higgins’ eye, because the beam in my own will take too long to remove. But I would like to take up his first point, which I think is of very considerable importance, where he said that I was building a fence around a sanctuary, and saying ‘no’ to scientific investigation. And this turns very much on what we mean by scientific investigation. It's a point which we raised in our first lecture and then we had it out over the algorithms. I do think that in one sense of the phrase ‘scientific investigation’ there are things about persons which the scientist cannot, according to that canon, discover. That is, there is a certain methodology of scientific investigation which says that all scientific investigations shall be able to be checked up by anyone. The philosophy of science is very very democratic, although, as you know, its sociology in practice is very aristocratic. Anyone can check up on a scientific statement. And this is not true when we are dealing with persons, their reasons, their states of mind. This is the reason why the doctor had the nightmare—there was something which if the patient was conscious he knew, namely that it was hurting like anything, and this is a something which is not discoverable by scientific investigation, although it is subsequently made known by the use of the first person singular. Now it depends how far you weigh scientific and how far you weigh personal. I don't want to say that there is something that cannot be known. I do want to say that if it is to be known it's got to be known by the persons concerned revealing it. And there is in this sense something first personal which runs against the impersonal ideal of scientific investigation, but doesn't run against a more generous view of what the whole of knowledge is like.

I now want to turn to Kenny's remarks, where of course he can pull the mat from under my feet.. Everything I've been doing this evening is linguistic—I've been talking—and it's very hard to find a convincing counter-example to the claim that there is no consciousness without the use of language. I had to think a long time to get this example of the patient. It's very difficult to get really clear examples to show what besides language is important, but I think it's very important to do this, and I've just tried to do so on one or two other points. First of all, he was raising the question about it being only by means of language that we can have memories of things long ago. John Locke, in his Essay on the Human Understanding, argues that why brutes have minds is that they can remember things, and he instances a particular case: a bird remembering how to sing. Now the example won't work completely—Longuet-Higgins has designed a holophone which will in a sense give some memory reactions, but although Locke's facts I think could be queered, his logic I think is right. That here we can find sometimes with animals, the relative detachment from the stimulus of the existing situation which entitles us to say that this is a phenomenon of consciousness and it's clearly not linguistic. To pick up another point, that whenever we think, we must think by means of language. Well, I beg to doubt this. It depends of course on the first-hand testimony of other people. One of the problems which has beset people who have to read philosophy is that the English Empiricists obviously had very vivid visual imaginations, and weren't particularly good at words. This is why their whole theory of mind is based in terms of images. Other people are very good at words, and have to learn to construct images. But it seems to me clear that some people do think much more in terms of images; mathematicians often think wordlessly, so they tell me. And only later write down squiggles. I myself often think quite hard, and then have a great job trying to find words to express the thought. The Greek formula, ‘λογονεχειν τε και διδοναι’ gives two things: to have the reason, and to be able to give it in words. And I think it is, although difficult, possible to take cases here where people have reason but haven't yet managed to crystallise it out. And I can only appeal to your experience, either as mathematicians, or as image makers, or as rather inarticulate philosophers, to ask you to join my side.

Finally, since I'm expected to do something polemical on Kenny; where on earth did I get the idea that he and Longuet-Higgins weren't fully paid up subscribing members of the Cartesian doctrine of consciousness? In his rooms in Balliol, when we trying to devise this programme, they had said what they thought, and I had protested against it, and this—‘Consciousness without Language’—was how Kenny expressed my thought.

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