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p. 89). Using our example, thinking of Alice, he would have claimed, in-
volves the capacity to distinguish Alice from all other things. Having
this capacity, Evans said, is what makes the difference between being ca-
pable only of judging, say, that a person has such and such attributes and
being capable of judging that Alice has them (pp. 127“8).
Evans was clear that this ability to discriminate Alice could not be
merely the ability to call to mind an idea that was, in some manner in-
accessible to the thinker, externally (e.g., causally) hooked to Alice and
Alice only. Rather, Evans thought, its being hooked to Alice must, at
least in part, “reside in facts about what the [thinking] subject can or
cannot do at that time” (p. 116), facts determining that the thinker has
a “concept” or, in the case of objects as distinguished from properties,
an “adequate Idea” of the target of his thought. A concept or Idea, for
Evans, is a general ability that (1) “makes it possible for a subject to
think of an object in a series of indefinitely many thoughts, [(2)] in each
of which he will be thinking of it in the same way” (p. 104).
Consider (2) first. A concept or Idea, for Evans, corresponds to a
single (neo)-Fregean mode of presentation of its referent. But recall also
that for Evans, there are such things as “dynamic modes of presentation”
(Section 11.4). The ability to keep track of an object currently per-
ceived, along (as we will see) with one™s ability to locate the egocentric
space within which one perceives it within one™s representation of ob-
jective or public space, constitutes one sort of concept of that object.
Now consider (1). (1) says that to have an Idea of Alice, I must be able
to think of Alice not only, say, in the context of the thought that she is
slim, but also in the context of the thought that she is trim, that she is
walking, that she is city mayor, and so forth for all attributes any arbi-
trary person might have, given only that I possess the relevant predicate
concepts. More precisely, I must understand what it would be for Alice,
as distinguished from all others, to have any arbitrary one of these vari-
ous attributes. Evans calls this constraint on concepts “the generality
constraint” (1982, Section 4.3). Evans™ “generality constraint” is not just
the familiar contemporary view that thought must be compositional.
The verificationist background from which Evans™ thought emerged
lends it quite another flavor and use. It implies, rather, a general capacity

to understand what it would be to reiterate the thought Alice in other
evidenced or grounded judgments about her. The generality constraint, as
Evans understands it, is an epistemological constraint. It concerns one™s
capacities to come to know things of certain very general kinds.
“[I]n order for a subject to be credited with the thought that p, he must
know what it is for it to be the case that p” (p. 105), a kind of knowing
that it “is hard to give any substance to . . . when this is not to be equated
with an ability to determine whether or not [p] is true” (1982, p. 106).
But Evans wishes to avoid the antirealist conclusion that empirical truth
can only be verificationist truth. He wants to be a realist about truth. He
attempts to accomplish this, as I understand it, in part by analyzing capac-
ities to understand whole propositions as composed of more generally ap-
plicable component capacities to recognize objects, properties, and so
forth, corresponding to the concepts these propositions involve. He applies
the principle of compositionality in order, for example, to avoid problems
about whether verification of propositions about inaccessible things such
as those in the past is possible. He supports his realism, second, by under-
standing the capacities of which concepts are composed to concern inter-
actions with the external world, and by recognizing that whether or not
such capacities have been exercised properly cannot always be guaranteed
by the character of a thinker™s subjective experience. Concepts are not de-
scribed in a verificationist way, by their relations only to sensory evidence.
Evans begins his analysis by unpacking “know what it is for it to be the
case that” (say) it is Alice who has this or that property, by referring to pos-
session of a “fundamental Idea” of Alice.The fundamental Idea of Alice is
based, first, on grasp of the fundamental “ground of difference” for entities
of her defining category, presumably, in this case, the category person. “For
there is no thought about objects of a certain kind which does not pre-
suppose the idea of one object of that kind, and the idea of one object of
that kind must employ a general conception of the ways in which objects
of that kind are differentiated from one another and from all other things”
(p. 108). In the case of persons, for example, the fundamental ground of
difference will be being in its own unique place at each given time. A
“fundamental Idea” of Alice will require a grasp of her as being at some
particular place at some particular time. And in the case of individual ob-
jects, a fundamental Idea must consist, also, in grasp of the criteria of iden-
tity for that kind of object over time. For Alice, presumably, this must in-
volve at least that the place-times she occupies are contiguous.
Evans now unpacks what it is to “know what it is to be the case
that” Alice has properties not attributed to her under her “fundamental

Idea, δ”. This requires that one understand “what it is for it to be the
case that . . . ®δ = a” for various other kinds of ideas, a, of Alice, such
as definite descriptions and “demonstrative thoughts” (thoughts of Alice
via current perceptions of her).Thus the problem is reduced, in part, to
the question what it is to “know what it is for it to be the case that”
various identity equations hold. For example, one concept that I have
of Alice may be my ability to recognize her on sight (“recognition
based identification,” Evans 1982, Chapter 8). That is, I will know that
the object of certain “demonstrative” thoughts, “that woman,” equal the
object of my fundamental Idea, δ, of Alice. Similarly, where P is a
demonstratively indicated position in egocentric space and p a position
in public space, “[that] in which knowledge of what it is for identity
propositions of the form ®P = p to be true consists” is “the capacity to
discover . . . where in the world one is” (p. 162), that is, “[the] ability to
locate [one™s] egocentric space in the framework of a cognitive map”
(p. 163).
That I have the ability to think of Alice thus implies that I would
know how to reidentify her, either directly, or as mediated by a series of
intermediate identity judgments, for purposes of applying each substan-
tive predicate I grasp as possibly true of a person. That is, I take it, for
each of these substantive judgments, I would know to make it were oc-
casions to arise on which the relevant linking propositions were evi-
denced to me in the right way. And for each such possible substantive
judgment there must exist ways by which I could grasp the relevant
linking propositions. Ignoring worries about whether there are such
things as identity judgments (Chapter 12), and tentatively identifying
Evans™ “capacities” and “abilities” with abilities as we have defined them
(Chapter 4), this would surely entail my having a concept of Alice ex-
actly in the sense I have described in previous chapters.That is, it would
entail (1) my having a capacity to reidentify Alice, roughly in the sense
of “reidentify” I have explicated, and (2) my understanding, for certain
predicates, that they could apply to her. But the converse entailment
does not hold. I have required very much less than Evans for having a
substance concept.


It is central to my thesis that the ontological ground of a substance, the
principle that accounts for the invariance of certain of its properties

over encounters, need not be grasped in order to have a concept of it.
Similarly, no criteria of identity or difference need be grasped for mem-
bers of its class. The tiny infant (or the dog) who identifies Mama by
smell so as to learn how to respond in her presence surely has no idea
of an objective four-dimensional frame through which Mama-the-
space-time-worm crawls on her way. Neither is the infant™s (or the
dog™s) ability to identify Mama dependent on there being, necessarily,
no one else in the world who smells exactly like Mama. The infant
knows in practice when Mama is present again, which is all she needs
for collecting knowledge about Mama. There is no need to know how
to distinguish Mama from all other things in principle so long as she
manages, for the most part, to do so in practice.
Evans holds that all concepts of objects of the same kind, all “modes
of presentation” of these objects, are linked together in the following
way. I must know for each such mode what it would be for it to pres-
ent the same object as that presented by a certain fundamental idea of
this kind of object, hence I must know for each such mode what it
would be for it to present the same object as each other mode. No con-
cept or set of concepts of the same thing form an island, isolated in
principle from other concepts of the same thing. For this reason, Evans
holds, watching an object on TV does not, simply as such, afford me a
concept of that object, for it does not afford my knowing how to locate
the space it is in within my conception of objective space. Merely by
seeing the object on TV, I cannot, in principle, identify it with any fun-
damental idea that I could have of that kind of object. Only if I were
also to think of the object seen by a description such as “the object of
such and such kind that is causing this TV image” could I understand
what would be involved in reidentifying it, hence know what it was I
was thinking of. Similarly, Strawson spoke of “story-relative identifica-
tions” that one might make, (co)identifying various references to the
same person in a true story that one hears. But unless one knows inde-
pendently who this person is outside the story, Strawson held, such
“identifications” do not really identify any particular person (Strawson
1959, p. 18). Evans agrees (p. 151). I do not agree.
What seems to be yearned for in the notion of knowing which ob-
ject my thought is about is a sort of confrontation of thought, on the
one side, with the object bare, on the other, taking place, per impossi-
ble, within thought itself. (Of course Russell™s view was that exactly this
sort of confrontation is possible “ the object bare is, roughly speaking,
part of the thought.) Barring that, the next best thing, apparently, is

having the essence or nature of the object™s particular identity before
the mind, that which makes it different from all other things. And how
does one get an individual nature before one™s mind? Suppose, for ex-
ample, that the nature involves being a member of a certain kind or cat-
egory and being at a certain place at a certain time. What is it for me
to think of this particular kind and this particular place and this partic-
ular time, as differentiated from all other kinds, places and times? Do
these things have individual natures too? Must I have fundamental ideas
of each of them too?
I diagnose Evans™ position as follows. Interpreting the aboutness of
a thought as needing to involve grasp of a “fundamental idea” of its
object is merely a hankering left over from the Fregean/
internalist/verificationist position that something internal to me must
somehow determine a distinct object for my thought. The thought
must somehow be hooked onto its object in my mind. Similarly, Evans™
constantly reiterated phrase that we must somehow “know what it is for
it to be the case that” p in order to understand the proposition p strikes
me as a transparent rehearsal of the sort of verificationist/internalist
suggestion he should be anxious to avoid. This phrase strongly suggests
that something like my ability to imagine p being directly evidenced is
what constitutes my meaning something in thinking that p.
The closest thing that actually makes some sense, I suggest, to the
yearned-for ideal of comparison of a thought with its object bare
within thought itself, is a confrontation of one thought of an object with
another thought concerning that same object, this taking place within
thought itself, and constituting a recognition of the sameness of the ob-
ject (as described in Chapter 10). Putting this picturesquely, if you
imagine the various thoughts that you have about, say, Noam Chomsky,
as a sort of story that you tell yourself using various thought tokens that
concern him, then knowing who you are thinking of in this story cor-
responds to your ability to make what Strawson called “story-relative
identifications” of the person in your story.There is no way that you can
cut through the stories that you tell yourself about Noam Chomsky in
order to tack them inside your mind directly onto Noam, or onto his in-
dividual nature, in order to know in any more direct way than that who
you are thinking of. Knowing what I am thinking of is being capable of
coidentifying (Section 10.2) various of my thoughts with other
thoughts of the same. It is being able to distinguish thinking of a thing
again from thinking of a different thing.


Now I have argued that abilities are not the same as any kind of dis-
positions, nor does having an ability entail that one is necessarily able,
in one™s actual circumstances, to exercise that ability (Chapter 4). Sim-
ilarly, knowing what one is thinking of obviously cannot be a simple
disposition always, under every possible condition, correctly to iden-
tify incoming natural information concerning a thing.2, 3 No one has
that kind of ability with regard to the identity of anything. If that
were required it would follow, for example, that the ancients did not
know what they were thinking of when they thought of Hesperus
and when they thought of Phosphorus, since they did not grasp that
these were the same heavenly body. And it would follow that if I
could ever, even momentarily, mistake someone else for my spouse,
then I do not know who I am thinking of when I think of him.
Rather, to have an ability to identify the object of my thought, I need
only to have a disposition to do so correctly under certain definite
kinds of historically determined conditions, namely those under
which this ability, or the various more general components of which
it is composed, were successful in the past, hence were acquired (Sec-
tion 4.6). It only needs to be true that incoming natural information
about this object, arriving in certain kinds of packages, piped through cer-
tain definite kinds of information channels, will be marked with identity
markers as being about the same.
Nor does Evans require that one actually identify every source of in-
coming information. He requires only that no concept or set of con-
cepts of the same thing form an island, wholly isolated in principle from
other concepts of the same thing. One must possess conceptual abilities
that could in principle bridge the gap between. This is because each

2 Evans himself is very unclear about what abilities or capacities are, and especially, on how
they can be fallible. For example, in discussing recognition-based concepts, he tells us “It is
essential for him to have an adequate Idea of a particular object that there be one, and only
one, object which he is disposed to pick out in this way” (p. 271). In other places he makes
passing reference to the necessity of information systems, perceptual systems, and so forth,
operating properly. An information system can “malfunction” (p. 128). But there is no at-
tempt to give a general characterization of conditions under which the disposition to pick
out the object corresponding to a recognitional capacity must be realized.
3 “Natural information” in this passage is “informationC,” defined in Appendix B.

nonfundamental Idea must be tied firmly by some capacity to the fun-
damental idea of its object, hence each idea of an object to every other
idea of the same object. If we, in contrast to Evans, dispense with fun-
damental ideas of objects, will this leave us with the possibility of un-
bridgeable gaps between coreferential conceptual islands?
The question needs to be posed more carefully. I have argued (Chap-
ters 10“12) that there cannot be modes of presentation of objects that
are ways of thinking of them and that are also individuated according to
ways of identifying them. Ways of identifying objects are not ways of
thinking of them but ways of being guided by experience in marking
identity for incoming information.They are ways of knowing how cor-
rectly to bind various packets of incoming information together. More-
over, it is not possible to individuate ways of identifying in a way
needed for the traditional uses of the notion of modes of presentation
(Section 11.5). We might make sense of the question about conceptual
islands, however, by reference to naive Strawson-model modes of pre-
sentation (Section 11.2). Must I have an ability, if granted enabling con-
ditions, to coidentify any two naive Strawson modes that present the
same object, and an ability to separate any that present different objects
(thus eliminating redundancy and equivocation in thought)?
One problem is that having an ability and having the ability easily
to acquire or develop an ability are not sharply distinguishable. If I have
the ability instantly and unhesitatingly to compound numerous more
general abilities to yield, on demand, a specific complex ability then,
we might suppose, I already have the more complex ability. If I would
have to practice before I could do a thing then, reasonably, I don™t al-
ready have the ability. But what if I would have to think for a while in
order to figure out how to put more general abilities of mine together
to obtain a certain complex result, such as in figuring out how to hang
curtains over these bulky indoor shutters? I might need, for example,
to do some calculations. How long will I be allowed to think and still
be said to know how already? Suppose that instead of just figuring it
out, I will need to acquire some information. I will need, for example,
to make some measurements. Do I know how to hang these curtains
What kinds of information may I still need to acquire while know-
ing how already? I know how to get from home to school by follow-
ing the Gurleyville road, but as I follow it, I have to take in the infor-
mation how far each next curve is by sight. I know how to get to
Boston by following I-84 East and then I-90 East, but I do so by fol-

lowing the I-84E and I-90E signposts, which inform me where to make
various turns along the way. Suppose, instead, that I manage to get there
just by following all the signs that say “Boston”? Or suppose that I
know how to get there, not just by reading signposts, but in part by
consulting a map. Similarly, suppose that I know how to make a cake by
following a recipe. And I know which cookbook to open to find the
recipe. Or suppose that I know how by knowing exactly who to ask for
directions, for example, I know that Grandma knows? Can I know how
to get to Boston merely by knowing how, in general, to ask for direc-
tions, assuming circumstances will afford someone to ask who happens
to know? Can I know how to do something if applying my ability
would require just the right information-bearing circumstances to
come along serendipitously?
Evans returns several times to an example of a man who retains the
memory of a steel ball he once saw, but retains no information as to
when or where he saw it, nor concerning any other characteristic that
would distinguish it from an identical ball he also once saw but forgot.
Evans claims that this man has no Idea of the remembered ball. This is
because “our subject™s supposed idea of that ball is completely indepen-
dent not only from any possible [distinguishing] experience, but also
from everything else in his conceptual repertoire. There is no question
of his recognizing the ball; and there is nothing else he can do which
will show that his thought is really about one of the two balls (about that
ball), rather than about the other” (1982, p. 115). Evans takes it, that is,
that this man is debarred in principle from ever making another
grounded judgment about that ball “ from ever reasonably coidentifying
his supposed thought of it with any other thought of it. According to
Evans™ original story, however, the man fails to remember the second ball
he saw because of a blow on the head. Now imagine Evans™ story as
truly describing the realization of a perverse philosopher™s thought ex-
periment. The philosopher purposefully showed the man one ball, then
hit him on the head, then showed him the other.Years later the philoso-
pher returns, pulls the actually remembered ball out of his pocket, and
explains the whole episode to his victim, who then correctly coidenti-
fies the ball of his memory with the ball he sees. So he was not debarred
in principle from ever making another grounded judgment about that
ball after all. True, Evans does stipulate that the man does not think of
his remembered ball as the one that caused his memory. But if he al-
ready has the capacity to come to think of it that way on momentary re-
flection, this stipulation seems quite beside the point.

With examples such as these in mind, how should we answer the
question, for example, whether the ancients did or did not know how
to coidentify Hesperus with Phosphorus? Presumably in principle
something could have lead them to this, even without additional con-
ceptual training. Perhaps the ancients already knew how to separate
weight from mass but hadn™t happened yet on the experience that
would enable them actually to do it? I don™t think that principled an-
swers to questions of this sort are possible. In practice, undoubtedly
many coreferential islands do remain separate in various people™s
thoughts, and some naive Strawson modes do remain equivocal.


Earlier I mentioned Strawson™s notion of “story-relative identification.”
Strawson explains this notion with an example. A speaker is telling a
factual story, which begins “A man and a boy were standing by a foun-
tain . . . The man had a drink.” The hearer identifies the references of
the two tokens of “man” as being to the same man, but does not iden-
tify this man with anyone outside the story. Strawson says of this kind
of identification that it is “identification within [the] story; but not
identification within history,” hence that it is not “full identification”
(1959, p. 18).Yet given that the story is factual, the hearer surely knows
means of further tracking. He can, for example, ask the speaker who the
man was. Thus identification of people in stories is not necessarily iso-
lated from “history.” But perhaps the speaker himself does not know
who the story is really about, or the hearer does not ask and later for-
gets who told him the story. On the other hand, perhaps these links can
be reestablished. The hearer knows a way to find out who told him the
story, and a way to find out who told the story to the hearer, hence
who the man was. But now suppose this method is chancy. He will be
lucky if it works, but he can try. Does he still “have an ability” to iden-
tify the man in the story with someone outside the story?
Notice that there are cases that Strawson would consider to involve
“full identifications” that are more tenuously connected than many sto-
ries to any practical capacity actually to mark sameness in grounded
judgments. Consider my thought, the person who wove this part, as I in-
spect a particularly intricate tiny section of a mediaeval wall hanging of
unknown origin. This thought contains a perfectly clear definite de-
scription based (as Strawson prefers identifying descriptions to be) on

an unambiguous demonstrative. But undoubtedly there is no way at all
of my ever marking sameness between the thought of this wonderful
weaver and any thoughts in new grounded judgments. Certainly having
knowledge of the ontological structures in the world that relate that
weaver to me, say, understanding the “criteria of identity” for pieces of
tapestry and for persons over time, is insufficient when it comes to the
practical business of actually tracking information about this weaver.
Having an ability to reidentify something is obviously a pretty vague
sort of affair. Earlier (Section 4.2) I drew a distinction between know-
ing how to do a thing and actually being able to do it. Actually being
able generally requires the presence of supporting conditions that
merely knowing how does not. Actually being able to do A might be
defined, for example, as having a disposition, right now, to do A if I try.

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