Epistemology I INTRODUCTION Epistemology (Greek episteme, “knowledge”; logos, “theory”), branch of philosophy that addresses the philosophical problems

surrounding the theory of knowledge. Epistemology is concerned with the definition of knowledge and related concepts, the sources and criteria of knowledge, the kinds of knowledge possible and the degree to which each is certain, and the exact relation between the one who knows and the object known. II GREEK AND MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS

In the 5th century BC, the Greek Sophists questioned the possibility of reliable and objective knowledge. Thus, a leading Sophist, Gorgias, argued that nothing really exists, that if anything did exist it could not be known, and that if knowledge were possible, it could not be communicated. Another prominent Sophist, Protagoras, maintained that no person's opinions can be said to be more correct than another's, because each is the sole judge of his or her own experience. Plato, following his illustrious teacher Socrates, tried to answer the Sophists by postulating the existence of a world of unchanging and invisible forms, or ideas, about which it is possible to have exact and certain knowledge. The things one sees and touches, they maintained, are imperfect copies of the pure forms studied in mathematics and philosophy. Accordingly, only the abstract reasoning of these disciplines yields genuine knowledge, whereas reliance on sense perception produces vague and inconsistent opinions. They concluded that philosophical contemplation of the unseen world of forms is the highest goal of human life. Aristotle followed Plato in regarding abstract knowledge as superior to any other, but disagreed with him as to the proper method of achieving it. Aristotle maintained that almost all knowledge is derived from experience. Knowledge is gained either directly, by abstracting the defining traits of a species, or indirectly, by deducing new facts from those already known, in accordance with the rules of logic. Careful observation and strict adherence to the rules of logic, which were first set down in systematic form by Aristotle, would help guard against the pitfalls the Sophists had exposed. The Stoic and Epicurean schools agreed with Aristotle that knowledge originates in sense perception, but against both Aristotle and Plato they maintained that philosophy is to be valued as a practical guide to life, rather than as an end in itself. After many centuries of declining interest in rational and scientific knowledge, the Scholastic (see Scholasticism) philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas and other philosophers of the Middle Ages helped to restore confidence in reason and experience, blending rational methods with faith into a unified system of beliefs. Aquinas followed Aristotle in regarding perception as the starting point and logic as

the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. arguing that all knowledge is derived from experience. The British philosopher David Hume continued the empiricist tradition.the intellectual procedure for arriving at reliable knowledge of nature. but he did not accept Berkeley's conclusion that knowledge was of ideas only. which stamps sensations on the mind. but he denied Locke's belief that a distinction can be made between ideas and objects. Locke attacked the rationalist belief that the principles of knowledge are intuitively selfevident. the main source and final test of knowledge was sense perception. For the empiricists. he claimed. one cannot hope to know any future matter of fact with certainty. Thus. or axioms. Hume argued that most knowledge of matters of fact depends upon cause and effect. He agreed with the rationalists that one can have exact and certain knowledge. is always subject to the errors of the senses. in which the mind reflects on its own activities. the main source and final test of knowledge was deductive reasoning based on selfevident principles. III REASON VERSUS SENSE PERCEPTION From the 17th to the late 19th century. either from experience of the external world. his proposed solution combined elements of rationalism with elements of empiricism. and the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz were the leaders. the knowledge derived from sense perception. For the rationalists. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant tried to solve the crisis precipitated by Locke and brought to a climax by Hume. which is exact and certain but provides no information about the world. beginning with the English philosophers Francis Bacon and John Locke. the most reliable laws of science might not remain true— a conclusion that had a revolutionary impact on philosophy. Bacon inaugurated the new era of modern science by criticizing the medieval reliance on tradition and authority and also by setting down new rules of scientific method. and knowledge of matters of fact—that is. including the first set of rules of inductive logic ever formulated. of whom the French philosopher René Descartes. and since no logical connection exists between any given cause and its effect. but he considered faith in scriptural authority as the main source of religious belief. the main issue in epistemology was reasoning versus sense perception in acquiring knowledge. The Irish philosopher George Berkeley agreed with Locke that knowledge comes through ideas. the knowledge found in mathematics and logic. or from internal experience. He divided all knowledge into two kinds: knowledge of relations of ideas—that is. and he concluded that one cannot have absolutely certain knowledge of the physical world. but he followed the empiricists in holding that such knowledge is more informative about the structure of thought than about the . Human knowledge of external physical objects.

but is subject to the errors of the senses. and synthetic a priori. the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel revived the rationalist claim that absolutely certain knowledge of reality can be obtained by equating the processes of thought. because it makes clear only what is contained in definitions. holding that although one perceives only sensory data such as colors and sounds. and the thing that can be said to be known as a result of the perception. thus gaining a more precise understanding of the conceptual foundations of knowledge. and subtle shades of difference grew into rival schools of thought. IV EPISTEMOLOGY IN THE 20TH CENTURY In the early 20th century. one of the most frequently argued questions in philosophy has been whether or not such a thing as synthetic a priori knowledge really exists. carried empiricism further by maintaining that knowledge is an instrument of action and that all beliefs should be judged by their usefulness as rules for predicting experiences. provide this last. and John Dewey at the turn of this century. William James. which is exact and certain but uninformative.world outside of thought. The critical realists took a middle position. synthetic a posteriori. . He outlined an elaborate procedure that he called phenomenology. A method for dealing with the problem of clarifying the relation between the act of knowing and the object known was developed by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. The American school of pragmatism. according to Kant. Mathematics and philosophy. Special attention was given to the relation between the act of perceiving something. During the 19th century. founded by the philosophers Charles Sanders Peirce. for it expresses the necessary conditions that the mind imposes on all objects of experience. by which one is said to be able to distinguish the way things appear to be from the way one thinks they really are. which conveys information about the world learned from experience. epistemological problems were discussed thoroughly. and both extended the principles of empiricism to the study of society. which is discovered by pure intuition and is both exact and certain. The phenomenalists contended that the objects of knowledge are the same as the objects perceived. and of history. of nature. these stand for physical objects and provide knowledge thereof. the object directly perceived. Hegel inspired an interest in history and a historical approach to knowledge that was further emphasized by Herbert Spencer in Britain and by the German school of historicism. Since the time of Kant. rather than of one's own mental states. The neorealists argued that one has direct perceptions of physical objects or parts of physical objects. He distinguished three kinds of knowledge: analytical a priori. Spencer and the French philosopher Auguste Comte brought attention to the importance of sociology as a branch of knowledge.

a clear distinction must be maintained between analytic and synthetic statements. Austin does not consider truth a quality or property attaching to statements or utterances. The first of these schools. From Aquinas By Anthony Kenny Being . Quine. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. but has not been discarded. whose overall approach is in the pragmatic tradition. and probability—and to formulate definitive rules for their use in order to avoid verbal confusion. for example. logical empiricism. From Aquinas Thirteenth-century Italian philosopher and theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas attempted to synthesize Christian belief with a broad range of human knowledge. V. but it soon spread to England and the United States. as well as their critics. All rights reserved. that any valid knowledge claim must be verifiable in experience. generally referred to as linguistic analysis (see Analytic and Linguistic Philosophy). and hence that much that had passed for philosophy was neither true nor false but literally meaningless. More recently. The logical empiricists insisted that there is only one kind of knowledge: scientific knowledge. or ordinary language philosophy. The latter of these recent schools of thought. British philosopher John Langshaw Austin argued. embracing diverse sources such as Greek philosopher Aristotle and Islamic and Jewish scholars. Author Anthony Kenny examines the complexities of Aquinas’s concepts of substance and accident. the sharp distinction between the analytic and the synthetic has been attacked by a number of philosophers. Austria. His thought exerted lasting influence on the development of Christian theology and Western philosophy.During the second quarter of the 20th century. The linguistic analysts undertake to examine the actual way key epistemological terms are used—terms such as knowledge. following Hume and Kant. perception. O. The so-called verifiability criterion of meaning has undergone changes as a result of discussions among the logical empiricists themselves. chiefly by American philosopher W. each indebted to the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. two schools of thought emerged. seems to break with traditional epistemology. that to say a statement was true added nothing to the statement except a promise by the speaker or writer. Finally. had its origins in Vienna. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. or logical positivism.

in my view. Such a framework of concepts. I think that their use by Aquinas often involves ambiguity and confusion. a dog. even of the most shadowy kind. what makes the predicate true of the subject is the fact that among the items there are in the world is the wisdom of Socrates. neither substances nor accidents are linguistic entities. or what it is doing. the different types of predicate which may occur in subject-predicate sentences. The point of the distinction between substance and accident is precisely to draw attention to the way in which Socrates' wisdom is a very different kettle of fish from Socrates. vesture. that is a substance. or what it is like. that he was an intelligent man. 'property'. posture. in their totality. concerning the thing which the sentence is about. that he wrote many books. Though the relationship between substance and accidents is best explained by reference to subject-predicate sentences. it is this extra-linguistic item.… These general systematic concepts [of Aristotelian metaphysics as reconciled with Christianity in the medieval philosophical school of scholasticism] need to be examined by anyone who hopes to understand anything of Aquinas. The notions of substance and accident are best introduced by considering. or bits of language. On the contrary. and that he was kidnapped by his family. The ordinary current meaning of these words is usually somewhat different from their original Aristotelian meaning: an explanation of the latter may serve as an introduction to the metaphysics employed in Aquinas's writings. and it is the man Socrates. Thus Thomas Aquinas was himself a substance. that he lived in the time of St Louis of France. or how big it is. A predication in the category of substance tells you. called 'the subject' of the sentence. for instance. quantity. the apparatus of scholastic concepts which he employed. nor his size. a coherent system of philosophy. both the man and the word may be. quality. The English language contains many common words of everyday significance which began life as technical terms of Aristotelian scholasticism: words such as 'accident'. of course.… …[T]here can be no simple and uncontroversial translation of Aquinas's ideas into terms and concepts immediately intelligible to the contemporary reader. The predicate of a sentence may tell you what kind of thing something is. of Thomas Aquinas that he was a man.Any reader on first opening Aquinas's work finds himself faced with a battery of technical terms which express a number of pervading and difficult ideas. a chestnut. (Confusingly. 'matter'. transcending the interests of particular scientific disciplines and offering an understanding of the universe at a very general and abstract level. then that substance ceases to exist. place. The wisdom of Socrates is not. and so on. action and passion. The theory of categories may be looked on as an attempt to classify predicates. The sentence 'Socrates is wise' contains the word 'Socrates'. that he lived in Paris. that he wore his head shaven. combine into an all-embracing system which provides a uniquely favourable framework for the consideration of philosophical problems. is what is meant when philosophers talk of a metaphysical system. to the categories of substance. in English and in Aquinas's terminology. 'form'. The important difference between the two types of predication is this: when a substantial predication ceases to be true of a substance. 'quality'. of whom substantial and accidental predications could be made. The predicates that we use in saying these things belong—Aristotle would say—in different categories: they belong. I do not question the judgement that he was a great metaphysician: but I think that his metaphysical insights were often gained in spite of. time. are to be distinguished from accidental predicates: when 'Socrates is wise' is true. a lump of gold. a substantial entity like Socrates himself: nor is his colour.) Accidents. respectively. does not consist in their constituting. nor his posture. or where it is. and indeed for the consideration of scientific problems of any kind. by contrast to predications in the other nine categories. not the predicate of the sentence. It is as a metaphysician. that Aquinas is most widely admired. That is one meaning of the word 'substance': it can be used to mark off a type of predication. likewise. More importantly. that he was younger than Albert the Great. The colour of a . which kind of thing it is: a human being. which may be called predications of accidents. relation. that is the accident. when an accidental predication ceases to be true. but it is about the man Socrates. the word 'substance' can be used to refer to the thing that sentences such as the above are about: the object for which the subject-term of the sentences stands. But their importance. perhaps. Thus Aquinas could cease to live in Paris without ceasing to be Aquinas. rather than because of. But belief in the reality of accidents does not involve conceiving them as concrete entities like substances. but he could not cease to be a human being without ceasing to exist. These ideas. then the substance merely changes. according to Aquinas's admirers. that he sat down when he lectured. as Aristotle did in his Categories. 'substance'. 'intention'. since they are to be found in operation on any page of his writing. that he was enormously large. We may say. But many of those who believe in accidents—including Aquinas—do invite confusion when they speak of accidents as being parts or constituents of the substance to which they belong. 'category'. not the word.

while accidents are somehow timeless and insulated from the hurly-burly of the world? No: 'Wisdom'. But it does mean that tangibility is not the distinguishing characteristic of substance. he believed that in the sacrament of the Eucharist this actually occurred. having more difficulty breathing. and perhaps no one would even be tempted to think that Socrates' being taller than Simmias was a part of Socrates. It is therefore confusing to speak of substance and accidents entering into some sort of composition with each other. and so on. invisible and intangible entities behind the familiar visible and tangible accidents. according to Aquinas. One is tempted to draw the contrast between substances and accidents by saying that the former are concrete and the latter abstract. we may inquire whether it is indeed self-contradictory to speak of accidents which are not accidents of any substance. and often insisted.tree is not a part of the tree in the way in which its bark and branches and leaves are. After the consecration of the bread and wine. but the wisdom of Socrates grew through time. Indeed. we are really talking of the modifications and charges of substances: as. and the coming into being of A's Fness is nothing other than A's becoming F. sweetness by taste. to mark the difference between substance and accidents. the shape of my boot may remain . there are surprisingly many other passages in his writings where he is quite prepared to contemplate the possibility of accidents existing without inhering in any substance. is something which only intellect. which are tangible in the straightforward sense of being detectable by the sense of touch. not sense-perception. may be fancied to exist in some ethereal realm beyond space and time. a weight which is not the weight of any object. somebody's smile. must be an accident of something: the shape of something. I do not see what kind of a thing something is simply by looking. a smile or a weight. Moreover. One is 'accidentis esse est inesse'. If by 'concrete' one means 'tangible' then there are substances. size. He warns against the errors of people who think of accidents as shadowy substances (C 11). But this is misleading. he believed. some object's weight. mysterious. For all that. the other is 'accidens non est ens sed entis'. that even an omnipotent God could not bring about a state of affairs that was self-contradictory. Though Aquinas insists strongly on this point. there is nothing miraculous or even mysterious in the smell or taste of onions hanging round after the onions have been eaten. had effects in his own life and the lives of others. he created substances. the presence of accidents may be detected by the unaided use of one of the five senses. but by intelligent use of hypothesis and experiment and information that I know that the stuff I see is sulphuric acid. any more than I see what a thing tastes like simply by using my eyes. The idea of the Cheshire cat's grin without the cat seems the very quintessence of absurdity. Substances themselves. Aquinas believed that this was the result of the miraculous exercise of divine omnipotence. indeed. neither of them easy to translate. Both these arcane dicta make the same point: any accident. though it is not just by looking. and so on. and shape. two slogans of Aristotelian inspiration. This does not mean that substances are imperceptible. not accidents. substances may be perceived. is detectable by appearance or by feel. Other accidents are perceptible by other forms of senseperception: colour by sight. it disappeared from the world. We may summarise his doctrine as follows: The existence of A's F-ness is nothing other than A's being F. That something is a substance of a certain kind. Some are perceptible by more than one sense: shape. when we talk of the existence or history of accidents. On the other hand. Aquinas himself uses. Again. such as a shape. there are substances such as God and the angels which are not tangible in any sense. and was much missed when. for example. With my eyes I can see. Some may see in Aquinas's teaching on transubstantiation a simple lapse from the standards of philosophical rigour which he attained when not under the pressure of dogma. if Aquinas is right. but he also believed. when we say that Socrates' cold is worse. Aquinas insists that when God created the world. and because I can hear its miaow and feel its furriness. Moreover. such as air. can discover. say. which means 'An accident is not what is but is of what is'. Of course. which are not in any simple sense tangible. sulphuric acid. such as the roughness of a piece of sandpaper. And on the other hand there are some accidents. with a capital 'W'. which means 'For an accident to be is to be of'. But before concluding that this is the explanation. remained in existence after the bread and wine had become the body and blood of Christ. the accidents of bread and wine. This seems to be correct. that I can perceive the cat. There cannot be a shape which is not anything's shape. But the confusion to which it may lead—of thinking of accidents as a sort of outer skin or veneer and of substance as an interior kernel or marrow—is one against which Aquinas himself warns from time to time. we mean that Socrates is sneezing more frequently. with Socrates himself. a smile which is nobody's smile. are perceptible only by perceiving their accidents: it is because I can see its colour. Is the concreteness of substance and the abstractness of accidents to be sought then in this: that substances are entities with a history which enter into causal relations with each other.

though not sufficient. For there to be a genuine substantial change it is necessary. in his writing on transubstantiation. there is an accident describable by a noun-phrase constructed from the predicate (a 'nominalisation' of the predicate): A's F-ness. in Aquinas.imprinted in the snow after the boot itself. But the popular notion. but a case of a single substance turning into many independent substances. and this is an instance of a shape. an accident is always an accident of a substance and any statement about an accident must be replaceable by one with a substance as a subject. following Aristotle. for Aquinas. but rather an artificial conglomerate of a number of natural substances. though it is the kind of thing which Aquinas. But the moulding of a piece of dough. In these cases the accidents are accidents of individual substances now defunct: but the colours of the rainbow. be like the 'of' in 'the effect of the explosion' or like the 'of' in 'the story of King Arthur'. 'colour'. it is clear that it was the popular notion of accident that he had in mind. Thus. to the distinction between matter and substantial form. facing the problem how accidents without substance can nourish and inebriate.…On the other hand. For such an episode to be a change as opposed to. for Aquinas. 'position' and so on. cannot we say with equal force that any statement about Socrates must be reducible to a statement about some underlying entity—matter. an instance of a substantial change. and the blueness of the sky. 'smell'. no variation of predicates in the category of substance. This is a one-many substantial change. but on the grounds that you can get far more drunk on consecrated wine than you can by going into a cellar and sniffing. we may ask. we must turn from the distinction between substance and accidental form. It is substantial form which. 'taste'. imprudently placed too near the fire to dry. not a substantial change: there is here no change from one kind of thing to another kind of thing. But a very brief reflection convinces one that the ordinary usage of words of this kind extends very much further than the Aristotelian pattern: the 'of' that occurs in expressions such as 'the shape of…' 'the smell of…' covers many other relationships besides that of an accident's inherence in a currently existing substance: it may. abstract notion derived from the grammatical consideration of Aristotle's categories: wherever there is a true predication of the form 'A is F'. These concepts of matter and form have their primary role in Aquinas's analysis of the changes undergone by individual substances. for instance. Why. Moreover. we do not have a simple case of a single substance of one kind turning into a single substance of another. when I eat and digest a varied meal we have the inverse case of many-one substantial change. a lump of dough. not on the grounds that an accident is something quite different from a smell. Here. cannot the same point be made about substances themselves? If any statement about Socrates' whiteness is reducible to a statement about Socrates being white. Are these cases counterexamples to the Aristotelian theses enunciated above? The truth of the matter seems to be that in Aquinas's writings one finds two quite different notions of accident. When Aquinas wrote about accidents in the context of transubstantiation. there is a second notion derived from reflection on the ordinary usage of words such as 'shape'. it is natural to say that here the same bit of stuff is taking on different shapes. say. are colours not attributable to any substance present or past. has gone up in flames. is not strictly speaking a substance at all. or A's being F. Thus the death and decomposition of a dog's body is. can have this everyday meaning of 'stuff' and 'shape'. The Latin words 'materia' and 'forma'. since it allows a variety of relationships to be indicated by the 'of' in 'the F-ness of A’. If I have a lump of dough and mould it in my fingers so that it has the appearance first of a boat and then of a woman. the various natural elements into which the body decomposes. can allow for the F-ness to exist after the demise of A. as in most cases. For there to be a genuine substantial change it is not sufficient that there should be an episode which starts with substance A and ends with substance B. there is such a thing as the roundness of the earth. and at the end of the change there should be a substance of another. there is clearly an incoherence in the notion of an accident inhering in no substance: there cannot be any such thing as A's being F if there is no such thing as A. or energy— being in a Socratified form? To answer this question. that at the beginning of the change there should be a substance of one kind. For a change of shape is an accidental change. then. Aquinas would have done a service to both his theological and his philosophical readers if. there is the very general. often uses as an illustration to introduce the notions of matters and form. a . as the smell of wine in a full cellar may make a man feel dizzy before he opens a cask. he considers the suggestion that it is the smell of wine that inebriates. is not strictly a case of a single body of matter taking on two different substantial forms. According to the Aristotelian notion. These words can be used to classify the noniminalisations which arise from the Aristotelian schema: since the earth is round.. say. If we take the Aristotelian notion of accidents. On the one hand. is form par excellence. and still more the Greek words from which they were translated. he had distinguished between the two concepts of accident and not spoken as if he was continuing to use the Aristotelian one. He rejects the suggestion.

on the contrary. for all that. I considered in general what is needed for a proposition to be true and certain. One way of explaining the concept of matter is to say that matter is what is common to the two termini of a substantial change. it followed very evidently and very certainly that I existed. since I had just found one which I knew to be so. When substance A. known as Cartesian dualism. I could not hold it from myself. than it is that something should emerge out of nothing. and which. while. seeing nothing in them which seemed to make them superior to myself. Past Masters series. Following this. in order to exist. for to hold it from nothing was something manifestly impossible. the earth. therefore I am. and that consequently my being was not completely perfect. then there is some stuff which is the same parcel of stuff throughout the change and which prior to the change is F-ish and at the end of the change G-ish.miraculous replacement of one substance by another. it would not cease to be all that it is. the other mental. with the result that it remained . on the other hand. The latter concept. I could believe that. except that I see very clearly that in order to think one must exist. turns into substance B. After this. it is necessary that there should be something in common between the substance present at the beginning of the change and the substance present at the end of the change. from the very fact that I thought of doubting the truth of other things. © 1980. and seeing that I could pretend that I had no body and that there was no world or place that I [was] in. if they were not. is distinct entirely from the body. for. and moreover that even if the body were not. Descartes stressed the importance of skepticism in thought and proposed the idea that existence had a dual nature: one physical. I would have had no reason to believe that I existed. for I saw clearly that it was a greater perfection to know than to doubt. because. and I clearly recognized that this must have been from some nature which was in fact more perfect. reflecting on the fact that I had doubts. pretend that I did not exist. and because it is no less contradictory that the more perfect should proceed from and depend on the less perfect. All rights reserved. As for the notions I had of several other things outside myself. so that this “I”. although all the rest of what I had ever imagined had been true. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. the mind. Descartes: From Discourse on Method The 17th century French scientist and mathematician René Descartes was also one of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy. which assures me that I am speaking the truth. I judged that I could take it to be a general rule that the things we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are nevertheless some difficulty in being able to recognize for certain which are the things we see distinctly. I had not the same concern to know their source. but that I could not. Anthony. by which I am what I am. that is to say. which includes the celebrated phrase “I think. and. light. heat and a thousand others. if I had only ceased to think. continues to engage philosophers today. which is of kind F. that I held them from nothing. I think. therefore I am. they were dependencies of my nature. and that. needs no place and depends on no material thing. One perfection. I decided to inquire whence I had learned to think of some thing more perfect than myself. But I could not make the same judgement concerning the idea of a being more perfect than myself. I thought that I ought also to know what this certainty consisted of And having noticed that there is nothing at all in this. in as much as it. such as the sky. Aquinas.… Source: Kenny. This passage from Discourse on Method (first published in his Philosophical Essays in 1637) contains a summary of his thesis. which is of kind G. if they were true.” From Discourse on Method By René Descartes Then examining attentively what I was. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. I thereby concluded that I was a substance. of which the whole essence or nature consists in thinking. and even that it is easier to know than the body. that is to say that they were in me because of an imperfection in my nature. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

deny that the ideas were really in my thoughts. and thus to be myself infinite. All rights reserved. And having observed that the great certainty that everyone attributes to them is based only on the fact that they are clearly conceived according to the rule I spoke of earlier. Meditations on First Philosophy). or even more obviously so. further. consequentially upon the reasonings by which I had proved the existence of God. To which I added that. Penguin Books. From Descartes French thinker René Descartes applied rigorous scientific methods of deduction to his exploration of philosophical questions. Thus. width and height or depth. seeing that I myself would have been very pleased to be free from them. in order to understand the nature of God as far as my own nature was capable of doing. so as to have had from myself this small portion of perfection that I had by participation in the perfection of God.that it must have been put into me by a being whose nature was truly more perfect than mine and which even had in itself all the perfection of which I could have any idea. upon whom I depended. as in the idea of a sphere. I very well perceived that. I noticed also that they had nothing at all in them which might assure me of the existence of their object. in a word. but that all the others were. considering that all composition is evidence of dependency. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. and finally to have all the perfections that I could observe to be in God. for example. whether it was a perfection or not to have them: and I was assured that none of those which indicated some imperfection was in him. omniscient. which assured me that any such triangle existed in the world. or a space extended indefinitely in length. I was not the only being which existed (I shall freely use here. all powerful. all the remainder of perfection that I knew myself to lack. with your permission. supposing a triangle to be given. I could not. Translated with an introduction by Sutcliffe. sadness and similar things could not be in him. he was not so composed. the fact that all its parts are equidistant from its centre. and from whom I had acquired all I had. immutable. Discourse on Method. But. concerning all the things of which I found in myself some idea. their existence must depend on his power. Meditations. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. consequently. for all that. I found that existence was comprised in the idea in the same way that the equality of the three angles of a triangle to two right angles is comprised in the idea of a triangle or. if I had been alone and independent of all other. For. since I knew some perfections that I did not have. which could have various figures and sizes and be moved or transposed in all sorts of ways—for the geometers take all that to be in the object of their study—I went through some of their simplest proofs. Source: Descartes. which was God. and that everything I saw or imagined was false. I could have given myself. F. because I had already recognized in myself very clearly that intelligent nature is distinct from the corporeal. its three angles must be equal to two rightangles. in such a way that they could not subsist without him for a single instant. focusing on its unconventional use of logic and the reactions it aroused. by the same reason. whereas. I had only to consider. the terms of the School) but that there must of necessity be another more perfect. So I saw that doubt. is. and that. From Descartes . I had ideas of many sensible and bodily things. René. as any geometric demonstration can be. but that. Descartes is probably best known for his pioneering work in philosophical skepticism. Then. for. reverting to the examination of the idea I had of a perfect Being. E. I thence judged that it could not be a perfection in God to be composed of these two natures. who is this perfect Being. if there were any bodies in the world or any intelligences or other natures which were not wholly perfect. and that consequently it is at least as certain that God. I set out after that to seek other truths. inconstancy. that is to say. eternal. and that dependency is manifestly a defect. nevertheless. which I conceived as a continuous body. Author Tom Sorell examines the concepts behind Descartes’s work Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (1641. or exists. divisible into various parts. but I saw nothing. for even supposing that I was dreaming. and turning to the object of the geometers [geometry].

then a real thinker. When the little girl was five. or finds undeniable the connection between being material and taking up three spatial dimensions. at the Jesuit college in Paris they met real hostility. however. she was taken ill with a fever and died. it had a highly unusual literary form. but had not yet published. [physicist Isaac] Beeckman. Over the winter of 1639/40 he had taken up the abandoned 1629 work on metaphysics and had spent five months turning it into a publishable book. pretending when they came to visit that Francine was his niece. Descartes met a woman called Helène. The little that is known about Descartes's purely private life mostly concerns his days in Holland. beneath the surface. He concludes that while material objects may not be in reality as they appear to the senses. and in the summer of 1640 Descartes began to believe that the whole Society of Jesus was ranged against him. a professor of mathematics at the University of Leyden called Franz Schooten. occasionally dabbling in philosophy. and. Here he relies on the sceptical hypothesis of the demonic deceiver. Perhaps in Deventer. Descartes called it the greatest sorrow of his life. but suited also. on the one hand appropriate to its official billing as a demonstration of some truths of Christianity. Francine died some months after he had finished the Meditations. Descartes had a number of close friends. in his Spiritual Exercises. the climax being reached on the third day. who became his lover and the mother of his illegitimate daughter. like the habit of taking apparent qualities of bodies for intrinsic properties. The daughter was baptized Francine on 7 August 1635. taking every precaution against error. In the First Meditation Descartes makes himself doubt that he has an idea of any really existing thing. to the crypto-programme of destroying the principles of Aristotle. The need for a treatise that theologians might approve of was growing more acute. In the Second Meditation he notices that to be deceived by the demon there must be a medium of deception. that is. his 'five or six sheets' of metaphysics. Descartes expected his readers to enter into the meditations he reported. their mathematical properties are clear and beyond doubt. He tried to conceal from outsiders their relationship to him. Constantin Huyghens. It is in the Third Meditation that Descartes convinces himself that his idea of God is of something real and existent. By then he had finished writing. where a young follower of his got an academic post in 1632. This reduces a little the scope of the doubt induced on the first day of his retreat. it believes in the existence of numbers or bodies. or when it is in the grip of bad habits. He rejects as false all his beliefs about material objects. himself. conducted in something like the manner St. Accounts of this period of his life sometimes picture him as a near recluse. had suggested for more usual religious retreats. But only after establishing the existence of God does he find a basis for believing in the reality of things beyond himself and his thoughts or ideas. Descartes's book was a diary of a fictional intellectual retreat lasting six days. A corollary is that mathematical physics is possible. Ignatius. Since God does not constitute us so as to be deceived in what we cannot help believing.By Tom Sorell The Meditations Descartes's letters indicate that he began work on the Meditations in November 1639. wholly occupied with experimental and theoretical work in the sciences. the principles at the heart of scholastic teaching in physics. By the sixth day of his retreat Descartes decides that it would be folly to doubt the existence of material objects and the reality of the simple natures. before they fell out. God he understands to be a perfect. the fact that things and connections strike the mind as real counts towards their being real in fact. While the Discourse and Essays had been cautiously received at La Flèche. depending where he made his home. even his faith in the reality of simple material natures. namely thought. What did the new book contain? Like the Discourse. He hoped that they would re-enact for themselves the reasoning by which he conjured up and then slowly dispelled his doubts. when it jumps to conclusions. never for very long at the same address. being who cannot be conceived of as letting falsehoods appear evident to an attentive human mind intention finding the truth. living with a few servants 'awry from society. By then he had been living in Holland for about ten years. Each of the six days is given its own Meditation. It was asking a . His isolation has usually been exaggerated. in September 1640. and if thought. and therefore supremely good. among them a famous coworker in optical theory. This is a turning point because of the reflections of the previous two days. After 1635 Francine and Helène seem to have lived apart from Descartes and to have visited him at irregular intervals. Error is possible when the mind's attention wanders. With these and other people he exchanged regular visits and letters. But the mind cannot be mistaken when.

He observed that dreams can be as vivid as waking experience. to get used to distinguishing between the mental and physical in the ways required by parts of the Second Meditation. Central claims in the book were misinterpreted by his followers. from the Jesuit Pierre Bourdin. to considering the topics dealt with. and this comes out in the First Meditation. in Holland and at the Sorbonne. the progression being from things that were apparent and superficial to points that were more recondite [difficult to grasp] and fundamental. prepared to take doubt to extremes? In reply. for comments on advance copies were solicited and published with it. He now took issue with. But more was demanded of readers of the Meditations than their time and concentration. Traditionally analytic style called for a particular order of exposition or argument: any consideration introduced would either be selfexplanatory or justified by what had gone before. dreams can delude us. Eventually seven sets of 'Objections' were compiled. These and Descartes's 'Replies' to them formed a sort of huge appendix to the Meditations itself. where I made many assumptions I proceeded to refute in subsequent Meditations'. If properly taken in. or at least weeks. In dreams we believe things that. on waking. Descartes thought. In short. what had gone before. And if we have always been dreaming perhaps all the beliefs we have ever formed are false. Did not the First Meditation show that Descartes was a philosophical sceptic. He advised readers of the First Meditation. These large expenditures of time were justified. they would do no less than break the habit of a lifetime. and those in his audience who were already hostile pounced on views he had introduced only to knock down. the habit of taking one's beliefs about the nature of the material world and about one's own nature from one's senseexperience. But there need be nothing in the experience of dreaming or being awake to tell us which is which. All Descartes needs is the possibility that all conscious experience is dream experience. he needed to make use of possibilities that would call into question whole classes of his beliefs. It was doubt of this type to which I was referring when I said that everything that could give rise to the slightest suspicion should be regarded as a sound reason for doubt Descartes had opened the Meditation by saying that for once in his life he would purge his beliefs of everything doubtful. Descartes overestimated the capacities of even his most sympathetic readers. And he estimated that it would take eat least a few days'. we usually find to be false.lot. Doubt without scepticism? In expecting people to be able to follow the strange style of the Meditations. before going on'. then maybe the beliefs being formed in the course of our present experience are all false. and he got Mersenne to collect comments from other churchmen. presumably in addition to the several months or weeks already spent on the first Meditation. Descartes remarked on this peculiarity in a reply to a set of objections to the Meditations: 'The analytic style of writing that I adopted there allows us from time to time to make assumptions that have not yet been thoroughly examined. often he complained of having been misread. among other things. A good deal is known about the early reception of the book. in which he gave reasons for doubting most things unreflectingly taken as true. 'to devote months. A new method of reading had to be mastered. For if we cannot rule out the possibility . In order to make his criticism comprehensive without being unending. Upon waking up we can feel astonished not to be at the place or in the circumstances we were dreaming of. for 'corrections'. as if they were positively asserted. by the therapeutic effect of the Meditations. the First Meditation's very inclusive reckoning of the things it was possible to have doubts about. Bourdin had been responsible for the criticism directed against the Dioptrics at the Jesuit College in Paris. when the book appeared in 1641. The first possibility he considered was that what seemed to be waking life might all be a dream. Descartes said that at the end of the First Meditation I was dealing merely with the kind of extreme doubt which. So how can we tell we are not dreaming now? If we cannot tell. In the Meditations Descartes gave the ‘analytic' style a new twist: the recondite and fundamental considerations would actually make one think twice about. Descartes was disappointed with the quality of the Objections. Perhaps his most cutting Replies were directed against the Seventh Set of Objections. and few if any of those who first went through the book are likely to have undergone the sort of immersion in its details that he demanded. philosophers and scientists. is metaphysical and exaggerated and in no way to be transferred to practical life. It was necessary in early parts of the book to take seriously claims that would be dismissed as incredible later on. or even reject. Descartes himself approached two sets of theologians. as I frequently stressed. Sometimes he replied to them with impatience.

they must come directly from a larger mind: that of God. George Berkeley on Human Knowledge Irish-born philosopher and clergyman George Berkeley (1685-1753) argued that everything that human beings conceive of exists as an idea in a mind. and other 'simpler and more universal things' than heads or hands. Without the distorting effects of sense-experience. that is.we cannot take conscious experience as a reliable guide to how things really are independently of experience. a little more extravagant than the dream hypothesis. is sometimes called rationalism. that he was stretching out his hands. time. But the dream hypothesis did not throw doubt on everything. 'I saw it. in the closing paragraphs of the Meditations. but he does not take back the message of the hypothesis. even if there were in reality no such things as heads or hands. Still later. These chapters outline a kind of scepticism about sense-based beliefs. is reinforced by The World. space. therefore. shape. that he had his eyes open. By referring Bourdin to the relevant passages Descartes thought he could clear himself of charges of scepticism. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. even these beliefs were doubtful. is dream-experience? Descartes used the dream hypothesis to weaken his confidence in the vast range of beliefs occasioned by sense-experience. which Descartes shows to be compatible with the possibility of natural science. But he was being misleading if he was suggesting that by the end of the book he had entirely dismissed the suggestions of the First Meditation. It is true that he eventually withdraws the hypothesis that all experience is dream-experience. a scepticism about their degree of objectivity. The view that enables Descartes to criticize sense-based beliefs. so it must be true': how can anyone say. No one would say. Descartes believed that there existed in human beings a mind or soul or reason. Beliefs about these simpler and more universal things were left untouched by the dream hypothesis. Then he devotes a whole chapter (chapter 4) to correcting 'an error that. which was in a way the intended sequel of the treatise on metaphysics. Descartes does not introduce a sceptical hypothesis only to show how ill-founded it is. while at the same time holding that human beings are capable of physical science. It was by way of thoughts of this kind that the most elementary truths of mathematics and physics were supposed to dawn on human beings. whose content was evident 'by the light of nature alone'. As far as sense-based beliefs are concerned. number. he said that 'the exaggerated doubts of the last few days'. for all we know. Past Masters series. fairly clear by the end of the Meditations. free of all uncertainty? Descartes showed that on another hypothesis. Descartes found that the fiction of a demon capable of deceiving him about everything could not be sustained. Descartes. Descartes first tries to disabuse the reader of the belief that his sensations or experiences are like the things that cause them. This message. which is that sense-experience is a bad basis for conclusions about material things. Source: Sorell. Even if he were only dreaming that he was seated before his fire. that would not show that there weren't in reality such things as matter. 'should be dismissed as laughable'. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. Weren't these beliefs. His second hypothesis was that an immensely powerful and ingenious demon was devoting all his efforts to making him believe what was not true. written in . and that while this relied for some of its thoughts and ideas on the operation of the sense-organs. © 1987. if seeing. when we came to believe that there are no bodies around us except those capable of being perceived by the senses'. has gripped all of us since our childhood. with any more justification. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. a philosophical focus which is known as idealism. 'I dreamt it. All rights reserved. it possessed other information independently. and it was by 'deduction' from the fundamental truths that the most general effects in nature were supposed' to be more objectively understood. In the Second Meditation. so it must be true'. Tom. The World opens with several chapters of criticism of the common-sense view of material things—criticism of the view of the physical world that comes naturally to us. Berkeley reasoned that because one cannot control one’s thoughts. In this excerpt from his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. and that is based on sense-experience. the doubts raised by reflections on dreams and demons.

nor ideas formed by the imagination. or any combination of them. soul. But besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge. and if I were out of my study I should say it existed—meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it. they come to be marked by one name. either compounding. extension and figures—in a word the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations. smell.1710. are accounted one distinct thing. or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate. Their esse is percipi. there was a sound. rivers. the palate with tastes. spirit. should exist unperceived? 5. divide in my thoughts. motion and resistance. heat and cold. those things which perhaps I never perceived by sense so divided. 4. I will not deny. or. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense. and in a word all sensible objects. There was an odor. hatred. or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. which is the same thing. and exercises divers operations. yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may. 2. notions. if that may properly be called abstraction which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. signified by the name 'apple. But with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world. nor passions. I may. It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men. is what everybody will allow. it was heard. whatever objects they compose). or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. Thus I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs. which. joy. figure. and it was perceived by sight or touch. By touch I perceive hard and soft. and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. The table I write on I say exists—that is. or else such as are (2) perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas. even in thought. I can abstract. Smelling furnishes me with odors. a color or figure. and the like sensible things. that seems perfectly unintelligible.” From Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge By George Berkeley It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge. or lastly (3) ideas formed by help of memory and imagination. for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived. a book. about them. there is likewise something which knows or perceives them. grief. and so forth. so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these. perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. or myself. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived. cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. that is. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other. if I mistake not. having been observed to go together. Berkeley explained why he believed that it is “impossible … that there should be any such thing as an outward object. it was smelt. have an existence. that is. I might as easily divide a thing from itself. and so to be reputed as one thing.' Other collections of ideas constitute a stone. with their several degrees and variations. but a thing entirely distinct from them wherein they exist. By sight I have the ideas of lights and colors. distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. that they are either ideas (1) actually imprinted on the senses. This perceiving. indeed. heat and cold. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived. ideas. Thus. whereby they are perceived. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will perhaps be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of abstract ideas. and consistence. natural or real. or conceive apart from each other. any of these from perception? For my part. taste. for example. a certain color. So far. excite the passions of love. a tree. nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them. as willing. That neither our thoughts. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the . as they are pleasing or disagreeable. I see and feel it. that houses. however blended or combined together (that is. dividing. active being is what I call mind. 3. remembering. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by anyone that shall attend to what is meant by the term 'exist' when applied to sensible things. imagining. and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. exist without the mind. mountains.

11. they must either have no existence at all. sounds. as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing. swift and slow. they are extension in general. but if you say they are not. This they take for an undoubted truth. they are nothing at all. it is plain that the very notion of what is called matter. and so forth. capable of being abstracted from them. etc. 7. and not. Where therefore the other sensible qualities are. involves a contradiction in it. are allowed to exist nowhere without the mind. have not any subsistence without a mind. rest. which they can demonstrate beyond all exception. to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. Again. do at the same time acknowledge that color. figure. as colors. Some there are who make a distinction betwixt primary and secondary qualities. it being perfectly unintelligible.possibility of real existence or perception. which things exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. whereof they are copies or resemblances. The ideas we have of these they acknowledge not to be the resemblances of anything existing without the mind. abstracted from all other qualities. But. yet there may be things like them. But for the fuller proof of this point. that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth. for an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing is a manifest contradiction. but I must withal give it some color or other sensible quality which is acknowledged to exist only in the mind. In short. do not. and motion in general: thus we see how much the tenet of extended movable substances existing without the mind depends on the strange doctrine of . or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit. for to have an idea is all one as to perceive. be themselves perceivable or no? If they are. say you. by any abstraction of thought. in which extension. so it is impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it. which they tell us are sensations existing in the mind alone. and changing as the frame or position of the organs of sense varies. But it is evident from what we have already shown. The extension therefore which exists without the mind is neither great nor small. and the rest of the primary or original qualities do exist without the mind in unthinking substances. motion. Now. hence it is clear there can be no unthinking substance or substratum of those ideas. therefore. the reader need only reflect and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of a sensible thing from its being perceived. that therefore wherein color. and number. and that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can exist in an unperceiving substance. Such I take this important one to be. that extension. 8. in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world. by the latter they denote all other sensible qualities. I ask whether those supposed originals or external things. They who assert that figure. and so of the rest. For my own part. extension. Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. motion. say you. the motion neither swift nor slow. and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea. the ideas perceived by sense. great and small. or that which perceives. I appeal to anyone whether it be sense to assert a color is like something which is invisible. or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit. Now. there must these be also. cold. From what has been said it follows there is not any other substance than spirit. we shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only between our ideas. to wit. are inconceivable. By the former they mean extension. in the mind and nowhere else. taste. smell. texture. But I desire anyone to reflect and try whether he can. figure. that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me. sounds. being entirely relative. or corporeal substance. 10. like something which is intangible. that is. if it be certain that those original qualities are inseparably united with the other sensible qualities. and motion. motion. that their being is to be perceived or known. a color or figure can be like nothing but another color or figure. figure. it plainly follows that they exist only in the mind. and suchlike secondary qualities. senseless substance. or unperceived.—that is. but they will have our ideas of the primary qualities to be patterns or images of things which exist without the mind. we are to understand an inert. conceive the extension and motion of a body without all other sensible qualities. To be convinced of which. and the like qualities exist must perceive them. 9. let it be considered the sensible qualities are color. If we look but never so little into our thoughts. in an unthinking substance which they call matter. heat. that depend on and are occasioned by the different size. of which our ideas are the pictures or representations. figure. But. By matter. figure. figure. Again. Hence. I answer. and involving all the absurdity of abstraction. to wit. an idea can be like nothing but an idea. and motion of the minute particles of matter. solidity or impenetrability. hard or soft. even in thought. though the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind. then they are ideas and we have gained our point. tastes. and motion do actually subsist. I see evidently that it is not in my power to frame an idea of a body extended and moving. and motion are only ideas existing in the mind. Hence. 6.

since therefore it has been shewn that extension exists not in an unthinking substance. Thus. a foot. and motion—though it must be confessed this method of arguing does not so much prove that there is no extension or color in an outward object. in what sense therefore must it be taken? 17. If we inquire into what the most accurate philosophers declare themselves to mean by material substance. one page. it is proved that sweetness is not really in the sapid thing. Number is so visibly relative. And in each instance. And here I cannot but remark how nearly the vague and indeterminate description of matter or corporeal substance. shall appear slower without any alteration in any external object? 15. and as for its supporting accidents. I know. But why should we trouble ourselves any farther. though you know not what it is. one line. after the same manner as modern philosophers prove certain sensible qualities to have no existence in matter. 12. it is acknowledged. for that the same body which appears cold to one hand seems warm to another. We say one book. It is said extension is a mode or accident of matter. and dependent on men's understanding. the same extension is one. In short. or three. existing in the corporeal substances which excite them. or thirty-six. should exist in an unthinking subject without the mind. even though the other qualities be allowed to exist without. it should be the most familiar to my understanding. resembles that antiquated and so much ridiculed notion of materia prima. it is plain. because the thing remaining unaltered the sweetness is changed into bitter. So that when I consider the two parts or branches which make the signification of the words material substance. we shall find them acknowledge they have no other meaning annexed to those sounds but the idea of Being in general. you must at least have a relative idea of matter. the same must also be true of solidity. I answer. as that we do not know by sense which is the true extension or color of the object. That I have any such idea answering the word 'unity' I do not find. together with the relative notion of its supporting accidents. let anyone consider those arguments which are thought manifestly to prove that colors and tastes exist only in the mind.abstract ideas. some will have to be a simple or uncompounded idea. Thus. or other sensible quality whatsoever. as we have just now observed. will be evident to whoever considers that the same thing bears a different denomination of number as the mind views it with different respects. to be met with in Aristotle and his followers. 16. as in case of a fever or otherwise vitiated palate. But the arguments foregoing plainly show it to be impossible that any color or extension at all. That number is entirely the creature of the mind. 14. if you have any meaning at all. Is it not as reasonable to say that motion is not without the mind. I am convinced there is no distinct meaning annexed to them. the same thing may be likewise proved of all other sensible qualities whatsoever. the unit relates to some particular combination of ideas arbitrarily put together by the mind. and not at all patterns of real beings. it is an abstract idea. for instance. or without the mind. Without extension solidity cannot be conceived. and that matter is the substratum that supports it. which the modern philosophers are run into by their own principles. and to be perceived by all the ways of sensation and reflection. this. it is said that heat and cold are affections only of the mind. or an inch. in discussing this material substratum or support of figure and motion. To say no more. because to the same eye at different stations. that it is strange to think how anyone should give it an absolute existence without the mind. according as the mind considers it with reference to a yard. I have no idea of matter and therefore cannot explain it. and cannot therefore be the images of anything settled and determinate without the mind? Again. Say you. yet you must be supposed to know what relation it bears to accidents. or in truth. though you have no positive. The general idea of Being appeareth to me the most abstract and incomprehensible of all other. though some contain several of the others. or eyes of a different texture at the same station. but what that is they do not explain. it must therefore be taken in some other sense. Unity. Now I desire that you would explain to me what is meant by matter's supporting extension. all these are equally units. I shall farther add that. since it is said to accompany all other ideas. and what is meant by its supporting them. accompanying all other ideas into the mind. the motion. figure. why may we not as well argue that figure and extension are not patterns or resemblances of qualities existing in matter. and he shall find they may with equal force be brought to prove the same thing of extension. 13. that there should be any such thing as an outward object. and other sensible qualities? Does it not suppose they have an existence without the mind? And is not this a direct repugnancy. and if I had. Now. they appear various. It is evident 'support' cannot here be taken in its usual or literal sense—as when we say that pillars support a building. and altogether inconceivable? . cannot be understood in the common sense of those words. since if the succession of ideas in the mind become swifter. methinks I could not miss finding it: on the contrary. yet. But let us examine a little the received opinion.

and if there were not. or unperceived. inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. they by their own confession are never the nearer knowing how our ideas are produced. it is impossible we should ever come to know it. movable substances may exist without the mind. more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees. frenzies. or books existing in a closet. or figure. I shall grant you its existence. and so it might be at least probable there are such things as bodies that excite their ideas in our minds. for any one idea. for instance. that God has created innumerable beings that are entirely useless. 22. In short. It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge at all of external things. though you cannot either give me any reason why you believe it exists. This the materialists themselves acknowledge. it is evident the supposition of external bodies is not necessary for the producing our ideas. I am afraid I have given cause to think I am needlessly prolix in handling this subject. that you can possibly have for believing the same thing? Of this there can be no question. to be affected with the same train of sensations or ideas that you are. If therefore it were possible for bodies to exist without the mind. corresponding to the ideas we have of bodies. Suppose (what no one can deny possible) an intelligence without the help of external bodies. But though it were possible that solid. 23. as well because I think arguments a posteriori are unnecessary for confirming what has been. and serve to no manner of purpose. yet perhaps it may be thought easier to conceive and explain the manner of their production by supposing external bodies in their likeness rather than otherwise. or how it is possible it should imprint any idea in the mind. Hence. must needs be a very precarious opinion. 19. For. I ask whether that intelligence hath not all the reason to believe the existence of corporeal substances. represented by his ideas. resembling them. and might possibly be produced always in the same order we see them in at present. 21. to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it. figured. I could instance several of those errors and difficulties (not to mention impieties) which have sprung from that tenet. or. by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations. Hence it is evident the production of ideas or sensations in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose matter or corporeal substances. But what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind. as for all that compages of external bodies you contend for. imprinted in the same order and with like vividness in his mind. in general. though there were no bodies existing without. and not a few of far greater moment in religion. I shall readily give up the cause. since it is granted they are produced sometimes. like to those which are perceived. or those things that are immediately perceived by sense. there is no difficulty in it. in a park. But neither can this be said. say you. without any reason at all. yet how is it possible for us to know this? Either we must know it by sense or by reason. as because I shall hereafter find occasion to speak somewhat of them. and. and nobody by to perceive them. from what we perceive. Were it necessary to add any farther proof against the existence of matter after what has been said. and so trying whether you can conceive it possible for a sound. sufficiently demonstrated a priori. it must be by reason. or color to exist without the mind or unperceived. if there were external bodies. yet to hold they do so. I say. though we might possibly have all our sensations without them. if I mistake not. or motion. But. surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees. I beseech you. call them what you will. As for our senses. without their concurrence. you may so. This easy trial may perhaps make you see that what you contend for is a downright contradiction. It has occasioned numberless controversies and disputes in philosophy. since it is to suppose. 20. But I shall not enter into the detail of them in this place. but what is all this. the bare possibility of your opinion's being true shall pass for an argument that it is so. to anyone that is capable of the least reflection? It is but looking into your own thoughts. since the very patrons of matter themselves do not pretend there is any necessary connection betwixt them and our ideas? I say it is granted on all hands (and what happens in dreams. or anything like an idea. which one consideration were enough to make any reasonable person suspect the strength of whatever arguments he may think himself to have for the existence of bodies without the mind. since they own themselves unable to comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit. and the same time omitting to frame the idea of anyone that may perceive them? But do not you . or assign any use to it when it is supposed to exist. But. since that is acknowledged to remain equally inexplicable with or without this supposition. Insomuch that I am content to put the whole upon this issue: if you can but conceive it possible for one extended movable substance. but they do not inform us that things exist without the mind. and exciting them in his mind. I answer. and the like. puts it beyond dispute) that it is possible we might be affected with all the ideas we have now. for though we give the materialists their external bodies. ideas.18. to what purpose is it to dilate on that which may be demonstrated with the utmost evidence in a line or two. we might have the very same reasons to think there were that we have now.

there is. others are changed or totally disappear. This passage is from the close of the third dialogue. that the absolute existence of unthinking things are words without a meaning. It is on this therefore that I insist. it only shews you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind: but it doth not shew that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. There is therefore some cause of these ideas. and if by this attention the emptiness or repugnancy of those expressions doth appear. to be the cause of anything: neither can it be the resemblance or pattern of any active being. We perceive a continual succession of ideas. A little attention will discover to us that the very being of an idea implies passiveness and inertness in it. sensations. That this cause cannot be any quality or idea or combination of ideas. or which include a contradiction. 8. New York: Random House. and make it unnecessary to insist on any other proofs against the existence of material substance. it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of. to a more general audience in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713). and size of corpuscles [particles of matter]. Edwin A. which is a manifest repugnancy. part of the school of thought known as idealism. there is nothing else requisite but a bare observation of our ideas. and motion cannot be the cause of our sensations. upon the least inquiry into our thoughts. 1939. But the mind taking no notice of itself. This is what I repeat and inculcate. It is very obvious. ed. surely nothing more is requisite for the conviction. to wit. is deluded to think it can and doth conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind. All rights reserved. 24. I know no readier or fairer way than to entreat they would calmly attend to their own thoughts.. strictly speaking. or the things which we perceive. will not perceive in them any power or activity. and earnestly recommend to the attentive thoughts of the reader. whether of sense or reflection. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. 25. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies. no such thing contained in them. To say. we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. are visibly inactive: there is nothing of power or agency included in them. To make out this. motion.yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose. And to convince others of this. that these are the effects of powers resulting from the configuration. or. Source: The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill. but it has been shewn that there is no corporeal or material substance: it remains therefore that the cause of ideas is an incorporeal active substance or Spirit. were met with disdain by the London intelligentsia of the day. number. is clear from the preceding section. though at the same time they are apprehended by or exist in itself. as is evident from Sec. A little attention will discover to anyone the truth and evidence of what is here said. To be satisfied of the truth of this. which asserted that no objects or matter existed outside the human mind. some are anew excited. All our ideas. figure. His initial publications. Whence it plainly follows that extension. Burtt. It must therefore be a substance. therefore. insomuch that it is impossible for an idea to do anything. to know whether it is possible for us to understand what is meant by the absolute existence of sensible objects in themselves. and which produces and changes them. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. Berkeley: From Three Dialogues Irish philosopher and clergyman George Berkeley set out to challenge what he saw as the atheism and skepticism inherent in the prevailing philosophy of the early 18th century. or without the mind. To me it is evident those words mark out either a direct contradiction. For. whereon they depend. since they and every part of them exist only in the mind. by whatsoever names they may be distinguished. Berkeley aimed to explain his “Immaterialist” theory. From Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous By George Berkeley . So that one idea or object of thought cannot produce or make any alteration in another. notions. it follows that there is nothing in them but what is perceived: but whoever shall attend to his ideas. therefore. or else nothing at all. must certainly be false. 26.

S. Principles of Human Knowledge. Edited by Woolhouse. Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. and a new light breaks in upon my understanding. usually do. and. that those things they immediately perceive are the real things. You set out upon the same principles that Academics. which was before shared between the vulgar and the philosophers: the former being of opinion. that the things immediately perceived. and for a long time it looked as if you were advancing their philosophical scepticism. pursued to a certain point. Penguin Books. and the latter. do in effect constitute the substance of what I advance. Now the glasses are removed. I thought I saw things by a dim light. in a round column. I am clearly convinced that I see things in their native forms. proceeding from the same uniform law or principle of gravitation. Just so. Hylas. to a certain height. I do not yet thoroughly comprehend. but in the end your conclusions are directly opposite to theirs. at which it breaks and falls back into the basin from whence it rose: its ascent as well as descent. how it is forced upwards. bring men back to common sense. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2004. HYLAS: I have been a long time distrusting my senses. R. and the like sects. PHILONOUS: You see.PHILONOUS: I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new notions. and through false glasses. and am no longer in pain about their unknown natures or absolute existence. George. . the same principles which at first view lead to scepticism. This is the state I find myself in at present: though indeed the course that brought me to it. Cartesians. Which two notions put together. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. Source: Berkeley. My endeavours tend only to unite and place in a clearer light that truth. are ideas which exist only in the mind. All rights reserved. the water of yonder fountain.

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