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Anthony Kenny’s Action, Emotion and Will approaches its three topics from a perspective shaped by four key influences: Aristotle, Aquinas, Wittgenstein, and Ryle. Its central arguments are motivated and shaped by a respect for differences—between, for example, feelings and emotions, actions and relations, and states, performances, and activities—together with optimism about our capacity reflectively to discern intrinsic connections—between, for example, feelings, their objects, and their manifestations in behaviour. In the course of developing a critical reaction to some early experimental approaches to the study of the emotions, Kenny considers the way introspection had been exploited in developing those approaches. He writes:

Some, believing that an emotion was the object of an inward perception, concluded that the study of the emotions could be made scientific only by training introspectors in precise observation and accurate measurement of their interior states. Thus were devised series of ‘introspective experiments’ designed to secure ever more detailed and precise descriptions of internal impressions. (Kenny 1963: 29.)

Kenny’s critical engagement with the approach is largely confined to an Austinian method: quotation, perhaps accompanied by a sardonic expression:

A textbook recently in use remarks: “The observer in an introspective experiment on feeling needs to adopt a special attitude to the situation which is presented him. Rather than perceiving the situation and dealing actively with it, he must immerse himself in it and live it, at the same time trying to observe the emotional experience which comes over him.” (Kenny 1963: 29–30. The embedded quotation comes from Woodworth 1938.)

On the method, Kenny comments as follows:

The presuppositions of this type of experiment are clearly Cartesian. An emotion is regarded as an experience only contingently connected with its manifestation: no essential part of it is lost if the normal behaviour characteristic of it is replaced by a quite special laboratory attitude of ‘immersion in experience’. (Kenny 1963: 30.)

It would take us too far afield to discuss the justice of Kenny’s characterisation of the target presuppositions as Cartesian. Moreover, a discussion of that issue would have to involve untangling a number of issues run together in Kenny’s characterisation. We would need, for example, to distinguish between, on one side, treating as contingent the connections between experience and their behavioural manifestation and, on the other side, so treating the connections between experiences and bodily activity more generally, experiences and attention, and experiences and their objects. The last type of connection assumes prominence in another of Kenny’s experiments in sardonic quotation:

One subject, for instance, given a piece of chocolate, produced this report: “The characterization, pleasant, applies to the experienced complex, the predominant components of which were the quality of sweet and a brightness or lightness reminiscent of bright pressure. [Fn: “Bright pressure” was a technical phrase of Titchener’s laboratory; it meant something “not far removed from a tickle”.

Fairly clearly, something has gone wrong here. If one knew that the topic of the report was an experience of eating a piece of chocolate, and also that the reporter liked chocolate, then suitable training might put one in a position to predict the appropriateness of such a description. However, the converse seems implausible. That is, it seems implausible that any course of training could put one in a position to predict, just from the report, that the target experience was one of eating chocolate. At a minimum, that suggests information loss. Furthermore, the issue seems not to concern causal factors extrinsic to how things seem to the subject. For the same would appear to be true of a perfectly matching hallucination of eating a piece of chocolate: being told that such an experience is pleasant and a predominance of sweetness, brightness, and lightness reminiscent of something not far removed from a tickle, would reveal many distinctive aspects of the experience less well, and less determinately, than being told that it seems to the subject as if they were eating some chocolate. It’s common, in discussions of experience, to observe that for certain purposes, it can be advisable to draw in one’s horns: for example, on acquiring evidence that one is not really eating chocolate, to move from the judgment that one is having an experience of eating chocolate to the less committal judgment that it at least seems to one that one is eating chocolate, or that one is eating what seems to be chocolate. In so doing, it is often possible to gain security by sacrificing commitments. It is less common, but attested, that in some circumstances, it is possible not only to have reason to think that, insofar as the correctness of one’s views depends upon facts about extra-psychological reality, those views might be mistaken—that one might be wrong in taking oneself to be eating chocolate—but also that one might be wrong even about how things seem to one—that one might be wrong in taking it that it seems to one that one is eating chocolate. The superficial similarities between the two sorts of error might then lead to the idea that drawing in one’s horns should be possible in the latter sort of case— that one might draw back from the judgement that it seems to one that one is eating chocolate to a less committal judgement, to the effect that it at least seems to one that it so seems to one, or that it at least seems to one that one’s experience is pleasant and involves sweetness, brightness, &c.  One way of understanding the ‘introspective experiments’ that Kenny describes is as attempts to gain security in introspective description on the basis of such manoeuvres. One potential lesson of Kenny’s discussion is that attention to differences between the two sorts of cases, and in particular to the sorts of loss of determinacy involved in attempting to draw in one’s horns in characterising how things merely seem to one, might reveal ways in which errors about how things seem to one are not appropriately modelled on errors about the extra-psychological factors on which one’s experience sometimes depends. References  Anthony Kenny (1963) Action, Emotion and Will. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Robert S. Woodworth (1938) Experimental Psychology. New York: H. Holt and Company. (Kenny cites this as 1950 and seems to have in mind the London: Methuen reprint, rather than the 1954 second edition.)

In the course of developing his distinctively dual aspect account of the ontological nature of actions, Brian O’Shaughnessy makes the following comment on the idea that actions might be of ‘psycho-physical’ status:

It will help to pinpoint the difficulties I experience with ‘psycho-physical’ if we briefly consider other specific types in which we link one kind with another via a hyphen. Suppose I ask the question: ‘What is “brunch”?’ If you say that it is ‘breakfast-lunch’, you merely hint at a sense. Because ‘breakfast-lunch’ could easily be applied to several meal types—a midday first meal of bacon and eggs—an 11 a.m. first meal of three lunch-type courses—it applies uniquely to none. In other words, the sense of ‘breakfast-lunch’ has not been specified: the expression is not self-explanatory, the hyphen fixes nothing. (O’Shaughnessy 2008: 413)

O’Shaughnessy’s comment raises several questions, not only about definition-by-hyphen, but also about the kinds breakfast, lunch, and brunch. We can array some of these questions as follows:

  1. Is brunch a determinate kind, or fixes an application to a unique type of meal?
  2. Is it true that ‘breakfast-lunch’ fails alone to specify a unique kind?
  3. Is it true that ‘breakfast-lunch’ fails to specify the kind brunch, whether the latter be a determinate kind or not?
  4. If the answers to 2. or 3. are affirmative, is blame to be assigned to the method of definition-by-hyphen, or rather to the vagaries of the embedded kinds, breakfast and lunch?
  5. More specifically, is breakfast a determinate kind?
  6. And is lunch?
  7. Finally, how are we to discern answers to these questions? By judgment and reflection? By survey? By empirical inquiry into an array of purported examples?

I won’t here attempt to address all of these questions. However, I want briefly to comment on questions 2., 3., and 4. It seems reasonable to follow O’Shaughnessy’s approach to questions 2. and 3. That is, we might begin by asking two questions, implicit in his comment:

  1. Is it true that ‘breakfast-lunch’ may be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs or an 11 a.m. first meal of three lunch-type courses?
  2. Is it true that ‘brunch’ may not be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs or an 11 a.m. first meal of three lunch-type courses?

If the answers to questions 8. and 9. are affirmative, then the answer to 3. is also affirmative. If not, then we might pursue further inquiries of the same broad kind. Here, however, we hit a first snag. What precisely is being claimed when it is said that ‘breakfast-lunch’ may be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs? Here, we might reasonably distinguish two sorts of response. The first would appeal to the idea that ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’, and the structure ‘A-B’, make determinate, uniform contributions to the determination of complex expression meaning, so that anyone, or any thing, appropriately sensitive to those individual contributions would be in a position to discern the meaning of ‘breakfast-lunch’. Given that approach to definition-by-hyphen—and, perhaps, given the further assumption that if the meaning of a complex expression doesn’t rule out an application as incorrect, then it rules it in as correct—it would be natural, I think, to allow that ‘breakfast-lunch’ may be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs. For that application seems not to be ruled out by what anyone who understood the expression’s operative components would be in a position to rule out. In order to rule it out, they would have to take O’Shaughnessy’s hint, and go beyond the simple compositional meaning of ‘breakfast-lunch’. If the answers to questions 8. and 9. are affirmative, then the answer to 3. is also affirmative. If not, then we might pursue further inquiries of the same broad kind. Here, however, we hit a first snag. What precisely is being claimed when it is said that ‘breakfast-lunch’ may be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs? Here, we might reasonably distinguish two sorts of response. The first would appeal to the idea that ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’, and the structure ‘A-B’, make determinate, uniform contributions to the determination of complex expression meaning, so that anyone, or any thing, appropriately sensitive to those individual contributions would be in a position to discern the meaning of ‘breakfast-lunch’. Given that approach to definition-by-hyphen—and, perhaps, given the further assumption that if the meaning of a complex expression doesn’t rule out an application as incorrect, then it rules it in as correct—it would be natural, I think, to allow that ‘breakfast-lunch’ may be applied correctly to a midday first meal of bacon and eggs. For that application seems not to be ruled out by what anyone who understood the expression’s operative components would be in a position to rule out. In order to rule it out, they would have to take O’Shaughnessy’s hint, and go beyond the simple compositional meaning of ‘breakfast-lunch’. This type of consideration—and this understanding of the power of definition—might figure in a standard form of answer to questions like 4., according to which the compounding of nominal in general, and their compounding around hyphens in particular, is messy. Thus, consider one favoured example, ‘bread-knife’. Given our backgrounds, and the effects of habit, convention, and tradition, we would ordinarily take a request for a bread-knife in a particular way, as a request for a knife reasonably apt for, and perhaps reasonably well designed for, the slicing of (paradigmatic cases of) loaves of bread. However, reflection indicates that that understanding is not fixed uniquely by the meanings of the constituents, ‘bread’, ‘knife’, and ‘A-B’. For one might reasonably use an expression built in the way that ‘bread-knife’ is from those constituents in application to a knife made of bread, a knife kept near bread, a knife concealed inside a loaf of bread, a loaf shaped like a knife, and so on. However, there is a second sort of response that is consistent with allowing that O’Shaughnessy’s hint might figure in determining the definitional power of an appeal to ‘breakfast-lunch’. According to the second response, the power of a definition is to be conceived of as, in a way, dependent upon the powers of those to which it is presented. The meanings of the constituent expressions considered alone determine a plurality of meanings or understandings for the whole, from amongst which creatures select, exploiting their own kind of special psychological design, as tuned by their specific developmental and social circumstances. On this type of view, it is not be required that anyone, or any thing, appropriately sensitive to those individual contributions would be in a position to discern the meaning of ‘breakfast-lunch’. All that is required is that someone, or something, appropriately like those to whom the definition is presented would be in a position to discern that meaning. Thus, a creature might need to be very much like us in order fully to benefit from this case of definition-by-hyphen. Endorsement of this more expansive view of definition wouldn’t rule out that we should nonetheless agree with O’Shaughnessy in giving affirmative answers to questions 8. and 9., but it would perhaps makes less clear that we should. Whether we should depends upon the extent to which we are suitably placed to take the required hints. References O’Shaugnessy, Brian 2008. The Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In a footnote to ‘A Plea for Excuses,’ J. L. Austin wrote the following:

Plato, I suppose, and after him Aristotle, fastened this confusion upon us [the confusion involved in collapsing succumbing to temptation into losing control of ourselves], as bad in its day as the later, grotesque, confusion of moral weakness with weakness of will. I am very partial to ice cream, and a bombe is served divided into segments corresponding one to one with the persons at High Table: I am tempted to help myself to two segments and do so, thus succumbing to temptation and even conceivably (but why necessarily?) going against my principles. But do I lose control of myself? Do I raven, do I snatch the morsels from the dish and wolf them down, impervious to the consternation of my colleagues? Not a bit of it. We often succumb to temptation with calm and even with finesse. (Austin 1956: 146 (reprint))

Austin appears partly to be motivated here by the idea that losing control of oneself must involve total, or near total loss: failure to govern oneself in accord with one’s views or intentions concerning what is to be done. If one allows that any failure in self-governance, any slack between one’s views about what is to be done and that which one in fact does, counts as a loss of control, then the proposed distinction between succumbing to temptation and losing control becomes less clear. However, Austin seems right to claim that one can act in accord with one’s then operative views about what is to be done, and to that extent count as fully in control of oneself, whilst counting as having succumbed to temptation, due to the fact that one’s then operative views about what is to be done conflict with what is in fact to be done, or with what one’s principles permit. There is, as ever, more to say here. However, I wish instead to consider a distinct case of bombe disposal.

Consider the following case. The bombe has been distributed fairly so that each diner has had a segment, but one segment remains. You desire the segment, and set about deliberating on the question whether to take it. You have the following views:

(V1) You are permitted to take the final segment of ice cream only if you are entitled to the final segment of ice cream.

(V2) No one who would decide to take the final segment of ice cream is entitled to the final segment of ice cream.

According to (V1) and (V2), it would go against one’s principles to take the final segment of ice cream on the basis of having decided to take the final segment of ice cream. By (V2), anyone who decided to take the ice cream would thereby lose their entitlement to take the ice cream; and by (V1), one is permitted to take the segment only if one is entitled. However, in advance of your deciding to take the final segment, (V1) and (V2) seem to leave open that you may take the ice cream. And they thereby seem to leave open that you can decide to take the ice cream. So, can you decide to take the final segment of ice cream? More precisely, can you decide rationally to take the final segment without giving up, or losing track of, your standing commitment to (V1) and (V2)?

References

J. L. Austin (1956) ‘A Plea for Excuses.’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. Reprinted in his Philosophical Papers. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

If Christmas cake is homeomerous, then any part, or area, of a quantity of Christmas cake is itself a quantity of Christmas cake. The grain of Christmas cake—the fact that Christmas cake stuff is lumpy—has lead many thinkers to deny that it is a homeomerous stuff. For, they argue, some sufficiently small areas of Christmas cake contain, not Christmas cake, but rather, for example, contain only sultana.

Now it’s clearly true that there are bounded areas of Christmas cake that contain sultanas without containing other cake stuff. It’s also true that no sultana is, per se, a quantity of Christmas cake. However, it would follow that Christmas cake is not homeomerous only if it were also true that no sultana constitutes a quantity of Christmas cake. That is, the failure of homeomerousness would depend on the claim that areas of Christmas cake stuff whose boundaries coincide with the boundaries of a sultana do not contain, in addition to sultana, a quantity of cake. And that doesn’t follow just from the fact that the boundaries of a detached sultana—a sultana surrounded by air rather than, for example, cake—would contain no cake.

The suggestion, then, is that the claim that Christmas cake is homeomerous might be defensible if we were willing to accept two general claims about stuffs: (1) the contents of an area of stuff can depend upon the contents of more extensive areas of stuff including that area—so that, for example, whether a sultana constitutes a quantity of cake may depend upon whether it is attached to surrounding cake; (2) an area can contain a plurality of fundamental kinds of stuff, including, for example, both sultana and Christmas cake.

The present discussion may also bear on questions about the metaphysical nature of the holes in certain cheeses.

A question that has occupied many botherers of the meal–snack distinction concerns the placement of soup: can soup, taken alone, constitute a meal, or is it at best a snack? The following represents an attempt to decide the issue, based on minimal assumptions.
Assumption 1: Necessarily, for all x, if x is such that, were x part of a meal, then it would be at most a proper part of the meal, then x is not a meal.
Assumption 2: Necessarily, for all x, if x is food, then it is either a snack or a meal.
Assumption 3: Necessarily, for all x, if x is soup, then x is food.
Assumption 4: Necessarily, for all x, if x is soup, then were x part of a meal, then it would be at most a proper part of the meal.
Plausibly, it follows from the four assumptions that necessarily, if x is soup, then x is a snack. The putative deduction might be challenged by defenders of modal logics far weaker than S5, or by defenders of some forms of non-classical logic. Assumption 3 might also be challenged by so-called deviant food classifiers, according to whom soup is a drink rather than food. However, I believe that what is presented here will be acknowledged as a proof by all orthodox theorists.

As is well known, prawn cocktail flavour crisps are manufactured without the involvement of the humble prawn. By contrast, a prawn cocktail contains prawns. (We can leave open for present purposes whether a prawn cocktail is a cocktail.) The flavour that you taste when you taste prawn cocktail flavour crisps is, therefore, (in at least one sense) not the flavour of a prawn cocktail. The crisps are prawn cocktail flavour, not flavoured. But are the flavours of crisp and cocktail the same? Could they be? And could one learn what prawn cocktail tastes like, or what it’s like to taste it, through tasting only prawn cocktail flavour crisps?

These questions are akin to the question whether identical twins—individuals that we can assume look the same—have the same look. They look the same. But is there, in addition, a look that both has? Or does each, instead, have its own look? And can one learn what one of them looks like, or what it’s like to look at them, by looking only at the other?

One set of questions here is broadly metaphysical. Does it follow from the fact that the flavours of distinct substances are qualitatively the same that the flavours themselves are the same? And supposing that we have reason to allow that crisps and cocktail have the same flavour, does it follow that there are not, in addition, distinct instances of flavour in the cocktail and the crisps?

Another set of questions is broadly epistemological. Under what conditions would one be in a position to recognize that crisps and cocktail have the same flavour? Is it enough that one cannot tell presented instances apart in a blind tasting? Or must one in addition compare those instances with a wider range of flavoured substances? And must one also consider the effects on flavour of mixing cocktail and crisps with other foodstuffs? Finally, should one consider, in addition, the responses of other tasters, including those with greater experience or delicacy of palate? And can it even be required that one cannot tell presented instances apart, given that the different textures of normal instances of crisps and cocktail are liable to serve as a confound by making it easy to tell instances apart? Finally, just as we agree that the twins are distinct even though we cannot tell them apart by looking, might we be willing to allow that the flavours of crisps and cocktails differ, despite our inability in principle to tell them apart on the basis of how they taste?

The following case appears in a recent book by Timothy Williamson:

Consider an analogy. I am faced with enormous pile of chocolates. I know that exactly one of them is contaminated and will make me sick; alas, I cannot tell them apart. I have a strong desire to eat a chocolate. I can quite reasonably eat just one, since it is almost certain not to be contaminated, even though, for each chocolate, I have a similar reason for eating it, and if I eat all the chocolates, I shall eat the contaminated one, and my sickness will be overdetermined. No plausible principle of universalizability implies that, in the circumstances, any reason for taking one chocolate is a reason for taking them all; the most to be implied is that, in the circumstances, any reason for taking one chocolate is a reason for taking any other chocolate instead. (Williamson, Knowledge and Its Limits, Oxford: OUP, 2000: 248)

Williamson’s analogy is directed at undermining some simplistic strategies for universalising judgments about what it’s reasonable for one to believe or do. In this case, his ultimate target is principles that attempt to move from its being reasonable to believe each of p and q and r and… to its being reasonable to believe the conjunction of p and q and r and…. Just as it might be reasonable to eat any of chocolate one, chocolate two, chocolate three, and so forth without it being reasonable to eat all of the chocolates, so it might be reasonable to believe any of p, q, r, etc., without it being reasonable to believe all of p, q, r, etc.

Related issues arise concerning knowledge. If you know something, then it must be true. For instance, if you know that this chocolate is uncontaminated, it must be that this chocolate is uncontaminated. Since one of the chocolates is contaminated, it follows that you can’t know, with respect to every chocolate, that the chocolate is uncontaminated. Suppose that you believed, of every chocolate, that the chocolate were uncontaminated. That would involve believing, of the contaminated chocolate, that it was uncontaminated. Since that belief would be false, you could not thereby know that the chocolate was uncontaminated. Hence, you can’t know, with respect to every chocolate, that the chocolate is uncontaminated.

Given that you can’t know, with respect to every chocolate, that the chocolate is uncontaminated, can you know that with respect to any of the chocolates? Considerations of parity suggest that you can’t. In order to know, of any of the chocolates, that the chocolate is uncontaminated, considerations of parity make plausible that your evidential position with respect to that chocolate would have to be better than your evidential position with respect to the contaminated chocolate. However, it’s natural to think that, as the case was described, your evidential positions with respect to contaminated and uncontaminated chocolates do not differ in the required way. If the natural thought is correct, then it seems that you cannot know, with respect to any of the chocolates, that that chocolate is uncontaminated—at least, one can’t know that in advance of eating the chocolate and observing its effects on your health.

In spite of—or in advance of—such considerations, some people seem to be prepared to judge that you can know, with respect to an uncontaminated chocolate, that it is uncontaminated, at least if the number of uncontaminated chocolates is sufficiently high. Suppose, for example, that there are one million uncontaminated chocolates and only one contaminated chocolate. In that case, some people seem to think, it is possible for one to know that a given uncontaminated chocolate is so. However, unless we rig the case so that there is really very little danger of the given chocolate being contaminated—for example, by interposing a pile of 996,347 chocolates between the subject and the contaminated chocolate—the view that you can know here looks to be erroneous. The fact that some of us are willing to judge that you can know in the non-rigged circumstance requires explanation. However, there is no good reason to think that the explanation, or explanations, will make appeal to the correctness of the judgments.

Leaving aside Williamson’s larger aims, his case has the potential to raise a more specific practical question. Suppose that you knew that you were in a situation of the type that Williamson characterises. In that case, how many of the chocolates would it be reasonable for you to eat? I take it that the correct answer to that practical question is dependent on answers to a number of sub-questions, including the following. (1) How many of the uncontaminated chocolates is it reasonable to eat? (2) How many uncontaminated chocolates is it reasonable to believe there are? (3) What degree of sickness following ingestion of the contaminated chocolate is it reasonable to expect? (4) What degree of sickness is it reasonable to endure? But those are not obviously philosophical questions.

Thanks to Aidan McGlynn for suggesting that I consider Williamson’s analogy.

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