Thought, Will and World
DOI link for Thought, Will and World
Thought, Will and World book
In the last chapter I characterized the accounts of thought and will that have prevailed in modern times as being ones that typically conceive of thought and will as relational. Our discussion focused on the objects of thought and will, and it was conceded (p. 4 ) that for a philosopher who regards the Subject as in some sense a fi ction there could of course be no relations of any kind between a Subject and anything else; but even for such a philosopher it seems that there will be something , e.g. something mental, whose relationship to something else goes to determine the meaning and the truth-value of such a statement as “I am thinking of cheese”, or “Mary is trying to swat that fl y”. Hume in his Treatise presents a view according to which the Subject or self is best regarded as either a complete fi ction or, alternatively, as a mere bundle of ideas and impressions. 1 But for Hume the question must remain what makes a given idea be an idea of cheese , or a given volition be a volition to swat a fl y . If cheese and fl ies are independently existing things, our answers to such questions will surely at least involve some sort of relation between the idea or volition, on the one hand, and cheese or a fl y, on the other. Idealists and phenomenalists have denied that cheese and fl ies are independently existing things, arguing them to be either collections of, or logical constructions out of, ideas (sense-data, etc.)—but it should be recognised that this manoeuvre cannot do away with questions of the form, “In virtue of what is idea X an idea of Y?”, X and Y being distinct. This is guaranteed by the form of the philosophical theories themselves, since they ask us to consider, think about, such things as an idea of a fl y, and when we do this we are evidently not ceasing to do philosophy and instead doing entomology: we must in fact have the idea of an idea of a fl y . Idealists and empiricists have tended to look askance at the distinction between an idea and the idea of that idea, but it appears to be crucial; and when we turn to general ideas, there is simply no avoiding the issue of how these are related to what they are of. 2 Locke’s abstract general idea of a fl y must somehow relate to other, particular ideas (of particular fl ies); and even Berkeley’s nonabstract general idea of a fl y must “represent” all suffi ciently similar ideas. 3
All this is just to say that the kind of account of thought labelled (B) in Chapter 1, even though it takes the immediate objects of thought to be ideas, nevertheless faces the further question what these ideas are related to. Recall that in delineating (A), (B) and (C) 4 , I used “object of thought” so as to indicate how these accounts all in effect construe “thinks” as a transitive verb, logically speaking. “Object of thought” is also, perhaps usually, used to mean whatever a thought is of-alias the intentional object of the thoughtsomething that “may or may not exist”. If only in the case where the intentional object of a thought, or for that matter of a volition, does exist, we face the issue I have just mentioned, that of how an idea (etc.) is related to what it is of.