John T. Sanders
Rochester Institute of Technology
George Berkeley's apparently strange view – that nothing exists without a mind except for minds themselves – is notorious. Also well known, and equally perplexing at a superficial level, is his insistence that his doctrine is no more than what is consistent with common sense. It was every bit as crucial for Berkeley that it be demonstrated that the colors are really in the tulip, as that there is nothing that is neither a mind nor something perceived by a mind. In what follows, I shall attempt to re-examine Berkeley's argument in terms of what it appears to have meant to him. I am especially interested in the connection between Berkeley's thought concerning the relation between perception and metaphysics and that of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, with whom, perhaps surprisingly, Berkeley shared a great many intuitions and concerns. Thus part of my objective is to compare and contrast the work of two thinkers who had many common interests, and whose thought frequently led them down similar paths. I shall be especially interested in apparent points of departure, both those that turn out to reflect real divergences and those which reflect confusions of one kind or another. My main objective, however, is not mere textual analysis. Like both Berkeley and Merleau-Ponty, my main hope is to make progress in clarifying how things are. As odd as some of Berkeley's pronouncements may sound to contemporary ears – concerning especially the metaphysical consequences of what he regarded as perceptual facts – I shall argue that, in substance, he was often not far wrong at all – at least as measured by important strands of more contemporary work on the subject. More particularly, I shall contend that for going a long way down an extraordinarily fruitful path which has been subsequently explored more fully by (especially) Martin Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Nelson Goodman and Hilary Putnam, Berkeley deserves considerably more credit than he is usually accorded as a progenitor of contemporary approaches to metaphysical issues.
Keywords Berkeley  Merleau-Ponty  perception  idealism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Seeing Things in Merleau-Ponty.Sean D. Kelly - 2005 - In Taylor Carman (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 74-110.
Merleau-Ponty and the Mystery of Perception.Taylor Carman - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (4):630-638.
Common Sense and Berkeley's Perception by Suggestion.Jody Graham - 1997 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 5 (3):397 – 423.
Merleau-Ponty's Concept of Depth.Anthony J. Steinbock - 1987 - Philosophy Today 31 (4):336-351.
Image and Ontology in Merleau-Ponty.Trevor Perri - 2013 - Continental Philosophy Review 46 (1):75-97.


Added to PP index

Total views
642 ( #11,084 of 2,462,256 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
34 ( #25,448 of 2,462,256 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes