This book, a reevaluation of a major issue in modern philosophy, explores the controversy that grew out of John Locke's suggestion, in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), that God could give to matter the power of thought.
This book addresses one of the fundamental topics in philosophy: the relation between appearance and reality. John Yolton draws on a rich combination of historical and contemporary material, ranging from the early modern period to present-day debates, to examine this central philosophical preoccupation, which he presents in terms of distinctions between phenomena and causes, causes and meaning, and persons and man. He explores in detail how Locke, Berkeley and Hume talk of appearances and their relation to reality, and offers illuminating (...) connections and comparisons with the work of contemporary philosophers such as Paul Churchland and John McDowell. He concludes by offering his own proposal for a 'realism of appearances', which incorporates elements of both Humean and Kantian thinking. His important study will be of interest to a wide range of readers in the history of philosophy, the history of ideas, and contemporary philosophy of mind, epistemology and metaphysics. (shrink)
Philosophy as a separate discipline is a rather new phenomenon. This presents problems for our understanding of what constitutes the history of philosophy. Past writers often approached their concerns from a multi-disciplinary perspective; thus to understand them we have to do more than answer a contemporary set of issues. To that end, I suggest we attend to Locke's advice on how to read a text. Following this advice may permit us to avoid several puzzles which result from misreading a text.
This book tells for the first time the long and complex story of the involvement of Locke's suggestion that God could add to matter the power of thought in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the growth of French materialism. There is a discussion of the 'affaire de Prades', in which Locke's name was linked with a censored thesis at the Faculty of Theology in Paris. The similarities and differences between English "thinking matter" and the French "matiere pensante" of the (...) philosophes are also discussed. (shrink)
This book does several things, and it does them all well. Yolton firmly contextualizes the debates about perception within the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while showing how these debates are often repeated in contemporary philosophy of mind. Along the way, he provides novel interpretations of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant that are clearly and convincingly presented. Perhaps the most important feature of his treatment is that it so vividly shows the Moderns grappling with issues about perception that continue to (...) plague us. The uniting theme of the work is Yolton’s insistence that direct realism and representationalism are compatible. Yolton’s defense of direct realism is largely motivated by the thesis that many philosophers incorrectly take a representational theory of mind to necessitate indirect realism. This mistake arises, according to Yolton, because they suppose that the representations themselves become the objects of perception and therefore stand between the perceiver and the world of objects. Yolton’s argument that the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were struggling to establish two interactive relations between perceivers and the physical world underlies his compatibility thesis: There is a physical and causal relationship and, more importantly, there is what Yolton calls a “cognitive” or “semantic” relationship. The latter relationship holds the key to the compatibility of representationalism with direct realism. (shrink)
It is important for our purposes to notice that in this first reduction of Theætetus' definition of knowledge as perception, Plato has introduced the distinction between sense object and physical object, for he has specifically said, "when the same wind is blowing, one of us feels chilly, the other does not." In using this example. Plato has, as Cornford observes, raised the question of how the several sense objects are related to the single physical object. This question is one of (...) the two major questions with which this paper will deal, since it is, as I have remarked, the more important question concerning the ontological status of sense-data. Cornford feels that Protagoras probably held that the physical object is both hot and cold, different observers perceiving different aspects of the same object. That is, Cornford suggests that Protagoras' own answer to this question of the relation between sense-data and physical objects is one of complete identification in every case. We will see that this theory is similar in many ways to the one worked out by Plato in the Theætetus, but the distinction between the physical object and the sense object, between the wind which feels hot and cold to different people, makes certain characteristic differences between Plato's and Protagoras' theory. Before going on to examine these differences, it is necessary to follow the further development of Plato's general theory of perception. (shrink)
If these realignments in philosophy are to produce an understanding of man and his world, three main areas must be reexamined. Philosophers must offer an account of the context of human action, an account of the cognitive processes of man, and an account of the evaluative reaches of man's reactions to his context. Contemporary phenomenology constitutes the only concerted effort to cover all three of these domains, although even it is stronger on ontology and epistemology than on value theory. Sartre (...) has tried to see the evaluative reaches of man in the context of ontology, and Gabriel Marcel has been much concerned with the emergence of ethical and value attitudes from action. H. G. Bugbee seeks to survey the alternatives to the traditional empirical approaches; he does so from a point of view markedly phenomenological, influenced somewhat by Marcel but developed independently under dissatisfaction with the current modes of philosophizing. (shrink)