This collection of essays on themes in the work of John Locke , George Berkeley , and David Hume , provides a deepened understanding of major issues raised in the Empiricist tradition. In exploring their shared belief in the experiential nature of mental constructs, The Empiricists illuminates the different methodologies of these great Enlightenment philosophers and introduces students to important metaphysical and epistemological issues including the theory of ideas, personal identity, and skepticism. It will be especially useful in courses devoted (...) to the history of modern philosophy. (shrink)
In the Treatise Hume claims one's idea of existence is not distinct from the idea of what one conceives to be existent. From clues in his extremely terse defence of his claim I construct an argument that is logically valid and founded on premises he is likely to have considered both cogent and consistent with his main philosophical principles. I also examine briefly and incompletely what his position on existence and the idea of existence does and does not include.
The first question to ask of this diplomatic edition is why bother? Why attempt to provide an exact print reproduction of a handwritten antecedent of the Introduction to Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge? And why divide the book into Editor’s Introduction, Editor’s Commentary, Text, and Critical Apparatus? The answer makes one appreciate Belfrage’s labors. T. E. Jessop, the editor of the standard edition of MI, as I shall call the material from a notebook in the library (...) of Trinity College, Dublin, made several major editing errors. Belfrage’s painstaking approach avoids them by separating editing from interpreting. Some examples. First, Jessop entitled MI “First Draft of the Introduction to the Principles,” whereas Belfrage provides physical evidence that it began as a draft prepared for a printer and therefore was probably not the first draft of the Introduction. Second, Jessop numbered the sections of MI on the basis of his interpretation of how they related to the sections of the printed text of the first edition. By making at least one glaring mistake, he demonstrated why one should employ a neutral numbering system as Belfrage does. Third, he printed only the earliest statum of a stratefied document. This approach makes it easier for the reader, but suggests linearity where none exists, makes the printed text problematic for scholars interested in dating stages of Berkeley’s thought, and prevents one from seeing how the author worked his way to the text that was finally published. To make matters worse, Jessop incorporated into the sections dates from the margin that probably were added after the original version of the draft was written, thereby suggesting an incorrect composition period for the text he presents. In his Editor’s Introduction, Belfrage presents a carefully organized argument concerning the compositional history of MI; even better, he presents the text so that the reader, too, can assess the evidence. One final error, not an editing error, but what perhaps led to them, is worth noting. Jessop wrongly encouraged reader’s to discount MI’s importance; he remarked in his Editor’s Introduction that “Compared with the printed Introduction, the draft neither adds nor omits anything of substance.” The vague expression “anything of substance” makes refuting his claim difficult, but at the very least it is extremely misleading. One need not accept Belfrage’s overall interpretation of how MI relates to the printed text to realize he has provided powerful arguments against Jessop’s view. Belfrage’s interpretation, too complex to be adequately summarized here and, indeed, too complex to be fully presented in the Editor’s Commentary, is, roughly, that Berkeley’s views on language, knowledge, and representation changed dramatically from when he first wrote MI to when he quit correcting it. In defending this historical thesis Belfrage develops a number of distinctions regarding Berkeleian doctrines which are philosophically important whether or not his defence fully succeeds. Consequently, anyone who wishes to understand the doctrines developed in the printed Introduction will have to take into account Belfrage’s interpretation of how it relates to MI. What this means is that we are doubly in his debt. Not only has he provided us with a carefully edited version of MI, one which every research library should include, he has also deepened our understanding of Berkeley’s philosophy. (shrink)
One of the chief problems facing interpreters of Hume's philosophy is what I shall call the integration problem. It is a global problem inasmuch as it casts a shadow on every component of his philosophy, but does not directly affect how we interpret their details. The integration problem arises at the end of Book I of A Treatise of Human Nature, where Hume seemed to acknowledge that his account of human understanding, his logic, leads directly to total skepticism regarding both (...) everyday beliefs and abstruse thought. Nonetheless, he neither reconsidered and repudiated this virulent skepticism nor aborted and disowned his investigation of human nature, the project announced in the Introduction to the Treatise. Instead, he continues with Books II and III, neither of which dwells on or even acknowledges the skepticism with which Book I concludes. The resulting puzzle is not just about his decision to publish the three books as one work, since Hume appears paradoxically to endorse the triumph of skepticism and, yet, continue his pursuit of just the kind of knowledge the triumph of skepticism would entirely preclude. How, one is led to ask, can Hume consistently integrate the destructive skepticism of Book I with the constructive project of explaining and understanding human nature? It is not surprising that a wide range of proposals have been put forward by Hume scholars in response to this question. The crux of every such proposal is specifying how the skepticism of Book I is to be regarded. Is it genuine, a mere facade, or something in between? (shrink)
It could hardly be controversial that in “Why utility pleases,” Section V of his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, Hume purports to tell his readers why utility pleases. It is not controversial that in that section he rejected the deduction of morals from self-love, that is, the thesis that utility pleases because actions and policies possessing it inevitably are in the actual or perceived self-interest of the person who approves of them. This is not to deny there are interpretive (...) issues. Nor is it to deny that there are passages which puzzle. Here is one. (shrink)
Minds, Ideas and Objects is a collection of conference papers on the topic of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theories of ideas or “sensory experience, thought, knowledge and their objects.” At least half the twenty-three papers are by well-known historians of philosophy who seldom disappoint, and there is some equally thought-provoking work among the rest. Some papers say little that is surprising, and some, including good ones, fail to convince, but few are weak. It is perhaps to be expected that coverage of (...) the period is uneven, but chance has played some odd tricks, giving us one paper each on Leibniz and Hume and none on Spinoza, whereas Berkeley excites the attention of six contributors, one more even than Kant. Most philosophers discussed are narrowly canonical, with just a page on Cudworth and only four even on Reid, but there are a couple of welcome articles on the vastly rewarding, until recently seldom studied Arnauld-Malebranche debate. Günter Zöller’s “The Austrian Way of Ideas,” summarizing the views on intentionality of Brentano and his pupils, Twardowski, Meinong, and Husserl, reminds us of the close continuities between early-modern and twentieth-century concerns. (shrink)
Both John Foster and Howard Robinson hold that idealism, construed as a position about perception and the material world, is far more defensible than most philosophers think. The former, indeed, wrote The Case for Idealism. This may be enough to explain their project to celebrate Berkeley’s tercentenary, since he surely is the decisive figure in the development of the kind of idealism they take seriously. In their “Introduction,” the editors attempt to link together the twelve essays which follow, but do (...) so only by finding a place for the themes and arguments of some of them in an overview, a nicely structured one, of their own making. The reality, not surprisingly, is that like most anthologies devoted to a single topic or philosopher, the papers are fundamentally unrelated. The contributors mind their own business and do not address each others’ arguments and contentions. This is no criticism; for it to be otherwise would require a level of organization and ongoing interaction among the contributors that is all but impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, one would rather avoid the unsettling experience of finding different and even incompatible assumptions being proffered by different authors as the central principle of Berkeley’s immaterialism, especially since each author offers a candidate without attempting to discredit its rivals textually. Despite this unavoidable flaw, it is a useful anthology. (shrink)