I am reading Moore's Proof of an External World. It is an established truth that you have to read philosophical papers especially carefully and try, as much as it is possible, to recover just that meaning from the readings that an author has implied there. This is especially a difficult task for a non-native English speaker, when reading the literature in English, in the original language of a text.

A difficulty I have stumbled upon concerns Moore's use of the following two phrases in a passage of the paper: in my mind and with my mind. Here is the passage itself from the paper:

It should, I think, be noted, first of all, that the use of the word 'mind', which is being adopted when it is said that any bodily pains which I feel are 'in my mind', is one which is not quite in accordance with any usage common in ordinary speech, although we are very familiar with it in philosophy. Nobody, I think, would say that bodily pains which I feel are 'in my mind', unless he was also prepared to say that it is with my mind that I feel bodily pains; and to say this latter is, I think, not quite in accordance with common non-philosophic usage. It is natural enough to say that it is with my mind that I remember, and think, and imagine, and feel mental pains - e.g., disappointment, but not, I think, quite so natural to say that it is with my mind that I feel bodily pains, e.g., a severe headache; and perhaps even less natural to say that it is with my mind that I see and hear and smell and taste.

Then, Moore continues with presenting the philosophical usage within which these different sorts of experience do not differ anymore with respect to the use of (something is) with my mind --namely, of any of them it could be now properly said that they are 'equally' with my mind-- but I think this citation provides you with sufficient context for distinguishing between the meanings in my mind and with my mind as it is used by Moore.

More specifically, the difficulty I have been experiencing comes from the usage of with my mind, for I do not understand its meaning as clearly as that of in my mind.

My opinion, I have gained from my reading(s), is that (1) Moore uses the phrases almost interchangeably, and that (2) there, with my mind supports the meaning according to which, what is with my mind presents my mind's features as long as the what is still being with my mind; or in other words, with my mind in this context supports the meaning my mind has certain features, it is furnished or determined by certain features, in the sense that these (certain) features are with my mind.

Is this interpretation of with my mind (2) and the one of its relation to in my mind (1) correct and supported by the citation?

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    Nice question, thoroughly reasoned. I agree with your proposition (1), and my answer to (2) will clarify the minor distinction I think both natural to English and proper to this text: by "in my mind" he means located there, native to the mind; by "with my mind" he means the instrumental usage: by means of the mind, through the use of the mind. That is, he makes (but doesn't stress here) the distinction that your mind might be the interface with some pain regardless of whether that pain is "located" in the mind. More than that, I think, would be a philosophical analysis. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 14:01
  • I'm not sure that this question is about English. Moore's conception of mind is philosophical, not grammatical or linguistic. I regret cv'ing such a well-stated question, but it might be more at home at philosophy.stackexchange.com . Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 21:10
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    I'm voting to close this interesting question as off-topic because it concerns the philosophical concept of mind. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 21:11
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    The first two examples refer to location (in my mind). The last one refers to usage (using my mind).
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 21:19
  • @ P. E. Dant Thanks for encouraging words, but what is interesting is that I so far have gotten (two) helpful comments on this site rather than elsewhere; so that I turned my attention to the syntactic structure of the sentences where Moore uses 'with my mind', and, I think, obviously, he uses it in that sense which is produced by the "with"'s meaning 'indicating the instrument used to perform an action' as it is in 'cut it with a knife,' anyone can find in any English dictionary of not philosophical but common speech. So, perhaps this is off topic at philosophy sist. site rather than here.
    – Giorgi
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


"In my mind" is the (metaphorical) location of (metaphorical) objects, namely "bodily pains which I feel", whereas "with my mind" is the (metaphorical) instrument with which I perform (metaphorical) actions, namely "feel bodily pains", "remember, and think, and imagine, and feel mental pains", and "see and hear and smell and taste".

By way of analogy, it may help to consider a non-metaphorical example: "She has a cataract in her left eye, but she can still see clearly with her right eye."

As an interesting consequence, "in my mind" is more often predicated of a noun phrase (so it's much like an adjective: cf. "the bodily pains which I feel are mental"), whereas "with my mind" is more often predicated of a verb phrase (so it's much like an adverb: cf. "it is mentally that I feel them"). Every occurrence in your passage conforms to that generalization. However, it's quite possible to use "in my mind" to modify a verb phrase — consider e.g. "It hurts me in my mind" — and it wouldn't surprise me if there were also examples where "with my mind" modified a noun phrase, though I can't come up with a plausible-sounding one offhand. (Something like ?"My remembering of it is with my mind" sounds marginal to me, though I can't quite put my finger on why.)

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