the following will outline what the essay that is to be written about. It offers two options, I will let you make the decision as to which philosopher you would rather write about. please contact me by email if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Choose either Locke or Berkeley. Write a paper that attempts to persuade the reader that the philosopher you have chosen has the more effective argument. If you choose Locke, title your paper: â€œLockeâ€™s Argument for the Existence of Real Things.â€ If you choose Berkeley, title your paper: â€œBerkeleyâ€™s Argument from Idealism.â€
Before you begin to write your paper, re-read the sections that you find most pertinent from Lockeâ€™s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Berkeleyâ€™s Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Papers that only focus on my units and do not exhibit a strong familiarity with the primary texts from this course â€“ will not be as successful.
No matter whether you pick Locke or Berkeley, follow these basic steps (you can use headlines if you want to):
First, briefly introduce both Lockeâ€™s and Berkeleyâ€™s argument, and then tell the reader that your intention is to argue for Locke or Berkeley (whichever one you choose). This is your introduction paragraph. It should not exceed 6 sentences. Do not mention biographical information about the philosophers, or begin from grand generalizations. The introduction should be concise and to the point. Simply state your agenda in the paper and make sure to briefly explain how your paper will work.
Second, analyze the argument of the philosopher you have chosen. Be careful to expose as many details as you find pertinent. If you decide to argue for Lockeâ€™s position, you should develop one or two of the four arguments I outlined in Unit 03 (see â€œLockeâ€™s four arguments for the existence of things without usâ€). If you decide to argue for Berkeleyâ€™s position, you should develop some of Philonousâ€™ claims about the primacy of ideas. This section should consist of 3- 4 paragraphs, approximately half your paper. Work directly from the primary texts!
Third, analyze the opposing argument (if you choose Locke, then analyze Berkeley; if you choose Berkeley, then analyze Locke). This section should contain one or two medium-size paragraphs. Try to explain the opposing argument from within its own terms. The point is to gesture to the opposing argument and show that one might also find it persuasive.
Fourth, conclude your paper by explaining why your initial argument is more effective than the opposing one. This section should contain one medium-size paragraph. Try to synthesize what you have said in your paper by making the case that although the opposing argument has certain strengths to it, nevertheless you find the initial argument more effective. Make sure you list at least two reasons why you find the initial argument more persuasive than the opposing one.
Requirements of the paper: Your paper should be approximately four pages (900- 1100 words). Much of your grade will reflect whether you exhibit a strong understanding of the philosophical content of this course. Make sure that you explicitly define the terms you are using in your paper. For example, if you discuss Berkeleyâ€™s â€œidealismâ€, you will need to define what idealism means.
I am primarily looking for evidence of clear argumentation.
While I expect you to write your essay in formal, university-level language, feel free to write in the first person (this does not mean that your essay should be opinion-based, however!) Also, feel free to use headlines for organization purposes. Refer to the fast facts sheet of the Chicago Manual of Style for all citation purposes. Please edit your paper carefully. Use spell check. And make sure you proof-read your own work before handing it in. I will take off up to 10% for grammar and writing issues. Also, please use the standard coversheet (the URL link for this is listed in the Essay Assignment tab). And title your paper.
I would like you to use Chicago Style for your citations in paper 1. But since the paper is not a research paper and is quite short (900-1100 words), you don't need to reference many sources (unless you want to). In fact, if many of you only refer to Bailey's textbook, this would be fine.
Chicago style requires two tasks: 1) in-text citations (either footnotes or endnotes) and 2) a bibliography. But I only want you to create a bibliography. Your in-text citation can be informal. If you are citing Bailey's textbook in-text, just reference the page number after the quote or paraphrase, like this: (46). If you are citing any other reference material besides Bailey, give me the author, title, and page, like this: (Gadamer, Hegel's Dialectic, 52).
Unit Readings: Meditations on First Philosophy 1 â€“ 6, First Philosophy (142 â€“ 172)
RenÃ© Descartes (1596- 1650) is an extremely rigorous philosopher because he proposes to establish, once and for all, if there is anything that we can know beyond all doubt. He applies supposed facts, opinions, sensations, beliefs, all of which we might think are true and certain, to a critical method of doubt. Descartes even states that if we can doubt some supposed fact even a little bit, then we should act as if it is completely suspect and doubtable. Why does Descartes propose such a radical method? Is he simply paranoid?
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In the First Meditation, Descartes attempts to doubt all things. It is important to recognize what his motivation is for such a project. Is Descartesâ€™ goal to expose all presumptions and beliefs for the sake of pure destruction, or is he attempting to establish a certain foundation, from which other inferences can be formed? Notice what he writes about the relationship between destruction and foundation at the beginning of the First Meditation: â€œI realized that it was necessaryâ€¦ to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last (144).â€ This shows that Descartesâ€™ method of doubt attempts to secure principles and concepts that are stable, similar to building a house from proper foundations. His aim is not simply to doubt all things and to destroy truth, but rather to find what is essentially true by removing conjecture and belief. If it turns out that nothing is true, and there is no secure principle from which we can ground knowledge, then at least we have established this through method and argumentation. But if it turns out that there is a principle beyond all doubt, then it is of utmost importance to elucidate this principle and to deduce further consequences from this firm ground.
Since Descartes calls the chapters of his book â€˜meditations,â€™ let us begin by meditating on what it means to doubt. We doubt things all the time. We might doubt that a friend is telling the truth. Or that the color of the car in the driveway is really blue. Or that our childhood memories are really accurate. We also might doubt that a certain scientific hypothesis is actually true, that eating tomatoes can lead to cancer, or that the holes in the ozone layer are not getting bigger. Do you feel certain about anything? This is Descartesâ€™ initial question. You could make a list of things about which you feel quite certain, and another list of things that are quite suspect. There are probably many basic things you feel certain about. You might feel certain that your name is your name. Or that you have a body, hands, and feet. You might feel certain of the street address where you live. Or that your parents still reside in the house where you grew up. Do you need to look at your birth certificate every day to make sure that you were born? Probably not. You are probably certain about where and when you were born, or at least that you were born, and that you are alive right now as you read this.
How to Doubt Opinions and Habits?
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Descartes recognizes that as a child he learned certain customs and habits, and from these came to form opinions about how the world works. But since these opinions are built on the habits of custom - nationality, family relations, social and economic ranking, etc. - these opinions are not difficult to doubt. One strategy for how to doubt your opinions: examine a counter argument, which if true, would discredit your opinion. Opinions are, by definition, dis-credible, so it should not be hard to doubt them. And remember that if you can doubt an opinion even a little bit, let us act as if it is completely doubtable.
Before the scientific advancements of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473- 1543), people often believed that the earth is the centre of the universe, and that the sun rotates around it. It must have been hard for people to free themselves from the habits formed from these beliefs. What do we believe in our contemporary society? Do we share basic opinions about the way the world works, which might be based on presumptions? Try to release yourself from these opinions. Let yourself doubt even basic things.
How to Doubt the Senses?
But the task ahead of us becomes more difficult when we focus on our senses. Descartes says that much of what we believe is true without doubt comes from what we establish through direct sensation. If I see with my own eyes that the car is blue, or that my parents live in the house where I was born, does it become less appropriate to doubt these things? When lawyers attempt to persuade a jury that a crime did or did not take place, one of the best resources they have is the â€˜eye-witness.â€™ Of course, sometimes the senses do deceive us. We do not always see things in the clearest of light. Sometimes we mistake one thing for another, or think we hear someone say what they did not say. But isnâ€™t it the case that for the most part, the senses expose the truth of things? Do you doubt, for example, that you are reading this page right now? Or that what is right in front of you and in the clearest light is not what it seems to be?
What if we are Dreaming?
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But what if you are really asleep right now, and only believe that you are reading this page? How can you tell for certain that you are awake? This is the sort of question Descartes asks in order to dislodge us from the presumption that what we see in the clearest light is definitely real. Often our dreams are so vivid and consuming that we think we are awake. Have you ever dreamt and thought you were awake? If it is even the slightest possibility that you are asleep right now, then Descartes proposes that we can doubt everything about what we sense. We can even doubt the most basic sensations, such as that you are sitting in a chair as you read this, or that you are a person, that you are typing with your hands, etc. All of this might be a dream. The whole world that you conceive as real might be fake. You might have dreamt the existence of all things. If we consider that we might be dreaming the whole world, is there nothing we can establish as certainly true?
How to Doubt that 2+3=5?
Let us suppose with Descartes that we might be asleep even when we think we are awake. Still, are there not certain essences, laws of nature, categories and properties of things, which exist beyond all doubt? Although I might not be able to tell whether I am wearing a hat or dreaming that I am wearing a hat, isnâ€™t it the case that the universal concept of hat, and other things of this sort (coats, bananas, feet, spaceships, etc.), necessarily exist?
Or what about the laws of mathematics and geometry? I might not be able to tell whether I am dreaming or not, but surely there are basic truths, such as that 2+3=5. Or that all squares have four equal sides? Does 2 plus 3 equal 5 even in dreams? Arenâ€™t dreams also made up of certain universal things such as hats, coats, bananas, feet, spaceships, etc.? And donâ€™t the law of mathematics and geometry still apply to dreams?
What if an Evil Demon Invented the World and Wants to Trick you?
That 2 plus 3 equals 5 does seem more certain, but Descartes suggests that we do not really know what even these laws are based on. Does nature dictate the laws of mathematics? Or does God decide what is true and what is false? What if there is a mastermind who makes decisions about these basic things, but what if this mastermind is evil or likes to play games with us? What if 2 plus 3 does not equal 5, but only seems to equal 5 because we are being tricked. Although every experience we seem to have shows that 2+3=5, can we grant for certain that whatever generates these laws (i.e. nature, God, the evil demon, etc.) is definitely not deceiving us? Descartesâ€™ point is that we cannot simply presume that 2+3=5. If this concept is true, we will still need to establish this.
I Think, Hence I am.
We have now compiled a long list of things that we cannot trust. And so it is time to ask, what, if anything, is undoubtable? The most obvious things, although they might seem to be real, also might not be real. To follow Descartesâ€™â€™ program, our ability to doubt things must become radical: it might be that the sky, the earth, our minds, and bodies actuality do not exist. Once we become this open to doubting everything in the world, what can we conclude? Is the only truth that nothing is certain?
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Or have we established something after all, something that remains constant throughout our investigations? At precisely this point, where it seems that nothing can be established, Descartes asks the question that will drive his principle of knowledge: â€œam not I, at least, something?â€ (page 147) We have applied the whole world to doubt. In each case, it is â€˜Iâ€™ who doubts. Descartes claims that the â€˜Iâ€™ is the constant element. It is there, implicitly or explicitly, at the base of all doubt.
Descartes claims that the â€˜Iâ€™ is undoubtable. Let us test his claim by attempting to doubt the â€˜I.â€™ What happens if I were to doubt that I exist? Descartesâ€™ point is that we necessarily posit the existence of â€˜I thinkâ€™ even if we doubt that we exist. How can you doubt that you exist, if you have to posit your own existence in order to doubt it.
Is Descartes right? Is the I all that is â€œcertain and unshakeable?â€ Test this for yourself. Try to imagine that you do not exist? Do you still feel the presence of yourself when you do this exercise?
What am I?
Certainly, I can doubt that I exist. â€˜I think that I do not exist.â€™ Doubting that I exist is no more difficult than doubting the sky or the earth. But in the statement, â€˜I think that I do not exist,â€™ can we make the â€˜I thinkâ€™ disappear as well? Descartes says that we cannot make this disappear. He says this â€˜I thinkâ€™ is undoubtable and irretraceable. It is the basis of all knowledge because it is what remains even if I doubt the world and that I am.
The â€˜Iâ€™ is implicit in all modes of thought. I think, I affirm, I believe, I know, I doubt, I understand, I imagine, I perceive, I remember, I sense, I will, I am. Although we can doubt or affirm, imagine or remember, the objects of our thought, and these might or might not be the way that they seem, still we cannot doubt the formal structure of thought itself, that in one mode or another, I necessarily posit myself.
As an exercise, rewrite the following sentences using as many modes of thought as you find appropriate:
E.G.: The moon is full. Answer: I think the moon is full. I believe the moon is full. I remember that the moon is full.
The train station is two km from the bus station.
The cat is even bigger than the dog.
Your name is Bob.
What is this â€˜Iâ€™ implicit in all modes of thought? Descartes warns us not to mistake the â€˜Iâ€™ with objectifications of the self. I think, hence I am. But Descartes does not yet claim anything particular about the â€˜I.â€™ In other words, we can doubt every claim about the â€˜Iâ€™ but we cannot doubt the â€˜Iâ€™ itself. I can doubt that I am who I say I am, that I live where I think I live, that I am tall or short, friendly or mean â€“ but I cannot doubt that there is â€˜I.â€™
Unit Readings: Meditations on First Philosophy 1 â€“ 6, First Philosophy (142 â€“ 172)
In the First and Second Meditations, Descartes asks us to doubt all things: opinions, facts, sensations, even basic mathematical principles, such as 2+3=5. From this experiment, we might try to conclude that there is nothing beyond all doubt. But Descartes then shows that by the process of doubting, the one thing I cannot doubt is that I am present in this doubting. Descartes establishes this as the principle of knowledge, that even if I doubt all things, I still am. What would happen if Descartesâ€™ Meditations ended here? What if we conclude that â€˜I amâ€™ and do not also establish that material things exist?
If Descartes were to stop at the â€˜I amâ€™ and not ask the further question about how to ensure the existence of material things, his philosophy would be a kind of Solipsism. Solipsism is the philosophical position, often deemed an untenable position, that I am the only thing of which I can be certain, either that I am the centre of the universe and that all other things depend upon and revolve around me, or that nothing but me exists. Imagine a great Lord who declares that all subjects of the land must live in accordance with the Lordâ€™s own idiosyncratic will. The subjects of her Lordship would have no individual perspectives, but would act only for the sake of their Lord. This Lord is an example of a Solipsist because she attempts to ground the world on the principle of herself alone, as if nothing else exists but her own particular will.
In the Sixth Meditation, however, Descartes examines the existence of material things, and argues for a kind of Dualism between the mind and the body, rather than Solipsism. Before we analyze the Sixth Meditation, let us look at Descartesâ€™ example of the wax from the Second Meditation.
What is Descartesâ€™ Argument About the Wax?
Descartes notices how strange it is that often external things seem more certain than the â€˜I amâ€™, even though the results of the First and Second Mediation show that external things are quite dubitable, and that the â€˜I amâ€™ is the only solid foundation from which we can begin to build a system of knowledge. Why is it that some external things seem to have an aura of authority and facticity about them, while the â€˜I amâ€™ with its many modes of thought (I think, I perceive, I doubt, I affirm, etc.) seems vague, imperceptible, subjective, and insubstantial? This is the question that leads to Descartesâ€™ famous example about the wax.
Descartes talks about wax in particular, rather than sheep, umbrellas, tomatoes, coats, or any other things like this, because wax takes on so many different forms, and seems to shift shapes. Wax is sometimes solid, sometimes liquid, sometimes flexible, sometimes rigid, sometimes square, sometimes oval; it changes color, texture, odor, sometimes melts and seems to dissipate, sometimes congeals and seems to expand. Still, we consider a piece of wax to be one consistent thing throughout. How is it that we recognize the same wax throughout, although it changes forms so often and does not seem to have much consistency at all? â€œWhat was it in the wax,â€ Descartes asks, â€œthat I understood with such distinctness? Evidently none of the features which I arrived at by means of the senses; for whatever came under taste, smell, sight, touch or hearing has now altered â€“ yet the wax remains (pages 149.1).â€
Why does the wax remain, even though it takes so many forms and seems so utterly inconsistent with itself? Is the wax contained in any one of its permutations? Descartes argues that the wax is not any one form of its presentation. It is not simply the shape it takes when it melts or when it hardens. The wax has such a protean set of forms, Descartes claims, that we cannot really establish anything consistent about the wax in terms of sensation. Even if we attempt to reduce the wax to its most basic units, extension and changeability, our imagination is still incapable of ensuring the consistency of the wax through all of its forms. This is the case because we would be unable to imagine all of the extension-shapes that the piece of wax can form. From this, Descartes concludes that the consistency of the wax is not in any sensation of the wax; rather, its consistency lies only in the mind. What remains of the wax throughout all of its transformations is the idea that I have of it.
Do Material Things Exist?
Descartes chooses a piece of wax for his experiment because he wants to investigate whether material things exist, and whether they have any consistency at all. He chooses wax in particular because it is a very malleable thing that seems to have no consistency in itself. If we can establish something certain about a piece of wax, then we will be in a good position to make claims about the true existence of external, material things. However, Descartesâ€™ conclusion is not that there is something in the sensation of the wax that is consistent, nor is there anything in the external qualities of the wax which would seem to exist without me. Rather, what is consistent about the wax, Descartes concludes, is the idea I hold of it in my mind alone. The mind holds the wax together as one consistent idea through all of its fluctuations. Since the idea of the wax is in my mind alone, the idea is separate from any sensations I have of the wax.
How does this conclusion ensure anything about the material existence of things? It would seem that if material things really exist, we would need to establish the external reality of these things. Do we need to show that things exist whether the â€˜Iâ€™ is there to perceive them or not? How does Descartesâ€™ conclusion about the wax prove anything other than that I alone exist? Descartesâ€™ Sixth Meditation is a meditation about this exact puzzle: if I can establish the consistency of things only in the idea I hold in my mind alone, do external, material things really exist, or am I all that really exists?
Is There Anything Real that Exists Outside of Me?
Even if we attempt to doubt the entire world, and tear down all facts that we had once believed were obvious and certain, we still posit ourselves in this act of doubting. Descartes develops from this insight, not only the certain knowledge that the â€˜Iâ€™ must necessarily exist; he also establishes the necessary existence of something outside of me, a world of extension whose ideas are in me but are not produced by me. Notice that Descartes has not yet made any specific claims about this world of extension, only that the extension of things is as certain and necessary as the â€˜Iâ€™ of thought. I can be certain that bodies are extended, even if I cannot be certain of in exactly what way they are extended. For Descartes, there are two substances, thought and extension, both of which come from the certainty of the â€˜I.â€™
Descartes gives a number of reasons for why things necessarily exist outside of me. The main reason he gives (on page 167) is that we often experience a world that works without us, sometimes one that even works against us. A seed, for example, naturally grows into a plant. I can think of the idea of seed and of how it grows into a plant. But I also know that the seedâ€™s nature is to grow into the plant, whether I hold the idea of the seed in my mind or not. Since the seed does not need me to conceive of it, but simply grows into the plant of its own volition, I can tell that there exists a world outside of me, whose mechanics work whether I do anything to make nature come about or not.
Are the Mind and the Body Different?
The most vivid thing that nature teaches us is that I have a body, and that this body really exists. But does a body exist in the same way that the mind exists? Descartes claims at the end of the Sixth Meditation that the body and the mind exist in very different ways.
All bodies are divisible, but the mind cannot be divided into parts. Think of any type of body and try to divide it into parts. The human body consists of many organs (liver, lungs, heart, etc.), tissues, and blood. The human face consists of eyes, a nose, ears, etc. Even small units like atoms are divisible and can also be used as the parts to form a greater whole. But the mind, Descartes claims, is utterly indivisible. Be careful not to mistake the mind with the brain. The brain is a physical, divisible body with many complex parts, but the mind consists only of the modes of thinking, which by their nature cannot be divided into parts and wholes. These modes of thought are not of themselves divisions of the mind. They are just different ways to represent the â€˜I think.â€™
The mind cannot be divided into parts because it is the act of thinking itself, and not an object of thought. This is the difference between thinking and thinking that. My body could change in many fundamental ways. I could lose an arm or a leg, have my face taken off, and another one put on. In my lifetime, I grow from a small infant child to an adult, and from an adult to an old person. The body changes in such fundamental ways, and yet I am sure that I am the same person throughout. The certainty of this, for Descartes, is in the indivisibility of the mind. Lose a foot, or an arm, yet your mind does not change. There is no way to change the act of thinking. This act is absolute.
Try to visualize the difference between your mind and your body. Can you describe anything concrete about the mind? Do you feel that there is a separation between the two? Are you directing your body like a sailor directs the vessel of a ship? Or is the relationship between the mind and the body much more organic than a mind in a machine? Descartes claims that there is a sharp difference between the mind and the body. By this difference, Descartes presents a theory of philosophical dualism, which generates a long discourse in the history of philosophy, a debate about the continuity or discontinuity between the mind and the body.
Unit 3Unit Readings: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, First Philosophy (178 â€“ 189)
Like Descartes who preceded him, the British philosopher John Locke (1632- 1704) concerned himself with epistemological problems (of how we know things), such as whether we can be certain about the existence of external material things, and whether, if we can be certain about material things, we ought to locate the origin of this knowledge only in the mind, or whether we might be able to locate the certainty of things in the things themselves. Contrary to Descartes, however, Locke comes to a significantly different conclusion about the existence of external things. Whereas Descartes argues for a kind of rationalism, claiming that we can only deduce the existence of things from the foundation of the â€˜I think,â€™ Locke, on the other hand, argues for a type of indirect realism, claiming that the qualities of things generate ideas in our minds, and that these ideas often legitimately correspond to the real existence of external things. Based on our studies of Descartes, such a claim, as that things exist in themselves, might seem like a dubious venture indeed, with many pitfalls and uncertainties. What are Lockeâ€™s arguments for the real existence of material things? What sorts of conclusions does he come to about the nature of truth?
To investigate these sorts of questions, we will examine the relationship Locke proposes between ideas and qualities, both primary and secondary. We will focus on specific examples of things, such as Lockeâ€™s analysis of the snowball and of the fire. We will examine the problem of location in terms of these examples, such as whether the heat of the fire really comes from the fire or only from the sensations we have of the fire. Then we will reconstruct four of Lockeâ€™s arguments from empiricism, which attempt to prove that things really do exist outside of us. By the end of this unit, we should be able to present to ourselves Lockeâ€™s philosophical program of materialism, both in its technical details (ideas, qualities) and in the persuasiveness of its arguments (that we should trust the senses, our immediate knowledge of things, and the verification from others that things exist outside of us).
Ideas, Qualities, and Lockeâ€™s Example of the Snowball.
Some things seem to be produced in our minds (e.g. concepts, thoughts, feelings, types of sensations such as colors) but other things seem to be produced from things outside of us (e.g. heat seems to be produced from fire, the sound of â€˜honkingâ€™ from the car in the driveway, etc.). How do we make sense of these divisions? Are things really produced from different locations? Or do they only seem to be so? How do we properly acknowledge these locations? And what do we do about certain things which seem to be ambiguous, such as color, which might be in the thing or might be in the eye that sees the thing?
These are the sorts of questions Locke takes up when he proposes a division between ideas and qualities. Locke defines ideas as â€œwhatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding. (179 p.8)â€ Locke claims that to think at all is to hold the ideas of things, images
, feelings, sensations â€“ in the mind. If I imagine a duck, then I hold the idea of duck in my mind. If I see a duck in the street, I would also think â€œduckâ€ and this would be the idea I hold of it in my mind. In our everyday lives, we are constantly engaged with the ideas of things, which we perceive and understand in our minds.
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But for Locke, it is not only the case that we hold ideas of things in our minds; things equally produce the ideas we hold of things. Locke claims that the things themselves have qualities, and that these qualities help us to present ideas to ourselves. Locke calls qualities â€œthe power to produce any idea in our mind. (179 p8)â€ Locke gives the example of the snowball. The snowball has specific qualities. These qualities have the power to produce ideas in our minds. Snowballs, Locke tells us, have the power to produce the ideas of â€œwhite, cold, and round. (179 p8)â€ If you go out into the yard right now and form a snowball with your hands, what is it that you see and feel? Look at the round shape of the snowball you are holding in your hands. Feel the coldness of the snow. Do you see the off-white, earthy-grey colors that the snowball presents to you? These are its qualities. If you think of these qualities, if they appear in your mind, then you have let the snowball produce the ideas of itself through the power of its qualities.
It is worth noting that although ideas are in the mind, they are equally of the things. Ideas are that which is produced by the qualities of things. Likewise, although qualities are always the qualities of the things, Locke equally defines them as the power to produce ideas in us. This means that there is an inter-dependent relationship between ideas and qualities. Together, they present the technical mechanics between the mind and the bodies of the world. Ideas are produced by qualities, and qualities are always held in the mind as the ideas of qualities.
Primary and Secondary Qualities, and Lockeâ€™s Example of the Fire.
Locke says that the qualities of things produce ideas in our minds of the things. But the mechanics of such a division between ideas and qualities becomes more complicated when we consider that not all qualities seem to be about the things alone. On the contrary, many qualities, which have the power to produce ideas in us, seem to be more about us than about the things themselves. To illustrate this, Locke gives the example of fire. Let us suppose that you are sitting at home in the wintery night, reading a book by the fireplace, and that you have just made a healthy fire to sit by. What ideas are produced by the qualities of the fire? If you are sitting near the fire but not too close to it, the fire produces warmth in you. You also have the ideas of its colors (red, brown, yellow, orange) and the shapes of its flickering flames. The wood logs have a certain smell when they burn â€“ smell is also an idea that comes from the fire.
But if, when you shift the logs of the fire, you put your hands too close, then the fire produces the idea of pain rather than warmth in you. How is it possible that the same fire produces warmth if you sit in your chair at a good distance from it, but pain if you put your hands too close to the fire? Locke argues that some qualities are not only about the thing, but about your relationship to the thing. Whether the fire produces warmth or pain is a question of your location in relation to the fire. Certainly, the fire must be the sort of thing whose qualities can produce warmth or pain; still, it is as much an issue of how you act as it is of the fireâ€™s qualities.
Locke is interested in the problem of location. Is the idea of warmth located in the quality of the fire, or is it located in the sensations you have in your mind? We tend to say that the pain you feel is located in you if you put your hand too close to the fire. Would it be strange to claim that the pain you feel in your hand is really located in the fire? If the pain in the hand comes from the qualities produced from the heat of the fire, why not locate this pain in the fire itself? These problems of location, of whether certain qualities are really in the things or located in us, lead Locke to a distinction between primary and secondary qualities.
Locke says that primary qualities are indivisible and inseparable from the things themselves. Primary qualities are the fundamental qualities, essential to the constitution of things, which cannot be removed or re-located in us. Locke claims that if the qualities are primary, then they will remain constant no matter what happens to the thing, no matter whether it changes or divides. The examples Locke lists of primary qualities are quite abstract: â€œsolidity, extension, figure [etc.]. (179 p9)â€ Does Lockeâ€™s experiment with the piece of wheat work out? If you divide a piece of wheat, Locke claims, you still have solidity, extension, and figure. Division multiplies the piece of wheat into many smaller pieces, but each still contains the same primary qualities. You could divide the wheat a thousand times. Locke claims that the primary qualities will remain, no matter the division.
Secondary qualities, on the other hand, are the inessential qualities of things. We sometimes recognize the location of secondary qualities in us, rather than in the things. Or, if we recognize the location of a secondary quality in the thing, we often assume that this quality is not essential to the thing, that if this quality were removed, the thing would still remain what it is, and would not fundamentally transform. Some examples of secondary qualities are â€œcolors, sounds, tastes, etc. (180 p10)â€ We should remember that although we sometimes recognize the location of secondary qualities in us, these are still qualities in the thing, which have the power to produce ideas in us. Locke still calls them qualities, even though they are secondary, because they show the trace of what things are really like, even if this trace is accidental or merely a derivation of primary qualities.
With the distinction between primary and secondary qualities in mind, let us return to the problem of location we had just outlined about the fire. The fire produces warmth in us if we are sitting at a good distance from the fireplace, but pain in us if we bring our hands too close. The explanation Locke gives for this is that the ability the fire has to produce warmth or pain in us is of secondary quality. Furthermore, if I say that the warmth is in the fire, but that the pain is in my hands, this difference of location is justified once again because the qualities that produce these ideas are secondary qualities. They are divisible, locatable, and inessential, yet they are still qualities in the thing, which produce ideas in us.
Lockeâ€™s Four Arguments for the Existence of Things Without Us
Locke concludes that primary qualities reveal the existence of things in themselves, whereas secondary qualities reveal either only some trace of what things really are like, or only our subjective disposition in relation to the external bodies of the world. Locke claims both that things really exist in themselves, whether we have ideas of them or not, and that we have at least the partial ability to form the truth of things in our minds. How does Locke justify such conclusions? What are his arguments for the real existence of things?
In the last section of our reading (Book IV, Chapter XI), Locke outlines four arguments, each of which help to support his claims about materialism. These arguments are worth examining closely, since they act as evidence that establish justification for why Locke distinguishes between ideas and qualities in the first place, and why he insists that qualities are either primary or secondary. Locke claims both that external things really exist outside of us, and that we can form ideas which directly correspond to the way these things really are. Do the following arguments justify these claims? (See pages 186- 187 for Lockeâ€™s 4 arguments.)
First argument: our organs receive ideas from outside:
We can be certain that things exist outside of us because the organs of our senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and surface body) receive sensation from beyond the organs and cannot produce the ideas themselves. If we could produce the ideas in our minds alone, or if the organs themselves could produce the ideas, then it might make more sense to be suspicious of the true existence of external things. But Locke asserts that it would be absurd to conclude that ideas are produced from anywhere but outside of us. Although we are able to manufacture some of the ideas we have of things, by conjuring images
from our imaginations and our memories, many ideas come from the organs of our sensation, and in this way seem real to us. I could imagine that there is a duck in the street right now. But I know that if I imagine the duck, this is a different type of idea from the idea I hold when there really is a duck in the street, a duck I see with my eyes and hear with my ears. Locke lists the inability of the organs to manufacture sensation as evidence that things really do exist outside of us.
Second argument: sometimes I cannot avoid having ideas in my mind:
Sometimes ideas appear in our minds as if they are forced upon us from the outside. We do not always have control of the ideas that appear to us. We cannot simply conjure them up at our whim and will. Similar to the first argument, Locke distinguishes between two types of ideas, ideas that are only in the mind, and which I can choose to recall whenever I like, and ideas which come directly from an external source and which I cannot stop from entering my mind. There are ideas that we manufacture in our minds by willing them to appear. Close your eyes, Locke suggests; stop up your ears; shut out the world. Then you are free to imagine all sorts of ideas: the sun, a cow, your winter coat. But this type of idea is quite different from ideas that appear because of things. If my uncle drops a plate on the ground, and it shatters into a hundred pieces and makes a loud crashing sound, I cannot help but hear this sound and perceive the idea of the plate as it breaks. Try as I might, I cannot stop the image
of the plate from appearing in my mind. It comes by force from the external world. In this way, Locke shows that external things really exist.
Third argument: the qualities of things often produce pleasure or pain mixed into the ideas we have of them:
If I were to put my hand directly into the fire, and it were to begin to burn, I would feel extreme pain. That I can feel such extreme pain (or in other cases, pleasure) exposes the existence of things outside of me, since I cannot conjure up extreme feelings from within. Of course, I can recall the pain I felt from the fire, but such images
do not have the gravity of really feeling the pain from the fire. Locke thinks that the gravity of the pain is an expression that things really exist from without. Reminiscent of Descartesâ€™ dream argument, Locke suggests that if a dreamer were to try putting her hand in the fire, she would become rudely awakened by the hard fact of the external fire.
Fourth argument: each of our senses bears witness to the report of the other senses.
Locke proposes that we often test whether what we sense really exists by letting each sense corroborate the reports of the others. I might see the fire flickering in front of me but wonder if it is really there. But if I feel the warmth of the fire as well as see it, this helps to confirm that it is really there. Each sense supports the other to confirm the external qualities of a thing. One sense can also expose the deception of another. Suppose your house is on fire. You might not see the fire in your room, and so by your eyes, you might assume that the house is not on fire. But if you smell smoke and feel the heat of the flames, this might be enough to rebuke your eyes and confirm that there really is a fire in the house.
Locke does not mention this explicitly, but we can infer that just as the senses bear witness to each other, likewise people in a community also bear witness to the reality of external things. If I cannot be certain whether my shirt is red or orange, I might ask several friends what color they see. If even three or four friends corroborate that my shirt is orange, although I suspect it might be red, this might be enough to confirm the secondary quality of the shirt.
Unit Readings: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, First Philosophy (195 â€“ 215)
Hylas and Philonous, the two characters of Berkeleyâ€™s dialogue, discuss a similar philosophical problem as the one that Locke analyzes in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, namely of whether the truth is in the mind alone, or in the things themselves. Berkeleyâ€™s dialogue invokes many of the same philosophical concepts as Lockeâ€™s does. Throughout the dialogue, Hylas and Philonous discuss the nature of ideas, and how ideas relate to secondary and primary qualities. Andrew Bailey (the editor of our textbook First Philosophy) describes Hylas in his introduction to Berkeley as a â€œscientific account of the material world as existing independently of the mind. (p. 191.2)â€ Essentially, Hylas argues for the independent existence of matter, and for things existing outside of our minds. Philonous, on the other hand, represents Berkeleyâ€™s own position, a kind of idealism. Philonous argues that nothing exists outside of the mind. The mind is necessary to the appearance of things. Berkeleyâ€™s version of idealism is quite radical because he claims that although we might imagine a thing existing outside of us, the truth is that if we do not perceive the thing (or if God does not perceive it), then the thing does not exist.
By the end of this unit, we should be able to grasp the main premises of Berkeleyâ€™s argument from idealism, presented through the voice of Philonous, as well as some less convincing evidence, presented through the voice of Hylas, that things exist independently of the mind. Just as we laid out arguments in favor of realism in the unit on Locke, now we will investigate some of the arguments in favor of idealism. We will focus in particular on Berkeleyâ€™s excellent insight about the nature of ideas, and their relationship to both secondary and primary qualities. Berkeley claims that only the ideas in our minds really exist. He also claims that although secondary and primary qualities seem to be the qualities of the things, these qualities are really inseparable from the ideas, which produce them. What is Berkeleyâ€™s argument for the primacy of ideas? How does it differ from Lockeâ€™s argument? Let us begin with the distinction Hylas makes near the end of the dialogue, that there are two kinds of objects, one relating to ideas, and one relating directly to the things.
Hylasâ€™ Two Object Theory
Consider the following statement made by Hylas near the end of the dialogue (page 212.2):
â€œI think there are two kinds of objects: - the one perceived immediately, which are likewise called ideas; the other are real things or external objects, perceived by the mediation of ideas, which are their images
and representations. Now, I own ideas do not exist without the mind; but the latter sort of objects do.â€
One kind of object is immediately perceived. It appears only as the ideas in our minds. But the other kind of object is the real thing, the external object, which is mediated by our perception and by the idea of thing, but is nevertheless real. Hylasâ€™ two object theory shares certain similarities with Descartesâ€™ dualism, where the mind and the body are separate, and merely interact through a kind of mediation. Hylasâ€™ theory also shares a lot in common with Lockeâ€™s division between ideas and qualities. Ideas, for Locke, are the representation of objects that we hold in our minds, whereas qualities are in the things themselves. Does reality necessarily rely on a two object theory, such as the one Hylas proposes? Do all objects have two presentations, one in the mind, and one in the thing?
If you look outside now at the tree in the yard, do you see two kinds of trees there? One tree is the idea you hold in your mind, a mere representation of tree. The other tree is the real tree, which exists, not only in the idea you present to yourself, but actually, substantially, materially, exists in the objective reality of the world itself. The first kind of tree is just a copy of the second kind of tree. The second kind of tree is the original tree. Our eyes take in the qualities of the tree, and translate these qualities into the ideas we have of them, but in this translation, the subjectivity of our senses often bend the real qualities, and cause a refraction of the thing, a copy rather than the original. The first kind of tree is the bent and refracted tree, the one you hold in your mind, the image
of the tree which is not completely identical to the real tree that stands in the yard.
Arguments from realism require a two object theory because they must show that what we see is sometimes not what is truly there. Locke calls this second kind of object, the one that is truly there, a substance. The substance is the essence that lies underneath the sensations we have of things. For example, the original tree is substance if it stands in the yard as it truly exists in the world, and not only in our mindâ€™s perception. What we see is merely a derivative copy of the original tree, since our perception sometimes distorts the original substance. But the substance is really there independently of us. It is the matter of things. It exists prior to and independent of the way our eyes shape it, the form our perception gives to it. Hylas claims that the substance is an invisible substratum that underlies the sensible experience we have of everyday things. The only way we come to understand that substance exists is by way of reason and reflection. We cannot see it or perceive it directly.
In Berkeleyâ€™s dialogue, how does Philonous respond to Hylasâ€™ two object theory? He attempts to prove that even the second kind of object, the one that exists in the objective world, is also mediated by the ideas we have of it. Philonous attempts to collapse the distinction between the two kinds of objects by showing that both objects are ideas in the mind. Either the second kind of object is also perceived by the mind, in which case the distinction between the two kinds of objects is a false distinction, or the second kind of object is not perceived by the mind, in which case the second kind of object really does not exist.
Is it a Contradiction to Claim that you can see What you Cannot see?
How can we see that which at the same time we cannot see? This is the sort of question Philonous asks Hylas to answer! According to Hylas, material substances exist. These substances underlie the ideas we have of things. They are the truth of things independent of the minds that perceive them. But how can we say that substances exist if we cannot perceive them? Substances are by definition supposed to exist independently of the minds that would conceive of them. They are supposed to be independent of the ideas. Philonous calls â€˜material substanceâ€™ an impossible contradiction. You cannot claim that things exist independently of the mind without conceiving of them as ideas dependent on the mind. You cannot claim both that you perceive these material things and that you do not perceive them. If you claim that the mind cannot conceive of material substance, then you have no grounds to claim that these things exist, since there is no way to have an idea of their existence. But if you claim that the mind does conceive of substance, then you have made substance dependent on the mind. Then you have formed an idea of substance, when substance is supposed to exist independently of the mind.
Are all Qualities Dependent on the Mind?
Have you ever experienced an objective world that is there when you are not there? Philonous thinks that you have not! He thinks that it would be a contradiction to claim that you have experiences of what you cannot experience, that you can see what you cannot see. And Philonous also thinks that this objective world that exists without us really does not exist at all. That things exist in-themselves is a fabrication of abstraction. The realists want to believe that the qualities in things are independent of the ideas we hold of things. But Philonous (and Berkeley) rejects this position because the realists are only able to discuss the real existence of things if they perceive them in ideas. Philonous challenges the Lockean definition of qualities by proposing that both secondary and primary qualities are always dependent on the mind to perceive them. Locke claims that the qualities of things (especially primary qualities) produce the ideas we have of things, but Berkeley argues that this relationship goes the other way: the qualities of things are produced by the ideas we have of them, and always exist only in terms of these ideas. Let us investigate two divisions of Philonousâ€™ rejection of independent qualities. The first division is a rejection of secondary qualities, and the second division is a rejection of primary qualities.
According to Locke, secondary qualities are qualities in the sense that they exist in the thing, and not only in the mind, but are secondary in the sense that the ideas they produce in us come from our own disposition. Let us return to the example of the heat emanating from the fireplace (our example from Unit 03). According to Locke, the qualities of the fire produce warmth in me if I sit at a good distance from the fireplace, but these same qualities produce pain in me if I put my hand directly into the fire. Now, Hylas wants to maintain that although I have different ideas from the same quality of the fire, heat is still in the fire itself, and not only in my mind. The fire has a number of distinct secondary qualities: fire is warm or hot; its colors are red, orange, brown; it smells smoky; it flickers and crackles, generates light, etc. Hylas wants to maintain that these are all qualities that really exist in the fire, independently of whether we have ideas of these qualities or not.
But Philonous points out that the qualities themselves are nothing without the ideas. The qualities of the fire might seem to be located in the fire itself, but these qualities are nothing if there is no mind to perceive them. Try this experiment for yourself (it is similar to the Descartesâ€™ experiment of the â€˜I think, hence I am.â€™) Try to posit the independent existence of the fireâ€™s qualities without having ideas about these qualities. Philonous thinks that secondary qualities are dependent on the mind that perceives them. These qualities might seem to be located in the things, but since they are always only located in the things in terms of our ideas, they are entirely dependent on the perceptions of the mind.
But what about primary qualities? Secondary qualities are divisible by the mind, and change with our disposition, so it makes sense that they are dependent on ideas, but that primary qualities are still independent of ideas. Or so thinks Hylas. Philonous, however, presents each major category of primary qualities â€“ figure, extension, motion, and solidity â€“ and shows Hylas that without a mind who perceives these qualities, even primary qualities would not exist.
Take extension as an example. How can we tell that things are extended in space if we do not hold the idea of their extension in our minds? Try to picture what it would look like for an object to be extended in space without the mindâ€™s idea of this? Notice that the question itself already presupposes â€˜that you picture this extension as an idea.â€™
Esse est percipi: to Exist is to be Perceived
Philonousâ€™ conclusion (as well as Berkeleyâ€™s) is that all qualities (both secondary and primary) depend on ideas. This means that it is the ideas that produce the qualities, and not the other way around. This also means that there can be no qualities without the ideas of these qualities. What are the implications of such a conclusion? Do ideas have a certain primacy that qualities do not have? What does this conclusion show about the nature of existence itself? Is existence always only the existence of perception?
Let us go along with the theory that to exist is to be perceived. Does this mean that things only exist if I am there to perceive them? What happens to things if I am not there to perceive them? Do they disappear? Do things have no substantial truth in themselves, to such an extent that if I turn away from them for even a slight moment, they literally disappear? Berkeley does not directly discuss this problem in the dialogue we have read for this unit. But based on what we have read, it seems evident that this is one problem Berkelean idealism will need to face. Things do not seem to disappear when I turn away from them. They seem more stable than this. They seem to remain constantly there even when I turn my back to them.
One way to investigate this problem is to ask whether Berkeley falls into the sort of solipsism we discussed briefly in Unit 02. If things only exist if I am there to perceive them, do all things only exist because I will them to be? Berkeleyâ€™s answer has to do with the nature of his concept of God, who perceives things even when I am not there to perceive them. This concept is beyond the scope of our reading; still, try to construct an argument that Berkleyâ€™s version of idealism is not solipsistic. Think of his insight about the primacy of ideas, that to exist is always to be perceived. What is Berkeley saying, not only about the importance of the mind, but also about the nature of qualities?
I hope these units included in this form help you out as much as possible. thank you so much and good luck with the essay.
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