Berkeley, God and Instrumentalism

The role of Malebranche in understanding Berkeley. Malebranche, a follower of Descartes, very influential in France, is important in understanding Berkeley. Malebranche understands ‘what is it for one thing to cause another’ in terms of necessity; it must be, when A happens, B necessary follows. Why is this? Because the only real cause in universe is God, and God sustains the world by recreating it every instant (see Malebranche 1688, 1.10; 2.4; 3.5; 3.16).

Revised Occasionalism

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Berkeley on God

The role of God in Berkeley philosophy is that of the foundation of existence. Everything that exists, exists because exists in the mind of the Eternal Spirit/God. In Berkeley’s words this is expressed as follows: ‘All the bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit’ (Berkeley 1710, I.6).

Perception, Reality and God

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Berkeley and Locke on Human Knowledge

Experience and Knowledge


Locke argued that all our ideas have their origin in our experience. When we are born our mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa). Any experience is leaving an imprint on this slate (mind). When we experience anything through our senses our minds receive their perceptions. There is content in our mind because of our senses. Locke is famous for the following phrase: nihil in intellect quod prius non fuerit in sensu (there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses) (cf. Moore 2011, 114).
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The Qualities of Perception

Locke and Berkeley on the qualities of perception
Because the mind we are born with is a blank slate (Locke), the knowledge we have come from the outside as perceptions. Locke tries to avoid the split between the mind and the world around us by introducing the distinction between primary and secondary qualities of perception. The primary qualities are the qualities of objective, extra-mental reality; the qualities of the object independent of who, or whether anyone is perceiving the object (shape, size, weight). These qualities are independent of perception. The secondary qualities are not properties of the object at all. They occur in the mind of the perceiver at the moment of perception and they endure only as long as the perception endures. They depend primarily on our senses (color, taste, smell). Read more...
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