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The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature

The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature

P. M. S. Hacker (Original Author)

ISBN: 978-1-444-33247-6

Sep 2013, Wiley-Blackwell

490 pages

In Stock



The Intellectual Powers is a philosophical investigation into the cognitive and cogitative powers of mankind. It develops a connective analysis of our powers of consciousness, intentionality, mastery of language, knowledge, belief, certainty, sensation, perception, memory, thought, and imagination, by one of Britain’s leading philosophers. It is an essential guide and handbook for philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists.

  • The culmination of 45 years of reflection on the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the nature of the human person
  • No other book in epistemology or philosophy of psychology provides such extensive overviews of consciousness, self-consciousness, intentionality, mastery of a language, knowledge, belief, memory, sensation and perception, thought and imagination
  • Illustrated with tables, tree-diagrams, and charts to provide overviews of the conceptual relationships disclosed by analysis
  • Written by one of Britain’s best philosophical minds
  • A sequel to Hacker’s Human Nature: The Categorial Framework
  • An essential guide and handbook for all who are working in philosophy of mind, epistemology, psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience

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Introduction: The Project


Chapter 1    Consciousness as the Mark of the Mental

            1. Consciousness as a mark of modernity

            2. The genealogy of the concept of consciousness

            3. The analytic of consciousness

            4. The early modern philosophical conception of consciousness

            5. The dialectic of consciousness I

            6. The contemporary philosophical conception of consciousness

            7. The dialectic of consciousness II

            8. The illusions of self-consciousness


Chapter 2   Intentionality as the Mark of the Mental

            1. Intentionality

            2. Intentional ‘objects’

            3. The central sun: the relation of thought to reality

            4. The first circle: what do we believe (hope, suspect, etc.)?

            5. The second circle: the relation of language to reality

            6. The third circle: the relation of thought to language

            7. The fourth circle: the epistemology of intentionality

            8. The fifth circle: meaning and understanding


Chapter 3   Mastery of a Language as the Mark of a Mind

            1. A language-using animal

            2. Linguistic communication

            3. Knowing a language

            4. Meaning something

            5. Understanding and interpreting

            6. Meaning and use

            7. The dialectic of understanding: the ‘mystery’ of understanding new sentences


Part I  The Cognitive and Doxastic Powers


Chapter 4   Knowledge

            1. The value of knowledge

            2. The grammatical groundwork

            3. The semantic field

            4. What knowledge is not

            5. Certainty

            6. Analyses of knowledge

            7. Knowledge and ability

            8. Knowing how

            9. What is knowledge? The role of ‘know’ in human discourse


Chapter 5   Belief

            1. The web of belief

            2. The grammatical groundwork

            3. The surrounding landscape

            4. Voluntariness and responsibility for belief

            5. Belief and feelings

            6. Belief and dispositions

            7. Belief and mental states

            8. Why believing something cannot be a brain state

            9. What is belief? The role of ‘believe’ in human discourse


Chapter 6   Knowledge, Belief and the Epistemology of Belief

            1. Knowledge and belief

            2. The epistemology of belief

            3. Non-standard cases: self-deception and unconscious beliefs


Chapter 7  Sensation and Perception

            1. The cognitive powers of the senses

            2. Sensation

            3. Perception and sensation

            4. Sensation, feeling and tactile perception


Chapter 8   Perception

            1. Perceptual organs, the senses and proper sensibles

            2. Perceptual powers: cognition and volition

            3. The classical causal theory of perception

            4. The modern causal theory of perception


Chapter 9   Memory

            1. Memory as a form of knowledge

            2. The objects of memory

            3. The faculty and its actualities

            4. Forms of memory

            5. Further conceptual links and contrasts

            6. The dialectic of memory I: the Aristotelian legacy

            7. The dialectic of memory II: trace theory


Part II The Cogitative Powers


Chapter 10   Thought and Thinking

            1. Floundering without an overview

            2. The varieties of thinking

            3. Is thinking an activity?

            4. What do we think in?

            5. Thought, language and the language of thought

            6. Can animals think?

            7. The agent, organ and location of thinking

            8. Thinking and the ‘inner life’


Chapter 11   Imagination

            1. A cogitative faculty

            2. The conceptual network of the imagination

            3. Perceiving and imagining

            4. Perceptions and ‘imaginations’: clarity and vivacity of mental imagery

            5. Mental images and imagining

            6. Imagination and the will

            7. The imaginable, the conceivable and the possible


Appendix: Philosophical Analysis and the Way of Words

            1. On method

            2. Methodological objections and misunderstandings


“Peter Hacker is the most subtle and penetrating philosopher of the age. In recent years he has demolished the pretentions of cognitive neuroscience and caused outrage among fellow philosophers by showing that many of their claims are meaningless. The Intellectual Powers, his most recent book, is another masterpiece, examining the cognitive capacities of the human species. If, as the Ancient Greeks believed, philosophy is the most important subject, Hacker is one of our most seminal thinkers.” (Matthew Syed, The Times, 7 December 2013)

“An essential guide and handbook for all who are working in philosophy of mind, epistemology, psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience.”  (, 21 November 2013)