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Today’s Lecture. Preliminary comments on George Berkeley George Berkeley Preliminary comments on Bertrand Russell. Preliminary comments on George Berkeley. George Berkeley was born in 1685 in (what is now the Republic of) Ireland and died in 1753 (in Oxford, England, while visiting his son).

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Today’s Lecture

  • Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • George Berkeley

  • Preliminary comments on Bertrand Russell


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • George Berkeley was born in 1685 in (what is now the Republic of) Ireland and died in 1753 (in Oxford, England, while visiting his son).

  • He is, perhaps, the greatest Irish philosopher and he was a devote Christian (member of the Church of Ireland).

  • Toward the end of his life he was appointed Bishop of Cloyne (which is now in the Republic of Ireland).


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • Berkeley is famous for his Idealism, which contrasts with Materialism.

  • Materialism is the view that matter is the basic stuff out of which the universe is made.

  • Idealism is the view that the basic stuff is ideas, yes mental entities, instead of Matter.

  • Locke had a basically materialistic view of the natural universe, with the caveat that animals like us had souls (that are not material).


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • Berkeley’s Idealism is largely motivated by his perceptions that Materialism was a threat to Christian theism and a source of skepticism about objects really existing in the world.

  • Importantly, then, Berkeley really believes that objects exist (in the world). It just so happens that they don’t, they can’t, exist independent of mind, be it ours’ or God’s. So the world of sensible objects is, in an importance sense, not external in the way thought of by materialists.


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • Berkeley believes that there are only active spirits (or perceivers) and passive sensible things in the cosmos. What’s more passive sensible things only exist as that which is perceived by the active spirits (be they God, angels, animals or humans).

  • Particular things are only sets of ideas that are seen to constantly accompany each other.


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • This will have a peculiar consequence for Berkeley’s view of science.

  • On the one hand, our common views of causality are false. After all, ideas don’t cause ideas per se, and because objects in the world appear to effect change in other objects (in the world), that change has to be explained in ways other than how we commonly view causality.


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • Berkeley is an occasionalist. This means that the regularities in the world, that we commonly associate with causal powers in external objects, events or processes, are maintained by God’s ongoing active intervention in our mental experiences. Without such divine intervention, there would be no regularities, and no recurring sensible ideas.


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Preliminary comments on George Berkeley

  • It is Berkeley’s belief that Idealism is more consistent with Empiricism than Materialism.

  • In our readings Berkeley will argue that Locke’s treatment of primary qualities, and his contentions that these are best explained as caused by external objects, fail.

  • As this is Locke’s only way of getting beyond the curtain, or veil, of ideas to the world he thinks is beyond our minds, this, if Berkeley is successful, will effectively trap the empiricist behind the curtain or veil.


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • Berkeley contends that neither the secondary nor the primary qualities can exist without minds (such qualities cannot be separated from clearly affective qualities, or they are in other ways clearly perceiver relative [e.g. you cannot think of primary qualities without associated secondary qualities]).

  • He also contends that our knowledge and discourse about sensible objects (e.g. tables, chairs, snow, et cetera) is limited to, or reduces to, our talk of their primary and secondary qualities.

  • As these qualities cannot exist without minds, nor can the associated sensible objects.


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • He also attacks the very idea of extant objects that cannot be perceived but which underlie our perceptions (these objects are supposed by materialists to be the objective causes of our ideas, and thus sensible objects).


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • Argument (1): Consider a material substratum to be that which underlies those (perceptual) qualities they are said to support.

  • To describe them as objects which support (perceptual) qualities is to imply that they have properties that allow them to do their supporting (of said [perceptual] qualities).

  • But if properties require support from a substratum this will require the positing of another substratum to support those properties that support said (perceptual) qualities.

  • This will again repeat itself at this (lower) level of abstraction, ad infinitum. But this is absurd (FP, pp.216-17).


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • Argument (2): As we cannot conceive of such objects (we cannot conjure up an idea of such an object without an associated perceptual quality), we cannot (sensibly) talk of them.

  • As these (imperceptible) objects are beyond our ken, we also have no (good) reasons to think they exist...we cannot have thoughts about them at all (FP, p.217).


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • Argument (3): The fundamental commitment of materialists seems to be to external objects whose actual qualities produce in us ideas that are their copies (i.e. copies of the real external qualities inhering in the real external object).

  • These objects are fixed, with qualities that are also fixed and do not actually undergo change corresponding to changes in our own spatial locations.

  • It seems that our ideas, as copies of these fixed qualities, nevertheless undergo constant change.

  • As these ideas are inconsistent with one another, and each is said to equally arise from our interactions with the external objects, it seems we have no reason to think any one or several of them copies of the original qualities (see FP, pp.220-21).


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Berkeley’s view in our readings

  • Argument (4): All perceptible qualities are ideas, and so mind dependent. If there are material objects external to the mind they must be imperceptible.

  • Ideas are held to be copies of the original external imperceptible qualities.

  • But imperceptible qualities cannot be intelligibly said to resemble perceptible qualities without themselves being perceptible qualities.

  • Only perceptible qualities can be like perceptible qualities.

  • Thus, only ideas can be like other ideas.

  • Thus ideas cannot be copies of original external imperceptible qualities (see FP, p.221).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • The first thing to notice in this reading is the way in which Philonous ‘dings’ Hylas for suggesting a definition of global epistemological skepticism that has consequences Hylas does not intend. In doing so Philonous dialectically provides an internal criticism of Hylas’ opening salvo (see FP, p.203).

  • The second thing to notice is the style of argument adopted by Philonous. It is, in the first place, dialectical. Second, it involves showing internal inconsistencies in the views of one’s opponent. It is an example of internal (as opposed to external) criticism.


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“The First Dialogue”

  • In the second column on page 203 of your FP we have the first stages of the discussion. Before it can be decided whether Philonous can be properly described as a skeptic of sensible objects existing in the world we need to agree on what is a sensible object.

  • Hylas first definition is “Those things which are perceived by the senses” (FP, p.203).

  • This is tightened to “those only which can be perceived immediately by sense” (FP, 203) because otherwise such mediated ‘objects’ as God would count as sensible objects.


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Hylas also admits that it is by our reason that we infer the existence of causes in the external world for our ideas, rather than directly perceiving them through the senses (FP, p.204).

  • All that we directly perceive through our senses, according to Hylas, are such qualities as color, taste, sound, shape, and texture (FP, pp.203-04).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Given that these is no-thing directly perceived by the senses but these qualities, Hylas must hold that sensible objects are no-thing more than these perceived qualities or cluster of qualities (FP, p.204).

  • Hylas now makes a distinction between existence and perception. It is one thing for some-thing to (really) exist, it is quite another for that thing to be perceived (or experienced through the senses).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Hylas is now asked to classify heat according to his admitted ontology (theory of what (really) exists).

  • Given that heat is directly perceived by the senses, it qualifies as a sensible object.

  • Hylas also concedes that as a ‘real’ sensible object, heat both exists and is perceived.

  • Hylas also makes no ontic distinction between degrees of heat ... each degree of heat is equally real (FP, p.204).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • This has an unfortunate implication, however. Since extreme heat causes extreme pain, which is also immediately perceived by the senses and associated with heat, this train of reasoning implies that the sensible object Hylas is directly sensing is partially constituted by pain.

  • But this is absurd, as Hylas’ believes that this object must be material, and thus incapable of feeling pain (FP, p.204).

  • Something, then, must give.


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Hylas now suggests (at the bottom of the second column on page 204 of your FP) that we need to distinguish extreme heat from the sensation of pain that accompanies it.

  • Philonous challenges this distinction on the following grounds:

  • (1) At the time in which we have one simple idea of a fire by putting our hand near it, we immediately perceive both extreme heat and pain (FP, p.205).

  • (2) Hylas concedes that he cannot think of an extreme sensation without an accompanying pain or pleasure.

  • (3) Hylas concedes that he cannot think of a pain or pleasure without an accompanying sensation of a secondary quality (FP, p.205).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Hylas concedes Philonous argument has shown that extreme heat cannot exist without a mind. This means it cannot exist in a material substance external to the mind.

  • Heat, in its extreme form, has no real existence, according to Hylas (FP, p.205).

  • Hylas points out that this does not show that heat does not really exist in a non-extreme form in an external object. After all, it is only extreme heat that is constantly associated with pain.


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Philonous tries to show that a gentle heat (or warmth) is constantly associated with pleasure, from which would follow his previous argument with ‘pleasure’ substituted for ‘pain’. Hylas however contends that gentle heat is neutral between pain and pleasure, and so avoids the conclusions of the previous argument (FP, p.206)

  • In exasperation Philonous moves on to the quality of cold in the hopes of making the point in a way that Hylas cannot but concede shows that secondary qualities only exist in minds (FP, p.206).

  • Incidentally this shows an interesting limitation to this form of philosophical reasoning.


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“The First Dialogue”

  • Since Hylas concedes that Philonous’ argument for extreme heat works for extreme cold, Philonous turns to a discussion of “a lesser degree of cold” (FP, p.206).

  • Hylas concedes two points to Philonous before they begin their next stage of the discussion.

  • (i) A doctrine is false if it “leads a man into an absurdity” (FP, p.206).

  • (ii) The same thing cannot be said to possess two apparently exclusive qualities such as heat and cold (FP, p.206).


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“The First Dialogue”

  • You can now see where this argument is going to go.

  • Philonous will persuade Hylas that the same thing can be warm or cold by considering a pale of water and the sensations felt by both hands as one puts them in the pale.

  • Since Hylas cannot, without absurdity, contend that the same object has two exclusive properties or qualities, he must concede that neither heat nor cold exists in a material substance independent of, or external to, the mind (FP, p.206).


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Preliminary comments on Bertrand Russell

  • Bertrand Rusell was born in 1872 and died in 1970 at the ripe old age of 98.

  • He was both a mathematician and philosopher.

  • Perhaps his best known work is in philosophy of language, though he also wrote extensively on epistemology.

  • He was, I think without little doubt, one of the most important of the British philosophers of the Twentieth Century (and there have been a number of important British philosophers in the Twentieth Century).


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Preliminary comments on Bertrand Russell

  • Russell’s biography testifies, in large part, to his determination to live a philosophical life.

  • Views that informed his political activities in the public sphere, be it his atheism, peace advocacy or views on the equality of women, were views he took the time to philosophically defend.

  • Perhaps most admirably, he was imprisoned on two occasions for his peace advocacy.


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Preliminary comments on Bertrand Russell

  • Perhaps four things characterize Russell’s epistemology: (1) It was analytic, (2) rigorously empiricist, (3) internalist, and (4) foundationalist.

  • Russell was one of the best and earliest proponents of analytic philosophy. This philosophical school is characterized by its insistence on conceptual analysis as the primary vehicle of doing philosophy.


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • Some terms that Russell uses require explanation (see FP, p.247).

  • Sense data: Arguably, this is what Locke called ideas. They are the content of our immediate perceptions. They are what Russell considers to be immediately known form our senses.

  • Sensation: Is the immediate awareness of sense data.

  • Physical object: This is the real object, beyond our sense data.

  • Matter: This is the collection or sum of all physical objects.


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • “Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?” (FP, p.245)

  • The first line of this chapter reveals important things about Russell’s view of knowledge, or at the very least reveals important things about the knowledge of concern to this book of philosophy.

  • Note the echoes of Descartes.


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • This chapter nicely sets up the distinction already discussed by Descartes and Locke (and by us) that leads to problems concerning our knowledge of the external world, namely the distinction between appearance and reality.

  • Russell agrees with Locke that we infer the existence of external objects from the experience arising from our senses (FP, pp.246-47).

  • In fact, I think Russell nicely articulates what Locke was saying.


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • “Thus it becomes evident that the real table, if there is one, is not the same as what we immediately experience by sight or touch or hearing. The real table, if there is one, is not immediately know to us at all, but must be an inference from what is immediately known” (FP, p.247 [emphasis his]).


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • “When, in ordinary life, we speak of the colour of the table, we only mean the sort of colour which it will seem to have to a normal spectator from an ordinary point of view under usual conditions of light. But the other colours which appear under other conditions have just as good a right to be considered real; and therefore, to avoid favouritism, we are compelled to deny that, in itself, the table has any one particular colour” (FP, p.246).


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The Problems of Philosophy: Appearance and Reality

  • Note something that may be important in what Russell claims here. He suggests (though remember he has actually argued for this suggestion) that our ordinary claim to know the color of a table presupposes a set of standards covering the truth conditions for the claim. What’s more, these truth conditions contain specifications regarding the noetic health of the putative knower, perhaps her level of education or degree of socialization, her location and the conditions of viewing.


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