Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

4 'Translucence'

We have seen that insight into the existence of a whole range of mental phenomena is normal to the state consciousness in self-conscious beings. And yet it is more to be expected with some phenomena than others. For example, it is more natural in the case of belief and action than with motives or the mental sources of affect generally. Then might there exist some mental phenomena in which it is simply out of the question, indeed necessarily impossible? Are there limits beyond which insight cannot go? This question forms the main topic of the present chapter. I hope in the course of the discussion to uncover certain principles governing insight, to which we may appeal in considering such a question. I doubt whether rules alone can help one to answer the question in fully general terms, but I believe they can act as a constraint upon what we should entertain as possible. Then it is with such a project in mind that I divide the chapter into three parts: Part A spells out the nature of the problem; Part B addresses itself to the task of discovering whatever rules there might be; while Part C examines a centrally relevant example. For the most part I take 'insight' to signify the brand of mentalistically-immediate knowledge of phenomena in our own minds with which we are all familiar and sometimes refer to as 'translucence'.


Part A: The Question of Limits

1 The Primacy of Consciousness and Experience in the Mind

(a) Preliminary Considerations

(1) The Cartesian theory of mind is in contrast with those theories which locate the essence of mentality in certain developmentally primitive psychological phenomena which are posited as having no essential connection either with experience or consciousness. And it is different again from theories in which it is a sheer matter of indifference to being of mental status that an item be in principle immediately accessible to the awareness of a conscious experiencing subject. Cartesian theory has of course to come to terms with the existence of states like coma, in which the mind continues to exist in the absence of consciousness and experience, as well as with the natural tendency of certain mental phenomena to resist detection: say,

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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