26. There are those who will say that although I have spoken of exploring blind alleys, it is really I who am blind. For, they will say, if that which we wish to characterize intrinsically is an experience, then there can be no puzzle about knowing what kind of experience it is, though there may be a problem about how this knowledge is to be communicated to others. And, indeed, it is tempting to suppose that if we should happen, at a certain stage of our intellectual development, to be able to classify an experience only as of the kind which could be common to a seeing and corresponding qualitative and existential lookings, all we would have to do to acquire a 'direct designation' for this kind of experience would be to pitch in, 'examine' it, locate the kind which it exemplifies and which satisfies the above description, name it -- say "f" -- and, in full possession of the concept of f, classify such experiences, from now on, as f experiences.

    At this point, it is clear, the concept -- or, as I have put it, the myth -- of the given is being invoked to explain the possibility of a direct account of immediate experience. The myth insists that what I have been treating as one problem really subdivides into two, one of which is really no problem at all, while the other may have no solution. These problems are, respectively

  1. How do we become aware of an immediate experience as of one sort, and of a simultaneous immediate experience as of another sort?
  2. How can I know that the labels I attach to the sorts to which my immediate experiences belong, are attached by you to the same sorts? May not the sort I call "red" be the sort you call "green" -- and so on systematically throughout the spectrum?

    We shall find that the second question, to be a philosophical perplexity, presupposes a certain answer to the first question -- indeed the answer given by the myth. And it is to this first question that I now turn. Actually there are various forms taken by the myth of the given in this connection, depending on other philosophical commitments. But they all have in common the idea that the awareness of certain sorts -- and by "sorts" I have in mind, in the first instance, determinate sense repeatables -- is a primordial, non-problematic feature of 'immediate experience.' In the context of conceptualism, as we have seen, this idea took the form of treating sensations as though they were absolutely specific, and infinitely complicated, thoughts. And it is essential to an understanding of the empiricist tradition to realize that whereas the contemporary problem of universals primarily concerns the status of repeatable determinate features of particular situations, and the contemporary problem of abstract ideas is at least as much the problem of what it is to be aware of determinate repeatables as of what it is to be aware of determinable repeatables, Locke, Berkeley and, for that matter, Hume saw the problem of abstract ideas as the problem of what it is to be aware of determinable repeatables.{10} Thus, an examination of Locke's Essay makes it clear that he is thinking of a sensation of white as the sort of thing that can become an abstract idea (occurrent) of White -- a thought of White "in the Understanding" -- merely by virtue of being separated from the context of other sensations (and images) which accompany it on a particular occasion. In other words, for Locke an abstract (occurrent) idea of the determinate repeatable Whiteness is nothing more than an isolated image of white, which, in turn, differs from a sensation of white only (to use a modern turn of phrase) by being "centrally aroused."

    In short, for Locke, the problem of how we come to be aware of determinate sense repeatables is no problem at all. Merely by virtue of having sensations and images we have this awareness. His problem of abstract ideas is the problem of how we come to be able to think of generic properties. And, as is clear from the Essay, he approaches this problem in terms of what might be called an "adjunctive theory of specification," that is, the view that (if we represent the idea of a determinable as the idea of being A) the idea of a determinate form of A can be represented as the idea of being A and B. It is, of course, notorious that this won't account for the relation of the idea of being red to the idea of being crimson. By thinking of conjunction as the fundamental logical relation involved in building up complex ideas from simple ones, and as the principle of the difference between determinable and determinate ideas, Locke precluded himself from giving even a plausible account of the relation between ideas of determinables and ideas of determinates. It is interesting to speculate what turn his thought might have taken had he admitted disjunctive as well as conjunctive complex ideas, the idea of being A or B alongside the idea of being A and B.

    27. But my purpose here is not to develop a commentary on the shortcomings of Locke's treatment of abstract ideas, but to emphasize that something which is a problem for us was not a problem for him. And it is therefore important to note that the same is true of Berkeley. His problem was not, as it is often construed, "How do we go from the awareness of particulars to ideas of repeatables?" but rather "Granted that in immediate experience we are aware of absolutely specific sense qualities, how do we come to be conscious of genera pertaining to them, and in what does this consciousness consist?" (This is not the only dimension of "abstraction" that concerned him, but it is the one that is central to our purpose.) And, contrary to the usual interpretation, the essential difference between his account and Locke's consists in the fact that whereas Locke was on the whole{11} committed to the view that there can be an idea which is of the genus without being of any of its species, Berkeley insists that we can have an idea of a genus only by having an idea of the genus as, to borrow a useful Scotist term, 'contracted' into one of its species.

    Roughly, Berkeley's contention is that if being A entails being B, then there can be no such thing as an idea which is of A without being of B. He infers that since being triangular entails having some determinately triangular shape, there cannot be an idea which is of triangle without being of some determinately triangular shape. We can be aware of generic triangularity only by having an idea which is of triangularity as 'contracted' into one of the specific forms of triangularity. Any of the latter will do; they are all "of the same sort."

    28. Now, a careful study of the Treatise makes it clear that Hume is in the same boat as Berkeley and Locke, sharing with them the presupposition that we have an unacquired ability to be aware of determinate repeatables. It is often said that whereas he begins the Treatise by characterizing 'ideas' in terms which do not distinguish between images and thoughts, he corrects this deficiency in Book I, Part I, Section vii. What these students of Hume tend to overlook is that what Hume does in this later section is give an account not of what it is to think of repeatables whether determinable or determinate, but of what it is to think of determinables, thus of color as contrasted with particular shades of color. And his account of the consciousness of determinables takes for granted that we have a primordial ability to take account of determinate repeatables. Thus, his later account is simply built on, and in no sense a revision of, the account of ideas with which he opens the Treatise.

    How, then, does he differ from Berkeley and Locke? The latter two had supposed that there must be such a thing as an occurrent thought of a determinable, however much they differed in their account of such thoughts. Hume, on the other hand, assuming that there are occurrent thoughts of determinate repeatables, denies that there are occurrent thoughts of determinables. I shall spare the reader the familiar details of Hume's attempt to give a constructive account of our consciousness of determinables, nor shall I criticize it. For my point is that however much Locke, Berkeley, and Hume differ on the problem of abstract ideas, they all take for granted that the human mind has an innate ability to be aware of certain determinate sorts -- indeed, that we are aware of them simply by virtue of having sensations and images.

    29. Now, it takes but a small twist of Hume's position to get a radically different view. For suppose that instead of characterizing the initial elements of experience as impressions of, e.g. red, Hume had characterized them as red particulars (and I would be the last to deny that not only Hume, but perhaps Berkeley and Locke as well, often treat impressions or ideas of red as though they were red particulars) then Hume's view, expanded to take into account determinates as well as determinables, would become the view that all consciousness of sorts or repeatables rests on an association of words (e.g. "red") with classes of resembling particulars.

    It clearly makes all the difference in the world how this association is conceived. For if the formation of the association involves not only the occurrence of resembling particulars, but also the occurrence of the awareness that they are resembling particulars, then the givenness of determinate kinds or repeatables, say crimson, is merely being replaced by the givenness of facts of the form x resembles y, and we are back with an unacquired ability to be aware of repeatables, in this case the repeatable resemblance. Even more obviously, if the formation of the association involves not only the occurrence of red particulars, but the awareness that they are red, then the conceptualistic form of the myth has merely been replaced by a realistic version, as in the classical sense-datum theory.

    If, however, the association is not mediated by the awareness of facts either of the form x resembles y, or of the form x is f, then we have a view of the general type which I will call psychological nominalism, according to which all awareness of sorts, resemblances, facts, etc., in short, all awareness of abstract entities -- indeed, all awareness even of particulars -- is a linguistic affair. According to it, not even the awareness of such sorts, resemblances, and facts as pertain to so-called immediate experience is presupposed by the process of acquiring the use of a language.

    Two remarks are immediately relevant:
(1) Although the form of psychological nominalism which one gets by modifying Hume's view along the above lines has the essential merit that it avoids the mistake of supposing that there are pure episodes of being aware of sensory repeatables or sensory facts, and is committed to the view that any event which can be referred to in these terms must be, to use Ryle's expression, a mongrel categorical-hypothetical, in particular, a verbal episode as being the manifestation of associative connections of the word-object and word-word types, it nevertheless is impossibly crude and inadequate as an account of the simplest concept.
(2) Once sensations and images have been purged of epistemic aboutness, the primary reason for supposing that the fundamental associative tie between language and the world must be between words and 'immediate experiences' has disappeared, and the way is clear to recognizing that basic word-world associations hold, for example, between "red" and red physical objects, rather than between "red" and a supposed class of private red particulars.

    The second remark, it should be emphasized, does not imply that private sensations or impressions may not be essential to the formation of these associative connections. For one can certainly admit that the tie between "red" and red physical objects -- which tie makes it possible for "red" to mean the quality red -- is causally mediated by sensations of red without being committed to the mistaken idea that it is "really" sensations of red, rather than red physical objects, which are the primary denotation of the word "red."