Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers, 1956-1972 by Bernard Williams

By Bernard Williams

This can be a quantity of philosophical experiences, concentrated on difficulties of private identification and increasing to comparable themes within the philosophy of brain and ethical philosophy.

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Extra resources for Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers, 1956-1972

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The cumbrous account I have been considering was wrong in treating the 'seeing' element in visualising as an element in what is visualised. Let us then abandon that account - though not, I hope, everything that was said in the course of formulating it and see what sense we can make of what is surely nearer the truth here, that we can in fact even visualise the unseen, because the fact that in visualisation I am as it were seeing is not itself necessarily an element of what is visualised. We may start with the analogy of the stage; and I shall consider, begging a large number of interesting questions which revolve around this point, only what may be called very vaguely the illusionist stage, problems of alienation and so forth being left on one side.

So we can coherently imagine an unseen tree: but, remember, we knew that already. Our question is about visualisation. The second narration would seem to be that of a man whose project it was to imagine himself seeing a tree. And in his narration, surely, there is something incoherent. For the last element in it, that the tree was not seen by anyone, really does clash with the rest of the narration, which is precisely a narration of his seeing it. Thus there does seem to be some incoherence in imagining oneself seeing an unseen tree, unless - boringly - this merely meant that one imagined oneself seeing a tree never seen by anyone else.

Phil. But (to pass by all that hath been hitherto said, and reckon it for nothing, if you will have it so) I am content to put the whole upon this issue. If you can conceive it possible for any mixture or combination of qualities, or any sensible object whatever, to exist without the mind, then I will grant it actually to be so. Hyl. If it comes to that, the point will soon be decided. What more easy than to conceive a tree or house existing by itself, independent of, and unperceived by any mind whatsoever?

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