Historical and Biographical Matters
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
Born in Kilkenny, Ireland
Anglican priest in 1710, became Bishop of Cloyne
One of three great 18th century Empiricists
A Treatise on the Principles of Knowledge (1710)
Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713)
"Hylas" from the Greek word for "matter": hyle
"Philonous" from Greek word for "lover of mind"
1. Review Locke's empiricism:
There's nothing in the mind that didn't get in there from senses
Knowledge grounded in sense experience (perception)
Sense experience gives rise to ideas
We only have access to our ideas
Locke's metaphysical view:
External, material objects
a. Matter & Mind exist
So, Locke's picture admits the realist of matter and mind/ideas (form of dualism)
What do we known about external objects?
Qualities: the properties of those external objects
b. Primary and secondary qualities
Primary qualities: extension, solidity, shape, mobility, and number
For the object to be experienced at all, it must take up space and therefore must have a shape,
volume, motion, etc.
How the object is characterized mathematically/physically
Secondary qualities: colour, taste, smell, sound, texture
Primary qualities are in our ideas and also in the external object (a red object isn't really red, it is just
capable of appearing red to us)
Because they give the physical characterization of the object
Secondary qualities are only in our ideas
They are sense-dependent
Example: dogs are colour blind, they would perceive the red box as being grey
Primary qualities we perceive are also actually in the external object-in this sense, they ground
reality of external objects Secondary qualities are only in our ideas
a. His empiricist epistemology is the same as Locke:
1. All knowledge is grounded in sense experience (perception)
2. Sense experience gives rise to ideas
3. We only have immediate access to our ideas
b. Berkeley is concerned with the metaphysical status of external, material objects (aka 'material
substance' or 'material substratum'
Question: Can we prove that external objects exist?
In other words: Do external objects have any real (primary) qualities?
c. The dialogue between Berkeley and Locke:
B: Locke I agree with you about all knowledge being a result of experience and that we access that
knowledge through ideas, But if you follow your own argument through to its conclusion, there is no
basis for believing that primary qualities exist in external objects. There is no basis in believing in the
existence of external objects. There is no matter, there are only ideas
Berkeley is p