Notes on Berkeley Dialogues for Final
171-175 -> 189-193
-Philonous is Berkeley, and Hylas is the other person in the dialogue.
-Hylas is concerned that when common people hear about the skeptics’ arguments and beliefs (they believe in nothing at all), that they will question important things like God and religion and other common sense.
-Philonous reveals that he actually does have the worldview that no such things exist as mind-independent materials, only ideas and the minds that have those ideas. He says that idealism is in fact a common sensical view, and that materialism is incoherent.
-They define “skeptic” to be “one who denies the reality of sensible things, or professes of the greatest ignorance of them”.
176-180 -> 194-198
-Philonous is an empiricist, so he believes that the only way we can come to receive knowledge is via the senses. Thus, to show that material objects do not exist, it is sufficient (for him) to show that there is no way to sense, directly or by inference, mind-independent material objects.
-For the immediate, directly, case: Philonous gets the reader to agree that “all we immediately perceive of an object are its sensible qualities”. He also gets “sensible things themselves are nothing but sensible qualities”, insofar as they are sensible.
-P starts with pain, saying that pain and pleasure certainly can’t exist outside the mind. He tries to link heat to pain. Essentially, he is able to show that intense heat is felt by a sentient being as pain, and matter is non-sentient and matter cannot feel pain (therefore intense heat), and therefore heat can only be experienced by a mind and is therefore mind-dependent (and the same is true for all temperatures).
-The mind-dependent nature of sensible experience is also shown by Berkeley using perceptual relativity (water can’t be cold and warm at once, but you can experience that if you put one hand in oven first, etc).
180-192 -> 198-210
-He does the same thing for all the other senses (lighting, taste, etc).
-He shows that the same is true for shape, size, and motion (things that appear big depend on ones distance to it, and things that appear to be moving depend on how the observer is moving).
192-199 -> 210-217
-Hylas tries to object, saying that surely there exists some “general” size, fast, slow, qualities of an object. But is shot down.
-Leads into Hylas saying “but surely there must be something out there, that supports all of these sensible qualities. There is a substratum”. This leads to mediate discussion, about how things can’t been shown to exist via inference/mediated. But Phil ask where would be get the idea of a substratum, though, because by definition it has no qualities? So, we must know it via reason (that is, sort of by inference or indirectly), but if it supports qualities, then it must be in a sense spread out among the world, but extension is a sensible quality so it can’t be that. Thus, the entire thing is bogus.
200-203 -> 218-221
-He begins with “you can’t think of an object without actually thinking of it”, as an analogy, you can’t see an unseen object because the second you see it it’s not unseen. This leads to ensuring that we cannot even conceive of an object that exists outside of all minds.
203-208 -> 221-226.
-Phil responds to the idea that our ideas are just representations of real-world things. He says that obviously this can’t be the case, because our ideas of things are made up purely of “sensible qualities”, and thus our idea of something to actually resemble the “real thing” is impossible because the “real thing” would have to be these sensible things, and we know that those sensible things exist only in one’s mind.
208-210 -> 228-230.
-Berkeley will explain idealism and get Hylas out of the mode where he believes nothing exists. Hylas’ objection to the previous dialogue is that the brain actually does all the sensing, but then Phil says no that’s not possible because the brain is just an idea, and that means that one idea is responsible for all others (says nothing about a material thing actually existing, thus, I guess?)
-Phil reveals that he thinks that sensible objects really do exist: that they exist as ideas in the mind. He says Hylas only denies, now, that sensible objects have real existence because “real existence” to him is synonymous with “existing independently outside the mind”. He just needs to broaden his scope for what “real existence” means.
210-215 -> 230-235.
-Berkelely’s idealism: all that exist are ideas, and minds that conceive them called “spirits”. Some of these ideas are “real things” and some are not, so products of our imagination are not real tables, chairs, etc. Same with our memory. “real things” exist in this idea-space as well, and those real things are collections of sensations. You tell the difference between real and unreal because real things are more vivid and come involuntarily (thus, we do not cause them).
-Because we do not cause these sensations and they come to us outside our will, God must be the cause of them.
-Objects exist if God perceives them. God brings things into existence by conceiving them. He continues their existence by continuing to perceive them. When God lets us access his collections of ideas, he ensures that he provides them with some “laws of nature”, in which any time the idea is requested that has the property of “fire”, then the sense “heat” is included. All spirits exist in God’s mind.
215-221 -> 235-241
-Hylas raises the objection “perhaps God causes our ideas via the use of matter?” Phil says that everything, we have shown, is an idea, and because ideas are inert and passive, they cannot cause anything. Only will can cause things.
-Well, what if God uses matter as an instrument to cause ideas in us? Phil says that, for one, what would this instrument be, because it can’t have any sensible qualities (as shown previously). And why would God need an instrument? He can do everything with will power.
-Another suggestion is that there is some unthinking stuff out there, and when we get near it God excites ideas in our mind that are associated with that stuff.
-Lastly, Hylas says maybe matter is just totally unknown. But Phil says that if it exists in space then it must be in the mind, because (space and extension only exist in the mind).
-Hylas worries that we can’t actually access the structure of material things, with this new worldview. How can we know what gold is really like? Can we not only know the color, shape, texture, etc. Phil says that there is nothing beyond the sensible qualities, so he doesn’t have to worry about missing out on info.
- “ease is percipi” that is, perceiving is existing. So in his idealism, when we perceive something, that makes it exist.
- If you die, what happens to the sensible objects? Will they stop existing? No, they depend on God’s mind.
-If ideas are inert and God is active, how can we have an idea of God? Or any spirit (because it must be willing)? It is true, we can’t have an idea of God or any spirit. We know God exists by the prior proof. We know we exist by reflection. We apparently get a notion of God by taking the notion of ourselves and expanding it. We know, mostly likely, that other spirits exist by evidence.
-If God causes everything, he must cause evil, too? Phil says that the normal Christian view is no different than his view with regard to this matter, so he doesn’t need to defend it.
-What about a stick under water that appears bent; how is this explained? Well, you’re wrong in your judgement, but the manner in which the ideas occur are regular, and so you should have anticipated that this is not how the stick appears outside the water.
-If God contains our ideas, how could he be perfect (feeling pain is an imperfection)? God doesn’t sense the ideas, he only knows them intellectually. Only when we look at the ideas in God, we perceive them.
-What about science and all it’s showing? Well, actually, science is just revealing relations between things, nothing more. It doesn’t rely on material things. Science discovers patterns in our ideas.
-We do not see the same object that we feel, these are all different and we just pretend that the sight of the cherry and the feel of the cherry are coming from the same object. Apparently, even, if you perceive something at different times, it’s a different object.
-Moreover, no two perceivers can ever see the same thing. Since, whatever that idea is cannot be in both minds at once, there must be one idea in one mind and another in the other. Thus everyone has different experiences. But this is not new. Even materialists have this problem.
-Does this make God a deceiver? No, no evidence for that.
-He makes sure that everything said goes along with scripture.
-He gives all the benefits.