The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Chapter 4

Unprojected Consciousness - 4.4.11
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4. The Logical Dependence of Mental Images and Thoughts on Bodily Activity

[11] There is another respect in which the connection between sense-organ and image cannot be regarded as straightforwardly contingent. In an important sense mental images have their 'seat' in the sense-organ associated with them. Let me begin by drawing attention to an obviously contingent fact that we usually take for granted: those of our sense-organs by means of which we sense remote objects are all clustered together in our heads. It is for this reason, I suggest, that mental images are often said to be situated in our heads. Now let us imagine that it so happened that our 'superior' sense-organs were located in different parts of the body to one another; our eyes in our backs and our ears on our legs, with the remaining sense-organs remaining in their present positions. Had our sense-organs been so placed, there is no doubt that we would take our visual images to 'appear to' the region of our backs

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in which our eyes were situated, and our auditory images to 'appear to' the region of our legs in which our ears were situated. We already have some experience of this. If I have a kinaesthetic, or a tactile image of my toe wagging, the image is not 'in' my head, but 'in' my toe. If the phantom approach were true, there would be no reason to think that if the sense-organs were banished to the extremities of bodies, the corresponding images would follow them there. On the contrary, they could be expected to stay stubbornly at home in the head. If, as I maintain, this is not what we would expect to happen, we have further reasons for thinking the sentient approach more coherent than the phantom approach.

I shall try to make clearer what I am claiming in respect of the spatial relation between mental image and position of sense-organ when I say that the mental image 'appears to' where the sense-organ is. Of course I am not wishing to deny that the image 'appears to' the imager, but it is a question of the 'gate' at which it presents itself. Although mental images do not exist in public space, they do have spatial features. These spatial features are not, however, confined to the 'world' of the image; i.e. it is not only the relations of one element of an image to another that can be described in spatial terms. There is, in addition, a seeming spatial relation between the imager himself and his image. This is particularly evident in the case of visual imagery. Psychological subjects have reported on introspective grounds that when their eyes are closed their visual images appear to be about two inches in front of their eyes. The imager, therefore, orients the image in relation to regions of his body. Thus we could say that auditory images are 'in' the eardrums, olfactory images 'in' the nose, gustatory images 'in' the mouth, and so on. If I am right about this, then it follows that when an imager is presented with an image, he will be able to make a spatial distinction between the place he occupies and the place the image appears to occupy. I should like to try to describe how this is done.

The apparent location of an image is, I have argued, fixed in relation to the sense-organ associated with it. This is the natural way to orient the image because of its characteristic of 'appearing to' the particular sense-organ. Now the obverse side of the phenomenon of 'being appeared to', is the locus at which the 'appearing to' is an appearing to. That is, if the appearance gives a certain aspect, we can infer back to the point from which that aspect would be a projection. This point I shall describe as the

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'origin' of the mental image (using 'origin' in the sense it has in coordinate geometry). My contention can now be expressed as follows: when we attempt to locate the apparent position of an image, the physical position of the sense-organ is the 'origin' of the image. Another way of looking at the matter is this: just as the sense-organ is the origin of its sense field, so the sense-organ is likewise the origin of its 'image field'. The point can now be made that if the imager's eyes were in his back, the origin of his visual imagery would be that point in his back where his eyes were; and if his ears were on his legs, the origin of his auditory imagery would be those points on his legs where his ears were. Thus, this account gives a sense in which the sense-organ provides the associated imagery with a definite 'seat'.

If we now go back to the phantom approach and consider the possibility of an imager without sense-organs, we can say at once that this notion of the origin of the image with respect to the sense-organ would be without application. The upshot of this would seem to be that the phantom approach rules out the possibility of the imager being able to describe the relation between his image and himself in spatial terms. Moreover, if it were suggested that on the phantom approach the spatial differentiation between imager and image could still be postulated, and the apparent location of the image oriented in relation to regions of the body, it would be quite inexplicable why this should be so. Such a suggestion would be in effect an attempt to get the best of both worlds without making any concessions to either. We are left with the position that an imager without the relevant sense-organ would lack the element of spatiality between himself and his image, which I have tried to describe. I conclude that if I am right about the spatial differentiation between imager and image, and if I am right in maintaining that such a differentiation can only be made in terms of thinking of the sense-organ as the origin of the associated image, then images according to the phantom approach would lack one of the essential characteristics that an image possesses. Consequently, the phantom approach can only be dealing with a form of imagery that lies outside our experience. By lacking "a definite seat' such alleged imagery becomes unintelligible to us.

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