By focusing on the exchange between Descartes and Hobbes on how the self is related to its activities, Berkeley draws attention to how he and Hobbes explain the forensic constitution of human subjectivity and moral/political responsibility in terms of passive obedience and conscientious submission to the laws of the sovereign. Formulated as the language of nature or as pronouncements of the supreme political power, those laws identify moral obligations by locating political subjects within those networks of sensible signs. When thus (...) juxtaposed with Hobbes, Berkeley can be understood as endorsing a theologically inflected version of deontological ethics in which moral laws are linked directly to the constitution of the self. (shrink)
In several essays I have argued that Berkeley maintains the same basic notion of spiritual substance throughout his life. Because that notion is not the traditional (Aristotelian, Cartesian, or Lockean) doctrine of substance, critics (e.g., John Roberts, Tom Stoneham, Talia Mae Bettcher, Margaret Atherton, Walter Ott, Marc Hight) claim that on my reading Berkeley either endorses a Humean notion of substance or has no recognizable theory of substance at all. In this essay I point out how my interpretation does not (...) assume that Berkeley adopts a bundle theory of mind, but instead redefines what it means for a simple substance to be the principle by which ideas are perceived. (shrink)
For Berkeley, minds are not Cartesian spiritual substances because they cannot be said to exist (even if only conceptually) abstracted from their activities. Similarly, Berkeley's notion of mind differs from Locke's in that, for Berkeley, minds are not abstract substrata in which ideas inhere. Instead, Berkeley redefines what it means for the mind to be a substance in a way consistent with the Stoic logic of 17th century Ramists on which Leibniz and Jonathan Edwards draw. This view of mind, I (...) conclude, is definitely not the bundle theory that some critics have portrayed it as being. (shrink)
Berkeley's doctrine of archetypes explains how God perceives and can have the same ideas as finite minds. His appeal of Christian neo-Platonism opens up a way to understand how the relation of mind, ideas, and their union is modeled on the Cappadocian church fathers' account of the persons of the trinity. This way of understanding Berkeley indicates why he, in contrast to Descartes or Locke, thinks that mind (spiritual substance) and ideas (the object of mind) cannot exist or be thought (...) of apart from one another. It also hints at why Gregory of Nyssa's immaterialism sounds so much like Berkeley's. (shrink)
Commentators have not said much regarding Berkeley and Stoicism. Even when they do, they generally limit their remarks to Berkeley’s Siris (1744) where he invokes characteristically Stoic themes about the World Soul, “seminal reasons,” and the animating fire of the universe. The Stoic heritage of other Berkeleian doctrines (e.g., about mind or the semiotic character of nature) is seldom recognized, and when it is, little is made of it in explaining his other doctrines (e.g., immaterialism). None of this is surprising, (...) considering how Stoics are considered arch-materialists and determinists. My aim is to suggest that our understanding of Berkeley’s philosophy is improved significantly by acknowledging its underlying Stoic character. I argue that Berkeley proposes not only a semantic ontology based on assumptions of Stoic logic but also a doctrine in which perceptions or ideas are intelligible precisely because they are always embedded in the propositions of a discourse or language. (shrink)
Berkeley's doctrines about mind, the language of nature, substance, minima sensibilia, notions, abstract ideas, inference, and freedom appropriate principles developed by the 16th-century logician Peter Ramus and his 17th-century followers (e.g., Alexander Richardson, William Ames, John Milton). Even though Berkeley expresses himself in Cartesian or Lockean terms, he relies on a Ramist way of thinking that is not a form of mere rhetoric or pedagogy but a logic and ontology grounded in Stoicism. This article summarizes the central features of Ramism, (...) indicates how Berkeley adapts Ramist concepts and strategies, and chronicles Ramism's pervasiveness in Berkeley's education, especially at Trinity College Dublin. (shrink)
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 (...) way of speaking about God, adapted by Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, opens up new ways to think about the relation between God and infinite minds. (shrink)
Instead of focusing on the Malebranche-Edwards connection regarding occasionalism as if minds are distinct from the ideas they have, I focus on how finite minds are particular expressions of God's will that there be the distinctions by which ideas are identified and differentiated. This avoids problems, created in the accounts of Fiering, Lee, and especially Crisp, about the inherently idealist character of Edwards' occasionalism.
Berkeley argues that claims about divine predication (e.g., God is wise or exists) should be understood literally rather than analogically, because like all spirits (i.e., causes), God is intelligible only in terms of the extent of his effects. By focusing on the harmony and order of nature, Berkeley thus unites his view of God with his doctrines of mind, force, grace, and power, and avoids challenges to religious claims that are raised by appeals to analogy. The essay concludes by showing (...) how a letter, supposedly by Berkeley, to Peter Browne ("discovered" in 1969 by Berman and Pittion) is, in fact, by John Jackson (1686-1763), controversial theologian and friend of Samuel Clarke. (shrink)
Clues about what Berkeley was planning to say about mind in his now-lost second volume of the Principles seem to abound in his Notebooks. However, commentators have been reluctant to use his unpublished entries to explicate his remarks about spiritual substances in the Principles and Dialogues for three reasons. First, it has proven difficult to reconcile the seemingly Humean bundle theory of the self in the Notebooks with Berkeley's published characterization of spirits as “active beings or principles.” Second, the fact (...) that Berkeley did not publish his Notebooks insights on mind has led some to claim that he later rejected his early views. Third, many of the Notebooks entries on mind have a ‘+’ sign next to them, which has been understood for decades to comprise a Black List of views about which Berkeley had doubts or subsequently rejected. In my dialogue, I describe how Berkeley's “congeries” account of mind (1) differs from Hume's bundle theory in a way that complements Berkeley's published remarks and (2) undercuts the claim that he later rejected his early views. Most importantly, (3) I show how a careful analysis of the British Library manuscript of the Notebooks refutes the Black List hypothesis. (shrink)
(Original French text followed by English version.) For Berkeley, mathematical and scientific issues and concepts are always conditioned by epistemological, metaphysical, and theological considerations. For Berkeley to think of any thing--whether it be a geometrical figure or a visible or tangible object--is to think of it in terms of how its limits make it intelligible. Especially in De Motu, he highlights the ways in which limit concepts (e.g., cause) mark the boundaries of science, metaphysics, theology, and morality.
For Berkeley, a thing's existence 'esse' is nothing more than its being perceived 'as that thing'. It makes no sense to ask (with Samuel Johnson) about the 'esse' of the mind or the specific act of perception, for that would be like asking what it means for existence to exist. Berkeley's "existere is percipi or percipere" (NB 429) thus carefully adopts the scholastic distinction between 'esse' and 'existere' ignored by Locke and others committed to a substantialist notion of mind. Following (...) the Stoics, Berkeley proposes that, 'as' the existence of ideas, minds "subsist" rather than "exist" and, accordingly, cannot be identified as independently existing things. (shrink)
Instead of interpreting Berkeley in terms of the standard way of relating him to Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke, I suggest we consider relating him to other figures (e.g., Stoics, Ramists, Suarez, Spinoza, Leibniz). This allows us to integrate his published and unpublished work, and reveals how his philosophic and non-philosophic work are much more aligned with one another. I indicate how his (1) theory of powers, (2) "bundle theory" of the mind, and (3) doctrine of "innate ideas" are understood in (...) a way significantly different from that found in the standard account. (shrink)
In this set of previously unpublished essays, noted scholars from North America and Europe describe how the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1684-1753) continues to inspire debates about his views on knowledge, reality, God, freedom, mathematics, and religion. Here discussions about Berkeley's account of physical objects, minds, and God's role in human experience are resolved within explicitly ethical and theological contexts. This collection uses debates about Berkeley's immaterialism and theory of ideas to open up a discussion of how divine activity and (...) human experience are reconciled in a recurring appeal to the laws of nature. In that context, objects in the world are linked to one another by means of the perceptions and affections whereby minds come into being. The laws of nature thus become crucial for Berkeley in revealing how objects are unintelligible apart from being apprehended by minds that are themselves connected to one another in virtue of their ideas. -/- Overall, the essays indicate that, for Berkeley, our apprehension of the world as real depends on recognizing how the world expressed by our ideas is not a mere aggregate of disconnected bodies but is rather an integrated unity of the things we experience. This provides an antidote against the loss of unity created by Descartes' isolation of the self from nature and Locke's account of objects in terms of simple, discrete ideas. -/- In juxtaposing discussions of Berkeley's later writings with his earlier works, this volume shows not only how, for Berkeley, mind is intrinsically linked to things in nature as the principle of their determination in law-governed ways, but also how minds are practically related to the objects of the physical world, one another, and ultimately God. (shrink)
I will suggest that we can begin to see why Edwards and Berkeley sound so much alike by considering how both think of minds or spiritual substances notas things modeled on material bodies but as the acts by which things are identified. Those acts cannot be described using the Aristotelian subject-predicatelogic on which the metaphysics of substance, properties, attributes, or modes is based because subjects, substances, etc. are themselves initially distinguishedthrough such acts. To think of mind as opposed to matter, (...) or of acts of mind as opposed to mind itself, is already to assume the differentiation enacted by thoseacts. I argue that even though Edwards and Berkeley refer to distinctions such as mind vs. matter, they think that it is important to avoid treating mind, its acts, and its objects in terms of subject-predicate logic or substance metaphysics. (shrink)
There is a widespread assumption that Berkeley and Spinoza have little in common, even though early Jesuit critics in France often linked them. Later commentators have also recognized their similarities. My essay focuses on how Berkeley 's comments on the Arnauld-Malebranche debate regarding objective and formal reality and his treatment of god's creation of finite minds within the order of nature relate his theory of knowledge to his doctrine in a way similar to that of Spinoza. On estime souvent que (...) Berkeley et Spinoza ont peu en commun, même si les premières critiques jésuites en France les ont souvent liés. D'autres commentateurs ont également reconnu leurs similitudes. Mon essai se concentre sur la manière dont 1 / les remarques de Berkeley sur la discussion entre Arnauld et Malebranche concernant la réalité objective et formelle et 2 / son traitement de la création par Dieu des esprits finis dans l'ordre de la nature mettent en relation sa théorie de la connaissance et sa doctrine de la liberté dans une manière semblable à celle de Spinoza. (shrink)
Jonathan Edwards' marginalization in modern philosophy stems from his refusal to endorse the predicational logic and substantialist ontology of the rationalist-empiricist debate. Instead, he appeals to a communicative, semiotic logic of propositions grounded in Stoic thought and thematized by Peter Ramus and his Puritan followers. That alternative logic displays an "ontology of supposition" that guarantees God's existence, justifies typological, magical, and even astrological inferences, undermines modernist dichotomies (e.g., between mind and matter), and invalidates efforts to speak of Edwards' thought in (...) terms of idealism or immaterialism. (shrink)
In June of 2012 scholars from Europe and North America met in Montreal to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the publication of George Berkeley's *Passive Obedience*. In this article Stephen Daniel summarizes the English presentations, and Sébastien Charles summarizes the French presentations, on how Berkeley invokes naturalistic themes in developing a moral theory while still allowing a role for God.
Bernard Mandeville's early work *Typhon* reveals how his *Fable of the Bees* can be understood not only as an extended commentary of an Aesopic fable but also as a form of mythic writing. The appeal to the mythic in discourse provides him with the opportunity to give both a genetic account of the development of language and social practices and a functional account of the the socializing impact of myths (including classical ones). The artificial distinction between treating Mandeville's writings as (...) exclusively philosophy or literature is overcome by means of his identification of the mythic origin of meaning and rationality. (shrink)
Vico's historicist claims (1) that different ages are intelligible only in their own terms and (2) that the certainty and authority of history depend on its narrative formulation seem at odds with his doctrines of ideal eternal history and divine providence. He resolves these issues, however, in his treatment of ideal eternal history by using the distinction between the certain and the true to show how rhetorical expression generates meaning in and as history. Specifically, by appealing to an ontology that (...) informs the propositional logic of the early Stoics and the ideas of Peter Ramus and his followers, Vico treats historical events as legal pronouncements and grammatical reformations of syntax. In this way he displaces the predicate logic of ancient and modern thinkers who treat rhetoric as a mere embellishment of argumentation. (shrink)
Descartes’ “natural light” has been interpreted as a faculty of the mind, the sense-imagination-reason-under-standing composite, the principle of intellectual integrity and growth, or even God himself. In Meditations III and IV in particular, the meaning of lumen natural depends on recognizing how light and nature define one another and how “my nature” serves as the basis for pointing to what is beyond the domain of natural reason, including religious faith and natural belief (especially regarding morality).
Well-known for its criticism of totalizing accounts of reason and truth, postmodern thought also makes positive contributions to our understanding of the sensual, ideological, and linguistic contingencies that inform modernist representations of self, history, and the world. The positive side of postmodernity includes structuralism and poststructuralism, particularly as expressed by theorists concerned with practices of the body (Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze), commodity differences (Adorno, Althusser), language (Derrida), and gender (Kristeva, Irigaray). Though these challenges to modernity do not privilege subjectivity, they suggest (...) provocative new strategies for appreciating the work of thinkers from Bacon to Kant. (shrink)