Stuart Hampshire succeeded A. J. Ayer as the Grote Professor of Mind and Logic at University College, London in 1960. There he was to influence Ted Honderich to begin a lifelong interest in the subject of determinism and freedom. Honderich, himself later Grote Professor, says of his struggles with Hampshire's book Thought and Action, "It attached me to the general subject of determinism and freedom. My future would be concerned with settling or upstaging the dispute as to whether determinism was consistent or inconsistent with freedom." (Philosopher: A Kind of Life, 2002, p.106)
Hampshire was a student of Spinoza, interested in the principles of necessity and determinism in nature so strong in Spinoza's thinking, but also in the "freedom of mind" in Spinoza's Ethics. In his books Thought and Action and Freedom of the Individual, Hampshire inquired into the power of thought to escape the fate of the material brain.
One may say that the sense of freedom that men undoubtedly have is to be identified with their power of reflection and with the self-modifying power of thought. The intuition that when we are thinking of ourselves as thinking beings, we are excluding deterministic explanations of our performances, can be justified, so far at least. The conclusion is near to Spinoza's. The relation between thought and the physico-chemical mechanisms of the body and brain is still left unclear.
In Thought and Action, Hampshire developed Spinoza's ideas of "reflection" about past actions and thoughts of the future. He sharply distinguished knowledge of the future from knowledge about the past and present. He further distinguished knowledge about oneself from knowledge about the natural world, which depends upon observations, evidence, and natural laws. These are very familiar distinctions of course, between an open ambiguous future and a closed fixed past on the one hand, and on the other between an internal subjective mind and an objective external world. Compare Hampshire's contemporary Peter Strawson's subjective participant and objective observer viewpoints. Only the former justifies his "reactive attitudes" and moral sentiments.
A common pattern emerges in the theory of knowledge, common both to the theory of perception and to epistemological problems in the philosophy of mind; that we have to distinguish the first-person knowledge that a person may have of his own actions and attitudes from knowledge by observation, and that we check the deliverances of the internal source against the external senses and vice versa. Philosophers who claim incorrigibility and final authority for the internal source are no less in error than the behaviourists, who claim that only the evidences available to any observer yield genuine knowledge about actions and mental attitudes.Knowledge about "what one is doing now" might be understandable and explained by a clever observer familiar with one's character. But knowledge about one "what one is going to do in the future" involves ones "intentions." Hampshire says it deserves the title of knowledge no less than the kind of knowledge of the past. Hampshire proposes an account of freedom that arises at the intersection and collisions of these kinds of knowledge.
The account of freedom that is suggested cannot be convincing if the distinction between the two kinds of knowledge is not first made convincing; the reader must first be persuaded that different types of claim to knowledge can legitimately be placed under these two headings, and that there is a distinct kind of knowledge which a person normally has of her own conduct and intentions, and also of her own sentiments and attitudes, distinct in its sources and in the manner in which the claims to knowledge are properly defended, when challenged.
Hampshire criticizes the logical empiricist philosophers, who only analyze propositions about the external world. They neglect "subjunctive conditionals," statements about "what would have happened if...which are not testable in experience." Hampshire clearly sees that our thoughts generate alternative possibilities for our actions. Moreover, reflecting after the fact shows that we could have done otherwise.
I argued that propositions of this form are indispensable in practical reasoning, when a man considers what would be the effects of various courses of action open to him, and also what he would do under various different circumstances. The possibilities that he considers as he deliberates, looking to the future, also may be reviewed in retrospect, when he considers what would have been the case if he had decided differently. The power to consider possibilities of action long in advance of the particular occasion, and the power to assess decisions retrospectively, are among the most conspicuous of all the distinguishable powers that come from the possession of a language. Yet the irreducibly singular proposition of conditional form, referring to a particular occasion, was usually dismissed from the text-books of modern logic, as by W. V. Quine in Methods of Logic, except in so far as the singular proposition was intended to be the instantiation of a general proposition and therefore to be testable in experience.
Hampshire briefly recognized the importance of quantum uncertainty in limiting physical determinism:
For instance, it is possible that the uncertainty, which is a principle in physical theory, will have further and now unexpected applications within the theories that give an acceptable representation of some human performances, or of biological systems generally. If this were to happen, then the word 'deterministic', used in this discussion, will be out of place.
A reflection on Stuart Hampshire's Thought and Action
Our THOUGHTS Are FREE
Excerpts from Thought and Action
In his 1982 Postscript to Thought and Action, Hampshire describes his interest in "freedom of mind." (pp.285-288)
In this context freedom as a moral value is to be understood, in the manner of Spinoza, as a person's limited autonomy and limited power of self-direction. A person is more free, in the desired sense, in proportion as his intentions are a reliable guide to his actions in the present and the future. Freedom as a moral value is here represented as arising directly from the kind of self-knowledge that enables a person to match his actions to his thoughts and intentions, and not to be deceived about what he is doing and about what his objectives are. This is the kind of freedom, called 'freedom of mind', that is described in Part V of Spinoza's Ethics, according to which a man becomes more free in proportion as his emotions, desires and actions are genuinely the outcome of his own active thinking and reflection, and are not to be explained as immediate responses to external stimuli. Freedom of mind, so conceived, has a long history as a moral value outside the Christian tradition and going back to Epicureans and Stoics. But there is a largely new context for it when the metaphysical problem of free-will versus determinism is sharpened by progress in the physical sciences; Spinoza was a determinist, but he argued that the laws of thought are entirely different from the laws of motion governing physical things. The metaphysical doctrine that reality reveals itself to us in these two distinct but inseparable orders enabled him to give a sense to freedom of mind while asserting an unqualified determinism: or so he claimed. The more restricted aim of my argument, without the metaphysical doctrine, was that the two orders of explanation, the explanation of thoughts and intentions and the explanation of observed objects and motions, at least provided a way of understanding the tension in the free-will controversy. We naturally shift back and forth, as we view our own actions and also those of others, and we may need to explain the same tract of the same person's behaviour, as described first under one type of description and then as described under the other type of description; and evidently the subject who does the explaining will on occasion be the person whose actions are explained. The complexities of explanation under specific descriptions, and the problems of identity involved, have been closely examined by philosophers since Thought and Action was written. Some have argued that descriptions of actions and of activity in terms of governing intentions are indeterministic; by contrast descriptions of a man's activity in physical terms are deterministic, that is, they pick out and distinguish activities in such a way that they can be correlated as distinct causes, and distinct effects, with other observable physical states and processes within the ordinary pattern of natural laws. The explanations of thought are said to be indeterministic just because they cannot be fitted into the ordinary scientific pattern, and for a number of sufficient reasons, as I believe*. But in writing Thought and Action I was arguing for the mutual dependence, as well as for the distinction, of the two orders of explanation, because this two-way dependence helps to explain the unanalysed sentiment, or intuitive belief, often reported as the belief that the will is free; this intuitive belief is sometimes combined in the same person with the belief that his movements, described in physical terms, must be supposed to be determined in accordance with the laws of physics. The argument from the two-way dependence, simplified, is as follows: every addition to a person's knowledge of the causes determining his actions and reactions is an addition to his knowledge of what he can and cannot do, and of what means are available to him to satisfy his desires and to realise his intentions. Secondly, the intentions that he forms are genuine intentions, as opposed to mere wishes, only in so far as he takes account of what is possible, as far as his knowledge goes. Therefore additions to his knowledge of causes determining his own actions require further decisions from him and a review of his intentions. The fact that a person as agent steps back, as it were, from his situation and applies his causal knowledge in forming his intentions gives him the sense of freedom. He always has a decision to make, a set of intentions to form, no matter what the causes determining his desires and sentiments may be. When he learns more about the determining causes, he adds these causes to the elements already known in the situation that confronts him. I think the intuitive belief in free-will, so often reported, is in most cases no more than this sense of reflective agency, and no more than the recognition that evidence of causal determinants of human actions and reactions is not evidence of human helplessness. In summary, there are in this book two grounds given for regarding the traditional free-will problem as less confusing: first, that thoughts and intentions are not to be explained deterministically and by the methods of the natural sciences; secondly, that a person as self-conscious agent always has decisions to make, and intentions to form, whatever discoveries are made in the natural sciences, discoveries that explain his actions and reactions under appropriate descriptions; appropriate, that is, to orthodox causal explanations. But these two points still leave the traditional argument unclear: are human beings to be regarded as 'islands within nature', not entirely subject to the natural laws that apply to all other known species? Or is Spinoza's denial that persons are islands in nature made acceptable by some elaboration of the two points above? The book stops short of answering these questions.
Excerpts from Freedom of the Individual
In the first chapter of Freedom of the Individual - "Two Kinds of Possibility," Hampshire engaged J. L. Austin's arguments abut "Ifs and Cans," and distinguished two kinds of knowledge, the knowledge we have of natural events, and the possible knowledge we can acquire about human actions. (pp.23-52)
To summarise: The existence or non-existence of the power to do a specific thing at a particular moment can be conclusively established by actual performance in the normal conditions presupposed, but, subject to the condition that an attempt that fails establishes lack of power, only if the subject really at that time wanted to perform the action in question and was not diverted by some stronger interest. One needs to know the aims of a person in order to be sure that his not doing something is a case of his being unable to do it. The ultimate test of my ability to do something at a particular moment is 'experiment,' in the sense of my seriously trying, with a will to succeed. I am not arguing that there is anything easy and unproblematic about the distinction between lack of the will to do something and lack of the power to do it, as this distinction is applied in particular cases, and especially in the context of moral -argument, of censure, regret, and the assessment of responsibility. On the contrary, it is notoriously difficult, even if one is untroubled by theoretical doubts, to apply in particular cases the ordinary distinction between failures to do something, which are cases of lack of will to do it, and failures that justify saying, 'I cannot do it,' or 'He cannot do it.' It is easy enough to say that failure, when we make the attempt with a strong desire to succeed, shows that we could not at that moment do it. If I certainly wanted to do the thing in question very much, and if I made the attempt and failed, this would in all normal circumstances establish beyond reasonable doubt the truth of the categorical statement that I could not do it, that I was unable to do it, at that moment. Perhaps I have in general the capacity to do it, and perhaps I could have done it on that occasion, if such-and-such conditions, within me or in the environment, had been different. But the fact remains that I could not do it, that I was unable to do it, at that moment, where the phrase 'at that moment' is shorthand for 'all the conditions being what they were at that moment.' If lack of will is excluded, lack of power is the only account that can be given of my not doing it, given that I made the attempt. But I may on occasion be deceived about the strength and direction of my own desires and interests, and even more obviously, and often, be deceived about the desires and interests of others. And these errors about dispositions must lead to complementary errors about powers. My not doing it, or my failing to do it, may look like a case of inability, and yet, more closely scrutinised, it may turn out to be a case of not fully wanting to do it, and therefore of not really trying to do it. 'It is not true that he was unable to do it; he did not really want to and the attempt was half-hearted. He could have done it, if he had really wanted to, and wanted enough.' But we would start to talk, and to think, idly, if we made the notion of a power entirely untestable and indeterminate, by pressing the notion of wanting beyond its normal conditions of application. Suggested re-drawings of this line between 'He would not' and 'He could not' have always entered into controversy about conduct. When I would normally say that I did not want to do something, which I could have done, if I had wanted to, how do I know that I have not been deceived by ignorance of the specific conditions on which the ability depends? This is a questioning of the adequacy of the commonplace inductive tests of powers by parallel cases. Presented with a contrary-to fact conditional statement of the kind 'I could have done it at that moment if I had wanted to,' it is often not unreasonable to doubt whether the apparently parallel cases really are relevantly parallel. More exact, systematic, and controlled experiment might reveal an unsuspected condition on which the ability depends. Alternatively, the revision can be made in the opposite direction, as, for example, by Sartre, with the suggestion that many cases of failing to do something, because of an alleged inability, are to be counted as cases of lack of will to do it. When, exhausted on the mountain, I say 'I cannot take another step,' Sartre suggests that I ought rather to say something like 'I prefer to sit down rather than painfully continue to walk.' These proposals for a thorough-going conceptual revision properly have a systematic and metaphysical basis, which I am omitting. But they do make contact at certain points with the apparent incoherencies and complacencies of ordinary usage and belief. Psychologists may persuade us, in the light of new experimental evidence, to question the normal methods of distinction, and may reclassify many apparent cases of lack of ability as 'really' cases of lack of desire. Simultaneously, they revise the criteria attached to `He wanted,' or of 'He really wanted to do so-and-so,' with the suggestion that there are repressed and normally unconscious desires, which are to be discovered and identified only in certain special circumstances. This is one point at which there seems to be genuine difficulty in sustaining the distinction. For can it not be suggested that I am sometimes unable to do something, particularly when the inability is a symptom of neurosis, because of some unconscious desire, where the 'because' marks a causal connection? I made the attempt and I found that I could not do it; but perhaps only because of some conflicting desire, which I didn't know that I had. And does not this causal dependence of the inability on the desire prevent us from classifying the failure as definitely either a case of inability, or as a case of lack of will, if these two are mutually exclusive alternatives? Certainly this kind of case does prevent us from regarding the alternative accounts of failure as in all cases mutually exclusive. There are inabilities at particular moments, which are identified as such by failure in an attempt, that has been made with a conscious will to do the action in question. But often a man's desires may be confused, ambiguous and conflicting, and the confusions of desire may be at the time unrecognised, and unrecognisable, by the agent; then an inability may sometimes co-exist with, and be explained by, an unconscious, or repressed, wish not to do what the agent can also be truly said to have tried to do with a conscious will to succeed. He showed and felt a desire to succeed, which is sufficient to justify the statement that he could not at that moment do what he tried to do; but perhaps it is also true that not all his desires pointed in the same direction; and this fact may explain his powerlessness at that moment. We do often speak of the existence of a will to do, or to achieve, something as a condition of the existence of the ability to do it. And men may commonly hope to extend the apparent limits of their own powers by further appeals to will, or by incitement of the will of others. Once again, it is speech, and the possibilities of incitement, exhortation and appeals to the will, which give a place to a partially indeterminate notion of the will in the explanation of conduct. A man may both explore the limits, and extend the limits, of his powers by questioning his apparent will to succeed. I am certainly not suggesting that the line of distinction between vouloir and pouvoir, between lack of will and lack of power, is clear and immutable in its application to human actions. I am suggesting that 'can do' and 'cannot do' is a different kind of 'can' from that of 'can happen' and 'cannot happen,' when the former is applied to creatures who may know, form, reflect on, and criticise their own occasional desires and aims, and who may, or may not, disclose them to others. The fact that men may authoritatively disclose their desires and aims, and more fundamentally, that they are capable of reflection, and that they may find reasons for wanting to do one thing rather than another, entails the consequence that the existence and nature of these desires and aims are not established solely, or even primarily, by observation of their actual behaviour. We need to know how they think of the actions which they want to perform. Animals complicate the issue, because we do properly attribute desires to them. But their desires and aims, linked with the necessary concomitants of desire, namely, pleasure and pain, are unformulated and are not mediated by thought; so we are prepared, in our unsentimental moments, to establish the nature of their desires solely by reference to their observable behaviour; and perhaps we are even ready to take statements about their wants as equivalent to some set of hypothetical statements about their observable behaviour. But we cannot accurately specify the more sophisticated desires of men without knowledge of their thoughts. Machines have powers attributed to them, and we now often compare their powers with human powers very directly. About a particular machine, at a particular time, we may say that it can now play chess better than a particular man can. My suggestion is that the 'cans' on either side of this comparison are different in important respects. Of the particular machine, it cannot in principle be true that it can now, and at this moment, play better than the man, if, when it is now tested in action under the normal conditions presupposed, it in fact plays worse. Of the machine we may, of course, say that it could play better than the man, or that it could have played better, that it has unrealised potentialities, potentialities which would be realised under different conditions, either inside the machine itself, or outside it. But this is not to make the plain categorical statement that this particular machine can now play better, conditions inside and outside the machine being what they now in fact are. If it can now play better, it will play better, when it is tested under the normally presupposed conditions. Contrast the man: it is in principle possible that he can now play better than the machine, even though, when he is observed in action, he in fact plays worse. He may not want to play better, and therefore he may not try to; perhaps he prefers at this time to leave his ability unused, and prefers not to play as well as he can. This cannot be true of the machine; its powers, or potentialities, are merely that which it would observably do under certain implied or stated conditions. Suppose a machine that is programmed to make a losing move whenever its human opponent makes a foolish, losing move. Of this machine on this occasion, playing against a bad player, we can say 'It cannot win now.' It is certain that it will lose. Sufficient conditions of its defeat already exist in its programming. Contrast a man, a good player, who very much wants to save his opponent humiliation; there is a good sense in which he can win, but it is certain that he won't. We know two categorical statements about him to be true: (1) that he has the power to win, and (2) that he is determined, firmly intends, not to use his power. I am not denying that to a machine may be attributed powers and potentialities to do various things at particular moments, powers that may come and go, as the conditions on which they depend are varied. But to establish the existence of a machine's power to do something at a particular moment, and under the conditions then obtaining, it is both necessary and sufficient to provide the standard and appropriate input, or stimulus, which is required for the realisation of this power, and to wait for the appropriate response in performance. In the case of establishing the existence of a man's power to do something at a particular moment, this is not sufficient. There is one overriding condition that must be known to be satisfied before the equivalent test of performance is accepted as decisive: that the subject wants, or has the will, to pass the test. If this peculiar, internal condition is not known to be satisfied, failure in present performance does not prove inability. J. L. Austin, in his published British Academy Lecture 'Ifs and Cans,' made the point that 'I can do so-and-so now,' and 'I can do so-and-so now, if I want' or 'if I choose,' are categorical statements. I shall not repeat the argument. The important point here is that 'I can do so-and-so now' is the form of words that we typically use when a feat, something involving, or thought to involve, the possibility of failure, is in question. You may predict, or bet, that I cannot escape from a certain position, and I may predict, or bet, that I can; in this setting of a challenge to a feat, where the will to succeed is assumed, 'can' is scarcely distinguishable from 'will succeed, if I make the attempt.' My statement is conclusively verified, and yours conclusively falsified, if I do escape when I make the attempt. If I do not then escape, the contradictory is true. Having failed, I still may argue that I could have escaped, using a form of words that implies I would have been able to escape, if some missing condition had been satisfied: I could have, if I had been more careful, or if I had not been distracted, or even if I had tried harder; for `trying' can also be included among the conditions of success. `You can if you try, but you will not be able to, unless you try' is a familiar causal judgment. Equally familiar — 'Why cannot I do it?" (said by a golfer, or by a pianist, or by someone trying to remember a name): 'Well, you would be able to do it if you didn't try so hard: just don't try, you will find that you can do it.' 'Try,' as it occurs in these causal judgments, has a rather different use and implication from the 'try' which means 'make an attempt to' — in French, essayer, or H. A. Prichard's 'set oneself to.' I may make either a half-hearted or a serious attempt to do something. I may set about it with a will to succeed, or without any real desire to succeed. In the causal judgments, 'You can do it, if you try: but you will not be able to do it unless you try,' 'try' implies something like 'make an effort to' — the use of 'try' that William James stressed in his chapter on the will. But when I say, contradicting you, 'I can raise this glass without spilling the wine,' and when in this context I intend this to be scarcely distinguishable from 'I will succeed if I try,' the 'try' does not imply 'make an effort.' If I make the attempt and fail, I have to admit that you were right when you said 'You cannot do it now.' Perhaps I could have, if I had not been over-confident, and if I had not thought that I could do it without taking trouble; but the fact remains that I could not at that moment, as things were, with my overconfidence included in the conditions at that moment. Perhaps you knew me well enough to gamble on my over-confidence, and that is why you said 'You cannot do it.' When I ask you whether you can now remember the first lines of Paradise Lost, and you answer that you can, you claim that you will succeed on this particular occasion. In the peculiar setting of a challenge to a feat, or to a test of ability, 'can' and 'will succeed' almost coincide, because the will succeed is assumed. In other settings of inquiry into your powers, I am normally asking what you would succeed in doing if you really wanted to and really tried, that is, made the attempt with an unqualified desire to succeed. It is important to notice that, if we learn what we can do by trying, the slipperiness, amounting almost to ambiguity, in the notion of 'trying' must infect the notion of a man's power to do something with an equivalent slipperiness. We do normally, in reviewing actions, include the existence of an unqualified desire to do something in the conditions that must be satisfied before the power to do something on a particular occasion has been proved not to exist. In some contexts and for some purposes — for example, those of the stern moralist — we may say that a man can only be known to be unable to do something, if it has been proved that he fails, when all the internal conditions are favourable; that is, when he has strongest possible desire to do the thing in question, and when there are no conflicting desires of any kind. In other contexts and for other purposes — e.g. of challenges and bets — we may take the weaker test as decisive — 'conditions being what they are, in your mind and elsewhere, you will not succeed, if you make the attempt now.' There is not any firm and general rule that prescribes the background of standing conditions presupposed in the test of powers and potentialities, either of persons or of things. The background of conditions presupposed will vary with the situation in which a man's powers are being judged, and with the purposes for which the judgment is needed. I shall be mainly concerned in this book with the situation of a man who, before acting, has to decide what to do, and, secondarily, with that of a man who advises him about his decision, taking into account, as they both must, the limits of the agent's powers, as they exist on a particular occasion. In this situation, in which an estimate needs to be made as a guide to future action, 'You (or I) can do so-and-so' is conclusively verified or falsified when an attempt is made with a full conscious desire to succeed, and without any conscious conflict of desire: even though a subsequent acceptable explanation of the failure might refer to an unconscious desire to fail. It is sometimes implied that we must wait upon science, and the discovery of causal laws, to know what men can and cannot do, as we must wait upon science and the discovery of causal laws to learn about the powers of metals and gases. But this is not true. I unavoidably acquire an immense amount of knowledge about what I can and cannot do, directly, and in the ordinary course of existence, in my attempts, achievements, and failures. Certainly scientific investigation of the necessary conditions upon which these powers depend will greatly add to this knowledge, and will permit reliable inferences, far beyond the range of direct experience, to an estimate of what my powers would be under various specified conditions. And much more important, such investigation will enable me to find the means of increasing my powers to act in specific ways in specific kinds of situation. No conceivable advances in scientific knowledge can lead to the conclusion that I am not often—for example, at this moment--confronted with a plurality of things that I can do if I want to, between which I must choose: that there is this plurality of open possibilities I know by experience, as surely as I know anything, including the laws of physics and psychology. To summarise: We make a mistake if we interpret 'He cannot act differently' as parallel to 'This gas cannot behave differently.' `There is no possibility of his acting differently' is indeed parallel to 'This gas cannot behave differently,' where this latter is interpreted to mean, 'It is certain that this gas will not behave differently.' 'He cannot act differently' neither entails, nor is entailed by, 'There is no possibility of his acting differently.' The entailment that does hold is between `There is no possibility that he will be able to act differently' (i.e. 'It is certain that he will not be able to') and 'There is no possibility that he will act differently.' It may be certain that a man will not do X because it is certain that he will not want to do X; but it does not follow that there are no possibilities other than X which are open to him, in the sense that there is nothing that he can do. The notion of a power, as applied to men, depends on the twin notion of 'want,' or 'will,' used in the explanation of action, when the will, or desire, to do something on a particular occasion may be formed, discovered, reflected upon, criticised, and formulated, and perhaps also disclosed to others.
In chapter 3, "Two Kinds of Knowledge," Hampshire discusses what we can know about the future, again stressing the difference between anticipating thoughts and actions from anticipating natural events. (pp.53-55)
We have two sharply distinguishable kinds of knowledge of the future. Secondly, these two kinds of knowledge are mutually dependent; it is not possible that we should possess one kind without possessing the other. There is the knowledge of the future that we possess in virtue of having formed firm intentions to act in certain ways in the immediate future, and sometimes also in the relatively remote future. I very often know, when I am speaking to you, what I am going to say next; I know how the sentence, which I am at the moment uttering, will end; and I may know this in virtue of having decided that these are the words that I shall use. Many, perhaps most, of my distinguishable actions and performances are extended in time, and I commonly know in the earlier phases of an action what the ensuing phases will be. This is the most evident type of case in which we have knowledge of the future arising from firm intentions. In the ordinary flow of a purposive action this knowledge is extended over a period of time. But I also sometimes know what I shall do on a specific occasion in the more remote future; I know in virtue of being fully determined to do it on that occasion. The other, and, as I claim, entirely distinct kind of knowledge of the future is that which is normally to be justified by inductive reasoning and by observation of the natural course of things. Knowledge of the future of this kind is not restricted in subject matter, and may extend to my own future achievements. Knowing, as I do, the natural course of events, I know that I shall find myself doing various things that I could mention in the next days, weeks, months, and years. The only restriction is that I cannot intelligibly justify a claim to certain knowledge of what I shall voluntarily do on a specific occasion by an inductive argument; if I do really know what I shall do, voluntarily, and entirely of my own free will, on a specific occasion, I must know this in virtue of a firm intention to act in a certain way. This is a conceptual necessity, and it helps to explain the concept of an action, which the agent performs of his own free will. I must now try to answer those who will object that there are not two clearly distinguishable kinds of knowledge of the future: first, with a concession. He who claims to know that be will perform such-and-such a voluntary action in the future, and who claims to know this in virtue of his intention to perform it, is still liable to have his claim rebutted by inductive arguments; in this sense, and to this degree, there is an inductive component in non-inductive knowledge of the future. There are at least two typical ways in which a claim to knowledge of the future, which is not founded upon, and to be justified by, inductive reasoning, might still be rebutted by inductive considerations. The first possibility is simply that he who claims to know about his own future voluntary action on a specific occasion has not observed, or has forgotten, that something will probably, or will certainly, prevent him doing what he intends to do, and that he will, or may, lack the power, the opportunity, or the means, to do it. The statement of intention which he might have made — 'I shall go by train to London tomorrow' — maybe met by the statement: 'No, you will not; there are no trains tomorrow.' He did have the intention to go; but his statement purported, among other things, to be a guide to the future; and considered as a guide to the future, it was incorrect. Let us suppose that he had been asked what he intended to do tomorrow by someone who needed this information about the future course of events. The agent's answer, given in good faith, has failed to provide the information sought. The second, more interesting, possibility is that he who claims to know what he will do tomorrow has failed to observe, or to remember, that he has frequently made similar claims with similar justification in the past, and that they have subsequently proved mistaken. Perhaps he has overlooked the fact that he very often changes his mind in relevantly similar circumstances; therefore, on reflection, he may agree that his so-called firm resolution to give up smoking cannot properly be counted as a firm resolution in this case; it has rather to be classified as a wish, or as a hope, or as a vague ambition. It does not follow from the fact that he has often changed his mind in the past that he cannot properly be said to be firmly resolved now, or that he does not in this case know what he will do. The man who, on being asked the time on his watch, looks at his watch and gives an answer, may be irritated by the further question `But are you sure?' But, if he is someone who has often in the past misread his watch, and has given the wrong answer, he will admit that it is reasonable that he should be asked to look again, to make sure that he has not on this occasion been careless once again. His claim to knowledge about the time shown on his watch did not require inductive support, and it was not founded upon an inductive argument; but the reasons for doubting its truth may be of an inductive kind, in the sense that the doubts are founded on the speaker's record of unreliability. All claims to knowledge may be said to have an inductive component, in the sense that the record of reliability of the man claiming to know is relevant in assessing the justifiability of the claim. We distinguish different kinds of knowledge by the kind of support that different claims to knowledge in any case require, if they are to be justified claims to knowledge.
Hampshire here discusses the theory of a transcendental ethical will (Kant's idea), but also in Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein. (pp.62-64)
There is in the literature a doctrine which does knowingly confound the will to do something with the wish that it should be done, and which thereby neatly separates a man's knowledge of his own mind, and his responsibility for his own ideals, from his knowledge of the natural course of things, for which he is not responsible. This is the doctrine of the will as transcendent; it is associated with one interpretation of Kant: it is suggested by Schopenhauer, and hinted at by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. A man is free in virtue of his wish that it should be true of him that he has achieved such-and-such an effect. The wish is the thought that he ought ideally to act in this way. Whether it will in fact be true of him or not is another question, of which he is not necessarily in a better position, as the willing agent, to know the answer than is any scientifically competent observer. The thought, or wish, and the action, that which was actually done, lie in different domains, disconnected. The one is in the domain of the ethical, of values or ideals: the other of empirical study, of natural fact. There is the fact that a man did certain things, and that he did them deliberately and voluntarily, as far as these qualifications can be established by empirical investigation; for example, it may be a fact that he was not forced or confused at the time. But whether he acted because of his thought that he ought to become the voluntary doer of these things, because he attached value to this fact about himself, is not similarly ascertainable in the domain of fact. The 'because' here is a confusion, a superstition; his wish cannot have effects in the world. His wish, or thought, of that which ought to be, belongs to the domain of the ethical, of the private, of that which is not to be conveyed in propositions to which truth-values can be allotted. A man's relation to the world of fact, to things as they are, is either a happy or an unhappy relation, one of positive acceptance, or one of pessimism, or of indifference. One may have the story of that which has happened in the world, including the things that men have done; but the value that one attaches to what has happened is not part of the narrative. It is expressed, if at all, in the style and aesthetic form of the story-telling. Ethics and aesthetics are one, at least in the sense that arguments about truth or falsity have no grip, where ideals of life, visions of what the world ought to be like, are expressed or exhibited. There cannot be a causal relation between my thought that something ought to be done, my ideal of conduct, and that which I observably do. Events occur, and actions are performed, in accordance with, or contrary to, men's ideals: but not as the effects of these ideals. This doctrine of the transcendent will, as 'the bearer of the ethical,' the absolute separation of what ought to be from what is the case, may be, and has been, rejected on many different counts; that it allows no coherent account to be given of our normal descriptions of intentional action: that it offers no coherent account of our anxious moral assessments of the history of our own conduct and of the conduct of others: and that it suggests a metaphysical notion of the will, without explaining the relation of the will, so conceived, to our ordinarily felt and revealed desires and interests. Above all, it leaves a mystery in the situation of a man wondering what to do, and hesitating before deciding on one course rather than another; for it seems that he will have only the illusion of agency in initiating one train of events rather than another. As a conclusion of his thought, he wishes that something (e.g. that he is the benefactor of his friend at the expense of another) were true of him, and perhaps he also observes that in fact it becomes true. But his first hesitation and his anxiety had been anxiety about his making it true; and if he has anxieties in retrospect, they may be anxieties about his responsibility for what happened. This doctrine of the transcendent will is one more philosophical analysis that is plausible only when one assumes the standpoint of a man who is contemplating his own conduct and its relation to the natural course of events: or the standpoint of one who contemplates the conduct of others. In retrospect, and reviewing the record of a life from this detached standpoint, one may indeed find that there is only a choice between acceptance or regret in the face of the total history, which includes one's own decisions as equal links in the single chain of events. Schopenhauer was recommending this inactive, contemplative standpoint, this retreat into perpetual retrospect, as the only remedy for the anxieties of present activity, which on other grounds he thought must always be wasted anxieties.
Hampshire then touches on the connection between consciousness and the processing of information. Facts, thoughts, and feelings combine to provide possibilities for action. The range of one's thoughts determine the alternative possibilities from which his will will make a choice. (pp.80-83)
It is a truism that, in virtue of being conscious, any man is always receiving information relevant to his expectations of the future; he is not only receiving it, but also actively seeking it, guided by the information which he already has. Concurrently his expectations are being verified and falsified in experience. This pre-scientific induction is the unavoidable background of his actions and of his plans of action. In this way he learns what he can and cannot do. It is easy to overlook, and difficult to exaggerate, the weight and variety of these commonplace habits of inference. Recalling these truisms, one recalls also that almost everything that a man observes is scanned and assessed for its relevance to his intentions, and, conversely, that his purposes and plans direct his attention to the information that he needs. The two kinds of knowledge intertwine, each affecting and guiding the other. But there is an order of priority, or of dependence, between them. If my expectations of that which will happen, affecting my desires and interests, and independently of any intended action of mine, are revised, my intentions must be reviewed also. The question 'What will I do?' is unavoidably raised whenever my expectations of events touching upon my interests are changed; a new problem is set. I must always form my intentions relative to a concurrent expectation of what is the likely natural course of events, if the future conduct which I am now considering is left out of account. 'The likely natural course of events' here means the likely course of events as it will be, or would be, if my own possible voluntary actions in the future are left out of the account. The total course of events in the past, including my own past voluntary actions, are for me part of the given course of events, of which I must take account in forming my intentions. The situation that confronts me now, and that sets the problem, is constituted by that which has happened, together with that which is likely to happen, estimated apart from that which I might succeed in doing, if I tried. The mere fact that I now know, or believe, that something will happen in the natural course of events exposes me to the charge of letting it happen, if I could prevent it, and if I in fact do nothing. An intention to act in a certain way, if it is to be distinguished from a mere desire or hope, must be focussed upon the possibilities in the natural order of events, as the agent, rightly or wrongly, conceives them. Among a man's expectations may be included expectations of his own future states of mind, attitudes, and desires. Either by induction from his own experience, or from knowledge of some well-attested propositions of psychology, or by some combination of these two, the agent may have had good reason to expect that he would have certain feelings and desires on a specific occasion, and that he would be disposed to act in a certain way; he may be able to forecast what his emotions would be and what he would want to do. This is ordinary inductive self-knowledge, and it is knowledge of the natural course of events; a man may anticipate his own states of mind and impulses, as he may anticipate any other natural phenomena. He may learn to recognise the conditions on which their occurrence depends; they maybe elements in the situation which he confronts. If he expects that he will be in a certain state of mind on the relevant occasion, and that he will want to do certain things, he has to take account of these facts or probabilities about himself, alongside the facts and probabilities of the external situation. To 'take account' of them in two ways: first, as possibly constituting reasons for acting in one way, rather than another; secondly, as possibly constituting obstructions to acting in some way in which he was disposed to act, that is, as limiting his powers. He cannot avoid asking himself the question, 'Given that the situation is likely to be such-and-such, and, as part of this situation, my given feelings and impulses are likely to be such-and-such, what shall I do?' He steps back (and the force of this metaphor will be considered later) and decides. He must find the various paths of practical possibility in the situation before him: in both senses of 'possibility' previously discriminated. He has nothing to decide, even if he thinks he has, in respect of those things that are certain to happen in the natural course of events; and he has nothing to decide, even if he thinks he has, in respect of those things which it is not in his power to change, because he has not the means, or the opportunity, or the authority, or the skill. The agent necessarily sees a contrast between the fixed elements in the situation and the elements changeable by him; he may misjudge in any particular case; but he always tries to draw this line as realistically as he can. The range of his own thoughts and interests will determine, within the limits of the changeable, as he sees it, the narrower possibilities of action between which he chooses. Some of his anticipations of his own passions, feelings, and desires are derived from knowledge of the conditions which generally precede, and are the occasion of, these feelings and desires. To know the causal dependencies is to know what it would be necessary to do in order to prevent such feelings and desires occurring. In general, any addition to my psychological knowledge, which enables me to calculate correctly what some of my future passions, impulses, and inclinations will be, will also add to my knowledge of what I would need to do in order to prevent these states and impulses occurring. I may try to find the cause of, and the means of changing, those states of mind and desires which can be said to be recognised, identified, or diagnosed, as facts of consciousness, rather than to be formed as the outcome of a process of thought. The source of these states or inclinations is not to be found in my decisions; I did not make up my mind that this is my feeling about so-and-so, or that this is what I want. But for some types of states of mind, and for some instances of some types, it would be absurd, for reasons already noticed, to look for means of preventing or inducing their occurrence; and it would be particularly absurd to look for such means in conditions external to the mind. Some examples for illustration: a man who tries to induce in himself some state of calm confidence in his leader by a technique, which uses his knowledge of the bodily conditions that produce calm confidence, would scarcely think of himself, or describe himself, as having achieved calm confidence in his leader at the end of the exercise; the attempt would be intrinsically absurd.
Hampshire ponders the very important connection between knowledge and freedom. It goes back at least to Francis Bacon, with his famous dictum knowledge is power. But it is so for any theory that equates information in a trained mind with the power to generate more alternative possibilities for action. Hampshire asks "Why has so little attention been given to the Baconian doctrine—that the more a man knows of the laws of nature, including the laws of human nature, the greater his power and his freedom of choice?" (pp.90-96)
However far inductive self-knowledge is extended, the other kind of uncertainty about the future, my uncertainty about what I shall do before I have decided, will always arise. The more reliable and extensive my inductive knowledge is, including self-knowledge, the less likely I am to attempt a course of action which, unknown to me, I cannot carry through. The more I learn of the conditions on which my passions and abilities depend, the narrower the gap between that which I set myself to do, and that which I actually achieve, will become. If, for example, I know that under certain conditions I shall become weak-willed and vacillating, then I may be in a position to ensure that the worst consequences of this condition do not ensue. I may find that I cannot prevent this state of weakness, and that the sufficient conditions of its occurrence lie outside my control. I will not then struggle uselessly, as, lacking this knowledge, I might have done; but I will rather take account of the unavoidable weakness and its effects in the further plans that I make. I may try to ensure that I am never placed in the kind of situation in which the effects of this defect are particularly bad. The new knowledge has saved me from attempting something that seemed, on the basis of parallel instances in my experience, to be within my power, but that is actually not so, as careful experiment has shown. Secondly, it has directed my attention to a new feature of situations confronting me, a feature that I will now take account of.Why then has it been thought that the growth of scientific knowledge of human nature would lead to a narrowing of the area of the free decision, and therefore of the area of individual freedom? Why has so little attention been given to the Baconian doctrine — that the more a man knows of the laws of nature, including the laws of human nature, the greater his power and his freedom of choice? The reasons are, I think, not simple. First, there is a picture of scientific knowledge, as something that may exist quite independently of the minds of the individuals who acquire and use the knowledge; the picture appears in the use of phrases like 'Perhaps there are laws, which we have not yet discovered, and which govern our so-called free decisions;' and 'Perhaps, when I hesitate about what I shall do, it is already certain, and entirely predictable, what I shall do.' These ways of speaking and of thinking may be legitimate in some contexts; but they can be misleading, if we forget that natural laws are discovered, and formulated, by men, and put to use in action as the conclusions of their inquiries; and that certainties are certainties only relative to the knowledge that someone already possesses. If I am denied scientific knowledge which other men possess, and if they know much more than I do of the causes of my states of mind, I may indeed be the victim of their manipulations, and the slave of their will. They will be able to use their knowledge to induce states of mind in me which they want me to have; in virtue of this knowledge, and of the use that they make of it, they may be better informed than I am about my future feelings, desires and conduct. If anyone wants to know what I shall do, he would do better to consult those who operate upon me rather than to ask for a statement of intention from me. This condition of comparative slavery, of one's feelings and conduct being the effects of another man's contrivance, is the reverse of the condition of the man who knows better than anyone else what he will do, just because he is the agent, and because he has made the decision. The manipulation of men's emotions and dispositions, pictured in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984 is a picture of the freedom of the individual completely lost; for Huxley's and Orwell's stories represent the ordinary citizen's interests, actions, and forms of life as explicable only by reference to causes outside his own mind, causes that he does not himself recognise as the factors determining his interests and his conduct. For these reasons an individual who acquires more systematic knowledge of the causes of states of mind, emotions, and desires, insofar as these are not the outcome of his decision, thereby becomes more free than he previously was to control and direct his own life: more free to control and direct his own life, in the sense that there will in general be a closer correlation between that which he sets himself to do and that which he actually achieves in his life. Knowledge of his intentions will be the more reliable guide to his actual future conduct. The kind of psychological knowledge that gives systematic understanding of the causes of desires, attitudes and states of mind can be put to use, either in manipulation and control of others, or in self-control, that is, in a man's contriving by some technique that his states of mind and dispositions should in future be as he wants them to be. A man may on reflection want to be the kind of man who has certain interests and desires; he may cultivate certain interests in himself, and may try to smother or to divert others, in pursuit of some ideal of character. This reflexiveness—the desire not to have certain desires—is unavoidable in anyone who reflects and criticises. We do now in fact apply such fragments of psychological knowledge as we already possess in both these ways, and we could scarcely avoid doing so. But they are fragments, and the majority of what we know has been so far learned in the ordinary course of experience, and not as a conclusion of systematic psychological theory. A man is less free, in proportion as his interests and activities are adequately explained as the effects of external causes and of conditions which he has little or no power to change, even if these causes and conditions do not include the will of others. Insofar as there are genuine possibilities open to him, and he can be said to have decided to live as he does, he can be said to be self-directed and free. Those who have defined the freedom of the individual in terms of their differing conceptions of an active mind, as Spinoza and Kant did, have made explicit one element in the ordinary connotation of the word 'free,' as it is commonly used. We ordinarily talk and act on the assumption, which we have built into the normal forms of speech, that many of our emotions and attitudes, desires and interests, were formed, and can be altered, by our own thinking about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of their objects. The distinction of desires and attitudes, which are formed as the outcome of considering the appropriateness of their objects, and which remain dependent on a conviction of appropriateness, from desires and moods that are not in this sense thought-dependent, is built into the vocabulary of emotions and attitudes. In some particular case one might have thought that a desire, emotion, or attitude of one's own would change in response to a change noticed in the relevant properties of the object, when further experience shows that it does not. The reasons that one has might turn out to be rationalisations, and the desire, emotion, or attitude might be seen to have its determining condition in conditions external to one's own beliefs. If one is convinced that one's regret, shame, discouragement, disapproval, hope, confidence, admiration, are utterly inappropriate to their objects, the state of mind must disappear, even if some lingering affect, pleasant or unpleasant, still associated with the original object, remains. Just as a belief, when once recognised by the subject to be misdirected, must, if it persists as a thought, be re-classified as a thought of another kind, so a state of mind, which in its nature requires to be to some degree founded on the properties of its object, must disappear or be reclassified, when the subject recognises that the object does not have the properties that are required. I cannot still regret that which I now know not to be regrettable. The evidence of superficially parallel cases, encountered in ordinary experience, may in some cases turn out to have been misleading; one might discover cases in which our apparently reasoned attitudes or emotions did not vary with our changing opinions of the properties of the object; they vary only with some unsuspected external condition. But this discovery, arising from experiment and perhaps explicable within a more extensive theory of the mind's workings, still does not undermine our present explanatory scheme. We already recognise, in the rudimentary experiments of ordinary experience, that men are often deceived in supposing their attitudes and emotions to be founded on reasons, when in fact the reasons that they give are mere rationalisations and do not really explain that which they are supposed to explain. I am often brought to admit, without benefit of science and theory, that I have bestowed my fear or sadness on the first vaguely appropriate object or event that I encounter; I would have been no less frightened or sad, even if I had never encountered the object or event which I have sincerely specified as that which I am frightened of, or sad about. But there remain the more simple cases in which my fear of something, or my sadness about something, is formed and changed as I think about the properties of the object, and in which my belief that the object is dangerous, or of its saddening features, constitutes my fear of it, or my sadness about it. When I truthfully say that I am sad about something, or that I am frightened of something (e.g. of German nationalism), I am not always reporting an inner perturbation, an affect, in addition to the thought of the object as an appropriate object of sadness or of fear. 'How strongly do you feel about it?' 'How deeply were you affected by it?' These questions about the intensity of feeling do require me to report the inner affect. I may myself be surprised by an excess of affect, or by the lack of it. I might say 'Of course I was sad when I heard the news: but I was surprised to find that my feelings at that moment were so faint: I only began to feel the loss intensely much later.' Language provides us with a variety of means of distinguishing a calm passion from a passion that includes as an element an inner perturbation or affect. I may truthfully say that I regret something without confessing thereby to any strong feeling; but I cannot be terrified of something without affect. When we are concerned with the effect of our actions upon the feelings of others and upon our own — and utilitarians require that this should be our sole concern — we are concerned with men's affects, or inner feelings, and with their intensities: how great was the suffering, and how intense was the pleasure, and would X be more deeply affected by the disappointment than Y? — these are the questions that primarily concern us when we are practically concerned with men's feelings. If, following G. E. Moore's prescription in Principia Ethica, we calculate the effect of political policies, and of all our actions in private life, on men's states of mind and emotions, we certainly will not interpret their states of mind and emotions as dispositions to behave in characteristic ways, as some philosophers have suggested. We are then concerned with the intensities of feeling accompanying the conception of the objects of the emotion as being objects of a certain kind.
In the Conclusion to his original 1965 edition, Hampshire then wonders if natural laws will be found to describe human behaviors. He asks whether any of his work has raised doubts about deterministic schemes. He then concludes that the standard view of determinism is unacceptable, "For these reasons a thesis of determinism, which entails that the commonplace scheme of explanation of conduct is replaceable by a neutral vocabulary of natural law, seems to me unacceptable." (pp.108-112)
There remains one possible misunderstanding: I have avoided the word 'determinism,' and I have not even stated, even less tried to refute, a thesis of determinism. I have tried to specify a distinction between the observed natural course of events and a man's decisions about the natural course of events; this distinction is, or at least seems, an irreplaceable feature of our thought about ourselves, as creatures who have beliefs and intentions, and who have desires and emotions which are in part constituted by beliefs. There is at least one clear thesis of determinism that requires one to suppose that one might think of a man's behaviour in a quite different way, as conforming to a scheme held to be applicable to all natural phenomena: namely, the scheme that requires experimentally confirmed laws of reasonable simplicity which correlate, with sufficient precision and determinacy, ranges of specified inputs with ranges of specified outputs from the organism. If the discovered laws prove to be of sufficient simplicity, generality and precision, this can be a scheme of explanation that is properly called deterministic. The choice of the type of descriptions that will enter into the laws, specifying distinct inputs and outputs, is here peculiarly difficult; we are still in no position, in the present state of knowledge, to forecast, even roughly, the types of descriptions needed. But this difficulty does not by itself constitute a sufficient a priori objection to this scheme of explanation, as some philosophers have suggested. One would have to demonstrate that there is a contradiction, or at least an incoherence of some kind, in the requirement of descriptions which could enter into experimentally testable laws, and which at the same time can be said to 'replace,' in some acceptable sense, the established specifications of beliefs and intentions. If no such demonstration is provided, it is open to an upholder of this thesis of determinism to argue that we cling to our existing schemes of explanation only in virtue of our present ignorance. The question therefore remains: have I in the foregoing pages given any grounds from which one might infer that the thesis of determinism, so formulated, is an incoherent one? Or does the account given of features of our present scheme of explanation and description — of desires, powers, intentions and of beliefs- leave the possibility of deterministic schemes untouched? There is a difficulty in even beginning to answer this question: namely, that one cannot reasonably claim to anticipate, or to set limits to, the types of scientific explanation that may in the future be found to yield useful results. For example, one simply does not know how successful the simulation of human conduct and performance by machines will in the long run prove to be. Nor does one know how the operations of the human brain will in the long run be understood, with what precision and with the aid of what kind of theory and model; one does not know what kind of relation, or set of relations, between physical processes and the specific higher functions of the mind, will in the long run emerge. At the present time one can only point to the purposes which such scientific explanations of human conduct, and of mental processes, are expected to serve, and the contrasting purposes which our deliberations about actions and attitudes now serve. No metaphysical absoluteness, or finality, need be claimed for the distinction between the usefulness of different kinds of discourse. It is sufficient that we cannot now formulate an intelligible alternative to the relation between knowing why I want X and deciding that I want X: sufficient, that is, to justify saying that we cannot conceive how one type of discourse — in particular, the scientific explanation of human conduct in accordance with the deterministic scheme - could `replace' the other type. This discussion constantly recurred to the peculiar features of first-person present, or future, tense statements about conduct and states of mind. It seems that these statements have an indispensable function in the thought and speech of reflective agents, who, in deciding what their state of mind and action will be, or is to be, decide what state of mind and action is appropriate to the occasion. My objection to a thesis of determinism is not that there is no possibility of replacing, in some acceptable sense, intentional verbs with state descriptions of a kind that could enter into precise and experimentally testable natural laws. This may be a valid objection; but it is not the one that I am now raising. My objection is: there is a normative element in first-person present and future tense statements about some states of mind and some types of conduct, and this normative element would not be reproduced in the descriptions which a scientific observer would use. The terminology required for deterministic explanations of human conduct and states of mind would not reproduce the relation between the first-person present and future uses of psychological verbs and the use of these verbs in the past tense, and with a reference to persons who are not identical with the speaker or writer. The shift from 'I regret this' to 'I regretted it,' and from 'I regret this' to 'He regrets it,' is a change in the kind of support that the speaker must have, if his statement is to be sustainable under challenge; the kind of knowledge, which he claims to have, is different when he is announcing what his attitude is, namely, that he considers something regrettable, from the kind of knowledge that he claims to have when he announces that he did consider something regrettable, or that someone else considers this thing regrettable. In explaining the sense, and correct use, of the verb 'regret,' one has to explain that relation between 'I regret X' and 'X is to be regretted,' which distinguishes attitudes of this type from moods, strong passions, or sensations. Such distinctions would not be preserved in a deterministic vocabulary; within such a vocabulary therefore there would be no place for discussion of present and future conduct as an expression of appropriate attitudes towards that which has happened, or is happening. More fundamentally, there would be no means of relating what a man would say of himself, in explaining, by reference to a norm of appropriateness, why he now has these desires, attitudes, and intentions, to what could he said about him in explaining his desires, attitudes and intentions. For these reasons a thesis of determinism, which entails that the commonplace scheme of explanation of conduct is replaceable by a neutral vocabulary of natural law, seems to me unacceptable. But it is possible that some other thesis of determinism, which does not claim that a neutral vocabulary of natural law might 'replace' the existing vocabulary, might be untouched by the arguments of these lectures. There is one last objection that must be met: that a persuasive definition of freedom of mind has been offered under the guise of an analysis of the use of certain mental concepts. The objector will claim that the following two inquiries must be kept apart: what precisely does a man claim to know when he claims to know what he is going to do, and what his attitude is, and what support does such a claim to knowledge require, if it is challenged? Secondly, under what conditions can a man properly be said to be free in his behaviour, and in the attitudes that he adopts? I have not held these two inquiries apart, and for the following reason. In distinguishing belief from other kinds of thought with which it might be confused, one cannot fail to mention the canons of rational belief; for a thought can be counted as a belief only in so far as it approximates to well-founded belief. So the norm of belief cannot be excluded from the analysis of the concept of belief. Similarly, an activity, or a movement, can be counted as an action imputable to a person only to the degree to which it approximates to an action, performed intentionally, with an awareness of alternative possibilities, and of the agent's own free will. The notion of freedom properly enters into the analysis of intentional action. The man who is comparatively free in his conduct of his life is active in the adoption of his own attitudes and of his own way of life; his decisions and intentions are the best guide to his future actions; and just this is the significance of calling him 'free'. He is a free man, in so far as he is the authority on his own future actions as issuing from his decisions; then his self-knowledge is predominantly of the kind that comes, not from observation and induction, but from his making up his mind what his attitudes and actions are to be.
In his 1975 Postscript on Determinism and Psychological Explanation, Hampshire hopes to correct "gaps and obscurities" in his deterministic explanations. (pp.113-117)
So prolific is the recent literature around this topic, and so various and detailed are the arguments used in it, that it may seem foolhardy to confront the issue directly once again : and in a summary form, as a postscript. But I need to write more about the familiar issue of deterministic explanation, as applied to mental states, if my suggestions about the issue in this book are to be understood and assessed. Criticisms of the first edition of Freedom of the Individual showed this to be necessary and showed the gaps and obscurities in my account. I list familiar propositions which I shall take to be true without further argument here. (a) A general thesis of determinism, applying to all events without restriction, is too general to be either falsified, or confirmed, or rendered probable, and is empty and uninteresting, until it is in some way restricted, or placed in a context within a theory. (b) Of any given event, whether it would ordinarily be classified as a mental event or as a physical event, it always makes sense to ask what is its cause: similarly also for any specified class of events. (c) If an answer to such a question about causes is suggested, that answer is not immune from the test of parallel negative instances, which may be looked for. This test may be more or less loosely applied in different contexts. In some contexts it may not be obvious what the implied proposition is, if there is one. But even in these cases it is relevant to cite apparent parallel cases, where the alleged cause-effect correlation failed : this citation is a putative rebuttal of a causal claim, and at least casts doubt upon it, unless the apparent parallel is shown to be apparent only. (d) Not all interesting explanations of mental events, and of the behaviour of persons, are causal explanations; other forms of explanation may be satisfactory in their appropriate contexts. But the availability of these alternative forms of explanation does not by itself preclude the possibility of normal causal explanations of the same phenomena, identified under the same descriptions. (e) The same event, process or state in the history of a person may be correctly identified and correctly described in several different terminologies. But there is a commonplace vocabulary of mental states and processes in daily use in unprofessional talk, and in unprofessional thought, about persons' thoughts, desires, beliefs, emotions, and attitudes. This is the terminology which is used in practical dealings with people and in the ordinary planning of one's own life. It is the terminology in which history is normally written. (f) This terminology identifies and distinguishes mental states and processes by reference both to their effects in behaviour and to their causes in stimulating conditions, and by reference to typical contemporary thoughts, which the subject may or may not reveal. The criteria of application for descriptions within this vocabulary are not strictly determined; and the terminology serves many social purposes in communication apart from the communication of information. For these principal reasons the commonplace terminology does not satisfy the normal requirements of a vocabulary used in scientific explanations. (g) A terminology suitable for strictly scientific explanation of persons' behaviour would refer only to publicly observable and exactly specified features of behaviour, and to publicly observable and exactly specified features of stimulating conditions. This terminology would be unsuitable for many of the social purposes, and types of communication, which the commonplace terminology serves. But it could reasonably be expected to yield testable general statements which would provide fully rational backing for singular causal judgments. It could reasonably be expected to allow scientific explanations of behaviour, suitably described, explanations that are deterministic in form. There are no good a priori grounds for doubting that such explanations may be found. (h) Within the commonplace vocabulary beliefs and desires are referred to in explaining most types of behaviour; and to attribute beliefs to a person entails attributing thoughts to him; and to attribute a desire to a person is to attribute at least an imagination, and in this sense to attribute a thought to him. The connections between thoughts, which ordinarily render them intelligible to us, are not the standard type of causal connection. Rather a sequence of thought is ordinarily rendered intelligible, as a sequence, by being shown to constitute a variant of some form of argument, or to be itself an argument. But it does not follow that a sequence of thoughts cannot also be explained within standard causal forms. These are the familiar propositions that I will leave unargued; the arguments that support them are familiar in the literature. Starting from these assumptions, I put this question: are there any peculiar features of the commonplace terminology used in the description of mental states, and particularly in accounts of desires and beliefs, which are obstacles to the standard types of causal explanation applicable to physical states? I shall suggest several reasons why this question should be answered with a qualified 'Yes'. There are peculiarities in the established, familiar descriptions of mental states, and in the ascription of beliefs and desires to persons, which are at least obstacles to adequate causal explanations of the standard scientific type, even if they do not altogether preclude them. These peculiarities arise partly from the asymmetry between self-ascription and ascription of desires and beliefs, and of states of mind generally, to others: they also arise from the form of belief statements, and of statements about desires, and of statements about thoughts of all kinds, which use oratio obliqua and introduce opaque contexts. These are the foundations of the obstacles to carrying through standard types of causal explanation applicable to physical states, when desires, beliefs and other thoughts are in question. It is to be noted that these obstacles, for the existence of which I shall argue, stand in the way only when the commonplace terminology is in use. Their existence, if established, in no way implies that there cannot be found standard causal explanations of human behaviour and of human reactions which are specified in some other terminology, lacking the two features mentioned above. My argument will contain no suggestion that human beings are as a species unique in the world in not being susceptible to strictly scientific understanding to any degree or in any way. It is an argument about the actual terminology in which human beings, for a variety of different purposes, choose to talk about themselves, and in which they need to talk about themselves. In proportion as the desire, or need, to predict and to control human behaviour prevails over other interests that human beings have in each other, a terminology adapted to precise causal judgments can be expected sometimes, and for some purposes, to replace the commonplace terminology. But such a scientific terminology, whether materialistic or not, will still encounter two limits discernible in advance: first, that a man does not predict and control every segment of his own future only by applying causal knowledge; there are some segments that he changes by deciding what he wants to happen and what his attitude will be and what he will do. The commonplace vocabulary serves this kind of thought also, when a man considers what he wants and what he will do. His conclusion becomes a disposition or an intention. Secondly, thoughts, and processes of thought, have their natural expression in a type of report which is altogether unlike a report of an observed event : in avowals like 'I believe...', 'I want...', 'I hope that ...', 'I am angry that...', and 'I am embarrassed that...', and so on indefinitely for other propositional attitudes. In addition to these two discernible limits, there is the fact that the commonplace terminology serves many interests and social purposes, quite distinct from the exchange of accurate information; and it is certain that most of these interests and purposes will not be discarded; and, if some of them are discarded, it is unlikely to be only an interest in scientific accuracy and in social engineering which takes their place.
In his final remarks, Hampshire makes a convincing case for associating an indeterministic freedom with thought. (pp.132-142)
From all these considerations one may conclude that both a man's beliefs, and even more his desires, are often not clearly identifiable at specified times, and therefore that they are ill-suited to deterministic explanations; and this is true even apart from the fact that knowledge of the cause of beliefs and desires is apt on many occasions to modify the effect. The defects of the psychological vocabulary, from the point of view of deterministic explanation, are not be eliminated without frustrating the purposes that the vocabulary serves. The looseness and indeterminacy of the vocabulary are not to be cured, if only because a man who asks himself why he wants something, or why he believes something, is usually not looking for a cause that is clearly distinct from the effect in the way in which a cut is clearly distinct from the pain that it causes. The vocabulary of beliefs, desires, attitudes, and sentiments differs from the physical vocabulary in that the former does not in general specify distinct states which can be pinpointed as discrete states of the organism at a particular time. A process of thought is not a sequence of clockable discrete states of the organism, as a physical process in the organism is, or as even a succession of sensations is. Suppose that for the purposes of some medical research it became necessary to distinguish separate sensations experienced in a sequence of sensations; then a somewhat arbitrary and ad hoc convention could be introduced, perhaps picking out changes in quality of sensation as marking borderlines between different sensations; differences of location might also be used. If it seemed similarly necessary to individuate thoughts in a sequence of thought, the obvious method would be to take as distinct thoughts distinct sentences in the natural expression of the thoughts. But this would make the sequence of thoughts relative to a particular language, and relative to a particular choice of syntax within that language. What is the need for deterministic explanations? They are the type of explanation that one needs for a reliable method of control and manipulation: briefly, for a technology. If, for instance, one is trying to control pain, one needs to know the mechanism at work, and therefore to know the general laws that correlate inputs to the nervous system, and to the brain, with the resulting sensation. If this information is available, one has a path to a technology of anaesthesia, on which one can rely. There is a comparatively minor difficulty in finding experimentally an exact and general law that correlates physical stimuli with a sensation of pain; the effect is not immediately measurable in quantitative terms, and exactness is therefore not easily achieved. But the technology that can modify and control sensations does not meet difficulties which are so fundamental that one may doubt whether it is a technology at all, in the sense that surgery is a technology. It is true that the anaesthetist cannot directly see the desired effect of his operations, as the surgeon can; and he cannot point directly to the desired effects for the benefit of his students, as the surgeon can. He can see, and he can point to, some effects, namely, the patient's tranquil or sleepy behaviour: but the important desired effect is the absence of pain, and that is not something that is visible to any observer, as the absence of a limb is. The technology may therefore be more difficult to establish. The idea of a technology that would control beliefs, desires, and other intentional states by applying knowledge of the mechanisms on which they depend is not a clear idea : it is not clear, in proportion as the intentional state cannot be assimilated in at least one relevant respect to a sensation. Consider a case that may be near to a borderline between an intentional state and a sensation. A man has a desire, amounting to a craving, which he for good reasons wishes he did not have. He acquires a technique for getting rid of the desire as soon as he feels its onset. Perhaps the technique is a form of aversion therapy which involves various operations that a man can perform upon himself as well as upon another. If the technique required a more or less systematic knowledge of the stimulating conditions and of the state of the nervous system, which together caused the onset of the desire, then the technique would amount to a technology. If the mechanism was understood systematically and with some exactness, then a variety of willed adjustments to desires and aversions falling within the same range would be possible. Suppose that the first-order desire was for something concrete and physical, e.g. alcohol; then there might be a second desire to get rid of the desire for good reasons, because other desires were being frustrated by alcoholism. This second-order desire might reasonably be satisfied by a technique, analogous to the techniques of anaesthesia and surgery. The first desired state was a state of consciousness, the effect of alcohol, and the desire was not itself the outcome of much calculation or thought. The part that thought may play in the formation of the first order desire, the thought either of some particular alcoholic drink or just of some alcoholic drink, may in such a case be very small. Just because the thought involved may be minimal and therefore may be neglected, the desire may be assimilated to a sensation and one may naturally speak of 'feeling' its onset, as one feels the onset of an ache or pain. The assimilation of a desire to a sensation depends on the comparatively minor part of thought in the specification of the desire. Consider for contrast a man who has at intervals a craving, or at least an intense desire, to dress in women's clothes, and who at the same time wishes that he did not have this desire, because its gratification is apt to cause the frustration of his other desires. The first-order desire cannot be assimilated to a sensation, because the thought of the clothes, and of himself as being temporarily like a woman, or the imagination of himself as a woman, is essential to the desire. The thought of femininity makes this particular desire what it is and distinguishes it from other desires which might manifest themselves in the same behaviour, where 'same' refers to what the external observer sees. The thought that informs the very specific desire of a transvestite need not be articulated and explicit in the mind of the subject. It need not even be fully conscious. There are cases in which a child has this desire, and becomes aware of an overwhelming impulse to dress in his mother's clothes, without his knowing why he has this desire; this may even happen without his knowing what the desire is, in the sense of knowing how the desire is to be most accurately characterised. The desire to wear women's clothes, with the attendant thought of their femininity, is quite different from the desire to wear one's mother's clothes, with the attendant thought that she is one's mother. Femininity is not the same as maternity, and what is wanted is different, even if in the particular circumstances the desire is focussed upon the same objects. An accurate characterisation of the desire will mention the thought that enters into the desire, including the thought of the reason for the desire or of the feature that makes the object desired desirable. The cases of sexual perversions, and is no clear way of distinguishing between a desire that is overridden by another desire and a desire that changes its object. The mechanical analogy, when pressed, cannot be taken seriously, even though it is entirely natural that psychological explanation should be modelled to some degree on physical explanation. There are too many independent reasons for insisting on the ineliminable indeterminacy of psychological explanations when compared with explanations of physical states and processes. Belief and desire are the two propositional attitudes that are essential to explanations of conduct, both from the standpoint of an observer explaining the conduct of another and from the standpoint of an agent reviewing the reasons that he has for acting in one way rather than another. The indefinitely open range of other propositional attitudes — fear that, pleased that, embarrased that, angry that, ashamed that, disappointed that, hoping that, mortified that, anxious that, regretting that, and so on — each always involve a belief or imagination that so-and-so is the case, together with a disposiion or desire to behave in some broadly characterisable manner in some broadly characterisable circumstances, actual or notional. For present purposes there is no need to show the same looseness in contexts of explanation, the same indeterminacy in statements that attribute these states of mind to persons, for each of these sentiments. As they all involve thought of an object characterised in some way, they are all subject to the same scheme of explanation, with its distinguishing features: that the subject's belief, and change of belief, about the correct account of his own state of mind, and about the explanation of it, always modifies the state of mind: that the thought constituting the state of mind is causally linked to a vast background of beliefs and imaginations, of which only a few are brought to consciousness and to attention at any one time: that reflection on the causes of a thought and of an associated disposition is at the same time usually an assessment of them as appropriate or not, or as wrong or undesirable; and this reflective criticism confuses explanation with justification in the mind of the subject, who is generally in the best position to judge what his state of mind is, because he can be expected to know what he is or was thinking. In so far as he is confused, and in so far as his thought is continuing and has not reached a conclusion, there will be no determinate answer to a Yes-or-No question about his contemporary state of mind. 'I do want it in one way and in another way I do not': 'I oscillate between loving and hating him' : 'I am half attracted, half repelled': 'Perhaps I am rather frightened of it': 'I am not sure whether I am pleased that it has happened or not': 'I am half ashamed of it, half pleased'. A divided mind is not abnormal or unexpected, and no refinement of the psychological vocabulary will alter this, nor prevent uncertainty and consequent confusion of mind; for the reasons given, these are intrinsic features of thought and of mental processes generally. Deterministic explanation exhibits a universal correlation between more or less exactly stated initial conditions and more or less exactly stated outcomes, with the assumed background conditions also statable: a law-like formulation which is also part of a theory. The physical machinery of brain and sense-organs, on which thought and knowledge depend, operate in accordance with this deterministic scheme, even if physicists impute some degree of indeterminacy to some smaller physical systems. The physical actions and motions of a person, including those that go with his talking and his listening, are instances of law-like patterns which we presume will be explained in chemistry and in other relevant sciences. 'We presume' is added, as a note of caution, because there is no a priori certainty that anticipations, based on the physical sciences in their present state, will in fact be entirely realised by future developments in knowledge, e.g. in physiology and biology. However difficult it may turn out to be to discover, and to represent, the workings of the brain, and the mechanisms of thought, we shall continue to develop the available physical and chemical theory of the day in the hope of understanding. The terms 'mechanism' and 'machinery' may come to seem rather inappropriate, because the machinery may turn out to be very unlike the machines that are at present known and that can at present be imagined. The machinery may even turn out to be so complex that our theories fall short of being adequate representations, and we may despair of ever reaching a full understanding of how the organism performs its higher functions : e.g. how the brain operates in composing sentences and in interpreting the sentences that are heard. We cannot reasonably anticipate the rate of progress of the relevant sciences or the forms that they will assume as they advance. For instance, it is possible that the uncertainty, which is a principle in physical theory, will have further and now unexpected applications within the theories that give an acceptable representation of some human performances, or of biological systems generally. If this were to happen, then the word 'deterministic', used in this discussion, will be out of place. But it will still be true that the scheme of explanation for bodily, and therefore for physical, processes will need a vocabulary that allows for comparatively clear and definite identification of the elements in the explanation, and one that is comparatively exact; and it will need a vocabulary that is applied by all observers and experimenters from a single and constant standpoint. The vocabulary used to communicate thoughts will always be applied from two different standpoints: that of a person thinking and that of a person reporting or inferring the thoughts of another or of his own past. The vocabulary applied to psychological states is a vocabulary adapted, in the conditions of its application, to two different purposes in two different types of situation: that of a man making up his mind what he believes, wants, fears and so forth: and that of a man recording what he has believed and wanted and what is believed and wanted by another person. The reflexiveness of thought entails a shifting of standpoint, because one considers what one has believed and wanted, and asks oneself why; and this reflexiveness in turn entails the kinds of indeterminacy already discussed, particularly the indeterminacy that results from changing second-order thoughts about the causes of thoughts. The conclusion that I draw from these considerations is not a new or unfamiliar one. Human beings can be considered as very complex organisms which function in accordance with the laws of physics and of chemistry, as do all other biological systems. Among the complex powers built into the physical mechanisms is the power to speak and to understand a language, which entails that the behaviour of the organism is to be explained, not only by the actual situations in which it is placed together with its known needs and appetites, but also by spoken beliefs about its situation, and by beliefs about its own needs and appetites, and by beliefs about a remote future. All and only creatures who have a language have beliefs about the remote future, which help to explain what they do. This power to speak a language once developed, multiplies itself, like a cancer, and the power to have thoughts about thoughts develops from it. A speechless creature acquires through its sense organs unspoken expectations and beliefs about its present situation and the immediate future following it. These beliefs, together with unspoken desires and needs, determine and explain most of its behaviour. These expectations and beliefs are the direct effects of external things acting on the creatures through sense-organs and brain. Therefore we can imagine a physical model of the input signals from the environment setting in motion the already adjusted machinery of the brain, which then leads to an outcome either in behaviour, including speech, or in a re-adjusted brain state, or in both. The imagination may in the future turn out to be vain, in the sense that we in fact are not able to develop the model satisfactorily, or to exhibit a realisation of it. The physical complexities may be too great and our powers of mind may be insufficient, or for many years they may appear to be so. But we shall certainly persevere in the attempt, and we shall use such fragments of adequate knowledge that we do acquire in a new technology : to improve our thinking and mental health and efficiency generally, as we now use knowledge of the mechanisms of eye and ear to assist sight and hearing. One may say that the sense of freedom that men undoubtedly have is to be identified with their power of reflection and with the self-modifying power of thought. The intuition that when we are thinking of ourselves as thinking beings, we are excluding deterministic explanations of our performances, can be justified, so far at least. The conclusion is near to Spinoza's. The relation between thought and the physico-chemical mechanisms of the body and brain is still left unclear.