George Berkeley notoriously claimed that his immaterialist metaphysics was not only consistent with common sense but that it was also integral to its defense. Roberts argues that understanding the basic connection between Berkeley's philosophy and common sense requires that we develop a better understanding of the four principle components of Berkeley's positive metaphysics: The nature of being, the divine language thesis, the active/passive distinction, and the nature of spirits. Roberts begins by focusing on Berkeley's view of the nature of being. (...) He elucidates Berkeley's view on Locke and the Cartesians and by examining Berkeley's views about related concepts such as unity and simplicity. From there he moves on to Berkeley's philosophy of language arguing that scrutiny of the famous "Introduction" to the Principles of Human Knowledge reveals that Berkeley identified the ideational theory of meaning and understanding as the root cause of some of the worst of man's intellectual errors, not "abstract ideas." Abstract ideas are, rather, the most debilitating symptom of this underlying ailment. In place of the ideational theory, Berkeley defends a rudimentary "use theory" of meaning. This understanding of Berkeley's approach to semantics is then applied to the divine language thesis and is shown to have important consequences for Berkeley's pragmatic approach to the ontology of natural objects and for his approach to our knowledge of, and relation to other minds, including God's. Turning next to Berkeley's much aligned account of spirits, the author defends the coherence of Berkeley's view of spirits by way of providing an interpretation of the active/passive distinction as marking a normative distinction and by focusing on the role that divine language plays in letting Berkeley identify the soul with the will. With these four principles of Berkeley's philosophy in hand, he then returns to the topic of common sense and offers a defense of Berkeley's philosophy as built upon and expressive of the deepest metaphysical commitments of mainstream Christianity. Roberts' reappraisal of this important figure should appeal to all historians of philosophy as well as scholars in metaphysics and philosophy of language. (shrink)
There is a problem regarding God and perception right at the heart of Berkeley ’s metaphysics. With respect to this problem, I will argue for : It is intractable. Berkeley has no solution to this problem, and neither can we hope to offer one on his behalf. However, I will also argue for : The truth of need not be seen as threatening the viability of Berkeley ’s metaphysics. In fact, it may even be seen as speaking in its favor.
I present a dilemma which depressive behavioral pathology poses for both Humean and non-Humean theories of motivation and value. Although the dilemma shows that neither theory can be considered adequate in its standard form, I argue that if the Humean theory is modified so as to embrace a richer notion of satisfaction than it currently does, it can solve the problem which depression poses for it and, thus, the dilemma can be avoided. Embracing a richer notion of satisfaction not only (...) solves this problem, it also extends the scope of the Humean theory in a potentially dramatic way, by extending the explanatory reach of moral psychology to issues often thought to fall outside its scope, namely, issues in moral psychopathology. (shrink)
This essay offers a defense of Axiarchism's answer to the question, "Why does the world exit?" against prominent objections leveled against it by Derek Parfit. Parfit rejects the Axiarchist answer while abstracting from it his own Selector strategy. I argue that the abstraction fails, and that even if we were to regard Axiarchism as an instance of a Selector hypothesis, we should regard it as the only viable one. I also argue that Parfit's abstraction leads him to mistake the nature (...) and, thereby, the force of Axiarchism's claim to being an ultimate explanation. Finally, I defend the Axiarchist's claim that the good could not fail to rule. (shrink)
This essay consists of two parts. Part I offers an explanation of Berkeley's understanding of the relationship between materialism and evil. Berkeley regards materialism as the chief instrumental cause of evil in the world. It is the belief in matter that encourages us to believe that God is not immediately, intimately present in every aspect of our life. Immaterialism, by contrast, makes God's immediate presence vivid and thereby serves to undermine the motivation to vice. Part II locates Berkeley's view on (...) matter and evil within the Christian Neoplatonic tradition. I compare Plotinus' minimalist approach to matter and his identification of matter with evil to Berkeley's eliminitivism about matter and his corresponding identification of materialism as the chief source of evil. (shrink)
Draft version of essay. ABSTRACT: Benjamin Whichcote developed a distinctive account of human nature centered on our moral psychology. He believed that this view of human nature, which forms the foundation of “Cambridge Platonism,” showed that the demands of reason and faith are not merely compatible but dynamically supportive of one another. I develop an interpretation of this oft-neglected and widely misunderstood account of human nature and defend its viability against a key objection.
Draft. Berkeley denied the existence of abstract ideas and any faculty of abstraction. At the same time, however, he embraced innate ideas and a faculty of pure intellect. This paper attempts to reconcile the tension between these commitments by offering an interpretation of Berkeley's Platonism.
This dissertation defends Berkeley's spirit-based Idealism by way of providing an interpretation of the fundamental distinction of his metaphysics, the "active/passive" distinction. I argue that Berkeley developed a distinctively normative reading of "activity" and "passivity" during the exploration of the limits of Lockean-style empiricism recorded in his preparatory notebooks, the Philosophical Commentaries, limits that became especially apparent in connection with the notion of the self or "spirit". After considering and rejecting a proto-Humean "bundle theory" of the self, Berkeley formulated the (...) irreducibly normative conception of "spirit" characteristic of all his published works. In Berkeley's hands, 'spirit' is what Locke would have called a "forensic term, appropriating actions and their merit." The active/passive distinction consequently concerns one's responsibility for something: If a spirit is "active" with respect to X, then X is dependent upon that spirit's will, and, correlatively, it is responsible, answerable, or accountable for X. If a spirit is "passive" with respect to X, then it is not responsible for X. Since Berkeley's idealism is notoriously a spirit-based ontology, the consequences of these understandings were sweeping and dramatic. In the balance of the dissertation I pursue the implications of this interpretation with respect to Berkeley's view of semantics, ontological commitment, knowledge of other minds, and freedom and determinism. (shrink)