Ideas of George Berkeley, by Theme

[Irish, 1684 - 1753, Born at Kilkenny. Bishop of Cloyne, in Ireland. Died in Oxford.]

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3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 3. Correspondence Truth critique
An idea can only be like another idea
     Full Idea: An idea can be like nothing but an idea.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 08), quoted by Michael Potter - The Rise of Analytic Philosophy 1879-1930 43 'Mean'
     A reaction: I take this to be relevant to the correspondence theory, but also to be one of Berkeley's best observations. We understand ideas, but we can't map them onto the world (because they are not maps!). ...But then how is one idea like another? Hm.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 5. The Infinite / k. Infinitesimals
Infinitesimals are ghosts of departed quantities
     Full Idea: The infinitesimals are the ghosts of departed quantities.
     From: George Berkeley (The Analyst [1734]), quoted by David Bostock - Philosophy of Mathematics 4.3
     A reaction: [A famous phrase, but as yet no context for it]
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 4. Abstract Existence
Abstract ideas are impossible
     Full Idea: We have, I think, shown the impossibility of Abstract Ideas.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 21)
     A reaction: He achieves this by an attack on universals, offering the nominalist view that there are only particulars. There seems to be a middle ground, where universals don't actually exist, but there are settled conventional abstraction, beyond particulars.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 5. Reason for Existence
I do not believe in the existence of anything, if I see no reason to believe it
     Full Idea: It is to me a sufficient reason not to believe the existence of anything, if I see no reason for believing it.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.205)
     A reaction: This may just be a reasonable application of Ockham's Razor, but I fear that Berkeley painted himself into corner by demanding too many 'reasons' for everything.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 6. Criterion for Existence
I know that nothing inconsistent can exist
     Full Idea: I know that nothing inconsistent can exist.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.224)
     A reaction: Fine, but the problem is to assess with confidence what is inconsistent. Human imagination seems to be the test for existence. But what else can we do?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Anti-realism
Berkeley does believe in trees, but is confused about what trees are
     Full Idea: I think that we should consider Berkeley as believing in trees; we should simply claim that he has false beliefs about what trees are.
     From: report of George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710]) by Ross P. Cameron - Truthmakers, Realism and Ontology 'Realism'
     A reaction: I can be realist about spots before my eyes, or a ringing in my ears, but be (quite sensibly) unsure about what they are, so Cameron's suggestion sounds plausible.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
Universals do not have single meaning, but attach to many different particulars
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as one precise and definite signification annexed to any general name, they all signifying indifferently a great number of particular ideas.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 18)
     A reaction: The term 'red' may be assigned to a range of colours, but we also recognise the precision of 'that red'. For 'electron', or 'three', or 'straight', the particulars are indistinguishable.
No one will think of abstractions if they only have particular ideas
     Full Idea: He that knows he has no other than particular ideas, will not puzzle himself in vain to find out and conceive the abstract idea annexed to any name.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 24)
     A reaction: A nice point against universals. Maybe gods only think in particulars. One particular on its own could never suggest a universal. How are you going to spot patterns if you don't think in universals? Maths needs patterns.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
Universals do not have any intrinsic properties, but only relations to particulars
     Full Idea: Universality, so far as I can comprehend it, does not consist in the absolute, positive nature or conception of anything, but in the relation it bears to the particulars signified or represented by it.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 15)
     A reaction: I always think it is a basic principle in philosophy that some sort of essence must precede relations (and functions). What is it about universals that enables them to have a relation to particulars?
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / d. Substance defined
Material substance is just general existence which can have properties
     Full Idea: The most accurate philosophers have no other meaning annexed to 'material substance' but the idea of being in general, together with the relative notion of its supporting accidents.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 17)
     A reaction: This is part of the attack on Aristotle's concept of 'substance', and is a nice way of dissolving the concept. 'Substance' will never reappear in physics, but modern philosopher have returned to it, as possibly inescapable in metaphysics.
There is no other substance, in a strict sense, than spirit
     Full Idea: There is no other substance, in a strict sense, than spirit.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.257)
     A reaction: A nice clear statement of idealism. Why is he so confident of making this assertion. Note the addition, though, of 'in a strict' sense. He is presenting an epistemological claim as if it was an ontological one.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / e. Substance critique
A die has no distinct subject, but is merely a name for its modes or accidents
     Full Idea: To me a die seems to be nothing distinct from those things which are termed its modes or accidents. And to say a die is hard, extended and square is not to attribute those qualities to a distinct subject, but only an explication of the word 'die'.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], n 49)
     A reaction: This is apparently a reaction to Locke, and a final rejection of the medieval idea of a 'substance'. Unfortunately it leaves Berkeley with a 'bundle' view of objects (a typical empiricist account), which is even worse.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 10. Impossibility
A thing is shown to be impossible if a contradiction is demonstrated within its definition
     Full Idea: A thing is shown to be impossible when a repugnancy is demonstrated between the ideas comprehended in its definition.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.214)
     A reaction: The problem is always that imagination is needed to see the 'repugnancy', and that is relative and limited.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / a. Nave realism
Since our ideas vary when the real things are said to be unchanged, they cannot be true copies
     Full Idea: As our ideas are perpetually varied, without any change in the supposed real things, it necessarily follows that they cannot all be true copies of them.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.239)
     A reaction: This seems a good objection to any direct or nave realist view. Colours get darker as the sun goes down, and objects become blurred as they recede into the distance.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / b. Direct realism
If existence is perceived directly, by which sense; if indirectly, how is it inferred from direct perception?
     Full Idea: Either you perceive the being of matter immediately, or mediately; if immediately, pray inform me by which of the senses you perceive it; if mediately, let me know by what reasonings it is inferred from those things which you perceive immediately.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.208)
     A reaction: A problem for strong empiricists, and he is right that existence can't be directly perceived, but it seems a good explanation (for which some reason can be shown), and supports a more rationalist view.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 2. Phenomenalism
Perception is existence for my table, but also possible perception, by me or a spirit
     Full Idea: The table I write on I say exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed - meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 3)
     A reaction: Berkeley is always (understandably) labelled as an 'idealist', but this seems to be what we call 'phenomenalism', because it allows possible experiences as well as actual ones. See Ideas 5170 and 6522.
Berkeley did not deny material things; he merely said they must be defined through sensations
     Full Idea: Berkeley did not (as we are commonly told) deny the reality of material things. ..What Berkeley discovered was that material things must be defined in terms of sense-contents.
     From: report of George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713]) by A.J. Ayer - Language,Truth and Logic Ch.2
     A reaction: This seems to be a rather debatable attempt to claim that Berkeley was a phenomenalist (like Ayer), rather than an idealist. Try ideas 3942, 3944, 3945, 3957, 3959 in this database.
Berkeley needed a phenomenalist account of the self, as well as of material things
     Full Idea: The considerations which make it necessary, as Berkeley saw, to give a phenomenalist account of material things, make it necessary also, as Berkeley did not see, to give a phenomenalist account of the self.
     From: comment on George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713]) by A.J. Ayer - Language,Truth and Logic Ch.7
     A reaction: Phenomenalism involves 'possible' experiences as well as actual ones. That could add up to quite a rich and stable account of the self, as opposed to Hume's notorious introspection, which only saw an actual shifting 'bundle' of experience.
Sensible objects are just sets of sensible qualities
     Full Idea: Sensible things are nothing else but so many sensible qualities.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.154)
     A reaction: As it stands this is phenomenalism, but Berkeley eventually votes for idealism. He should acknowledge possible sensations which aren't actually experienced.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism / c. Empirical idealism
The only substance is spirit, or that which perceives
     Full Idea: It is evident that there is not any other Substance than spirit, or that which perceives.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 7)
     A reaction: Weird. To say that this is 'evident' seems to be begging the question. Why should he assume that there is nothing more to reality than his perception of it? He seems strangely unimaginative.
The 'esse' of objects is 'percipi', and they can only exist in minds
     Full Idea: The absolute existence of unthinking things with no relation to their being perceived is unintelligible to me; their 'esse' is 'percipi', nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 3)
     A reaction: "Esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived) is the well-known slogan associated with Berkeley. I cannot see how Berkeley can assert that the separate existence of things is impossible. He is the classic confuser of epistemology and ontology.
When I shut my eyes, the things I saw may still exist, but in another mind
     Full Idea: When I shut my eyes, the things I saw may still exist, but it must be in another mind.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 90)
     A reaction: This strikes me as ridiculous. What kind of theory says that a table goes out of existence when someone forgets to look at it for a moment, but is then recreated in identical form? Epistemology is not ontology.
'To be is to be perceived' is a simple confusion of experience with its objects
     Full Idea: Berkeley thinks 'to be is to be perceived', and only God provides continuity. He has simply confused the experience of perception with the thing being perceived. Ideas have content.
     From: comment on George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713]) by Bertrand Russell - Problems of Philosophy
For Berkelely, reality is ideas and a community of minds, including God's
     Full Idea: Berkeley's thesis is that reality ultimately consists of a community of minds and their ideas; one of the minds (God) is infinite, and causes most of the ideas.
     From: report of George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713]) by A.C. Grayling - Russell Ch.2
     A reaction: I think Russell nicely pinpoints what is wrong with Berekely, which is that he confuses ideas with their contents. If I think about my garden, the garden is real (probably), which is the content, and they idea is just a way of thinking.
Time is measured by the succession of ideas in our minds
     Full Idea: Time is measured by the succession of ideas in our minds.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.172)
     A reaction: But we distinguish between subjective time (which flies when you are having fun), and objective time, judged from observation of clocks and nature.
There is no such thing as 'material substance'
     Full Idea: That there is no such thing as what philosophers call 'material substance', I am seriously persuaded.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.150)
     A reaction: I'm sorry, but I can't do with this. It confuses epistemology with ontology. Ontology is a matter of judgement; epistemology is the evidence on which we base it. We know sensations; personally I judge that there are material substances. What about you?
I conceive a tree in my mind, but I cannot prove that its existence can be conceived outside a mind
     Full Idea: I may conceive in my own thoughts the idea of a tree, but that is all. And this is far from proving that I can conceive it existing out of the minds of all spirits.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.184)
     A reaction: If Berkeley has based a world view on this point, then his mistake is to require a 'proof'. Aristotle explained why you can't prove everything (not to mention Gdel).
There is nothing in nature which needs the concept of matter to explain it
     Full Idea: I challenge you to show me that thing in nature which needs matter to explain or account for it.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.212)
     A reaction: I disagree. Physics is a good theory for explaining why we have perceptions. Failing that there is not even a glimmer of an explanation of our experiences.
Perceptions are ideas, and ideas exist in the mind, so objects only exist in the mind
     Full Idea: Wood, fire, water, flesh, iron, are things that I know, and only known because I perceive them by my senses; these are immediately perceived, and so are ideas; ideas cannot exist without the mind; their existence consists therefore in being perceived.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.220)
     A reaction: This makes no distinction between an idea and its content. Berkeley fails to grasp the weird concept of intentionality. Trees aren't in my head, just because I think about them!
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / c. Primary qualities
Primary qualities (such as shape, solidity, mass) are held to really exist, unlike secondary qualities
     Full Idea: Sensible qualities are by philosophers divided into primary and secondary; the former are extension, figure, solidity, gravity, motion and rest, which exist really in bodies.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.169)
     A reaction: A crucial distinction, which anti-realists such as Berkeley end up denying. I think it is a good distinction, and philosophers should fight to preserve it.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / e. Primary/secondary critique
No one can, by abstraction, conceive extension and motion of bodies without sensible qualities
     Full Idea: I desire any one to reflect and try whether he can, by any abstraction of thought, conceive the extension and motion of a body without any sensible qualities.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 10)
     A reaction: The rather geometrical view of objects found in Descartes and Russell is an attempt to do this. I don't think the fact that we can't really achieve it matters much. We divide primary from secondary qualities in our understanding, not in experience.
Figure and extension seem just as dependent on the observer as heat and cold
     Full Idea: If heat and cold are only affections of the mind (since the same body seems cold to one hand and warm to the other), why may we not argue that figure and extension also appear different to the same eye at different stations?
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 14)
     A reaction: If the assessment of the qualities of an object is entirely a matter of our experiences of it, there is no denying Berkeley on this. However, judgement goes beyond experience, into speculations, inferences, and explanations.
Motion is in the mind, since swifter ideas produce an appearance of slower motion
     Full Idea: Is it not reasonable to say that motion is not without the mind, since if the succession of ideas in the mind become swifter the motion, it is acknowledged, shall appear slower without any alteration in any external object.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 14)
     A reaction: An intriguing argument, based on what is now the principle of slow-motion photography. Fast minds slow down movement, like great tennis players. By what right does Berkeley say that the external subject is unaltered?
A mite would see its own foot as large, though we would see it as tiny
     Full Idea: A mite must be supposed to see his own foot as a body of some considerable dimension, though they appear to you scarcely discernible.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.170)
     A reaction: Berkeley is confused. Hot is secondary, but temperature is primary. Bigness is secondary, size primay. Midgets and tall people don't disagree over the size of a table.
The apparent size of an object varies with its distance away, so that can't be a property of the object
     Full Idea: As we approach to or recede from an object, the visible extension varies, being at one distance ten or a hundred times greater than at another; doth it not follow that it is not really inherent in the object?
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.171)
     A reaction: Berkeley is confused, because he is too literally empirical. Qualities are not self-evidently primary or secondary, but are judged so after comparisons (e.g. with testimony, or with the other senses).
'Solidity' is either not a sensible quality at all, or it is clearly relative to our senses
     Full Idea: By 'solidity' either you do not mean any sensible quality, and so it is beside our enquiry; or if you do, it must be hardness or resistance, which are plainly relative to our senses.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.173)
     A reaction: Berkeley fails to recognise that a quality can have primary and secondary aspects (hot/high temperature). He is right that primary qualities are not directly perceived. They are judgements.
Distance is not directly perceived by sight
     Full Idea: Distance is not properly and immediately perceived by sight.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.186)
     A reaction: Interestingly, if secondary qualities are not strictly perceptions of the object, and primary qualities are not directly perceived, then we don't seem to perceive anything at all. Perhaps we should drop the concept of 'perception'?
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 3. Representation
Berkeley's idealism resulted from fear of scepticism in representative realism
     Full Idea: It was fear of scepticism based upon representative realism that motivated Berkeley's idealism.
     From: comment on George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710]) by Howard Robinson - Perception II.1
     A reaction: Personally I side with Russell, who accepts representative realism, and also accepts that some degree of scepticism is unavoidable, but without getting excited about it. The key to everything is to be a 'fallibilist' about knowledge.
Immediate objects of perception, which some treat as appearances, I treat as the real things themselves
     Full Idea: Those immediate objects of perception, which, according to you, are only appearances of things, I take to be the real things themselves.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.237)
     A reaction: If that is a judgement, which it seems to be, it is a strange one. Realists offer a much better explanation of perceptions.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
Knowledge is of ideas from senses, or ideas of the mind, or operations on sensations
     Full Idea: The objects of knowledge are either ideas imprinted on the senses, or passions and operations of the mind, or ideas (formed by memory and imagination) compounding, dividing or barely representing the original perceptions.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 1)
     A reaction: This is the germ of Hume's 'associations' (Idea 2189). There is not much room here for synthetic a priori knowledge, as the a priori part seems to merely know the mind. Most of Russell's epistemology is contained in the last part of the sentence.
Real things and imaginary or dreamed things differ because the latter are much fainter
     Full Idea: The difference between real things, and chimeras formed by the imagination, or the visions of a dream, is that the latter are faint and indistinct.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.225)
     A reaction: In Hume this becomes 'impressions' and 'ideas'. It does raise the question of WHY some ideas are not as faint as others.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 4. Pro-Empiricism
Geometry is originally perceived by senses, and so is not purely intellectual
     Full Idea: Figures and extension, being originally perceived by sense, do not belong to pure intellect.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.176)
     A reaction: Is the square root of 169 less 'pure' in my mind if I learn it from laying out bricks instead of by thinking about numbers? Confusion of how you learn with what you learn?
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 3. Illusion Scepticism
It is possible that we could perceive everything as we do now, but nothing actually existed.
     Full Idea: We might perceive all things just as we do now, though there was no matter in the world.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.209)
     A reaction: An old Greek argument. Now we have an explanation of experience, but we wouldn't if nothing existed. Which doesn't prove that anything exists. Is some explanation always preferable to none? Cf. religion.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 3. Subjectivism
A hot hand and a cold hand will have different experiences in the same tepid water
     Full Idea: Suppose now one of your hands hot, and the other cold, and that they are both at once put into the same vessel of water, in an intermediate state; will not the water seem cold to one hand, and warm to the other?
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], I p.158)
     A reaction: A nice clear example of how some relativism must be acknowledged. It feels hot, but what is its temperature in degrees C?
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 4. Other Minds / a. Other minds
Berkeley's idealism gives no grounds for believing in other minds
     Full Idea: I can find no principle in Berkeley's system, which affords me even probable ground to conclude that there are other intelligent beings, like myself.
     From: comment on George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710]) by Thomas Reid - Essays on Intellectual Powers 2: Senses 10
     A reaction: I agree, which means that Berkeley's position seems to entail solipsism, unless God is the Cartesian deus ex machina who rescues him from this wall of ignorance.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 4. Other Minds / c. Knowing other minds
I know other minds by ideas which are referred by me to other agents, as their effects
     Full Idea: The knowledge I have of other spirits is not immediate, as is the knowledge of my ideas; but depending on the intervention of ideas, by me referred to agents or spirits distinct from myself, as effects or concomitant signs.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 145)
     A reaction: This strikes me as gross intellectual dishonesty, since the argument Berkeley uses to assert other minds could equally be used to assert the existence of tables ('by me referred to agents distinct from myself, as effects'). Be a solipsist or a realist.
Experience tells me that other minds exist independently from my own
     Full Idea: It is plain that other minds have an existence exterior to my mind, since I find them by experience to be independent of it.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.220)
     A reaction: This is a surprising claim from Berkeley. If trees only exist through their experience in my mind, why don't other minds exist in the same way?
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 7. Animal Minds
If animals have ideas, and are not machines, they must have some reason
     Full Idea: If the brutes have any ideas at all, and are not bare machines (as some would have them), we cannot deny them to have some reason.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 11)
     A reaction: It seems possible to imagine a low level of mind, where a few ideas (or concepts) float around, but hardly anything worth the name of reason. However, a Darwinian view suggests that concepts must bestow an advantage, so the two go together.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / b. Intentionality theories
Berkeley replaced intentionality with an anti-abstractionist imagist theory of thought
     Full Idea: By Berkeley - with his anti-abstractionism and imagist theory of thought - the classical sense-datum conception was firmly established, and intentionality had disappeared as an intrinsic property, not only of perceptual states, but of all mental contents.
     From: report of George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710]) by Howard Robinson - Perception 1.6
     A reaction: Intentionality was originally a medieval concept, and was revived by Brentano in the late nineteenth century. Nowadays intentionality is taken for granted, but I still suspect that we could drop it, and talk of nothing but brain states caused by reality.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 3. Abstraction by mind
The mind creates abstract ideas by considering qualities separated from their objects
     Full Idea: We are told that the mind being able to consider each quality of things singly, or abstracted from those other qualities with which it is united, does by that means frame to itself abstract ideas.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 7)
     A reaction: A helpful explanation of 'abstract' ideas. Berkeley gives colour and movement as examples. Fodor suggests that abstraction is the key strategy in empiricist epistemology. The difficulty is to decide whether the qualities are natural or conventional.
I can only combine particulars in imagination; I can't create 'abstract' ideas
     Full Idea: Whether others can abstract their ideas, they best can tell. For myself, I find I have a faculty of imagining, or representing to myself, only the idea of those particular things I have perceived, and of compounding and dividing them.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 10)
     A reaction: He is admitting mixing experiences, but always particulars, never abstract. His examples are 'man' and 'motion'. Compare Aristotle Idea 9067. Berkeley is, I think, trapped in a false imagistic view of thought. My image of Plato blurs young and old.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 7. Self and Thinking
Ideas are perceived by the mind, soul or self
     Full Idea: The thing which knows or perceives ideas is what I call mind, spirit, soul or myself.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 2)
     A reaction: The interest here is in making no distinction between 'mind' and 'self', which seems to ally Berkeley with Locke's view of personal identity, as continuity of consciousness. The addition of 'soul' tries to connect Locke to Christian thought.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 5. Causal Argument
How can that which is unthinking be a cause of thought?
     Full Idea: How can that which is unthinking be a cause of thought?
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.203)
     A reaction: Presumably, though, he thinks that thought can cause 'that which is unthinking' to move'. He likes one half of the interaction problem (which supports dualism), but avoids the other half.
18. Thought / C. Content / 2. Ideas
Berkeley probably used 'idea' to mean both the act of apprehension and the thing apprehended
     Full Idea: Berkeley seems to have confused the colour of the thing apprehended with the act of apprehension; probably either of these would have been called an 'idea' be Berkeley.
     From: comment on George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713]) by Bertrand Russell - Problems of Philosophy
     A reaction: If we are saying that Berkeley's error was entirely verbal, there is a chicken-and-egg problem. He was an idealist, so he wouldn't have thought that there were two separate concepts behind the word 'idea'. Russell merely asserts that there are.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 2. Meaning as Mental
Language is presumably for communication, and names stand for ideas
     Full Idea: It is a received opinion that language has no other end but the communicating our ideas, and that every significant name stands for an idea.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 19)
     A reaction: This attitude to language has been widely discredited, partly by the observation that 'idea' is very ambiguous, and partly by the fans of meaning-as-use. Truth conditions seem to be ideas, and so are speaker's intentions.
19. Language / D. Propositions / 4. Mental Propositions
I can't really go wrong if I stick to wordless thought
     Full Idea: So long as I confine my thoughts to my own ideas divested of words, I do not see how I can easily be mistaken.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], Intro 22)
     A reaction: I think it was one of the great errors of twentieth century philosophy to say that Berkeley cannot do this, because thought needs language. Personally I think language lags along behind most our thinking, tidying up the mess. I believe in propositions.
22. Metaethics / A. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / a. Preconditions for ethics
Immorality is not in the action, but in the deviation of the will from moral law
     Full Idea: Sin or moral turpitude doth not consist in the outward physical action or motion, but in the internal deviation of the will from the laws of reason and religion.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.227)
     A reaction: A Kantian view (that the only good thing is a good will). It is a very empiricist (and anti-Greek) view to deny that actions have any intrinsic value.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 7. Later Matter Theories / a. Early Modern matter
No one can explain how matter affects mind, so matter is redundant in philosophy
     Full Idea: How matter should operate on a spirit, or produce any idea in it, is what no philosopher will pretend to explain; it is therefore evident there can be no use of matter in natural philosophy.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 50)
     A reaction: An intriguing argument for idealism, which starts in Cartesian dualism, but then discards the physical world because of the notorious interaction problem. Of course, if he had thought that matter and spirit were one (Spinoza) the problem vanishes.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
We discover natural behaviour by observing settled laws of nature, not necessary connections
     Full Idea: That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, and fire warms us; all this we know, not by discovering any necessary connexion between our ideas, but only by the observation of the settled laws of nature.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 31)
     A reaction: Hume is famous for this idea, but it is found in Hobbes too (Idea 2364), and is the standard empiricist view of causation. The word 'settled' I take to imply that the laws are contingent, because they could become unsettled at any time.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
The laws of nature are mental regularities which we learn by experience
     Full Idea: The set rules or established methods wherein the Mind we depend on excites in us the ideas of sense, are called the 'laws of nature'; and these we learn by experience, which teaches us that such and such ideas are attended with certain other ideas.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 33)
     A reaction: He observes that the ideas of sense are more regular than other mental events, and attributes the rules to an Author. He is giving the standard empirical Humean view, with his own quirky idealist slant.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
If properties and qualities arise from an inward essence, we will remain ignorant of nature
     Full Idea: An inducement to pronouncing ourselves ignorant of the nature of things is the opinion that everything includes within itself the cause of its properties; or that there is in each object an inward essence which is the source whence its qualities flow.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 102)
     A reaction: This remains a good objection to essentialism - that while it remains quite a plausible picture of how nature operates, it makes the task of understanding nature hopeless. We can grasp imposed regular laws, but not secret inner essences.
27. Natural Reality / B. Modern Physics / 1. Relativity / a. Special relativity
All motion is relative, so a single body cannot move
     Full Idea: There cannot be any motion other than relative; if there was one only body in being it could not possibly move.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 112)
     A reaction: This seems to agree with with Leibniz in denying the Newton-Clarke idea of absolute space. See Idea 2100. Suppose there were two bodies racing towards one another, when one of them suddenly vanished?
27. Natural Reality / D. Time / 1. Nature of Time / c. Idealist time
I cannot imagine time apart from the flow of ideas in my mind
     Full Idea: Whenever I attempt to frame a simple idea of time, abstracted from the succession of ideas in my mind, which flows uniformly and is participated in by all beings, I am lost and embrangled in inextricable difficulties.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 98)
     A reaction: 'Embrangled'! A nice statement of the idealist view of time, as entirely mental. I know what he means. However, surely he can manage to imagine a movement which continues when he shuts he eyes? Try blinking during a horse race.
28. God / B. Proving God / 1. Proof of God
There must be a God, because I and my ideas are not independent
     Full Idea: From the dependency I find in myself and my ideas, I do by an act of reason necessarily infer the existence of a God.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.222)
     A reaction: No. Hume answered this, by showing how big abstract ideas are built up from experience. This is a future bishop's wish-fulfilment.
There must be a God, because all sensible things must be perceived by him
     Full Idea: I immediately and necessarily conclude the being of a God, because all sensible things must be perceived by him.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.198)
     A reaction: Daft. This contradicts Berkeley's whole empiricist position, that existence depends on known experience. Who knows whether God is thinking about trees?
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / b. Teleological Proof
It has been proved that creation is the workmanship of God, from its beauty and usefulness
     Full Idea: Divines and philosophers have proved beyond all controversy, from the beauty and usefulness of the several parts of creation, that it was the workmanship of God.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], II p.198)
     A reaction: Not convincing. Beauty is probably a sublimation of sexual desire (or an echo of the human mind in the external world, in music), and utility is relative to homo sapiens, I presume.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 3. Problem of Evil / a. Problem of Evil
Particular evils are really good when linked to the whole system of beings
     Full Idea: Those particular things which, considered in themselves, appear to be evil, have the nature of good, when considered as linked with the whole system of beings.
     From: George Berkeley (The Principles of Human Knowledge [1710], 153)
     A reaction: This wildly contradicts the rest of Berkeley's philosophy, which is strictly empiricist, and rests wholly on actual experience. What experience does he have of the 'whole system of beings', and its making evil into actual good?
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 3. Problem of Evil / b. Human Evil
People are responsible because they have limited power, though this ultimately derives from God
     Full Idea: Thinking rational beings, in the production of motions, have the use of limited powers, ultimately derived from God, but immediately under the direction of their own wills, which is sufficient to entitle them to all the guilt of their own actions.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.228)
     A reaction: An episcopal evasion. A classic attempt to have cake and eat it. Either God is in charge or he isn't.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 3. Problem of Evil / d. Natural Evil
If sin is not just physical, we don't consider God the origin of sin because he causes physical events
     Full Idea: If sin doth not consist of purely physical actions, the making God a cause of all such actions, is not making him the author of sin.
     From: George Berkeley (Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous [1713], III p.227)
     A reaction: An equivocation. If responsibility resides in consciousness, God is presumably conscious, and we can judge the events he causes.