Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy

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But, for this to work, it was important that the person who is rewarded or punished is the same person as the one who lived virtuously or lived sinfully. And this had to be true even though the person being rewarded or punished had died, had somehow continued to exist in an afterlife, and had somehow managed to be reunited with a body. So it was important to get the issue of personal identity right.

The negative project involves arguing against the view that personal identity consists in or requires the continued existence of a particular substance. And the positive project involves defending the view that personal identity consists in continuity of consciousness. We can begin with this positive view. Locke suggests here that part of what makes a person the same through time is their ability to recognize past experiences as belonging to them. For me, part of what differentiates one little boy who attended Bridlemile Elementary from all the other children who went there is my realization that I share in his consciousness.

Put differently, my access to his lived experience at Bridlemile is very different from my access to the lived experiences of others there: it is first-personal and immediate. I recognize his experiences there as part of a string of experiences that make up my life and join up to my current self and current experiences in a unified way. That is what makes him the same person as me. Locke believes that this account of personal identity as continuity of consciousness obviates the need for an account of personal identity given in terms of substances.

A traditional view held that there was a metaphysical entity, the soul, which guaranteed personal identity through time; wherever there was the same soul, the same person would be there as well. Locke offers a number of thought experiments to cast doubt on this belief and show that his account is superior. For example, if a soul was wiped clean of all its previous experiences and given new ones as might be the case if reincarnation were true , the same soul would not justify the claim that all of those who had had it were the same person.

Or, we could imagine two souls who had their conscious experiences completely swapped.

In this case, we would want to say that the person went with the conscious experiences and did not remain with the soul. Most of these focus on the crucial role seemingly played by memory. Scholastic philosophers had held that the main goal of metaphysics and science was to learn about the essences of things: the key metaphysical components of things which explained all of their interesting features. Locke thought this project was misguided.

That sort of knowledge, knowledge of the real essences of beings, was unavailable to human beings. This led Locke to suggest an alternative way to understand and investigate nature; he recommends focusing on the nominal essences of things. For proponents of the mechanical philosophy it would be the number and arrangement of the material corpuscles which composed the body.

Locke sometimes endorses this latter understanding of real essence. But he insists that these real essences are entirely unknown and undiscoverable by us. The nominal essences, by contrast, are known and are the best way we have to understand individual substances. Nominal essences are just collections of all the observed features an individual thing has. So the nominal essence of a piece of gold would include the ideas of yellowness, a certain weight, malleability, dissolvability in certain chemicals, and so on.

Locke offers us a helpful analogy to illustrate the difference between real and nominal essences. He suggests that our position with respect to ordinary objects is like the position of someone looking at a very complicated clock. They are hidden behind the casing. Similarly, when I look at an object like a dandelion, I am only able to observe its nominal essence the yellow color, the bitter smell, and so forth.

I have no clear idea what produces these features of the dandelion or how they are produced. Why do we consider some things to be zebras and other things to be rabbits? But this has the consequence that our groupings might fail to adequately reflect whatever real distinctions there might be in nature. So Locke is not a realist about species or types. Instead, he is a conventionalist. Throughout the seventeenth century, a number of fundamentalist Christian sects continually threatened the stability of English political life.

And the status of Catholic and Jewish people in England was a vexed one. So the stakes were very high when, in 4. He defines reason as an attempt to discover certainty or probability through the use of our natural faculties in the investigation of the world. Faith, by contrast, is certainty or probability attained through a communication believed to have come, originally, from God.

So when Smith eats a potato chip and comes to believe it is salty, she believes this according to reason. But when Smith believes that Joshua made the sun stand still in the sky because she read it in the Bible which she takes to be divine revelation , she believes according to faith. Although it initially sounds as though Locke has carved out quite separate roles for faith and reason, it must be noted that these definitions make faith subordinate to reason in a subtle way.

This is the proper Object of Faith : But whether it be a divine Revelation, or no, Reason must judge; which can never permit the Mind to reject a greater Evidence to embrace what is less evident, nor allow it to entertain Probability in opposition to Knowledge and Certainty. First, Locke thinks that if any proposition, even one which purports to be divinely revealed, clashes with the clear evidence of reason then it should not be believed. Second, Locke thinks that to determine whether or not something is divinely revealed we have to exercise our reason.

Only reason can help us settle that question. In all of this Locke emerges as a strong moderate. He himself was deeply religious and took religious faith to be important. But he also felt that there were serious limits to what could be justified through appeals to faith. Locke lived during a very eventful time in English politics. For much of his life Locke held administrative positions in government and paid very careful attention to contemporary debates in political theory. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he wrote a number of works on political issues.

In this field, Locke is best known for his arguments in favor of religious toleration and limited government. Today these ideas are commonplace and widely accepted. We now know, however, that they were in fact composed much earlier. The First Treatise is now of primarily historical interest. It takes the form of a detailed critique of a work called Patriacha by Robert Filmer. Filmer had argued, in a rather unsophisticated way, in favor of divine right monarchy.

On his view, the power of kings ultimately originated in the dominion which God gave to Adam and which had passed down in an unbroken chain through the ages. Locke disputes this picture on a number of historical grounds. Perhaps more importantly, Locke also distinguishes between a number of different types of dominion or governing power which Filmer had run together.

After clearing some ground in the First Treatise , Locke offers a positive view of the nature of government in the much better known Second Treatise. While Filmer had suggested that humans had always been subject to political power, Locke argues for the opposite. According to him, humans were initially in a state of nature.

The state of nature was apolitical in the sense that there were no governments and each individual retained all of his or her natural rights. The state of nature was inherently unstable. Individuals would be under constant threat of physical harm. And they would be unable to pursue any goals that required stability and widespread cooperation with other humans. Individuals, seeing the benefits which could be gained, decided to relinquish some of their rights to a central authority while retaining other rights.

This took the form of a contract. In agreement for relinquishing certain rights, individuals would receive protection from physical harm, security for their possessions, and the ability to interact and cooperate with other humans in a stable environment. So, according to this view, governments were instituted by the citizens of those governments. This has a number of very important consequences.

On this view, rulers have an obligation to be responsive to the needs and desires of these citizens. Further, in establishing a government the citizens had relinquished some, but not all of their original rights. This carved out important room for certain individual rights or liberties. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a government which failed to adequately protect the rights and interests of its citizens or a government which attempted to overstep its authority would be failing to perform the task for which it was created.

As such, the citizens would be entitled to revolt and replace the existing government with one which would suitably carry out the duties of ensuring peace and civil order while respecting individual rights. So Locke was able to use the account of natural rights and a government created through contract to accomplish a number of important tasks. He could use it to show why individuals retain certain rights even when they are subject to a government. He could use it to show why despotic governments which attempted to unduly infringe on the rights of their citizens were bad.

And he could use it to show that citizens had a right to revolt in instances where governments failed in certain ways. These are powerful ideas which remain important even today. According to Locke, God gave humans the world and its contents to have in common. The world was to provide humans with what was necessary for the continuation and enjoyment of life. But Locke also believed it was possible for individuals to appropriate individual parts of the world and justly hold them for their own exclusive use.

Put differently, Locke believed that we have a right to acquire private property. For example, if I discover some grapes growing on a vine, through my labor in picking and collecting these grapes I acquire an ownership right over them.

Early Mod philosophy

If I find an empty field and then use my labor to plow the field then plant and raise crops, I will be the proper owner of those crops. If I chop down trees in an unclaimed forest and use the wood to fashion a table, then that table will be mine. First, there is what has come to be known as the Waste Proviso. One must not take so much property that some of it goes to waste. I should not appropriate gallons and gallons of grapes if I am only able to eat a few and the rest end up rotting. If the goods of the Earth were given to us by God, it would be inappropriate to allow some of this gift to go to waste.

This says that in appropriating resources I am required to leave enough and as good for others to appropriate. If the world was left to us in common by God, it would be wrong of me to appropriate more than my fair share and fail to leave sufficient resources for others. After currency is introduced and after governments are established the nature of property obviously changes a great deal.

Using metal, which can be made into coins and which does not perish the way foodstuffs and other goods do, individuals are able to accumulate much more wealth than would be possible otherwise. So the proviso concerning waste seems to drop away. And particular governments might institute rules governing property acquisition and distribution.

Locke was aware of this and devoted a great deal of thought to the nature of property and the proper distribution of property within a commonwealth. His writings on economics, monetary policy, charity, and social welfare systems are evidence of this. Locke had been systematically thinking about issues relating to religious toleration since his early years in London and even though he only published his Epistola de Tolerantia A Letter Concerning Toleration in he had finished writing it several years before.

The question of whether or not a state should attempt to prescribe one particular religion within the state, what means states might use to do so, and what the correct attitude should be toward those who resist conversion to the official state religion had been central to European politics ever since the Protestant Reformation. These experiences had convinced him that, for the most part, individuals should be allowed to practice their religion without interference from the state.

We might not be particularly good at determining what the correct religion is. There is no reason to think that those holding political power will be any better at discovering the true religion than anyone else, so they should not attempt to enforce their views on others. Instead, each individual should be allowed to pursue true beliefs as best as they are able. Little harm results from allowing others to have their own religious beliefs. Indeed, it might be beneficial to allow a plurality of beliefs because one group might end up with the correct beliefs and win others over to their side.

People consent to governments for the purpose of establishing social order and the rule of law. Governments should refrain from enforcing religious conformity because doing so is unnecessary and irrelevant for these ends. Indeed, attempting to enforce conformity may positively harm these ends as it will likely lead to resistance from members of prohibited religions.

Locke also suggests that governments should tolerate the religious beliefs of individual citizens because enforcing religious belief is actually impossible. So governments are, in many ways, ill-equipped to enforce the adoption of a particular religion because individual people have an almost perfect control of their own thoughts.

He did not think that we should tolerate the intolerant, those who would seek to forcibly impose their religious views on others. Similarly, any religious group who posed a threat to political stability or public safety should not be tolerated. Importantly, Locke included Roman Catholics in this group.

On his view, Catholics had a fundamental allegiance to the Pope, a foreign prince who did not recognize the sovereignty of English law. This made Catholics a threat to civil government and peace. Finally, Locke also believed that atheists should not be tolerated. Because they did not believe they would be rewarded or punished for their actions in an afterlife, Locke did not think they could be trusted to behave morally or maintain their contractual obligations.

We have already seen that in the Essay Locke developed an account of belief according to faith and belief according to reason. Recall that an agent believes according to reason when she discovers something through the use of her natural faculties and she believes according to faith when she takes something as truth because she understands it to be a message from God. Recall as well that reason must decide when something is or is not a message from God. Locke argues that we do have sufficient reason to think that the central truths of Christianity were communicated to us by God through his messenger, Jesus of Nazareth.

Given that numerous individuals in history had purported to be the recipients of divine revelation, there must be something special which set Jesus apart. Locke offers two considerations in this regard. The first is that Jesus fulfilled a number of historical predictions concerning the coming of a Messiah.

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The second is that Jesus performed a number of miracles which attest that he had a special relationship to God. This argument leads Locke into a discussion of the types and value of testimony which many philosophers have found to be interesting in its own right. One striking feature of The Reasonableness of Christianity is the requirement for salvation that Locke endorses. Different denominations and sects claimed that they, and often only they, had the correct beliefs.

Locke, by contrast, argued that to be a true Christian and worthy of salvation an individual only need to believe one simple truth: that Jesus is the Messiah. Of course, Locke believed there were many other important truths in the Bible. But he thought these other truths, especially those contained in the Epistles rather than the Gospels, could be difficult to interpret and could lead to disputes and disagreement.

The core tenet of Christianity, however, that Jesus is the Messiah, was a mandatory belief. In making the requirements for Christian faith and salvation so minimal Locke was part of a growing faction in the Church of England. These individuals, often known as latitudinarians, were deliberately attempting to construct a more irenic Christianity with the goal of avoiding the conflict and controversy that previous internecine fights had produced. So Locke was hardly alone in attempting to find a set of core Christian commitments which were free of sectarian theological baggage.

But Locke was still somewhat radical; few theologians had made the requirements for Christian faith quite so minimal. Locke was regarded by many in his time as an expert on educational matters. He taught many students at Oxford and also served as a private tutor. Classical languages, usually learned through tedious exercises involving rote memorization, and corporeal punishment were two predominant features of the seventeenth century English educational system.

Locke saw little use for either. Instead, he emphasized the importance of teaching practical knowledge. He recognized that children learn best when they are engaged with the subject matter. Locke also foreshadowed some contemporary pedagogical views by suggesting that children should be allowed some self-direction in their course of study and should have the ability to pursue their interests. Locke believed it was important to take great care in educating the young. He recognized that habits and prejudices formed in youth could be very hard to break in later life.

Thus, much of Some Thoughts Concerning Education focuses on morality and the best ways to inculcate virtue and industry. Locke rejected authoritarian approaches. Instead, he favored methods that would help children to understand the difference between right and wrong and to cultivate a moral sense of their own. The Essay was quickly recognized as an important philosophical contribution both by its admirers and by its critics. Before long it had been incorporated into the curriculum at Oxford and Cambridge and its translation into both Latin and French garnered it an audience on the Continent as well.

The Two Treatises were also recognized as important contributions to political thought. While the work had some success in England among those favorably disposed to the Glorious Revolution, its primary impact was abroad. Related to this last point, Locke came to be seen, alongside his friend Newton, as an embodiment of Enlightenment values and ideals.

Newtonian science would lay bare the workings of nature and lead to important technological advances. Locke also came to be seen as an inspiration for the Deist movement. Locke is often recognized as the founder of British Empiricism and it is true that Locke laid the foundation for much of English-language philosophy in the 18 th and early 19 th centuries. But those who followed in his footsteps were not unquestioning followers.

Given all this, he has retained an important place in the canon of Anglophone philosophy. The following are recommendations for further reading on Locke. Each work has a brief statement indicating the contents. Patrick J. Connolly Email: pac lehigh. John Locke — John Locke was among the most famous philosophers and political theorists of the 17 th century. Idea Acquisition In Book II Locke offers his alternative theory of how the human mind comes to be furnished with the ideas it has.

The Account of Knowledge In Book IV, having already explained how the mind is furnished with the ideas it has, Locke moves on to discuss knowledge and belief. Special Topics in the Essay As discussed above, the main project of the Essay is an examination of the human understanding and an analysis of knowledge. Primary and Secondary Qualities Book 2, Chapter 8 of the Essay contains an extended discussion of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Mechanism Around the time of the Essay the mechanical philosophy was emerging as the predominant theory about the physical world.

Personhood and Personal Identity Locke was one of the first philosophers to give serious attention to the question of personal identity. Political Philosophy Locke lived during a very eventful time in English politics.

Ideas and Mechanism - Margaret Dauler Wilson - Bok () | Bokus

For more. Toleration Locke had been systematically thinking about issues relating to religious toleration since his early years in London and even though he only published his Epistola de Tolerantia A Letter Concerning Toleration in he had finished writing it several years before. Theology We have already seen that in the Essay Locke developed an account of belief according to faith and belief according to reason. Education Locke was regarded by many in his time as an expert on educational matters. References and Further Reading a. Two Treatises of Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Locke, J. The Works of John Locke. London: Printed for T. Tegg 10 volumes. This edition includes the following volumes: Nidditch, P. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Nidditch, P. Rogers [eds. Drafts for the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Yolton, J. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Higgins-Biddle, J. The Reasonableness of Christianity.

Milton, J. An Essay Concerning Toleration. The Correspondence of John Locke. Essays on the Law of Nature. Although many of Berkeley's first readers greeted him with incomprehension, he influenced both Hume and Kant, and is much read if little followed in our own day. Berkeley was born in near Kilkenny, Ireland. After several years of schooling at Kilkenny College, he entered Trinity College, in Dublin, at age He was made a fellow of Trinity College in three years after graduating and was ordained in the Anglican Church shortly thereafter.

At Trinity, where the curriculum was notably modern, Berkeley encountered the new science and philosophy of the late seventeenth century, which was characterized by hostility towards Aristotelianism. Berkeley's philosophical notebooks sometimes styled the Philosophical Commentaries , which he began in , provide rich documentation of Berkeley's early philosophical evolution, enabling the reader to track the emergence of his immaterialist philosophy from a critical response to Descartes, Locke, Malebranche, Newton, Hobbes, and others.

Berkeley's first important published work, An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision , was an influential contribution to the psychology of vision and also developed doctrines relevant to his idealist project. In his mid-twenties, he published his most enduring works, the Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and the Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous , whose central doctrines we will examine below.

In , while completing a four-year tour of Europe as tutor to a young man, Berkeley composed De Motu , a tract on the philosophical foundations of mechanics which developed his views on philosophy of science and articulated an instrumentalist approach to Newtonian dynamics. After his continental tour, Berkeley returned to Ireland and resumed his position at Trinity until , when he was appointed Dean of Derry. At this time, Berkeley began developing his scheme for founding a college in Bermuda.

He was convinced that Europe was in spiritual decay and that the New World offered hope for a new golden age. Having secured a charter and promises of funding from the British Parliament, Berkeley set sail for America in , with his new bride, Anne Forster. They spent three years in Newport, Rhode Island, awaiting the promised money, but Berkeley's political support had collapsed and they were forced to abandon the project and return to Britain in Alciphron is also a significant philosophical work and a crucial source of Berkeley's views on language.

Shortly after returning to London, Berkeley composed the Theory of Vision, Vindicated and Explained , a defense of his earlier work on vision, and the Analyst , an acute and influential critique of the foundations of Newton's calculus. In he was made Bishop of Cloyne, and thus he returned to Ireland. It was here that Berkeley wrote his last, strangest, and best-selling in his own lifetime philosophical work. Siris has a three-fold aim: to establish the virtues of tar-water a liquid prepared by letting pine tar stand in water as a medical panacea, to provide scientific background supporting the efficacy of tar-water, and to lead the mind of the reader, via gradual steps, toward contemplation of God.

Berkeley died in , shortly after moving to Oxford to supervise the education of his son George, one of the three out of seven of his children to survive childhood. In his two great works of metaphysics, Berkeley defends idealism by attacking the materialist alternative. What exactly is the doctrine that he's attacking? This is in contrast with another use, more standard in contemporary discussions, according to which materialism is the doctrine that only material things exist.

Berkeley contends that no material things exist, not just that some immaterial things exist. Thus, he attacks Cartesian and Lockean dualism , not just the considerably less popular in Berkeley's time view, held by Hobbes, that only material things exist. But what exactly is a material thing? Interestingly, part of Berkeley's attack on matter is to argue that this question cannot be satisfactorily answered by the materialists, that they cannot characterize their supposed material things. However, an answer that captures what exactly it is that Berkeley rejects is that material things are mind-independent things or substances.

Berkeley holds that there are no such mind-independent things, that, in the famous phrase, esse est percipi aut percipere — to be is to be perceived or to perceive. Berkeley charges that materialism promotes skepticism and atheism: skepticism because materialism implies that our senses mislead us as to the natures of these material things, which moreover need not exist at all, and atheism because a material world could be expected to run without the assistance of God.

This double charge provides Berkeley's motivation for questioning materialism one which he thinks should motivate others as well , though not, of course, a philosophical argument against materialism. Fortunately, the Principles and Dialogues overflow with such arguments. Below, we will examine some of the main elements of Berkeley's argumentative campaign against matter. The starting point of Berkeley's attack on the materialism of his contemporaries is a very short argument presented in Principles The argument is valid, and premise 1 looks hard to deny. What about premise 2?

Berkeley believes that this premise is accepted by all the modern philosophers. In the Principles , Berkeley is operating within the idea-theoretic tradition of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, Berkeley believes that some version of this premise is accepted by his main targets, the influential philosophers Descartes and Locke.

However, Berkeley recognizes that these philosophers have an obvious response available to this argument. This response blocks Berkeley's inference to 3 by distinguishing two sorts of perception, mediate and immediate. From these claims, of course, no idealist conclusion follows. The response reflects a representationalist theory of perception , according to which we indirectly mediately perceive material things, by directly immediately perceiving ideas, which are mind-dependent items.

The ideas represent external material objects, and thereby allow us to perceive them. Whether Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke were representationalists of this kind is a matter of some controversy see e. Yolton , Chappell However, Berkeley surely had good grounds for understanding his predecessors in this way: it reflects the most obvious interpretation of Locke's account of perception and Descartes' whole procedure in the Meditations tends to suggest this sort of view, given the meditator's situation as someone contemplating her own ideas, trying to determine whether something external corresponds to them.

Berkeley devotes the succeeding sections of the Principles to undermining the representationalist response to his initial argument. In effect, he poses the question: What allows an idea to represent a material object? He assumes, again with good grounds, that the representationalist answer is going to involve resemblance :. Berkeley argues that this supposed resemblance is nonsensical; an idea can only be like another idea. But why? Thus, because the mind can compare nothing but its own ideas, which by hypothesis are the only things immediately perceivable, the representationalist cannot assert a likeness between an idea and a non-ideal mind-independent material object.

For further discussion, see Winkler , —9. If Berkeley's Likeness Principle, the thesis that an idea can only be like another idea, is granted, representationalist materialism is in serious trouble. For how are material objects now to be characterized? If material objects are supposed to be extended, solid, or colored, Berkeley will counter that these sensory qualities pertain to ideas, to that which is immediately perceived, and that the materialist cannot assert that material objects are like ideas in these ways.

Many passages in the Principles and Dialogues drive home this point, arguing that matter is, if not an incoherent notion, at best a completely empty one. One way in which Berkeley's anti-abstractionism comes into play is in reinforcing this point. Berkeley is aware that the materialist has one important card left to play: Don't we need material objects in order to explain our ideas?

And indeed, this seems intuitively gripping: Surely the best explanation of the fact that I have a chair idea every time I enter my office and that my colleague has a chair idea when she enters my office is that a single enduring material object causes all these various ideas. Again, however, Berkeley replies by effectively exploiting the weaknesses of his opponents' theories:. Firstly, Berkeley contends, a representationalist must admit that we could have our ideas without there being any external objects causing them PHK This is one way in which Berkeley sees materialism as leading to skepticism.

More devastatingly, however, he must admit that the existence of matter does not help to explain the occurrence of our ideas. After all, Locke himself diagnosed the difficulty:. And, when Descartes was pressed by Elizabeth as to how mind and body interact, [ 4 ] she rightly regarded his answers as unsatisfactory. The basic problem here is set by dualism: how can one substance causally affect another substance of a fundamentally different kind?

In its Cartesian form, the difficulty is particularly severe: how can an extended thing, which affects other extended things only by mechanical impact, affect a mind, which is non-extended and non-spatial? Berkeley's point is thus well taken. It is worth noting that, in addition to undermining the materialist's attempted inference to the best explanation, Berkeley's point also challenges any attempt to explain representation and mediate perception in terms of causation.

That is, the materialist might try to claim that ideas represent material objects, not by resemblance, but in virtue of being caused by the objects. Though neither Descartes nor Locke spells out such an account, there are grounds in each for attributing such an account to them. For Descartes see Wilson , 73—76; for Locke see Chappell , However, PHK 19 implies that the materialists are not in a position to render this account of representation philosophically satisfactory. As emphasized above, Berkeley's campaign against matter, as he presents it in the Principles , is directed against materialist representationalism and presupposes representationalism.

In particular, Berkeley presupposes that all anyone ever directly or immediately perceives are ideas. However, one place where one might naturally look for such an argument is not, in fact, as promising as might initially appear. The argument seems intended to establish that we cannot actually conceive of mind-independent objects, that is, objects existing unperceived and unthought of.

Why not? Simply because in order to conceive of any such things, we must ourselves be conceiving, i. However, as Pitcher , nicely observes, such an argument seems to conflate the representation what we conceive with and the represented what we conceive of —the content of our thought. Once we make this distinction, we realize that although we must have some conception or representation in order to conceive of something, and that representation is in some sense thought of, it does not follow contra Berkeley that what we conceive of must be a thought-of object. That is, when we imagine a tree standing alone in a forest, we arguably conceive of an unthought-of object, though of course we must employ a thought in order to accomplish this feat.

A more charitable reading of the argument see Winkler , —7; Lennon makes Berkeley's point that we cannot represent unconceivedness, because we have never and could never experience it. While this is a rather more promising argument, it clearly presupposes representationalism, just as Berkeley's earlier Principles arguments did. Against this position, Philonous lover of spirit—Berkeley's spokesperson attempts to argue that the sensible qualities—the qualities immediately perceived by sense—must be ideal, rather than belonging to material objects.

Philonous begins his first argument by contending that sensible qualities such as heat are not distinct from pleasure or pain. Pleasure and pain, Philonous argues, are allowed by all to be merely in the mind; therefore the same must be true for the sensible qualities. Secondly, Philonous invokes relativity arguments to suggest that because sensory qualities are relative to the perceiver, e.

As Berkeley is well aware, one may reply to this sort of argument by claiming that only one of the incompatible qualities is truly a quality of the object and that the other apparent qualities result from misperception. By noting the differences between animal perception and human perception, Berkeley suggests that it would be arbitrary anthropocentrism to claim that humans have special access to the true qualities of objects.

Further, Berkeley uses the example of microscopes to undermine the prima facie plausible thought that the true visual qualities of objects are revealed by close examination. Thus, Berkeley provides a strong challenge to any direct realist attempt to specify standard conditions under which the true mind-independent qualities of objects are directly perceived by sense. Thus, Hylas allows that color, taste, etc. Berkeley opposes this sort of mechanism throughout his writings, believing that it engenders skepticism by dictating that bodies are utterly unlike our sensory experience of them.

Here Philonous has a two-pronged reply: 1 The same sorts of relativity arguments that were made against secondary qualities can be made against primary ones. When, after some further struggles, Hylas finally capitulates to Philonous' view that all of existence is mind-dependent, he does so unhappily and with great reluctance. Philonous needs to convince him as Berkeley needed to convince his readers in both books that a commonsensical philosophy could be built on an immaterialist foundation, that no one but a skeptic or atheist would ever miss matter. As a matter of historical fact, Berkeley persuaded few of his contemporaries, who for the most part regarded him as a purveyor of skeptical paradoxes Bracken Nevertheless, we can and should appreciate the way in which Berkeley articulated a positive idealist philosophical system, which, if not in perfect accord with common sense, is in many respects superior to its competitors.

The basics of Berkeley's metaphysics are apparent from the first section of the main body of the Principles :. As this passage illustrates, Berkeley does not deny the existence of ordinary objects such as stones, trees, books, and apples. On the contrary, as was indicated above, he holds that only an immaterialist account of such objects can avoid skepticism about their existence and nature.

What such objects turn out to be, on his account, are bundles or collections of ideas. An apple is a combination of visual ideas including the sensible qualities of color and visual shape , tangible ideas, ideas of taste, smell, etc. He does make clear that there are two sides to the process of bundling ideas into objects: 1 co-occurrence, an objective fact about what sorts of ideas tend to accompany each other in our experience, and 2 something we do when we decide to single out a set of co-occurring ideas and refer to it with a certain name NTV Thus, although there is no material world for Berkeley, there is a physical world, a world of ordinary objects.

This world is mind-dependent, for it is composed of ideas, whose existence consists in being perceived. For ideas, and so for the physical world, esse est percipi. Berkeley's ontology is not exhausted by the ideal, however. In addition to perceived things ideas , he posits perceivers, i. Spirits, he emphasizes, are totally different in kind from ideas, for they are active where ideas are passive. This suggests that Berkeley has replaced one kind of dualism, of mind and matter, with another kind of dualism, of mind and idea.

There is something to this point, given Berkeley's refusal to elaborate upon the relation between active minds and passive ideas. Berkeley's dualism, however, is a dualism within the realm of the mind-dependent. The last major item in Berkeley's ontology is God, himself a spirit, but an infinite one. Berkeley believes that once he has established idealism, he has a novel and convincing argument for God's existence as the cause of our sensory ideas. He argues by elimination: What could cause my sensory ideas? Candidate causes, supposing that Berkeley has already established that matter doesn't exist, are 1 other ideas, 2 myself, or 3 some other spirit.

Berkeley eliminates the first option with the following argument PHK 25 :. The second option is eliminated with the observation that although I clearly can cause some ideas at will e. The hidden assumption here is that any causing the mind does must be done by willing and such willing must be accessible to consciousness. Berkeley is hardly alone in presupposing this model of the mental; Descartes, for example, makes a similar set of assumptions.

This leaves us, then, with the third option: my sensory ideas must be caused by some other spirit. Berkeley thinks that when we consider the stunning complexity and systematicity of our sensory ideas, we must conclude that the spirit in question is wise and benevolent beyond measure, that, in short, he is God. With the basic ingredients of Berkeley's ontology in place, we can begin to consider how his system works by seeing how he responds to a number of intuitively compelling objections to it.

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Berkeley himself sees very well how necessary this is: Much of the Principles is structured as a series of objections and replies, and in the Three Dialogues , once Philonous has rendered Hylas a reluctant convert to idealism, he devotes the rest of the book to convincing him that this is a philosophy which coheres well with common sense, at least better than materialism ever did. Perhaps the most obvious objection to idealism is that it makes real things no different from imaginary ones—both seem fleeting figments of our own minds, rather than the solid objects of the materialists.

Berkeley replies that the distinction between real things and chimeras retains its full force on his view. One way of making the distinction is suggested by his argument for the existence of God, examined above: Ideas which depend on our own finite human wills are not constituents of real things.

Not being voluntary is thus a necessary condition for being a real thing, but it is clearly not sufficient, since hallucinations and dreams do not depend on our wills, but are nevertheless not real. Berkeley notes that the ideas that constitute real things exhibit a steadiness, vivacity, and distinctness that chimerical ideas do not. The most crucial feature that he points to, however, is order.

They are thus regular and coherent, that is, they constitute a coherent real world. The related notions of regularity and of the laws of nature are central to the workability of Berkeley's idealism.


They allow him to respond to the following objection, put forward in PHK Berkeley's answer, for which he is indebted to Malebranche, [ 14 ] is that, although God could make a watch run that is, produce in us ideas of a watch running without the watch having any internal mechanism that is, without it being the case that, were we to open the watch, we would have ideas of an internal mechanism , he cannot do so if he is to act in accordance with the laws of nature, which he has established for our benefit, to make the world regular and predictable.

Thus, whenever we have ideas of a working watch, we will find that if we open it, [ 15 ] we will see have ideas of an appropriate internal mechanism. Likewise, when we have ideas of a living tulip, we will find that if we pull it apart, we will observe the usual internal structure of such plants, with the same transport tissues, reproductive parts, etc. Implicit in the answer above is Berkeley's insightful account of scientific explanation and the aims of science. A bit of background is needed here to see why this issue posed a special challenge for Berkeley. One traditional understanding of science, derived from Aristotle, held that it aims at identifying the causes of things.

Modern natural philosophers such as Descartes narrowed science's domain to efficient causes and thus held that science should reveal the efficient causes of natural things, processes, and events. Her work is distinguished by fierce intelligence, a fine ear for textual nuance, a passion for clarity, and close critical attention to the work of others. This rich collection of important papers will be studied eagerly by a wide audience.

For more than three decades, Margaret Wilson's essays on early modern philosophy have influenced scholarly debate. Many are considered classics in the field and remain as important in as they were when they were first published.


This collection not only provides access to nearly all of Wilson's most significant work, but also demonstrates the continuity of her thought over time. The 31 essays gathered here deal with some of the best known early philosophers, including Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Spinoza, and Berkeley. Read more Read less.

Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy
Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy
Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy
Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy
Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy

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