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[personal profile] apolliana
I was reading along in Individuals, when I came across as passage that stated the way I'd been thinking of the Generality Constraint. I thought I was perhaps seeing what I'd been primed to see, as this passage was a footnote to an argument against what he calls the "no-ownership" or "no subject" view of the self (the view that there is no subject of mental states--that there seems to be is only an illusion); but it is indeed the passage Evans cites when he introduces the Generality Constraint.

Strawson says, "When I say that the no-ownership theorist's account fails through not reckoning with all the facts, I have in mind a very simple, but in this question a very central, thought: viz. that it is a necessary condition of one's ascribing state of consciousness, experiences, to oneself, in the way one does, that one should also ascribe them, or be prepared to ascribe them, to others who are not oneself" (99).

The footnote:

"I can imagine an objection to the unqualified form of this statement, an objection which might be put as follows. Surely the idea of a uniquely applicable predicate, i.e. a predicate which belongs to only one individual, is not absurd. And, if it is not, then surely the most that can be claimed is that a necessary condition of one's ascribing predicates to a certain class of individuals, i.e., oneself, is that one should be prepared, or ready, on appropriate occasions, to ascribe them to other individuals, and hence that one should have a conception of what those appropriate occasions for ascribing them would be; but not, necessarily, that one should actually do so on an occasion.

"The shortest way with this objection is to admit it, or at least refrain from disputing it; for the lesser claim is all that the argument strictly requires, thought it is slightly simpler to conduct it in terms of the larger claim. But it is well to point out further that we are not speaking of a single predicate, or merely of some group of other predicates, but of the whole enormous class of predicates such that the applicability of those predicates or their negations defines a major logical type or category of individuals. To insist, at this level, on the distinction between the lesser and the larger claim is to carry the distinction over from a level at which it is clearly correct to a level at which it may well appear idle and possible senseless.

"The main point here is a purely logical one: the idea of a predicate is correlative with that of a range of distinguishable individuals of which the predicate can be significantly, though not necessarily truly, affirmed (99)."

In the context of the section of the chapter in question, Strawson is talking about mental predicates, e.g., 'is in pain." So it is clear that he doesn't think it should make sense to say that, e.g., a rock is in pain. He is concerned with explaining why mental predicates are properly applied to persons, rather than to unminded bodies or disembodied minds. I'm happy to accept that if I can sensibly self-ascribe a mental state, it will be logically possible to imagine ascribing it to other subjects to which mental predicates may be ascribed.

Strawson's argument against the no-ownership view is that if it makes sense to ascribe a mental state to oneself, it makes sense to ascribe them to others, in principle. And the no-ownership theorist is committed to ascribing mental predicates to himself insofar as he talks of "my experiences" as things that can't properly be ascribed to a self.


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