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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 1995, 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. added 2019-06-06
    Berkeley, Pitcher, and Distance Perception.A. David Kline - 1980 - International Studies in Philosophy 12 (2):1-8.
  2. added 2018-03-14
    Hey, What's the Big Idea? Berkeley and Hume on Extension, Local Conjunction, and the Immateriality of the Soul.Don Garrett - 2018 - In Stefan Storrie (ed.), Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 191-204.
  3. added 2017-06-12
    An Historical and Critical Examination of English Space and Time Theories From Henry More to Bishop Berkeley.J. Baker - 1933 - Philosophical Review 42:90.
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  4. added 2017-04-12
    IV. Berkeley, Newton, and Space1.W. Davis John - 1970 - In John W. Davis & Robert E. Butts (eds.), The Methodological Heritage of Newton. University of Toronto Press. pp. 57-73.
  5. added 2017-02-22
    Two Berkelian Arguments about the Nature of Space.H. Robinson - 2009 - Filozofia 64:123-132.
    The author considers two arguments concerning the nature of space which occur in Berkeley and which he thinks are not sufficiently discussed. The first one concerns the phenomenology of space, the second the physics of space. The first one is the “mite” argument, while the second draws from Newton’s two thought experiments concerning absolute space: the “bucket” experiment and the “balls” experiment. The author’s aim is to support the idealist approach to space.
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  6. added 2016-07-18
    Berkeley's Views on Time.J. J. Macintosh - 1978 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8 (sup1):153-163.
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  7. added 2016-07-18
    Berkeley's Criticism of Newton on Space and Motion.W. A. Suchting - 1967 - Isis 58 (2):186-197.
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  8. added 2016-07-18
    An Historical and Critical Examination of English Space and Time Theories From More to Berkeley.Rudolph Kagey & John Tull Baker - 1932 - Journal of Philosophy 29 (25):697.
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  9. added 2016-05-04
    The Mathematical Ideas of George Berkeley.Jose Antonio Robles-Garcia - 1990 - Dissertation, Stanford University
    The dissertation is a study of Berkeley's ideas on mathematics in which an evaluation is made of their merit and of their possible relevance to present day studies on the subject. ;The study is divided in five chapters and four appendices, in which the following subjects are discussed: Berkeley's arguments against infinite divisibility; his ideas on arithmetic and algebra, plus an appendix on the several views on numbers held by philosophers and mathematicians contemporaneous to or of about Berkeley's time. A (...)
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  10. added 2015-04-20
    Is Geometry About Tangible Extension?Richard Brook - 2009 - Berkeley Studies:5-12.
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  11. added 2015-04-20
    Berkeley's Views on Time.J. J. Maclntosh - 1978 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 4:153.
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  12. added 2015-03-06
    Misleading Questions and Irrelevant Answers in Berkeley's Theory of Vision.A. E. Best - 1968 - Philosophy 43 (164):138 - 151.
    Berkeley's essay on vision was published in the spring of 1709. It was recognised at once as a book of considerable importance, and there was a second edition within the first year. The author was still only 24. His design, he wrote, was to show the ‘manner we perceive by sight the distance, magnitude and situation of objects’. Hitherto, writers on optics had ‘proceeded on wrong principles’.
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  13. added 2015-02-02
    Berkeley's Criticism of Newton on Space and Motion.W. Suchting - 1967 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 58:186-197.
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  14. added 2014-04-02
    Berkeley and Proof in Geometry.Richard J. Brook - 2012 - Dialogue 51 (3):419-435.
    Berkeley in his Introduction to the Principles of Human knowledge uses geometrical examples to illustrate a way of generating “universal ideas,” 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.I contend, rather, that given Berkeley’s view of extension, no Euclidean triangles exist to attend to. Rather proof, as Berkeley would normally assume, requires (...)
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  15. added 2014-04-02
    Rethinking Ideas of Newton, Berkeley and Mach Today.Eduard I. Sorkin - 2008 - 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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  16. added 2014-03-26
    Berkeley's Pantheistic Discourse.Stephen H. Daniel - 2001 - 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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  17. added 2014-03-17
    Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics.Douglas M. Jesseph - 1993 - 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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  18. added 2014-03-11
    The Indirect Perception of Distance: Interpretive Complexities in Berkeley's Theory of Vision.Michael James Braund - 2007 - Kritike 1 (2):49-64.
    The problem of whether perception is direct or if it depends on additional, cognitive contributions made by the perceiving subject, is posed with particular force in an Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. It is evident from the recurrent treatment it receives therein that Berkeley considers it to be one of the central issues concerning perception. Fittingly, the NTV devotes the most attention to it. In this essay, I deal exclusively with Berkeley's treatment of the problem of indirect distance (...)
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  19. added 2014-03-08
    Direzioni del moto e direzioni nello spazio: Berkeley e Kant.Francesco Martinello - 2011 - Rivista di Filosofia 102 (1):105-123.
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  20. added 2014-03-08
    Directions of Motions and Directions in Space: Berkeley and Kant.Francesco Martinello - 2011 - Rivista di Filosofia 102 (1):105-124.
  21. added 2014-03-04
    Hume and Berkeley on the Proofs of Infinite Divisibility.Robert Fogelin - 1988 - 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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  22. added 2014-03-03
    An Historical and Critical Examination of English Space and Time Theories From Henry More to Bishop Berkeley.John Tull Baker - 1930 - Bronxville, N.Y., Sarah Lawrence College.
  23. added 2013-12-02
    Berkeley and Russell on Space.Colin Murray Turbayne - 1954 - Dialectica 8 (3):210-227.
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  24. added 2013-09-25
    Two Berkelian Arguments About the Nature of Space.Howard Robinson - 2011 - In Timo Airaksinen & Bertil Belfrage (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 79-90.
    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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  25. added 2013-09-25
    Berkeley and the Time-Gap Argument.Mykolas Drunga - 2011 - In Timo Airaksinen & Bertil Belfrage (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars Press.
    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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  26. added 2012-12-03
    Space and Perception: A Critical Study of Berkeley's "New Theory of Vision".Michael J. R. L. Kinsman - unknown
    The topic of thesis was not selected at random. In the last two years or so I have become increasingly interested in that broad complex of problems traditionally grouped together under the name of the 'Mind - Body' problem, and have become increasingly convinced that the solution of this problem is one of the most exciting, and certainly one of the most difficult, problems confronting modern science.
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  27. added 2012-05-15
    Berkeley, Newton and the Stars.Kenneth P. Winkler - 1986 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 17 (1):23-42.
  28. added 2012-04-30
    Seeing Distance From a Berkeleian Perspective.Robert Schwartz - 1995 - In Robert G. Muehlmann (ed.), Berkeley's Metaphysics: Structural, Interpretive, and Critical Essays. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
  29. added 2012-03-18
    Berkeley's Corpuscular Philosophy of Time.Darren Hynes - 2005 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 22 (4):339 - 356.
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  30. added 2012-03-18
    Depth and Distance in Berkeley's Theory of Vision.Akira Hara - 2004 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 21 (1):101 - 117.
  31. added 2012-03-18
    Thomas Reid and Non-Euclidean Geometry.Amit Hagar - 2002 - 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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  32. added 2012-03-18
    Berkeley, Helmholtz, the Moon Illusion, and Two Visual Systems.Helen E. Ross - 2001 - 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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  33. added 2012-03-18
    Intuition and Construction in Berkeley's Account of Visual Space.Lorne Falkenstein - 1994 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 32 (1):63-84.
  34. added 2012-03-18
    Berkeley's Theory of Time.H. Scott Hestevold - 1990 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 7 (2):179 - 192.
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  35. added 2012-03-18
    Berkeley's Theory of Space.Robert Gray - 1978 - 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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  36. added 2012-03-18
    Thomas Reid's Discovery of a Non-Euclidean Geometry.Norman Daniels - 1972 - 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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  37. added 2012-03-18
    Physiological Mechanisms in the Perception of Distance by Sight and Berkeley's Theory of Vision.M. H. Pirenne - 1953 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4 (13):13-21.
  38. added 2012-03-18
    Berkeley, the New Materialism, and the Diminution of Light by Distance.Collyns Simon - 1881 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 15 (1):77 - 84.
  39. added 2012-03-15
    Berkeley on Visible Figure and Extension.Ralph Schumacher - 2007 - In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy.
  40. added 2012-03-15
    The Spaces of Berkeley's World.Gary Thrane - 1982 - In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
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  41. added 2012-03-15
    A Note on Berkeley as Precursor of Mach.K. R. Popper - 1953 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4 (13):26-36.
  42. added 2012-03-14
    Berkeley, Reid, and Thomas Brown on the Origins of Our Spatial Concepts.Todd Ganson - 1999 - Reid Studies 3 (1):49-62.
  43. added 2012-03-14
    La critique de l'absolutisme newtonien chez Leibniz et Berkeley.Daniel Louet - 1988 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 93 (4):447-468.
    Ce texte examine les arguments de Leibniz et de Berkeley contre la théorie de l'espace absolu, que Newton avait tenté de prouver au moyen de l'expérience connue sous le nom d'expérience du seau. Selon Leibniz, l'espace absolu ne peut exister parce que cette existence serait contraire au principe des indiscernables et au principe de raison suffisante. L'espace euclidien est en effet un ensemble de points doués des mêmes propriétés qualitatives; dans un tel espace, chaque monde possible appartiendrait à une classe (...)
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  44. added 2012-03-14
    On Being "Embrangled" by Time.E. J. Furlong - 1982 - In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
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  45. added 2012-03-14
    Berkeley on Space, Sight and Touch.D. G. Collingridge - 1978 - Philosophy 53 (203):102-105.
    In his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision Berkeley argues that it is only a happy accident that we are aware of space and objects in space by means of vision, and that the logically primary way in which we are aware of space is by touch. Berkeley 's argument is that all connections between the visual and the spatial properties of things are contingent. Thus we may judge an object's distance from us by noting the number and size (...)
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