…’but I couldn’t positively say that I have got it.’” Charles Dickens: Hard Times (1854).
From: Think (1999), by Simon Blackburn:
“…The emphasis on natural ways of forming belief chimes in with another strand in (David) Hume and other British philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which is their distrust of the power of unaided reason. For these philosophers, the best contact between mind and the world is not the point at which a mathematical proof crystallizes, but the point at which you see and touch a familiar object. Their paradigm was knowledge by sense experience rather than by reason. Because of this, they are labelled empiricists, whereas Descartes is a card-carrying rationalist…
…the objection continues, this is a mistake, for experiences are parasitic, or adjectival on persons who have them. What does this mean?
Consider a dent in a car. We can talk about dents: this dent is worse than that one, or will be more costly to repair than the dent we suffered last year. But it is logically impossible that there could exist an ‘unowned’ dent, a dent without a surface that is dented. Dents are, as it were, the shadows of adjectives. In the beginning there is a surface, the surface is changed by becoming dented, and then we abstract out a noun, and talk about the dent. The noun ‘dent’ is logically downwind of the adjective, ‘dented’. Similarly a grin is downwind of a face that is grinning, which is the joke behind Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, which disappeared leaving only its grin behind…
[see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). In 1895, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) developed a philosophical regressus-argument on deductive reasoning in his article “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles”, which appeared in one of the early volumes of Mind. The article was reprinted in the same journal a hundred years later in 1995, with a subsequent article by Simon Blackburn titled “Practical Tortoise Raising”. Wikipedia]
…So the objection to Hume is that ‘experiences’ are in the same way parasitic on persons. You cannot imagine a pain, for instance, as a thing floating around waiting to be caught up in a bundle of other experiences, so that it might be accidental whether it, that very same pain, attaches itself to one bundle or another. In the beginning there is the person, and the onset of a pain is just the event of a bit of the person beginning to hurt, just as the onset of a dent is a bit of a surface becoming dented…”