George Berkeley is famous for the metaphysical principle esse is percipi or percipere. Many Berkeleyan idealists take this principle to be incompatible with Platonic realism about abstract objects, and thus opt either for nominalism or divine conceptualism on which they are construed as divine ideas. In this paper, I argue that Berkeleyan idealism is consistent with a Platonic realism in which abstracta exist outside the divine mind. This allows the Berkeleyan to expand Berkeley’s principle to read: esse is percipi or (...) percipere or abstractum. (shrink)
Leibniz claims that Berkeley “wrongly or at least pointlessly rejects abstract ideas”. What he fails to realize, however, is that some of his own core views commit him to essentially the same stance. His belief that this is the best (and thus most harmonious) possible world, which itself stems from his Principle of Sufficient Reason, leads him to infer that mind and body must perfectly represent or ‘express’ one another. In the case of abstract thoughts he admits that this can (...) happen only in virtue of thinking of some image that, being essentially a mental copy of a brain state, expresses (and is expressed by) that state. But here he faces a problem. In order for a thought to be genuinely abstract, its representational content must differ from that of any mental image, since the latter can represent only particular things. In that case, however, an exact correspondence between the accompanying mental image and the brain state would not suffice to establish a perfect harmony between mind and body. Even on Leibniz’s own principles, then, it appears that Berkeley was right to dismiss abstract ideas. (shrink)
In the First of the Three Dialogues, Berkeley’s Hylas, responding to Philonous’s question whether extension and motion are separable from secondary qualities, says: What! Is it not an easy matter, to consider extension and motion by themselves,... Pray how do the mathematicians treat of them?
Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates over an innate quality space (...) of fine-grained general representations. We argue that this framework has important philosophical implications for the nativism-empiricism dispute, for questions about the acquisition of unstructured representations, and for questions about the relation between human and animal minds. (shrink)
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)
O presente texto tem por objetivo examinar as relações existentes entre a crítica às idéias abstratas, apresentada por Berkeley na Introdução ao Tratado sobre os princípios do entendimento humano, e a argumentação desenvolvida nos primeiros parágrafos da Parte I do mesmo texto, em que o autor propõe seu imaterialismo. A hipótese levantada a partir de tal exame defende uma relação direta entre o nominalismo de Berkeley e o caráter inaceitável, para o autor, da distinção entre o ser e o aparecer (...) da matéria postulada pelas teorias da representação. Critique of abstration and representation in Berkeleys immaterialismThe objective of this essay is to examine the relations that exist between the critique of abstract ideas, presented by Berkeley in the Introduction to the A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and the arguments developed in the first paragraphs of its Part I, in which Berkeley proposes his immaterialism. The hypothesis advanced, based on our analysis, is that there is a direct relation between Berkeleys nominalism and the unacceptable character, according to Berkeley, of the distinction between the appearance and the matter postulated by the theories of representation. (shrink)
Berkeley confidently asserts the connection between his attack on abstract ideas and immaterialism, But how the connection works has puzzled modern commentators. I construct an argument resting on the imagist theory of thought which connects anti-ionism and immaterialism and try to show that it is berkeleian. I then suggest that, Without the mistaken imagist theory, A similar and still interesting argument can be constructed to the weaker conclusion that matter is essentially unknowable.
There are three propositions that this author demonstrates in his argument: the contention that berkeley 's attack on abstract ideas is not made wholly compatible with his atomic sensationalism, that berkeley does not provide or employ a single definition or criterion for determining the limit of abstraction and that the doctrine of abstract ideas furnishes no real support to berkeley 's argument against the existence of material substance independent of perception.
While claiming to refute locke's theory of abstract ideas, Berkeley himself accepts a form of abstractionism. Locke's account of abstraction is indeterminate between two doctrines: 1) abstract ideas are representations of paradigm instances of kinds, 2) abstract ideas are schematic representations of the defining features of kinds. Berkeley's arguments are directed exclusively against 2, And refute only a specific version of it, Which there is no reason to ascribe to locke; berkeley himself accepts abstract ideas of the former type. Locke's (...) theory suffers from circularity and redundancy, Berkeley's from conflation of thought with imagination. (shrink)
The essay on abstraction provides an historical review of the notion of abstraction with an attempt being made to show that there is a basic similarity between the doctrines of Aristotle and Aquinas, on the one hand, and Locke on the other. The conclusion that is then drawn is that the nominalistic critique initiated by Berkeley and refined by Hume in direct answer to the Lockean theory of general ideas is effective against all doctrines of abstraction which hope to end (...) up in a moderate realism. Other concerns are 1) to show the basic affinities between Berkeleyean and Humean nominalism, and late medieval nominalism, in particular that of Ockham, 2) to show that such a nominalism is inadequate and must be replaced by, what has been termed in contemporary analytical circles, psychological nominalism. The essay on relation shows the continuity in the history of the doctrine of relations from the time of Melissus to the Rusellian critique of the substance-accident ontology, critique which Weinberg thinks definitively replaced the unilateral-attribute doctrine of relations. The essay on induction attempts to show how the medieval commentators modified Aristotle's intuitionistic and vestigally [[sic]] Platonic doctrine of induction into a doctrine of covert inference, and anticipated, in part, Bacon's and Mill's theories.—E. A. R. (shrink)
As an introduction to the proper understanding of Berkeley, Otero examines the interrelations between the epistemological criticism of abstraction and the ontological theory of the world of ideas in Berkeley's earlier works. The contemporary relevance of these themes is also demonstrated with Husserl's treatment of abstraction. The author's conclusions are incisive and clearly expressed, to the point perhaps that they fail to reproduce some of the necessary ambiguities of Berkeley's thought, with the result that Berkeley tends to come out as (...) a naïve realist.—J. J. (shrink)