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The Analysis of Mind

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If you say the same thing to a Frenchman with a slight knowledge
of English he will go through some inner speech which may be
represented by "Que dit-il? Ah, oui, une automobile!" After this,
the rest follows as with the Englishman. Watson would contend
that the inner speech must be incipiently pronounced; we should
argue that it MIGHT be merely imaged. But this point is not
important in the present connection.

If you say the same thing to a child who does not yet know the
word "motor," but does know the other words you are using, you
produce a feeling of anxiety and doubt you will have to point and
say, "There, that's a motor." After that the child will roughly
understand the word "motor," though he may include trains and
steam-rollers If this is the first time the child has heard the
word "motor," he may for a long time continue to recall this
scene when he hears the word.

So far we have found four ways of understanding words:

(1) On suitable occasions you use the word properly.

(2) When you hear it you act appropriately.

(3) You associate the word with another word (say in a different
language) which has the appropriate effect on behaviour.

(4) When the word is being first learnt, you may associate it
with an object, which is what it "means," or a representative of
various objects that it "means."

In the fourth case, the word acquires, through association, some
of the same causal efficacy as the object. The word "motor" can
make you leap aside, just as the motor can, but it cannot break
your bones. The effects which a word can share with its object
are those which proceed according to laws other than the general
laws of physics, i.e. those which, according to our terminology,
involve vital movements as opposed to merely mechanical
movements. The effects of a word that we understand are always
mnemic phenomena in the sense explained in Lecture IV, in so far
as they are identical with, or similar to, the effects which the
object itself might have.

So far, all the uses of words that we have considered can be
accounted for on the lines of behaviourism.

But so far we have only considered what may be called the
"demonstrative" use of language, to point out some feature in the
present environment. This is only one of the ways in which
language may be used. There are also its narrative and
imaginative uses, as in history and novels. Let us take as an
instance the telling of some remembered event.

We spoke a moment ago of a child who hears the word "motor" for
the first time when crossing a street along which a motor-car is
approaching. On a later occasion, we will suppose, the child
remembers the incident and relates it to someone else. In this
case, both the active and passive understanding of words is
different from what it is when words are used demonstratively.
The child is not seeing a motor, but only remembering one; the
hearer does not look round in expectation of seeing a motor
coming, but "understands" that a motor came at some earlier time.
The whole of this occurrence is much more difficult to account
for on behaviourist lines. It is clear that, in so far as the
child is genuinely remembering, he has a picture of the past
occurrence, and his words are chosen so as to describe the
picture; and in so far as the hearer is genuinely apprehending
what is said, the hearer is acquiring a picture more or less like
that of the child. It is true that this process may be telescoped
through the operation of the word-habit. The child may not
genuinely remember the incident, but only have the habit of the
appropriate words, as in the case of a poem which we know by
heart, though we cannot remember learning it. And the hearer also
may only pay attention to the words, and not call up any
corresponding picture. But it is, nevertheless, the possibility
of a memory-image in the child and an imagination-image in the
hearer that makes the essence of the narrative "meaning" of the
words. In so far as this is absent, the words are mere counters,
capable of meaning, but not at the moment possessing it.

Yet this might perhaps be regarded as something of an
overstatement. The words alone, without the use of images, may
cause appropriate emotions and appropriate behaviour. The words
have been used in an environment which produced certain
emotions;. by a telescoped process, the words alone are now
capable of producing similar emotions. On these lines it might be
sought to show that images are unnecessary. I do not believe,
however, that we could account on these lines for the entirely
different response produced by a narrative and by a description
of present facts. Images, as contrasted with sensations, are the
response expected during a narrative; it is understood that
present action is not called for. Thus it seems that we must
maintain our distinction words used demonstratively describe and
are intended to lead to sensations, while the same words used in
narrative describe and are only intended to lead to images.

We have thus, in addition to our four previous ways in which
words can mean, two new ways, namely the way of memory and the
way of imagination. That is to say:

(5) Words may be used to describe or recall a memory-image: to
describe it when it already exists, or to recall it when the
words exist as a habit and are known to be descriptive of some
past experience.

(6) Words may be used to describe or create an imagination-image:
to describe it, for example, in the case of a poet or novelist,
or to create it in the ordinary case for giving
information-though, in the latter case, it is intended that the
imagination-image, when created, shall be accompanied by belief
that something of the sort occurred.

These two ways of using words, including their occurrence in
inner speech, may be spoken of together as the use of words in
"thinking." If we are right, the use of words in thinking
depends, at least in its origin, upon images, and cannot be fully
dealt with on behaviourist lines. And this is really the most
essential function of words, namely that, originally through
their connection with images, they bring us into touch with what
is remote in time or space. When they operate without the medium
of images, this seems to be a telescoped process. Thus the
problem of the meaning of words is brought into connection with
the problem of the meaning of images.

To understand the function that words perform in what is called
"thinking," we must understand both the causes and the effects of
their occurrence. The causes of the occurrence of words require
somewhat different treatment according as the object designated
by the word is sensibly present or absent. When the object is
present, it may itself be taken as the cause of the word, through
association. But when it is absent there is more difficulty in
obtaining a behaviourist theory of the occurrence of the word.
The language-habit consists not merely in the use of words
demonstratively, but also in their use to express narrative or
desire. Professor Watson, in his account of the acquisition of
the language-habit, pays very little attention to the use of
words in narrative and desire. He says ("Behavior," pp. 329-330):

"The stimulus (object) to which the child often responds, a box,
e.g. by movements such as opening and closing and putting objects
into it, may serve to illustrate our argument. The nurse,
observing that the child reacts with his hands, feet, etc., to
the box, begins to say 'box' when the child is handed the box,
'open box' when the child opens it, 'close box' when he closes
it, and 'put doll in box ' when that act is executed. This is
repeated over and over again. In the process of time it comes
about that without any other stimulus than that of the box which
originally called out the bodily habits, he begins to say 'box'
when he sees it, 'open box' when he opens it, etc. The visible
box now becomes a stimulus capable of releasing either the bodily
habits or the word-habit, i.e. development has brought about two
things : (1) a series of functional connections among arcs which
run from visual receptor to muscles of throat, and (2) a series
of already earlier connected arcs which run from the same
receptor to the bodily muscles.... The object meets the child's
vision. He runs to it and tries to reach it and says 'box.'...
Finally the word is uttered without the movement of going towards
the box being executed.... Habits are formed of going to the box
when the arms are full of toys. The child has been taught to
deposit them there. When his arms are laden with toys and no box
is there, the word-habit arises and he calls 'box'; it is handed
to him, and he opens it and deposits the toys therein. This
roughly marks what we would call the genesis of a true
language-habit."(pp. 329-330).*

* Just the same account of language is given in Professor
Watson's more recent book (reference above).

We need not linger over what is said in the above passage as to
the use of the word "box" in the presence of the box. But as to
its use in the absence of the box, there is only one brief
sentence, namely: "When his arms are laden with toys and no box
is there, the word-habit arises and he calls 'box.' " This is
inadequate as it stands, since the habit has been to use the word
when the box is present, and we have to explain its extension to
cases in which the box is absent.

Having admitted images, we may say that the word "box," in the
absence of the box, is caused by an image of the box. This may or
may not be true--in fact, it is true in some cases but not in
others. Even, however, if it were true in all cases, it would
only slightly shift our problem: we should now have to ask what
causes an image of the box to arise. We might be inclined to say
that desire for the box is the cause. But when this view is
investigated, it is found that it compels us to suppose that the
box can be desired without the child's having either an image of
the box or the word "box." This will require a theory of desire
which may be, and I think is, in the main true, but which removes
desire from among things that actually occur, and makes it merely
a convenient fiction, like force in mechanics.* With such a view,
desire is no longer a true cause, but merely a short way of
describing certain processes.

* See Lecture III, above.

In order to explain the occurrence of either the word or the
image in the absence of the box, we have to assume that there is
something, either in the environment or in our own sensations,
which has frequently occurred at about the same time as the word
"box." One of the laws which distinguish psychology (or
nerve-physiology?) from physics is the law that, when two things
have frequently existed in close temporal contiguity, either
comes in time to cause the other.* This is the basis both of
habit and of association. Thus, in our case, the arms full of
toys have frequently been followed quickly by the box, and the
box in turn by the word "box." The box itself is subject to
physical laws, and does not tend to be caused by the arms full of
toys, however often it may in the past have followed them--always
provided that, in the case in question, its physical position is
such that voluntary movements cannot lead to it. But the word
"box" and the image of the box are subject to the law of habit;
hence it is possible for either to be caused by the arms full of
toys. And we may lay it down generally that, whenever we use a
word, either aloud or in inner speech, there is some sensation or
image (either of which may be itself a word) which has frequently
occurred at about the same time as the word, and now, through
habit, causes the word. It follows that the law of habit is
adequate to account for the use of words in the absence of their
objects; moreover, it would be adequate even without introducing
images. Although, therefore, images seem undeniable, we cannot
derive an additional argument in their favour from the use of
words, which could, theoretically, be explained without
introducing images.

*For a more exact statement of this law, with the limitations
suggested by experiment, see A. Wohlgemuth, "On Memory and the
Direction of Associations," "British Journal of Psychology," vol.
v, part iv (March, 1913).

When we understand a word, there is a reciprocal association
between it and the images of what it "means." Images may cause us
to use words which mean them, and these words, heard or read, may
in turn cause the appropriate images. Thus speech is a means of
producing in our hearers the images which are in us. Also, by a
telescoped process, words come in time to produce directly the
effects which would have been produced by the images with which
they were associated. The general law of telescoped processes is
that, if A causes B and B causes C, it will happen in time that A
will cause C directly, without the intermediary of B. This is a
characteristic of psychological and neural causation. In virtue
of this law, the effects of images upon our actions come to be
produced by words, even when the words do not call up appropriate
images. The more familiar we are with words, the more our
"thinking" goes on in words instead of images. We may, for
example, be able to describe a person's appearance correctly
without having at any time had any image of him, provided, when
we saw him, we thought of words which fitted him; the words alone
may remain with us as a habit, and enable us to speak as if we
could recall a visual image of the man. In this and other ways
the understanding of a word often comes to be quite free from
imagery; but in first learning the use of language it would seem
that imagery always plays a very important part.

Images as well as words may be said to have "meaning"; indeed,
the meaning of images seems more primitive than the meaning of
words. What we call (say) an image of St. Paul's may be said to
"mean" St. Paul's. But it is not at all easy to say exactly what
constitutes the meaning of an image. A memory-image of a
particular occurrence, when accompanied by a memory-belief, may
be said to mean the occurrence of which it is an image. But most
actual images do not have this degree of definiteness. If we call
up an image of a dog, we are very likely to have a vague image,
which is not representative of some one special dog, but of dogs
in general. When we call up an image of a friend's face, we are
not likely to reproduce the expression he had on some one
particular occasion, but rather a compromise expression derived
from many occasions. And there is hardly any limit to the
vagueness of which images are capable. In such cases, the meaning
of the image, if defined by relation to the prototype, is vague:
there is not one definite prototype, but a number, none of which
is copied exactly.*

* Cf. Semon, Mnemische Empfindungen, chap. xvi, especially pp.

There is, however, another way of approaching the meaning of
images, namely through their causal efficacy. What is called an
image "of" some definite object, say St. Paul's, has some of the
effects which the object would have. This applies especially to
the effects that depend upon association. The emotional effects,
also, are often similar: images may stimulate desire almost as
strongly as do the objects they represent. And conversely desire
may cause images*: a hungry man will have images of food, and so
on. In all these ways the causal laws concerning images are
connected with the causal laws concerning the objects which the
images "mean." An image may thus come to fulfil the function of a
general idea. The vague image of a dog, which we spoke of a
moment ago, will have effects which are only connected with dogs
in general, not the more special effects which would be produced
by some dogs but not by others. Berkeley and Hume, in their
attack on general ideas, do not allow for the vagueness of
images: they assume that every image has the definiteness that a
physical object would have This is not the case, and a vague
image may well have a meaning which is general.

* This phrase is in need of interpretation, as appears from the
analysis of desire. But the reader can easily supply the
interpretation for himself.

In order to define the "meaning" of an image, we have to take
account both of its resemblance to one or more prototypes, and of
its causal efficacy. If there were such a thing as a pure
imagination-image, without any prototype whatever, it would be
destitute of meaning. But according to Hume's principle, the
simple elements in an image, at least, are derived from
prototypes-except possibly in very rare exceptional cases. Often,
in such instances as our image of a friend's face or of a
nondescript dog, an image is not derived from one prototype, but
from many; when this happens, the image is vague, and blurs the
features in which the various prototypes differ. To arrive at the
meaning of the image in such a case, we observe that there are
certain respects, notably associations, in which the effects of
images resemble those of their prototypes. If we find, in a given
case, that our vague image, say, of a nondescript dog, has those
associative effects which all dogs would have, but not those
belonging to any special dog or kind of dog, we may say that our
image means "dog" in general. If it has all the associations
appropriate to spaniels but no others, we shall say it means
"spaniel"; while if it has all the associations appropriate to
one particular dog, it will mean that dog, however vague it may
be as a picture. The meaning of an image, according to this
analysis, is constituted by a combination of likeness and
associations. It is not a sharp or definite conception, and in
many cases it will be impossible to decide with any certainty
what an image means. I think this lies in the nature of things,
and not in defective analysis.

We may give somewhat more precision to the above account of the
meaning of images, and extend it to meaning in general. We find
sometimes that, IN MNEMIC CAUSATION, an image or word, as
stimulus, has the same effect (or very nearly the same effect) as
would belong to some object, say, a certain dog. In that case we
say that the image or word means that object. In other cases the
mnemic effects are not all those of one object, but only those
shared by objects of a certain kind, e.g. by all dogs. In this
case the meaning of the image or word is general: it means the
whole kind. Generality and particularity are a matter of degree.
If two particulars differ sufficiently little, their mnemic
effects will be the same; therefore no image or word can mean the
one as opposed to the other; this sets a bound to the
particularity of meaning. On the other hand, the mnemic effects
of a number of sufficiently dissimilar objects will have nothing
discoverable in common; hence a word which aims at complete
generality, such as "entity" for example, will have to be devoid
of mnemic effects, and therefore of meaning. In practice, this is
not the case: such words have VERBAL associations, the learning
of which constitutes the study of metaphysics.

The meaning of a word, unlike that of an image, is wholly
constituted by mnemic causal laws, and not in any degree by
likeness (except in exceptional cases). The word "dog" bears no
resemblance to a dog, but its effects, like those of an image of
a dog, resemble the effects of an actual dog in certain respects.
It is much easier to say definitely what a word means than what
an image means, since words, however they originated, have been
framed in later times for the purpose of having meaning, and men
have been engaged for ages in giving increased precision to the
meanings of words. But although it is easier to say what a word
means than what an image means, the relation which constitutes
meaning is much the same in both cases. A word, like an image,
has the same associations as its meaning has. In addition to
other associations, it is associated with images of its meaning,
so that the word tends to call up the image and the image tends
to call up the word., But this association is not essential to
the intelligent use of words. If a word has the right
associations with other objects, we shall be able to use it
correctly, and understand its use by others, even if it evokes no
image. The theoretical understanding of words involves only the
power of associating them correctly with other words; the
practical understanding involves associations with other bodily

The use of words is, of course, primarily social, for the purpose
of suggesting to others ideas which we entertain or at least wish
them to entertain. But the aspect of words that specially
concerns us is their power of promoting our own thought. Almost
all higher intellectual activity is a matter of words, to the
nearly total exclusion of everything else. The advantages of
words for purposes of thought are so great that I should never
end if I were to enumerate them. But a few of them deserve to be

In the first place, there is no difficulty in producing a word,
whereas an image cannot always be brought into existence at will,
and when it comes it often contains much irrelevant detail. In
the second place, much of our thinking is concerned with abstract
matters which do not readily lend themselves to imagery, and are
apt to be falsely conceived if we insist upon finding images that
may be supposed to represent them. The word is always concrete
and sensible, however abstract its meaning may be, and thus by
the help of words we are able to dwell on abstractions in a way
which would otherwise be impossible. In the third place, two
instances of the same word are so similar that neither has
associations not capable of being shared by the other. Two
instances of the word "dog" are much more alike than (say) a pug
and a great dane; hence the word "dog" makes it much easier to
think about dogs in general. When a number of objects have a
common property which is important but not obvious, the invention
of a name for the common property helps us to remember it and to
think of the whole set of objects that possess it. But it is
unnecessary to prolong the catalogue of the uses of language in

At the same time, it is possible to conduct rudimentary thought
by means of images, and it is important, sometimes, to check
purely verbal thought by reference to what it means. In
philosophy especially the tyranny of traditional words is
dangerous, and we have to be on our guard against assuming that
grammar is the key to metaphysics, or that the structure of a
sentence corresponds at all accurately with the structure of the
fact that it asserts. Sayce maintained that all European
philosophy since Aristotle has been dominated by the fact that
the philosophers spoke Indo-European languages, and therefore
supposed the world, like the sentences they were used to,
necessarily divisible into subjects and predicates. When we come
to the consideration of truth and falsehood, we shall see how
necessary it is to avoid assuming too close a parallelism between
facts and the sentences which assert them. Against such errors,
the only safeguard is to be able, once in a way, to discard words
for a moment and contemplate facts more directly through images.
Most serious advances in philosophic thought result from some
such comparatively direct contemplation of facts. But the outcome
has to be expressed in words if it is to be communicable. Those
who have a relatively direct vision of facts are often incapable
of translating their vision into words, while those who possess
the words have usually lost the vision. It is partly for this
reason that the highest philosophical capacity is so rare: it
requires a combination of vision with abstract words which is
hard to achieve, and too quickly lost in the few who have for a
moment achieved it.


It is said to be one of the merits of the human mind that it is
capable of framing abstract ideas, and of conducting
nonsensational thought. In this it is supposed to differ from the
mind of animals. From Plato onward the "idea" has played a great
part in the systems of idealizing philosophers. The "idea" has
been, in their hands, always something noble and abstract, the
apprehension and use of which by man confers upon him a quite
special dignity.

The thing we have to consider to-day is this: seeing that there
certainly are words of which the meaning is abstract, and seeing
that we can use these words intelligently, what must be assumed
or inferred, or what can be discovered by observation, in the way
of mental content to account for the intelligent use of abstract

Taken as a problem in logic, the answer is, of course, that
absolutely nothing in the way of abstract mental content is
inferable from the mere fact that we can use intelligently words
of which the meaning is abstract. It is clear that a sufficiently
ingenious person could manufacture a machine moved by olfactory
stimuli which, whenever a dog appeared in its neighbourhood,
would say, "There is a dog," and when a cat appeared would throw
stones at it. The act of saying "There is a dog," and the act of
throwing stones, would in such a case be equally mechanical.
Correct speech does not of itself afford any better evidence of
mental content than the performance of any other set of
biologically useful movements, such as those of flight or combat.
All that is inferable from language is that two instances of a
universal, even when they differ very greatly, may cause the
utterance of two instances of the same word which only differ
very slightly. As we saw in the preceding lecture, the word "dog"
is useful, partly, because two instances of this word are much
more similar than (say) a pug and a great dane. The use of words
is thus a method of substituting for two particulars which differ
widely, in spite of being instances of the same universal, two
other particulars which differ very little, and which are also
instances of a universal, namely the name of the previous
universal. Thus, so far as logic is concerned, we are entirely
free to adopt any theory as to general ideas which empirical
observation may recommend.

Berkeley and Hume made a vigorous onslaught on "abstract ideas."
They meant by an idea approximately what we should call an image.
Locke having maintained that he could form an idea of triangle in
general, without deciding what sort of triangle it was to be,
Berkeley contended that this was impossible. He says:

"Whether others,have this wonderful faculty of abstracting their
ideas, they best can tell: for myself, I dare be confident I have
it not. I find, indeed, I have indeed a faculty of imagining, or
representing to myself, the ideas of those particular things I
have perceived, and of variously compounding and dividing them. I
can imagine a man with two heads, or the upper parts of a man
joined to the body of a horse. I can consider the hand, the eye,
the nose, each by itself abstracted or separated from the rest of
the body. But, then, whatever hand or eye I imagine, it must have
some particular shape and colour. Likewise the idea of a man that
I frame to myself must be either of a white, or a black, or a
tawny, a straight, or a crooked, a tall, or a low, or a
middle-sized man. I cannot by any effort of thought conceive the
abstract idea above described. And it is equally impossible for
me to form the abstract idea of motion distinct from the body
moving, and which is neither swift nor slow, curvilinear nor
rectilinear; and the like may be said of all other abstract
general ideas whatsoever. To be plain, I own myself able to
abstract in one sense, as when I consider some particular parts
of qualities separated from others, with which, though they are
united in some object, yet it is possible they may really exist
without them. But I deny that I can abstract from one another, or
conceive separately, those qualities which it is impossible
should exist so separated; or that I can frame a general notion,
by abstracting from particulars in the manner aforesaid--which
last are the two proper acceptations of ABSTRACTION. And there is
ground to think most men will acknowledge themselves to be in my
case. The generality of men which are simple and illiterate never
pretend to ABSTRACT NOTIONS. It is said they are difficult and
not to be attained without pains and study; we may therefore
reasonably conclude that, if such there be, they are confined
only to the learned.

"I proceed to examine what can be alleged in defence of the
doctrine of abstraction, and try if I can discover what it is
that inclines the men of speculation to embrace an opinion so
remote from common sense as that seems to be. There has been a
late excellent and deservedly esteemed philosopher who, no doubt,
has given it very much countenance, by seeming to think the
having abstract general ideas is what puts the widest difference
in point of understanding betwixt man and beast. 'The having of
general ideas,' saith he, 'is that which puts a perfect
distinction betwixt man and brutes, and is an excellency which
the faculties of brutes do by no means attain unto. For, it is
evident we observe no footsteps in them of making use of general
signs for universal ideas; from which we have reason to imagine
that they have not the faculty of abstracting, or making general
ideas, since they have no use of words or any other general
signs.' And a little after: 'Therefore, I think, we may suppose
that it is in this that the species of brutes are discriminated
from men, and it is that proper difference wherein they are
wholly separated, and which at last widens to so wide a distance.
For, if they have any ideas at all, and are not bare machines (as
some would have them), we cannot deny them to have some reason.
It seems as evident to me that they do, some of them, in certain
instances reason as that they have sense; but it is only in
particular ideas, just as they receive them from their senses.
They are the best of them tied up within those narrow bounds, and
have not (as I think) the faculty to enlarge them by any kind of
abstraction.* ("Essay on Human Understanding," Bk. II, chap. xi,
paragraphs 10 and 11.) I readily agree with this learned author,
that the faculties of brutes can by no means attain to
abstraction. But, then, if this be made the distinguishing
property of that sort of animals, I fear a great many of those
that pass for men must be reckoned into their number. The reason
that is here assigned why we have no grounds to think brutes have
abstract general ideas is, that we observe in them no use of
words or any other general signs; which is built on this
supposition-that the making use of words implies the having
general ideas. From which it follows that men who use language
are able to abstract or generalize their ideas. That this is the
sense and arguing of the author will further appear by his
answering the question he in another place puts: 'Since all
things that exist are only particulars, how come we by general
terms?' His answer is: 'Words become general by being made the
signs of general ideas.' ("Essay on Human Understanding," Bk.
III, chap. III, paragraph 6.) But it seems that a word becomes
general by being made the sign, not of an abstract general idea,
but of several particular ideas, any one of which it
indifferently suggests to the mind. For example, when it is said
'the change of motion is proportional to the impressed force,' or
that 'whatever has extension is divisible,' these propositions
are to be understood of motion and extension in general; and
nevertheless it will not follow that they suggest to my thoughts
an idea of motion without a body moved, or any determinate
direction and velocity, or that I must conceive an abstract
general idea of extension, which is neither line, surface, nor
solid, neither great nor small, black, white, nor red, nor of any
other determinate colour. It is only implied that whatever
particular motion I consider, whether it be swift or slow,
perpendicular, horizontal, or oblique, or in whatever object, the
axiom concerning it holds equally true. As does the other of
every particular extension, it matters not whether line, surface,
or solid, whether of this or that magnitude or figure.

"By observing how ideas become general, we may the better judge
how words are made so. And here it is to be noted that I do not
deny absolutely there are general ideas, but only that there are
any ABSTRACT general ideas; for, in the passages we have quoted
wherein there is mention of general ideas, it is always supposed
that they are formed by abstraction, after the manner set forth
in sections 8 and 9. Now, if we will annex a meaning to our
words, and speak only of what we can conceive, I believe we shall
acknowledge that an idea which, considered in itself, is
particular, becomes general by being made to represent or stand
for all other particular ideas of the same sort. To make this
plain by an example, suppose a geometrician is demonstrating the
method of cutting a line in two equal parts. He draws, for
instance, a black line of an inch in length: this, which in
itself is a particular line, is nevertheless with regard to its
signification general, since, as it is there used, it represents
all particular lines whatsoever; so that what is demonstrated of
it is demonstrated of all lines, or, in other words, of a line in
general. And, as THAT PARTICULAR LINE becomes general by being
made a sign, so the NAME 'line,' which taken absolutely is
particular, by being a sign is made general. And as the former
owes its generality not to its being the sign of an abstract or
general line, but of all particular right lines that may possibly
exist, so the latter must be thought to derive its generality
from the same cause, namely, the various particular lines which
it indifferently denotes." *

* Introduction to "A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human
Knowledge," paragraphs 10, 11, and 12.

Berkeley's view in the above passage, which is essentially the
same as Hume's, does not wholly agree with modern psychology,
although it comes nearer to agreement than does the view of those
who believe that there are in the mind single contents which can
be called abstract ideas. The way in which Berkeley's view is
inadequate is chiefly in the fact that images are as a rule not
of one definite prototype, but of a number of related similar
prototypes. On this subject Semon has written well. In "Die
Mneme," pp. 217 ff., discussing the effect of repeated similar
stimuli in producing and modifying our images, he says: "We
choose a case of mnemic excitement whose existence we can
perceive for ourselves by introspection, and seek to ekphore the
bodily picture of our nearest relation in his absence, and have
thus a pure mnemic excitement before us. At first it may seem to
us that a determinate quite concrete picture becomes manifest in
us, but just when we are concerned with a person with whom we are
in constant contact, we shall find that the ekphored picture has
something so to speak generalized. It is something like those
American photographs which seek to display what is general about
a type by combining a great number of photographs of different
heads over each other on one plate. In our opinion, the
generalizations happen by the homophonic working of different
pictures of the same face which we have come across in the most
different conditions and situations, once pale, once reddened,
once cheerful, once earnest, once in this light, and once in
that. As soon as we do not let the whole series of repetitions
resound in us uniformly, but give our attention to one particular
moment out of the many... this particular mnemic stimulus at once
overbalances its simultaneously roused predecessors and
successors, and we perceive the face in question with concrete
definiteness in that particular situation." A little later he
says: "The result is--at least in man, but probably also in the
higher animals--the development of a sort of PHYSIOLOGICAL
abstraction. Mnemic homophony gives us, without the addition of
other processes of thought, a picture of our friend X which is in
a certain sense abstract, not the concrete in any one situation,
but X cut loose from any particular point of time. If the circle
of ekphored engrams is drawn even more widely, abstract pictures
of a higher order appear: for instance, a white man or a negro.
In my opinion, the first form of abstract concepts in general is
based upon such abstract pictures. The physiological abstraction
which takes place in the above described manner is a predecessor
of purely logical abstraction. It is by no means a monopoly of
the human race, but shows itself in various ways also among the
more highly organized animals." The same subject is treated in
more detail in Chapter xvi of "Die mnemischen Empfindungen," but
what is said there adds nothing vital to what is contained in the
above quotations.

It is necessary, however, to distinguish between the vague and
the general. So long as we are content with Semon's composite
image, we MAY get no farther than the vague. The question whether
this image takes us to the general or not depends, I think, upon
the question whether, in addition to the generalized image, we
have also particular images of some of the instances out of which
it is compounded. Suppose, for example, that on a number of
occasions you had seen one negro, and that you did not know
whether this one was the same or different on the different
occasions. Suppose that in the end you had an abstract
memory-image of the different appearances presented by the negro
on different occasions, but no memory-image of any one of the
single appearances. In that case your image would be vague. If,
on the other hand, you have, in addition to the generalized
image, particular images of the several appearances, sufficiently
clear to be recognized as different, and as instances of the
generalized picture, you will then not feel the generalized
picture to be adequate to any one particular appearance, and you
will be able to make it function as a general idea rather than a
vague idea. If this view is correct, no new general content needs
to be added to the generalized image. What needs to be added is
particular images compared and contrasted with the generalized
image. So far as I can judge by introspection, this does occur in
practice. Take for example Semon's instance of a friend's face.
Unless we make some special effort of recollection, the face is
likely to come before us with an average expression, very blurred
and vague, but we can at will recall how our friend looked on
some special occasion when he was pleased or angry or unhappy,
and this enables us to realize the generalized character of the
vague image.

There is, however, another way of distinguishing between the
vague, the particular and the general, and this is not by their
content, but by the reaction which they produce. A word, for
example, may be said to be vague when it is applicable to a
number of different individuals, but to each as individuals; the
name Smith, for example, is vague: it is always meant to apply to
one man, but there are many men to each of whom it applies.* The
word "man," on the other hand, is general. We say, "This is
Smith," but we do not say "This is man," but "This is a man."
Thus we may say that a word embodies a vague idea when its
effects are appropriate to an individual, but are the same for
various similar individuals, while a word embodies a general idea
when its effects are different from those appropriate to
individuals. In what this difference consists it is, however, not
easy to say. I am inclined to think that it consists merely in
the knowledge that no one individual is represented, so that what
distinguishes a general idea from a vague idea is merely the
presence of a certain accompanying belief. If this view is
correct, a general idea differs from a vague one in a way
analogous to that in which a memory-image differs from an
imagination-image. There also we found that the difference
consists merely of the fact that a memory-image is accompanied by
a belief, in this case as to the past.

* "Smith" would only be a quite satisfactory representation of
vague words if we failed to discriminate between different people
called Smith.

It should also be said that our images even of quite particular
occurrences have always a greater or a less degree of vagueness.
That is to say, the occurrence might have varied within certain
limits without causing our image to vary recognizably. To arrive
at the general it is necessary that we should be able to contrast
it with a number of relatively precise images or words for
particular occurrences; so long as all our images and words are
vague, we cannot arrive at the contrast by which the general is
defined. This is the justification for the view which I quoted on
p. 184 from Ribot (op. cit., p. 32), viz. that intelligence
progresses from the indefinite to the definite, and that the
vague appears earlier than either the particular or the general.

I think the view which I have been advocating, to the effect that
a general idea is distinguished from a vague one by the presence
of a judgment, is also that intended by Ribot when he says (op.
cit., p. 92): "The generic image is never, the concept is always,
a judgment. We know that for logicians (formerly at any rate) the
concept is the simple and primitive element; next comes the
judgment, uniting two or several concepts; then ratiocination,
combining two or several judgments. For the psychologists, on the
contrary, affirmation is the fundamental act; the concept is the
result of judgment (explicit or implicit), of similarities with
exclusion of differences."

A great deal of work professing to be experimental has been done
in recent years on the psychology of thought. A good summary of
such work up to the year agog is contained in Titchener's
"Lectures on the Experimental Psychology of the Thought
Processes" (1909). Three articles in the "Archiv fur die gesammte
Psychologie" by Watt,* Messer** and Buhler*** contain a great
deal of the material amassed by the methods which Titchener calls

* Henry J. Watt, "Experimentelle Beitrage zu einer Theorie des
Denkens," vol. iv (1905) pp. 289-436.

** August Messer, "Experimentell-psychologische Untersuchu gen
uber das Denken," vol. iii (1906), pp. 1-224.

*** Karl Buhler, "Uber Gedanken," vol. ix (1907), pp. 297-365.

For my part I am unable to attach as much importance to this work
as many psychologists do. The method employed appears to me
hardly to fulfil the conditions of scientific experiment. Broadly
speaking, what is done is, that a set of questions are asked of
various people, their answers are recorded, and likewise their
own accounts, based upon introspection, of the processes of
thought which led them to give those answers. Much too much
reliance seems to me to be placed upon the correctness of their
introspection. On introspection as a method I have spoken earlier
(Lecture VI). I am not prepared, like Professor Watson, to reject
it wholly, but I do consider that it is exceedingly fallible and
quite peculiarly liable to falsification in accordance with
preconceived theory. It is like depending upon the report of a
shortsighted person as to whom he sees coming along the road at a
moment when he is firmly convinced that Jones is sure to come. If
everybody were shortsighted and obsessed with beliefs as to what
was going to be visible, we might have to make the best of such
testimony, but we should need to correct its errors by taking
care to collect the simultaneous evidence of people with the most
divergent expectations. There is no evidence that this was done
in the experiments in question, nor indeed that the influence of
theory in falsifying the introspection was at all adequately
recognized. I feel convinced that if Professor Watson had been
one of the subjects of the questionnaires, he would have given
answers totally different from those recorded in the articles in
question. Titchener quotes an opinion of Wundt on these
investigations, which appears to me thoroughly justified. "These
experiments," he says, "are not experiments at all in the sense
of a scientific methodology; they are counterfeit experiments,
that seem methodical simply because they are ordinarily performed
in a psychological laboratory, and involve the co-operation of
two persons, who purport to be experimenter and observer. In
reality, they are as unmethodical as possible; they possess none
of the special features by which we distinguish the
introspections of experimental psychology from the casual
introspections of everyday life."* Titchener, of course, dissents
from this opinion, but I cannot see that his reasons for dissent
are adequate. My doubts are only increased by the fact that
Buhler at any rate used trained psychologists as his subjects. A
trained psychologist is, of course, supposed to have acquired the
habit of observation, but he is at least equally likely to have
acquired a habit of seeing what his theories require. We may take
Buhler's "Uber Gedanken" to illustrate the kind of results
arrived at by such methods. Buhler says (p. 303): "We ask
ourselves the general question: 'WHAT DO WE EXPERIENCE WHEN WE
THINK?' Then we do not at all attempt a preliminary determination
of the concept 'thought,' but choose for analysis only such
processes as everyone would describe as processes of thought."
The most important thing in thinking, he says, is "awareness
that..." (Bewusstheit dass), which he calls a thought. It is, he
says, thoughts in this sense that are essential to thinking.
Thinking, he maintains, does not need language or sensuous
presentations. "I assert rather that in principle every object
can be thought (meant) distinctly, without any help from sensuous
presentation (Anschauungshilfen). Every individual shade of blue
colour on the picture that hangs in my room I can think with
complete distinctness unsensuously (unanschaulich), provided it
is possible that the object should be given to me in another
manner than by the help of sensations. How that is possible we
shall see later." What he calls a thought (Gedanke) cannot be
reduced, according to him, to other psychic occurrences. He
maintains that thoughts consist for the most part of known rules
(p. 342). It is clearly essential to the interest of this theory
that the thought or rule alluded to by Buhler should not need to
be expressed in words, for if it is expressed in words it is
immediately capable of being dealt with on the lines with which
the behaviourists have familiarized us. It is clear also that the
supposed absence of words rests solely upon the introspective
testimony of the persons experimented upon. I cannot think that
there is sufficient certainty of their reliability in this
negative observation to make us accept a difficult and
revolutionary view of thought, merely because they have failed to
observe the presence of words or their equivalent in their
thinking. I think it far more likely, especially in view of the
fact that the persons concerned were highly educated, that we are
concerned with telescoped processes, in which habit has caused a
great many intermediate terms to be elided or to be passed over
so quickly as to escape observation.

* Titchener, op. cit., p. 79.

I am inclined to think that similar remarks apply to the general
idea of "imageless thinking," concerning which there has been
much controversy. The advocates of imageless thinking are not
contending merely that there can be thinking which is purely
verbal; they are contending that there can be thinking which
proceeds neither in words nor in images. My own feeling is that
they have rashly assumed the presence of thinking in cases where
habit has rendered thinking unnecessary. When Thorndike
experimented with animals in cages, he found that the
associations established were between a sensory stimulus and a
bodily movement (not the idea of it), without the need of
supposing any non-physiological intermediary (op. cit., p. 100
ff.). The same thing, it seems to me, applies to ourselves. A
certain sensory situation produces in us a certain bodily
movement. Sometimes this movement consists in uttering words.
Prejudice leads us to suppose that between the sensory stimulus
and the utterance of the words a process of thought must have
intervened, but there seems no good reason for such a
supposition. Any habitual action, such as eating or dressing, may
be performed on the appropriate occasion, without any need of
thought, and the same seems to be true of a painfully large
proportion of our talk. What applies to uttered speech applies of
course equally to the internal speech which is not uttered. I
remain, therefore, entirely unconvinced that there is any such
phenomenon as thinking which consists neither of images nor of
words, or that "ideas" have to be added to sensations and images
as part of the material out of which mental phenomena are built.

The question of the nature of our consciousness of the universal
is much affected by our view as to the general nature of the
relation of consciousness to its object. If we adopt the view of
Brentano, according to which all mental content has essential
reference to an object, it is then natural to suppose that there
is some peculiar kind of mental content of which the object is a
universal, as oppose to a particular. According to this view, a
particular cat can be PERceived or imagined, while the universal
"cat" is CONceived. But this whole manner of viewing our dealings
with universals has to be abandoned when the relation of a mental
occurrence to its "object" is regarded as merely indirect and
causal, which is the view that we have adopted. The mental
content is, of course, always particular, and the question as to
what it "means" (in case it means anything) is one which cannot
be settled by merely examining the intrinsic character of the
mental content, but only by knowing its causal connections in the
case of the person concerned. To say that a certain thought
"means" a universal as opposed to either a vague or a particular,
is to say something exceedingly complex. A horse will behave in a
certain manner whenever he smells a bear, even if the smell is
derived from a bearskin. That is to say, any environment
containing an instance of the universal "smell of a bear"
produces closely similar behaviour in the horse, but we do not
say that the horse is conscious of this universal. There is
equally little reason to regard a man as conscious of the same
universal, because under the same circumstances he can react by
saying, "I smell a bear." This reaction, like that of the horse,
is merely closely similar on different occasions where the
environment affords instances of the same universal. Words of
which the logical meaning is universal can therefore be employed
correctly, without anything that could be called consciousness of
universals. Such consciousness in the only sense in which it can
be said to exist is a matter of reflective judgment consisting in
the observation of similarities and differences. A universal
never appears before the mind as a single object in the sort of
way in which something perceived appears. I THINK a logical
argument could be produced to show that universals are part of
the structure of the world, but they are an inferred part, not a
part of our data. What exists in us consists of various factors,
some open to external observation, others only visible to
introspection. The factors open to external observation are
primarily habits, having the peculiarity that very similar
reactions are produced by stimuli which are in many respects very
different from each other. Of this the reaction of the horse to
the smell of the bear is an instance, and so is the reaction of
the man who says "bear" under the same circumstances. The verbal
reaction is, of course, the most important from the point of view
of what may be called knowledge of universals. A man who can
always use the word "dog" when he sees a dog may be said, in a
certain sense, to know the meaning of the word "dog," and IN THAT
SENSE to have knowledge of the universal "dog." But there is, of
course, a further stage reached by the logician in which he not
merely reacts with the word "dog," but sets to work to discover
what it is in the environment that causes in him this almost
identical reaction on different occasions. This further stage
consists in knowledge of similarities and differences:
similarities which are necessary to the applicability of the word
"dog," and differences which are compatible with it. Our
knowledge of these similarities and differences is never
exhaustive, and therefore our knowledge of the meaning of a
universal is never complete.

In addition to external observable habits (including the habit of
words), there is also the generic image produced by the
superposition, or, in Semon's phrase, homophony, of a number of
similar perceptions. This image is vague so long as the
multiplicity of its prototypes is not recognized, but becomes
universal when it exists alongside of the more specific images of
its instances, and is knowingly contrasted with them. In this
case we find again, as we found when we were discussing words in
general in the preceding lecture, that images are not logically
necessary in order to account for observable behaviour, i.e. in
this case intelligent speech. Intelligent speech could exist as a
motor habit, without any accompaniment of images, and this
conclusion applies to words of which the meaning is universal,
just as much as to words of which the meaning is relatively
particular. If this conclusion is valid, it follows that
behaviourist psychology, which eschews introspective data, is
capable of being an independent science, and of accounting for
all that part of the behaviour of other people which is commonly
regarded as evidence that they think. It must be admitted that
this conclusion considerably weakens the reliance which can be
placed upon introspective data. They must be accepted simply on
account of the fact that we seem to perceive them, not on account
of their supposed necessity for explaining the data of external

This, at any rate, is the conclusion to which. we are forced, so
long as, with the behaviourists, we accept common-sense views of
the physical world. But if, as I have urged, the physical world
itself, as known, is infected through and through with
subjectivity, if, as the theory of relativity suggests, the
physical universe contains the diversity of points of view which
we have been accustomed to regard as distinctively psychological,
then we are brought back by this different road to the necessity
for trusting observations which are in an important sense
private. And it is the privacy of introspective data which causes
much of the behaviourists' objection to them.

This is an example of the difficulty of constructing an adequate
philosophy of any one science without taking account of other
sciences. The behaviourist philosophy of psychology, though in
many respects admirable from the point of view of method, appears
to me to fail in the last analysis because it is based upon an
inadequate philosophy of physics. In spite, therefore, of the
fact that the evidence for images, whether generic or particular,
is merely introspective, I cannot admit that images should be
rejected, or that we should minimize their function in our
knowledge of what is remote in time or space.


Belief, which is our subject to-day, is the central problem in
the analysis of mind. Believing seems the most "mental" thing we
do, the thing most remote from what is done by mere matter. The
whole intellectual life consists of beliefs, and of the passage
from one belief to another by what is called "reasoning." Beliefs
give knowledge and error; they are the vehicles of truth and
falsehood. Psychology, theory of knowledge and metaphysics
revolve about belief, and on the view we take of belief our
philosophical outlook largely depends.

Before embarking upon the detailed analysis of belief, we shall
do well to note certain requisites which any theory must fulfil.

(1) Just as words are characterized by meaning, so beliefs are
characterized by truth or falsehood. And just as meaning consists
in relation to the object meant, so truth and falsehood consist
in relation to something that lies outside the belief. You may
believe that such-and-such a horse will win the Derby. The time
comes, and your horse wins or does not win; according to the
outcome, your belief was true or false. You may believe that six
times nine is fifty-six; in this case also there is a fact which
makes your belief false. You may believe that America was
discovered in 1492, or that it was discovered in 1066. In the one
case your belief is true, in the other false; in either case its
truth or falsehood depends upon the actions of Columbus, not upon
anything present or under your control. What makes a belief true
or false I call a "fact." The particular fact that makes a given
belief true or false I call its "objective,"* and the relation of
the belief to its objective I call the "reference" or the
"objective reference" of the belief. Thus, if I believe that
Columbus crossed the Atlantic in 1492, the "objective" of my
belief is Columbus's actual voyage, and the "reference" of my
belief is the relation between my belief and the voyage--that
relation, namely, in virtue of which the voyage makes my belief
true (or, in another case, false). "Reference" of beliefs differs
from "meaning" of words in various ways, but especially in the
fact that it is of two kinds, "true" reference and "false"
reference. The truth or falsehood of a belief does not depend
upon anything intrinsic to the belief, but upon the nature of its
relation to its objective. The intrinsic nature of belief can be
treated without reference to what makes it true or false. In the
remainder of the present lecture I shall ignore truth and
falsehood, which will be the subject of Lecture XIII. It is the
intrinsic nature of belief that will concern us to-day.

* This terminology is suggested by Meinong, but is not exactly
the same as his.

(2) We must distinguish between believing and what is believed. I
may believe that Columbus crossed the Atlantic, that all Cretans
are liars, that two and two are four, or that nine times six is
fifty-six; in all these cases the believing is just the same, and
only the contents believed are different. I may remember my
breakfast this morning, my lecture last week, or my first sight
of New York. In all these cases the feeling of memory-belief is
just the same, and only what is remembered differs. Exactly
similar remarks apply to expectations. Bare assent, memory and
expectation are forms of belief; all three are different from
what is believed, and each has a constant character which is
independent of what is believed.

In Lecture I we criticized the analysis of a presentation into
act, content and object. But our analysis of belief contains
three very similar elements, namely the believing, what is
believed and the objective. The objections to the act (in the
case of presentations) are not valid against the believing in the
case of beliefs, because the believing is an actual experienced
feeling, not something postulated, like the act. But it is
necessary first to complete our preliminary requisites, and then
to examine the content of a belief. After that, we shall be in a
position to return to the question as to what constitutes

(3) What is believed, and the believing, must both consist of
present occurrences in the believer, no matter what may be the
objective of the belief. Suppose I believe, for example, "that
Caesar crossed the Rubicon." The objective of my belief is an
event which happened long ago, which I never saw and do not
remember. This event itself is not in my mind when I believe that
it happened. It is not correct to say that I am believing the
actual event; what I am believing is something now in my mind,
something related to the event (in a way which we shall
investigate in Lecture XIII), but obviously not to be confounded
with the event, since the event is not occurring now but the
believing is. What a man is believing at a given moment is wholly
determinate if we know the contents of his mind at that moment;
but Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon was an historical physical
event, which is distinct from the present contents of every
present mind. What is believed, however true it may be, is not
the actual fact that makes the belief true, but a present event
related to the fact. This present event, which is what is
believed, I shall call the "content" of the belief. We have
already had occasion to notice the distinction between content
and objective in the case of memory-beliefs, where the content is
"this occurred" and the objective is the past event.

(4) Between content and objective there is sometimes a very wide
gulf, for example in the case of "Caesar crossed the Rubicon."
This gulf may, when it is first perceived, give us a feeling that
we cannot really " know " anything about the outer world. All we
can "know," it may be said, is what is now in our thoughts. If
Caesar and the Rubicon cannot be bodily in our thoughts, it might
seem as though we must remain cut off from knowledge of them. I
shall not now deal at length with this feeling, since it is
necessary first to define "knowing," which cannot be done yet.
But I will say, as a preliminary answer, that the feeling assumes
an ideal of knowing which I believe to be quite mistaken. ~ it
assumes, if it is thought out, something like the mystic unity of
knower and known. These two are often said to be combined into a
unity by the fact of cognition; hence when this unity is plainly
absent, it may seem as if there were no genuine cognition. For my
part, I think such theories and feelings wholly mistaken: I
believe knowing to be a very external and complicated relation,
incapable of exact definition, dependent upon causal laws, and
involving no more unity than there is between a signpost and the
town to which it points. I shall return to this question on a
later occasion; for the moment these provisional remarks must

(5) The objective reference of a belief is connected with the
fact that all or some of the constituents of its content have
meaning. If I say "Caesar conquered Gaul," a person who knows the
meaning of the three words composing my statement knows as much
as can be known about the nature of the objective which would
make my statement true. It is clear that the objective reference
of a belief is, in general, in some way derivative from the
meanings of the words or images that occur in its content. There
are, however, certain complications which must be borne in mind.
In the first place, it might be contended that a memory-image
acquires meaning only through the memory-belief, which would
seem, at least in the case of memory, to make belief more
primitive than the meaning of images. In the second place, it is
a very singular thing that meaning, which is single, should
generate objective reference, which is dual, namely true and
false. This is one of the facts which any theory of belief must
explain if it is to be satisfactory.

It is now time to leave these preliminary requisites, and attempt
the analysis of the contents of beliefs.

The first thing to notice about what is believed, i.e. about the
content of a belief, is that it is always complex: We believe
that a certain thing has a certain property, or a certain
relation to something else, or that it occurred or will occur (in
the sense discussed at the end of Lecture IX); or we may believe
that all the members of a certain class have a certain property,
or that a certain property sometimes occurs among the members of
a class; or we may believe that if one thing happens, another
will happen (for example, "if it rains I shall bring my
umbrella"), or we may believe that something does not happen, or
did not or will not happen (for example, "it won't rain"); or
that one of two things must happen (for example, "either you
withdraw your accusation, or I shall bring a libel action"). The
catalogue of the sorts of things we may believe is infinite, but
all of them are complex.

Language sometimes conceals the complexity of a belief. We say
that a person believes in God, and it might seem as if God formed
the whole content of the belief. But what is really believed is
that God exists, which is very far from being simple. Similarly,
when a person has a memory-image with a memory-belief, the belief
is "this occurred," in the sense explained in Lecture IX; and
"this occurred" is not simple. In like manner all cases where the
content of a belief seems simple at first sight will be found, on
examination, to confirm the view that the content is always

The content of a belief involves not merely a plurality of
constituents, but definite relations between them; it is not
determinate when its constituents alone are given. For example,
"Plato preceded Aristotle" and "Aristotle preceded Plato" are
both contents which may be believed, but, although they consist
of exactly the same constituents, they are different, and even

The content of a belief may consist of words only, or of images
only, or of a mixture of the two, or of either or both together
with one or more sensations. It must contain at least one
constituent which is a word or an image, and it may or may not
contain one or more sensations as constituents. Some examples
will make these various possibilities clear.

We may take first recognition, in either of the forms "this is of
such-and-such a kind" or "this has occurred before." In either
case, present sensation is a constituent. For example, you hear a
noise, and you say to yourself "tram." Here the noise and the
word "tram" are both constituents of your belief; there is also a
relation between them, expressed by "is" in the proposition "that
is a tram." As soon as your act of recognition is completed by
the occurrence of the word "tram," your actions are affected: you
hurry if you want the tram, or cease to hurry if you want a bus.
In this case the content of your belief is a sensation (the
noise) and a word ("tram") related in a way which may be called

The same noise may bring into your mind the visual image of a
tram, instead of the word "tram." In this case your belief
consists of a sensation and an image suitable related. Beliefs of
this class are what are called "judgments of perception." As we
saw in Lecture VIII, the images associated with a sensation often
come with such spontaneity and force that the unsophisticated do
not distinguish them from the sensation; it is only the
psychologist or the skilled observer who is aware of the large
mnemic element that is added to sensation to make perception. It
may be objected that what is added consists merely of images
without belief. This is no doubt sometimes the case, but is
certainly sometimes not the case. That belief always occurs in
perception as opposed to sensation it is not necessary for us to
maintain; it is enough for our purposes to note that it sometimes
occurs, and that when it does, the content of our belief consists
of a sensation and an image suitably related.

In a PURE memory-belief only images occur. But a mixture of words
and images is very common in memory. You have an image of the
past occurrence, and you say to yourself: "Yes, that's how it
was." Here the image and the words together make up the content
of the belief. And when the remembering of an incident has become
a habit, it may be purely verbal, and the memory-belief may
consist of words alone.

The more complicated forms of belief tend to consist only of
words. Often images of various kinds accompany them, but they are
apt to be irrelevant, and to form no part of what is actually
believed. For example, in thinking of the Solar System, you are
likely to have vague images of pictures you have seen of the
earth surrounded by clouds, Saturn and his rings, the sun during
an eclipse, and so on; but none of these form part of your belief
that the planets revolve round the sun in elliptical orbits. The
only images that form an actual part of such beliefs are, as a
rule, images of words. And images of words, for the reasons
considered in Lecture VIII, cannot be distinguished with any
certainty from sensations, when, as is often, if not usually, the
case, they are kinaesthetic images of pronouncing the words.

It is impossible for a belief to consist of sensations alone,
except when, as in the case of words, the sensations have
associations which make them signs possessed of meaning. The
reason is that objective reference is of the essence of belief,
and objective reference is derived from meaning. When I speak of
a belief consisting partly of sensations and partly of words, I
do not mean to deny that the words, when they are not mere
images, are sensational, but that they occur as signs, not (so to
speak) in their own right. To revert to the noise of the tram,
when you hear it and say "tram," the noise and the word are both
sensations (if you actually pronounce the word), but the noise is
part of the fact which makes your belief true, whereas the word
is not part of this fact. It is the MEANING of the word "tram,"
not the actual word, that forms part of the fact which is the
objective of your belief. Thus the word occurs in the belief as a
symbol, in virtue of its meaning, whereas the noise enters into
both the belief and its objective. It is this that distinguishes
the occurrence of words as symbols from the occurrence of
sensations in their own right: the objective contains the
sensations that occur in their own right, but contains only the
meanings of the words that occur as symbols.

For the sake of simplicity, we may ignore the cases in which
sensations in their own right form part of the content of a
belief, and confine ourselves to images and words. We may also
omit the cases in which both images and words occur in the
content of a belief. Thus we become confined to two cases: (a)
when the content consists wholly of images, (b) when it consists
wholly of words. The case of mixed images and words has no
special importance, and its omission will do no harm.

Let us take in illustration a case of memory. Suppose you are
thinking of some familiar room. You may call up an image of it,
and in your image the window may be to the left of the door.
Without any intrusion of words, you may believe in the
correctness of your image. You then have a belief, consisting
wholly of images, which becomes, when put into words, "the window
is to the left of the door." You may yourself use these words and
proceed to believe them. You thus pass from an image-content to
the corresponding word-content. The content is different in the
two cases, but its objective reference is the same. This shows
the relation of image-beliefs to word-beliefs in a very simple
case. In more elaborate cases the relation becomes much less

It may be said that even in this very simple case the objective
reference of the word-content is not quite the same as that of
the image-content, that images have a wealth of concrete features
which are lost when words are substituted, that the window in the
image is not a mere window in the abstract, but a window of a
certain shape and size, not merely to the left of the door, but a
certain distance to the left, and so on. In reply, it may be
admitted at once that there is, as a rule, a certain amount of
truth in the objection. But two points may be urged to minimize
its force. First, images do not, as a rule, have that wealth of
concrete detail that would make it IMPOSSIBLE to express them
fully in words. They are vague and fragmentary: a finite number
of words, though perhaps a large number, would exhaust at least
their SIGNIFICANT features. For--and this is our second
point--images enter into the content of a belief through the fact
that they are capable of meaning, and their meaning does not, as
a rule, have as much complexity as they have: some of their
characteristics are usually devoid of meaning. Thus it may well
be possible to extract in words all that has meaning in an
image-content; in that case the word-content and the
image-content will have exactly the same objective reference.

The content of a belief, when expressed in words, is the same
thing (or very nearly the same thing) as what in logic is called
a "proposition." A proposition is a series of words (or sometimes
a single word) expressing the kind of thing that can be asserted
or denied. "That all men are mortal," "that Columbus discovered
America," "that Charles I died in his bed," "that all
philosophers are wise," are propositions. Not any series of words
is a proposition, but only such series of words as have
"meaning," or, in our phraseology, "objective reference." Given
the meanings of separate words, and the rules of syntax, the
meaning of a proposition is determinate. This is the reason why
we can understand a sentence we never heard before. You probably
never heard before the proposition "that the inhabitants of the
Andaman Islands habitually eat stewed hippopotamus for dinner,"
but there is no difficulty in understanding the proposition. The
question of the relation between the meaning of a sentence and
the meanings of the separate words is difficult, and I shall not
pursue it now; I brought it up solely as being illustrative of
the nature of propositions.

We may extend the term "proposition" so as to cover the
image-contents of beliefs consisting of images. Thus, in the case
of remembering a room in which the window is to the left of the
door, when we believe the image-content the proposition will
consist of the image of the window on the left together with the
image of the door on the right. We will distinguish propositions
of this kind as "image-propositions" and propositions in words as
"word-propositions." We may identify propositions in general with
the contents of actual and possible beliefs, and we may say that
it is propositions that are true or false. In logic we are
concerned with propositions rather than beliefs, since logic is
not interested in what people do in fact believe, but only in the
conditions which determine the truth or falsehood of possible
beliefs. Whenever possible, except when actual beliefs are in
question, it is generally a simplification to deal with

It would seem that image-propositions are more primitive than
word-propositions, and may well ante-date language. There is no
reason why memory-images, accompanied by that very simple
belief-feeling which we decided to be the essence of memory,
should not have occurred before language arose; indeed, it would
be rash to assert positively that memory of this sort does not
occur among the higher animals. Our more elementary beliefs,
notably those that are added to sensation to make perception,
often remain at the level of images. For example, most of the
visual objects in our neighbourhood rouse tactile images: we have
a different feeling in looking at a sofa from what we have in
looking at a block of marble, and the difference consists chiefly
in different stimulation of our tactile imagination. It may be
said that the tactile images are merely present, without any
accompanying belief; but I think this view, though sometimes
correct, derives its plausibility as a general proposition from
our thinking of explicit conscious belief only. Most of our
beliefs, like most of our wishes, are "unconscious," in the sense
that we have never told ourselves that we have them. Such beliefs
display themselves when the expectations that they arouse fail in
any way. For example, if someone puts tea (without milk) into a
glass, and you drink it under the impression that it is going to
be beer; or if you walk on what appears to be a tiled floor, and
it turns out to be a soft carpet made to look like tiles. The
shock of surprise on an occasion of this kind makes us aware of
the expectations that habitually enter into our perceptions; and
such expectations must be classed as beliefs, in spite of the
fact that we do not normally take note of them or put them into
words. I remember once watching a cock pigeon running over and
over again to the edge of a looking-glass to try to wreak
vengeance on the particularly obnoxious bird whom he expected to
find there, judging by what he saw in the glass. He must have
experienced each time the sort of surprise on finding nothing,
which is calculated to lead in time to the adoption of Berkeley's
theory that objects of sense are only in the mind. His
expectation, though not expressed in words, deserved, I think, to
be called a belief.

I come now to the question what constitutes believing, as opposed
to the content believed.

To begin with, there are various different attitudes that may be
taken towards the same content. Let us suppose, for the sake of
argument, that you have a visual image of your breakfast-table.
You may expect it while you are dressing in the morning; remember
it as you go to your work; feel doubt as to its correctness when
questioned as to your powers of visualizing; merely entertain the
image, without connecting it with anything external, when you are
going to sleep; desire it if you are hungry, or feel aversion for
it if you are ill. Suppose, for the sake of definiteness, that
the content is "an egg for breakfast." Then you have the
following attitudes "I expect there will be an egg for
breakfast"; "I remember there was an egg for breakfast"; "Was
there an egg for breakfast?" "An egg for breakfast: well, what of
it?" "I hope there will be an egg for breakfast"; "I am afraid
there will be an egg for breakfast and it is sure to be bad." I
do not suggest that this is a list of all possible attitudes on
the subject; I say only that they are different attitudes, all
concerned with the one content "an egg for breakfast."

These attitudes are not all equally ultimate. Those that involve
desire and aversion have occupied us in Lecture III. For the
present, we are only concerned with such as are cognitive. In
speaking of memory, we distinguished three kinds of belief
directed towards the same content, namely memory, expectation and
bare assent without any time-determination in the belief-feeling.
But before developing this view, we must examine two other
theories which might be held concerning belief, and which, in
some ways, would be more in harmony with a behaviourist outlook
than the theory I wish to advocate.

(1) The first theory to be examined is the view that the
differentia of belief consists in its causal efficacy I do not
wish to make any author responsible for this theory: I wish
merely to develop it hypothetically so that we may judge of its

We defined the meaning of an image or word by causal efficacy,
namely by associations: an image or word acquires meaning, we
said, through having the same associations as what it means.

We propose hypothetically to define "belief" by a different kind
of causal efficacy, namely efficacy in causing voluntary
movements. (Voluntary movements are defined as those vital
movements which are distinguished from reflex movements as
involving the higher nervous centres. I do not like to
distinguish them by means of such notions as "consciousness" or
"will," because I do not think these notions, in any definable
sense, are always applicable. Moreover, the purpose of the theory
we are examining is to be, as far as possible, physiological and
behaviourist, and this purpose is not achieved if we introduce
such a conception as "consciousness" or "will." Nevertheless, it
is necessary for our purpose to find some way of distinguishing
between voluntary and reflex movements, since the results would
be too paradoxical, if we were to say that reflex movements also
involve beliefs.) According to this definition, a content is said
to be "believed" when it causes us to move. The images aroused
are the same if you say to me, "Suppose there were an escaped
tiger coming along the street," and if you say to me, "There is
an escaped tiger coming along the street." But my actions will be
very different in the two cases: in the first, I shall remain
calm; in the second, it is possible that I may not. It is
suggested, by the theory we are considering, that this difference
of effects constitutes what is meant by saying that in the second
case I believe the proposition suggested, while in the first case
I do not. According to this view, images or words are "believed"
when they cause bodily movements.

I do not think this theory is adequate, but I think it is
suggestive of truth, and not so easily refutable as it might
appear to be at first sight.

It might be objected to the theory that many things which we
certainly believe do not call for any bodily movements. I believe
that Great Britain is an island, that whales are mammals, that
Charles I was executed, and so on; and at first sight it seems
obvious that such beliefs, as a rule, do not call for any action
on my part. But when we investigate the matter more closely, it
becomes more doubtful. To begin with, we must distinguish belief
as a mere DISPOSITION from actual active belief. We speak as if
we always believed that Charles I was executed, but that only
means that we are always ready to believe it when the subject
comes up. The phenomenon we are concerned to analyse is the
active belief, not the permanent disposition. Now, what are the
occasions when, we actively believe that Charles I was executed?
Primarily: examinations, when we perform the bodily movement of
writing it down; conversation, when we assert it to display our
historical erudition; and political discourses, when we are
engaged in showing what Soviet government leads to. In all these
cases bodily movements (writing or speaking) result from our

But there remains the belief which merely occurs in "thinking."
One may set to work to recall some piece of history one has been
reading, and what one recalls is believed, although it probably
does not cause any bodily movement whatever. It is true that what
we believe always MAY influence action. Suppose I am invited to
become King of Georgia: I find the prospect attractive, and go to
Cook's to buy a third-class ticket to my new realm. At the last
moment I remember Charles I and all the other monarchs who have
come to a bad end; I change my mind, and walk out without
completing the transaction. But such incidents are rare, and
cannot constitute the whole of my belief that Charles I was
executed. The conclusion seems to be that, although a belief
always MAY influence action if it becomes relevant to a practical
issue, it often exists actively (not as a mere disposition)
without producing any voluntary movement whatever. If this is
true, we cannot define belief by the effect on voluntary

There is another, more theoretical, ground for rejecting the view
we are examining. It is clear that a proposition can be either
believed or merely considered, and that the content is the same
in both cases. We can expect an egg for breakfast, or merely
entertain the supposition that there may be an egg for breakfast.
A moment ago I considered the possibility of being invited to
become King of Georgia, but I do not believe that this will
happen. Now, it seems clear that, since believing and considering
have different effects if one produces bodily movements while the
other does not, there must be some intrinsic difference between
believing and considering*; for if they were precisely similar,
their effects also would be precisely similar. We have seen that
the difference between believing a given proposition and merely
considering it does not lie in the content; therefore there must
be, in one case or in both, something additional to the content
which distinguishes the occurrence of a belief from the
occurrence of a mere consideration of the same content. So far as
the theoretical argument goes, this additional element may exist
only in belief, or only in consideration, or there may be one
sort of additional element in the case of belief, and another in
the case of consideration. This brings us to the second view
which we have to examine.

* Cf. Brentano, "Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte," p. 268
(criticizing Bain, "The Emotions and the Will").

(1) The theory which we have now to consider regards belief as
belonging to every idea which is entertained, except in so far as
some positive counteracting force interferes. In this view belief
is not a positive phenomenon, though doubt and disbelief are so.
What we call belief, according to this hypothesis, involves only
the appropriate content, which will have the effects
characteristic of belief unless something else operating
simultaneously inhibits them. James (Psychology, vol. ii, p. 288)
quotes with approval, though inaccurately, a passage from Spinoza
embodying this view:

"Let us conceive a boy imagining to himself a horse, and taking
note of nothing else. As this imagination involves the existence
EXISTENCE [James's italics], he will necessarily contemplate the
horse as present, nor will he be able to doubt of its existence,
however little certain of it he may be. I deny that a man in so
far as he imagines [percipit] affirms nothing. For what is it to
imagine a winged horse but to affirm that the horse [that horse,
namely] has wings? For if the mind had nothing before it but the
winged horse, it would contemplate the same as present, would
have no cause to doubt of its existence, nor any power of
dissenting from its existence, unless the imagination of the
winged horse were joined to an idea which contradicted [tollit]
its existence" ("Ethics," vol. ii, p. 49, Scholium).

To this doctrine James entirely assents, adding in italics:


If this view is correct, it follows (though James does not draw
the inference) that there is no need of any specific feeling
called "belief," and that the mere existence of images yields all
that is required. The state of mind in which we merely consider a
proposition, without believing or disbelieving it, will then
appear as a sophisticated product, the result of some rival force
adding to the image-proposition a positive feeling which may be
called suspense or non-belief--a feeling which may be compared to
that of a man about to run a race waiting for the signal. Such a
man, though not moving, is in a very different condition from
that of a man quietly at rest And so the man who is considering a
proposition without believing it will be in a state of tension,
restraining the natural tendency to act upon the proposition
which he would display if nothing interfered. In this view belief
primarily consists merely in the existence of the appropriate
images without any counteracting forces.

There is a great deal to be said in favour of this view, and I
have some hesitation in regarding it as inadequate. It fits
admirably with the phenomena of dreams and hallucinatory images,
and it is recommended by the way in which it accords with mental
development. Doubt, suspense of judgment and disbelief all seem
later and more complex than a wholly unreflecting assent. Belief
as a positive phenomenon, if it exists, may be regarded, in this
view, as a product of doubt, a decision after debate, an
acceptance, not merely of THIS, but of THIS-RATHER-THAN-THAT. It
is not difficult to suppose that a dog has images (possible
olfactory) of his absent master, or of the rabbit that he dreams
of hunting. But it is very difficult to suppose that he can
entertain mere imagination-images to which no assent is given.

I think it must be conceded that a mere image, without the
addition of any positive feeling that could be called "belief,"
is apt to have a certain dynamic power, and in this sense an
uncombated image has the force of a belief. But although this may
be true, it accounts only for some of the simplest phenomena in
the region of belief. It will not, for example, explain memory.
Nor can it explain beliefs which do not issue in any proximate
action, such as those of mathematics. I conclude, therefore, that
there must be belief-feelings of the same order as those of doubt
or disbelief, although phenomena closely analogous to those of
belief can be produced by mere uncontradicted images.

(3) I come now to the view of belief which I wish to advocate. It
seems to me that there are at least three kinds of belief, namely
memory, expectation and bare assent. Each of these I regard as
constituted by a certain feeling or complex of sensations,
attached to the content believed. We may illustrate by an
example. Suppose I am believing, by means of images, not words,
that it will rain. We have here two interrelated elements, namely
the content and the expectation. The content consists of images
of (say) the visual appearance of rain, the feeling of wetness,
the patter of drops, interrelated, roughly, as the sensations
would be if it were raining. Thus the content is a complex fact
composed of images. Exactly the same content may enter into the
memory "it was raining" or the assent "rain occurs." The
difference of these cases from each other and from expectation
does not lie in the content. The difference lies in the nature of
the belief-feeling. I, personally, do not profess to be able to
analyse the sensations constituting respectively memory,
expectation and assent; but I am not prepared to say that they
cannot be analysed. There may be other belief-feelings, for
example in disjunction and implication; also a disbelief-feeling.

It is not enough that the content and the belief-feeling should
coexist: it is necessary that there should be a specific relation
between them, of the sort expressed by saying that the content is
what is believed. If this were not obvious, it could be made
plain by an argument. If the mere co-existence of the content and
the belief-feeling sufficed, whenever we were having (say) a
memory-feeling we should be remembering any proposition which
came into our minds at the same time. But this is not the case,
since we may simultaneously remember one proposition and merely
consider another.

We may sum up our analysis, in the case of bare assent to a
proposition not expressed in words, as follows: (a) We have a
proposition, consisting of interrelated images, and possibly
partly of sensations; (b) we have the feeling of assent, which is
presumably a complex sensation demanding analysis; (c) we have a
relation, actually subsisting, between the assent and the
proposition, such as is expressed by saying that the proposition
in question is what is assented to. For other forms of
belief-feeling or of content, we have only to make the necessary
substitutions in this analysis.

If we are right in our analysis of belief, the use of words in
expressing beliefs is apt to be misleading. There is no way of
distinguishing, in words, between a memory and an assent to a
proposition about the past: "I ate my breakfast" and "Caesar
conquered Gaul" have the same verbal form, though (assuming that
I remember my breakfast) they express occurrences which are
psychologically very different. In the one case, what happens is
that I remember the content "eating my breakfast"; in the other
case, I assent to the content "Caesar's conquest of Gaul
occurred." In the latter case, but not in the former, the
pastness is part of the content believed. Exactly similar remarks
apply to the difference between expectation, such as we have when
waiting for the thunder after a flash of lightning, and assent to
a proposition about the future, such as we have in all the usual
cases of inferential knowledge as to what will occur. I think
this difficulty in the verbal expression of the temporal aspects
of beliefs is one among the causes which have hampered philosophy
in the consideration of time.

The view of belief which I have been advocating contains little
that is novel except the distinction of kinds of belief-feeling~
such as memory and expectation. Thus James says: "Everyone knows
the difference between imagining a thing and believing in its
existence, between supposing a proposition and acquiescing in its
ELSE" ("Psychology," vol. ii, p. 283. James's italics). He
proceeds to point out that drunkenness, and, still more, nitrous-
oxide intoxication, will heighten the sense of belief: in the
latter case, he says, a man's very soul may sweat with
conviction, and he be all the time utterly unable to say what he
is convinced of. It would seem that, in such cases, the feeling
of belief exists unattached, without its usual relation to a
content believed, just as the feeling of familiarity may
sometimes occur without being related to any definite familiar
object. The feeling of belief, when it occurs in this separated
heightened form, generally leads us to look for a content to
which to attach it. Much of what passes for revelation or mystic
insight probably comes in this way: the belief-feeling, in
abnormal strength, attaches itself, more or less accidentally, to
some content which we happen to think of at the appropriate
moment. But this is only a speculation, upon which I do not wish
to lay too much stress.


The definition of truth and falsehood, which is our topic to-day,
lies strictly outside our general subject, namely the analysis of
mind. From the psychological standpoint, there may be different
kinds of belief, and different degrees of certainty, but there
cannot be any purely psychological means of distinguishing
between true and false beliefs. A belief is rendered true or
false by relation to a fact, which may lie outside the experience
of the person entertaining the belief. Truth and falsehood,
except in the case of beliefs about our own minds, depend upon
the relations of mental occurrences to outside things, and thus
take us beyond the analysis of mental occurrences as they are in
themselves. Nevertheless, we can hardly avoid the consideration
of truth and falsehood. We wish to believe that our beliefs,
sometimes at least, yield KNOWLEDGE, and a belief does not yield
knowledge unless it is true. The question whether our minds are
instruments of knowledge, and, if so, in what sense, is so vital
that any suggested analysis of mind must be examined in relation
to this question. To ignore this question would be like
describing a chronometer without regard to its accuracy as a
time-keeper, or a thermometer without mentioning the fact that it
measures temperature.

Many difficult questions arise in connection with knowledge. It
is difficult to define knowledge, difficult to decide whether we
have any knowledge, and difficult, even if it is conceded that we
sometimes have knowledge to discover whether we can ever know
that we have knowledge in this or that particular case. I shall
divide the discussion into four parts:

I. We may regard knowledge, from a behaviourist standpoint, as
exhibited in a certain kind of response to the environment. This
response must have some characteristics which it shares with
those of scientific instruments, but must also have others that
are peculiar to knowledge. We shall find that this point of view
is important, but not exhaustive of the nature of knowledge.

II. We may hold that the beliefs that constitute knowledge are
distinguished from such as are erroneous or uncertain by
properties which are intrinsic either to single beliefs or to
systems of beliefs, being in either case discoverable without
reference to outside fact. Views of this kind have been widely
held among philosophers, but we shall find no reason to accept

III. We believe that some beliefs are true, and some false. This
raises the problem of VERIFIABILITY: are there any circumstances
which can justifiably give us an unusual degree of certainty that
such and such a belief is true? It is obvious that there are
circumstances which in fact cause a certainty of this sort, and
we wish to learn what we can from examining these circumstances.

IV. Finally, there is the formal problem of defining truth and
falsehood, and deriving the objective reference of a proposition
from the meanings of its component words.

We will consider these four problems in succession.

I. We may regard a human being as an instrument, which makes
various responses to various stimuli. If we observe these
responses from outside, we shall regard them as showing knowledge
when they display two characteristics, ACCURACY and
APPROPRIATENESS. These two are quite distinct, and even sometimes
incompatible. If I am being pursued by a tiger, accuracy is
furthered by turning round to look at him, but appropriateness by
running away without making any search for further knowledge of
the beast. I shall return to the question of appropriateness
later; for the present it is accuracy that I wish to consider.

When we are viewing a man from the outside, it is not his
beliefs, but his bodily movements, that we can observe. His
knowledge must be inferred from his bodily movements, and
especially from what he says and writes. For the present we may
ignore beliefs, and regard a man's knowledge as actually
consisting in what he says and does. That is to say, we will
construct, as far as possible, a purely behaviouristic account of
truth and falsehood.

If you ask a boy "What is twice two?" and the boy says "four,"
you take that as prima facie evidence that the boy knows what
twice two is. But if you go on to ask what is twice three, twice
four, twice five, and so on, and the boy always answers "four,"
you come to the conclusion that he knows nothing about it.
Exactly similar remarks apply to scientific instruments. I know a
certain weather-cock which has the pessimistic habit of always
pointing to the north-east. If you were to see it first on a cold
March day, you would think it an excellent weather-cock; but with
the first warm day of spring your confidence would be shaken. The
boy and the weather-cock have the same defect: they do not vary
their response when the stimulus is varied. A good instrument, or
a person with much knowledge, will give different responses to
stimuli which differ in relevant ways. This is the first point in
defining accuracy of response.

We will now assume another boy, who also, when you first question
him, asserts that twice two is four. But with this boy, instead
of asking him different questions, you make a practice of asking
him the same question every day at breakfast. You find that he
says five, or six, or seven, or any other number at random, and
you conclude that he also does not know what twice two is, though
by good luck he answered right the first time. This boy is like a
weather-cock which, instead of being stuck fast, is always going
round and round, changing without any change of wind. This boy
and weather-cock have the opposite defect to that of the previous
pair: they give different responses to stimuli which do not
differ in any relevant way.

In connection with vagueness in memory, we already had occasion
to consider the definition of accuracy. Omitting some of the
niceties of our previous discussion, we may say that an
instrument is ACCURATE when it avoids the defects of the two boys
and weather-cocks, that is to say, when--

(a) It gives different responses to stimuli which differ in
relevant ways;

(b) It gives the same response to stimuli which do not differ in
relevant ways.

What are relevant ways depends upon the nature and purpose of the
instrument. In the case of a weather-cock, the direction of the
wind is relevant, but not its strength; in the case of the boy,
the meaning of the words of your question is relevant, but not
the loudness of your voice, or whether you are his father or his
schoolmaster If, however, you were a boy of his own age, that
would be relevant, and the appropriate response would be

It is clear that knowledge is displayed by accuracy of response
to certain kinds of stimuli, e.g. examinations. Can we say,
conversely, that it consists wholly of such accuracy of response?
I do not think we can; but we can go a certain distance in this
direction. For this purpose we must define more carefully the
kind of accuracy and the kind of response that may be expected
where there is knowledge.

From our present point of view, it is difficult to exclude
perception from knowledge; at any rate, knowledge is displayed by
actions based upon perception. A bird flying among trees avoids
bumping into their branches; its avoidance is a response to
visual sensations. This response has the characteristic of
accuracy, in the main, and leads us to say that the bird "knows,"
by sight, what objects are in its neighbourhood. For a
behaviourist, this must certainly count as knowledge, however it
may be viewed by analytic psychology. In this case, what is
known, roughly, is the stimulus; but in more advanced knowledge
the stimulus and what is known become different. For example, you
look in your calendar and find that Easter will be early next
year. Here the stimulus is the calendar, whereas the response
concerns the future. Even this can be paralleled among
instruments: the behaviour of the barometer has a present
stimulus but foretells the future, so that the barometer might be
said, in a sense, to know the future. However that may be, the
point I am emphasizing as regards knowledge is that what is known
may be quite different from the stimulus, and no part of the
cause of the knowledge-response. It is only in sense-knowledge
that the stimulus and what is known are, with qualifications,
identifiable. In knowledge of the future, it is obvious that they
are totally distinct, since otherwise the response would precede
the stimulus. In abstract knowledge also they are distinct, since
abstract facts have no date. In knowledge of the past there are
complications, which we must briefly examine.

Every form of memory will be, from our present point of view, in
one sense a delayed response. But this phrase does not quite
clearly express what is meant. If you light a fuse and connect it
with a heap of dynamite, the explosion of the dynamite may be
spoken of, in a sense, as a delayed response to your lighting of
the fuse. But that only means that it is a somewhat late portion
of a continuous process of which the earlier parts have less
emotional interest. This is not the case with habit. A display of
habit has two sorts of causes: (a) the past occurrences which
generated the habit, (b) the present occurrence which brings it
into play. When you drop a weight on your toe, and say what you
do say, the habit has been caused by imitation of your
undesirable associates, whereas it is brought into play by the
dropping of the weight. The great bulk of our knowledge is a
habit in this sense: whenever I am asked when I was born, I reply
correctly by mere habit. It would hardly be correct to say that
getting born was the stimulus, and that my reply is a delayed
response But in cases of memory this way of speaking would have
an element of truth. In an habitual memory, the event remembered
was clearly an essential part of the stimulus to the formation of
the habit. The present stimulus which brings the habit into play
produces a different response from that which it would produce if
the habit did not exist. Therefore the habit enters into the
causation of the response, and so do, at one remove, the causes
of the habit. It follows that an event remembered is an essential
part of the causes of our remembering.

In spite, however, of the fact that what is known is SOMETIMES an
indispensable part of the cause of the knowledge, this
circumstance is, I think, irrelevant to the general question with
which we are concerned, namely What sort of response to what sort
of stimulus can be regarded as displaying knowledge? There is one
characteristic which the response must have, namely, it must
consist of voluntary movements. The need of this characteristic
is connected with the characteristic of APPROPRIATENESS, which I
do not wish to consider as yet. For the present I wish only to
obtain a clearer idea of the sort of ACCURACY that a
knowledge-response must have. It is clear from many instances
that accuracy, in other cases, may be purely mechanical. The most
complete form of accuracy consists in giving correct answers to
questions, an achievement in which calculating machines far
surpass human beings. In asking a question of a calculating
machine, you must use its language: you must not address it in
English, any more than you would address an Englishman in
Chinese. But if you address it in the language it understands. it
will tell you what is 34521 times 19987, without a moment's
hesitation or a hint of inaccuracy. We do not say the machine
KNOWS the answer, because it has no purpose of its own in giving
the answer: it does not wish to impress you with its cleverness,
or feel proud of being such a good machine. But as far as mere
accuracy goes, the machine leaves nothing to be desired.

Accuracy of response is a perfectly clear notion in the case of
answers to questions, but in other cases it is much more obscure.
We may say generally that an object whether animate or inanimate,
is "sensitive" to a certain feature of the environment if it
behaves differently according to the presence or absence of that
feature. Thus iron is sensitive to anything magnetic. But
sensitiveness does not constitute knowledge, and knowledge of a
fact which is not sensible is not sensitiveness to that fact, as
we have seen in distinguishing the fact known from the stimulus.
As soon as we pass beyond the simple case of question and answer,
the definition of knowledge by means of behaviour demands the
consideration of purpose. A carrier pigeon flies home, and so we
say it "knows" the way. But if it merely flew to some place at
random, we should not say that it "knew" the way to that place,
any more than a stone rolling down hill knows the way to the

On the features which distinguish knowledge from accuracy of
response in general, not much can be said from a behaviourist
point of view without referring to purpose. But the necessity of
SOMETHING besides accuracy of response may be brought out by the
following consideration: Suppose two persons, of whom one
believed whatever the other disbelieved, and disbelieved whatever
the other believed. So far as accuracy and sensitiveness of
response alone are concerned, there would be nothing to choose
between these two persons. A thermometer which went down for warm
weather and up for cold might be just as accurate as the usual
kind; and a person who always believes falsely is just as
sensitive an instrument as a person who always believes truly.
The observable and practical difference between them would be
that the one who always believed falsely would quickly come to a
bad end. This illustrates once more that accuracy of response to
stimulus does not alone show knowledge, but must be reinforced by
appropriateness, i.e. suitability for realizing one's purpose.
This applies even in the apparently simple case of answering
questions: if the purpose of the answers is to deceive, their
falsehood, not their truth, will be evidence of knowledge. The
proportion of the combination of appropriateness with accuracy in
the definition of knowledge is difficult; it seems that both
enter in, but that appropriateness is only required as regards
the general type of response, not as regards each individual

II. I have so far assumed as unquestionable the view that the
truth or falsehood of a belief consists in a relation to a
certain fact, namely the objective of the belief. This view has,
however, been often questioned. Philosophers have sought some
intrinsic criterion by which true and false beliefs could be
distinguished.* I am afraid their chief reason for this search
has been the wish to feel more certainty than seems otherwise
possible as to what is true and what is false. If we could
discover the truth of a belief by examining its intrinsic
characteristics, or those of some collection of beliefs of which
it forms part, the pursuit of truth, it is thought, would be a
less arduous business than it otherwise appears to be. But the
attempts which have been made in this direction are not
encouraging. I will take two criteria which have been suggested,
namely, (1) self-evidence, (2) mutual coherence. If we can show
that these are inadequate, we may feel fairly certain that no
intrinsic criterion hitherto suggested will suffice to
distinguish true from false beliefs.

* The view that such a criterion exists is generally held by
those whose views are in any degree derived from Hegel. It may be
illustrated by the following passage from Lossky, "The Intuitive
Basis of Knowledge" (Macmillan, 1919), p. 268: "Strictly
speaking, a false judgment is not a judgment at all. The
predicate does not follow from the subject S alone, but from the
subject plus a certain addition C, WHICH IN NO SENSE BELONGS TO
THE CONTENT OF THE JUDGMENT. What takes place may be a process of
association of ideas, of imagining, or the like, but is not a
process of judging. An experienced psychologist will be able by
careful observation to detect that in this process there is
wanting just the specific element of the objective dependence of
the predicate upon the subject which is characteristic of a
judgment. It must be admitted, however, that an exceptional power
of observation is needed in order to distinguish, by means of
introspection, mere combination of ideas from judgments."

(1) Self-evidence.--Some of our beliefs seem to be peculiarly
indubitable. One might instance the belief that two and two are
four, that two things cannot be in the same place at the same
time, nor one thing in two places, or that a particular buttercup
that we are seeing is yellow. The suggestion we are to examine is
that such: beliefs have some recognizable quality which secures
their truth, and the truth of whatever is deduced from them
according to self-evident principles of inference. This theory is
set forth, for example, by Meinong in his book, "Ueber die
Erfahrungsgrundlagen unseres Wissens."

If this theory is to be logically tenable, self-evidence must not
consist merely in the fact that we believe a proposition. We
believe that our beliefs are sometimes erroneous, and we wish to
be able to select a certain class of beliefs which are never
erroneous. If we are to do this, it must be by some mark which
belongs only to certain beliefs, not to all; and among those to
which it belongs there must be none that are mutually
inconsistent. If, for example, two propositions p and q were
self-evident, and it were also self-evident that p and q could
not both be true, that would condemn self-evidence as a guarantee
of truth. Again, self-evidence must not be the same thing as the
absence of doubt or the presence of complete certainty. If we are
completely certain of a proposition, we do not seek a ground to
support our belief. If self-evidence is alleged as a ground of
belief, that implies that doubt has crept in, and that our
self-evident proposition has not wholly resisted the assaults of
scepticism. To say that any given person believes some things so
firmly that he cannot be made to doubt them is no doubt true.
Such beliefs he will be willing to use as premisses in reasoning,
and to him personally they will seem to have as much evidence as
any belief can need. But among the propositions which one man
finds indubitable there will be some that another man finds it
quite possible to doubt. It used to seem self-evident that there
could not be men at the Antipodes, because they would fall off,
or at best grow giddy from standing on their heads. But New

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