I am reading Moore's Proof of an External World. It is an established truth that you have to read philosophical papers especially carefully and try, as much as it is possible, to recover just that meaning from the readings that an author has implied there.

This is especially a difficult task for a non-native English speaker, when reading the literature in English, in the original language of a text. A difficulty I have stumbled upon concerns Moore's use of the following two phrases in a passage of the paper: in my mind and with my mind. Here is the passage itself from the paper:

It should, I think, be noted, first of all, that the use of the word 'mind', which is being adopted when it is said that any bodily pains which I feel are 'in my mind', is one which is not quite in accordance with any usage common in ordinary speech, although we are very familiar with it in philosophy. Nobody, I think, would say that bodily pains which I feel are 'in my mind', unless he was also prepared to say that it is with my mind that I feel bodily pains; and to say this latter is, I think, not quite in accordance with common non-philosophic usage. It is natural enough to say that it is with my mind that I remember, and think, and imagine, and feel mental pains - e.g., disappointment, but not, I think, quite so natural to say that it is with my mind that I feel bodily pains, e.g., a severe headache; and perhaps even less natural to say that it is with my mind that I see and hear and smell and taste.

Then, Moore continues with presenting the philosophical usage within which these different sorts of experience do not differ anymore with respect to the use of (something is) with my mind --namely, of any of them it could be now properly said that they are 'equally' with my mind-- but I think this citation provides you with sufficient context for distinguishing between the meanings in my mind and with my mind as it is used by Moore.

More specifically, the difficulty I have been experiencing comes from the usage of with my mind, for I do not understand its meaning as clearly as that of in my mind.

My opinion, I have gained from my reading(s), is that (1) Moore uses the phrases almost interchangeably, and that (2) there, with my mind supports the meaning according to which, what is with my mind presents my mind's features as long as the what is still being with my mind; or in other words, with my mind in this context supports the meaning my mind has certain features, it is furnished or determined by certain features, in the sense that these (certain) features are with my mind.

Is this interpretation of with my mind (2) and the one of its relation to in my mind (1) correct and supported by the citation?

  • I think that Moore deliberatley uses "with my mind" to stress the fact that the pain caused when I cut my finger with a knife is feeled "with the finger/in the finger" itself. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jul 12 '17 at 13:43
  • @ Mauro ALLEGRANZA Now I am inclined to think that Moore uses 'mind' in 'with my mind' in an instrumental sense; I think the syntactic structure 'it is with my mind that I remember etc.' suggests reading 'mind' this way; this matches 'in my mind' in the sense that what is in my mind is a 'mental occurrence or process,' and what I can obtain via mind can be exclusively a 'mental occurrence or process' as well. In my opinion, this understanding helps you find the right way on how to read the paper further. – Giorgi Jul 13 '17 at 15:28

I would say "with my mind" applies to an action, such as feeling or seeing, while "in my mind" applies to an object, which in the examples given is the object of the action. Moore is implying that for something to be "in my mind", it must be the object of an action that is performed "with my mind".

| improve this answer | |
  • Nicely explained. I think, It is not far from an instrumental understanding: mind performs an action as the (only) means of the action; I think Moore, in the citation and further, explains mind as universally a mental process, independently of its kinds of remembering, seeing, having bodily pains etc. Yet this seems to me not to be quite in accordance with how Moore uses 'in my mind' in the paragraph preceding the citation where he is concerned with explaining what 'in' implies 'in my mind', where the phrase seems to be more metaphysically or ontologically loaded. – Giorgi Jul 17 '17 at 10:19
  • Yes, it seems that two different conceptions are used: mind as a container (of thought or sensations) and mind as a process – Quentin Ruyant Jul 17 '17 at 11:35
  • I do think the paragraph explaining the role of 'in' in 'in my mind' makes it more ontologically focused. There, drawing from 'philosophers', Moore contrasts 'in my mind' with 'external to my mind' such that none of the 'things' that belong to one of the two classes can belong to the other. But such classification is necessarily ontologically concerned, for it is about properties that one sort of the things always hold whereas the other never. This, I think, contextually does not match perfectly with the further explanation of in my mind by with my mind pertaining more to philosophy of mind. – Giorgi Jul 17 '17 at 19:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.