The Relation Between Anti-Abstractionism and Idealism in Berkeley's Metaphysics

George Berkeley maintains both anti-abstractionism (that abstract ideas are impossible) and idealism (that physical objects and their qualities are mind-dependent). Some scholars (including Atherton, Bolton, and Pappas) have argued, in different ways, that Berkeley uses anti-abstractionism as a premise in a simple argument for idealism. In this paper, I argue that the relation between anti-abstractionism and idealism in Berkeley's metaphysics is more complex than these scholars acknowledge. Berkeley distinguishes between two kinds of abstraction, singling abstraction and generalizing abstraction. He then rests his case for idealism, not on the denial of the possibility of generalizing abstraction, but rather on the denial of the possibility of singling abstraction. Moreover, Berkeley's argument does not rest on a blanket rejection of all forms of singling abstraction. Rather, the fundamental anti-abstractionist assumption, for his purposes, is the claim that primary qualities cannot be mentally singled out from secondary qualities. Crucially, the claim that the existence of physical objects cannot be mentally singled out from their being perceived is not a premise in, but rather a consequence of, Berkeley's argument for idealism. Berkeley's argument therefore avoids circularity inasmuch as it appeals to the impossibility of singly abstracting one idea in order to establish the impossibility of singly abstracting another
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/09608788.2012.679782
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 25,687
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Berkeley: An Interpretation.Kenneth P. Winkler - 1989 - Oxford University Press UK.
Berkeley's Argument for Idealism.Samuel Rickless - 2013 - Oxford University Press.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Cartesian Context of Berkeley's Attack on Abstraction.Walter R. Ott - 2004 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85 (4):407–424.
God and First Person in Berkeley.George Botterill - 2007 - Philosophy 82 (1):87-114.
Berkeley's Anti-Abstractionism.M. Glouberman - 1994 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 2 (1):145 – 163.
Abstraction, Inseparability, and Identity.Donald L. M. Baxter - 1997 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (2):307-330.
Principles of Human Knowledge ;.George Berkeley - 1996 - Oxford University Press.
The Anti-Abstractionism of Dignāga and Berkeley.Ewing Y. Chinn - 1994 - Philosophy East and West 44 (1):55-77.
Berkeley's Argument for Idealism.Samuel Rickless - 2013 - Oxford University Press.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

73 ( #68,378 of 2,146,177 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

11 ( #70,945 of 2,146,177 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums