Philosophia 49 (2):651-665 (2020)

It is argued that George Berkeley’s term ‘common sense’ does not indicate shared conviction, but the shared capacity of reasonable judgement, and is therefore to be classed as a mental ability, not a belief-system. Common sense is to be distinguished from theoretical understanding which, in Berkeley’s view, is frequently corrupted either by learned prejudice, or by language that lacks meaning or camouflages contradiction. It is also to be distinguished from the deliverances of divine revelation, which—however enlightening Berkeley supposed them to be—are not necessarily available to all people. This interpretation of common sense is supported both by attention to Berkeley’s own texts, including his sermons, letters and philosophical writings, and by attention to the views of John Locke and René Descartes, who also understand ‘common sense’ as susceptibility to the ‘natural light’. In addition, this interpretation renders Berkeley’s appeal to common sense in support of his immaterialism a straightforward appeal to the reader’s native reason. No longer, then, are we forced to see Berkeley as improbably maintaining that the denial of matter is really the view of ‘the common people’, but rather that those who have least attachment to theory and doctrine will be best able to grasp the case for immaterialism.
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-020-00238-x
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Berkeley's Thought.George S. Pappas - 2018 - Cornell University Press.
Berkeley: An Interpretation.Kenneth P. Winkler - 1989 - Oxford University Press UK.

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