Curt J. Ducasse

C. J. Ducasse

(1881-1969), French-born, highly respected Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. Awardee of the Carus Lectures prize (American Philosophical Association). Contributed to the "Journal Information for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research", "Causation", "Immortality" (Edited by Paul Edwards), "Philosophical Dimensions of Parapsychology" (edited by James M. O. Wheatley). Ex-student of Josiah Royce. Pursued a career in philosophy but retained a strong interest in logic - so much so that he took the initiative to create the Association for Symbolic Logic with its Journal of symbolic logic. Among his many important papers on survival are "How the Case of The Search for Bridey Murphy Stands Today" Journal of the ASPR 54: 3-22, and "What Would Constitute Conclusive Evidence of Survival After Death?" Journal of the SPR 41: 401-406. His books included "A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life After Death", "Paranormal Phenomena, Science and Life After Death" (Monograph), "A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion", "Nature, Mind, And Death", "Truth, Knowledge and Causation", "Philosophy As a Science: Its Matter and Its Method" and "Philosophy of Art".

A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death - Part 2

Chapter 5: What is "Mental"?

1. Which occurrences are denominated "mental" | 2. Introspection, Inspection, Intuition | 3. "Content" vs. "object" of consciousness | 4. "Mental," derivatively vs. fundamentally

 - Curt J. Ducasse -

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          FROM THE things, events, etc., called "physical" or "material," we now turn to those called "psychical" or "mental." With regard to these, the same two questions arise as did concerning the others. Stated here in their right methodological order, they are: (1) Which events, processes, etc., are the ones named "psychical" or "mental?" and (2) What characteristic does empirical examination discover as peculiar to all of them?

1. Which occurrences are denominated "mental"

The answer to the first of those two questions is that, originally and fundamentally, the events, processes, etc. denoted by the terms "psychical" or "mental" are the inherently private ones each person can, in himself and only in himself, attend to in the direct manner which - whether felicitously or not - is called Introspection. "Mental" or "psychological" events are thus, fundamentally, the immediate experiences, familiar at first hand to each of us, of which the various species are called "thoughts," "ideas," "desires," "emotions," "cravings," "moods," "sensations," "mental images," "volitions," and so on; or comprehensively, "states or modes of consciousness."

What introspection discloses may to some extent be published by the person concerned, but is never itself public. To publish the fact that at a given time one's state of consciousness is of a certain kind consists in performing certain perceptually public acts - vocal, graphic, gestural, facial, or other - that are such as to cause the percipients of them to think of a state of consciousness of that kind and to believe that the state of consciousness of the performer of those acts is of that kind at the time. This is what, for example, utterance of the words "I am anxious," or "I wonder where I parked my car," or "I remember him," etc. ordinarily causes to occur in the person who hears them. But the utterer's state of consciousness, which such words symbolized, is never itself public in the sense in which the sound of those words, or the written words, are public. That state of consciousness is inherently private to the particular person, of whose history alone it is an item - private in the sense that no other person can examine it, whereas each person can examine his own states of consciousness; can, for instance, compare directly the feeling he calls "anxiety" with the feeling he calls "wonder," etc.

2. Introspection, Inspection, Intuition

In the case of sensations, attention directly to them - vs. to what they may be signs of or to what they may be caused by - is termed by some writers Inspection rather than Introspection. Inspection in this technical sense, then, no less than Introspection, is attention directly to experiences that are inherently private; for, evidently, we cannot attend to another person's sensations themselves, but only to his appearance or behavior. Such knowledge as we have concerning his sensations results from our automatically interpreting certain modes of his behavior as signs that, in given situations, he- is experiencing sensations similar to, or as the case may be, different from, those we are experiencing.

For example, we do not and cannot discover that another person is, say, color-blind to red-green, by inspecting the sensations he has when he looks at grass and at a poppy, and comparing them with the sensations we have when we look at the same objects. We discover it by attending to his perceptually public behavior on such occasions, by noticing that in certain ways it is consistently different from our own on the same occasions, and by taking this as signifying that his color-sensations correspondingly differ from ours.

For the direct kind of experience, whether attentive or inattentive, which when attentive is called specifically Introspection, or by some writers in the particular case of sensations, Inspection, a generic name is needed; but no such generic name less cumbersome than "State of consciousness, as such" appears to exist in ordinary language. I have therefore proposed for this elsewhere, in default of a better, the name Intuition - defining Intuition as occurrence of some state of consciousness, as such, i.e., as distinguished from what it may be consciousness of, in the sense of may signify.

Intuition, then, may be attentive (clear) or inattentive (dispersed, dim;) and, in so far as attentive, it is then inspective, or introspective, according as the state of consciousness attended to is a sensation, or is other than a sensation.

3. "Content" vs. "object" of consciousness

The second of the two questions mentioned at the outset, namely, what internal character is peculiar to all the events, processes, etc. that are intuitions as just defined, i.e., are "mental" or "psychical," is more technical than the first. Fortunately, it does not need to be gone into at any length for present purposes. I shall therefore say here, without attempting to argue the point, only that in the case of the events, processes, etc. in view and only in their case, existing consists solely in being experienced and being experienced constitutes the whole of existing. That is, in their case but only in their case, esse est percipi. This is the peculiarity that differentiates them from all other things, events, or processes. The term "Intuition" thus designates the experiencing of such an experience - an intuition standing to the intuiting thereof in the same kind of relation as, for example, a stroke being struck stands to the striking thereof (not, to the object struck;) that is, in both cases equally, as the "connate" or "internal" accusative of the activity concerned, as distinguished from the "alien" or "objective" accusative of it. Similarly, compare tasting a taste with tasting a substance, tasting bitter taste with tasting quinine, thinking a thought with thinking of New York, etc.

Introspection, then, and likewise "Inspection," is intuition attentive to its own modality of the moment, instead of, as normally, inattentive to it. Its particular modality at any moment I term the content of consciousness at the moment, as distinguished from the object of consciousness at the moment.(1)

(1) The contentions and the terminological proposals sketched in this and the preceding two sections are explicated and defended in detail in Chapts. 12, 13, and 14 of my Nature, Mind, and Death Open Court Pub. Co. La Salle, Ill. 1951. See in particular pp. 230-40, 275-80, 293-5, 302.

In connection with the above account of states of consciousness, it will be appropriate to comment here briefly on the fact, of which much is being made these days, that we all possess a vocabulary, understood by our fellows, for mental states or states of consciousness. This, it is alleged, means that mental states cannot, as generally has been assumed and as asserted in the text above, be occurrences unobservable by other persons than the particular one in whom they occur, i.e., be inherently private.

Rather, it is contended, the denotation of the words which denote mental states must have been learned by us in the same manner as that of the words which denote physical objects and events; namely, by our hearing them applied by other persons to public occurrences which they and ourselves were witnessing - these, however, being denominated specifically "mental" when they consisted of modes of behavior of certain special kinds; e.g., anger-behavior, goal-seeking-behavior, listening-behavior, seeing-behavior, etc.

A crucial fact, however, is overlooked by this would-be-inclusive behavioristic account of the manner in which men have acquired a shared vocabulary for mental states notwithstanding the latter's inherent privacy. That crucial fact is that when the behavior, witnessed by another person, which moves him to employ one or another of the "mental" words in characterizing it, is our own behavior - e.g., when he says to us: "Now, don't be so angry," or "Don't you see that bird?" or "What were you dreaming just before I woke you?" or "You are wondering at my appearance today," etc. - then the words italicized do not denote for us our behavior, which the other person is attending to but we are not. Instead and automatically, they denote for us in each case the mental state itself which we are subjectively experiencing - feeling, intuiting, immediately apprehending - and which, irrespective of how in particular it may be connected with our behavior at the moment, is anyway not that behavior itself but something radically different and inherently private. In English, "anger-behavior" denotes one thing, which is public; and "anger" denotes another thing, which is publishable but never itself public. It is only in Behaviorese - the doctrinaire language of the creed of radical behaviorism - that "anger" denotes anger-behavior.

A recent widely discussed work, Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, appears largely based on its author's overlooking the crucial fact just mentioned. And one contention in it of which much has been made, to wit, that there are no acts of will or volitions, is based merely on failure to notice that although many voluntary acts indeed are not caused by any act of will, nevertheless certain other acts that are voluntary acts are in addition willed acts, i.e., are initiated by deliberate volitions.

4. "Mental," derivatively vs. fundamentally

There now remains to point out that, just as the expression "the material world" denotes not alone whatever events, processes, things, etc. are or can be made perceptually public, but also, derivatively, the imperceptible constituents of them; so likewise the events, processes, etc. denominated "psychical" or "mental" include not only those, such as mentioned above, that are introspectively or "inspectively" scrutinizable, but also, derivatively, certain others which are not accessible to "inspection" or introspection and are therefore termed "subconscious" or "unconsciou" instead of "conscious."

These would comprise such items as the repressed wishes or impulses, the forgotten emotional experiences, the complexes, censors, etc. which psychoanalysts find themselves led to postulate as hidden constituents or activities of the human mind, in order to account for some otherwise inexplicable psychological peculiarities of some persons.

Such hidden constituents can sometimes be brought to consciousness under the direction of the psychoanalyst; but the exploration of these normally unintrospectable psychological factors is still in its infancy as compared with the exploration of the atomic and sub-atomic levels of materiality. The mere fact, however, now definitely known, that there are such things as unconscious, i.e., at the time unintrospectable, psychological processes, is, when taken together with even the limited knowledge of them so far obtained, of vast importance for assessment of the significance of certain of the phenomena alleged to constitute empirical evidence of survival of the personality after death.

Moreover, although the terms "the unconscious," "the subconscious, - are commonly employed in connection with the factors brought to light in therapeutic psychoanalysis, nevertheless factors of the same kinds undoubtedly operate, but ordinarily in a non-pathological manner, in all of us.

Unconscious also, of course, are various assumptions under which a particular person happens to proceed, but which he does not realize he makes because he has never formulated them and nothing in his experience has happened that would have challenged their validity and thus made him conscious of them. Unconscious also at a given time are all those of his memories which he is not then remembering, and all those of his capacities or dispositions which he is not then exercising.

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Contents | Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26

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