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Berkeley, Ideas, Idealism and Representation. Phil: What do you mean by ‘sensible things’? Hyl : Things that are perceived by the senses. Can you imagine that I mean anything else?.

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Phil: What do you mean by ‘sensible things’?

Hyl: Things that are perceived by the senses. Can you imagine that I mean anything else?


Phil: In reading a book, what I immediately perceive are the letters ·on the page·, but mediately or by means of these the notions of God, virtue, truth, etc. are suggested to my mind. Now, there’s no doubt that •the letters are truly sensible things, or things perceived by sense; but I want to know whether you take •the things suggested by them to be ‘perceived by sense’ too.

Hyl: No, certainly, it would be absurd to think that God or virtue are sensible things, though they may be signified and suggested to the mind by sensible marks with which they have an arbitrary connection.

Phil: It seems then, that by ‘sensible things’ you mean only those that can be perceived immediately by sense.


Hylas: by ‘sensible things’ I mean only things that are perceived by sense, and that the senses perceive only what they perceive immediately; because they don’t make inferences. So the deducing of causes or occasions from effects and appearances (which are the only things we perceive by sense) is entirely the business of reason. [In this context, ‘occasion’ can be taken as equivalent to ‘cause’.]

Phil: We agree, then, that sensible things include only things that are immediately perceived by sense. Now tell me whether we immediately perceive

by sight anything besides light, colours, and shapes;

by hearing anything but sounds;

by the palate anything besides tastes;

by the sense of smell anything besides odours;

by touch anything more than tangible qualities.


Phil: So it seems that if you take away all sensible qualities there is nothing left that is sensible.

Hyl: I agree.

Phil: Sensible things, then, are nothing but so many sensible qualities, or combinations of sensible qualities.


Phil: Does the reality of sensible things consist in being

perceived? or is it something different from their being

perceived—something that doesn’t involve the mind?

Hyl: To exist is one thing, and to be perceived is another.

Phil: I am talking only about sensible things. My question

is: By the ‘real existence’ of one of them do you mean an

existence exterior to the mind and distinct from their being


Hyl: I mean a real absolute existence—distinct from, and

having no relation to, their being perceived.

Phil: So if heat is granted to have a real existence, it must

exist outside the mind.


Hyl: Whatever degree of heat we perceive by sense we can

be sure exists also in the object that occasions it.

Phil: What, the greatest as well as the least?

Hyl: Yes, because the same reason holds for both: they

are both perceived by sense; indeed, the greater degree of

heat is more ·intensely· sensibly perceived; so if there is any

difference it is that we are more certain of the real existence

of a greater heat than we can be of the reality of a lesser.

Phil: But isn’t the most fierce and intense degree of heat a

very great pain?


Hylas: I’m afraid I went wrong in granting that intense heat is a pain. I should have said not that the pain is the heat but that it is the consequence or effect of the heat.


Hyl: Now I see what has deluded me all this time. You asked whether heat and cold, sweetness and bitterness, are particular sorts of pleasure and pain; to which I answered simply that they are. I should have answered by making a distinction: those qualities as perceived by us are pleasures or pains, but as existing in the external objects they are not. So we cannot conclude without qualification that there is no heat in the fire or sweetness in the sugar, but only that heat or sweetness as perceived by us are not in the fire or the sugar. What do you say to this?

Phil: I say it is irrelevant. We were talking only about

‘sensible things’, which you defined as things we immediately perceive by our senses. Whatever other qualities you are talking about have no place in our conversation, and I don’t know anything about them.


Hyl: Look, Philonous, make fun of my views if you want

to, but that won’t alter the truth of things. I admit that

the inferences you draw from them sound a little odd; but

ordinary language is formed by ordinary people for their own

use, so it’s not surprising if statements that express exact

scientific notions seem clumsy and strange.

Phil: Is it come to that? I assure you, I think I have scored

a pretty big win when you so casually depart from ordinary

phrases and opinions; because what we were mainly arguing

about was whose notions are furthest from the common

road and most in conflict with what people in general think.

Your claim that real sounds are never heard, and that we get

our idea of sound through some other sense—can you think

that this is merely an odd-sounding scientific truth? Isn’t

something in it contrary to nature and the truth of things?


Phil: Now, is your corporeal substance either a sensible

quality or made up of sensible qualities?

Hyl: What a question to ask! Who ever thought it was?


Phil: When you say that each visible object has the colour that we see in it, you imply that either

visible objects are sensible qualities, or else

(2) Something other than sensible qualities can be perceived by sight.

But we earlier agreed that (2) is false, and you still think it is;

·so we are left with the thesis (1) that visible objects are

sensible qualities·. Now, in this conversation you have been

taking it that visible objects are corporeal substances; and

so we reach the conclusion that your corporeal substances

are nothing but sensible qualities.


Hyl: I have to admit, Philonous, that I can’t keep this up

any longer. Colours, sounds, tastes—in a word, all that are

termed ‘secondary qualities’—have no existence outside the

mind. But in granting this I don’t take anything away from

the reality of matter or external objects, because various

philosophers maintain what I just did about secondary qualities

and yet are the far from denying matter. [In this context,

‘philosophers’ means ‘philosophers and scientists’.] To make this clearer: philosophers divide sensible qualities into primary

and secondary. •Primary qualities are extendedness, shape,

solidity, gravity, motion, and rest. They hold that these really

exist in bodies. •Secondary qualities are all the sensible

qualities that aren’t primary; and the philosophers assert

that these are merely sensations or ideas existing nowhere

but in the mind.


Phil: Isn’t it the very same reasoning [as regarding secondary qualities] to infer that there is

no size or shape in an object from the premise that to one

eye it seems little, smooth, and round, while to the other eye

it appears big, uneven, and angular?

Hyl: The very same. But does the latter ever happen?

Phil: You can at any time find out that it does, by looking

with one eye bare and with the other through a microscope.


Phil: … wouldn’t it seem very odd if the general reasoning that covers all the other sensible qualities didn’t apply also to extension? If you agree that no idea or anything like an idea can exist in an unperceiving substance, then surely it follows that no shape or mode of extension [= ‘or specific way of being extended’] that we can have any idea of—in perceiving or imagining—can be really inherent in matter.


The structure of the problem is simple: perception seems intuitively to be openness to the world, but this fact of openness is threatened by reflection on illusions and hallucinations.


As a theory of knowledge, reliabilism can be roughly stated as follows:

One knows that p (p stands for any proposition --e.g., that the sky is blue) if and only if p is true, one believes that p is true, and one has arrived at the belief that p through some reliable process.

As a theory of justified belief, reliabilism can be formulated roughly as follows:

One has a justified belief that p if, and only if, the belief is the result of a reliable process.

Moreover, a similar account can be given … for such notions as 'warranted belief' or 'epistemically rational belief'.


When one is subject to an illusion, it seems to one that something has a quality, F, which the real ordinary object supposedly being perceived does not actually have.

When it seems to one that something has a quality, F, then there is something of which one is aware which does have this quality.

Since the real object in question is, by hypothesis, not-F, then it follows that in cases of illusion, either one is not aware of the real object after all, or if one is, one is aware of it only “indirectly” and not in the direct, unmediated way in which we normally take ourselves to be aware of objects.

There is no non-arbitrary way of distinguishing, from the point of view of the subject of an experience, between the phenomenology of perception and illusion.

Therefore there is no reason to suppose that even in the case of genuine perception one is directly or immediately aware of ordinary objects.

Therefore our normal view about what perceiving is—sometimes called “naïve realism” or “direct realism”—is false. So perception cannot be what we normally think it is.


The most controversial assumption in the argument is the claim that when one is perceptually aware of something's having quality F, then there is something of which one is aware which does have this quality. Howard Robinson has usefully labeled this assumption the “Phenomenal Principle”:

If there sensibly appears to a subject to be something which possesses a particular sensible quality then there is something of which the subject is aware which does possess that sensible quality.


It seems possible for someone to have an experience—a hallucination—which is subjectively indistinguishable from a genuine perception but where there is no mind-independent object being perceived.

The perception and the subjectively indistinguishable hallucination are experiences of essentially the same kind.

Therefore it cannot be that the essence of the perception depends on the objects being experienced, since essentially the same kind of experience can occur in the absence of the objects.

Therefore the ordinary conception of perceptual experience—which treats experience as dependent on the mind-independent objects around us—cannot be correct.


“mature sensible experience (in general) presents itself as, in Kantian phrase, an immediate consciousness of the existence of things outside us” - Strawson


“We never … originally and really perceive a throng of sensations, e.g., tones and noises, in the appearance of things…; rather, we hear the storm whistling in the chimney, we hear the three-engine aeroplane, we hear the Mercedes in immediate distinction from the Volkswagen. Much closer to us than any sensations are the things themselves. We hear the door slam in the house, and never hear acoustic sensations or mere sounds.” - Heidegger


The sense-datum theory holds that when a person has a sensory experience, there is something of which they are aware .... What the subject is aware of is the object of experience.


The sense-datum theory can say, however, that we are indirectly aware of ordinary objects: that is, aware of them by being aware of sense-data. A sense-datum theorist who says this is known as an indirect realist or representative realist, or as someone who holds a representative theory of perception …. A theorist who denies that we are aware of mind-independent objects at all, directly or indirectly, but only of sense-data, is known as a phenomenalist or an idealist about perception.

  • Intentionalism
  • Externalism
  • Water is H20 (XYZ)
  • Baby finds mommy

Instinct is the actual germ of the mind.

  • C. O. Whitman, ‘Animal Behavior’
  • “I believe that biologically basic actions—eating, navigating, mating—along with whole‐animal biological needs figure epistemically and constitutively in background conditions for perception, representation, and empirical objectivity.”
  • Tyler Burge, Origins of Objectivity
  • “A state of the pump can be regarded as having a veridicality condition that is fulfilled if water in the hold is above the threshold. One can even take the pump to want to keep the boat clear of water, to believe that there is too much water in the hold, to decide to start pumping, and to decide to stop when the benchmark is met.”
  • But (says Burge) that would be a perverse point of view.

This gut brain is like a regional administrative center that handles stuff the head brain does not need to bother with …

The gut brain makes its independence known in many ways: It causes irritable bowel syndrome when it “decides” to flush out the intestines. It triggers anxiety in the head brain when it detects infections in the gut, leading you to act in more cautious ways that are appropriate when you are sick. And it reacts in unexpected ways to anything that affects its main neurotransmitters … hence many of the initial side effects of Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors involve nausea and changes in bowel function.

- Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis


“Bacteria have sensors that respond to magnetic fields. Under certain conditions, moving in response to those fields leads bacteria to areas in a pond that are beneficial to them because the areas have less oxygen. The function of the sensory registration and movement is to enable the bacterium to move toward oxygen‐poor locales. But the bacterium is not causally sensitive to oxygen or oxygen poverty, and the bacterium's states and movements are more reliably and more informationally correlated with magnetic forces than with oxygen or oxygen poverty. Millikan [a philosopher Burge is arguing against] notes this split and uses it to criticize views that connect representation with causation, reliability, or information‐carrying. She holds that intuitively the bacterium represents oxygen poverty.

I think that this view is not intuitive.”

- Burge