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Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy

Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy

Edited by Stephen H. Daniel
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  • Book Info
    Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Ultimately, this volume represents a major contribution to the study of Berkeley?s philosophy by critiquing the tendency to generalize his thought as a version of theologically modified solipsism. In this way, it is a unique and invaluable addition to Berkeley scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8475-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    It is not surprising that topics relating to George Berkeley’s intriguing claims about the immaterial nature of reality, knowledge, vision, the self, morality, and religion still provoke debates 250 years after his death. The traditional strategy of treating his philosophy simply as a stepping stone from Locke to Hume is now being supplanted by more refined research into his doctrines and relations to his predecessors and contemporaries. Indeed, recent scholarship asks us to reconsider Berkeley on his own terms, and in some cases that has meant reconfiguring how we frame our understanding of the central themes that inform his thought....

  7. Berkeley, Ideas, and Idealism
    (pp. 11-28)

    If someone asks whether a philosopher is a ‘rationalist’ or an ‘empiricist’ or an ‘idealist,’ the issue is not, or should not be, how near the philosopher comes to articulating one of a number of distinct eternal, ideal philosophies. The question makes more sense if we take it to presuppose only what might be called ‘traditions,’ a more flexible, fuzzy web of doctrinal affinities, debts, and loyalties, not to speak of recognizably familial conflict.¹ In this sense of ‘tradition,’ there is characteristically interplay and overlap between traditions. Conflict can be the mother of invention, not only by stimulating new arguments...

  8. Berkeley’s Assessment of Locke’s Epistemology
    (pp. 29-49)

    Among the many different criticisms that Berkeley has of Locke’s philosophy are a number of epistemic arguments, each designed to show that Locke cannot account for sensitive knowledge. More specifically, they are supposed to show that if Locke’s theory of perception is correct, then we do not have any perceptual knowledge of objects. These arguments have not received as much attention as, for example, Berkeley’s attack on abstract ideas, though it seems to me that they are equally important. Berkeley’s claim that his philosophycanexplain how we come to have knowledge of objects gets some of its force from...

  9. The Problem of the Unity of a Physical Object in Berkeley
    (pp. 50-81)

    Although Berkeley says that ‘strictly speaking ... we do not see the same object that we feel; neither is the same object perceived by the microscope, which was by the naked eye’ (DHP 245), he is generally happy to call a physical object a ‘collection’ (PHK 1), a ‘combination’ (PHK 4, DHP 175), or a ‘congeries’ (DHP 249) of sensible qualities or ideas. He also calls it a ‘complex or compounded’ idea (IN 9). As such, a physical object comprises ideas of several senses.¹ Within each sense modality the ideas that constitute a physical object belong to numerous, highly complex,...

  10. Why My Chair Is Not Merely a Congeries: Berkeley and the Single-Idea Thesis
    (pp. 82-107)

    A centrepiece of Berkeley’s immaterialism is his treatment of ordinary objects (which I shall call ‘commonsense objects’).¹ Unfortunately, understanding this crucial area of his thought has been clouded by the dubious assumption that the only non-phenomenalist reading of Berkeley is the view that commonsense objects are straightforwardly nothing more than collections of ideas.² My intent here is to demonstrate that there are textual as well as philosophical reasons for believing that Berkeley holds a slightly more sophisticated view.From the perspective of finite minds, commonsense objects are single ideas associated with collections of sensory ideas. Metaphysically, commonsense objects are collections,...

  11. Berkeley on Visible Figure and Extension
    (pp. 108-120)

    The question of how sensory cognition is supposed to be directed to objects in the perceiver’s environment is a central issue of philosophical theories of perception. According to Berkeley, it is the awareness of sensory ideas that makes possible cognizance of real objects. In the following I examine how, according to Berkeley’s theory, visual ideas are supposed to contribute to the mind’s directing awareness to the geometrical properties of physical objects.

    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.¹ Accordingly, only light...

  12. Perceiving and Berkeley’s Theory of Substance
    (pp. 121-152)

    It is not difficult to prove that Berkeley explicitly affirmed mental substances inA Treatise concerning the Principles of Human KnowledgeandThree Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. Confirming texts abound. Berkeley affirmed mental substance as a distinct and unique kind of entity. He held minds (souls, spirits, perceivers) exist and insisted that they are completely different from sensibles. The latter are either sensible qualities or sensible objects – collections or congeries of sensible qualities.¹ Sensibles are what we sense when we sense and what we imagine when we imagine; they are perceived by minds, which on occasion also bring...

  13. Berkeley’s Actively Passive Mind
    (pp. 153-171)

    Berkeley defines the mind as an active substance or being: ‘a spirit is one, simple, undivided, active being: as it perceives ideas, it is called theunderstanding, and as it produces or otherwise operates about ideas, it is called thewill’ (PHK 27). The will is the activity of producing and operating about ideas and the understanding is the activity of perceiving ideas. As will and understanding, then, the mind is activity. Even though this activity is distinct from its objects and effects (viz., ideas and volitions), we can still say that ideas are both produced and perceived by the...

  14. Berkeley’s Four Concepts of the Soul (1707–1709)
    (pp. 172-187)

    ‘The most important source for our knowledge of Berkeley’s thinking about spirit’ is, according to Ian Tipton,¹ a manuscript often referred to asNotebook A.² But the difficulty is that Berkeley presents very different views in this manuscript. Early on he develops a bundle theory:

    + Mind is a congeries of Perceptions. Take away Perceptions & you take away the Mind put the Perceptions & you put the mind. (NB 580)

    But later on (NB 847), as well as in thePrinciples, ‘mind,’ ‘soul,’ or ‘spirit’ is defined as:

    one simple, undivided, active being: as it perceives ideas, it is called the...

  15. Christian Mysteries and Berkeley’s Alleged Non-Cognitivism
    (pp. 188-198)

    There is a tradition of interpreting Berkeley’s views on language and meaning in the light of modern linguistics and philosophy of language. Commentators have ascribed, for example, instrumentalism regarding scientific and religious language¹ and ethical emotivism² to him. In this essay, I am not going to offer another explanation of Berkeley’s views on language, meaning, or signs. What I hope to do is to cast some light on the religious context in which one specific account or doctrine – that of the ‘other ends’ or ‘other uses’ of language besides ‘the communicating of ideas’ – occasionally occurs. Berkeley famously introduces...

  16. Berkeley’s Criticism of Shaftesbury’s Moral Theory in Alciphron III
    (pp. 199-213)

    My aim is to expound Berkeley’s argument against Shaftesbury’s ethical views, concentrating on the Third Dialogue ofAlciphron. I will address one limited question: To what extent is Berkeley’s point correct? How far is his reading of Shaftesbury pertinent? I would also like to tackle a second question: Does Berkeley’s criticism of Shaftesbury rely on specifically Berkeleian premises? Or, to put it in Aristotelian terms, is this refutation dialectical? How far does it draw on Berkeley’s own basic conceptions of the nature of morality? One might recognize in these two questions the two sides which should be distinguished in every...

  17. Berkeley Poetized
    (pp. 214-230)

    We should not think of Berkeley as a poet. We know that Johann Gottfried Herder dismissed him as ‘the good bishop Berkeley, who wasnota poet.’¹ According to A.A. Luce, Berkeley’s ‘America or the Muse’s Refuge’ (1726) was the ‘only ... serious poem’ known to have been written by him (W 7: 369), and in Luce’s appraisal, ‘some of the lines, not all, are admirable’ (W 7: 270). ‘The lines,’ Luce concludes, ‘are the work of a seer, avates sacer.’ He attests to the poem’s ‘insight, foresight, [and] prediction’ and characterizes the famous passage ‘Westward the course of...

  18. Index
    (pp. 231-235)