P.F.Strawson  INDIVIDUALS  pp.103-116


Part I  3. PERSONS

[5] The logical character of a fundamental class of Personal predicates.


Paragraph 1  The logical primitiveness of the concept of a person

  When one ascribes onefs own states of consciousness, or experiences, to anything, one also ascribes, or is ready and can ascribe, states of consciousness, or experiences, to other individual entities of the same logical type as that thing to which one ascribes onefs own states of consciousness.

  Two kinds of predicates are applied to the individuals concerned. The first kind of predicate consists of those which are also properly applied to material bodies. Strawson calls this first kind M-predicates. They include things like gweighs 10 stoneh, gis in the drawing-roomh and so on. The second kind consists of all the other predicates we apply to persons. He calls these P-predicates. They include things like gis smilingh, gis going for a walkh, as well as gis in painh, gis thinking hardh, gbelieves in Godh and so on.


Paragraph 2  The concept of a person is the concept of a type of entity that both predicates ascribing states of consciousness and predicates ascribing corporeal characteristics, a physical situation etc. are equally applicable to an individual entity of that type. The concept is primitive only in the meaning that we cannot think of it as a secondary kind of entity in relation to two primary kinds, namely, a particular consciousness and a particular human body.


Paragraph 3  P-predicates in general

  P-predicates imply the possession of consciousness on the part of that to which they are ascribed.


Paragraph 4  The character of P-predicates

  As regards identifiable individuals of a special type, namely, such that they possess both M-predicates and P-predicates, there is in principle some way of telling, with regard to any individual of that type, and any P-predicates, whether that individual possesses that P-predicate. And, when one ascribes states of consciousness to oneself, or at all, the ascriber already knows how to ascribe at least some states of consciousness to others.


Paragraph 5  Strawson claims that the conclusion of paragraph 4 follows from a consideration of the conditions necessary for any ascription of states of consciousness to anything.


Paragraph 6  But, there remain many cases in which one has an entirely adequate basis for ascribing a P-predicates to oneself, and yet in which this basis is quite distinct from those on which one ascribes the predicate to another. For example, one says, reporting a present state of mind or feeling, gI feel tired, I am depressed, I am in painh.


Paragraph 7  The essential character of P-predicates

  P-predicates have both first- and third-person ascriptive uses. They are both self-ascribable otherwise than on the basis of observation of the behavior of the subject of them, and other-ascribable on the basis of behavior criteria.


Paragraph 8  The concept of depression

  Xfs depression is something, one and the same thing, which is felt, but not observed, by X, and observed, but not felt, by others than X.


Paragraph 9  When we take the self-ascriptive aspect of the use of some P-predicates, say gdepressedh, as primary, then a logical gap seems to open between the criteria on the strength of which we say that another is depressed, and actual state of being depressed. If the logical gap exists, then depressed behavior, however much there is of it, is no more than a sign of depression.


Paragraph 10  When we take the other-ascriptive uses of these predicates as primary or self-sufficient, we have forgot the self- ascriptive use of these predicates, and forgot that we have to do with a class of predicates to the meaning of which it is essential that they should be both self-ascribable and other-ascribable to the same individual.


Paragraph 11  The language in which we ascribe P-predicates

  The criteria on the strength of which we ascribe P-predicates to others give not all the ascriptive meaning of these predicates. If so, we forget that they are P-predicates, forget the rest of the language-structure to which they belong.


[6] The central importance of predicates ascribing actions. The idea of a ggroup mindh.


Paragraph 1  Our perplexities

  gHow are P-predicates possible?h or gHow is the concept of a person possible?h This is the question by which Strawson replaces those two earlier questions, namely, gWhy are states of consciousness ascribed at all, ascribed to anything?h and gWhy are they ascribed to the very same thing as certain corporeal characteristics?h


Paragraph 2  A certain class of P-predicates imply intention or a state of mind or at least consciousness in general, and indicate a characteristic pattern, or range of patterns, of bodily movement, while they donft indicate at all precisely any very definite sensation or experience. Strawson means such things as ggoing for a walkh, gcoiling a ropeh, gplaying ballh, gwriting a letterh. We can know about them without observation or inference.


Paragraph 3  What Strawson suggests

  If we think first of the fact that we act, and act on each other, and act in accordance with a common human nature, it is easier to understand how we can see each other, and ourselves, as persons.


Paragraph 4  The idea of a special kind of social world in which the concept of an individual person is replaced by that of a group

  For example, Strawson thinks of two groups of human beings engaged in some competitive, but corporate activity, such as battle. While absorbed in such activity, the members of the groups make no reference to individual persons at all. They do, however, refer to the groups. They may in fact use in such circumstances the plural forms gweh and gtheyh, but they are plurals without a singular.


Paragraph 5  A condition for the existence of the concept of an individual person

  It sometimes happens, with groups of human beings, that their members think, feel and act gas oneh.


Paragraph 6  In the one case we think of a particular member as the spokesman of the group. In the other case we think of him as its mouth, that is, think of the group as a single scattered body. As soon as we adopt the latter way of thinking, then we abandon the former.


[7] Disembodiment


  We think onefs disembodiment strictly, in order to retain his idea of himself as an individual, he must always think of himself as disembodied, as a former person. He must live in the memories of the past personal life he did lead. As the memories fade, his concept of himself as an individual becomes attenuated.