PHIL 1000 Lecture Notes - Hylas, John Locke, Reductio Ad Absurdum
The crucial parts of knowing Locke for reading Berkeley are few
the sense are perceiver dependent
external objects are perceiver independent
primary/secondary quality distinction
substance and the substances material
Berkeley will dispute Locke's four points here of the external world epistemology
dialogue begins with Hylas telling Philonous on a previous conversation the night before. Philonous
was the topic of conversation because he is a sceptic.
The issue is of material substance and because Philonous denies such a thing he is a shown to be a
lacking in common sense and being a sceptic
Hylas is going to support the position that there is material substance he is going to take a Lockean
and Philonous is going to take the Berkelian position
what Philonous is going to show how Hylas that believing in material substance is the sceptical
position and that Berkeley’s position is non-sceptical position.
Philonous is going to enquire from Hylas by what he means of scepticism. He accused him being a
sceptic so in order to correctly clarify Philonous asks Hylas what do you mean by sceptic?
The answer that gives is the general answer. (prof's pet peeve: 1. it should be people for who not and
things for that.) One who doubts everything
Philonous is going to eventually show that eh doesn't doubt everything. In fact he's going to take a
poisition that is sceptic resistant.
Bottom of page 11
Through the dfferent movements of the dialogue, Philonous gets Hylas to admit his mistakes.
One who accepts that existence of matter is a greater sceptic
Again Hylas refines his position and the bottom of page 11
this will happen all throughout the dialogue. Hylas will continually refine his position as he is correct
Wherever a claim can be accepted without argument that is the sceptic
what he wants Philonous to show him is which one of us denies the reality of things or professes the
greater ignorance of them
either denying the reality of sensible-meaning things that are sensed by the senses-
(prof is okay with essays in a dialogue form. NOT EASY but can really good and interesting.)
It's very hard sometimes with this exchange in the three dialogues to figure out which points to
there's a lot of back and forth which really doesn't contribute to our real understanding
So Hylas at the beginning seems to take the position of naive realism.
Hylas is making a distinction between the objects that exists and the perception of that object
to exist and perceive are completely different
i ask whether...
what phil is suggesting that the
there is stuff in the external world independent of our perceptions
Hylas is going to take the position that the book out there is light and two inches by five inches, etc
they begin their sensory discussion with heat
Hylas says what ever degree of heat....
whatever heat we perceive is in the object according to Hylas
e.g. Take a bucket of water and put one had in a fridge for a couple of minute and then put both hands
in the bucket
each hand will feel differently. (found bottom of page 17)
any doctrine that contains an absurdity(a contradiction) is false according to Philonous
any theory that contains a contradiction must be false. Reduction ad absurdum if you can reduce your
opponents arguments to a contradiction (recall Socrates with the definitions of justice)
this example is very practical on page 17
we can all be in the same room and space but we can all feel differently
is it hot in here or is it just me? Of course it's you!
How the perceiver is aware of that energy. Is what results in the judgement. Now the only correct
judgement is “i feel warm or cold” it would be contradiction to think the room is both hot and cold at
the same time. That would be a contradiction.
What is in the water? Well obviously: nothing.
heat and cold are things that are perceiver dependent
just like it was difficult to doubt everything in the first meditation this too is difficult to think that there
is no heat in the fire
Hylas is trying to say that objects are what they are with their properties of colours, size etc
phil is saying that heat is not in the object but is perceiver dependent
what Hylas wants to say is that he acknowledges the heat and cold one but that there still exists other
things in the external world
of all sensible qualities
when we talk about sugar we talk about some object that has the quality of being sweet
but with all of these examples with sound, smell, colour, with all of these what phil is showing Hylas is
that all of the sensible qualities belong to the perceiver. I tell you Hylas says as perceives by us. With
respect to sound. It is a particular perception of the mind.
If a tree falls down...
no perceiver no sound.
There may be some action or the vibrations in the air
those vibrations only become a sound only when they hit a perceiver.
A sound is not vibrations in the air just like how red is a wave length it may have that but it is not the
wave length it is a sensory perception.
Locke would say that it would be the primary qualities that objects do whatever they do
here we have a concession on the part of Hylas
anything with a sensible quality is going to depend on the perceiver.
He talks about colour: objects are coloured (Hylas)
phil expresses this although its not entirely clear but its an important distinction that phil makes in page
that your corporeal....
once Hylas agrees that all of the sensible qualities are perceiver dependent he's gotten him to agree the
next step that corporeal substances must be mind dependent