PHIL 2160 Lecture Notes - Lecture 18: Mind, Subjective Idealism, Hylas
SchoolUniversity of Guelph
Course CodePHIL 2160
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Lecture – Berkeley
Main arguments for: qualities in the mind, idea of existence, his immaterialism, resemblance (likeness
There are things Locke says that Berkeley directly disagrees with – for Locke, material substance is a
collection of qualities (primary and secondary) and whatever is out there causing those ideas in our
minds are primary so they inhere in something. We can’t think of bodies without thinking of them in
terms of their primary qualities, for Locke. There are material things that exist outside of our mind.
Primary qualities are qualities bodies really have, and they are representational of the world.
Secondary qualities are caused by the primary qualities, but they are relative, and whatever is outside
the mind does not identically resemble what is in the mind
Philonous speaks for Berkeley – sensations are ideas in our mind (mental contents) so all qualities are
ideas in our minds.
oQualities of bodies are sensory perceptions.
oSensory perceptions are ideas (mental contents)
oTherefore, qualities are ideas in the mind
If we say something exists (“it exists”), we mean we perceive it – it must be a perceivable thing, by at
least one person, or in principle. Any meaningful claim about existence, according to Berkeley, means
oWhen we say “it exists” it means we perceive it
oWe perceive ideas in our mind
oWhen we say “it exists” we mean it’s an idea in our mind
To make a case for immaterialism, he wants to show that appealing to matter is useless and adds no
value – he will have trouble with the causal story that forms our perceptions
We don’t have a good account of causation
He doesn’t think we should distrust the world of perception – he says the world is a world of
sensation, and it is the only world we can talk meaningfully about – all we need to talk about is the
world that appears to us
Secondary qualities are subjective
Philonous says what if the same arguments brought against secondary qualities hold against primary
qualities as well? Primary quality ideas are said to represent reality, according to Hylas.
Primary quality ideas are perspectival – they are a function of my sensations. What are my grounds
for asserting the likeness between the ideas in my mind, and what’s outside the mind? One mental
content or idea can only be like another mental content or idea; they cannot be like what’s outside the
mind. This is the likeness principle.
My ideas of my grandmother, for example, don’t resemble anything but ideas – they don’t resemble
some mind-independent collection of molecules
No idea can exist without the mind – when I say something resembles reality, it means it resembles
something I’ve perceived
He worries about sciences that think they’re giving us realities as opposed to appearance – science
has an instrumental value for him. It’s supposed to uncover laws and give us new information that can
add to our understand of the world
Hallucinations could be real to someone, but they counter the perceptions everyone else has, and they
don’t make sense (go against the order of the universe). You can’t say that someone’s right or wrong
based on an appeal to extra-mental reality
Berkeley: Qualities and mind-dependence
All qualities are ideas in the mind
Qualities of bodies are sensory perceptions
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