Berkeley and the Causality of Ideas; a look at PHK 25.

Abstract

I argue that Berkeley's distinctive idealism/immaterialism can't support his view that objects of sense, immediately or mediately perceived, are causally inert. (The Passivity of Ideas thesis or PI) Neither appeal to ordinary perception, nor traditional arguments, for example, that causal connections are necessary, and we can't perceive such connections, are helpful. More likely it is theological concerns,e.g., how to have second causes if God upholds by continuously creating the world, that's in the background. This puts Berkeley closer to Malebranche than to Hume. As far the what I call the "first strategy;" defending the passivity of ideas by ordinary introspection, I refer to the work of the French psychologist Albert Michotte,(1940) and those now extending his experiments, to show that (1) there is an immediate and quite robust visual impression of causality, (admitted in fact by Berkeley, Malebranche and Hume) and (2) of more importance, the impression isn't due to projecting into nature expectations gained from experienced regularities.

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2011-04-26

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Richard Brook
Bloomsburg University

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