Physiology

Other Human Beings by David Cockburn (auth.)

By David Cockburn (auth.)

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Thus, suppose that we can imagine someone who in connection with, say, a particular race uses the language of 'pain', 'anger' and so on and yet whose use of these words in this context is disconnected in a radical way from our normal attitudes: when we give the fact that one of these people 'is in pain' as a reason for our pity he is at sea in just the way that we would be if, without explanation, someone offered 'He has an IQ of 135' as a reason for pity; he is quite mystified by our tendency to tum away from the 30 Other Human Beings sight of suffering; and so on.

Consider now the following remark:When, eg, we think of ourselves as having moved our hand, we are thinking of ourselves as having performed an activity of a certain kind, and, it almost goes without saying, a mental activity of a certain kind. 4 I am not quite sure why Prichard feels this 'almost goes without saying', nor, indeed, what he means by it. One possibility, however, is that he reasoned in the following way: 'Nothing that we see when we look at another human being could, in itself, be grounds for responding to him any differently from the way in which we respond to a physical object.

When attention is paid to the details of our responses, the idea that the first person point of view might provide the grounding that we are seeking for our Scepticism, Dualism and Action 21 responses to the actions of others does, I believe, begin to evaporate. I will not develop this point in any detail but simply mention one, particularly striking, asymmetry in our thought about the actions of ourselves and others which raises further problems of the same form. There are circumstances in which we would be astonished if an individual did not blame himself on account of what he had done and yet in which we would think it quite out of place for us to blame him, or, at least, to blame him in anything like the same way.

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