|C. D. Broad, Mind and Its Place in Nature , 1925|
THE MIND'S KNOWLEDGE OF EXISTENTS
In this Section I am going to consider the knowledge which a human mind has of matter, of itself, and of other minds. Knowledge is a transaction with two sides to it, the mind which knows and the objects known. A critical discussion of the mind's alleged knowledge of anything should therefore help to clear our ideas both of the nature of the mind and its activities and of the nature of the objects which it knows. Thus, in discussing the mind's knowledge of matter through perception, we ought to learn something both of the nature of the mind as a percipient and of the nature and reality of matter. And, when we consider the mind's knowledge of itself and of other minds, we ought to learn something of the nature of the mind from two sides. Common-sense believes itself to know pretty well what mind is and what matter is, though it might have great difficulties in putting its beliefs into clear and consistent language. So far we have accepted these claims without question, and have discussed certain problems subject to this condition. We have now to pass from the level of enlightened common-sense to that of Critical Philosophy. By this I mean that we have to consider carefully the sources of our alleged knowledge of matter and of mind, and to see how far we can still accept the common-sense view of these two entities in the light of this additional information. Even if the common-sense view should not need correction, it will certainly need careful and explicit statement; and, when stated, it may seem unfamiliar and even shocking to common-sense. It would, I think, be admitted by every one that such knowledge as we have of matter is based on sense-perception and memory. Each man's sense-perception and memory are supplemented by communication with other minds which claim to tell him what they have perceived and remembered. Thus the problem of our knowledge of matter inevitably involves the problem of our knowledge of other minds. There is less agreement about the sources of our knowledge of other minds. But I suppose that every one would admit that a necessary, if not a sufficient, condition of such knowledge is that we should listen to the sounds and note the gestures of other human bodies. So the problem of our knowledge of other minds is in turn bound up with the problem of our knowledge of matter. The exact connexion between these two problems will have to be considered in some detail. There is, again, a lack of agreement about the sources of a mind's knowledge of itself. I suppose that every one would admit that memory is involved here as much as in our knowledge of matter. But, on the one hand, some people deny the existence of a mental activity, called "introspection," by which a mind observes itself or the events belonging to it. And those who admit the existence of this activity differ a good deal about its limitations; for some think that we can introspect both acts and states, whilst others seem to hold that we can introspect states but not acts. On the other hand, some people who admit the existence of introspection and give it extensive powers would hold that it is not the only or the main source of our knowledge of our own minds. In any case we can see at once that the three problems are most intimately linked, and that no treatment of one can be satisfactory without a treatment of the rest. I have already tried to show this linkage between the problem of our knowledge of matter and the problem of our knowledge of other minds. There seems to be an equally close connexion between the problem of our knowledge of our own minds and that of our knowledge of other minds. For, even if it be not the whole truth, it certainly seems an important part of the truth to say that our beliefs about other minds are based on analogies with what we know of our own. The other point which is already clear is that memory is involved in all three kinds of knowledge. Hence the divisions of this Section will be the following: First I shall treat Sense-perception, then Memory, then Our Knowledge of our own Minds, and then Our Knowledge of other Minds. The reader will remember that this division is necessary, because we cannot say everything at once, but that none of these four chapters is likely to be satisfactory when taken by itself.
Contents -- Go to Chapter IV