Archive for the ‘Thomas Reid’ Category
Stylists and editors really don’t like split infinitives such as “to boldly go”. I’ve been revising a paper on Reid’s account of colour perception and I sometimes use the expression “to immediately perceive”. So, for example, I will talk about “the capacity to immediately perceive” certain qualities. The editors have suggested that I don’t use “to immediately perceive” as it is a split infinitive.
I’m not sure, however, that “to immediately perceive” is a split infinitive. Here’s my thinking: We talk about immediate perception and indirect perception. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as indirect perception, but in order to deny the fact that there is such a thing as indirect perception, we have to allow the expression “indirect perception” into our language. So I have no problem with the expression. Anyway my worry is that if we think that “to immediately perceive” is a split infinitive, then we should say “to perceive immediately” and “to perceive indirectly”. This would suggest, however, that “perceiving p immediately” and “perceiving p indirectly” are two ways of doing the same thing. And this doesn’t seem right to me. I think these are two quite distinct types of attitudes towards p. So my thought is that there are really two quite distinct verbs here: “to immediately perceive” and “to indirectly perceive”. “Immediately” here is not really functioning as an adverb. We can distinguish between how and what questions. And I think the “immediately” in “to immediately perceive” is part of the answer to a what question, rather than the full answer to a how question? Q: What is he doing? A: He is immediately perceiving a particular quality. As opposed to: Q: How is she perceiving the quality? A: immediately.
So I’d to keep the expression “to immediately perceive”. Any thoughts here? Have I been living abroad for too long and lost my intuitions about what counts as correct English?