Common sense and Berkeley's perception by suggestion

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 5 (3):397 – 423 (1997)
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Significant attention has been paid to Berkeley's account of perception; however, the interpretations of Berkeley's account of perception by suggestion are either incomplete or mistaken. In this paper I begin by examining a common interpretation of suggestion, the 'Propositional Account'. I argue that the Propositional Account is inadequate and defend an alternative, non-propositional, account. I then address George Pitcher's objection that Berkeley's view of sense perception forces him to adopt a 'non-conciliatory' attitude towards common sense. I argue that Pitcher's charge is no longer plausible once we recognize that Berkeley endorses the non-propositional sense of mediate perception. I close by urging that the non-propositional interpretation of Berkeley's account of mediate perception affords a greater appreciation of Berkeley's attempt to bring a philosophical account of sense perception in line with some key principles of common sense. While Berkeley's account of perception and physical objects permits physical objects to be immediately perceived by some of the senses, they are, most often, mediately perceived. But for Berkeley this is not a challenge to common sense since common sense requires only that we perceive objects by our senses and that they are, more or less, as we perceive them. Mediate perception by suggestion is, for Berkeley, as genuine a form of perception as immediate perception, and both are compatible with Berkeley's understanding of the demands of common sense.



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Jody Graham
Auburn University

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References found in this work

Berkeley: An Interpretation.Kenneth P. Winkler - 1989 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
The sense of touch.Brian O'Shaughnessy - 1989 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (1):37 – 58.
Berkeley.George Pitcher - 1977 - New York: Routledge.
Berkeley.I. C. Tipton - 1974 - London,: Methuen.
Berkeley.Geoffrey James Warnock - 1953 - Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. Edited by Ted Honderich.

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