For Berkeley, minds are not Cartesian spiritual substances because they cannot be said to exist (even if only conceptually) abstracted from their activities. Similarly, Berkeley's notion of mind differs from Locke's in that, for Berkeley, minds are not abstract substrata in which ideas inhere. Instead, Berkeley redefines what it means for the mind to be a substance in a way consistent with the Stoic logic of 17th century Ramists on which Leibniz and Jonathan Edwards draw. This (...) view of mind, I conclude, is definitely not the bundle theory that some critics have portrayed it as being. (shrink)
Draft. Berkeley denied the existence of abstract ideas and any faculty of abstraction. At the same time, however, he embraced innate ideas and a faculty of pure intellect. This paper attempts to reconcile the tension between these commitments by offering an interpretation of Berkeley's Platonism.
I argue that Berkeley's distinctive idealism/immaterialism can't support his view that objects of sense, immediately or mediately perceived, are causally inert. (The Passivity of Ideas thesis or PI) Neither appeal to ordinary perception, nor traditional arguments, for example, that causal connections are necessary, and we can't perceive such connections, are helpful. More likely it is theological concerns,e.g., how to have second causes if God upholds by continuously creating the world, that's in the background. This puts Berkeley closer to (...) Malebranche than to Hume. -/- As far the what I call the "first strategy;" defending the passivity of ideas by ordinary introspection, I refer to the work of the French psychologist Albert Michotte,(1940) and those now extending his experiments, to show that (1) there is an immediate and quite robust visual impression of causality, (admitted in fact by Berkeley, Malebranche and Hume) and (2) of more importance, the impression isn't due to projecting into nature expectations gained from experienced regularities. (shrink)
George Berkeley's apparently strange view – that nothing exists without a mind except for minds themselves – is notorious. Also well known, and equally perplexing at a superficial level, is his insistence that his doctrine is no more than what is consistent with common sense. It was every bit as crucial for Berkeley that it be demonstrated that the colors are really in the tulip, as that there is nothing that is neither a mind nor something perceived by (...) a mind. In what follows, I shall attempt to re-examine Berkeley's argument in terms of what it appears to have meant to him. I am especially interested in the connection between Berkeley's thought concerning the relation between perception and metaphysics and that of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with whom, perhaps surprisingly, Berkeley shared a great many intuitions and concerns. Thus part of my objective is to compare and contrast the work of two thinkers who had many common interests, and whose thought frequently led them down similar paths. I shall be especially interested in apparent points of departure, both those that turn out to reflect real divergences and those which reflect confusions of one kind or another. My main objective, however, is not mere textual analysis. Like both Berkeley and Merleau-Ponty, my main hope is to make progress in clarifying how things are. As odd as some of Berkeley's pronouncements may sound to contemporary ears – concerning especially the metaphysical consequences of what he regarded as perceptual facts – I shall argue that, in substance, he was often not far wrong at all – at least as measured by important strands of more contemporary work on the subject. More particularly, I shall contend that for going a long way down an extraordinarily fruitful path which has been subsequently explored more fully by (especially) Martin Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Nelson Goodman and Hilary Putnam, Berkeley deserves considerably more credit than he is usually accorded as a progenitor of contemporary approaches to metaphysical issues. (shrink)
The popular Cartesian reading of George Berkeley's philosophy of mind mischaracterizes his views on the relations between substance and essence and between an idea and the act of thought in which it figures. I argue that Berkeley rejects Descartes's tripartite taxonomy of distinctions and makes use of a fourth kind of distinction. In addition to illuminating Berkeley's ontology of mind, this fourth distinction allows us to dissolve an important dilemma raised by Kenneth Winkler.
Berkeley's doctrine of archetypes explains how God perceives and can have the same ideas as finite minds. His appeal of Christian neo-Platonism opens up a way to understand how the relation of mind, ideas, and their union is modeled on the Cappadocian church fathers' account of the persons of the trinity. This way of understanding Berkeley indicates why he, in contrast to Descartes or Locke, thinks that mind (spiritual substance) and ideas (the object of mind) cannot exist or (...) be thought of apart from one another. It also hints at why Gregory of Nyssa's immaterialism sounds so much like Berkeley's. (shrink)
This is a response to Stavroula Glezakos’ commentary on my paper, in which I address three main points: (1) whether Berkeley is entitled to argue via inference to the best explanation, (2) whether Berkeley’s likeness principle might be too strict, and (3) whether the texts support my reading.
The manuscript includes comments on Michael Jacovides’s paper, “How Berkeley Corrupted His Capacity to Conceive.” The paper and comments were delivered at the conference “Meaning and Modern Empiricism” held at Virginia Tech in April 2008. I consider Jacovides’s treatment of Berkeley’s Resemblance Argument and his interpretation of the Master Argument. In particular, I distinguish several ways of understanding the disagreement between Jacovides and Kenneth Winkler over the right way to read the Master Argument.
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 way of speaking about God, adapted by Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, opens up new ways to think about the relation between God and infinite minds. (shrink)
Berkeley's doctrines about mind, the language of nature, substance, minima sensibilia, notions, abstract ideas, inference, and freedom appropriate principles developed by the 16th-century logician Peter Ramus and his 17th-century followers (e.g., Alexander Richardson, William Ames, John Milton). Even though Berkeley expresses himself in Cartesian or Lockean terms, he relies on a Ramist way of thinking that is not a form of mere rhetoric or pedagogy but a logic and ontology grounded in Stoicism. This article summarizes the central features (...) of Ramism, indicates how Berkeley adapts Ramist concepts and strategies, and chronicles Ramism's pervasiveness in Berkeley's education, especially at Trinity College Dublin. (shrink)
Berkeley argues that claims about divine predication (e.g., God is wise or exists) should be understood literally rather than analogically, because like all spirits (i.e., causes), God is intelligible only in terms of the extent of his effects. By focusing on the harmony and order of nature, Berkeley thus unites his view of God with his doctrines of mind, force, grace, and power, and avoids challenges to religious claims that are raised by appeals to analogy. The essay concludes (...) by showing how a letter, supposedly by Berkeley, to Peter Browne ("discovered" in 1969 by Berman and Pittion) is, in fact, by John Jackson (1686-1763), controversial theologian and friend of Samuel Clarke. (shrink)
Discussion of Berkeley’s theory of language has largely ignored what he says about the ‘meaning’ of a general word. Berkeley distinguishes the meaning of a general word both from the extension of the word and from what the word might suggest in the mind of the language user. D. Flage has argued that Berkeley has an ‘extensional’ theory of meaning, but this is based on passages where Berkeley does not speak of word meaning. When Berkeley (...) explicitly discusses the meaning of particular words he does so with a view to explicating the sense in which a word is to be understood. Berkeley made a series of insightful distinctions when discussing words and their use, and these distinctions are of contemporary interest. (shrink)
For Berkeley, a thing's existence 'esse' is nothing more than its being perceived 'as that thing'. It makes no sense to ask (with Samuel Johnson) about the 'esse' of the mind or the specific act of perception, for that would be like asking what it means for existence to exist. Berkeley's "existere is percipi or percipere" (NB 429) thus carefully adopts the scholastic distinction between 'esse' and 'existere' ignored by Locke and others committed to a substantialist notion of (...) mind. Following the Stoics, Berkeley proposes that, 'as' the existence of ideas, minds "subsist" rather than "exist" and, accordingly, cannot be identified as independently existing things. (shrink)
According to Daniel Flage, Berkeley thinks that all necessary truths are founded on acts of will that assign meanings to words. After briefly commenting on the air of paradox contained in the title of Flage’s paper, and on the historical accuracy of Berkeley’s understanding of the abstractionist tradition, I make some remarks on two points made by Flage. Firstly, I discuss Flage’s distinction between the ontological ground of a necessary truth and our knowledge of a necessary truth. Secondly, (...) I discuss Flage’s attempt to show that, according to Berkeley, the resemblance relation does not constitute a necessary connection. (shrink)
Why did the Lord Justices make strong representation against Berkeley? According to Joseph Stock, Berkeley's first biographer "Lord Galway [a Lord Justice in 1716] having heard of those sermons, published in 1712 as Passive Obedience represented Berkeley as a Jacobite, and hence unworthy of the living of St. Paul's. From the beginning, Passive Obedience was rumored to be politically heterodox...
This paper engages the controversy as to whether there is a link between Berkeley’s refutation of abstraction and his refutation of materialism. I argue that there is a strong link. In the opening paragraph I show that materialism being true requires and is required by the possibility of abstraction, and that the obviousness of this fact suggests that the real controversy is whether there is a link between Berkeley’s refutation of materialism and his refutation of the possibility of (...) framing abstract incomplete ideas and abstract general ideas. Although Berkeley can still defeat materialism without relying on his arguments that directly refute the possibility of framing abstract incomplete ideas and abstract general ideas, I contend that there is still a strong link between his refutation of materialism and his refutation of the possibility of framing these ideas. First, I show that the truth of the canonic version of materialism, according to which primary qualities are mindindependent and inhere in material substances, requires the possibility of the mind framing both of these ideas. Second, I show that there is a sense in which the truth of materialism is required by the possibility of either of these ideas. (shrink)
Se comparan las teorías de Marr y Berkeley sobre la visión a partir de las cualidades de Descartes. La descripción de tres niveles de Marr, donde la conciencia está ausente, contrasta con el nivel único de Berkeley construido sobre la conciencia y la experiencia carece de importancia en los momentos esquemáticos y cobra protagonismo en el último paso del proceso de la visión de Marr mediante la noción de marcación. Bajo la premisa de que las descripciones puramente sincrónicas (...) han de ser forzosamente incompletas, se reformula el problema de Molyneux y se reivindica el papel explicativo de la conciencia. (shrink)
This essay examines the strategies that Berkeley and Dharmakīrti utilize to deny that idealism entails solipsism. Beginning from similar arguments for the non-existence of matter, the two philosophers employ markedly different strategies for establishing the existence of other minds. This difference stems from their responses to the problem of intersubjective agreement. While Berkeley’s reliance on his Cartesian inheritance does allow him to account for intersubjective agreement without descending into solipsism, it nevertheless prevents him from establishing the existence of (...) other finite minds. I argue that Dharmakīrti, in accounting for intersubjective agreement causally, is able to avoid Berkeley’s shortcoming. I conclude by considering a challenge to Dharmakīrti’s use of inference that Ratnakīrti, a Buddhist successor of Dharmakīrti, advances in his “Disproof of the Existence of Other Minds” and briefly exploring a possible response that someone who wants to advocate an idealist position could give. (shrink)
Demonstrating that in George Berkeley's last major work, Siris, Berkeley had converted to a belief in the usefulness of the concept and existence of minute particles, Moked here posits that Berkeley developed a highly original brand of corpuscularian physics.
São variadas as interpretações da crítica berkeleyana às idéias abstratas, mas elas costumam concordar na tese de que essa crítica gira em torno da natureza das idéias. Isto é, se idéia for o mesmo que imagem, então a abstração lockeana é impossível, caso contrário, não. Neste artigo eu procuro mostrar que essa crítica não depende de idéia ser ou não uma imagem e que Locke está parcialmente consciente do problema levantado por Berkeley. Locke's general triangle and Berkeley's partial (...) considerationThere are many different interpretations of Berkeley's attack on abstract ideas, but they usually agree in sustaining that this attack depends on the nature of "ideas". That is, if "idea" is the same as "image", then lockean abstraction is impossible, but otherwise not. In this paper I show that this attack on abstract ideas does not depend on the issue concerning the nature of idea as image, and that Locke is partially aware of the problem raised by Berkeley. (shrink)
In this paper, I survey the way Wittgenstein reacts to radical philosophical doubt in his On Certainty. He deems skeptical doubt in some important cases idle, pointless or otherwise negligible. I point out that several passages of On Certainty make it difficult to judge whether Wittgenstein intends to address a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist. Drawing attention to the anti-skeptical nature of Berkeley's idealism, I go on to argue that the question is far from trivial: rather, it affects the (...) way we should evaluate Wittgenstein's arguments in On Certainty in general. I finally attempt to explain why Wittgenstein remained ambiguous about the target of his arguments, and discuss the possibility of making room for the idealism/skepticism distinction in On Certainty's framework. (shrink)
While De Motu, Berkeley's treatise on the philosophical foundations of mechanics, has frequently been cited for the surprisingly modern ring of certain of its passages, it has not often been taken as seriously as Berkeley hoped it would be. Even A.A. Luce, in his editor's introduction to De Motu, describes it as a modest work, of limited scope. Luce writes: The De Motu is written in good, correct Latin, but in construction and balance the workmanship falls below (...) class='Hi'>Berkeley's usual standards. The title is ambitious for so brief a tract, and may lead the reader to expect a more sustained argument than he will find. A more modest title, say Motion without Matter, would fitly describe its scope and content. Regarded as a treatise on motion in general, it is a slight and disappointing work; but viewed from a narrower angle, it is of absorbing interest and high importance. It is the application of immaterialism to contemporary problems of motion, and should be read as such. ...apart from the Principles the De Motu would be nonsense.1.. (shrink)
But say you,surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees,for instance,in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may so, there is no dif?culty in it:but what is all this,I beseech you,more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of anyone that may perceive them? But do you not yourself perceive or think of (...) them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose: it only shows you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind;but it doth not shew that you can conceive it possible, the objects of your thought may exist without the mind: to make out this, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest repugnancy. (shrink)
Although George Berkeley himself made no major scientific discoveries, nor formulated any novel theories, he was nonetheless actively concerned with the rapidly evolving science of the early eighteenth century. Berkeley's works display his keen interest in natural philosophy and mathematics from his earliest writings (Arithmetica, 1707) to his latest (Siris, 1744). Moreover, much of his philosophy is fundamentally shaped by his engagement with the science of his time. In Berkeley's best-known philosophical works, the Principles and Dialogues, he (...) sets up his idealistic system in opposition to the materialist mechanism he finds in Descartes and Locke. In De Motu, Berkeley refines and extends his philosophy of science in the context of a critique of the dynamic accounts of motion offered by Newton and Leibniz. And in Siris, Berkeley's flirtation with neo-Platonism draws inspiration from the fire theory of Boerhaave as well as Newton's aetherial speculations in the Queries of the Optics. In examining Berkeley's critical engagement with the natural philosophy of his time, we will thus improve our understanding of not just his philosophy of science, but of his philosophical corpus as a whole. (shrink)
In this essay, the author analyses Berkeleys conformity and inference argument against Lockes theory of percep tion. Both arguments are not as decisive as traditionally has been perceived and fail to engage in Lockes actual position. The main reason for this is that Berkeley does not see that Lockes position is compatible with the non-inferential nature of perceptual knowledge.
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.
George Berkeley opens the Principles (Part I) with "a Survey of the Objects of Human Knowledge" including such ideas "as are perceiv'd by attending to the Passions and Operations of the Mind." Scholars have rejected this passage as being "philosophically impossible," not seriously meant, just a reference to John Locke's ideas of reflection, or not at all about "ideas." It is true, in a few unpublished manuscripts Berkeley used the term "ideas" for image-pictures of particular things (the Old (...) Paradigm). But, I argue, in the Theory of Vision he develops a New Paradigm; and if we follow Berkeley's advice to read his book "in the order [he] published them," then his "Survey of the Objects of Human Knowledge" makes perfect sense in the light of this New Paradigm. (shrink)
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, is unsound. Discussing points made by Bertil Belfrage, Len Carrier, John Foster, A. C. Grayling, Howard Robinson, A. D. Smith, Tom Stoneham, and Colin Turbayne, I try to show that the Time-Gap Argument can be expanded into a strong argument for Berkeleian Idealism. I also idnicate how the latter provides a solution to J. J. Valberg's "puzzle of experience" and disarms James Cornman's argument in Perception, Common Sense, and Science that Berkeley, too, faces a time-gap problem. (shrink)
In Section 38 of the Theory of Vision Vindicated, George Berkeley claims that he had used the method of analysis throughout the Theory of Vision. What does that mean? I first show that "analysis" denoted a fairly well-defined method in the early modern period: it was regularly described as a method of discovery. Then I show that the discussion of distance perception in the Theory of Vision exemplifies the method of analysis and may be seen as a modification of (...) a non-geometrical account of distance vision in Rene Descartes' Optics. (shrink)
In my article "berkeley's master argument" I attempt to show that an argument berkeley uses in the 'dialogues' and 'principles' to support his contention that whatever is perceivable is perceived can be seen as an illuminating attempt to relate conceptualizing, Imaging and perceiving. In consequence it cannot be dismissed as resting on an elementary fallacy, But reflects on the conditions for the self ascription of experience.
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, Jonathan Bennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.