24. Let me return to beating the neighboring bushes. Notice that a common descriptive component of the three experiences I am considering is itself often referred to (by philosophers, at least) as an experience -- as, for example, an immediate experience. Here caution is necessary. The notorious "ing-ed" ambiguity of "experience" must be kept in mind. For although seeing that x, over there, is red is an experiencing -- indeed, a paradigm case of experiencing -- it does not follow that the descriptive content of this experiencing is itself an experiencing. Furthermore, because the fact that x, over there, looks to Jones to be red would be a seeing, on Jones' part, that x, over there, is red, if its propositional content were true, and because if it were a seeing, it would be an experiencing, we must beware of concluding that the fact that x, over there, looks red to Jones is itself an experiencing. Certainly, the fact that something looks red to me can itself be experienced. But it is not itself an experiencing.

    All this is not to say that the common descriptive core may not turn out to be an experiencing,{9} though the chances that this is so appear less with each step in my argument. On the other hand, I can say that it is a component in states of affairs which are experienced, and it does not seem unreasonable to say that it is itself experienced. But what kind of experience (in the sense of experienced) is it? If my argument to date is sound, I cannot say that it is a red experience, that is, a red experienced item. I could, of course, introduce a new use of "red" according to which to say of an 'immediate experience' that it was red, would be the stipulated equivalent of characterizing it as that which could be the common descriptive component of a seeing that something is red, and the corresponding qualitative and existential lookings. This would give us a predicate by which to describe and report the experience, but we should, of course, be only verbally better off than if we could only refer to this kind of experience as the kind which could be the common descriptive component of a seeing and a qualitative or existential looking. And this makes it clear that one way of putting what we are after is by saying that we want to have a name for this kind of experience which is truly a name, and not just shorthand for a definite description. Does ordinary usage have a name for this kind of experience?

    I shall return to this quest in a moment. In the meantime it is important to clear the way of a traditional obstacle to understanding the status of such things as sensations of red triangles. Thus, suppose I were to say that while the experience I am examining is not a red experience, it is an experience of red. I could expect the immediate challenge: "Is 'sensation of a red triangle' any better off than 'red and triangular experience'? Does not the existence of a sensation of a red triangle entail the existence of a red and triangular item, and hence, always on the assumption that red is a property of physical objects, of a red and triangular physical object? Must you not, therefore abandon this assumption, and return to the framework of sense contents which you have so far refused to do?"

    One way out of [this] dilemma would be to assimilate "Jones has a sensation of a red triangle" to "Jones believes in a divine Huntress." For the truth of the latter does not, of course, entail the existence of a divine Huntress. Now, I think that most contemporary philosophers are clear that it is possible to attribute to the context

. . . sensation of . . .

the logical property of being such that "There is a sensation of a red triangle" does not entail "There is a red triangle" without assimilating the context ". . . sensation of . . ." to the context ". . . believes in . . ." in any closer way. For while mentalistic verbs characteristically provide nonextensional contexts (when they are not "achievement" or "endorsing" words), not all nonextensional contexts are mentalistic. Thus, as far as the purely logical point is concerned, there is no reason why "Jones has a sensation of a red triangle" should be assimilated to "Jones believes in a divine Huntress" rather than to "It is possible that the moon is made of green cheese" or to any of the other nonextensional contexts familiar to logicians. Indeed there is no reason why it should be assimilated to any of these. ". . . sensation of . . ." or ". . . impression of . . ." could be a context which, though sharing with these others the logical property of nonextensionality, was otherwise in a class by itself.

    25. Yet there is no doubt but that historically the contexts ". . . sensation of . . ." and ". . . impression of . . ." were assimilated to such mentalistic contexts as ". . . believes . . .," ". . . desires . . .," ". . . chooses . . .," in short to contexts which are either themselves 'propositional attitudes' or involve propositional attitudes in their analysis. This assimilation took the form of classifying sensations with ideas or thoughts. Thus Descartes uses the word "thought" to cover not only judgments, inferences, desires, volitions, and (occurrent) ideas of abstract qualities, but also sensations, feelings, and images. Locke, in the same spirit, uses the term "idea" with similar scope. The apparatus of Conceptualism, which had its genesis in the controversy over universals, was given a correspondingly wide application. Just as objects and situations were said to have 'objective being' in our thoughts, when we think of them, or judge them to obtain -- as contrasted with the 'subjective' or 'formal being' which they have in the world -- so, when we have a sensation of a red triangle, the red triangle was supposed to have 'objective being' in our sensation.

    In elaborating, for a moment, this conceptualistic interpretation of sensation, let me refer to that which has 'objective being' in a thought or idea as its content or immanent object. Then I can say that the fundamental difference between occurrent abstract ideas and sensations, for both Locke and Descartes, lay in the specificity and, above all, the complexity of the content of the latter. (Indeed, both Descartes and Locke assimilated the contrast between the simple and the complex in ideas to that between the generic and the specific.) Descartes thinks of sensations as confused thoughts of their external cause; Spinoza of sensations and images as confused thoughts of bodily states, and still more confused thoughts of the external causes of these bodily states. And it is interesting to note that the conceptualistic thesis that abstract entities have only esse intentionale (their esse is concipi) is extended by Descartes and, with less awareness of what he is doing, Locke, to include the thesis that colors, sounds, etc., exist "only in the mind" (their esse is percipi) and by Berkeley to cover all perceptible qualities.

    Now, I think we would all agree, today, that this assimilation of sensations to thoughts is a mistake. It is sufficient to note that if "sensation of a red triangle" had the sense of "episode of the kind which is the common descriptive component of those experiences which would be cases of seeing that the facing surface of a physical object is red and triangular if an object were presenting a red and triangular facing surface" then it would have the nonextensionality the noticing of which led to this mistaken assimilation. But while we have indeed escaped from this blind alley, it is small consolation. For we are no further along in the search for a 'direct' or 'intrinsic' characterization of 'immediate experience.'