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Isaiah Berlin_Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements

Isaiah Berlin_Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements

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Classic article by Isaiah Berlin refuting phenomenalism.
Classic article by Isaiah Berlin refuting phenomenalism.

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Mind Association

Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements Author(s): I. Berlin Reviewed work(s): Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 235 (Jul., 1950), pp. 289-312 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2251174 . Accessed: 18/04/2012 14:33
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No. 235.]

[JUlY, 1950






is becoming the fashionamong empiricist philosophers to assumethat phenomenalism is reallydead' at last. Provokedinto existence of material by non-naturalistic notions substance, it successfully undermined a sufthem;butit shared ficient number offundamental with metaphysical assumptions its rival to perish defeated ofthought which with itwhen thesystem nourished bothwas destroyed, in the veryact of victory.A better thanthatof Descartes or Locke,but stillan ontology it is therefore nowheldto be obsolete;and doubtless Sontology, is dead,the thisis howit ought to be. But ifphenomenalism ofit stillhaunts of ofmodern discussions memory thewritings nature of the external -the wordto a surprising degree; from Eddington's two desks,to the morerefined and notorious penetrating analysis of better equipped philosophical authors, its presence it makes the form of a clearly felt, usually taking sharp distinction between observation statements andthose ; now concerning material senses objects; nowbetween twoor more of the verb "to see"; at othertimesbetween'basic' or ' protocol' sentences and thoseofordinary speech; orbetween ' ofspeech; orbetween " and " weak" ' modes " strong various verification. Such versions of it are almostalwaysformally " implications; guaranteed to carry no "metaphysical nevertheless their resemblance discredited striking to theolder variety is hardto overlook. Hence,an examination ofits latestmaniis notsucha flogging festations ofa deadhorse as at first it may seemto be; forif it is dead, its ghostwalks,and should, ifpossible, be laid.
19 289

In any case the answerto the questionwhether this is so is. purposes-a specialised use of wordswhichmay be susceptible to a phenomenalist analysis. and in particular modern phenomenalism.logically independent ofthe restofmyargument. it has overstayed its welcome. be translatedinto solipsisticterms. and this is ruledout forthe familiar reasons . rest on the view that expressions describing materialobjectsmustin principle be capable of beingtranslated (without residue)into sets of sentences about the data of actual or possibledirectsensible acquaintance. and nota specialised method ofreferring to aspectsofit forsomenarrower. its continuedpresencedoes more harm than good. on the part of real or possibleobservers. Any alternativetheoriesof how material object propositions are to be analysed tend to be rejected out of hand by modernempiricistson the groundthat this must at some stage involve beliefin the existenceof non-sensible or transcendent entities or characteristics. can be translated lossintophenomenalist without terms. and the argument set out belowis intended to provideadditionalreasons forconsigning it finally to an honoured grave. But if such a "translation" does not adequately render theempirical descriptions ofordinary language. which. past. I believe.present and future. and perhapsthis demonstrates something of importance. I Many forms of modernempiricism. Stout have done muchto promote.290 I. this willaffect the propositions of scienceonlyin so faras these claim to be an extension of ordinary languageused to describe theworld. it has alwaysbeen considered that the languageof sciencecould.activities or dispositions capable of being studied by empirical methods). Perhapsit can. But beneas its influence ficent has been.(sensibleis hereused in the widestsense-to coverall states. BERLIN: Twofurther assumptions are madein thecourse ofthefollowing remarks: (i) The argumelt against the phenomenalistanalysis of common-sense statements leaves open the questionwhether the information providedby the exact sciencessuch as physics. with no alterationof its " meaning ". however. F. (ii) Nor do I wishto denythehistorical achievement ofphenomenalism. Whateverits defects-and I shall wish to say that they are fatal-it has made less excusableany return to those ancient delusions which the philosophersof substance from Thales to G. is not held to be an argument in favour of solipsism. predictive orother.

or would have.into the new language. of words. but continueduse . If translationinto the sense datum language still seemedto leave something out-what some philosophers have called the 'irreduciblecategoricalelement' of materialobject this missing element was labelled emotive-a propositions. or else it was (with somewhatgreaterinsight)connectedwith the legitimatedemandforthe kindand degreeof vagueness. seem uncomfortable at first. menalist equivalent of a materialobject sentencemight.and richambiguity his normal.as well as what he would. observedunder appropriate conditions. let alone be true. intermittent To dispel this sense of discomfort.and recommended as an properties antidote to metaphysicalhankeringafter non-sensiblesubstitutes.but something whatthings less adventurous-nomorethan an alternative languagecapable in the materialobject all that could be described of rendering forits therapeutic language. have always feltdissatisfied. But commonsense and the philosophers wh-o are in sympathy withit.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 291 advanced. or did. and restson his theory. accordingto this.forshort. everyday purposes.or how theybehaved. phenomenalists began to explainthat it was due to a confusion:the viewthattheywere a metaphysical nor a scientific advocatingwas neither of theory weremade of. Disagreement can arise onlyabout the adequacy of this or that suggested analysis of how materialobject sentences are to be " reduced" (without residue)to sentences describing bothwhat the observer does. psychological residue-with no descriptive function. The phenotransplanted. or will observe.to substitute something and attenuated forsomething solidand continuous.like a new shoe. seemedtoleave something sentences. and the provision ofalternative analyseson theselineshas taxed of some of the acutest philosophers the ingenuity of our day. no expressionspurporting to describematerialobjects can have any meaning. But it was claimedthat at any rate the hard core of descriptive meaningcould be successfully as it were. mightor mighthave. indefiniteof speechneededby the plain man for ness. out. The reduction of material call sense datum object sentences into what we may.forexample.by Berkeley. Since most empiricists hold that any alternative analysisof materialobject propositions involvesthe possibility of acquaintance with non-sensible entitiesor characteristicsand this they hold to be an unintelligible suggestion-phenomenalismappears to followautomatically. unlessall the entitiesor characteristics to whichtheyrefer are eitherfoundin sensibleexperience-in the sense of " sensible" defined above-or can be analysedintoentities or characteristics so found.

would describethe activities of a second 'observer' who actually or potentiallyobserves I 2 P. for example. Stout1 complained that the opaqueness-" the permanent " of materialobjects had been unof sensation impossibility justifiably eliminated..292 I. formulated in sucha way as to conveyanxiety to salvagealtogether too muchfrom the ruinsofthe theory they are intendedto destroy.even if I am mistaken in this. but tempting philosophers to falsedoctrines about bothlanguage and the world.. R. However. Mr. R. but foundit difficult to formulate it in words.some of the stock objectionsto it are not less so.A. B. Braithwaite (" Propositionsabout Material Objects " P.g. 136-37. namelya valid and fatal objection. 'The Paradox of Phenomenalism'. 1937-38). A somewhat more complicated method of the progressive " elimination" of material bodies is propounded by Mr. Professor G. Studies in Philosophy and Psychology. Ayer3 to be mainlydue to a misunderstanding of the languagewhichphenomenalists weretrying to use or " recommend ". This argumentwas first developed to the best of my beliefby Professor H. even whenvalid. (1) One of the most familiarobjectionsurged against.the fourmost familiar typesofattackupon it. What I propose to do is to tryand articulatewhat the main sourceof the discomfort feltby common sense seemsto me to be. 1946-47. or Mill or Russell. e.Berkeley. Proceedings of the Aristotelian . It maybe worthaddingthat evenif phenomenalism turnsout to be unacceptable. 3'Phenomenalism'. since I think that in this case the doctor'sdiagnosistoo oftenneglectsthe specific natureof the patient'scomplaint. J.1945-46. constructed.A. due to linguistic habitsharmless in themselves. Price. Consider. BERLIN: wouldpresently dissipatethis feeling. pp. 4 Society. forexample.the complaint itselfstill seems worth examining. H.S. W. For the familiaranti-phenomenalist theses are often. F. by Professor A. is that when converting sentencesabout material objects into sentencesabout sense data. to the phenomenalist analysis.The discomfort was only " psychological ". they fail to ' convertthe observer' who ' occurs' in the protasis of the hypotheticalstatement. Commonsense continued to experience a certaindiscomfort. For it seemsto me to be morethan a meresourceofdiscomfort. It has indeedbeensuggested that to ' dissolvethe observer' a secondproposition could be which presumably. F.S.into ' sense data '4 ' material he remains irreducibly '. Hardie 2 foundit puzzling that 'hypothetical' causes could be said to cause ' actual' effects-butthis was held.

G.are. Each ofwhichagain. This asymptotic processof gradualwhittling wouldtendto theideal limitof pure phenomenalism. and so we shouldget requires a Chinese box series of possible observers-referred to by a seriesofpropositions. nonsay by an improved. etc. it very nearly achieves its result-the residuecan be got downto almost vanishing unresolved point -which is perhapsas muchas one can reasonably hope for. this 'observer' in his turn a third' observer ' to observehim.Then by one might the series. Phenomenalismis accused of breedingnew metaphysicalentities-withtheirown pseudo-problems: but if we could onlyget rid of thesesomehow. whichwouldprogressively logicallysimilar ' reduce' or ' dissolve' theresidualmaterial ofthe object content originalprotasis. cannot in fact be performed successfully.A. (2) Anotheroftenheard objection is that the hypothetical of observers propositions about the experiences whichare indispensable to the phenomenalist analysis. Logical Constructions. or ' unsensedsensibilia '.Phenomenalists are challenged to 1 VideMr. Some philosophers ofthisobjectionby sayingthat such theoretito soften the force limitsset by the context theorieshave pragmatic cally infinite 1 hold and the practicalneeds of the situationand sometimes that sufficiently painstaking analysis(and mostanalystsare too lazy or boredto do the ploddingrequired)could go a long way towardsachieving purephenomenalism. of meaning. what do hypotheticals describe? Surely not nothing? And these postulated entities. so that down the attempted breaking analysiscannot get goingwithout try at any and everypointin the process. 1940-41). .movements. somehow integrating represent the material terms ofit. at least as mythological as the Lockean substratum whichtheywereinvokedto exorcise. P.D. suggestis that if phenomenalism fails. etc. at everypoint presupposes yet other materialobjects.g. A criticism related to theoriginal objectas definablein objection is that such ideal 'observers' and their behaviour could not be properlydescribedwithoutperpetual reference ' their' position to materialobjects.e. those whichdetermine in space.unknownand unknowableto scienceand commonsense. C.S.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 293 the bodyofthe original ' observer ' . For other'hypothetical wise. all might correspondence theory stillbe well. been assertedthat the promised (3) It has also frequently 'reduction' ofcommon-sense languageby suchmethods as those of Descriptions.What boththesekinds of objection.whether they are valid or not. so it is urged. Macnabb(" Phenomenalism ".seem to involve somethinglike the existenceor reality of 'hypotheticalfacts' or sense data'.forits analysis..

). but as it is. by now traditional.whilethephenomenalist -for the alternative is a metaphvsical morass-the pDarticular 1VideMr.the programme could perhapsbe carried out.. that sense.although phenomenalist languagemight be intolerably clumsy and prolix. constructions. as would renderit useless for maintains that everyday purposes.and when they declineto producethe precise equivalent. array of. the feelingremainsthat the "hard core" of meaning " or translated.etc. C. Macnabb(loc.D. impliedmeanings words. are inalienable propertiesof common-sense language.and would have its own unfamiliar "grammar". G. but that in principlethe translationcould be effected. etc. The above is a characteristic selectionfromthe. I should liketo suggest that. Against this. etc. ambiguity. datum languagewould and intolerdoubtlessly be inconveniently preciseand definite ably lengthyand tedious. too familiar to be repeated. which theoretically leaves open the possibilityof the programmeadvanced by Berkeleywhereby phenomenalism works for material objects and breaksdownonlyin the case ofpersons. The suggestion implicitin all these criticisms is goal is and mustbe striven towards that.cit. mightstillbe " reduced there arethedifficulties aboutdealingwithproposi(4) Finally. particles two or threefloors above-has not been kept. althoughby sacrificing so much customary vagueness. Phenomenalists are accused of maintaining that. they are accused of utteringcounterfeit of scienticheques: and thisis said to hold evenmoreobviously " many storied" 1 logical ficentities-the promise to construct and gamma with sense data as foundations..theopposition it is onlynecessary to tryand put thisprogramme into practice to seethatit is a labourofSisyphus and willnotwork: vagueness. it could in principlealways be substitutedfor the ellipses of common speech: thatnormal languagehas thecharacter it has in order to servethe use that it serves. Yet the reasonfor thisis still thecomparatively weak one thatwe should lose too muchin the way of nuances. of range. ambiguity. BERLIN: providean equivalentin sense datum currency of propositions about materialobjects. they are usually so formulated as to convey a misleading impression.294 I. tionsabout other minds.anti-phenomenalist arguments.. the claim to reduce-plausible enoughprima facie-turns out to be hollowonce the bluff is called.in the appropriate Humeanmanner. but forthis. indefiniteness. communication.formidable and indeedfatalas someofthem may be. for despite their anti-phenomenalist air they are all in effectso much concealed pro-phenomenalist propaganda. .

unverifiable but thatthe techniques offered by variousphilosophers have all.is that phenomenalism is.besetthoughit may be by grave objections and exaggerations: the problem is one of technicalskill: once it is reformulated withsufficient ingenuity the problemwill be solved. Similarlyall phenomenalist operations so farconductedhave indeedended in failure. " If ' a ' wereto go next door and look. cannot indispensable. tinkering. in normalobserver . or dissolved.in thisenlightened age. is surely not a thinkable course. he would.is.in principle.this: I say. the all too make it moreso. or Descartes." This. ofre-examining familiarcurrent and the answers objectionsto phenomenalism. but they. "There is a browntable in the next room. and perhapsdue to the relatively of ordinarylanguage. and that. possibly because of a faultytheoryof meaningand truth.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 295 avenues thus far offered by phenomenalists are unfortunately blockedby varioustypesof logicalor epistemological obstacles: in otherwordsthat some such operationis desperately needed if we are everto eliminate or indescribable entities. to finda 'viable ' translation The impressionconveyed throughout. and onlythey.findsparadoxical in all phenomenalist analyses. to them. or whetherit is a symptom properties of somefatal defect in the theory. My thesis is that is not even prirma phenomenalism facie plausible-let alone and minorimprovements. and in any case as beingthe kind of assertion which should be capable of demonstration or refutation by normal mathematicaltechniques.e. arethekindofprocesses be whichcan. so far. i.therefore. This is the bogey used to drive philosophers back to make yet another gallant attempt to break out of the impasseinto the sense datum language.at anyratenotdemonstrably fallacious. Thisposition is notunlike thesituation with regardto say Fermat's theorem: what the theoremassertsis considered as beingverylikely true. broken down.I should like to suggestthat it mightbe valuable to tryto findout what it is that makes commonsense so uncomis merely fortable-in order to see whetherthis discomfort " psychological accidental ". forthe only alternativeis a returnto Locke.fromDr. applied. the onlypossiblevalid view. shouldmean a set or rangeof propositions of the type. I believe. I am told. afterall.or Kant. Somekind of phenomenalist analysismustbe correct. Johnsononwards. Instead. II What commonsense.

phenomenalist ' thatthissenseof 'existence sense-nothing at all. ofthe old picture in different though I shall to try to make this clearer. therewas-in a sense datum analysisis correct. in objects in termsof the hypothetical .he wouldsee browndata.he wouldhave at thattimesuitably had beenan observer ofit. nonanalysed into a series of eitherpurelyhypothetical. was nevertheless G.is not a sensein which ofmaterial into 'the existence understood. What I think there. are unfulfilled. is basic: because the alleged materialobject sensein whichthe can be 'translated non-existence ofactual sensedata nevertheless the objects. If he is thentoldthatto word 'exist' is commonly say therewas a materialobject-the land bridgein pre-historic about data there would have been times-is to say something if . and.no such observer whether ornotthisis true. thenI agree-and possibly placed. It stillremains follows antecedent.and the question of the of an observer. Nothingregardingthe consequentfollowsfrom denyingthe at all. .in fact. is one thing. so thatthematerial i.296 I. even hypothetically.certaindata. that if therehad been (and therewas another." truetjiat ifsomeone I accept all thisand remaindissatisfied. If I believethat there times a land bridgebetweenAfricaand was in pre-historical thisis analytic-thatifthere America.intermittent existent. he feels cheated.nothing looked. propositions factual" hypothetical that if the hypotheticals troublesthe plain man is the thought thenifthe ifno observers werein factobserving. " Of course not.he would have observed (and no one did observe). Categorical " counterabout material objects are replaced by unfulfilled and what about observers. In a sense. any observer. and in no sense merely words. The statement not). . To analyse material data of observersis.like the existence of the table next door. But I may wishto assert or a portion seentheland bridge and that the land bridge existed. as the observer observesand ceases to observe. seemsto themnot equivalentto asserting propositions the past existenceof materialobjects.moreover. For these data appear to depend objectbecomes on theactivity ofobservers.othernormalconditions." I say. no one goes data. etc.. Stout wishto say is that the sense and Professor common questionof the existenceof the land bridge.etc. that. BERLIN: etc. etc. " But supposing brown-coloured nextdoor. And thisseems pictureof the world from that which a different empirically a description he started by believing.is presenceor absence..e.whathavewe then? Is theapodosisfalse? Arethere no browndata and no table ?' I am told. see such and such normallight. and disappearing data occurring or at best. F.

called poexist. " The table is next door (or 'the table has a back to it."do I mean. i. do but when the causes do not materialise.he willeasilyand thatifcertain sortsofquestions correctly answerthem. peoplelook. something the tentialirritation underneath going on like volcanic activity surface. But if I ask. who are in this room.' or ' the table was here two hours ago') even with no one looking.nothingat all ? " This is precisely what commonsense does not believe to be true about tables. to fallinto Locke's errors. on this view view meansthat you or I or X. but dispositional characteristics are so called in orderto contrast them with non-dispositionalcharacteristics.etc.. theireffects.the said to be different. occurand the questionis therefore inappropriate How does all this apply to the table next door ? The assertion that thereis a table next door is made equivalentto what the ofhypothetiobserver wouldsee ifhe looked. a collection about the observer. word" clever" is commonly sort: of the following someone is clever is to say something are put to him. indeed it is compatibleonly with. intotempers of is no provocation at all. and so on. to turnthe statements the dispositional characteristicsof observers. to conbut to take thisliterally is to confuse wordswiththings. exists.thereis a gap in the series and whenneither of sense datum events. But if I say. in the ordinarysense of " exist".are possible or potentialtable-data observers.empirical by ordinaryempiricalmeans. Common senseendowsthemwith'actual'. " Is he clever evenwhenhe is asleep ? " thissoundsquitewronghow the do not understand I am rightly told that I evidently I am told.to say that used.e." i.If I ask.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 297 about about theminto statements effect. non-dispositional . propositions cal. i. " Thereare table-datawhenever times. This assertsthe existenceof a dispositional characteristic.e. as a rule. i.e. "grammar" of whichis rightly "Does he look much the same when he is asleep ? " that it a the answerto whichcan be discovered question. surely. of the fusethe mythology withthe furniture of psycho-analysis real world. butat other when no one is looking.e.i.e. by looking. these conditions to the situation. " He whenthere flies or sometimes on slightprovocation. When he is asleep. " The table next door exists". We accept this quite naturallyin the " case of normaldispositional characteristics: " X is irritable is compatiblewith. we do speak of unconsciousor suppressedirritation.or that he grasps certaintypes of data than most and makes inferences fromthem more successfully do not people. dispositional-causal neither. at othertimesthereare no bursts does not literally no continuing real substratum-there temper. plain.

at most.by nothing at all.is tantamount to destroying the continuity before of the table-its history and afterit is observed. am I reallysayingthat it existsin the same sense of 'exists' as someone'sirritable temper? Some characteristics of tables may. The table is seen intermittently or not at all: the intermittent presenceor nonexistence of observers is a part of the intermittent or unrealised series of causes or conditionsof its being seen. To analysematerial object statements as statements about dispositional characteristics of observers.forcommon sense. in the sense datum sense. This.or itsunobserved to be.phenomenalists stoutly and indignantlydenounce this conclusionas a confusionof two senses of ' existence '. genuinelybe describedas dispositional)i.it acceptseasilyenoughthat irritability does not existin the same senseas an actual burstof temperis said to do. back. in speakingof them.I am referring to certaincausal laws and hypothetical orintermittent data-e. But when I say. whenI saya table is combustible or useful or expensive. its presencenext door.g. it differs fromirritability preciselyin this respect-that unlike irritability it is believed to exist continuouslyin the literal sense when there are no intermittent data. i. of course. nothingactualis exactlywhat commonsense and Dr. butas coming closeto beingmeaningless. that to speak of irritability is to use a kindof shorthand fora complexof causal laws and observation propositions.we might be answered. but it-the table-is assumed to have some characteristics continuously. is to represent the materialobject as being. Johnson revoltagainst. and . its unseenportion. a crudemisunderstanding ofthe verynotionof logicalconstructions. The unobserved table.298 I. therefore.e.e. BERLIN: characteristics in the absence of observers. The suggestion that every characteristic of the tableis merely possibleorintermittent or dependson dispositions of observers-that everything is dispositional. continueto be as someone'sirritability continues Yet common sensedoes notraisedifficulties ofthistypeaboutthe analysisof irritability. an intermittent series of actual data with the gaps filledby hypothetical "non-actualised" entities.and perhaps. Of course. no glances directed at the table. the essentialtask is to eliminate Locke's substratum and to substitute forit a set ofintermittent and hypothetical data. are logicalconstructions as irritability is : in both cases.a good many intermediate properties which we do notthink ofeither as definitely dispositional or definitely ' actual '. Tables. But thisonlymeanssomething by contrast withthoseproperties of thetable whichare not dispositional. notas beinguntrue. " There existsa table such as you describe ".

often functionas substitutesfor such acts of pointingto thingsor personsor processes.and onlywhenthereis nonesuchin any theypurport normalsense. Hypotheticals. do we avoid pseudo-problems hypothetical mode of expression as the more natural. " there is ". and as we use words.to "point" towards their "objects'". For this is the centralpoint of this entireissue: that the translation ofcategorical existential statements intohypotheticals (of whatever' level ').as likely to elucidatewhat is being assertedin wordsbetteradapted to expressing it. or existing. on the whole. categorical sentences. Existential propositions expressed categoricallyin indicativesentences-tend. and it is realisationof this whichprobablyled Ramsey. "The book ". and demonstratives which appear in existential propositions. or being characterised in some way: this is precisely the forceof the conditional mood. they have a non-descriptive. do notas a generalruledirectly assertthat something has been. " Here is the book I say to someone looking forit. " this is ". . What common sense dislikes is preciselythe crucial role played by hypotheticals in the phenomenalist analysis.or will be occurring.to assertthat causal propositions werenot descriptive at all. like.forexample. of an 'act of ostension '.as it were.tend to conveythat the object referred to has occurredor is occurring or will occur in time. whatever theydescribe ormean. or I could point to it and say.in the case of a sentence like.and it seemsto me to displaya soundinstinct in so doing.e. is 'a dangerousoperationand cannot be leftto the mechanicaloperationof 'syntactical' rules because different typesofsentence do have certain normal usesin ordinary language-at any rate in most modernEuropean languageswhichwe ignoreat our peril.. " here we have". Humpty-Dumpty's nominalism goestoo far: wordsare sometimes ifwe are to communimasters cate withoutperpetualrecourse to redefinition i. and conveyroughly the same information by both methods. existed.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 299 certainly as suspiciously approaching some kind of solipsismand one not very easy to describein empirical(or any other intelligible) language.g. But hypotheticals normallydo the opposite ofthis. The characteristic force ofthe categorical modeof expression is often exactlythis-that it acts in lieu of a gesture.e. ostensive element.is being. whatever theyentail or conveyor evince.in whatever way they are verified or failto be verified. but commandsor rules. if we are to communicate at all. will exist.is in existence. etc. existential. theyseemto inviteus to look forthe entity to be about. " Bad temperis unattractive by turning to the ".

too triteand obvious. " Anyonewho was thereat threeo'clock saw the meteor with.. If the generaltermsare so need of a significant used as to suggestthat they possess extensionof any kind.had asked for." and some orwouldhave beengiven.etc. it is easilyand other something by a sense. objectsentence material existential or " There is a table next door". form the hypothetical are requiredto completethe analysis. is evidently less obvious. which a corollary is. to convey is used. did ask ". or was. was or will be-the cribe the furniture (indicative) a categorical wheneve'r secondis not. andis feltto be to that extentinsufficient. For thisgulfdoes dividecategoricals used to desis normally in our normalusage: whereasthe first of the world what is.replaceable resistance on thepartofcommon without sentence-as in the case of indicative (conditional) hypothetical orgeneral to dispositions.300 I. oftenquite idiomatically.but thereis All thismayseemaltogether thatno direct namely. foundations one of the indispensable destroy for of hypotheticals For it is this sense of the illicitsubstitution forthe obscurefeelingon the whichis responsible categoricals entity-is being sensethat something-anersatz partof common palmed off upon it by phenomenalists. or will be. can be translated etc. a correct rule. or indirectly directly referring sentences any " type. is used at the veryleast to . propositions qualification. consequently. or substitute of phenomenalism.and an indicativeor categorical usage to convey" existenrequiredby ordinary one is therefore "-to referto actual events whichare believed to tial import have takenplace. butthefeeling of general and hypotheticalformsof expressionfrom." He gave away his booksto anyonewhoaskedforthem". since it seems to rest on a fatallyfalse view of the nature of a separation which led himto so strong meaning.". categoricalexpressions Thus. It seemsquiteclearthatin thislastinstancea persons sentenceby itselftells us nothing conditionalor hypothetical about what in fact happened. as a general into hypotheticals fromcategoricals translation used. And this seems to me to analysis of."And no one in fact was " fall . butneedsin addition.etc. etc. whereas. formof expression thanwhat is.". is not equivalent to." If anyonewas there.. " If anyoneasked for. because it is compatible or had been there.say.or wouldhave seen. But even thisis in of the " all.did not altogetherand hypotheticals astray. Such a categorical as. into. " The table is nextdoor". and as our language is to-day ordinarily forthem. lead him singular categorical sentences. his books he was.thenhe saw. BERLIN: Ramsey's analysis can easily be shown to be unsatisfactory. every.

For to say thatsomething and misleading is a very artificial is occurring hypothetically at sense.and that these are among the characteristicswith which the natural sciences necessarily deal. but mightor would occurif conditions in their turn may or may not be realised. underthe appropriate and not inductively that thereis a table it followsdeductively likethismaybe correct. It may well be that will be. in principle. the gieat historical service of phenomenalism-that formore than two centuriesit has been pressing home the paradoxical consequences of simultaneously holding both that material objects.certaindata. commonsense may mean by the sentence.etc. " must " possess certain characteristics(although no one has been able to identifythem at all clearly)whichcannot. one freefrom cinations. unspecified periods or occurring. Something is all that the phenomenalist requiresas against Locke's insensiblesubstance. wouldhave seen.).together(perhaps)with some sort of about what prediction (and what has been called retrodiction) or being characterised during has been or will be occurring oftimebefore and after theperiodofspeaking. be empirically observed. states: if I am called upon to describe and theircognitive the in whichsuchand suchsentences are appropriate.or else to state conditions ' the assertionof categoricals. Likewise.or else ' sufficentail.e. But to describe 1 And this is. . without doubt.one or other or observer or intangible could see or touchsuchand suchdata. if they exist. itcannotacceptas fully is now. in other words.: forinvisible mean by 'table '." There is whatever in meaning equivalent a tablenextdoor".occurring way of sayingthat it is not. and perhapsthis nextdoor. occurring entail corresponding hypotheticals categoricalssystematically " The table (or disjunctivesets of such)-that the proposition. A observer is next door now " in somesenseentailsthatifeither ofthem B or C.or that something not asserting any sentence or being characterised. etc. specifically and in anycase not ' hypothetically'.' For it is clear that if I am to explainunder I should normallyassert material object what circumstances I can do so only by invoking hypothetical observers sentences.wereto go nextdoor.or has been.or attenuatedversionsof it. or conditions. or has seen. notintermittently statedorimplied. or will see. iently justify halluthat if it is truethata normalobserver (i. unless the contraryis and being characterised butcontinuously. conditions then I cannot fail to make use of hypotheticals.in the ordinary wererealisedwhich all. Consequently. such as ' physical occupants'.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 301 which is occurring or being characterised describe something at the time of speaking. or would see. tables are not what we normally in somecases may be said either to it may be that hypotheticals forthe truthof. sees.

" The permanent possibility of sensation because however modified andrefined. to differences in verbal formare oftenpointers that systematic in meaningwhich it is important not to obscure. as a tentativeway of puttingit. with which I am directlyacquainted. it bothsuggests a kindof permanent grid-like world frameworkand denies it. I submitthat those whichwe seemto be unableto 'reduce' categorical propositions without to otherlogicalforms doingapparentviolenceto normal to-invite us to look for-things usage. was or will be. or ' that I. Johnson's well knownattitudedoes not. differences Hence. a materialobject sentence if the hypothetical (sense datum) sentenceassertsonly what would be. or will occurin the world. or ' here'. Nor do I wishto assertthat hypotheticals and are mutually and categoricalsare never interchangeable of propositions could be distinguished exclusive-as ifthe forms to 'ontological' or Kantian into natural kinds corresponding or 'ultimate groovesin reality'. but applies no less to existential propositions without demonstrativeswhich in the time series. an event or something . But I do suggest categories. it may be asked. For my point is that the hypothetical sense datum sentence cannot be equivalentto. I am pointingat. afterall. while the materialobject sentencesometimes assertswhat occurs.302 I.tend to directattention do not. In the case of objects identify something with some or all of whichwe claim to be acquainted by some this relation-which for want of a kind of direct inspection. rest on such a very grossmisunderstanding. Dr. directingyour attentionto.occurred. or an analysis of. betterword I proposeto call 'pointing'-can literallyoccur: table is herebefore that a particular in declaring me. That is the heart of the case against phenomenalism. Existentialpropositions about materialobjectsassertwhat is.is it that suchcategorical But whatprecisely. and eventsin a way in whichotherkindsof expressions demonThis is felt most clearlyabout expressions containing strativeslike 'this '. since the unhappyterm " fact" senses to be illuminating has been used in too many different in this connextion. Stouthad every reasonto be suspicious of the descriptionof the material world in such " dubious terms as. a particulardoubt is now tormentingme. BERLIN: conditions in whichalone I should be inclinedto enunciatea sentence is certainlynot equivalent to giving its meaning.a particular sound is now growinglouder. existentialsentences do that hypotheticalones fail to do ? I wish to avoid sayingthat the former describethe Certainly facts whilethe latterdo not. and notwhatmight be.

or the shape of the earth.g. wall or surface whichmakesthis act unhelpful. in some senseverifying indicatemethods them. betweenbeing able and or causal.entities. 1I owethispointto Dr. as opposed to absent. Waismann. not here. for it is. catewhichpurports goricalsentence.or the limitations of my sensesor imagination. " The table is next door ". or point at. "The cupboardhas a woodenback whichyou cannotsee ". But if I say.e. whether the difference syntacticalor semantic. In saying" Thereis a to refer to the table table next door". thwarted by that and not by something incurablyhypothetical. to be true.recognised by my audience. If thewall the relevantdifference becomestransparent betweenthe table of me. of course. a thing or event.in front forthe only relevantdifference betweenthe two types of case is that I was originally in a betterpositionin space (or time) of me. for whereasthe difference betweencategoricals and hypotheticalsis one of logical form. or the date of my birth. And as it seemsto have this is perhapswhat lends such plausibility me hypotheticals to the phenomenalist procedureof offering and to intended both to describe unobservedcharacteristics of observing. Theremay be important to describethe table in front semantic differences. not present. The kind of communication which a demonstrative.in the literal sense be said to be acquainted with.'but thereis no logical difference betweendividingsentenceswhichdescribethingsin my fieldof vision from those whichdescribethingsbeyondthe horizon. " Napoleon wore a three corneredhat ".seeksto perform in respectofunobserved objectsand events. But this will not do. in learningthe use of symbolsfor present. I cannot. F. may failto achieveits object in at least one of two ways: the entitymay not exist or in termsof whichit is denoted. as it were. not being able to observea given object is empirical I cannotpointto the table next door. in the ordinary sense of the words.not before me. for whateverreason. "Napoleon felt a twinge of remorsebeforethe battle".EMPIRICAL P-ROPOSITIONS 303 a thing. but only by such empirical circumstances as physicalwalls. . not withinmy ken. e. and the further table nextdoordisappears. here. my effort to communicate is thwarted.or at a pointbeneathits because it is invisible: thereis the intervening surface.in mysensefield. or possess the characteristics the failuremay be due to some defectin my technique-if the relevantentityis not. i.trying " through the wall " or to the back or insideofthe table as ifit werenot concealedbut before me. non-existential about the sentenceitself. I am.

if onlybecause I was borntoo late. therewould have been no war it will not be foundin theinannalsoftheactualworld. or " Hitler but in themselves do not hypotheticals 'point' . I shall take my umbrella".or have suchand suchcharacteristics.and who everwas so called wore a three-cornered hat.or verified. and the reason for this is that the hypotheticals in exchangefor categoricals do not.) Hypothetical do. " If it rains. nor ventory that I a. theywould lose theirconditional. therefore The fact that they are in some sense capable of being directly or their existence supportedby sense observed. ostensive sentenceswhich do in some sense 'point '-words like " rain". I am inviting to Napoleon or to physicalor mental to directyour attention and there is a non-descriptive and existential eventsin hishistory forcein my use of the relevantwords-and in particularof propernames-because I suggestor believe or knowthat such events have happened-that they are part of the collection of what was and is and will be.an inclination in a literalsense. BERLIN: Let me give an example: when I say that Napoleon wore a three-cornered hat. (Onlyphilosophers I ofhypothetical ' referends fororinventing searching ontological sentences propositions.invite anyone (except it seems. and this an empirical is ultimately obstaclelike thewall of a roomorthe you natureof lightor the structure of my brain. amongotherthings. even misleadingly to look for any "thing " or event in the some philosophers) time series. or "If Hitler had not wanted it.like other involvethe use of wordswhich. because I cannotpoint the hand. Certain types of categorical in thisway directattention and eventswhich sentences to things are taken to exist whether or not they are observed. asserting . Propernames are not usuallymeredefinite descriptions. may be part of the meaningof such concepts as " thing" or " event". or that on the eveningbefore the battleof he had a twinge this Borodino of remorse.to have empirical expressions. a substitute fora wave of ofthe head.or had a twinge of remorse. datum evidence.304 I. force. whichI am being offered and fatally. in the historical ofevents. but it is not what is assertedwhen I say thattheyoccurhereor now. of course. otherwise theywouldcease to be non-actual-facthypothetical. My use of the word " Napoleon" is. I do notmean (though is not strictly relevantto the argument) that one man and one man onlywas called Napoleon. etc. or " umbrella ". be capable of occurring must themselves in true any meaning.mbeinginvitedto look for am I underany impression have goneto the length of any such entity. Whateveris being asserted by.

etc. (there being nothing with whichto contrast them) would not signify anythingat all. Of courseI do not wish to blur the usefuldistinction between is thatall hypotheticals and categoricals.that seemsat first categorical enough. want to say. their meaning is madeclearer. as the former can. kindsof ways in whichsentences mean. turnout to be so on further analysis: forexample.e.or between characteristics as applied to material hypothetical and categorical statements 20 . bythesubstitution of hypotheticals) because languageis flexible and the frontiers shifting and vague. At this point the criticmay say: " But this is a sheertravestyof my position. Russell's basic propositions. Carnap'sprotocol sentences. Indeed. But thisis not so. i. words are to mean anything. that is the whole point of exposingthe the dispositionalcharacterof expressionswhich prima facie appear non-dispositional. Ayerdid sayto mein discussion). and say thatthe lattercannotbe describedby hypotheticals. and these are what they are by contrastwith the only true ultimate. such words as " dispositional ".e. As for between yourdistinction and dispositional non-dispositional of materialobjects. it cannot followthat the distinction does not exist at all. I shouldnot dream of maintaining that verbal or grammatical formis an infallible guide to logicalform. And this is not what phenomenalists or defenders if their own of the theoryof logical constructions. but of course'heavy ' means'if weighed according to a recognised technique.therefore. orcertain errors areprevented. But thisargument establishes lessthanit appearsto do. J.to need translation into hypotheticals to make themclear: fromwhichit follows that the categorical form of statement by itselfgives no sortofindication of how sentences mean ". something likethis: " You restyourcase on thegenerally feltdistinctiont between whatis dispositional and what is non-dispositional in the material world.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 305 At this point a criticmightsay (as Professor A.' and ' six feetlong' refers to thepossible application ofa ruler and so forth: theseapparently categorical statements turnout. What I am asserting be translated descriptive into sense statements can in principle datum language: all materialobject statements will be transposed into hypothetical statements about sensedata.g. In the first place. irreducible those describing someone'sactual sense categoricals. experiences: e.But because some or many categoricals are in this sense concealedhypotheticals (i. manyexpressions whichdo not seemdispositional at first. without doingviolenceto normal usage. ifwe say that the table is heavy and six feetlong. that the frontiers are invisible-forif that were " and " hypothetical so. theinstrument willrecord etc.

hypotheses or theories.e. but even if we do not pressforcash in the formof basic sentencesagainst phenomenalist cheques (as being unfairand against the spiritof the conventions in use oflanguage)the argument stillremains fallacious.306 I. in producingthe sense datum equivalentsof even plain categoricalmaterialobject statements. and the British Constitution and thenational'character. their claim to produce two or morestoreys ofsuch-simple hypotheticals and overthese rows of complex ones-hypotheticals about hypotheticalsseems somewhatunreal. are in the end. strong. irrespective of whetheror not instances of the concepts.the sense datumlanguageis perfectly wellable to reproduce it in its ownterminology: material categorical objectstatementswill be translatedinto hypotheticals about sense data. to say thatit is fragile is to say something aboutthedisofdispositions positions ofthesesameobservers. thisposition seemsalmost too academicin character: if phenomenalists finddifficulty. and possiblyvectorsand non-Euclidean spaces and numbers too. And this is precisely what common sensefinds so repugnant. with materialobjects and perhaps theirmore obvious causal properties on the floors immediately above the " basic" groundfloor(or should it be basement?) and the upper levels occupied by positrons. involvedin factoccur.but the wholepyramid ofthemonlyhas descriptive force iftheyare about-if their ultimatesubject is-the actual data of actual observers about which all material object sentences.whethercategorical or hypothetical.as wellas theZeitgeist. super-egos.thedistinction is one ofdegreeofcomplexity ofhypotheticals. We have returnedto the manytieredlogical constructions. by contrastwith which alone hypotheticals are what they are. These are basic. All else is theoryand speculation about their behaviour and incidence. are statements about immediate " knock-down " verification. For what else is therein the worldbut what people see and hear and imagine and do and suffer ?" We are thereat last: this reallyis what phenomenalism boils down to: that the only irreducibly categoricalpropositions. nerve impulses.In a sense. BERLIN: objects. hypotheticals aboutmaterial objectswillbe rendered byhypotheticals about hypotheticals: thus to say that a given table looks brownis to say something about the dispositions of certainobservers. For what this view comesto is that materialobject sentences-including existential ones-are so manygeneral propositions or hypotheses or theoriesabout the behaviour of sense data. experience. whereassuch a sentence as. capableofdirect. For a general proposition or theory may be interpreted purelyintensionallyi. in fact. " The table .

Now it is notoriously impossibledirectlyto verify mustentailat least unfulfilled conditionals: but all conditionals in thisrespect one suchunfulfilled and consequently conditional.not literally true.let us say.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 307 1This is..namely. i. etc. of course. singular (empirical) existentialcategoricalsnormallycommit which in principlecan be directly the speaker to something verified. cannotbe equivalent to statements asserting onlywhatis directly verifiable on by an act of observation. and is useful becauseit contrasts precisely that which sensuous interests thesespecialists-purely qualities-withmaterial ofordinary life. the existence or or other which the nexus connects. whichconcern applicable to thataspectofthings physiologists or oculists or impressionist painters.since theoriespresuppose the of theorists existence withall that theyneed by the way of a universe in order to fixthe 'grammar'oftheir words. objects-things-thefurniture next door is brown" is existential and as such has extensional is occurring and assertsthat something in a sense in import. One can bringout this point mostsharply(at the cost of some exaggeration) by asserting baldlythat all theories. whereas that are true is not some existentialmaterial object propositions that nothingexists at all. but thisis not partofwhat noris it logically the theories themselves assert.2 . may be iftheprotases areunfulfilled. hypotheses. occurrenceof something this task. if such generalpropositions are taken extensionally as well as intensionally. unsensedsensa or sensibilia mustbe then. entailed by them.e.to perform introduced: and these are rightlyas much taboo to phenomenalistsas Lockean substancesor physicaloccupants.and a good deal odder in character.commit about existential (pointing) property materialobject categorical propositions. The point is that existential material object propositionsdirectly assert that something or hypotheses do not directly existsin a sensein whichtheories assertthis. whichgeneralor hypothetical propositions properdo not normallyassertanything of this sort. existat all. for trueand yetnothing the proposition the apodoseshave no application. generaland hypothetical propositions. if general propositions about sense data are to be understoodto assert morethan a merelogical or causal nexus betweenthe possible experiencesof possible observers. Existentialcategoricals us becausethere is normally an ostensive the otherhand. 2 It may be worth addingthat such demonstratives as " thereis " or "this is " are seldomemployed to refer to " sense data "-for that is a termwhichis rarely of use in ordinary and is moreproperly experience.' compatiblewith the proposition What this over-simple paradox servesto bringout is that the essence of hypothetical or conditionalsentencesis to be in a peculiarway non-commital-inthe sense in which.

behind the tableis before about the present true. BERLIN: The-same point may be broughtout in yet another way.or walk in and out of my from opaque to transparent orthewallsofmystudychange study. i. may not perceivedto this semi-metaphorical may wish be quitelegitimate. does it whollyconsistof a clusterof hypotheticals and neither with the noncompatible(if theirantecedentsare unfulfilled) existenceof any experienceswhatever. " There of my eyes: the meaning ofthe sentence. It is herethatthe phenomenalist .e. and then it cannot whether of principle. dispositional.someuneasinessmay be feltabout the attribution to our language of a capacity to 'point to ' objects in frompointingto objects directly absence-as if the transition sense of pointing.go on to say that amongthe propositions some plainlyhypoassertof it. presence I am said to be acquaintedwithactual seendata. ever is hypothetically (disequallyhypothetical is doubtless table (or its visibleportion) about the one next door (or its visibleportion): but positional) about the is categorical whateveris categoricalabout the first other-absent one-too. But this is surelynot the case: woodentable in thisroom.of propositions to take in orderto verify course. Perhaps we now see fromwhichthese odd consequences more clearlythe confusion of the meaning of whatwe are spring: namelythe confounding conditions underwhichwe feelinclined sayingwiththe varying to say it. does not swingforwards backwards from partially categoricalto wholly hypothetical as I move aroundit. is at least partiallyanalysableinto irreducibly and my sentence categorical(" basic ") propositions: if it is absent.it is wholly analysableinto hypotheticals. some are obviouslycategorical. If it is present. a difference make a logical difference. if I say that thereis a brown. analysis.I can. sentencesdescribing to the phenomenalist According in logical type accordingto the material objects will differ (to my senses)or the absenceof the objectin question.308 I. The actual steps whichI am obliged about a giventable will. varywithcircumstances:ifthetable is movedout ofmy me. or saw it in half. whichI can if I like. III At thispoint. thetical: some perhaps of neitherkind. or someoneblindfolds of the sentence done had this not happened. i. a wall: whatorhidden mein theroom. but the meaning does not alterwiththe movements ofthe table or whichI utter. I cannotdo what I could have ken.e. the condition and is a browntable in my study".

this kind of objection to the possibility CC . perhapsaltogether non-empirical?Andthis mayat first unnerve the strictempiricist. to contravene the rule of the definability of ostensively all empirical terms ? Arewe notintroducing notmet something withface to face. dependon the existence ofan equally" basic " use for" nothere". he promises to describe the worldsolelyin terms ofthe so called data ofimmediate acquaintance. now "'. The meaning of such " basic " wordsas " here". He undertakes.including the use ofconditional participles like " if" and " provided that ".is demonstrably impossible. cannot " without be " constructed circularity out ofsensefields occurring in " speciouspresents". ending literallyin nonsense. etc. c notnow ".e. I becomeunableto refer to thepast or the future or to theexperiences ofothers to explain" here" and " now" and " observed by me ". It is onething to admitthatwhatever in one's descriptive languageis notgoverned by syntactical rulesmustbe capableofostensive elucidation:and a very one to saythatI maynotrefer different unlessI to anything can establish themeaning ofthevariables in terms ofmylanguage ofwhatI am actuallyexperiencing hereand now. but without suchnotions classification.in the ordinary sense. or " beyondthe horizon ".forone of the mosttempting advantages which his theoryappears to offer is that by substituting logicalconstructions forinferred entities. unobserved. in effect. ifI adopt the latterprinciple. and consequently not directly descriptive. to describeeverythingby means of logical or linguistic rulesfor rules. directattention to something-the table-real enough. outsidethe fieldof directacquaintance-is thisnotto go beyond and againsttheprinciple ofnotimporting unfamiliar and dubious entities. " not observed mustin any case be introduced intolanguageseekingto describe theworldsooner orlater.not directly verifiable. indeed. For the notionof " nothere". and howthisis accomplished is a psychologicalrather thanan epistemological question. And to speak of the ostensivefunction of a sentencewhich purportsto point towards. Hence.. " observed ".but his anxietieswill ". can be established. and so on-that way liesthekindofverification theory of meaningwhichhas morethanoncebeen shown to lead to an extravagantly solipsistanalysis of the meaningsof words. something i. Thereis no need to go on withthisline of argument-suchcomparatively primitive notionsas " not now ".EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 309 to play one of his strongest cards. and therefore language. and otherwise confine himself solelyto whatwe can directly and literally point to in our everyday experience. be groundless. but not here and not now. " not observed " in contrastwith which alone the meanings of " here" "now".

in exactly the same sense of 'exists' as what is-does exist-here.his physiologicaland psychologicalcondition. etc. certainly propositions stating causesor conditions ofthe eventswhich they describe. I am not asserting. dark or lightbrown.corroborated by observational and notlinguistic tests: and to say. " But how can we say anythingabout the table sentencesdescribingwhat an obapart fromthe hypothetical server wouldsee ifhe walkedroundit.e. empirical.all wordswould lose theirfunction of discrimirating and classifying. which rules out all possibility of descriptive symbolism.his physical position. I am sayingthatthe eventdescribed as thehearing ofa soundemitted by a gramophone dependson certainnecessary conditions. and need notInecessarilybe implying.310 I.or to an audiencewhichis stonedeaf ? How does the view advanced here differ fromthe most untenably of naive realism? " This rejoinder naive of all forms restson a serious and important confusion which mayin part be responsible forthe desperate that onlyphenomenalism feeling can somehow. IV Thereare twofinal pointsto be made. be true. ? Is the table round or oval. The theoriesadvanced by physiologists. in the end. Surely the argumentfromillusion.and not semanticor logical proposition. i. datum school of philosophy.for example. For what exists but is not here. in has made it clear beyond any doubt that these properties some sense depend on the observer. that of a particular the occurrence kindofheareris to asserta causal. lightor heavy ? Surelythe sense if it has establishednothingelse. (1) Supposing someone were to ask.therefore. BERLIN: in principleof pointingto objects in absence cannot be considered seriously. etc. Theremay verywell in particular cases exista causal . for it rests on the assumption(ultimately perhapstraceableto Aristotle'sdoctrineof actual v. cannot be dismissedas showingnothingat all because of logical considerations of how are used ? Does thegramophone different typesofsentences play tunesin a desert. say about the indispensability of the mechanism of the ear to the hearingof sounds are empiricaltheories.the physical properties ofthe needleattachedto the soundbox ofthe gramophone. let us say. exists and is not here. But when I analyse propositions about the meaningof sentences. and amongstthesethe structure ofthehearer's brainor ear occursin the same sortofway as. potential being)that what is not here does not existin the same sense of ' exist' as that which is here. Withoutthis.

2 WhenI say that a material objectexistsor has certain characteristics. it mustbe not wholly invisible. intangible to him.we are not implying anyparticular beliefs about thepresence or dispositional characteristics of the normalhuman observer. But thiscausal nexusis precisely whatthephenomenalist.1 claimsnotto be discussing whenhe offers a reduction of categoricalmaterial object sentencesto hypothetical sense datumsentences-ifhe were. and oftenvery deeply affected.the table next dooris colouredbrown need not in principleever affect the answer to the question.etc. Hence. whereby the observer who figures in the protasisof the phenomenalist hypothetical could destroy a table by avertinghis gaze as surelyas by settingit on fire. 'There is a browntable next door' ? " This. of course. while This is one ofthe notorious absurdities of whichBerkeley is at times and on which beginners in philosophy are often taughtto practise guilty.and it seems clearly eccentric to say that heard melodies are sweet. " What do I mean when I say.. Soc.the question of when. a change in which couldaffect themeaning ofwords. his theory wouldamountto a queer kindofoccasionalism. It seemsa littleless obvious that I can to-daysaythatit is coloured whennotobserved. committing myself necessarily to any specific theory about thenecessary or sufficient conditions of the existenceor character ofthe object.enter intothewayin which we employ material objectwordswillvarywidely: thus. theircritical powers. it is the task of the naturalsciences to investigate.it seems to me reasonably clearthatwhenwe saythatthereis a tablenext door. . 2 1 For example. The degreeto which the dispositional characteristics ofobservers. Proc.EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS 311 nexus betweenthe personof the observer and a given material object-what this nexus is. it seemsto me. by our explicitor implicitcausal beliefs. treatedas personsin timeand space. Professor A. J. etc.1947.and the analysis of what is meantby an expression mayverywellrevealall kindsofphysical or social or psychological beliefsor assumptions in a prevalent givensociety.-since otherwise it wouldnot be whatwe meanby a material object.needs qualification: the meanings of words are affected. metaphysical or empirical. It seemsverymuch less clearthatI can say thatrosessmellsweetwhenno one smells them. brown forperhapsby nowrudimentary is suffiphysiological knowledge cientlywidespreadto have imported into the notion of being coloured certaincausal beliefsabout the effects in the visual fieldofchanges in ournervoussystem. according to his viewof connections in nature. beyondthe factthat if it is a table at all. Ayerin Arist.or forhow long.or that windshowlwhenno one hearsthem.I am not.

. I return to my originalpointthat phenomenalism. or at any rate the most prevalentmodernformof it.physiological.or were. some of whichdo. or identicalwith.the truth (if not the assertion) ofwhichis logically compatible withthe non-existence of anything whatever. yetthemeaning of the former is notthe same as the meaning ofthelatter. that the two typesof proposition entailone another.312 I. " smellsweet".and it alone.as some do. that the best known variants of modern phenomenalism seek to establish and. implythe presenceof persons with certain psychological. yet it is this last senseof " meaningthe same ' as betweenthe analysansand the analysandum. seems to rest on a mistakenanalysis of what normal existentialmaterial object statements state. seekin vain.are. it is clearlynotthe same as the sense of identity of meaningin whichtwo or moredescriptive sentencescan be said by commonsense to mean the same. And all this is doubtless useful in throwing lighton our normal usage withregardto such wordsas. OxfordUniversity . I am merely numberof material object sentencesdo not presupposesuch of this dependenceon the existenceor behaviourof observers to materialobjects is more kind.etc. or " sweetmelodies ". sincewhatstrictly ever be the sense in which mutual entailmentis regardedas tantamount to. or will be.or exist. and that consequently said to occur withoutexplicitand in principlebe significantly is a major fallacywhichrestson reference to observers implicit betweenthe causal propositions failureto distinguish of natural scienceor commonsense and propositions about meaning.or will exist. and not that something might exist or would exist.that the relationof observers and not a semanticquestion. characterised by this or that characteristic.logicalequivalence(as it is by somelogicians). or would have existed. BERLIN: EMPIRICAL PROPOSITIONS those unheardare literallysweeter. And this is so. they state that thingsor events existed. if the above thesisis correct. to be called an empirical properly however deeplyverbalusage and empirical beliefs may be interthe view that nothingcan connected. attributesas concerned to showthata quite sufficient observers. Even if hypothetical propositions alone describethe conditions withoutwhichwe should not assert or be justified in asserting therelevant categoricals. or " howl". whileothersdo not. even if we go further and hold.

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