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Yolton Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1979), pp. 207-234 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2709149 Accessed: 24/11/2010 09:38
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AS IN A LOOKING-GLASS: PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN
BY JOHN W. YOLTON
Anyone working within the history of thought appreciates the importance of small phrases, even single words, for illuminating the context of arguments and claims. The presence in a particular author of some phrase taken from a prior tradition does not, of course, necessarilymean that the author has accepted that earlier doctrine or theory, certainly not without modifications. But such words and phrases do serve as signals to us of reverberationsof some doctrine which it behooves us to track down. We can decide later to what extent the prior history of that doctrine does help us understand its eighteenth-centuryuse. There are three such phrases which play a role in studying theories of perception in the eighteenth century. When Hume says, "'tis universally allow'd by philosophers, and is besides pretty obvious of itself, that nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions,"'we may think of Malebranche's remark: "Je croi que tout le monde tombe d'accord, que nous n'appercevons point les objets qui sont hors de nous par euxmemes."2 When Hume links the notion of what is "present with the mind" to the further claim that "the very being, which is intimately present to the mind, is the real body or material existence,"3 we may think we hear an echo of Descartes' notion of the objective reality of ideas. Hume's struggleswith the single and double existence views may be seen as an eighteenth-centuryBritish version of Cartesianism, the notion that ideas have a dual reality, as modes of mind and as bearers of the reality of objects. That Hume's discussion does reflectthis Cartesiandoctrine is, I think, clear, but not quite in the way in which Arnauld and Malebranche (who were much closer in time to Descartes) reflected Descartes' formulation. Much other discussion and transformationof the doctrine had occurred before Hume wrote his analysis. Philosophical theories hardly ever stand still. They are absorbed but modified almost as soon as the next writer turns his attention to the problems which the theory was to solve. But the occurrence of that phrase in Hume, "present with the mind," is a
1 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (London, 1739). Quotations are from the Selby-Bigge edition; here, 67. 2 Malebranche, De la recherche de la verite (Paris, 1674). Citations are from the edition of Genevieve Rodis-Lewis, in the Oeuvres Completes (Paris, 1972). 3 Treatise, 206. The reference here is to I, 413: Book III, Part II, Ch. I. 207
both for existence and for knowledge." A Collection of Papers Which passed between the late Learned Mr." Dialogue. where it Is not. 181. . Citations are to the Works of George Berkeley. in his exchange with Leibniz.8 Berkeley also mentions that Isaac Barrow cited Tacquet's language of visible points. had given an explicit formulation of it: "How the Soul of a Seeing Man."5he is just repeating a claim which he himself had made earlier and one which is found in many other writers prior to Hume's Treatise. 218-38. or be Acted upon. 9 Ibid. 356-57. Clarke. 1759). I. In fact. 82. For example. because nothing can Act. probably taken from a tradition in optics. it is Sect."7While Hume talks of physical and mathematicalpoints (he rejects the latter for perception) in the rest of this section. Porterfield cited Newton in support of this principle. and therefore our Mind can never perceive any thing but its own proper Modifications. he makes no attempt to explain this remark about the senses and "coloured points. III. 1709). 220. Here. II. dispos'd in a certain manner. or be Acted upon where it is not." We can recall Berkeley's discussion of perceptual minima. 373-88. we know not: But we are sure it cannot perceive what it is not present to. 8 New Theory of Vision (Dublin. Clarke (London.9 4 I have made a start at tracing the history in "On Being Present to the Mind: A Sketch for the History of an Idea. Luce. 6"An Essay Concerning the Motions of our Eyes." in Medical Essays (Edinburgh. 204-05. sees the Images to which it is present. 7 Treatise. In many writers. 1737). ed. this notion of what is present to the mind was linked with a dictum about the location of things. YOLTON significant indication of one of the ingredients in his thought about perception and our knowledge of external objects. 30. 1717).4 When William Porterfieldsays that "OurMind can never perceive any thing but its own proper Modifications and the various States and Conditions of the Sensorium to which it is present. that phrase had an interesting history from the Cartesians through the eighteenth century. see my "Pragmatism Revisited: An Examination of Professor Rescher's Conceptual Idealism. by A. Sect. and the various States and Conditions of the Sensorium to which it is present.. of seeing visible points. 83-84. Leibniz and Dr. Porterfieldwrites in 1737: "nothing can Act. and is invoked almost as a litany. A."6 Optical theories and the language of optics also played a role in leading some writers to the conclusion that perceptions are what is present to the mind. There are many optical examples in Hume." Idealistic Studies (1976). 34. One curious phrase. The fact that that phrase runs throughout the Treatise (it occurs in the Enquiry also). 5A Treatise on the Eye (London. suggests that it may have been frequently used by the writers Hume was reading. 14(1975). is Hume's remark in his section on space and time: "But my senses convey to me only the impressions of colour'd points. For a brief discussion of one very recent use of this notion.208 JOHN W.
Newton's Axiom VI in his Opticks speaks of rays flowing from points of the object. 3 Vasco Ronchi. how we locate this figure or image (Ronchi uses Hobbes' term "phantasm") where the object is. a physiological process (formation of retinal image. This is the French translationof his L'Ottica. "Le monde apparent. of rays of light and of points on the retina. scienza della visione (Bologna. Hume's perceptions). we locate the phantasm or perceptionwhere the object is.Maurolico and Kepler) on geometric optics used the same language. c'est-a-direde figures qui n'ont pas de corps. Vasco Ronchi describes the way in which it was said that an extended object reflects rays on to the retina. Ronchi's fascinating account of optical theory sketches some of the ways in which the apparent world. New York. est donc un produit psychique. une creation de l'observateur. 14lbid. L'Optique. 12 1704. 1966). impulses along optic nerve). there producing a "system of points. 1974). sa luminosite et ses couleurs. under precise conditions.un ensemble de phantasmes."" The suspicion that optical theories (not just Berkeley's) play some role in Hume's referenceto "coloured points" is further supportedby the recognition that earlier writers (in particular. 1955). (Dover Reprint." These pictures. avec ses figures. Sometimes.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 209 These referencesremind us that much of the discussion of vision in optical treatises talks in terms of the geometry of vision. but we normally take these to be the objects. "En effet. What we see is the apparent world. built from the details supplied by the sense organs. 49. 1 Ibid. Axiom VII says that the rays from all the points of the object meet again after converging by reflection or refraction. Science de la Vision (Paris. Hobbes' phantasms (perhaps we might suggest. de fagon a pouvoir y poser les objets et lui trouver. in the eye." from which is derived "a luminous and coloured figure. 15.a psychic entity of light and colors: 10Opticks. on which they fall. identique a la table materielle."'3Ronchi remarks that seeing is for Kepler the result of a physical agent (rays of light). mais seulement un aspect. See Ronchi'sPreface to Paul-MarieMaurin'sFrench translation of Hobbes's De Homine (Paris."'4A collection of phantasms."'0Thus. In his account of these early writers. I am indebted to Professor Jeffrey Barnouw for calling this work to my attention. our phantasms. . are the cause of Vision."'2The problemfor Kepler was. 37. and a psychic or psychological representation (the apparent world). 1952). What is present to us are our perceptions. 15-16. celui que l'on voit.. and there to paint the Picture of the Object upon that skin. en la touchant. 'voir la table' signifie creer un phantasme. They "make a Picture of the Object upon any white Body. des dimensions et la position que la vue lui donne. can supply us with information about the object world. "propagatedby Motion along the Fibres of the Optick Nerves into the Brain. et le localiser exactment ou celle-ci se trouve. light is conveyed "in so many Points in the bottom of the Eye.
what is on the screen is the image of the building we photographed.we see all of them on the same surface. just as there are even more passages where he cites and uses the physiology of animal spirits. stars. comme ils ne sont pas les nuages reels. dit-on que l'image vue est l'objet?"'5He goes on to draw out many analogies between the eye and the film and between the eye as a lens and the camera lens. a sort of screen for the objects we see there: clouds. would think of sayirg the image on the screen is the building. Nevertheless. meme si elles sont aussi variables. He also cites a fact about vision which is relevant to our study: when we look up into the sky. YOLTON for Ronchi. had a theory of vision. au contraire. Newton. we see a dome. they appear to be on a common plane. c'est-a-dire a cette distance au-dela de laquelle elle n'a plus aucune information."'6 Ronchi's book is useful for fixing in our minds how. the understanding compared to a camera obscura. . objects seen in mirrors. These objects are in fact at varying distances from us and from each other. quand il s'agit de la vision. No one. elle les localise tous a la distance maximale possible. Am I suggesting that Hume.g. In 15 Ibid. "Pourquoi. When this film is developed and then projectedonto a screen. These perceptualtheories still employed optical language and they made use of optical examples. even that the problem of perception for him was a problem in optics? Such a suggestion would be too strong. this feature of Kepler's theory is most important for understanding perception. Ce sont seulement des phantasmes que la psyche de l'observateur cr6e et localise oui elle peut et comme elle peut. we might be led to formulate a problem of perception in the way in which Hume did. Ronchi concludes that "les figures vues sur la vouiteceleste ne sont pas les corps celestes.. the eye compared to a lens. and several other eighteenth-century writers (all of whom I suspect Hume knew). Comme elle n'a aucun moyen de sentir des distances aussi grandes. rather than about vision. in terms of a double (phantasm and real object) or a single (real object only) existence. 41. Ronchi makes effective use of the photographicpicture. e.. From these facts about vision and about the distancesof the objects seen in the sky.210 JOHN W. moon. Ronchi remarks. although there are a number of passages in the Treatise which show that Hume knew the basic facts about vision." Besides the optical theories of Berkeley. from facts about vision. But Hume was not writing an "optics. 45. like Berkeley. The action of the rays of light on the film or plate is well known. there were philosophical theories of perception. ni les etoiles filantes. sun. having many details similar to those of the building.. In developing the notion that what we see is the apparent world. These were theories about perceptual acquaintance. 1 Ibid.
166. to indicate a recognition of the psychic or psychological element in perception. . 497. by the Similitude of it to a dark Room.""17 native was to follow Arnauld's lead in distinguishing spatial from cognitive presence. An Essay Towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World (London. Robert Hooke remarks that Della Porta. It was only when the optical model was replaced by a cognitive one that writers were able to point the way around skepticism with regard to external objects. Either the image seen is taken to be the very thing itself or. among others. these optical examples controlled the analysis of perceptual acquaintance. we are said to see both image and object: "As in a Looking-glass. The role and nature of ideas in these theories are also traced. Perceptual Optics-Comparing the eye to a camera obscura was a standard practice in writings on optics. 18 The phrase is Humphrey Ditton's. of what one writer in England called the "Apprehension of the Thing seen or heard. but I feel my very self otherwise Modified. 19This paper is part of a larger study in which I examine theories of perception from Descartes to Reid.19 1. Arnauld's distinction is found in his Des vraies et des fausses idees (Paris. 1683) in his Oeuvres completes. Norris is here giving a commentary on Christopher Scheibler's discussion of the question. and Galileo. is made as whereby it were and placedupon the Wall or Sheetwithin: This Sheet says he in the 17John Norris. . the Pictureof all those Objectsthat are withoutthe Room.andto unitethemin theirdistinctand properplacesupon a Wall or Sheetof Paperat a convenientDistancewithin. 1712). in what I call an Act of Perception."It is with the analyses of perceptual acquaintanceand of the act of perception that this paper is concerned. 216. as to roundHole. Ideally or Vertually contain'd in God?" (165). but does also at the The altersame time actually behold Peter or Paul whose Image it is. the latter being rendered as "known": objects are objectively present to the mind when they are known by the mind. used this way of explaining the workings of the eye. 1701). "Whether Created things are the Object of the Divine Understanding of their own Beings. I. the question is one of relating or matching the image seen with the object. Norris himself insisted that "I do not feel any thing that is out of my self. XXXVIII. in which he that looks does indeed immediately behold the Species in the Glass. the Organ of Vision the Eye. He uses the language of presence locale and presence objective. into which no other Light is admittedbut what entersby one Lens is placed so. Hooke refers to Descartes' use of this model: He explains then . When perception is considered in visual and optical terms. in whicha convenientConvexrefracting collectall the Rays fromObjectswithout. or only as they are Eminently. Kepler. A Discourse Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (London."18Ditton carefully distinguished between the physical and physiological aspects of perception and what he nicely characterizedas "that Acquaintance which I have with an Object. in some unexplained manner. . and Existing after Another manner than I did before" (199).PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 211 varying degrees.
" a duplicate of the outer world." This box contained a hole "large enough to put one's Face into it."25 With his notion of the eyes providing the brain with hands to touch objects. al-Kindi. as if it touched the Object. he compares the action of the eye. as there are differing Points for emisSince Hooke accepted a plenum. With such a box. to a lens for collecting light from the sun to burn: "Now the Action of the Eye being much the same upon the Rays of Light. one could look in and "see the Species or Pictures of outward Objects upon the bottom."24 The substance of the Retina "is affected or moved by the very same Action.. 1680).212 JOHN W. op. I. 121. in which all the appearances that are made in the Eye are in some manner represented. Hooke describes a "PerspectiveBox. 124. and when a Hemisphere of the Heavens is open to its view. 23 The notion of the instantaneous propagation of light was a common doctrine. however. as well as Grosseteste. cit. he says. Theories of Light from Descartes to Newton (London. with the Motion of the lucid Object it self. from any Luminous Object with this of the Burning Glass. 127-28. and Descartes."'' For Hooke the eyes were not only our special access to the world. or Representation of all outward Objects" preserved point by point on the retina. At least."22 us in an instant of what is happening in the world. for every distinct Point without it self in the Universe.. the eye informs sion of Radiations. Avicenna. In these lectures. 1967). Witelo. 22Ibid.. The eye. Memory. it follows that the Eye does by its Power bring all visible Objects into the bottom of it. has "a distinct Point within it self. and touches the Objects. 21 Ibid. Hooke shows a strong influence from Descartes." These impressions are then communicated to the brain. The eye in fact "becomes as it were a Hand. wherein there are as many Respective Points for Reception of the Radiations. they were a "Microcosm. and at the same Instant. We find in his further account a material or corporeal notion of ideas. we have a "perfect Picture. in collecting rays. and make an Impression on the retina. YOLTON Eye." as well as the necessary hole with a lens for letting in light. Hooke was unable. or a little World. Kepler. he says. See A. 1705). on which the Picture of all Objects without the Eye are as it were painted and described.20 In these same lectures. it has a Hemisphere within it self. Galen. in The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke (London. is the Tunica Retina. the same. 24 Hooke. by creating a Motion in the Retina. held by Aristotle. by which the Brain feels.. is an organ in the brain. Averroes. Sabra.23In another passage. 123. 20 . the same as if the very Action of the Object were immediately there. 46-47. 25Ibid. Hooke's optics give us something close to direct realism. 98. to explain our awareness of these little images. It is "a Repository of Ideas formed partly by the "Lectures on Light" (London.
but it is "every where as it were actually present. occupy a place. and motions from thence continued to the brain may be conceived. by Donald W. See.. This action is attention: "the Soul in the Action of Attention does really form some material Part of the Repository into such a Shape. qui se peint dans mon cerveau" (entry. see Robert F.) David Hartley might be thought to have come close to making ideas into brain states."29 Locke also did not profess to understand the transition from brain impression to awareness.. 34.g. But it is not easy to find explicit identifications of ideas with brain states. Observations on Man (London. ed. Hume may be following Hooke. Bonnet was often compared with Hartley." He seems to mean this talk quite literally. Livingston and James T. 29 Other writers were stressing the importance of physiology in awareness. 1760)."26Impressions from the sensesthose impressions being actual motions-are carried to the memory where they become powers "sufficientto effect such Formations of Ideas as the Soul does guide and direct them in. but he even drops a hint that the sphere of influence of the soul may extend "out of the Body. Also." The soul's action is necessary for the formation of ideas. and Size of Hume's Perceptions. I think I understand. Anderson.. I am persuaded. The soul is incorporeal."Impressionsmade on the retina by rays of light. 28 Ibid. King [New York. Charles Bonnet. 'The Location. who was known in Britain. Extension. A Re-evaluation. more permanent traces than sensations do. but in a manner to me incompre26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. Even though he does sometimes speak of ideas leaving traces. his Essai Analytique sur les Facultes de I'Ame (Copenhagen. and that these produce ideas in our mind. though yet it may be supposed to be more immediately and forcefully present in the Centre of its Being. Descartes did identify ideas or images with brain impressions. at the end of the century. but chiefly by the Soul it self. stressed the close links between ideas and brain impressions but he never drew an identity. of supposing that ideas have a size and bulk. although he proceeds to help us understandit by making "a mechanicaland sensible Figure and Picture thereof. Hume appears to be serious when.As he said to Malebranche. in every point of the Sphere of its Radiation. but he always maintained that sensations and ideas are "of a mental Nature. "Idee". Shape. and that to some considerable Distance."28He does not understand how the incorporeal soul can act on corporeal ideas. in his Dictionnaire). 140. 153-71. in some of his early writings. some (such as Anthony Collins) even moved towards the theory of Joseph Priestley. e. (For a discussion of this passage in Hume. and gives it some such a Motion as is from the Senses conveyed thither. .. he does not explicitly locate those traces in the brain. in the section on the immateriality of the soul he speaks of some ideas being extended. Voltaire says an idea is "une image.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 213 Senses. that thought is a property of the brain. 1749)."27His talk then becomes that of supposing." in Hume. 146. 141-42." while vibrations of nerve fibres are corporeal. 1976].
like that thing of which it is the Idea. on the inside of which. and the centre somewhere in the crystaline". surroundingthings were somehow produced?"(Problems From Locke [Oxford. 1707) speaks of our eyes as natural glasses. for him to see. in some measure at least. IX. by striking on distinct parts of the retina". Thus a man's Face in the Glass is properly the Idea of that Face" (2)."30Locke's ideas were not brain impressions. of how the bottom of the eye is far from being a point. Sect. fairly faithful pictures of outside. in his careful critique of Locke (Anti-Scepticism.He was writing to show how an optical species theoryin distinction from the peripatetic species theory against which Malebranche wrote-explains vision. 1823). In his recent discussionof Locke and the representative theory. Malebranche. YOLTON hensible. moon. 32 . of ideas not objects being present to the mind. Sect. of ideas conforming to things. John Witty (The First Principles of Modern Deism Confuted. when Locke compared the understanding of man to a camera obscura. even a whole expanded world" (26). 31 Ibid. since it takes up on the retina an area whose diameter is at least thirty seconds of a circle. 1713) makes heavy appeal to the looking-glass: in such a glass. and of how "few eyes can perceive an object less than thirty minutes of a circle. whereof the eye is the centre. being brought into the eye by the rays of light". London. whereof the circumference is in the retina. Collier goes on to apply the parallel to all perception: the images seen in normal vision do not 30 Examination of the Opinions of P. "I see sun.was he unduly influencedby the optical details?When he talks of ideas resemblingprimary qualities. 217. 1702). Works (London. Henry Lee. He spoke of the "visible appearances of bodies. and stars. 1976]. was Locke transferring Hooke's microcosm notion to the understanding?Was there some temptation to think of our awareness being like the face at the Perspective Box scanning the images on the wall of the box?32 Other writers used visual images when talking about perception. 10. L. London. 44). But Collier observes that even those who maintain an external world admit that the objects or images in the looking-glass are not the same as the external objects.214 JOHN W."31 Thus. of the way in which the rays of light "cause their distinct sensations. In using that model for the understanding. Arthur Collier (Clavis Universalis. "Whatif someone ever since birth had had a large box attachedin front of his eyes. especially with optical accounts of the eye. J. That Locke was well acquaintedwith the physiology of perception. Mackie makes use of a device very much like Hooke's PerspectiveBox.. of how the "figures they paint there must be of some considerable bigness. and. says that the proper sense of "idea" is "a visible Representation or Resemblance of the Object. 9. is indicated by his detailing the facts about the eye to Malebranche. he did so in full knowledge of this model for the eye.
People have not always understood that the sun and stars. but the Perspective Box model can raise problems about our knowledge of the external world. 190). for example. but only their images (op. A. are larger than they appear to be. now closer. where he distinguishesthe cause of light from the idea of light "as it is such a particularperception in us. does not surprise Hobbes." What to us may sound strangein this same passage of the Essay-the talk of tennis balls bouncing. 34Traite de l'homme. 36The editor points out that the two different Latin words.36Later chapters of this treatise identify the apparent place of the object as the place of the image in direct vision (59). our phantasms. for which philosophers are noted.34Maurin remarksthat in this work Hobbes considers the rays of light from objects as "un code qui. Traduction et commentaire par Paul-Marie Maurin. also 51n. analyse instant par instant par l'observateur.. 35Ibid. Descartes and earlier writers attempted to explain refraction and reflection in terms of impact. having seen sensible objects reflected in mirrors and in water. lumen and lux distinguish light as a physical phenomenon from light as a visual appearance. not as emanations from the object but as phenomena of our inner world. now smaller. because no one so far. (55-56.4. Hooke was not bothered by any of those worries. now farther away. donne a ce dernier la possibilite de recreer instant par instant un univers de phantasmes qui constitue une bonne imitation de l'univers reel. Ronchi stresses the importance of this distinction in the history of vision. Hobbes. . 29. n. That writers on vision have so far been unable to explain why objects appear now larger. They used examples of balls thrown against different surfaces and reboundingfrom them. and 33 Arnauld identifies as one of three reasons for philosophersaccepting ideas as real beings (as Malebranchedid) that. points out how this work sits firmly in the tradition of explanation of the location of visual images. Preface par Vasco Ronchi (Paris. as a way of conceiving of light-is another indication of Locke's knowledge of optics. as Sabra has pointed out. 12) He interpretssuch a view as idealism. For. 1974).33 Vision has always been taken as the model for perception and understanding. has had the idea of considering light (lux) and color. Locke's Essay.2. Maurin reads Hobbes as saying all that we are aware of are our images.."35 In chapter II of this treatise. Cf. they come to believe that they never see bodies themselves. Light thus figured is called an image. he says. a distinctionwhich he laments has not always been followed.-Vasco Ronchi in his preface to Paul-Marie Maurin's translation of Hobbes's De Homine. That world for him was all but present to the mind in vision.10. all animate beings judge that that vision is the vision of the object. See ChapterIV in his book.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 215 differ from those seen in the looking-glass. By an institution of nature. Hobbes speaks of a distinct and figured vision occurring when light (lumen) or color forms a figure of which the parts originate from the parts of the object and stand in a one-to-one correspondence to those parts of the object. 3. about our knowledge of the external world. cit.
. It was just this question which is played out by subsequent writers in Britain.37Just what their status was may not always be clear. a tower at different distances]. though he knows the sun to be truly a great deal bigger. which make us distinguish them from one another. save man. was annihilated. by W. He never did deny appearances. between physical events and psychological awareness. as idealism. 38 The English Works of Thomas Hobbes."38Later in this work. so also a moved body leaves a phantasm of its motion. sounds. Molesworth. Man would still have the ideas of the world.here as formerly. but we do it sitting in our closets 7 See my "Locke and the Seventeenth-CenturyLogic of Ideas. He then says: "All which things. "For when we calculate the magnitude and motions of heaven or earth. especially by Berkeley and Hume. 5 (Pt. etc. "whether that phantasm be matter. and that there be such phantasms we know well enough by nature" (66). etc." as well as their order. is open to some doubt. he uses the term "idea" in close conjunction with-sometimes even as a synonym for"phantasm. the Elements of Philosophy speaks of the effects and appearance of things to sense as "faculties or powers of bodies.. All references to Hobbes will be to this edition.216 JOHN W. but his use of "thought" or "conception" in earlierwritings. has a certain shining idea of the magnitude of about a foot over." Even when the world does still exist. an idea or phantasm of a body" (108). we work only with our phantasms. Sometimes."reinforces the fact that he was not saying all is matter and motion. an idea of that body passing out of one space into another by continual succession" (94). of bodies. 16 (Oct. Hobbes says that "The first beginnings.. or some body natural. Ch. happening internally to him that imagineth. 39Other passages where "idea" occurs with "phantasm"are: "As a body leaves a phantasmof its magnitude in the mind. he assumes that the whole world. we do not ascend into heaven that we may divide it into parts.Whether we can so quickly take the distinction between lumen and lux."39The question then is.e. 1955). in like manner. and not at all depending upon any power of the mind. as well as of "idea. volume and page indicated in the text. . But it is important to appreciate that Hobbes has not changed his views in this late treatise. therefore. I). and this he calls the sun. or measure the motions thereof. Section 2." JHI. 435-39. YOLTON he is puzzled as to how such an idealism can be superimposedupon Hobbes's materialism. I. of knowledge are the phantasms of sense and imagination.. or only some accident of body"? As a way of answering this question. For example. motions. and. yet they will appear as if they were external. and sometimes square [i. the phantasm of the same thing appears sometimes round . ed.. though they be nothing but ideas and phantasms. 3. colours.""A man that looks upon the sun. namely. by space I understand. "Now.: "that is the memory and imagination of magnitude.
are to be enquired into . 40Malebrancheused this point about the mind not ascendinginto the heavens to draw his conclusion that what is present to the mind are ideas. 2). These experiences show us that color and images generally "may be there where the thing seen is not" (4-5). it is I think of necessity that the mind should go to the objects. or the Phenomena of Nature." in the chapter on "Sense and Animal Motion."40 Hobbes then proceeds to consider the species of external things. Elle ne les voit donc point par eux-memes . not things. therefore." (Recherche. 1). He goes on in the same work to speak of conceptions "proceedingfrom the action of the thing itself. "Nous voyons le Soleil. or [appearing] to have a being without us. les Etoiles. Hobbes's Human Nature. . for. that is. for the objects are not present with the mind: "Now as we cannot suppose that the objects come to the mind. "not as really existing. being a doing.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 217 or in the dark." He cites seeing the sun and other visible objects reflectedin water and glasses. pour ainsi dire. being done" (392). in Part IV on "Physics. The act of sense differs from sense "no otherwise . Sense is also said to be "the judgment we make of objects by their phantasms. they must be present together" [William Knight: Lord Monboddo and Some of His Con- Lord Monboddo. namely. was convinced that the mind does transportitself to a place where the body is not. the causes of our perception. et qu'elle aille. 231]. II (Edinburgh. . the eighteenth century. Leviathan speaks of the thoughts of man." It is the way the world appears that he analyzes. . I. se promenerdans les cieux pour y contemplertous ces objets. . imagination. than fieri.. but appearing to exist. Later. since that is all that we can analyze. Or." By sight. some way or other. 1782). The faculty by which we have such knowledge is the cognitive power. Hobbes writes "thought or phantasm" (398). . that is. The having of images is "that we call our conception. et il n'est pas vraisemblableque l'ame sorte du corps. that is. The image seen by reflection in a glass "is not any thing in or behind the glass. The FundamentalElements of Policy even speaks of "certain images or conceptions of the things without us" (Works. The same argument is found in Monboddo'sAntient Metaphysics. 413-14).vol. two senses of light are distinguished: motion in and from the object and the appearanceor image. Thus again. differs from factum esse. characterizing them as "a representation or appearance.. "we have a conception or image composed of colour and figure. The word "conception" is also used. III. notice or knowledge of them" (3). idea.""In the first place. of some quality." The image and color are "but an apparition to us" of the motion of object and nerves. In some passages. IV." (389). Mental discourse is a "train of thought" (11). et une infinited'objetshors de nous. or other accident of a body without us" (Works. the causes of those ideas and phantasmswhich are perpetually generated within us whilst we make use of our senses." "perception" is linked with "ideas. late in temporaries(1900). by comparing and distinguishing those phantasms" (393).
41 Both these ways of determining or judging distance (or the location of objects) are 41 Malebranche notes the role of the sensation felt in the eyes when we try to focus on objects very near to us. 4-8)." (27-28). Though the sun itself be a real body. 32.218 JOHN W. "Berkeley's 'Proper Object of Vision. "En effet lorsqu'on force sa vuie pour voir de fort pres un petit objet. Berkeley. III. on sent l'effort des muscles qui compriment les yeux. also G. Leviathan made this point firmly: "And though at some certain distance. For a recent discussion of Berkeley. Reid. in Oeuvres Completes. in Seven Philosophical Problems.'" JHI. in the context of geometrical theories of optics. 38(1977). et qui fait meme de la peine a ceux-la principalement qui n'ont point pris I'habitude de regarder de pres de petits objets" (Eclaircissement XVII. certainly in his last work. unless there be two suns . and the Mathematization of Mid-Eighteenth Century Optics. cites as examples of fancy both "the appearanceof your face in a lookingglass" and an after image." Moreover. 38(1977). however. 27). 21). "a spot before the eye that hath stared upon the sun or fire" (Works. Insteadof judging distance by the "bigness of the angle made by the meeting of the two optic axes" (Sect.although such terms as "thought" and "conception" indicate his generalizing of the double existence view. Berkeley argues that distance perception is based upon (1) the sensations we feel in our eyes when we widen or lessen the interval between the pupils (Sect. it seems to have been the visual image which Hobbes took as his standard. 333). 429-48. with some convincing evidence for his distinction between image and object. is that he did employ different terms. We have found that optical examples play a role in some of his earlier writings as well.." JHI.-The most striking case of a perception theory being based upon vision is that of Berkeley. The question Hume raised later. as the geometrical opticians claimed. What seems certain. yet that bright circle of about a foot diameter cannot be the sun. VII. Similarly. B. one of the speakers. Cantor's "Berkeley. His An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) addressed itself to the way in which we determine the distance of objects. 16) and (2) the degree of confusion in our vision of the object (Sect. Hobbes clearly answered as "double. He opens that work with a quick summary of different theories advanced earlier to explain how we determine the apparentplaces of objects (Sects. the real and very object seems invested with the fancy it begets in us. YOLTON We should perhaps be cautious in crediting too strong a psychological content to these various words used by Hobbes. of a single or double existence. yet still the object is one thing. all of which were his attempt to distinguish the way the world appears to us from the world itself. . . the image or fancy is another" (23). It was optics which provided Hobbes. Sect. 243-60. "So it is. N. De Homine. The other speaker then asks why that which "appears before your eyes" when you look towards the sun or moon is also not fancy? B replies. Thrane. 12). B. see G.
and motion are inseparable from color. or the most inward passions of his soul" (Sect. The locus objecti is always near to the perceiver (present with the mind) and the objecta constantly change. To speak more accurately on this last point. as he proceeds. Barrow about the locus objecti and the locus apparens. Berkeley uses other examples to make the same point: a distant tree. the suggestion is that what is seen does not exist outside the mind at any distance.I shallbe so far frombeingneara small." Here is the example Berkeley gives to support his conclusion: Suppose. Both seeing and touching reveal sensations near to me. his account of these two places becomes more radical. or anything moon." and since Berkeley here argues that extension. "The objects intromitted by sight would seem to him (as in truth they are) no other than a new set of thoughts or sensations. "in truth and strictnessof speech. coexistence of degrees of confusion with varying distances of objects (Sect. figure.luminousflatthat I shall and if I perceivenothinglike it. the degrees of confusion in vision. He attempts to explain a problem raised by Dr. a tower.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 219 a function of the coexistence of these experiences: coexistence of the sensations with the discovery of the place of objects.round. citing Molyneux's use of these two phrases. I standdirectlytowardsthe moon. which is only a round. placed at a distance. each whereof is as near to him as the perceptions of pain or pleasure. it is manifestthe objectvaries. But Berkeley claims even further that I do not touch what I see. this object having long since disappeared. and appeals to the second of the ways of judging distance. the objecta become a series of apparentia. But. I neither see distance . or that which I see. "whetherthe visible extension of any object doth not appear as near to him as the colour of that object?"Since "those who have had any thoughts of that matter" agree that colors are not "without the mind. luminousplain of about For in case I am carriedfromthe place where thirtyvisiblepointsin diameter. 25). 41). Thus. Section 44 then argues that "the immediate objects of sight are not so much as the idea or resemblanceof things. still as I go of the on. For such a person." I understand this phrase "not so much as" to be the same as "not. In Section 43. a man.for example. they reveal both sensations and sensations near to me. after a certain movement of my body. it mustbe by going back to the earthfrom whenceI set out (187). What leads me to think I am seeing a distant object is that I have found that my seeing has usually been accompanied or followed by touching. Let us see whatmoon this is sixty semi-diameters It is of: like the visible spoken plainit cannotbe the visiblemoon. he asks rhetorically.that looking at the moon I should say it were fifty or of the earthdistantfromme. and by the time that I am advancedfifty or sixty semi-diameters earth. wouldrecoverit. We can witness this double change by examining Berkeley's remarks about the man born blind who later gains his sight.
and that it is affected from without. p. when I affirm that there is a spiritual substance or support of ideas. where he is explaining what he means by "mind." or "comprehended" (i. in his Principles and Dialogues. . my phantasms. or a seal to make an impression upon wax. that what is known must be present to the mind. p. esse est percipi. that a spirit knows and perceives ideas" (234). 52. He was quite clear about his analysis of "present to" and "exist in": it means "perceived. Berkeley was fond of pointing out that the materialist's object. my perceptions. cannot be present to the mind.e." "soul. 202)." he says these words denote "a thing entirely distinct from them [his ideas]. This second feature is consistent with those various traditions from Aristotle to the Schoolmen and to Descartes which said that the object is present to the mind. Philonous says. in Works. To reinforce to Hylas that "exist in" has no literal sense.220 JOHN W. Berkeley's explication. "I know what I mean. 77. Early in the Principles. If those physical objects which we take to exist in external space distant from us can neither cause ideas in us nor be present to our mind. or. or by some being distinct from itself" (250). Philonous tells him that "when I speak of objects as existing in the mind or imprinted on the senses. 188). I have only my ideas. "understood"). Hooke's microcosm duplicate world turns out to be my world. This principle was meant to identify two features of his general account: that there is no aspect of objects which is insensible (his negative claim against the materialists) and that objects as known are in the mind." or "my self.""known.. as when bodies are said to exist in a place. Nor do I even see the ideas of things at a distance. II. which is the same thing. Berkeley's ideas are not modes of mind: they exist in the mind "not by way of mode or property. Principles. 190). wherein they In the exist. He agreed with many other writers that corporeal objects cannot cause awareness. References to the Dialogues are also to this same volume. the insensible. nor anything that I take to be at a distance" (Sect. My meaning is only that the mind comprehendsor perceives them. That dictum about no cognition at a distance." "spirit. corpuscularparticles of matter. but as a thing perceived in that which 42Berkeley. I would not be understood in the gross literal sense. of this notion of objects existing in the mind was summarized by his dictum. p. Principle 2. my perceptions. whereby they are perceived. 42. that is."42 third of his Three Dialogues. We seem to have a single existence. More importantly still. Nor does the corpuscular account of perception explain how ideas or perceptions arise. 45."where these two terms mean and designate the same thing. what is present there? Berkeley's answer is "visible objects" and "ideas. YOLTON it self. is at work here: "the things we see being in truth at no distance from us" (Sect. all visible objects "are only in the mind" (Sect.
87. cit. All these passages explicating the meaning of "exist in" indicate that Berkeley has to this extent escaped the control of the optical model for perception. see Sect. Philonous says that he does not say "I see things by perceiving that which representsthem in the intelligiblesubstance of God. I do not see what we are told by the second part of Tipton's remark. especially in the light of the history of the appeals to "presentto the mind." just what Berkeley means by "exists in the mind.For "exist in" turns out to have the same cognitive meaning as it did for Arnauld and Locke. Tipton recognizes this close linking of "exist in" with "perceived by. 49 (61).. was a frequent occurrence. or which is the same thing.43Berkeley gives the same analysis of "exist in" for "ideas in God's mind. 198). See Clarke's exchange with Leibniz. The Philosophy of Immaterialism (1974). of an infinite spirit" (215). the "real tree existing without" our minds "is truly known and comprehended by (that is. that "perceptionby the mind" means "existence in the mind.5: "For if these words (to be in the understanding) have any propriety. Tipton. . 45I. 43Cf."45He even allows that Luce's stressingof this linkage (Luce reads "in the mind" as an abbreviationfor "in direct cognitive relation to the mind") is "in a way right" (93). but I say." And what is perceived by the mind is not a mode of mind.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 221 perceives it" (237). It is the "Omnipresenteternal Mind. It means "to be perceived by." The passages I have cited seem to tell us unequivocally what that phrase means. via God's presence to all things and the presence of the images of things to our mind." not "perceivedby." For example. they signify to be understood. My trouble with this remark is that while Berkeley's translationof "exist in" by "perceivedor known by" does give us an intelligible explication. and produced by the will.44 In his recent study of Berkeley. To reinforce that the "that is" phrase is meant to explicate by offering a synonym. This definition appears in Locke's Essay in 1. which knows and comprehends all things" (231)." 44The comparing of God's knowledge of objects with our knowledge of them. Berkeley. C. Clarke and Newton on this point were typical of many writers in the century. C. What he says is that "if it is true that Berkeley regards existence in the mind as amounting to perceptionby the mind it is also true that he thinks of perception by the mind as coming down to the existence of an idea in the mind" (93-94).2. in denying that he is following Malebranche. exists in) the infinite mind of God" (235). the things by me perceived are known by the understanding. Philonous a bit later in the same Dialogue says: "All objects are eternally known by God." We need to know. Tipton's reluctance to accept this as Berkeley'sfull meaning is not clear. Arnauld: "Je dis qu'un objet est present a notre esprit. For the correspondingpassage in the Principles. have an eternal existence in his mind" (252). quand notre esprit l'apperqoit et le connoit" (op. This I do not understand."The troublesomephrase is "exist in. I.
Commentaries. 429.. e. The distinction betwixt entia Realia and entia rationis may be made as properly now as ever. His own position combined this vulgar view with the view of the philosophers: "thatthe things immediatelyperceived. ideas for Berkeley must be things. 229-30. he "really does hold that each sense datum is an entity" (185). vol. The latter was the view of Arnauld against Malebranche. 1748) denies that Malebranche's ideas are substances. not being a mode." In trying to wed these two opinions. 46 . "does want us to think of the appearance as itself a thing" (187). 49 Ibid. 66. together with the statement of those two opinions which he has combined. An eighteenth-century defender of Malebranche against Locke's attack. entities. YOLTON It is this last notion which leads Tipton to hang back from accepting Berkeley's explication of "exists in". Berkeley. "the very image which is present to the senses. 35. there is nothing wch is not an ens rationis"he replies: "I answer things are as real and exist in rerum natura as much as ever. Tipton has some good comments earlier about how reifying sensations or appearances leads away from direct to representative realism. Malebranche sur la nature. P. 23-24. in eighteenth-century Britain." "the horse is in the stable. Locke. Locke discusses this aspect of ideas.46Ideas for Malebranche were real beings. if not substances.47Berkeley's ideas are clearly not these sorts of spiritual things.g. the Books are in the study as before. There were. Berkeley never wavered from the claim that with the definition of "existence"as "percipi"and "percipere. et l'origine des Idees contre l'Examen de M. in Works. Dialogues. 244. Gerdil Barnabite (Defense du sentiment du P. They were substancelike.222 JOHN W."48Putting an objection to himself-"Well say you according to this new Doctrine all is but meer Idea."49Similar passages can be found in the Principles and the Dialogues. Tipton says "they are themselves the basic things in the sensible world" (191).50Nor did he ever follow Malebranche in making ideas into special entities. 35. Principles. 535. A careful inventory of the many passages on ideas in his writings. 205). 34.. As Hume was later to say of the ordinaryview. for Tipton is sure that. Berkeley's way of expressing this view is succinctly put at the end of his Dialogues: the vulgar opinion is that "those things they immediately perceive are the real things" (262). I. although he characterizes them as spiritual things (61).are ideas which exist only in the mind. yields the following summaryof Berkeley's account of our knowledge of objects: See. 47In his Examination of Malebranche. is with us the real body" (Treatise. even though there was no clear category in his metaphysics for characterizingthese beings. 48Philosophical 50 For example. for there are no other objects on his account. two main concepts of ideas: ideas as entities and ideas as the same as perceptions. Nor can we say that his ideas are the appearances of objects. Tipton says.
were there no external world. Other writers had accepted (1). and to have the Knowledge of all that is delineated within it. or ideas do not (can not?) exist apartfrom mind. but he agrees with Collier that we see nothing but ideas. 5. if there were not some external World. identifying what is present to the mind as our perceptions. and (5). 2. It was easier for people to accept (3). Hume on Single and Double Existence. (4). which do not hinder us from passing a Judgmentof it. (3). A number of philosophers. and the Perceptionthe Globe hath of it but one Act.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 223 1.-When Hume began reading in preparationfor writing a treatise on the human understanding. God would have made our ideas "appear to be at home in the Mind. There were a number of optical treatises addressing the question of where and how the visual image is located on or near the object. taking ideas or perceptions as a screen between perceivers and the world. What he objected to in Collier's Clavis Universalis was the claim that there is no external world.or thoughts. There was that tradition which invoked the dictum that what is known must be present to the mind. much as the Varnish takes the Form of the Work upon which it is laid" (11-12). 1718). as they do. to which we ascribe our perceptions. There was also a dual concept of ideas. Grove.appearExternal"(16-17). 6. in his Preface. more intelligible than Berkeley'spropositions (2) and (7). while insisting (as Porterfielddid) that there is a world of objects independent of our perceptions. and painted on the Inside with Birds. Whatis knownor perceived To exist in the mindmeansto be perceived or knownby the mind. He constructs an interestingmodel to illustratewhat it would be like did our ideas have no suggestions of externality: the Perspective Box turned perceiver. had adapted the knowledge of the structure and workings of the eye to cognitive theories about perceptual acquaintance." rather than. "Suppose then a hollow Globe endued with Perception. to signify and representwhich of our Ideas. where ideas became separately existing ob51 Grove (An Essay Towards a Demonstration of the Soul's Immateriality) (London. What is distinctive of Berkeley's analysis is (2) and (7). . even that it is impossible. It was apparently even easier to accept a veil of perception doctrine. Perceptionsor ideas are the thingsthemselves.51Skepticism seemed to many easier. is presentto (nearto) the mind. writes against Collier. Grove was confident that. on which we locate our images. is it not certainthat the Appearance which this Representationwould most naturally make to the Globe must be of something comprehendedwithin itself? And the same it would probably be with the Mind. 3. "having the appearanceof something External" (16. such as Hobbes and Berkeley. 4. 19).sensations. suggested that ideas are like a "thin Varnish spread over the Face of Nature. II. To be perceivedby the mindis the way thingsare in the mind. because they express outward Objects. Beasts and Fishes. the whole Delineation being within the Globe. Ideas are perceptions. 7. there was a number of traditions in philosophy which had been widely explored. Perceptions Thingsdo not (can not?) exist apartfrom mind. by the Rules of Divine Perspective. as Henry Grove urged.
this made them maintain.224 JOHN W. not objects.II of the Treatise) that he has shown earlier that "the notion of external existence. that there are certainobjectsreally existing withoutthe mind. or they were used either interchangeably or in close connection with perceptions. Hume accepts the esse est percipi dictum for perceptions but suggests that we (or our imagination) waive that dictum when we take our perceptions for the objects themselves. whereofthey themselveswere not on the operation the authors.to wit. he says that: men knowingthey perceivedseveralideas. Berkeley could not convince his readers (or us) that mind-dependencyis part of our ordinary belief about the world of objects.nor depending of their wills. Berkeley with one deft stroke cut a path out to a resolution: he said ideas are the very things themselves. but at the mind. those objectson the mind (64-65). we would have to find an explanation for how we come to consider perceptions. But in Hume's discussion of that opinion. that the immediate of in some corrected the mistake the vulgar. or having a subsistencedisof whichour ideasare only imagesor resemblances.as not being excitedfrom within. they degree same time run into anotherwhichseems no less absurd. The nature . and (b) we feign their continued existence when not perceived. Berkeley provided his contemporaries with a clear statement of the two points of view. Both Berkeley and Hume took seriously this notion that our ideas or perceptions are the objects. which are discontinuous and mind-dependent. when taken for something specificallydifferent from our perceptions" is absurd (188).those ideas or objects of perception had an existenceindependent of. and withoutthe mind. Hume was not entirely satisfied with his account of the way of viewing perceptions. In Principle 56. Almost all writers talked in terms of ideas or perceptions. and of the philosophical view of perceptions and objects.to be objects.IV. by imprinted That Hume accepts the identification of objects and perceptions is suggested by his reminder (in I. each can exist apart. the single and double existence view. Hume meets that problem by saying (a) perceptions are not necessarily related to other perceptions. YOLTON jects. Confronted with the difficulties in the attempts to accept perceptions as what is present to the mind and yet hold fast to a realism of objects. tinctfrombeingperceived. But philosophershaving that a contradiction do not exist withoutthe objectsof perception plainlyseen. we find the most systematic analysis in the century of both points of view. Thus. Berkeley did not flinch in the face of the one difficulty with his account: that objects become dependent upon mind. Hume saw that. if sense could be made of this ordinary view. and his view of the ordinary.withoutever dreaming was involved in those words. But no matter how hard he tried. being present to the mind. which we believe to be continuous and mind-independent. albeit ultimately God's mind. vulgar opinion.
which have appear'd in that narrow compass" of our mind (67-68). We never "can conceive any kind of existence. The materialist talks of a system of objects. There are no such impressions. the other does not.IV.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 225 or kind of identification between perceptions and objects is revealed in Hume's phrase.. not of any particular existing thing (66). The reverse is equally true: "the idea of a being is any idea we please to form. To be able to conceive of something specifically different from ideas and impressions. either of finite minds or of an infinite mind. objects) would have to be present to the mind. When Hume applies this reasoning to the idea of external existence. there would need to be an impression just of existence. 242). and that external objects become known to us only by those perceptions they occasion" (67). Another way of putting Hume's point is to show how two objects differ just in that one exists. The immaterialist (whom Hume is satirizing in this section) talks of the system of thoughts ." To oppose what Hume says here would be to show that the idea of entity.V). in which ideas are essentially different from objects. This philosophy. immaterial. and different from others in the same particular"(67). we conceive to be existent. from which we could then derive an idea. On Malebranche'sview. "Any idea we please to form is the idea of a being" (67). but those perceptions. Hume says (I. It was because of this strong belief about what we cannot conceive with respect to existence that Hume so firmly rejected Malebranche's double existence view. "But no object can be presentedresembling some object with respect to its existence. and is besides pretty obvious of itself. ideas become another kind of object. that nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptionsor impressions and ideas."To fail of specific difference does not rule out numerical difference. Perceptions are properties of mind. "specificallydifferent. Mind was a substance. "Whateverwe conceive. holds that "no external object can make itself known to the mind immediately. of thing. can be derived from some impression of entity. simple and indivisible. something other than ideas and impressions (i. he considered the idea of existence: is this an idea distinct and differentfrom the idea of any particular thing? If so. we see how the application of the principle about what is present to the mind yields his conclusion of no specific difference between perceptions and external existence: "We may observe that 'tis universally allow'd by philosophers." or.e. and without the interposition of an image or perception" (Treatise.VI). just of entity. The alternativeis that the idea of existence is the same as the idea of whatever we conceive to be existent. Hume achieves the rejection of this view by comparing it with the materialist account found in Spinoza.II. In the earlier passage (I. Such an idea would be an instance of those abstract ideas against which Berkeley wrote.
Locke questioned the same point. ships. a substance which is simple. and in short. every thing I can discover or conceive in the first system" (242). and he had his own version of seeing things in the mind of God. but are only modes or modificationsof a substancein which all these modes inhere. I. or my impressions and ideas. moon. mountains. the system of thoughts. 189). 227-28: Malebranchetransports us into an unknown country where we no longer see men. plants. Watts." Impressions and ideas become real beings. 156). il s'ensuit que tous les hommes qui voyent les etoiles dans les Cieux. and others which the mind knows only by means of the first sort of beings. houses-are not really objects (that is. men. a "system of beings. Henry Grove and William Porterfieldmay also be taken as accepting such a view." those which our mind sees immediately. Hooke. The materialist tells us that all the objects I observe-the sun. cover'd and inhabited by plants and animals. stars but only intelligibleobjects.que n6tre ame voye les maisons et les etoiles ouielles ne sont pas. what does he find? "There I observe another sun. "deux sortes d'etre. Hume was not alone in finddoctrine a duplicationof the world of ordinaryobjects. and seas. but he makes it about the ideas of sight and touch: "there are two sorts of objects apprehendedby the eye. . Isaac Watts cited Malebranche'sdoctrine of intelligible sun. 53There is a similar remark in Berkeley's New Theory of Vision. YOLTON and ideas. The other system. seas. op. charging Malebranche with skepticism of real objects. the one primarilyand immediately. moon. towns. houses.226 JOHN W. See also Arnauld. 50. then. et qui jugent ensuite volontairementqu'elles y sont. uncompounded. as we have seen. cit. houses which are intimately united to our mind." make a false judgment(Recherche. 54I. stars. puisqu'ellene sort point du corps ou elle est et qu'elle ne laisse pas de les voir hors de lui. When Hume examines this system of beings. the other secondarily and by interventionof the former"(Sect. ne sont pas dans les Cieux. lesquelles sont les seules que l'ame puisse voir. Or comme les etoiles qui sont immediatementunies a l'ame. In cognizing distant objects. sun.53There were not many writers in Britain who took this extreme double existence view. and stars. Malebrancheaccepted the dictum that the mind cannot know what is distant from it. What we see are other objects. Philosophical Essays (London. are not really substances). without appealing to immaterial substance. other stars. earth. suggests something like a double existence view. and indivisible. 1733). that it can know only what is intimately united to the mind. we must see those objects where they are not located.s4 The extreme version depicted by Hume reveals the inherent logic of the approach: 52 "I1est donc necessaire.52There are. and stars. In his ing Malebranche's Examinationof Malebranche. While Hume does not name Malebranche. rivers. is. the universe of thought. moon. an earth. bodies.. moon. viz. Hume says. it seems clear that it is Malebranchewho is being attacked in this passage. Malebranche said.
I think. nor can they readily conceive that this pen or paper. and "can never assent to the opinion of a double existence and representation. but resembling it" (202). to be present to the mind. which is different from. is it indicating (what I will be suggesting) that. or stone. is the real body or material existence." is. as well as through his acceptance of that feature of the ordinary view which said that what is present with the mind are its own perceptions (Treatise. convey'd to him by his senses. Those very sensations . for the greatest part of their lives. the presence of an object to the mind without a perception or image. . all of us. only one being. which is intimately present to the mind. and feeling. . that almost all mankind. represents another. or. or shoe. and will thus explain our acquaintance with objects in the act of perception. he repeats this account: "'Tis certain. at one time or other) . without some new creation of a perception or image"? (207)." The reference of "this" can only be. For Hume the route to intelligibilityclearly lies through his principle of no specific difference between perceptions and objects. He adds." It is that ordinaryview which is clearly more acceptableto Hume. take their perceptions to be their only objects. There are various formulations given of this latter feature. . Hume wants us to note. Both accounts are. Spinoza's account is treated with "detestation and scorn. most important. with Spinoza's account of modes and one substance. Hume . equally unintelligible. Hume insists. or any other impression. is with us the real body"." The general principle is repeated: "all the unthinking and unphilosophicalpart of mankind (that is. The generality of mankind perceive. What is required is an explication of what "any common man means by a hat. and even philosophersthemselves. Hume faces this question directly: "After what manner we conceive an object to become present to the mind. "the very image which is present to the senses." a direct realism by-passing perceptions. 197). and indivisible substance: an exact parallel. ideas. "without some new creation of a perception or image. uncompounded.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 227 thoughts. and the second with applause and veneration" (243). Is it asking "how can an object be present to the mind without a perception. . Hume says. suppose their perceptions to be their only objects and never think of a double existence internal and external. but making that view intelligible depends upon finding a sense of "presentto" which will enable us (in the language of Norris's example) to behold both the image and the object. and again (206). are with them the true objects. something more than sense perceptions are required? Hume goes on to ask the question. This phrase. perceptions become modifications of one simple. and perceiving. and suppose that the very being. which is immediately perceiv'd. "what we mean by this seeing. To answer this question. representing and represented" (205).
He then uses this account of the mind to answer the question about how an object can be present to the mind without a perception. and felt. II. lesser emotions coming with smaller objects. but an old one returned. Hume might be taken to be saying the same perception can be thought of as separating itself from the heap (and hence becoming an independent object) and rejoining the heap. that no object is presented to the senses. as to influence them very considerably in augmenting their number by present reflexions and passions. It is present reflections and passions which augment the number of perceptions in the heap. He is there discussing such emotions as the admirationof large objects. "External objects are seen. This general trait is disclosed by what Hume calls "the metaphysical part of optics. 587." The factual part of optics tells us that the retinal image does not vary. The transfer of the judgment of magnitude due to the accompanying emotion is just an instance of a general trait of applying "the judgments and conclusions of the understanding to the senses" (374-75). as indicating the general context from which Hume's discussion arose. His answer gives. 55 It is interesting. and 614). There he says that there is a "generalmaxim. without the addition of a new perception over and above the object. and in storing the memory with ideas" (207).it can be separatedfrom this collection and hence be considered as existing independently. but what is accompany'dwith some emotion or movement of spirits proportion'd to it" (373). and become present to the mind.228 JOHN W. that is. to note those Philosophical Commentaries entries where Berkeley says the mind or the understanding is a congeries of perceptions (entries 580. YOLTON says first that what we call a mind is just "a heap or collection of different Since every percepperceptions. they acquire such a relation to a connected heap of perceptions. an analysis of present to the mind. An example of present reflections and passions occasioned by objects being present to the mind is given in Treatise. But Hume seems to me very carefully not to say that the object being present to the mind is an old perception rejoining the heap. we naturally imagine that the object has likewise encreas'd" (374).II. It would not be a new perception added to the heap. not effects in the form of new sense perceptions but effects in stimulating reflectionon the contents of the mind. The degree of emotion which "commonly attends every magnitude of an object" influences our perception of the object: "when the emotion encreases. . nor image form'd in the fancy. that is. united together by certain relations. It is as if his account here is that objects can be present to the mind in the effects they bring about."55 tion is distinguishable. He talks of the external object influencing the heap by augmenting the number of perceptions through reflexions and passions.VIII. I take it.
and at another despise its littleness. He accepts Berkeley's claim in New Theory of Vision that "our sight informs us not of distance or outness (so to speak) immediatelyand without a certain reasoning and experience" (191). and in the brain or organ of perception. the idea of a vacuum) cannot be given from any of the usual distance cues. Nor do we usually "judge of objects from their intrinsic value. Hume drew the same conclusion from the fact that "all bodies which discover themselves to the eye. or idea of the object. which the rays of light flowing from them." (Supra. . form with each other.57There are other optical passageswhere Hume shows that the phenomena. the motion that is requir'din the eye. and are equally extended in the retina. in its passage from one to the other. account of a comparisonwith others. n.This variationin our judgmentsmust certainlyproceed but as the variationlies not in the imfrom a variationin some perception. appear as if painted on a plain surface. What is necessary in addition is that a judgment be made.. and the different 56This passage was called to my attention by reading Anderson's interesting article. when conceiv'd by the mind" (373). It is important to note in these later passages that Hume is relating the sensing of objects (retinal image. a judgment which is then transferred (or as Porterfieldsaid.e. do not justify some judgment: for example. mediateimpression that accompanies it56 (373). and every unite of numberhas a separateemotion attending it. and at one time admire its bulk. then. whethera great or small object has alter the dimensionsof its object on nor does even the imagination preceded. the appearances. 57Cf. Vasco Ronchi's discussion of the "voute celeste. it is not enough that an impression is made on the retina and conveyed to the brain. that the idea of extension without visible or tangible objects standing between other objects (i. but form our notions of them from a comparison with other objects" and from the emotion which "secretly attends every idea" (375). There are other places in the Treatise where Hume makes use of optics in order to show the difference between what is sensed and what is perceived or judged. brain impression) to the conceiving or judging of objects: "Every part.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 229 When an object augmentsor diminishesto the eye or imaginationfrom a comparisonwith others. For an object to be present to the mind. 16). "The angles. It is the impression of reflection to which Hume refers. cit. of extension. op. The question then is. and the optic nerves convey the images to the brain in the very same manner. The eyes refractthe rays of light. Earlier.it mustlie in some otherimpression. how from the consameimpression and the sameidea we can form such different judgments cerning the same object. traced back to) the senses.the imageand idea of the object are still the same. and that their different degrees of remotenessfrom ourselves are discover'dmore by reason than by the senses" (56).
given the sensations and appearances we have. they can never give us the idea of extension" (58). of our perceptions. intervals of space and time filled with unperceived objects? The phenomena of perceptions are." There. when the perceptions which we take to be those objects themselves are augmented by reflections and passions. etc. and of the manner of their appearance. or the blue sky seen between the fingers. from which we can judge of the distance." He uses this account of our idea of extension to argue against infinite divisibility of matter and against mathematical points. YOLTON parts of the organs. Similarly. "Upon the removal of the idea of these sensible qualities. As with his analysis of our idea of time. our idea of extension "is nothing but a copy of these colour'd points.. out of resemblanceof perceptionscan we or do we conceive of continued existence when not present to us? How is it that given specific sensations and perceptions of knocks. and of some similar tangible ones. they are necessary for our conceiving of space and time. without any change on the distant objects" (59). to show that the sensations experienced are the same whether visible objects are interposed between other objects (showing the distance between them. insufficient for giving us the idea of externality. dispos'd in a certain manner" (34). what is it to see objects? Hume's answer is that an object is present to the mind.230 JOHN W. about rays of light being reflected or refracted from points on the surfaces of objects and being collected in points on the retina. He gives a careful analysis of these visual examples. footsteps. of inde- . What. so with space and extension. is the presence of objects to mind. then. He offers the example of looking at two luminous objects against a dark background. is seen or felt. these produce the only perceptions. The sorts of reflections necessary for externality are those involving continuity and independence. where objects are believed to be continuous and independent. by themselves. Color and tangibility are not only necessary for sensation. as possible cases where the idea of empty space might be derived (56-58). But as these perceptions are each of them simple and indivisible. working from the information found in most optical treatises. we reach the idea of unseen doors. which are affected by them. they [the parts that make up our impressions of extension] are utterly annihilated to the thought or imagination" (38-39). a filled distance) or not. working from the ordinary belief that we see objects.How. In this way. Hume argues that since "my senses convey to me only the impressions of colour'd points. Hume explains how "an invisible and intangible distance is converted into a visible and tangible one. Hume wants to show what is and is not conceivable. Hume wants to discover what it is about these perceptions which leads us to take them to be the objects. that our perceptions are the objects. is made in the section "Scepticismwith regard to the Senses. The same careful discussion of appearances.
It is a desperate move made in the face of the phenomenological fact that perceptions are mind-dependent and are fleeting though similar.58 us that "the doctrine of the independentexistence of our sensible perceptions is" in fact false. the palliative 58In his account of how the imagination carries the mind beyond what is given to the senses. Illusory realism. however. The concept of an object not only distinct but different from our perceptions is not intelligible. were we not first convinced "that our perceptions are our only objects". Hume thinks he has described "the natural propensity of the imagination. 307-32." it does not cure the disease. they draw a distinction between "perceptionsand objects. we find that we naturally fill out. given that in fact only perceptionsare immediatelypresent to the mind. like a torso or sketch" . only a temporary "palliative remedy. they lack the two important characteristicsof objects. for an object to become present to the mind "without some new creation of a perception or image. In this account of objects being present to us. to be perceptually acquainted with them." When philosophers reflect on phenomena such as double vision. Geneva. When Hume shows how. From what is present to us. Rothstein quotes a remark by Jean Starobinski (The Invention of Liberty. Hume thinks that this move would never be made. . which we are expected to complete. so the philosophical view of a double existence is an attempt to patch up the difficultiesin the vulgar. parts of figures not presented in poetry or painting. single existence view. Such a distinction is." Just having more perceptions would not make objects present to the mind. in a complicity of the imagination. he is showing what it must mean. out of the constancy and coherence of our sense perceptions. Using the art historian's notion of non finito . It is as if nature has presented us with an unfinished sensory sketch. continuity and independence. of which the former are suppos'd to be interrupted." given the appearBut reason and a few simple experiments tell ances of our perceptions."a work which the artist intended to leave unfinished. and different at every different return. and complete those perceptions. Hume exemplifies what Eric Rothstein has identified as an eighteenth-century response: creating in the imagination aspects of scenes." in Eighteenth-Century Studies.and to preserve a continu'd existence and identity" (211). 9(1976). the latter to be uninterrupted." was practiced by artists and poets: the spectator was expected to fill out what was only hinted or suggested. we come to the idea of external objects. specificallydifferent.Rothstein's discussion suggests to me some fascinating parallels to this notion in Hume. would not enable the mind to conceive of objects.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 231 pendent objects being present to the mind. or what Lord Kames called "ideal presence. 1964) that the eighteenth-century observer's pleasure "lay in completing mentally. Thus. See his "'Ideal Presence' and the 'Non Finito' in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics. But the notion of objects different in kind. the work that the artist had abandoned" (308). for perceptions by themselves are not objects. on the vulgar view. and perishing. "contraryto the plainest experience. extend. from perceptions is incoherent.
to be the external object. is especially interesting. however. but the other." This "pretended philosophical system" cannot.232 JOHN W. Berkeleian route of making the object "the very same with a perception" is both unsatisfactory and false.for it strongly supports the conclusion that Hume does accept the existence of objects as well as perceptions. Such a conceptual resolution was prevented by Hume's acceptance of the Berkeleian principle about our being unable to conceive anything specifically different from our perceptions. a way of conceiving externalitywhich would avoid Berkeley'sconclusion that perceptions are the objects. The remedy turns out to double our perceptions. presented by the senses." But "the slightest philosophy . "are nothing but perceptions in the mind. and that the senses are only the inlets. since "the mind has never anything present to it but the perceptions.59 Hume was looking for a conceptual resolution of the tensions between the ordinary and the philosophical views. A passage in the section on the immateriality of the soul. 'tis still incomprehensibleto us. without being able to produce any immediate intercourse between the mind and the object. even if we cannot conceive. and cannot possibly reach any experience of their connexion with objects" (153). by turning perceptions into objects. Men are said to be carried by instinct to trust their senses and to suppose an external universe. It is because such a supposal is possible that "any conclusion we form concerning the connexion and repugnance of im59The Enquiry discussion of the single and double existence views is much less detailed but is essentially the same. and we are oblig'd either to conceive an external object merely as a relation without a relative. . He cites as an example "this very table. this tree." Reason leads us to say this house. through which these images are conveyed. that the one are nothing but representations of the other" (152). that nothing can ever be present to the mind but an image or perception." I take to mean that this alternative would be the concept of an object related to our perceptions (it occasions them) but we are unable to fill in any other content for that relatum. be justified. and never entertain any suspicion. YOLTON remedy reduces to an arbitraryinvention of "a new set of perceptions"to which the attributes of objects are ascribed (218). Hume says: "Whateverdifference we may suppose betwixt them. a specific differencebetween object and perception. unlike the double existence view of those immaterialistswhom Hume satirized which doubles objects. . or to make it the-very same with a perception or impression. teaches us. Such an alternativeis not very acceptable." Men also always suppose "the very images. The next paragraphin that passage even suggests that we may suppose. where he is discussing that double existence view. . and fleeting copies or representations of other existences." That odd suggestion of conceiving "an external object merely as a relation without a relative. Hume returns to this point on several occasions in the Treatise. "which depends not on our perception. Repeating his claim that we cannot conceive of an "object or external existence" specifically different from our perceptions.
The structureof this part seems to be such that. upon which the argument is founded." A certain amount of caution is in order. that the object may differ from it in that particular" (242). must at least be conceiv'd by the mind" (242). Usually this opposition is presentedas between reason and sense.II. will most certainly be applicable to impressions. from the coherence of our perceptions. will not be known certainly to be applicableto objects" (241). At a time when all serious writers are arguing the possibilities of thinking matter (Locke's suggestion had unleashed a storm of reactions). shows the difficulties in each. Hume takes two extremes. go the other way: "whateverconclusion of this kind [of a connection or repugnance] we form concerning objects." Whatever reasoning or conclusion we reach about the object must be based upon our conception of the object. or between reflection and unreflection." Thus. so far as I can discover. nor the duplicate world double existence theory he ascribes to the immaterialists. Hume calls this attempt "an irregularkind of reasoning from experience. when most people are defending immaterialism against the atheism of materialism. he allows that it may not be true that "all the discoverablerelations of impressions are common to objects. On each of the topics discussed in that part. while Hume invokes some of his basic principles.IV. The supposal of a specific differencerules out moving from impression or perception to objects. in what we take to be Hume's own serious views in this section on the immaterialityof the soul. since he is so obviously satirizing. We can. The "quality of the object. Hume devotes a section of his Treatise to arguing the thesis that immaterialism is an atheism! (I.PERCEPTUAL ACQUAINTANCE IN 18TH-CENTURY BRITAIN 233 pressions. 60 There is much obvious good fun in this section. since the conclusion we draw may be based upon just those ways in which objects differ from impressions: "'Tis still possible. Nevertheless.60 Has he drawn the supposal-conceptiondistinction only to be able to apply (as he does. and that conception is. even parodying.V. as we have seen.IV. attempts to show how. but ends by saying neither is quite satisfactory. limited by not being able to go as far as our supposal. we come to ascribe continuity and independence to those perceptions. the whole of Part IV of the Treatise has a dialectical quality to it.) . however. there seems sufficient warrant from the Treatise to say that the view of external existence Hume himself accepted was neither Berkeley'ssingle existence theory that perceptions are the object. 243-44) the repugnancies of the materialist to the immaterialist account? He does not use this distinction in any other place. and while he seems somewhat more partial to common sense than to reason. the immaterialist'sclaims. Even more interesting is Hume's remark in this passage about his I. suggests good reasons for our accepting both. or between philosophy and common sense. he does not entirely accept either side of the dialectical oppositions. Moreover.
Hume there says. not sensorily present.234 JOHN W. . YOLTON The double existence view. He was reluctant to say external objects cause perceptions (for reasons found in his phenomenological analysis of causal phenomena). That passage in the Treatise which I have suggested reveals Hume's analysis of "present to the mind" for objects. Rutgers University. reveals both an acquaintance with optical writings and a concern to discover what we can and cannot say on the basis of the way the world appears to us. but he was able to say they occasion our perceptions. which emerges when the philosopher tries to deal with the problems of the vulgar view that what we see are independent objects. Nothing Hume wrote in the Treatise ever supports saying he took the limits of human understandingas an account of the nature of the world. But that philosophical account is still not quite what Hume accepts. which actuate our passions and sentiments" (159). not through the sense perceptions they occasion (though that is a necessary condition) but through the thoughts and feelings which accompany their perceptions. seems closer to the view Hume is trying to articulate. for it is a view of the world limited by what is conceivable for us. but that nature works in ways unavailable to us was a conviction he shared with most of his other contemporaries. Discussions we have had on Hume. He simply did not think we could penetrate to the secret springs and powers of nature. through the thoughts and passions aroused by the sense perceptions occasioned by objects. to pay close attention to the observable features of the world. but present to cognition. Excessive skepticism. For this double existence view ends by making objects numerically different but specifically similar to perceptions. external objects become present to the mind. He took seriously the injunction of Locke and most members of the Royal Society. is also found in a brief Enquiry passage. have saved me from misreadingsof Hume. Real.6' Rutgers College. and on other aspects of my general study. 61I am indebted to John Wright for helping me clarify my ideas on Hume. The frequent use he makes of visual and tactual phenomena. The interpretationof Hume which I have given in this paper probably still disagrees from his own reading. in his account of space and time and of external objects. It is through that occasioning of sense perceptions that external objects become present to the mind. is subverted by "the presence of the real objects.
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