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Summary Berkeley was an early defender of a relational conception of space and time. In his 1709 Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision, Berkeley defended what has come to be known as the Heterogeneity Thesis, which states that there are no ideas common to two sense modalities. An important corollary, which Berkeley himself emphasizes, is that, contrary to Descartes and Locke, there is no one idea of extension which is to be found both in vision and in touch. Instead, Berkeley argued, visible distance (or magnitude) and tangible distance (or magnitude) are two entirely different features of our perception which we learn by experience to correlate with one another. Visual distance is a matter of how far apart two features on the visual field are; tangible distance is a matter of how far one must walk (or move one's hand) to get from touching one object to touching another. In the Principles, Berkeley also gives a relational account of time as the succession of ideas in a mind. Berkeley's understanding of space, and its relation to Newtonian physics, are further developed in his 1721 De Motu (On Motion).
Key works The treatment of space and space perception in the New Theory of Vision is treated in detail by Atherton 1990. Jesseph 2005, ch. 2, discusses the closely related issue of Berkeley's philosophy of geometry. Popper 1953 and Winkler 1986 discuss Berkeley's theory of space and motion in relation to 19th and 20th century theories.
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  1. John Tull Baker (1930). An Historical and Critical Examination of English Space and Time Theories From Henry More to Bishop Berkeley. Bronxville, N.Y.,Sarah Lawrence College.
  2. Jean-Christophe Bardout (2008). Berkeley Et Les Métaphysiques de Son Temps. Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (1):119-139.
    : La contribution de Berkeley à l'histoire de la métaphysique n'a que rarement été étudiée par ses commentateurs français ou anglo-saxons. La présente étude se propose de revenir sur la définition berkeleyenne de la métaphysique, sur la place qu'elle occupe dans l'économie de sa pensée, et tente ainsi d'éclairer la contribution de Berkeley à l'histoire de la notion de métaphysique à l'époque moderne. Nous montrons que la critique berkeleyenne de la métaphysique n'empêche pas Berkeley de maintenir sa pertinence théorique, si (...)
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  3. Michael Braund (2007). The Indirect Perception of Distance: Interpretive Complexities in Berkeley's Theory of Vision. Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):49-64.
  4. Richard J. Brook (2012). Berkeley and Proof in Geometry. Dialogue 51 (3):419-435.
    Berkeley in his Introduction to the Principles of Human knowledge uses geometrical examples to illustrate a way of generating which allegedly account for the existence of general terms. In doing proofs we might, for example, selectively attend to the triangular shape of a diagram. Presumably what we prove using just that property applies to all triangles.
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  5. D. G. Collingridge (1978). Berkeley on Space, Sight and Touch. Philosophy 53 (203):102 - 105.
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  6. Stephen H. Daniel (2001). Berkeley's Pantheistic Discourse. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 49 (3):179-194.
    Berkeley's immaterialism has more in common with views developed by Henry More, the mathematician Joseph Raphson, John Toland, and Jonathan Edwards than those of thinkers with whom he is commonly associated (e.g., Malebranche and Locke). The key for recognizing their similarities lies in appreciating how they understand St. Paul's remark that in God "we live and move and have our being" as an invitation to think to God as the space of discourse in which minds and ideas are identified. This (...)
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  7. Norman Daniels (1972). Thomas Reid's Discovery of a Non-Euclidean Geometry. Philosophy of Science 39 (2):219-234.
    Independently of any eighteenth century work on the geometry of parallels, Thomas Reid discovered the non-euclidean "geometry of visibles" in 1764. Reid's construction uses an idealized eye, incapable of making distance discriminations, to specify operationally a two dimensional visible space and a set of objects, the visibles. Reid offers sample theorems for his doubly elliptical geometry and proposes a natural model, the surface of the sphere. His construction draws on eighteenth century theory of vision for some of its technical features (...)
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  8. Mykolas Drunga (2011). Berkeley and the Time-Gap Argument. In Timo Airaksinen & Bertil Belfrage (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars.
    Berkeley doesn't use the Time-Gap Argument, as Leibniz does, to prove either that we immediately see only ideas or that we see physical objects mediately. It may be doubted whether he was even aware of the time-gap problem that gives rise to the argument. But certain passages in the Three Dialogues and elsewhere suggest that Berkeley would have had cogent answers to anyone who claimed that this argument, construed as being in aid of the conclusion that we only perceive ideas, (...)
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  9. Lorne Falkenstein (1994). Intuition and Construction in Berkeley's Account of Visual Space. Journal of the History of Philosophy 32 (1):63-84.
  10. Robert Fogelin (1988). Hume and Berkeley on the Proofs of Infinite Divisibility. Philosophical Review 97 (1):47-69.
    Since both berkeley and hume are committed to the view that a line is composed of finitely many fundamental parts, They must find responses to the standard geometrical proofs of infinite divisibility. They both repeat traditional arguments intended to show that infinite divisibility leads to absurdities, E.G., That all lines would be infinite in length, That all lines would have the same length, Etc. In each case, Their arguments rest upon a misunderstanding of the concept of a limit, And thus (...)
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  11. E. J. Furlong (1982). On Being "Embrangled" by Time. In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
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  12. Todd Ganson (1999). Berkeley, Reid, and Thomas Brown on the Origins of Our Spatial Concepts. Reid Studies 3 (1):49-62.
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  13. Robert Gray (1978). Berkeley's Theory of Space. Journal of the History of Philosophy 16 (4):415-434.
    Berkeley held space to be relational. On the other hand, He took extension to be composed of absolute minima. This paper offers an analysis of berkeley's views on the nature of minimum visibles and space and related notions, E.G., Distance, Extension, And figure. The difficulties in his theory are clearest in the analysis of figure where it is argued that minima can have neither figure nor extension and that, Contrary to berkeley's view, Extension and figure cannot be composed of such (...)
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  14. Amit Hagar (2002). Thomas Reid and Non-Euclidean Geometry. Reid Studies 5 (2):54-64.
    In the chapter “The Geometry of Visibles” in his ‘Inquiry into the Human Mind’, Thomas Reid constructs a special space, develops a special geometry for that space, and offers a natural model for this geometry. In doing so, Reid “discovers” non-Euclidean Geometry sixty years before the mathematicians. This paper examines this “discovery” and the philosophical motivations underlying it. By reviewing Reid’s ideas on visible space and confronting him with Kant and Berkeley, I hope, moreover, to resolve an alleged impasse in (...)
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  15. H. Scott Hestevold (1990). Berkeley's Theory of Time. History of Philosophy Quarterly 7 (2):179 - 192.
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  16. Douglas M. Jesseph (1993). Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics. University of Chicago Press.
    In this first modern, critical assessment of the place of mathematics in Berkeley's philosophy and Berkeley's place in the history of mathematics, Douglas M. Jesseph provides a bold reinterpretation of Berkeley's work.
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  17. A. David Kline (1980). Berkeley, Pitcher, and Distance Perception. International Studies in Philosophy 12 (2):1-8.
  18. Francesco Martinello (2011). Direzioni del moto e direzioni nello spazio: Berkeley e Kant. Rivista di Filosofia 102 (1):105-123.
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  19. Francesco Martinello (2011). Directions of Motions and Directions in Space: Berkeley and Kant. Rivista di Filosofia 102 (1):105-124.
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  20. M. H. Pirenne (1953). Physiological Mechanisms in the Perception of Distance by Sight and Berkeley's Theory of Vision. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4 (13):13-21.
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  21. K. R. Popper (1953). A Note on Berkeley as Precursor of Mach. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4 (13):26-36.
  22. Howard Robinson (2011). Two Berkelian Arguments About the Nature of Space. In Timo Airaksinen & Bertil Belfrage (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars. 123-132.
    I consider two arguments about the nature of space that occur in George Berkeley which I think are not sufficiently discussed. The first concerns the phenomenology of space, the second its physics. The first is the "mite" argument and the second concerns Isaac Newton's two thought experiments about absolute space, the "bucket" thought experiment and the "balls" thought experiment. The former suggests that there is no such thing as objective size. Berkeley's position is more confusing on the second experiment, but (...)
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  23. Helen E. Ross (2001). Berkeley, Helmholtz, the Moon Illusion, and Two Visual Systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (1):116-117.
    Berkeley and Helmholtz proposed different indirect mechanisms for size perception: Berkeley, that size was conditioned to various cues, independently of perceived distance; Helmholtz, that it was unconsciously calculated from angular size and perceived distance. The geometrical approach cannot explain size-distance paradoxes (e.g., moon illusion). The dorsal/ventral solution is dubious for close displays and untestable for far displays.
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  24. Ralph Schumacher (2007). Berkeley on Visible Figure and Extension. In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy.
  25. Robert Schwartz (1995). Seeing Distance From a Berkeleian Perspective. In Robert G. Muehlmann (ed.), Berkeley's Metaphysics: Structural, Interpretive, and Critical Essays. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
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  26. Eduard I. Sorkin (2008). Rethinking Ideas of Newton, Berkeley and Mach Today. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 45:501-509.
    The report is dedicated to modern understanding of the correlation between science and religion that is based on the analysis of certain ideas formulated by Newton, Berkeley and Mach. Newton proceeded from the existence of infinite (absolute) Space that he interpreted as the Sensory of the intelligent omnipresent Being (God) who sees things themselves intimately, and throughly perceives and comprehends them. Human being also has his little “Sensoriums” perceiving the images of things, the Order and the Beauty of their arrangement. (...)
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  27. Colin Murray Turbayne (1954). Berkeley and Russell on Space. Dialectica 8 (3):210-227.
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  28. Kenneth P. Winkler (1986). Berkeley, Newton and the Stars. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 17 (1):23-42.