Michael Ayers, Wadham College, Oxford University
"Berkeley, Ideas, and Idealism"
The term "idealism" was invented for such as Berkeley, but if he is a paradigm "idealist," what feature of his philosophy does this term mark out that is shared by those other philosophies, past and present, that might reasonably be described as idealist? It can hardly be, for example, the principle that reality is fundamentally spiritual. Kant's conception of idealism, with categories of problematic, dogmatic and transcendental idealisms, unsurprisingly focuses on the notion of an idea, and on ideas of the physical world in particular. But Berkeley's conception of an idea is highly idiosyncratic in virtue of its place in his "dogmatic" metaphysics: it lacks much, though it retains some, of what is essential to the Cartesian notion of an idea, and to the traditional notion of a concept on which the Cartesian notion is closely modelled. Berkeley to some extent draws on Lockean theory, but, unlike even Locke's ideas (and certainly unlike Kant's representations), Berkeley's ideas do not of their nature represent or signify anything, and are neither objects nor operations of intellect, nor ways of conceiving of things: their essence is simply to be the given dependent objects, and only objects, of sensory "perceiving." Their objective or mind-dependent existence is opposed, not to the formal or independent existence of bodies, but to the substantial existence of minds.
This paper considers the relations of this idiosyncratic metaphysics to Berkeley's conception of the order of nature, divine language and divine ideas, to his approval of Plato and Neoplatonism, and to his so-called "master argument." It is concluded that, despite its historical connection with the term "idealism," Berkeley's metaphysical system stands on the periphery, rather than at the center, of the idealist tradition.
Martha Bolton, Rutgers University
"Berkeley and Mental Representation"
Advocates of the theory of ideas prior to Berkeley take ideas, as such, to be "of" something, i.e. to have intentional objects or content. For Locke, whose work greatly influenced Berkeley, sensory ideas are immediate objects of perception that, in some way, direct notice to real beings in nature, namely, the substances and qualities causally responsible for those ideas. Berkeley radically revises the idea tradition by stripping ideas of essential intentionality. For Berkeley, ideas (in the first instance) are not "of" real things or qualities, but rather they are real things or qualities. The paper aims to determine Berkeley's reasons for making this radical break with the representative perceptual theory, especially as advocated by Locke. One reason is, of course, Berkeley's common sense conviction that real things are immediately presented to sensory awareness, together with his philosopher's belief that the objects of immediate awareness are ideas. It is a popular view that Berkeley has a second reason--his claim to show that a theory like Locke's leads to skepticism about the existence of perceptual objects. This explanation is challenged in the paper. The paper urges that Berkeley frames consideration of the epistemic consequences of denying esse is percipi in terms of a non-Lockean theory of ideas. For that reason, the discussion does not engage Locke's account of our warrant for sensitive knowledge. The paper goes on to suggest that Berkeley has a third reason for opting against Locke's view of the intentional objects of sensory ideas, which explains his tendency to write as if he was unware of that view. If this is right, then Berkeley does not fail to understand what Locke's position is, but rather has an interesting insight into an implication of that position.
George Pappas, Ohio State University
"Berkeley's Assessment of Locke's Epistemology"
Berkeley thinks that the theory of perception and of the nature of the external world held by Locke leads to skepticism. He says that if that theory were correct, we would not know anything about the nature of ordinary physical objects, and neither would we know that such objects exist. It is possible that Berkeley also had other philosophers in mind as targets of these criticisms, but it seems clear that Locke was a principal target.
One main argument for this contention concentrates on the supposed critical role of resemblance, on Locke's theory, between our ideas and external objects. Berkeley seems to hold that if Locke's theory of perception is correct, then one has knowledge of objects only if one has established that a resemblance obtains between one's ideas and the objects. And he seems to be on solid interpretive ground here, because Locke does say in Book IV of the Essay that one has knowledge of objects only if one is sure that there is a conformity between one's ideas and the object. The road to skepticism is then wide open once one points out, as Berkeley does, that Locke is in no position to establish that this resemblance actually obtains.
A second main argument is given at Principles 18, where Berkeley says that on the materialist theory (Locke's, one presumes) one would have knowledge of objects either by sense or by reason. On Locke's theory, Berkeley says, we would not gain this knowledge by sense because, according to that theory, we have knowledge by sense only of our various ideas. Hence, given Locke's theory one would have knowledge of objects only if the knowledge were had by reason. Berkeley finishes the argument by noting that gaining such knowledge by reason requires an inference, from ideas to objects, and that this inference breaks down. Hence, again, given Locke's theory one has no knowledge of objects.
In this paper I examine these two arguments. On the interpretive side, it is argued that it is not Locke's all things considered view that one has knowledge of objects only if one is sure that a conformity obtains between one's ideas and the objects. Still, regardless of what Locke may have held, Berkeley may be on solid ground if he is right that Locke's theory requires that one be sure of this conformity if one is to have knowledge of objects. On this question I side with Locke and against Berkeley.
In the second argument, Berkeley seems to mean by the term 'knowing by sense' something like immediate knowledge, or knowledge not requiring inference. This is suggested by the contrast with knowing by reason, which does require inference. When Berkeley moves to rule out knowledge by sense, according to Locke's theory, he may be making a straightforward exegetical claim, to the effect that this is a position Locke himself accepted. Or he might be making the argumentative point that, regardless of what Locke may have said, his theory of perception requires that one have at best inferential knowledge of objects.
The exegetical question concerns whether, by Locke's lights, one has sensitive knowledge only via inference. On this question I argue that Locke's considered view is that sensitive knowledge is non-inferential. And on the argumentative point I argue that there is nothing in Locke's theory of perception that actually requires that sensitive knowledge be inferential. On this point what Berkeley seems to have missed is that an indirect representative realist theory of perception is compatible with non-inferential perceptual knowledge of objects.
G. A. J. (John) Rogers, University of Keele
How Lockean Are Berkeley's Ideas?
This paper explores the similarities and differences between Berkeley and Locke on the nature of ideas. Although they often seem very close in their understanding of the concept, closer inspection reveals some important shifts which have implications for their overall philosophy and raises questions for how far Berkeley was merely following Locke in his terminology or whether they held incompatible positions which have wider implications for understanding their philosophical positions on such matters as the nature of mental substance, causation and perception, and the debts the younger man owed to his predecessor. Particularly important is the text of the Philosophical Commentaries for revealing the nuances in Berkeley's changing positions.
Richard Glauser, University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland)
"The Problem of the Unity of a Physical Object in Berkeley"
Berkeley calls a physical object a "collection," a "combination" or a "congeries" of sensible qualities or ideas. But are the combinations that Berkeley calls physical objects made by finite minds or by God? Several authors believe that in some sense finite minds "make" physical objects. They do not hold that finite minds produce sensible ideas, nor do they say that the regularity and lawfulness of the sequences of sensible ideas that constitute a physical object are produced by finite minds. Rather, they hold that finite minds make physical objects in the sense that, by means of one or more epistemic activities, they combine together the sensible ideas that constitute such objects.
I wish to challenge this interpretation with the following. A combination of sensible ideas that constitutes a physical objects is made by God, and gradually discovered by finite minds through experience. Such a combination is nothing over and above a multiplicity of sequences of sense-specific ideas connected by certain natural relations. As a finite mind progressively discovers the relations holding between the ideas within the multiplicity it gives their whole a name and considers it one thing. To consider a combination of ideas as one thing is neither to confer unity upon it in a literal sense, nor is it literally to combine its constituent ideas together; it is merely to judge that it is one, for "in case every variation was thought sufficient to constitute a new kind or individual, the endless number or confusion of names would render language impracticable." On the other hand, there are combinations of ideas that are made by finite minds. But, strictly speaking, they are combinations of ideas of memory and imagination that represent sensible ideas proper; such combinations are not physical objects, but their representations. As far as I can see, there is no positive theory of the unity, as such, of a physical object in Berkeley. But there is a theory of the objective foundation upon which finite minds base the judgement that this or that multiplicity of sensible ideas constitutes one physical object, and upon which, too, finite minds produce combinations of ideas of imagination that represent physical objects.
After presenting the case for this reading, I rehearse some points concerning the difference between ideas of sense and of imagination. Because Berkeley often connects (a) the claim that what we consider a unit when counting physical objects is a combination of ideas, with (b) the claim that unity and number are "creatures of the mind", I briefly examine (b) and the reasons for which Berkeley holds it. This leads to the question of the sortal-dependence of unity and number as used to count physical objects, and to a discussion of the claim that sorts and kinds are made by finite minds. I try to defend the interpretation outlined above by examining the texts that seem to oppose it. If the reading proposed is on the right track, it is mistaken to say that finite minds make physical objects.
Margaret Atherton, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
"Berkeley on the Objects of Immediate Perception"
While it is clear that Berkeley thinks that we perceive physical objects, what is less clear and considerably more controversial is whether he thinks that we perceive physical objects immediately. George Pappas has recently mounted a strong argument in favor of this position, in which he shows that there is not only good textual support but considerable benefits that accrue to Berkeley's argument if we take him to be endorsing this position. I remain skeptical of this claim however. In this paper I show that, pace Pappas, Berkeley's "collections account" of physical objects does not have the consequence that we perceive physical objects immediately, so long as we correctly identify the relevant form of mediate perception involved. I also argue that Berkeley in fact still has available to him resources to guard against skepticism while holding that we perceive physical objects mediately and not immediately.
Marc A. Hight, Hampden-Sydney College (Virginia)
"Berkeley and the Single Idea Thesis: Why My Chair Is Not a Congeries"
The paper is an exploration of Berkeley's theory of common sense objects. I argue that Berkeley does NOT strictly believe that common sense objects (chairs, tables, etc.) are congeries of ideas. Instead, they are single ideas inferentially related to congeries of sensible qualities. We infer from the set of sensory ideas a "unifying" single idea of imagination that represents the object. The analysis importantly rests on the coach passage in the Dialogues, where Berkeley explicitly argues that "in truth and strictness" we do not perceive the coach by perceiving its sensible properties, but that we infer the coach after perceiving them.
The paper first considers the arguments for congeries readings of Berkeleian (I call this the "collections view") common sense objects. The case for the collections view seems fairly obvious: Berkeley calls common sense objects "collections" or "congeries" on several occasions, perhaps most famously in the opening paragraph of the Principles (the apple passage). This interpretation has been popular in Berkeley scholarship. Grayling, Tipton, Urmson, Warnock, and others have endorsed this reading of Berkeley. From this position, virtually all collections theorists construct some form of the following argument on behalf of Berkeley:
1) Objects are collections of sensible ideas
2) Sensible qualities are immediately perceived ideas
3) Thus, objects are immediately and directly perceived.
The point is that when one perceives some object O, that O is perceived as something (an apple, for instance) is not an additional fact. Perceiving the red shape is perceiving the apple, with no conceptual 'gap' that must be bridged from one to the other. Although this appears plausible at first blush, there are good reasons to reject this reading of Berkeley.
First, a careful reading of the passages where Berkeley allegedly invokes the collections view reveals that they do not in fact commit him to this view. I will spend some time analyzing the relevant bits of text. Second, there is significant tension between the collections view and what Berkeley says about ideas and how we perceive sensible things. One tension concerns the enduring stability of common sense objects. The collections view seems to require that ideas have an extended duration. Yet Berkeley repeatedly tells us that ideas are "fleeting" objects. There are also deep worries concerning membership conditions in the collections that constitute common sense objects. I conclude the paper by outlining my "single idea thesis." I argue that Berkeleian common sense objects are individual (non-sensory) ideas (represented by names) that are associated with collections of ideas from which we infer the object. There is surprising textual support for this view and I demonstrate how it can overcome the problems facing the collections view. In the end I argue that Berkeley's theory of common sense objects is considerably stronger than has been traditionally thought.
Robert Muehlmann, University of Western Ontario
"Strong and Weak Heterogeneity in Berkeley's New Theory of Vision"
The topic of this paper is the two versions of the heterogeneity thesis found in NTV, the first of which, largely enunciated beginning at NTV 45 and the second beginning at NTV 111. I call the first the weak h-tenet and the second the strong h-tenet. The weak h-tenet is the thesis that visible and tangible objects are numerically distinct (and, perhaps, largely but not necessarily heterogenous), but contingently related in ways discoverable only by repeated visual and tangible experiences. The strong h-tenet is the thesis that visible and tangible objects are "toto caelo" different (PC 213) in both number and kind ) they are, as Berkeley also puts it "specifically" different ) and, moreover, they are, of necessity, incommensurable.
My aim in this paper to unearth the sense of 'specific difference' that Berkeley must be appealing to if the strong h-tenet is to be able to overcome the objection Berkeley addresses beginning at NTV 141 and continuing through NTV 143, namely, the objection that figure is a common sensible. My conclusion is that the sense of that expression operative in Berkeley's attempt to meet this objection is metaphysical, namely, that visibles and tangibles belong to radically distinct ontic categories. This conclusion has several implications but perhaps the most interesting one is that Berkeley can only make this distinction by feigning what he calls in the Principles (section 44) "that vulgar error," namely, the presupposition that tangible things are material substances, that is, items that are objective, mind-independent and real while visibles, in contrast, are (correctly) categorized as mind-dependent, sensational and ideal. Consequently, while this argument for the strong h-tenet might convince his readership (lay and philosophical alike), he must realize that his clinching argument is unsound, for he in fact holds that visibles and tangibles fall into the same ontic category. This latter, in turn of course, raises other questions that I will briefly address: in particular, why does Berkeley need the strong h-tenet in a work on vision when it seems obvious that the weak h-tenet is sufficient to underwrite his positive account of how distance, magnitude, orientation, number and motion are, as he puts it, "brought into view" (NTV 11)?
Ralph Schumacher, Humboldt University of Berlin
"Berkeley on Visible Figure and Extension"
The claim that the direct objects of sight and touch are entirely different is the central thesis of Berkeley's criticism of the doctrine of common sensibles. Accordingly, only light and colours are immediate objects of sight. Two- and three-dimensional shapes, in contrast, are supposed to be exclusive objects of touch. The view that there are no common objects of direct visual and tactile perception is the theoretical background of Berkeley's negative answer to the Molyneux question (NTV 32-36). The newly sighted man is not able to tell at once which of the objects seen by him is the cube, and which the globe, because what he directly perceives by sight are only light and colours, but neither two- nor three-dimensional geometrical shapes. However, at several places Berkeley not only talks of light and colours as direct objects of sight, but he also mentions what he calls visible figure' and visible extension', which are supposed to be entirely different from tangible shapes (NTV 43 151-59). According to him, visible figures are marks of tangible shapes which are the proper objects of geometry.
These passages cannot be neglected, because the claim that visible figure and extension are immediate objects of sight is a central assumption of the following two arguments: First, in order to criticize the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, Berkeley argues that it is not possible to abstract visible shapes from colors (NTV 43, 130; Pr 10). From this he draws the conclusion that both colours and shapes can only exist in the mind'. Second, he analyses the misperception of a straight stick (that looks broken if held into water) as broken, as the result of the wrong association of the direct visual perception of a broken shape with the expectation of a tactile perception of something broken (D 238).
In view of the importance of the claim that visible figure and extension are directly perceivable by sight, one has to look for an interpretation which reconciles this claim with Berkeley's view that light and colours are the only direct objects of sight. My presentation examines the interpretation that visible shape and extension are nothing but patterns of light and colours. This interpretation faces the following two problems: First, according to this view, certain combinations of light and colors are regarded as visible shapes, because they are marks of tangible shapes. However, since we have to learn which patterns of light and colours are associated with certain tangible shapes, it is questionable whether this interpretation is compatible with the claim that visible shapes are direct objects of sight. Second, in his examination of misperception Berkeley assumes that we can directly perceive by sight something as broken without this visible shape being a sign of a broken tactile shape. Thus, his considerations on misperception support the view that visible shapes are not just combinations of light and colours which are regarded as marks of tangible shapes. I offer a solution of these problems by introducing two different perspectives from which Berkeley describes the direct objects of sight.
Jeffrey Barnouw, University of Texas, Austin
"Berkeley's Place in the History of Sign-Theories of Visual Perception"
Berkeley's Essay towards a New Theory of Vision holds that the mind naturally takes sensations of sight as signs. This is a feature of theories of perception going back as far as Plato. One question that serves to differentiate these theories is: signs of what? Berkeley's contributions to this history include, first, his insisting that visual sensations can only be signs of other sensations. At the same time he understood this relation in a particularly pointed way, so that later sign-theories of perception had to extrapolate from and go beyond the connection (to tactile signs) which he narrowly emphasized.
The mind naturally takes visual sensations as signs, but what they signify is not, for Berkeley, determined by nature. As he says, there is no "natural or necessary connection" between sign and signified. Rather it must be established by "constant experience" which brings to light "a habitual or customary connection" (sec. 17). This sort of argument was not without precedent, but Berkeley's development of it marks a watershed in theories of perception, his second contribution.
Yet it may be questioned, even on Berkeley's own showing, whether the connections established by experience do not also (come to) have a foundation other than custom or habit, some objective link ascertained by insight into the nature of the sensations and their relations to each other, which might justify our calling the connections natural.
These questions also have to do with the fit between his theory of perception and other major aspects of his thought such as his idealism, his "way of ideas" and his immaterialism. Can his theory of vision, or the features mentioned above, be pried loose from his metaphysical doctrines, or are they joined by some sort of necessary entailment?
In classical antiquity Plato makes use of a conception of visual images as signs, playing on the idea of a sensuous imprint, designated by the term "signet." But the set of theories most relevant to Berkeley are competing views developed by Sceptics and Stoics, applying theories of the sign first elaborated by opposing sects of Hellenistic medicine called (in the first use of the terms in this sense) Empiricists and Rationalists. Their crucial difference centered in the opposition of merely customary experienced connection to inferred causal connection.
My presentation focuses, first, on Berkeley's conceptions, second, on their relation to classical antecedents (including Aristotle on what he was the first to call "proper objects," "common objects" and "incidental objects" of perception), and third, on the role played by Berkeley's theory of vision in the development of American Pragmatism in writings of Peirce (with a side-glance at Helmholtz, whose theory of sensations as signs in his physiological optics is as important as that of Berkeley for the genesis of Pragmatism).
A form of co-opted or concessive pragmatism was presented in germ by Descartes and full-blown by Malebranche in close association with their analyses of our (unavoidable yet regrettable) dependence on sense perception. Berkeley seems to have taken this over from Malebranche but in a very different spirit. The pragmatic dimension in Berkeley is on the one hand akin to the minimalist approach (eschewing posited causal connections underpinning signs) of the classical Sceptics; on the other hand, the reference to divine providence that informs his pragmatic dimension (again with a debt to Malebranche) is closer to the classical Stoics. His influence on nascent Pragmatism is in the empiricist vein (emphasizing connections ascertained by experience and custom only), but Peirce extends it by conflating it with a semeiotic conception of perceiving and thinking based in causal inference of a Stoic cast.
Phillip Cummins, University of Iowa
"Principles 7: Perceiving and Berkeley's Theory of Substance"
If one distinguishes metaphysics, that which pertains to non-sensibles, from ontology, that which pertains to the nature and and occupants of fundamental categories, one can plausibly hold that two primary theses of Berkeley's ontology are S, only minds are substances, and, C, only minds are causes. Section 7 of the main body (the so-called Part One) of his A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge is where S is first stated. He there seems to offer an argument for S, but a careful reading of the text reveals at most the outline of one. Since Berkeley asserts that S follows from what has been defended in Sections 1 through 6, I examine those sections for clues to his implicit argument. I argue that the category of substance is implicitly revised on the basis of esse est percipi, which allows Berkeley to conclude that no non-perceiving being can be a substance. This result is important because it allows us to understand why Berkeley remained a substance philosopher despite having rejected the theory of predication commonly used to justify the doctrine of substance.
Talia Bettcher, California State University, Los Angeles
"Berkeley on Self-Consciousness"
"Spirits and ideas are things so wholly different, that when we say, they exist, they are known, or the like, these words must not be thought to signify anything common to both natures. There is nothing alike or common in them : and to expect that by any multiplication or enlargement of our faculties we may be enabled to know a spirit as we do a triangle, seems as absurd as if we should hope to see a sound." (Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning The Principles of Human Knowledge, Part I, 142, Works II)
Whereas Berkeley's predecessors (such as Descartes and Locke) claim that one can perceive one's own being, Berkeley appears to deny that this is so. Nonetheless, Berkeley does insist that one is immediately conscious of one's own being. In other words, Berkeley commits to a species of "non-perceptual" self-consciousness. In light of that, this paper aims to investigate the reasons for Berkeley's disagreement with his predecessors. The central thesis is that this difference can hardly be construed as merely terminological. On the contrary, it marks the fact that Berkeley's very model of self-consciousness departs radically from that of Descartes and Locke.
The reason that Berkeley's refusal to recognize self-consciousness as "perceptual" cannot be viewed as a mere terminological adjustment is that his entire dualism of spirit and idea appears to hinge on this denial. After all, if spirits are perceived (and cannot exist unperceived) then what reasons are there to deny that they are, in fact, ideas (that is to say "things perceived")? The problem with the thesis that Berkeley's denial that self-awareness is "perceptual" is a wholly terminological adjustment, therefore, is that it builds Berkeley's entire dualism on a mere terminological innovation.
Instead, I argue, Berkeley actually completely rejects a prevailing conception of self-consciousness (the "cogito" model). In this older view, consciousness is the hallmark of thinking (one cannot think without perceiving one's mental activities); and it is precisely this initial perception of one's mental acts, operations, or activities, which leads one to perceive one's own being. On such a view, self-consciousness is a two-fold awareness (of one's mental activity and of one's being).
Berkeley, however, refuses to view ideas as mental acts or modes of thought (as "perceivings"). Indeed, it appears (at least on the face of it) that he does not even admit mental acts into his ontology at all. (While I do not have the time to argue at length for this position, I will briefly provide some reasons for believing that this is true). Instead, ideas are viewed as items so entirely different from spirits that the two kinds of thing have absolutely nothing in common (i.e. so different that a shared terminology leads to equivocation). Thus, while self-consciousness in the older view is a two-fold awareness (of one's mental acts and thereby one's own being), self-consciousness in Berkeley's view is restricted to awareness of one's being where any awareness of one's mental acts has been transformed into an awareness of items which are now seen as distinct from oneself.
Notably, this departure has grave consequences in terms of Berkeley's views about our knowledge of mind. In the older view, perception of mental acts (construed as modes of thought) leads to the acquisition and augmentation of knowledge of the mind. However, Berkeley views ideas as items which are quite distinct from oneself. Because of this, he denies that ideas play any role in the acquisition of knowledge of the mind, and that knowledge of ideas has anything to do with knowledge of spirit.
Bertil Belfrage, Bodafors, Sweden
"Berkeley's Four Conceptions of the Self"
At the very beginning of Berkeley's unpublished Notebook A, we find such Lockean principles as "No reasoning about things whereof we have no ideas," "No word to be used without an idea." At first, Berkeley hesitates to use his critical weapons against a conventional concept of the soul. But when the tension comes to the surface, he rejects it as a non-cognitive concept of the soul, which means that it belongs to revealed religion, not to natural theology or science.
He starts at once to develop a descriptive account of "volition," "will," "soul," "mind," and "person" within the limits of human knowledge. The result is the Bundle Theory of the Soul or the "congeries of perceptions" concept of mind. At this stage, Berkeley is convinced that God is the only active being in the universe: we are totally passive in thinking and perceiving. Therefore he cannot see any need of a thinking substance which "ties together ideas."
But if this Passivity Thesis is correct, then all persons perceive the same thing in the same situation. In an optical experiment, however, Berkeley observes that different persons see different things in the same situation. He explains the difference in judgment by a difference in background knowledge. But as this implies an interpretation of incoming data which entails activity, God is no longer the only active being in the world. This changes his approach to psychological issues dramatically. He rejects the Passivity Thesis and hence the Bundle Theory.
Perceiving is no longer a passive reception of image-pictures of things at the macro level. Now he analyzes the epistemic atoms which are given at the micro level and tries to identify what processes that govern the act of perceiving. The result is an empiricist concept of the self, which we know by the laws established in the empirical psychology presented in the Theory of Vision.
In the metaphysics of Berkeley's Principles, finally, mental acts entail the presence of an efficient cause: a human soul or a thinking substance. It confirms the existence of something which properly belongs to revealed religion, but which we nonetheless know something about "by the effects which it produces."
Stephen H. Daniel, Texas A&M University, College Station
"Berkeley's Stoic Notion of Mind"
Commentators often note that, for Berkeley, minds should not be understood as objects of knowledge. Rather, he says, they are "subjects of discourse" (Pr. 89) of which we have no ideas, only notions. But it is not uncommon to hear people talk about Berkeleyan minds in the same way that they talk about the objects of mind (i.e., ideas). With a wink and a nod and an occasional caveat that our notions of mind are not ideas, they go right ahead and discuss minds as if they were the same kinds of things that Descartes and Locke refer to when they speak of minds as "spiritual substances."
No doubt, Berkeley himself occasionally refers to minds as spiritual substances. And when he does, the temptation is to think that he is drawing on a tradition that can be traced as far back as Aristotle in which minds can be the objects of knowledge. But since Berkeley explicitly denies that minds or spiritual substances are such objects, it is incumbent on us to respect his claim that minds or spirits are so different from objects that to say that they exist or are beings or are even things at all is to misunderstand the nature of mind. As he insists, "Spirits and ideas are things so wholly different, that when we say, they exist, they are known, or the like, these words must not be thought to signify anything common to both natures. There is nothing alike or common in them" (Pr. 142). But if minds don't exist in the same way that things exist, then in extending Berkeley's celebrated esse est percipi to include aut percipere, we must be careful to distinguish the existence of ideas from the existence of minds.
Often Berkeley does just this by appealing to a Stoic distinction when he says that spirits subsist and bodies exist. In this respect his ontology is unlike that of most of his contemporaries, because he distinguishes between the being of things that exist (of which we have ideas) and the being of the event by which those things are perceived (of which we have notions). This is the very point of the Stoic doctrine that perceiving is the predication of a thing as a conditional proposition in which objects are identified as facts or states of affairs in which qualities are related to one another. For both the Stoics and Berkeley, objects exist because of the incorporeal (i.e., mental) event on which their existence depends, but the event itself does not exist: it subsists.
Costica Bradatan, University of Durham (England)
"Platonism and Berkeley's Early Philosophical Writings"
There is already a certain amount of literature dedicated to the presence in Berkeley's early philosophy of some Platonic topics (archetypes, God's mind, etc.). Based on some of these writings (by Stephen Daniel, John Dillon, Peter Wenz, etc.), on Berkeley's own works, as well as on the examination of some elements of the Platonic tradition, I will outline the idea that, far from being isolated topics, loosely scattered in Berkeley's early writings, they form an entire network of Platonic features, that, however "allusive" or ambiguous these Platonic elements might seem, they constitute a coherent whole, playing a decisive role in shaping the essence of Berkeley's thought. I suggest that, given some of the ideas contained in his early works, it was in a way unavoidable for Berkeley, in virtue of the inner logic of the development of his thought, to arrive at such an openly Platonic-speculative writing as Siris.
There are some some "knots" of this "Platonic network" around which I will cluster my demonstration:
a) The likeness relationship between the human mind and the divine mind. One of the fundamental suppositions behind Berkeley's immaterialist argument is that there is a fundamental likeness and a similarity of function between the human mind and the divine mind. Of course, the human mind is endowed with limited powers only, has a limited scope, and is deeply marked by a character of dependence and finitude, but eventually it performs the same act as the divine mind actually does: perceives, or conceives of, objects, thus conferring on them existence and intelligibility.
And it is exactly this type of relationship between the human mind and the divine one that is a crucially important topic in Platonism: here the two terms are not at all indifferent to each other, but there is a permanent dramatic drive, on the human side, towards the divine, and this is possible precisely in virtue of the already mentioned "ontological" likeness. The human mind, through all its endeavours and performances, permanently "looks for" its divine origin.
b) The archetypes. There must be an immediate modality through which God's mind can perceive objects, a means by which objects exist in the divine mind. Hence the introduction of the ancient notion of archetypes. J. Dillon, for example, in a comparative study on Plotinus and Berkeley, comes to conclude that in his using of the term "idea" itself Berkeley was in fact under a strong Platonic influence, borrowing its meaning from Plotinus.
c) "The two worlds". An immediate logical consequence of the theory that there are archetypes is the idea that there are two worlds: in virtue of its nature, the world of archetypes (kosmos noetos) implies the existence of a world of sensible "copies" (kosmos aisthetos), of things made in their image, existing as mere "earthly" imitations of the "celestial" archetypes. The true intellectual performance means thus to understand what lies behind the misleading multiplicity of things, to find out their eternal "forms". It is this doctrine postulating the existence of two worlds that Berkeley readily admits: "do I not acknowledge a twofold state of things, the one ectypal or natural, the other archetypal and eternal? The former was created in time; the latter existed from everlasting in the mind of God." (Three Dialogues)
d) "The book of the world". However dramatic the gap between "the two worlds" might appear in traditional Platonism, there is nevertheless at least one means of bridging it: it consists in considering the immediately visible reality as a mere system of signs, by means of which God communicates with us, keeping a living relationship with his creatures. In the shape of a "divine language" (or "optic language"), Berkeley employs the topic in almost all his philosophical writings, and considers it as properly expressing his philosophy.
Geneviève Brykman, University of Paris, Nanterre
"The Debate on Human Liberty in Berkeley's Alciphron"
By general consent, it is recognized that, in his philosophical writings, Berkeley said very little on moral philosophy, the nature of good and human responsibility. Nevertheless, he noticed in a jot from Notebook A (508): "The 2 great Principles of Morality. The Being of a God and the freedom of Man: these to be handled in the beginning of the Second Book".
We shall not ponder about the reasons why this second book is missing. It seems more important to stress that it is only in Alciphron that Berkeley deals directly with the double question of a demonstration of God's existence (dial.IV) and human freedom (dial. VII) in answer to free-thinker objections.
Concerning God's existence: in spite of some hints on God's existence at the beginning of DHP2 and a strong presupposition of God in the Principles, it is only in Alciphron IV that a genuine proof is to be found, with the new and original Berkeley's argument from Nature as a divine language.
Concerning human freedom: Berkeley had wholly to dispute the ground both against the theological speculations on God's attributes and against the free-thinkers's statements on materialism and natural necessity. As this question of human liberty is for the first time directly faced with in Alciphron VII, we shall focus on Berkeley's statements on this topic in this dialogue.
Laurent Jaffro, University of Paris, Sorbonne
"Berkeley's Criticism of Shaftesbury on Morality"
This paper sets out the disagreement between Berkeley and Shaftesbury on the subject of education. The focus is on the metaethical dimensions of the debate.
In his Characteristics (1711), Shaftesbury fights what he calls "moral nominalism" - or the "mercenary" spirit of the moderns. He claims that moral properties are founded in nature and are not the effect of social conventions or of the arbitrary will of the divinity. Berkeley belongs to the "moderns," in the Shaftesburian sense, insofar as he is not a moral realist.
In Alciphron, he criticizes Shaftesbury's account of morality, but it is to be noted that he persists in using a vocabulary on which Locke had imposed a ban. It is well known that Berkeley blames Locke for not being nominalistic enough about "abstract general ideas"; it is quite surprising that Berkeley could give credit to "natural notions" which were associated with moral realism. The concept of "common notions" is consistent with Berkeley's deep nominalism only if it stands for a set of common beliefs and ordinary uses of language.
Berkeley portrays himself as a champion of ancient peripatetic ethics against the modern Stoic revival which is embodied by Shaftesbury. According to Berkeley, education consists in the regulation of habits and the discipline of pleasure and pain. Controlling inclinations and aversions is not a task that individual reason alone could achieve; it is the proper business of political institutions. Berkeley refers to Platonic and peripatetic conceptions of paideia as if they were consistent with a conventionalist account of morality.
Douglas Jesseph, North Carolina State University
"Faith and Fluxions: Berkeley on Theology and Mathematics"
Berkeley's Analyst offers a critique of the calculus in which the methods of the "modern analysis" compare unfavorably with "religious mysteries and points of faith." Yet a puzzling question arises when we ask whether the sorts of grounds Berkeley offers for belief in God might also help justify belief in fluxions, evanescent increments, or "ghosts of departed quantities." If belief in an unseen God can be rationally warranted by appealing to God's role as the cause of our sensory ideas who communicates by a "divine visual language," why can't a belief in the invisible objects of the calculus be warranted by the role these objects play in solving mathematical problems and structuring the language of mathematics?
The present paper argues that Berkeley would have no principled objection to a purely pragmatic or instrumentalist justification of the calculus, but he declines such an option because it is inconsistent with the epistemological stance adopted by defenders of the calculus. Furthermore, Berkeley's arguments for the existence of God are not intended to rationalize Christian mysteries such as the Trinity or the Incarnation. Thus, to the extent that the objects of the calculus are inherently mysterious, belief in their existence could not be rationalized by the sorts of arguments Berkeley uses to support belief in the existence of God. One result of this investigation is that Berkeley maintains a fairly firm division between the criteria appropriate for judging theological argumentation and those appropriate for mathematics.
Roomet Jakapi, University of Tartu (Estonia)
"Christian Mysteries and Berkeley's Alleged Non-Cognitivism"
There is a tradition of interpreting Berkeley's views on language and meaning in the light of modern linguistics and philosophy of language. One of Berkeley's greatest achievements in the field of semantics is considered to be his account of the 'other ends' or 'other uses' of language besides 'the communicating of ideas' (See Draft Introduction, folio 25; PHK I 20; Alc. VII. 5, 14).
To make this doctrine intelligible to a modern reader, some scholars (e.g. Beal, Woozley, Berman, Belfrage) have explained it in terms of non-cognitive, emotive, or pragmatic - as opposed to cognitive, informative, descriptive - uses of language. In this paper I want to point to a specific difficulty such explanations ought to address. My own view is rather conservative, and it relies on considerations that exceed the boundaries of philosophy. It seems that the most interesting things Berkeley says about the 'other ends/uses' of language appear in a context typically unfamiliar to a contemporary philosopher. That is, in a number of relevant cases, Berkeley speaks of the use and significance of terms and propositions related to the Christian mysteries such as the Holy Trinity, rewards and punishments in a future state, and the grace of God. He explains the usefulness and significance of such propositions in terms of their influence on our minds and actions.
In my view, this cannot be taken as an account of purely pragmatic or non-cognitive uses of language. My position relies on what can be learned about Berkeley's theological notion of mysteries. That is, one has to consider what did he mean by mysteries in these contexts. There seem to be three relevant meanings of the term in his works: the mysteries are (1) mysterious truths or doctrines revealed by means of certain propositions in Scripture; (2) propositions expressing or containing these truths; (3) hidden supernatural realities that the relevant propositions or doctrines concern/describe (cf. Peter Browne: 'the divine objects as they are in their own nature'). For Berkeley, the propositions in question are, or express, the Word of God, and serve as instruments of revelation (Alc. VI. 6-8).
These premises are hardly compatible with non-cognitivist or strictly pragmatist readings. That is, it seems that, for Berkeley, the talk of mysteries in Scripture is informative, descriptive, and necessarily true. And this holds regardless of his philosophical explanations of the usefulness and significance of this talk. I agree with those scholars (e.g. Olscamp) who claim that, according to Berkeley, these propositions do have some cognitive, metaphorical meaning. Furthermore, I argue that, in a number of passages dealing with the propositions related to the mysteries, Berkeley's main concern is to show the possibility of a reasonable assent to them. In these cases he describes the good influence or effects of faith rather than non-cognitive uses of language.
My general point is simply that the relevant theological nuances, and Berkeley's religious commitments, should not be ignored while interpreting his account of the various uses of language.
Timo Airaksinen, University of Helsinki
"The Meaning and Interpretation of Berkeley's Siris"
The name of the book, Siris (1744), refers both to a large and fertile river and a chain. Tar-water flows like the Nile from its occult source which is God, but it is also connected by a Chain to God. Of these two, the more important chain metaphor has its own complications, that is, it is used in two opposite meanings, or directions, as it also might be apposite to say. The chain connects whatever is at its two ends, but for Berkeley it is not clear what is to be done with this chain. His ideas are ambiguous, at least initially. Should it be forged to connect the two distant ends or should it be dismantled so that the two ends become free of each other once again? The two meanings of the chain metaphor are, accordingly, a manacle which restricts and tortures and an association which bonds one with what is pure and good. Berkeley writes of these two possibilities side by side. And what is his panacea, tar, if not the book itself, Siris?
Siris has been largely neglected by the commentators of Berkeley's philosophy. In a sense this is easy to understand. The book is apparently both difficult and almost ridiculous. Its metaphysics are arcane and the panacea he recommends, tar, strange. But Siris should be read, simply because we cannot understand Berkeley without it. And, in its own way, it is a readable book which allows us to see what Berkeley's final thoughts about the universe were like. I present a sympathetic interpretation which emphasizes the importance of the book and its ultimate message. It is true that Berkeley never rejected his early ideas, his best known contributions to philosophy, but in Siris they are placed in a new context. And the same applies also to the ideas presented in Alciphron. Siris is a Presocratic treatise. Berkeley writes: "The Pythagoreans and Platonists had a notion of the true system of the world. They allowed of mechanical principles, but actuated by soul or mind ... they saw that a mind infinite in power, unextended, invisible, immortal, governed, connected, and contained all things ..." (Siris sec. 266).
In this paper I first present my own, simplified idea of the meaning of the book and its argument, namely, its metaphysics of fire. But the main part of the paper consists of a presentation and discussion of the most important earlier interpretations. They exist, and it is informative both to see what they say and compare them. I also want to answer the question, how good and relevant they are from the point of view of the mystery of Siris.
The following main sources will be discusssed: T.E. Jessop's Editor's Introduction to The Works of George Berkeley, A.C. Fraser's Editor's Preface to Siris, J.M. Hone and M.M. Rossi, Bishop Berkeley: His Life, Writings, and Philosophy, 1931, J.O. Urmson, Berkeley, 1982, G. Moked, Particles and Ideas: Bishop Berkeley's Corpuscularian Philosophy, 1988, A.D. Rithie, George Berkeley's "Siris", 1954, J. Wild, George Berkleley: A Study of His Life and Philosophy, 1936, and D. Berman, George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man,1994.
Wolfgang Breidert, University of Karlsruhe (Germany)
The investigation of philosophy in poems is a part of research in the reception of philosophy that is largely neglected. This paper provides a survey of poems on Berkeley and/or his philosophy, including examples of texts by Schiller/Goethe, Byron, Sully Prudhomme, Yeats, Morgenstern, Layton, Geldsetzer, Aquila, and Muldoon. Most of these poems are written in a more satirical than admiring attitude. Therefore none of them appears in the classic form of the sonnet.
Of course there are very different ways of dealing with philosophy in poems: didactic poems in the form of versified history of philosophy (Sully Prudhomme, Geldsetzer, Aquila), contemplative, though humorous lyrics (Morgenstern), philosophic details used as matter for poetical pictures and imaginations (Layton) or for a postmodern complex framework (Muldoon).
Berkeley is misinterpreted by some poets, even if they are also philosophers. In spite of the freedom of poetry, these obliquities may help to reveal how Berkeley's philosophy is appropriated and digested. They also reveal aspects of the poets' backgrounds and intentions.
Immaterialism is the favorite theme in poems on Berkeley, whereas the poets rarely refer to Berkeley's biographical affairs--even the Bermuda project or the "Muse's Refuge" is nowhere mentioned--which is different in poems on other philosophers (e.g. Empedocles, Spinoza), who served as patterns of unappreciated genius.
Sébastien Charles, University of Sherbrooke
"Berkeley and the Lumières: Misconception and Reconstruction"
At the dawn of the 18th century, Franco-British intellectual exchanges enter, for better or worse, into an active phase of reciprocal influence. When the ideas of a thinker are transplanted across the Channel to the Continent, though, they are understood less on their own terms than in terms of the projects of other thinkers. In particular, translations of works are generally revised with an eye to the philosophical interests of French-speaking readers. As an example of such appropriation, I will evoke the case of Berkeley, whose immaterialism had originally aimed to silence the Pyrrhonians and promote the Christian faith. Yet by the end of the Enlightenment, he had achieved in France the paradoxical privilege of being considered the undisputed leader of the skeptics and a defender of atheism.