Inner and Outer
Inner and Outer
We have the concepts of the inner and outer, but how are they to be defined? Is one more basic than the other? The following seems true: the outer is not the inner and the inner is not the outer. Alternatively, we could say the private is not the public and the public is not the private. But this doesn’t help as a definition, owing to circularity: we can’t define the inner as what is not the outer and then go on to define the outer as what is not inner. I propose that the concept of the inner is basic and not to be defined as the negation of the outer, while the concept of the outer is derivative and can be defined as the negation of the inner. We know what we mean by the inner before we get to the concept of the outer, and we can use the former concept to define the latter. The outer or public is simply that which is not inner or private; but it is not true that the inner or private is to be understood as what is not outer or public. The inner comes first conceptually.
It is not easy to prove this, though it has strong intuitive appeal. We really do have a robust conception of the inner derived from our acquaintance with our own consciousness. Our concept of the outer is acquired by way of contrast: it is what does not lie within the realm of the inner. The outer is what lies beyond consciousness, outside of it. But the inner is not what lies beyond outer objects—say, objects of perception. We don’t understand the inner simply as what is not an outside object. We don’t conceive of a sensory experience, say, as simply what is not the outer object of that experience; we have a direct grasp of the concept. Our concept of the inner is not a negative concept. But our concept of the outer is a negative concept—the concept of what is not included in the inner. The outer is what exists on the other side of the inner—yonder, over there. The public is what is not private.
Let us accept this conceptual primacy thesis: the inner is fundamental in the order of definition. Then the consequence to which I would like to draw attention is that the inner cannot be reduced to the outer, nor eliminated from our ontology. We need the concept of the inner in order to ground the concept of the outer—we can’t have the one concept without the other. This doesn’t yet entail that the inner has to exist, since it is possible to have the concept of Fs without there being any Fs (consider unicorn). But the best explanation of why we have the concept of the inner is surely that we are acquainted with things that are inner: we are acquainted with inner things and hence we have the concept of the inner. To deny this one would have to maintain that we have the concept of the inner, and apply it liberally, yet we have never encountered anything satisfying that concept. That would seem an unlikely state of affairs. Far more plausible is the simple thought that we have the concept of the inner because we have encountered things that are inner—namely, our states of consciousness. So (a) we need the concept of the inner to give sense to the concept of the outer, and (b) we can’t have the concept of the inner without there being instances of the inner. Therefore we cannot reduce the inner to the outer (say, behavior), nor eliminate it. It cannot be that only the outer exists.
This refutes behaviorism. Granted that behavior is something outer, the doctrine of behaviorism maintains that there is only the outer—nothing is inherently inner. But the concept of outer behavior is defined by reference to the concept of the inner, and the concept of the inner rests upon acquaintance with inner things. So behaviorism entails the existence of the inner! There cannot be only public things because the concept of the public is defined by contrast with the concept of the private, and the concept of the private can exist only if private things exist. Put simply, I can only formulate behaviorism because I know that I have inner states that contradict it. I arrive at the idea of behaviorism by deploying the concept of the outer, in contrast to the concept of the inner, but then I need the concept of the inner, which I would not have but for the existence of the inner. So I cannot consistently assert that there is nothing but the outer: for the only way I can assert this is if it is false. Since I come to grasp the concept of the outer or public via my grasp of the concept of the inner or private, and since that latter concept is grounded in acquaintance with my own inner private consciousness, it cannot be that there is nothing in the world except what is outer and public. The simple fact is that our grasp of the distinction between inner and outer depends on our awareness of our own states of consciousness: we apprehend our consciousness as inner.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!