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Title:Taking Berkeley seriously
Author(s):Evers, John
Director of Research:McKim, Robert
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McKim, Robert
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Wengert, Robert G.; Melnick, Arthur; Wagner, Steven J.
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:In this dissertation, I develop a line of thought that Berkeley had only started to develop in his published works and in his personal Notebooks. This line of thought concerns the role played by Spirit, or active volitional awareness, in the cognition of everyday objects, and also in the meaning of any given Sign, whether Natural or Artificial. Berkeley began to develop this line of thought in his earliest publication, As Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision (1709), when he wrote of a “prejudice” that must “insinuate itself” into one’s understanding. This “prejudice” transforms raw sense-data into ‘qualities’ or ‘properties’ of underlying ‘objects.’ According to Berkeley’s New Theory of Vision, it is the active volition of the perceiver that makes this transformation possible; it is also what gives meaning to any Natural Sign. Extending this to Artificial Signs, we may conclude that artificial signs acquire meaning by serving as signs for the regulation of volition according to various sensory-motor expectations, just as with Natural Signs. Therefore, words may me meaningful without calling forth any associated ideas, provided words serve to regulate volition/behavior, which is a view that Berkeley held, but again, failed to fully develop. Several criticisms of Berkeley’s overall approach can be addressed with this developed doctrine of spirit. First, Berkeley’s treatment of ideas as ‘mental images’ is required to distinguish ideas from active know-how, which is often mistaken for an ‘idea’ (according to Berkeley). Second, any claim that Berkeley’s “Master Argument” commits him to solipsism can be addressed by pointing out that our knowledge of other minds is an active volitional awareness and, thus, not relevant to the “Master Argument.” Finally, the cost of this extension is that Berkeley’s argument for God-as-Perceiver must be jettisoned, for reasons already put forward by John Stuart Mill.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 John Evers
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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