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Part One, Section Twenty-four

29 September, 2015 - 13:02

It is very obvious, upon the least inquiry into our thoughts, to know whether it is possible for us to understand what is meant by the absolute existence of sensible objects in themselves, or without the mind. To me it is evident those words mark out either a direct contradiction, or else nothing at all. And to convince others of this, I know no readier or fairer way than to entreat they would calmly attend to their own thoughts; and if by this attention the emptiness or repugnancy of those expressions does appear, surely nothing more is requisite for the conviction. It is on this therefore that I insist, to wit, that the absolute existence of unthinking things are words without a meaning, or which include a contradiction. This is what I repeat and inculcate, and earnestly recommend to the attentive thoughts of the reader.

  1. Berkeley’s arguments for immaterialism fall into two classes: (A) those that challenge the intelligibility of materialism, and (B) those that grant its intelligibility but try to show that it is unjustified. Mark each argument below with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ as you go.
  2. Materialists think that objects can exist unperceived. But to say that an object exists is just to say what? (From Part One, Section Three)
  3. This argument is from Part One, Section Four; there’s a parallel argument in section 7:
    1. An object is ______.
    2. _____________.
    3. Therefore, objects are ideas.
  4. Locke used resemblance to account for the representative powers of ideas of primary qualities. But:
    1. Likeness Principle: an idea can only be like _____________.
    2. The only way an idea can represent anything is by virtue of ______ it.
    3. Therefore, no idea can represent anything but ______. (From Part One, Section Eight.)
  5. Locke restricts resemblance to ideas of primary qualities and says that secondary qualities exist only in the mind. But:
    1. This means that I must be able to think of an object that has _____________.
    2. Given the arguments of the Introduction, we can say that ___________________________.
    3. No object denuded of secondary qualities is even______ ______________________. (FromPart One, Section Ten)
  6. Locke says that matter is the substratum that supports the observable qualities of bodies. But in order to think of such a thing, we’d have to first understand what is meant by the word _______ here. And ____________________. (From Part One, Section Sixteen.)
  7. Suppose matter exists. How could we be justified in believing in it? Either (1) by sensation (direct experience) or (2) reason (i.e., a demonstration or a logically sound argument).

    Against (1): __________________
       Against (2): If we could demonstrate the existence of matter, there would have to be a between our ideas and the objects they represent. But we can see that there is no such , simply by noticing that . In fact, even the proponents of matter grant that there is no ____________ between ideas and their objects.
      Now, a materialist might agree that we cannot prove by demonstration that matter exists. (In fact, this seems to be Descartes’s position; see the last paragraph of his Synopsis of the Meditations.) Still, the materialist might argue, we can be justified in believing in matter’s existence by means of an inference to the best explanation. The best explanation for our experiences is that they are experiences of a real, mind-independent world. How does Berkeley challenge this move? (From Part One, Sections Part One, Section Eighteen and Part One, Section Nineteen .)
  8. The ‘master argument’—Matter is by definition something that can exist even when no mind is thinking about it. What could be easier than conceiving of something that exists unconceived? (To imagine, conceive, and perceive, are all used here by Berkeley pretty much interchangeably—each means having a given idea in the mind.) But:
    1. I think of x existing unperceived. (The materialist’s presupposition)
    2. But this is the wrong description of what I have thought of, since ___________.
    3. Therefore, no one can think of something that exists unperceived.
Berkeley says in Three Dialogues that conceiving something unconceived is analogous to ‘seeing something unseen.’ (From Part One, Section Twenty-two, Part One, Section Twenty-three and Part One, Section Twenty-four; see also Part One, Section Five .)