• Jamesk
    172
    Does Berkeley provide an instrumentally better theory than Locke? Does he rely on the same arguments that he used to refute Locke? Does his attack on abstract ideas really undermine materialism in the way Berkeley believes it does?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I can still remember the first time I ran into someone who took Berkeley's idealism seriously. I couldn't believe it. Prior to that I had the impression that the whole point of Berkeley was to amusingly show how off the tracks we can go if we're sloppy/careless about doing philosophy.
  • MindForged
    546
    Rocks are just ideas, man~



    No one better give me grief about this
  • Nils Loc
    362
    Rocks are just ideas, man~MindForged

    Speak true, brother.

    To be is to be perceived.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k

    Berkeley's idealism is actually very informative. He demonstrates that "matter" refers to nothing other than an idea; it doesn't refer to anything which we can sense. At his time, it seemed like a radical idea, but it's commonly accepted today. .
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    There’s a very useful site called early modern texts which comprises a large set of works of early modern philosophy, including Berkeley, edited into a more modern English style.

    Berkeley was no slouch, and I think simply dismissing his arguments, as Samuel Johnston famously claimed to do by kicking a rock, indicates simple incomprehension. Kant had to go to some lengths to differentiate his work from Berkeley’s, by inclusion of further arguments in his second edition of CPR.

    The basic problem most people have, is that they imagine that what Berkeley is arguing means that ‘the world is all in my mind’. But if that were all he was saying, then nobody would have read his works, and there would be no debate. His argument could be better paraphrased as ‘all our knowledge of the world comprises ideas’ - that what we take to be independently existing objects are in actual fact ideas in the (not necessarily my) mind. It does sound incredible, but it is exactly that incredulity that Hylas, the sceptic in his dialogue, brings to Philonious, only to see all his apparently sensible objections refuted.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Berkeley's idealism is actually very informative. He demonstrates that "matter" refers to nothing other than an idea;Metaphysician Undercover

    He may attempt to do that, but he certainly doesn't succeed.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    His argument could be better paraphrased as ‘all our knowledge of the world comprises ideas’ - that what we take to be independently existing objects are in actual fact ideas in the (not necessarily my) mind.Wayfarer

    Again, the simple confusion of knowledge and what knowledge is about.
  • javra
    671
    Speak true, brother.

    To be is to be perceived.
    Nils Loc

    :lol: Shucks, I guess that no awareness can then be. As in, you can see your eyes in a mirror but not the you as an ever changing awareness that is seeing your eyes in a mirror, etc. Hence, by entailment: an awareness-devoid philosophy ... right up there with the presence of homunculi. Sounds oddly reminiscent to physicalism, wherein awareness itself is only an epiphenomenal illusion. So ... back to serious/true philosophy where all these issues are willfully ignored so as to magically make the ontic presence of awareness nonexistent.
  • Nils Loc
    362


    What is this awareness you speak of? Have you sensed it? Sounds like an idea to me.
  • javra
    671
    What is this awareness you speak of? Have you seen it? Sounds like an idea to me.Nils Loc

    You seem to not have read my post. No, I've never seen it. I'm venturing that nether have you.

    So:

    A: awareness exists because we are aware.
    or
    B: awareness doesn't exist because no one has ever seen it.

    ... as to what it is: I'm still working on the "Know Thyself" bit.
  • Nils Loc
    362
    You seem to not have read my post. No, I've never seen it. I'm venturing that nether have youjavra

    On Thursdays I think I sense awareness but all other days of the week I doubt it so severely and whine to myself that the universe could be so cruel to contaminate my mind with such unwieldy ideas. Ideas are rather like diseases.
  • javra
    671
    Ideas are rather like diseases.Nils Loc

    If so, the cure is then to abstain from philosophy.
  • Nils Loc
    362


    You're probably right. But I can't decide whether I have free will, either.
  • javra
    671


    :razz: hell, if the cosmos makes you do things ... but then the cosmos is an idea as well. What isn't?
  • MindForged
    546
    If so, the cure is then to abstain from philosophy.javra

    Fine by me. No one will miss the debate about whether or not holes exist.
  • kudos
    6
    The world outside us could have permanent existence or it could be just a imagined world. Imagine for instance, as world where life could never exist as it was an impossibility. This world would be equal to an imagined world, having nothing within it capable of giving it significance above any other arbitrary posited thing that our minds could conjure up. Existence in this sense as having fixed time and place is dependent on life. We can observe ways that what we see in the outside world is our own reflected image. Can we think of anything in the world, for instance, that has nothing to do with our human existence? Every rock, flower, star, bit of cosmic dust has relevance only because it describes man and his limited field of perception. If we were to drop a lab rat into a maze at birth, and have it live there indefinitely, almost everything the rat immediately observes would be condusive to the fact that it is in the maze. Every noticed thing that impacts it’s existence points to it’s reason for being in it’s present state. A person can lay claim to no more sophisticated understanding of anything beyond what exists for them to see.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Again, the simple confusion of knowledge and what knowledge is about.Terrapin Station

    I have yet to see from you anything other than naive realism.

    Where Berkeley fails, in my opinion, is due to his nominalism. Because of it, he can’t accommodate the fact that certain classes of ideas, such as logical and mathematical proofs, have universal application. This is the subject of C. S. Peirce’s criticism of Berkeley, which I intend to study.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.7k

    Did you read Berkeley's "Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonus"? If so, it appears like you didn't understand it. He clearly demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that there is anything called "matter" in the world that we sense. The notion that there is matter out there being sensed, is just an idea created by the mind.
  • DingoJones
    228
    I have yet to see from you anything other than naive realism.Wayfarer

    Excuse me, but in what way is what he said wrong? I missed the part where you addressed the charge of simple confusion of knowledge and what knowledge is about.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    My observation about Terrapin Station's naive realism is based on many previous interactions, not simply this one.

    In any case, even though it might seem obvious to distinguish between 'knowledge' and 'what knowledge is about', it is actually a very thorny philosophical problem. Take the proverbial tree/chair/apple that is customarily used in such debates. There it is, the tree - surely you can't say that is something that only exists in the mind, right? The tree is over there, the mind is inside my skull, obviously they're different, right?

    The problem with the apparently obvious statement is that it too is dependent on an intellectual construction, one which runs pretty well seamlessly in the mind, at all times, and which stitches together 'the world' in which me, the tree, and my knowledge of the tree are situated. Because that 'stitching together' is indeed a conscious act, something which the mind does, and something which 'knowledge of the tree' is always dependent on.

    Realism, especially naive realism, doesn't actually consider that. In fact, not considering it, is what makes it 'naive realism'. So from a naive realist point of view, then Samuel Johnston's famous criticism of Berkeley is all that needs to be said. And on the off-chance that you are not familiar with it, I will repeat it verbatim:

    After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it thus.'

    Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (quoted in Wikipedia).

    If you take the time to read any of Berkeley's dialogues (which I linked to above) you will find that they are meticulously (indeed exhaustingly) detailed. Kant (no slouch himself) had to devise quite an ingenious argument to show what was wrong with Berkeley's basic thesis. But then, Kant was not a naive realist either, and although he disagreed with Berkeley in some profound ways, he too understood the role that the mind plays in the construction of knowledge.
  • DingoJones
    228


    Its not a thorny problem at all once you realize the difference between knowledge and what the knowledge is about.
    I too have read Terra’s other posts, likewise with yours and many others. Is that relevent? I was talking about the charge he laid, not his general philosophical views.
  • kudos
    6
    How are we defining existence? In my definition, an object only has existence if an implementation of life can interact with it. No life, no existence. Any error due between individuals is concurrent to other causes. To exist presumes that life is there to observe it, otherwise it would be equal to a product of the mind. Alternatively, we could define that something exists by the greater quantity of men on Earth confirm it by experience or presumption; we'd be holding two separate conversations.
  • kudos
    6
    Two different definitions, one a collective affirmation of existence, and the other seemingly reliant on appearance, though nobody can totally refute the legitimacy of the experienced reality, only as it is described through language. Without life bodies have no existence in either sense, leaving the material world dependent on the observing mind.
  • javra
    671


    Attempts to base the reality of the physical world on appearances has traditionally led into problems. One example being that of Berkley’s need for an all-perceiving ego. Reasoning concerning causal interactions, however, can lead to an understanding of the physical world as a realm of causal interactions with which we all interact. Perceptions are then only a limited set of these causal interactions.

    This of itself doesn’t presume physicalism. To the same degree that our thinking entails our agency to enactively produce or else influence our own thoughts, we as lifeforms also hold a limited agency within the commonly shared physical world of causal interactions we inhabit. This physical world of interactions that affects all living beings can then be further interpreted as an effete mind, to use Charles Peirce’s terminology. This can be likened to a universal mind that is devoid of the agency which we are endowed with as living beings. As Peirce puts it, roughly expressed, its causal interactions and natural laws are themselves habits of thought. So interpreting makes “effete mind” and “physicality” indistinguishable concepts when addressing how individual brains interact with their respective minds. Nevertheless, here the monism changes from that of dual-aspect physicalism to one of either dual-aspect idealism or dual-aspect neutral-monism.

    I do uphold that perceptions are important, but very much believe that the external world can best be evidenced via its causal interactions, this whenever the question of its presence holds a potential to arise.

    I don’t know how this perspective will strike you, but I wanted to provide some support to what you stated in your last two posts. Namely, that physical existence is contingent on interactions—this rather than upon our perceptions of it.
  • kudos
    6
    "Reasoning concerning causal interactions, however, can lead to an understanding of the physical world as a realm of causal interactions with which we all interact."

    Maybe I misunderstand you, but I fail to see how this is harmful. Any examination of reality eventually leads to cause and effect in an endless chain that is always carried out in observance of man's pride. He/she unlike other animals can look back, understand, and master reality but only through the fogged lens of his desires, through the senses and mental faculties he has been endowed with presumably honed for acquiring the means of subsistence - and thus he has to constantly fight in a pathetic attempt to break away from his yoke.

    "I do uphold that perceptions are important, but very much believe that the external world can best be evidenced via its causal interactions, this whenever the question of its presence holds a potential to arise."

    Keep in mind that we are in no way distinguishing between what is correct, false, true, erroneous, that these are all separate from what it means to be a subject of the material world.
  • javra
    671
    "Reasoning concerning causal interactions, however, can lead to an understanding of the physical world as a realm of causal interactions with which we all interact."

    Maybe I misunderstand you, but I fail to see how this is harmful.
    kudos

    No, I didn’t intend that it is harmful. I intended that such approach is beneficial to establishing the presence of what is often termed the external world. This in what I presumed to be an overall agreement with your own perspective.
  • Jamesk
    172
    My question doesn't ask if Berkeley is right or not. My question is does his theory properly undermine Locke? Also does he undermine Locke fairly, meaning doesn't then himself rely on what he doesn't allow Locke to.
  • Jamesk
    172
    Where Berkeley fails, in my opinion, is due to his nominalism. Because of it, he can’t accommodate the fact that certain classes of ideas, such as logical and mathematical proofs, have universal application. This is the subject of C. S. Peirce’s criticism of Berkeley, which I intend to study.Wayfarer

    Which is an interesting point when you consider the nominalist argument Berkeley uses to attack abstract ideas, Locke is also a nominalist btw apparently not as much as Berkeley. It is interesting if his failure to accommodate logical and mathematics proofs is the biggest weakness in his theory because not everyone is convinced by math, Russell felt it was largely based upon fallacies.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I have yet to see from you anything other than naive realism.Wayfarer

    As you should expect, given that I'm a naive realist. Another theory of perception would have to be well-supported, have good reasons for belief, be plausible etc. for me to change my view. I won't be holding my breath.

    Nominalism is one of the few things Berkeley got right in my view. I'm also a nominalist.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Did you read Berkeley's "Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonus"?Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes. Do I remember much of it now? No. I read it a long time ago.

    If so, it appears like you didn't understand itMetaphysician Undercover

    Come on, now. You can't be so unintelligent that you believe that not agreeing with something amounts to not understanding it, can you?
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