On the Mindedness of Rational Animals—Coping with Dreyfus


I will be adding an abstract later.

§ 1: The Central Difference between Dreyfus and McDowell

At the end of their recent debate in Inquiry Hubert Dreyfus concedes that he had misunderstood McDowell in two respects: firstly, he had wrongly assumed that McDowell’s conceptualist account of phrónesis was inconsistent with the view that “the phronemos is responsive to the concrete, not the general, situation.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.371) He now recognises that according to McDowell the conceptual awareness of the phrónimos is indeed situation-specific, i.e., not solely the result of inference from general rules. Secondly, Dreyfus had assumed that for McDowell the mind, understood as the locus of self-conscious, deliberative thinking, was “detached from immersion in activity.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.372) In fact, McDowell endorses the view that “human beings are at their best when involved in action,” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373) not when they are thinking, and that indeed self-conscious, deliberative thinking presupposes the possession of bodily skills and capacities.

And yet, says Dreyfus, a deep issue still divides them. McDowell maintains that mindedness permeates the unreflective bodily activity of distinctively rational beings; for him “openness to the world is enjoyed by subjects” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373), however sensitive to, and essentially immersed in, a context these subjects are. McDowell not only believes that rational animals possess the capacity for self-awareness; he also regards this capacity as always already operative in their perception and behaviour. According to Dreyfus, McDowell believes that

even when I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing, the capacity to be self-aware must still be operative. As [McDowell] puts it in his adaptation of Kant on the ubiquity of the “I think”: “in action there must always be an ‘I do’”. (p.2) (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373)

Just this constitutes “the essential first-person character of the realization of practical rational capacities that acting is.” (McDowell 2007b, p.367)

The behaviour of rational animals is thus minded not merely in the innocuous sense that such an animal can attend to what it is doing while it is doing it. McDowell moves, says Dreyfus, “from the reasonable claim that attentive experience with its attendant ego is sometimes exercised” to a very strong claim of mindedness, namely, “that this capacity is always operative.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.376) And he does so without any real argument. Until such argument is provided, we must, says Dreyfus, take the phenomenology of absorbed coping at face value: “since in fully absorbed coping we simply don’t experience ourselves as thinking things, mindedness looks like the lingering ghost of the mental.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.376)

But is there a sense in which the experience and behaviour of rational animals is minded which lies in between the uncontentious claim that rational animals are capable of ascribing experience and behaviour to themselves; and the clearly false claim Dreyfus imputes to McDowell, namely, that this capacity is continually realised, in acts of explicit, first person commentary on experience and behaviour? I believe so and I want to show it by appeal to a thinker whom Dreyfus regards as a key ally: Martin Heidegger. In particular, I want to show this by providing a more adequate account of something which presents a serious difficulty for Dreyfus’ anti-representationalist reading of Heidegger. This is the notion of sight (Sicht),1 specifically, of circumspection (Umsicht), which guides what Dreyfus calls absorbed coping.

§ 2: Umsicht und Umgang—A Reconstruction

In § 15 of Being and Time Heidegger writes,

That dealing with entities in which equipment is used and manipulated is not … blind, it has its own kind of sight which guides manipulation and gives it its specific surefootedness. Dealing with equipment subordinates itself to the manifold references of the ‘in-order-to’. The sight with which it thus subordinates itself is circumspection. (Heidegger 1979, § 15, H 69; translation modified)2

Because it guides skilful dealing or absorbed coping with entities, circumspection cannot be identical with, but rather a proper part of the coping it guides.3 As Dreyfus now seems prepared to admit, it is genuinely a form of awareness present in all coping, no matter how absorbed.4 Indeed, circumspection, at least of the basic kind5 implicated in the stock Heideggerian example of my hammering a nail in, is a form of perceiving, albeit one which cannot stand alone but rather exists in indissoluble unity with the behaviour it guides. And it guides this behaviour in the sense of enabling the hammerer to bring things back on track when they start to head off track but crucially before they reach the point of complete breakdown—as when, for example, the nail I am hammering starts to bend in a certain direction, I become circumspectly aware of this and, without any interruption to the flow of my hammering, I adjust my swing in order to eliminate the bend.

But if this is what circumspection does, what must it see in order to do it? That is, how must circumspection be contentful if it is to guide my hammering? Heidegger writes,

That upon which everyday engagement (der alltägliche Umgang) initially dwells are indeed not the tools themselves; rather the work, whatever on the occasion is to be produced, is that with which one is primarily concerned … . The work bears the totality of references within which equipment is encountered. (Sein und Zeit, § 15, H 69-70; my translation)

The crucial claim here is that, in everyday engagement with entities, no matter how absorbed, I and my behaviour are directed, primarily but not exclusively, at the work.6 This directedness must therefore be genuinely intentional because the work is the finished product, hence is, strictly speaking, not yet there. The entities I am working upon are not just brutely there; they are there for me, this, however, only in their capacity as on their way to being thus and so.

So Dreyfus is wrong, at least as an interpreter of Heidegger, when he says that in absorbed coping the agent is performing “a series of movements that feel appropriate without the agent needing in any way to represent what would count as achieving its goal.” (Dreyfus 2002, p.415) The agent’s bodily movements are no mere responses to present affordances or solicitations of the situation. Rather, they implicate a genuine awareness of the work as the work. Moreover, this awareness, precisely because it is a genuinely intentional awareness of the work as the work, is only primarily, not exclusively, of the work. It is in fact a differentiated structure: on the one hand, there is a primary overall directedness at the work as work (ergon); on the other a secondary directedness towards the individual entities now caught up in the working (energeia)—whether these be the entities worked upon, the individual tools used, other entities facilitating the use of these tools, e.g., the work bench and vice, and last but not least the tool-user’s body and limbs.7 The agent’s intentional directedness at the work is thus a unity of different, internally related kinds of component awareness, all organised around, and constitutive of, the primary awareness of something as something yet to be which is to be produced by the behaviour this awareness is embedded in.

Evidently, this complex awareness of the work as the work is circumspection, at least of the kind one finds in the absorbed use of equipment. But what form does this complex awareness take? As already intimated, circumspection of the kind implicated in my hammering my nail guides intentional behaviour in the sense of enabling me to bring things back on track when they start to head off track but before they have reached the point of no return. It is an awareness of what I am now working on as on its way to a certain end state, namely, the finished work. So circumspection of the kind implicated in my hammering a nail in is a perceptual tracking of things across time. More precisely, it is a temporally extended awareness extending from a starting point tS to an end point tE such that at each time t between tS and tE I am aware at t of how what I am doing now, namely, hammering a nail in, is progressing—more or less adequately relative to how it should be progressing, given the work towards which it is headed. Note that each awareness at a time t between tS and tE is integrated into the temporally extended awareness from tS to tE as a mere phase. And each such awareness at such a time t is of how things will further unfold. Think in this connection of perceptually tracking a ball as it is flying through the air and one is positioning oneself to catch it: one can only position oneself correctly and catch it because one is seeing the ball quite literally in motion, as heading towards the point at which one’s path with it will intersect, whereby what point this is becomes progressively clearer to one as one tracks the ball.8

My circumspect awareness is thus of a kind much discussed in the phenomenological and psychological literature of Heidegger’s time, namely, awareness of a temporal object (Zeitgegenstand)—of a melody, a spoken sentence, the flight of an aeroplane across the sky and the like. Admittedly, my circumspect awareness is, as we shall soon see, a very distinctive form of such awareness. In the meantime let us note that much contemporary cognitive science seems wary of this kind of representation. Andy Clark and Rick Grush are a case in point. They write,

Skilled reaching is the smooth approach of an arm and hand system towards some target object. Success in this class of actions depends, in part, upon the brain receiving and responding to a stream of proprioceptive feedback, especially when visual feedback is not available: feedback concerning the orientation, position and trajectory of the arm/hand system as the movement progresses. There is, however, a widely appreciated and seemingly insurmountable problem. The proprioceptive feedback is often (for very fast movements) required, it seems, faster than it is available. For such feedback to be used to smooth-out fast on-going reaching activity, it needs to be available before the minimum naturally possible delay has lapsed. (Clark and Grush 1999, p.6)

Goal-directed behaviour sometimes needs information about the future since otherwise the information would come too late to be effective. So feedback mechanisms will not do since they do not provide information on future states of the overall behaviour system and its operating environment.9 Clark and Grush therefore postulate the existence of a neural subsystem which provides predictions of where the overall behavioural system will be, given how things currently are with both it and its operating environment.10 This neural subsystem produces a succession of representations at a time t to the effect that things are thus and so at time t+n. Moreover, each of these representations is, because propositional, stand-alone in the sense that it does not necessarily belong, as a mere phase, within the succession of representations to which it belongs.

So Clark and Grush are attempting to construe what one might at first take to be a representation of succession as a succession of representations: a subject’s perceptually tracking the object for which it is reaching is to be understood as a sequence of propositional representations which successively update the subject on where its hand is vis-à-vis the object. There is, however, reason to doubt that this will work. Clark and Grush model their idea of an anticipatory neural subsystem on the emulators found in chemical plants whose successful operation requires certain interventions so quickly that one cannot employ feedback mechanisms. But the design of the emulators which solve this problem in chemical plants presupposes that the chemical process itself is well-understood, i.e., that it is known in advance when, in the course of the process, the necessary interventions are needed. This is, in two interrelated senses, not true of my hammering: firstly, I never know in advance when the nail I am hammering will so start to bend that if I continue to strike it as I have been, I will fail to hammer the nail in successfully. Secondly, I never know in advance whether my nail will not start to bend in a fashion which, if not corrected, will bring things unstuck, in between predictions at a given time t that things will be thus and so at time t+n. The unexpected character of what needs to be anticipated means that I must so to speak predict continually. Or rather, it means that I do not predict at all. Rather, I have one single temporally extended anticipatory awareness, precisely a representation of succession, across my hammering from start to finish in which at each point awareness of where my hammering is headed is embedded as a distinguishable but inseparable phase. I must be continuously perceiving how the nail I am hammering is now going in in response, of course, to how I am now hammering it in.

Circumspection of the kind involved in my hammering my nail is therefore irreducibly an adverbial awareness of how things are going with what one is working upon. And things can go well or badly, depending on whether the current phase of activity is or is not off track relative to the work which constitutes the endpoint of activity. Only as such goal-oriented perceptual tracking can circumspection guide manipulation in the sense of keeping it on track relative to the goal, the finished product. To say that such circumspection is a matter of perceiving how things are going with what one is working upon is not, of course, to say that when things start to go badly, e.g., the nail starts to bend, I respond to this for the reason that things are going badly. The nail’s starting to bend simply causes me to adjust my hammer swing. But it is to say that the nail’s starting to bend only evokes this response because circumspection is awareness of how things are going relative to goal.

Evidently, if this account is right, then Heidegger’s notion of circumspection implicates, pace Dreyfus, a subjective awareness of where things are headed to but is not yet, namely, my goal. Dreyfus is right to insist that I have no inner representation of goal if ““representational inner state” means “propositional state” (Dreyfus 2002, p.415). But this can be taken, not as an anti-representationalist point, but as showing that one needs to think of the relevant representation as one of a very distinctive kind: a representation of succession in whose linguistic articulation the word ‘how’ is obligatory. Only so does one capture the character of the circumspection I display while hammering as temporally horizonal, as a perceiving of where things are headed. No perceiving-that will do. Only the temporally horizonal character as a perceiving how things are unfolding enables circumspection to guide in the sense of anticipating where things are headed before they actually get there.

Note that this account of circumspection yields both a more plausible interpretation of Heidegger and a more plausible phenomenological description than is possible for Dreyfus.11 For example, it enables one to make more plausible sense of Heidegger’s claim12 that the ready-to-hand “in its ready-to-handedness …. so to speak draws itself back precisely in order to be truly ready-to-hand.” (Sein und Zeit, § 15, H 69; my translation)13 Here Heidegger is not claiming that the ready-to-hand withdraws entirely since he maintains only that one is primarily, not that one is exclusively aware of the work. Insofar as equipment is truly ready-to-hand, it steps merely into the background in order to let the entities one is working upon it come forward in their capacity as tending towards the completed work. If, however, this is so, then circumspection is indeed a unity of multiple different yet functionally interconnected awarenesses of the entities implicated in one’s behaviour. In perceptually tracking how the nail I am hammering is going, the nail is clearly the primary material entity of which I am aware. But precisely because I am aware of the nail in this way, I am also aware, in a different way, of the hammer I am wielding and indeed, in yet another way, of the various limbs I am using in hammering. I am aware, indeed I am seeing how the nail I am hammering is going in in response to how I am hammering, i.e., in response to how I am holding and swinging the hammer—which latter I know, precisely because I am an expert hammerer, through how the hammer feels in my hands as I swing it.14

§ 3: Explicating the ‘I do’

This account of circumspection can be used to resolve the issue dividing McDowell and Dreyfus. This issue is, as Dreyfus puts it, that according to McDowell “even when I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing, the capacity to be self-aware must still be operative.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373) Against this Dreyfus objects that whenever any activity, “from taking a walk, to being absorbed in a conversation, to giving a lecture, is going really well,” there is no actual, as opposed to potential awareness of self at all. Sartre argues convincingly, he claims, that in such absorbed coping the self-conscious ego is absent:

When I run after a streetcar, when I look at the time, when I am absorbed in contemplating a portrait, there is no I … I am then plunged into the world of attractive and repellant qualities—but me, I have disappeared.15

“In general,” says Dreyfus, “when one is totally absorbed in one’s activity, one ceases to be a subject.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373)

Explication of the manner in which circumspection is contentful permits us to see what is right and what is wrong in these claims. Circumspection of the kind involved in absorbedly and expertly hammering a nail in is a temporally extended, hence non-propositional tracking of how the nail one is hammering is going in—whereby it can go in well or badly as this is determined by the ‘work’, i.e., the finished product to which the whole activity is underway. In this sense, Dreyfus is right to say that there is no awareness of self, subject or actor in any sense of the term which would entail awareness about the self, subject or actor. On any intuitive understanding of the notion, what an awareness is about is the referent of the noun phrase occupying subject position in the linguistic description of the awareness. And in circumspection of the kind involved in expertly hammering a nail, this is merely the nail. One might still think, however, that this account of circumspection entails an absurd kind of mindedness, namely, that someone hammering were giving a running first-person commentary on themselves: “Now my nail is going in well, oops, now it is starting to bend, so now I am adjusting my swing … .” For the noun phrase referring to the nail contains, in its constituent relative clause, reference to the person doing the hammering and this reference must be accomplished by an anaphoric use of an appropriate third person pronoun. Only so do we perspicuously capture the causal role played by the hammerer’s circumspect awareness in shaping how this latter hammers. In order to explain why John Perry, after several circuits around the supermarket, removed the leaking bag of sugar from his trolley, we must say that he did so because he had recognised that he was making a mess. Analogously, when seeking to capture how circumspection guides hammering, we must say that hammerers hammer as they do because they see how the nail they are hammering in is going in, e.g., at too great an angle, in response to which they adjust their swing.

This might now engender the following objection: such anaphoric use of a pronoun can always be expanded into a case of the indirect reflexive, which according to Geach is used “as an oratio obliqua proxy for the first-person pronoun of oratio recta.”16 Should this be right, then circumspect awareness of how things are going with what one is doing would entail that someone hammering were giving a running first-person commentary on themselves. Fortunately, there is no reason to think that all such anaphoric uses, simply because they are necessary for capturing causal role, are cases of the indirect reflexive. An anaphorically used pronoun is no less required for explaining the behaviour of non-linguistic beings: “The dog ran away because it saw the aggressive dog from next door bearing down upon it.”17 That a subject S believes that Φ(it), where ‘Φ(…)’ is any propositional function with one empty place, does not entail that S is thinking, or even can think, “Φ(I/me).”18 So not all such anaphoric uses of a pronoun are cases of the indirect reflexive.

This response permits us to identify a more subtle way in which Dreyfus gets absorbed coping both right and wrong. Dreyfus is right to say that it involves no subject in the sense of the absorbed coper’s thinking some first person thought about what he, she or indeed it is doing. Yet it does not follow from this that absorbed copers have no awareness at all, in particular, of how they are doing what they are doing. Indeed, if we are to accommodate the capacity to respond to the unexpectedly relevant which makes absorbed coping intelligent, precisely more than doing what worked last time, Dreyfus cannot be right when he says that “the coper does not need to be aware of himself even in some minimal way.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.374) And the occurrence of pronouns used anaphorically in the relative clause of its linguistic expression intimates precisely a minimal way or sense in which the absorbed coper is self-aware. Such pronouns are not mere oratio obliqua proxies for first person oratio recta. But they do articulate a kind of subject-related content which, unlike a fully propositional content free of indexical and demonstrative elements, does not float free of the subject of awareness, as a content graspable by all. Rather, it is bound to the subject whose content it is. And it may be described as an implicit form of self-awareness which lies in between the capacity to ascribe experience and behaviour to oneself; and occasional bouts of explicit, first person commentary on experience and behaviour.

Of course, such anaphorically articulable awareness can become a form of explicit, first person awareness. If subject S is capable of first person thought, then it will be able to attach an “I do” to its hammering, i.e., to think, “I am now hammering.” In so doing, S puts itself in a position to make the circumspective sight inherent to its hammering similarly explicit, that is, to ascribe the same to itself, to grasp it in the first person. At this point there is explicit awareness of and about one oneself, namely, as doing such and such well or badly—awareness in which there is first person reference to self and which requires for its characterisation a true indirect reflexive, as is shown by the reflexive pronoun ‘oneself’ within the pronominal phrase. Dreyfus is therefore wrong to imply that in absorbed coping there is self-awareness only in the anodyne sense that the absorbed coper possesses the capacity for attentive experience with its attendant ego. This is to overlook something actually and not merely potentially present, something which can made first person when the absorbed coper attaches an “I do”19 to its action: anaphorically articulable awareness of how what one is doing is proceeding, namely, well or badly relative to overall goal.

Let me summarise: pace Dreyfus, absorbed coping involves real intentional awareness of how things are going with what one is doing. Furthermore, this circumspect awareness is actual and not merely potential self-awareness in that it involves reference back to the subject of awareness articulable by anaphoric use of an appropriate pronoun. But this awareness is not about the subject; it is about the ‘work’. Nor does it entail any first person awareness of or about the subject. It is thus not a matter of an ego attending to itself. It can, however, become this, when, namely, the subject ascribes its action to itself (as itself).

At this point, one might worry that too much has been conceded to Dreyfus. For surely this account construes absorbed coping as nothing more than something shared in common with non-rational animals upon which higher order rational capacities are built up. And surely this undermines McDowell’s claim that mindedness reaches right down into the absorbed coping of distinctively rational animals. Not necessarily. At some sufficiently abstract level the absorbed coping of rational animals must share a common structure with that of non-rational animals. To this extent, the idea of there being a ground-floor level of absorbed coping upon which higher-order rational capacities are founded must be right. The problem is not, I think, with the metaphor of ground floor and upper floor as such, but with Dreyfus’ application of it. He thinks of the ground floor as a level at which the domain of the brutely physical interfaces with what is for him the relatively restricted domain of the genuinely representational, which, by the way, he often seems to regard as clunking away in computationalist fashion. But then it must be a category mistake to think of the various ways in which these two domains systematically interact with one another as culturally or historically pliable. They can be no more this than the secretion of bile, standing as they do outside, or rather, prior to culture and history. Particularly when Dreyfus attempts to cash the metaphor in terms borrowed from Walter Freeman, the ground-floor level appears as something constitutionally impervious to the cultural and historical goings-on made possible by higher-order rational capacities.

This suggests that a better way to think about these matters is not to reject the ground-floor/upper-floor model entirely but to so re-conceive it that one thinks of the ground-floor as culturally and historically pliable, such that one can speak of the evolution, indeed the cultivation, of sensibility and receptivity. Dreyfus himself gives clues as to how such rethinking is to be accomplished. He writes, “McDowell and I presumably agree that, when one is involved in learning, problem solving, responding to coaching etc., one acts with deliberation and so one experiences oneself as a subject monitoring one’s involved activity—that is, one is mindful of what one is doing.” (Dreyfus 2007b, p.373) Evidently, the awareness one has in the kinds of case Dreyfus is considering is not circumspection as outlined above. Rather, it is the kind of awareness one has when practising hammering a nail or playing a Beethoven piano sonata. In such cases, however much help one might be receiving from the carpentry master or piano teacher, one is initiating oneself into the relevant skill. And so one surely does have a different kind of awareness to what one has once practice has been successfully accomplished: when practising, one is aware, not of how the nail is hammering is going in, or of how the phrase one is playing is taking shape, but how one is hammering, how one is shaping the phrase—in the worst case, how one is holding the hammer in one’s hand, how one is striking the individual notes of the phrase, etc. One’s awareness is precisely about oneself, not about what one is working on.

Clearly, such awareness about oneself is possible only for rational animals. And what it enables them to do is shape for themselves their skills, habits and indeed perceptual abilities in the manner implicit in Dreyfus’ talk of a subject’s attending to, or being mindful of, what it is doing. In so doing, they create qualitatively new kinds of skill, habit and discriminatory capacity, for example, the skill of piano-playing, the habit of maintaining personal space and the ability to distinguish good wine from bad. Crucially, rational animals can do this not, or not primarily, because they can wield the concept of a reason but because they are capable of making explicit, in acts of first person awareness, how they are doing what they are doing. Thereby they set themselves up to refine the relevant skill and capacity for circumspect awareness inherent to it. When the subject of circumspective awareness is capable of such first person articulation, it is capable of a distinctive ability to shape itself and its behaviour. This ability is not, or not exclusively, a matter of learning how to recognise and respond to rational requirements, but of so reshaping and refining originally natural motor abilities, discriminatory capacities and affectivities that novel, more-than-natural behavioural skills, habits, discriminatory capacities and affectivities are generated—precisely a sensibility or receptivity which, although like that of non-rational animals in its general form, is different in the way it specifically operates and what it responds to.

This, I suggest, is that mindedness or rather mindfulness of rational animals which implicates the “I do”, i.e., first person awareness not just of but also about the subject of awareness—not just the non-nominative ‘me’ but also and primarily the nominative ‘I’. Crucially, finding such mindfulness has led me to reject an assumption common to both Dreyfus and McDowell, namely, that all intentionality is propositional or, if not this, then sub-propositional. For what mindfulness presupposes is the temporally extended perceptual tracking of how things are proceeding with what one is doing. Mindfulness in this sense is, I also want to suggest, the true significance of the notion of Bildung. German philosophy from Kant to Hegel spoke of Bildung not primarily out of a concern to fend off rampant Platonism by showing how responsiveness to reasons depends on linguistically mediated practices of acculturation. Rather, it was interested in articulating a conception of rational selfhood which identified and articulated how the various kinds of capacity for affective response to the world—emotion, aesthetic sensibility and vulnerability—enabled the capacity for rational response and indeed made all sorts of new rational response possible. Thereby it sought to cast a plausible picture of how human beings could rationally shape and reshape their ends, skills, habits and affectivities—and thereby themselves. This is clear, for example, in Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind.

But one will not, I think, see this if one has eyes only for apophansis, i.e., the making and evaluating of truth claims. In order to spell out how the ‘mind’ is operative in the absorbed coping of rational animals—in effect, to specify what the capacity to attach an “I do” to one’s actions positively enables—one should acknowledge that responsiveness to reasons is not the only thing distinctive of rational animals. At least equiprimordial is the capacity for that reshaping and refining of behavioural and affective response which Dreyfus has in mind when he speaks of egos attending to and monitoring themselves. The mindedness that permeates, that is to say, shapes the absorbed coping of rational animals is mindfulness—what Heidegger would call care (Sorge).

I have been trying to find middle ground between McDowell and Dreyfus while awarding McDowell a win on points. But let me now try to add a few more points to his score by addressing, at least in outline, an issue thus far skirted around: is circumspection conceptual, such that we may speak of conceptual capacities as operative in the perceptual experience guiding absorbed coping? The answer I shall give is not McDowell’s but it does, I think, nicely unify receptivity and spontaneity in the way he desires. I also think it is required by a conception of receptivity as culturally and historically pliable in the details of its operation although I cannot go into this here.

§ 4: Perceptual Experience as Concept-Laden Intuition

For present purposes a psychological state or experience will count as conceptually contentful if it is contentful in a fashion which requires appeal to the truth of propositions or, if one prefers, sentences—so that it displays such criterial marks of the conceptual as satisfaction conditions, intentional directedness at some individual to the exclusion of all others, no matter how type-identical, and intensionality of the standard ‘morning star’/‘evening star’ kind. Importantly, this understanding of the conceptual is not that Kantian one according to which to be conceptual is to be an exercise in self-conscious thinking, by which is typically meant an exercise in judgement, whether the judging itself or some proper part thereof, either predication or reference. Of course, by tying the conceptual to judgement and assertion, one restricts it to the propositional and/or the sub-propositional. No such restriction is implicit in the conceptual as I understand it,20 so on my understanding the question of whether circumspection is conceptual does not decide itself automatically.21 Finally, what is conceptual in my sense is not necessarily conceptual in the Kantian sense.

I also need to make clear what kind of perceptual experience I shall be concerned with. In order to bring the discussion closer to the kind of perceptual experience usually at issue when one asks whether conceptual capacities are operative within it, I will move away from the sight which guides the use of equipment to consider the sight which guides the exercise of the body and its limbs. Thus, I shall consider the kind of perceptual experience involved in what Clark and Grush call skilled reaching.

Imagine, then, that I am reaching out to grasp a blackboard duster lying there on the table in front of me. How must the perceptual experience guiding my arm and hand movements be contentful? Any adequate account must capture the informational role which perceptual intentional content enables perceptual experience to play. In particular, it must capture the dual character of this role: firstly, my perceptual experience informs about an objective state of affairs, viz., a duster’s lying there on the table.22 Indeed, it must keep me informed over time about how and where the duster objectively is. It is possible, after all, that the duster might move, so I need to keep it in view. More importantly, its being located there on the table serves so to speak as an anchor for the coordination of my body movements across time as I reach out to grasp it—this irrespective of whether the duster moves or not, either in the sense that it changes its location or in the sense that it changes its orientation at its location.

But secondly, my perceptual experience must inform me as to how I stand to the duster located there on the table. And here, too, my perceptual experience must keep me up to date on this over the time it takes to reach out and grasp the duster: my perceptual experience guides me in the sense that it informs me as to how the distance between me and the duster is changing as my hand moves towards it. And it must continue to inform me in this second sense because my ability successfully to pick the duster up as I need to depends, not just on its specific shape and orientation, but even on my having correct anticipations of weight and such things as how dusty the duster is; just how dusty I perceive the duster to be will combine with my desire not to get my hands dirty to determine how I grasp it.

Clearly, these two different senses in which my perceptual experience is informational complement one another; they work together to enable my perceptual experience to guide my reaching for and grasping the duster. The characterisation of perceptual experience as a matter of revealing to its subject how this latter stands to something objectively the case trivially entails its characterisation as a matter of revealing something objectively the case. Conversely, if my perceptual experience is genuinely to guide my skilled reaching, it must be more than a matter of revealing some bit of objective reality. For if it were merely this, then my perceptual experience would not place me vis-à-vis objective reality, as do the words “You are here” on a map. And so I would not be able to orient myself with regard either to the bit of reality my perceptual experience presents me with or indeed to other bits of objective reality in my perceptual environment.

But how precisely are we to conceive this unity of two different but complementary senses in which my perceptual experience is informationally efficacious? How must its perceptual intentional content be structured if it is to enable this unity? Consider the following diagrams: Each of these diagrams represents different ways in which a duster can lie there on the table. Obviously, each diagram represents a different orientation of the duster to the table at the same location on the table. One may therefore say that each represents a different way in which the duster, in virtue of its orientation to the table, can make it the case that a duster is lying there on the table. In the normal, non-defective case, I will be able to determine, simply of the basis of my perceiving, which of these, if any, is the actual one. Indeed, even if I do not consciously determine or become aware of this, whichever of these and other possible orientations is the actual one will still shape my behaviour. Moreover, this shaping takes place as follows: each phase of my perceptual tracking shapes how specifically I extend my arm, how specifically I turn my hand, and so on, in response to, indeed in order to fit, how specifically, in this particular case, a duster is lying there on the table.

Thus, each phase of the sight which guides my reaching out to grasp something is a perceiving-how—this time not a perceiving of how things are going with what I am doing but of how things are more specifically what they are and are presented to me as being by my perceptual experience. Moreover, this character as a perceiving-how makes the perceiving circumspect, the behaviour it guides flexible. For it picks up on, thereby permitting behavioural adjustment to, the specific and possibly unique ways in which the target object is there as the target object. And the fact that the target object is there for me as the target object implicates, I think, conceptual contentfulness: in reaching out to grasp the duster I and my hand are perceptually guided by how, in these particular circumstances, it is the case or again it is true that a duster is lying there on the table.23 Any attempt to subvert this characterisation will not capture the dual way in which my perceptual experience is informational, hence efficacious. Of course, this is not to imply that I am or need be conscious of my perceptual experience as having this structure. I am simply perceiving how things are what they are; I need not be aware, or even able to be aware, of my perceptual experience itself, of its internal structure or of how it guides my behaviour.

If this is right, then it permits further clarification of the dual informational character of perceptual experience. Talk of perception as informing me about reality needs to be handled with care since it can suggest perceiving-that, i.e., perceptual belief formation or perceptual judgement. But the sight which guides my skilled reaching is not like this. Imagine that prior even to entering the room in which the duster is lying on the table, I possess very full albeit finite information about the duster and its location. Even so, I still have to see it lying there on the table, I still have to hold it in view as my hand reaches out to grasp it. This is because a finite number of propositions can be made true by different possible arrangements of things or, to use Peacocke’s term, scenarios and I need to pick up on such differences if my behaviour is to fit the actual one. So in perceiving a duster lying there on the table I presume the truth of the proposition that a duster lying there on the table in order to orient myself according to how specifically this is the case. This kind of perceiving is thus not truth-claiming; it is not apophantic, as Husserl and Heidegger would say. Its point is rather to uncover (entdecken) how such and such is thus and so24—even though, if I do not have the belief already, its occurrence and reliability may rationally evoke the belief that such and such is thus and so.

And this tells us something about what it is for perceptual experience to reveal how I stand to the objective reality conceptually presented in it. While the duster’s orientation at its location on the table is a perfectly objective feature of the world, it is not represented as this in the intentional content of my perceiving. Rather, it is represented non-conceptually, this in a fashion which complements conceptual representation of the duster lying there on the table as a duster lying there on the table. Both aspects of perceptual intentional content work together to uncover a conceptual content in its application by me to these specific circumstances. Thereby they enable perceptual experience to contain, or rather to be, information about how I stand to some bit of reality—that bit, of course, which is conceptually represented in it. And in enabling this, they enable perceptual experience to capture, or rather to be, how the duster appears sensually to me as lying there on the table—what it looks like for such and such concepts to apply there to such and such objects in such and such circumstances as perceived by such and such a subject from here.25 The non-conceptual aspect of perceptual intentional content thus does not sit indifferently alongside the conceptual aspect for which conceptual capacities are responsible. Rather, it exists in integral unity with the latter.

In conclusion, let me return to the “I think” and “I do”. Imagine that I am some distance away from the duster and walking towards it in order to grasp it. The orientation of the duster on the table to the table combines with my position vis-à-vis the table to determine the duster’s orientation towards me: perhaps it is lying diagonally to my line of sight, with its more distant corners to the right of my line of sight. As I move towards it, how the duster’s constant size appears to me as the constant size it is will vary. And if I cannot move in a straight line towards it, how the duster’s constant shape appears to me as the constant shape it is will also vary. Finally, if, as I move towards it, the lighting in the room changes, how the duster’s constant grey colour appears to me as the one constant colour it is will vary, at one moment, say, as darker grey at the upper end, the next moment lighter. This suggests that I distinguish between these constant features and their varying appearances to me in engaged perceptual tracking of it.26 If this is so, then a capacity for perceptually tracking how things are what they are is required for being able to distinguish between how things are and how they seem to me to be—an ability without which there can be no “I think” or “I do.”

Carleton B. Christensen, School of Philosophy, Research School of the Social Sciences, Room 3227, Coombs Building, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia carleton.christensen@anu.edu.au


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Anscombe, G. E. M. 1974 “The First Person,” in Mind and Language, Vol. 1, edited by S. D. Guttenplan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 45-65

Brandom, R. 2002 Tales of the Mighty Dead, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press Castañeda, H.-N. 1999 “‘He’—A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness,” in The Phenomeno-Logic of the I: Essays on Self-Consciousness, edited by J. G. Hart and T. Kapitan, Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Press, pp. 35-60

Christensen, C. B. 1993 “Sense, Subject and Horizon,” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 53, No.4, pp. 749-779

Christensen, C. B. 1997 “Heidegger’s Representationalism,” in Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 51, No.1, pp. 77-103

Christensen, C. B. 1998 “Getting Heidegger of the West Coast,” in Inquiry, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 65-88 Christensen, C. B. 1999 “What does (the young) Heidegger mean by the Seinsfrage?,” in Inquiry, Vol. 42, Nos. 3-4, pp. 411-438

Christensen, C. B. 2000 “Wie Man Gedanken und Anschauungen zusammenführt: Eine Rekonstruktion von Mind and World,” in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, Vol. 48, No. 6, pp. 891-914

Christensen, C. B. 2001 “Escape from Twin Earth—Putnam’s ‘Logic’ of Natural Kind Terms,” in International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 9, No.2, pp. 123-150

Christensen, C. B. 2007a “Nichts Neues unter der Sonne—Bewußtsein und Selbstbewußtsein bei Paul Natorp,” in Kant-Studien, Vol. 98, No. 3, pp. 372-398

Christensen, C. B. 2007b “What are the Categories in Sein und Zeit? Brandom on Heidegger on Zuhandenheit,” in European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 15, No. 2, August, 2007, pp.159-185

Christensen, C. B. 2008 Self and World—From Analytic Philosophy to Phenomenology, Berlin: W. de Gruyter Verlag

Clark, Andy and Rick Grush 1999 “Towards a Cognitive Robotics,” in Adaptive Behavior, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 5-16

Dreyfus, H. L. 2002 “Refocusing the Question: Can there be skillful Coping without Propositional Representations or Brain Representations?,” in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 1, pp. 413–425

Dreyfus, H. L. 2005 “Overcoming the Myth of the Mental: How Philosophers Can Profit from the Phenomenology of Everyday Expertise,” (APA Pacific Division Presidential Address 2005), in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 79:2 (November 2005), pp. 47-65

Dreyfus, H. L. 2007a “The Return of the Myth of the Mental,” in Inquiry, Vol. 50. No.4, pp. 352-365

Dreyfus, H. L. 2007b “Response to McDowell,” in Inquiry, Vol. 50. No.4, pp. 371-377

Geach, P. T. 1957 “On Beliefs about Oneself,” in Analysis, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 23-24; reprinted in P. T. Geach, Logic Matters, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1972, pp. 128-129

Heidegger, M. 1979 Sein und Zeit, 15.te Auflage, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag

Heidegger, M. 1992 Platon: Sophistes, Marburger Vorlesung WS 1924/25, GA 19 hrsg. von Ingeborg Schüßler, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann

Husserl, E. 1962 Phänomenologische Psychologie, Vorlesungen SS 1925, Husserliana Bd. 9, hrsg. von Walter Biemel, Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff

McDowell, John 2007a “What Myth?,” in Inquiry, Vol. 50. No.4, pp. 338-351

McDowell, John 2007b “Response to Dreyfus,” in Inquiry, Vol. 50. No.4, pp. 366-370

McDowell, J. 2007c “Conceptual Capacities in Perceptual Experience,” unpublished Ms.

Noë, A. 2002 “Is Perspectival Self-Consciousness Non-Conceptual?,” in Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 207, pp. 185-194

Perry, J. 1979 “The Problem of the Essential Indexical”, in Noûs, Vol. 13, pp. 3-21

Rey, G. 2002 “Problem with Dreyfus’ Dialectic,” in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 1, pp.403-408

Sartre, J.-P. 1957 The Transcendence of the Ego—An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness, translated by Forrest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick, New York: Noonday Press, Inc.

Sellars, Wilfrid 1967 Science and Metaphysics: Variations on Kantian Themes, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Snowdon, P. 1988 “Perception, Vision, and Causation,” in Perceptual Knowledge, edited by J. Dancy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 192-208

Wheeler, Michael 2005 Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press


  1. In the Natorp Report of 1922 and the WS 24/25 lecture Platon: Sophistes, Heidegger explicitly associates the notion of sight with Aristotle’s notion of phrónesis. Indeed, he displays a tendency to associate it with that specific form of sight which in Sein und Zeit he characterises as guiding our everyday engagement with equipment. This is a misleading move since it tends to obliterate the distinction Aristotle clearly draws between phrónesis and techné, hence between the phronimos and the technítus. Note, incidentally, how Dreyfus’ reliance on the notion of expertise itself amounts to an obliteration of the distinction between phrónesis and techné—a distinction which ultimately Heidegger must be as concerned to preserve as Aristotle.

    In the later lecture Platon: Sophistes, when he identifies the notion of phrónesis with the notion of conscience—see § 8 c), H 56—Heidegger begins tentatively to take this move back. Yet a trace of this misleading identification remains in the lecture, when, namely, Heidegger characterises phrónesis as umsichtiges Hinsehen—see § 23 b), H 163. Indeed, perhaps a trace remains in Being and Time: “Die Umsicht gibt allem Beibringen, Verrichten die Bahn des Vorgehens, die Mittel der Ausführung, die rechte Gelegenheit, den geeigneten Augenblick.” (Sein und Zeit, § 36, H 172)

  2. Macquarrie and Robinson have Heidegger say that the everyday use and manipulation of equipment “has its own kind of sight, by which our manipulation is guided and from which it acquires its specific Thingly character.” This is one of several points at which Macquarrie and Robinson mistranslate. How they get from “seine eigene Sichtart, die … ihm seine spezifische Sicherheit verleiht” to “its own kind of sight … from which it acquires its specific Thingly character” is hard to see. Another mistranslation which appears to have misled, e.g., Michael Wheeler (in Wheeler 2005) is the following: in § 15, H 69, of Sein und Zeit Heidegger writes, “Die Seinsart von Zeug, in der es sich von ihm selbst her offenbart, nennen wir die Zuhandenheit.” This Macquarrie and Robinson translate as follows: “The kind of Being which equipment possesses – in which it manifests itself in its own right – we call “readiness-to-hand”.” (p.98) Unfortunately, this translation suggests that the kind of being which characterises equipment is ready-to-handedness (which is also the manner in which equipment shows itself in its own right for what it is). This leads Wheeler to conflate being ready-to-hand with being equipment, which immediately creates a problem for Wheeler because Heidegger regards natural entities as capable of being ready-to-hand. Wheeler solves the problem by declaring that natural entities can be equipment.

    But there is no need for this drastic move. Macquarrie and Robinson fail to see that the relative clause is a determining, not a non-determining one. So Heidegger is not saying that the kind of Being possessed by equipment is ready-to-handedness, but merely that the kind of Being in which it shows itself for what it is, that is, as the equipment that it is, is ready-to-handedness. This is confirmed by the ‘definition’ Heidegger gives of Zuhandenheit in his lecture Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs: “Zuhandenheit aber ist Anwesenheit eines nächst verfügbaren Umweltdinges, so zwar, daß der Umgang gerade in den Verweisungen der Dienlichkeit und dergleichen als besorgendes Greifen nach etwas, als Zurechtmachen seiner für den Gebrauch sich aufhält.” (SS 25, § 23 b) β., H 265) This makes the occasional character of Zuhandenheit clear—see in this connection Christensen 2007b.

  3. That this is so is indicated by what Heidegger says about making (Herstellen): “Sight is not an appendage to productive intentional behaviour but belongs positively to it and its structure, guiding such intentional behaving.” (Heidegger 1989, §11, H 154; my translation)

  4. So evidently is this so that not even Dreyfus and his adherents are prepared to deny it—see, e.g., Dreyfus 1991, p.103 and p.133. Once, however, they have acknowledged this, Dreyfus and his followers find they must explain how this can be so without its imparting to absorbed coping a decidedly mental, representational character. To this end, Dreyfus identifies circumspection with the skilful knowing-how whose exercise Heidegger describes circumspection as guiding. This cannot be right: it is simply an oxymoron to describe a form of awareness as a form of knowing-how, i.e., a skill or behavioural capacity. Moreover, it would make no sense to describe circumspection as guiding absorbed coping were it literally identical either with absorbed coping itself or with the know-how in whose exercise absorbed coping consists.

    In his debate with McDowell Dreyfus is more cautious, so much so that one must wonder whether he has not tacitly relinquished his original anti-representationalism: Dreyfus unambiguously describes absorbed coping as involving perceptual experience of solicitations, which experience clearly cannot be identical with the absorbed coping it drives. He also speaks of intentional content at the level of absorbed coping, albeit of a completely non-propositional, hence non-conceptual, non-rational kind—see Dreyfus 2007a, p.360, and Dreyfus 2002. This is motor intentional content, which is apparently possessed by absorbed coping itself and not just the perceptual experience which absorbed coping does involve. What this all comes to is very unclear, particularly once Dreyfus has distinguished solicitations from Gibsonian affordances—see Dreyfus 2007a, p.357. The danger of not making this distinction is that affordances are, as the positive relevances entities possess for what I am currently do, perfectly objective facts; to speak of perceptually experiencing them comes close to admitting some kind of representationalism and once one has admitted this, one might even be tempted to regard the intentional content which directs perceptual experience at such objective facts as concept-involving. So Dreyfus muddies the waters by distinguishing solicitations from affordances as the non-conceptual, non-rational attractive powers which affordances exert upon the absorbed coper when this latter is appropriately disposed. An apple objectively affords satiation of hunger, hence will exert a certain attractive, motivating force, precisely a solicitation, upon me, leading me to eat it, when and only when I am hungry—see Dreyfus 2007a, p.357. This is all very unclear and one must suspect that any attempt to spell it out would show that it does not genuinely solve the problem it was supposed to solve—see note xii.

  5. Heidegger fairly clearly implies that circumspection can display different degrees of explicitness, depending on how smooth the behaviour it is guiding proceeds—see § 16, H 73 and H 75—, and indeed can assume different forms, depending on the precise nature of the using and manipulating of equipment—see § 32, H 148-149, and SS 25, § 23 b) β., H 265, where Heidegger speaks of two kinds of Umsicht, a thematising and a non-thematising one. We are here concerned with the latter, non-thematising kind “die den genuinen besorgenden Gebrauch des Dinges führt”, i.e., that simplest and most basic form of circumspection which guides the kind of use and manipulation in which all aspects work well. No doubt this is, as Wheeler also realises, a rare occurrence—see p.143.

  6. Wheeler pays no attention at all to this crucial claim. Nor indeed does Dreyfus, although at one point he does say that when hammering a nail, “(a)ll I am aware of is the task, or perhaps what I need to do when I finish … .” (Dreyfus 1991, p.65)

  7. Which, I hasten to add, is not to imply that one is aware of one’s limbs in the way in which one is aware of the tools one is wielding with them. That one is aware in some secondary sense of one’s limbs just as one is aware in some secondary sense of the tools one is using does not entail that these secondary senses are the same. Note that in WS 29/30 Heidegger indirectly rejects the view that one is related to one’s limbs as if they were just so many tools more.

  8. There is a deep point implicit here about the nature of the goal of an action and the intention to realise this goal which drives the action: these have the character of what Heidegger calls an Entwurf, i.e., a rough and provisional sketch.

  9. Feedback in the colloquial sense of the term is a report back on current opinions about, and effects of, actions previously undertaken. This intimates, by the ways, that the issue here is not simply, as Clark and Grush imply, an empirical one of whether there is such a neural subsystem which compensates for “laggardly” feedback mechanisms—see Clark and Grush 1997, p.6. The issue is also, indeed is primarily, a conceptual one.

  10. See Clark and Grush 1997, p.6.

  11. Note how in Dreyfus 1991 Dreyfus has great difficulty avoiding a construal of our ordinary everyday dealings with entities as quite literally blind (since how can there be any mention of perceptual experience in any sense at all, whether conceptual or non-conceptual, representational or non-representational, once circumspection has been identified with the skill guided by it?). Note, too, how Dreyfus later remedies this defect in order only to encounter another. For later he acknowledges that there is a kind of perceptual experience implicated in our ordinary everyday dealings with entities. But he insists that this is a genuinely non-representational, non-mental perceiving of, or at least responding to, things called solicitations. And solicitations, he eventually makes clear, are not to be identified with Gibsonian affordances, which are objective features of things of which one can have, unlike solicitations, perfectly representational perceptual experience. But what then are these solicitations? Dreyfus has now only introduced a degree of complexity and mystery not present in Heidegger. Nor is it clear how one could ever know, at least in any genuinely phenomenological fashion, of the existence of solicitations since these would appear to be by definition phenomenologically inaccessible: one has no representations of them when they are operating open one. Yet they are not the objective facts which affordances are, but rather pre-objective (and pre-subjective). So it seems they only exist when they are operating upon one. So how can one know anything of them at all? Are we to understand that they are just brute forces exerted on us by affordances? This would explain physicalistic talk of them as attractions and repulsions. But it would not license talk of them as ‘feelings’ (since one does not necessarily feel attractions and repulsions, at least not when these notions are understood in the sense in which a magnetic field can attract and repel). So one cannot move, on the basis of any such physicalistic characterisation, to talking of them as feelings which would be subjectively available, hence phenomenologically accessible to me in the way my feeling of disgust at an act of cruelty is available to me. Even less, therefore, would such physicalistic talk license one to speak of feelings of appropriateness, which must surely implicate some representation as appropriate of that which is merely felt to be appropriate (since one does not just have feelings of appropriateness in any completely non-cognitive sense). The problem with “the distinction Dreyfus insists on between affordances and solicitations” is thus not so much that it “does not amount to much” (McDowell 2007b, p.369); the real problem is that it introduces an extra layer of complexity whose content, necessity and explanatory value is so unclear as to make the distinction occult. Georges Rey has also seen how, in an effort to keep his account of absorbed coping afloat, Dreyfus ultimately resorts to characterisations so arcane that one must doubt their phenomenological character—see Rey 2002, p.406 and note 5, p.408.

  12. See Sein und Zeit, § 15, H 69-70, quoted above.

  13. “Das Eigentümliche des zunächst Zuhandenen ist es, in seiner Zuhandenheit sich gleichsam zurückzuziehen, um gerage eigentlich zuhanden zu sein.”

  14. This surely plausible phenomenological characterisation suggests an important point: circumspection of the kind one has in expertly wielding equipment is the result of multiple senses working indissolubly and holistically together—in the case of human beings, primarily vision, in second place hapsis, but in principle other senses, too. Thus, the sound of my hammering might well be telling me how I am hammering. It is at least plausible to maintain that this kind of multi-modal experience can neither be philosophically analysed, nor psychologically explained, in classically empiricist fashion as the synthesis of discrete representations provided independently by the different senses. The multi-modal character of my experience is not derivative but original. Perceptual experience through one sense organ alone is, in the case of vision, derivative and possibly in the case of the other senses not really possible—which constitutes the sound basis for the prioritising of vision in philosophy since it is, for us humans at least, the most informationally dense, hence primary form of perceptual experience.

  15. Sartre 1957, p.48f. Dreyfus quotes this passage in Dreyfus 2007b, p.373.

  16. Altham 1979, p.25. Altham rightly remarks, “Use of ‘he’ as an indirect reflexive is a kind of use not to be assimilated to other uses of the pronoun. It is not, for example, a demonstrative, nor an ordinary bound variable. Nor does it stand proxy for a name or definite description. Its distinctness was fully brought out by Castañeda, und has recently been reinforced by Anscombe.”

  17. Indeed, the bare anaphorically used pronoun is all the more obligatory in this case precisely because a dog has no understanding of itself as itself. There is a further issue here which must be left to one side: why is it that in those cases in which there is and can be no explicit first person awareness, we sense a certain inability of the anaphoric pronoun to occur nominatively, i.e., in subject position. This may well be the truth behind a distinction which pragmatism and Sartre very misleadingly put as a distinction between ‘I’ and ‘me’.

  18. One might claim that the literature has assumed merely that in a situation where another subject S* may truly assert that S believes that he is Φ, S* is committed to S’s merely being able to think such first person thoughts. Two responses to this are in order: first, the argument provided in the text shows that not even this is true. Second, to argue in this fashion is confused: if what S* registers with his assertion is merely the capacity to assert a certain kind of sentence, one can no longer understand how what S* registers with his assertion can drive behaviour, hence be appealed to in explanations of behaviour. One must regard what S* registers as being or entailing the disposition, the willingness to assert this. But what is this disposition, this willingness, if not precisely S’s belief that he, she or it is Φ? This shows that the appeal merely to ability to wield the first person is not really an alternative to the false claim that in a situation in which another subject S* may truly assert, in an indirectly reflexive spirit, that S believes that he, she or it is Φ, S* is committed to S’s actually thinking the first person thought, “I am Φ.” Rather, it is simply a way of dodging while looking like one is addressing the issue of what weaker claim might be true.

  19. See incidentally Sein und Zeit, § 64, H 319, where Heidegger speaks of the “I act” as the practical complement to Kant’s “I think.”

  20. There is a further reason for understanding the conceptual in the manner adopted here: it permits one to distinguish between the predicative and the propositional, notions which Husserl and Heidegger persistently conflate. Importantly, they conflate these notions because, in their use of the term Aussage, they fail to distinguish between predication and assertion, i.e., judgement or, to use the neologism both borrow from Aristotle, apophansis. Only for this reason do they both describe perceptual experience as pre-predicative, i.e., itself non-predicative yet the basis for all forms of predicative intentionality, in particular, judgement. Both could have happily described perceptual experience as pre-apophantic or pre-assertoric while permitting perceptual experience to have a predicative structure—as indeed Heidegger de facto does in his notion of the hermeneutic as opposed to the apophantic ‘as’—see Sein und Zeit, § 32, H 149f., and in particular § 33, H 158f.

  21. Quite apart from the argument provided below, there are two independent ancillary reasons for thinking that circumspection is indeed conceptual. Firstly, given that its linguistic characterisation requires a distinctive kind of anaphora, it is hard to see how circumspection could be anything other than conceptual. Secondly, what motivates the notion of circumspection in the first place is the need to accommodate the fact that absorbed coping is never a matter of blind habit, of merely doing what worked last time; Heidegger regards even our most absorbed, most expert engagement with the world as sighted precisely because even the most absorbed coper can encounter something unexpectedly relevant which requires that one not do what worked last time. Precisely for this reason Heidegger links the notion of circumspection to that of phrónesis even though he, unlike Dreyfus, is careful not simply to identify these notions as this would entail an identification of the phrónimos with the technítus, i.e., artificer, artisan, craftsman, skilled workman. (If pressed, Heidegger would presumably say that circumspection belongs to a family of notions whose other members are Aristotelian phrónesis, Roman prudentia, Machiavellian virtû and Kantian Urteilskraft.) Now it is hard to see how circumspection could be a capacity to recognise the unexpectedly relevant unless it were conceptually contentful.

  22. I say here a duster lying there on the table because even though, once I am well and truly into my tracking of the duster lying there on the table, I will remember and believe what I am tracking to be the duster lying there on the table, the duster I have been tracking for the last few seconds, the duster I want to reach out and grasp, etc., this more definitively descriptive conceptual content is surely not essential to my ability to track the duster up to the point at which I have successfully grasped. There might be a tendency in various conceptions of perceptual tracking, perhaps Husserl’s account of so-called continuous perceiving (kontinuierliche Wahrnehmung), to think that memory of past phases of tracking is necessary for the synthesis which each succeeding phase involves. Such synthesis is doubtless necessary for first person awareness of oneself as perceptually tracking that object there, but it is surely not necessarily for perceptual tracking itself.

  23. More precisely, it is is a perceiving how, in these particular circumstances, this proposition is made true by the things causing this experience. With this, we encounter the explanation for the common philosophical intuition that a causal relation to an object is a necessary aspect of the ontological constitution of perceptual experience. This is not at all to deny Snowdon’s point—see Snowdon 1988— that one cannot non-circularly analyse perceptual experience in terms of this causal relation.

  24. At one point in his discussion of truth Heidegger speaks of the “Wie seiner Entdecktheit”, i.e., the How of something’s uncoveredness—see Sein und Zeit, § 44 a), H 218.

  25. See Phänomenologische Psychologie, § 6, H 62, where Husserl speaks of the How of experiential givenness.

  26. Note, however, that because neither the duster nor its lying there on the table is a temporal object, it is not essentially embedded as such a phase. Nothing said thus far entails that my perceiving how a duster is lying there on the table can only occur as a phase in a temporally extended perceptual tracking of the duster. It is possible simply to perceive at a time t how things are what they are.