FIRST PAPER ASSIGNMENT
You assignment is to write a paper between three and five pages long, typed and double-spaced, analyzing the assertions and arguments appearing in the excerpt from George Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge on pp. 121-130 of the textbook.
Berkeley is famous today for presenting one of the earliest and strongest cases for immaterialism, i.e., the philosophical position that what we appear to engage with through our sense experience are in fact not mind-independent physical objects but actually something very different. His motto was “esse est percipi” – to be is to be perceived.
In writing the paper you need to:
1) Read extremely carefully each of the numbered paragraphs that make up Berkeley’s article.
2) I recommend also reading the article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on “George Berkeley” which is online.
3) Your paper should address the following issues, and I suggest in laying it out you answer each question in a separate section:
a. How does Berkeley distinguish between idea and a perceiver (mind, spirit, soul, myself (2)?
b. Does Berkeley refute Locke’s assertions that there are two distinct kinds of qualities, primary and secondary (9-15)?
c. Evaluate Berkeley’s argument against material substance beginning at 16.
d. In 22 Berkeley says he does not need complicated arguments to make his point. All he requires is that you look “into your own thoughts, and so trying whether you can conceive it possible for a sound, figure, or motion, or colour, to exist without the mind, or unperceived…. If you do so and conceive it possible for one extended moveable substance, or in general, for any one idea or anything like an idea, to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it, I shall readily give up the cause.” Explain why you believe that is or is not a definitive rebuttal of theory of material substance?
e. Berkeley asserts in 27 that “Such is the nature of spirit or that which acts, that it cannot be of itself perceived, but only by the effects which it produceth.” He reinforces this in 145: “the knowledge I have of other spirits is not immediate, as is the knowledge of my ideas, but depending upon the intervention of ideas, by me referred to agents or spirits distinct from myself, as effects or concomitant signs.” He goes on to posit God as the spirit causing the various ideas of nature. Is that a better, less problematic assumption than the assumption of material objects that he attacks materialist philosophers for making?
4) Be sure to proofread your paper very carefully to eliminate any spelling or grammatical errors?
5) I will be posting additional office hours and can always be reached through Blackboard.