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[15]

15. Berkeley passes, then, from general objects based upon the
impossibility of making a comparison between something which is before
our minds and something which by definition cannot be before our minds
to more particular objections and, in the first place, to the objection
that we are unable to think of a thing having the primary qualities
without at the same time thinking of it as having in addition qualities
of colour and the like which according to Locke are not really qualities
at all but are ideas in our minds.

Now if it can be shown that, as far as pur knowledge goes,
extension, figure and motion are always found along with colours, sounds,
temperatures and so forth, then if we say that the extension belongs to
bodies, we are bound also to say that the colours and other objects of
sense are also qualities of bodies. On the other hand, if we say that
the colours are in the mind and have no existence outside it---a point
in which Berkeley agrees with Locke---then we should also say that the
extension, figure and motion are in the mind and have no existence
outside it. So that, although we may say that Berkeley has not provided
an adequate refutation of the former alternative, we can still say that
he has refuted Locke; he has shown at least that a revision of Locke's
theory is necessary whatever the nature of that revision may turn out
to be.

The first argument, then, is that extension, figure and motion are
inseparably united in our consciousness with the other sensible qualities
and are not capable, even in thought, of being abstracted from them
and therefore Berkeley says the so-called primary qualities are also
only ideas. Now this argument creates a difficulty for Berkeley as
well as for Locke. He had argued, on the basis of the fact that it is
impossible to separate in thought the existence of sensible things
from their being perceived, that their existence and their being perceived
are identical. Therefore if it is also impossible to separate in
thought such ideas as colour and extension, these must be identical.
But if we admit, on the other hand, that the very same thing may have the
distinguishable qualities of colour and extension, then we are admitting
that a thing may have a character which is not its whole nature but
which may be regarded as accidental; and sonsequently, we can no longer
say that what actually is perceived is essentially perceived or has
its whole nature in being perceived. So that Berkeley's argument
cuts both ways, and while it indicates the inadequacy of Locke's
views, at the same time it indicates the weakness in Berkeley's position.
Certainly in ordinary speech we refer to things as having a
number of different characters, but, according to Berkeley's own argument
in the first paragraph of his “Principles”, such a complex conception
is arrived at only by our observing that a number of different
ideas go together.

Now the mere fact that they go together, that they appear at the
same time or in immediate succession, does not justify us in saying
that they cannot be abstracted from one another. On the contrary, if
they could not be abstracted from one another they would not be two
ideas but one and we should have the same name for them both. Now,
while it may be said that in order to work out any theory having even
the appearance of coherence, Berkeley is bound to fall into some
difficulties of this kind, it is also to be observed that this is not



  ― 29. ―
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his fundamental argument against Locke; that he goes on to develop more
important arguments culminating in the demonstration of the meaninglessness
of the conception of matter so long as we adhere to the
doctrine of ideas. And it is only if we can find in this argument,
however cogent it may be against Locke, weaknesses corresponding to those
which have appeared in the preliminary argument that we can claim to
have refuted Berkeley; to have shown, that is, that no logical reconstruction
of his position is possible but that it is necessary to abandon
completely his fundamental notions---notions, namely, of the self-subsistence
of mind and the relative existence of its objects.

Berkeley next points out by way of supporting his general position
that many of the terms employed to denote primary qualities are actually
relative terms---terms like great and small, swift and slow have no
objective meaning but are used by us in relation to our own ideas of
the moment and therefore there can be no absolute size and no absolute
velocity. But all that these arguments really show is that there can
be no absolute unit of size or velocity; they do not show that we cannot
compare sizes and velocities in a perfectly definite way and in a
way which would be impossible if there were not, independently of us,
something which could be called size and velocity. It may be acknowledged
that “great”, for example, is a relative term; it is relative in
exactly the same way as “object” is a relative term, i.e., it really
implies not simply a characteristic of the thing so described but a
relation of that thing to something else. To say that a thing is an
object is to say that it is known by someone so that “object” is really
an incomplete expression requiring to be supplemented by a reference
to some mind if its meaning is to be exactly understood. But exactly
the same applies to the term “great”; it really means “greater than”
some selected standard. If we say that we hear a great noise we mean
one greater than we are accustomed to; but while “great”, in that way, is
really not a quality of things as it would appear to be from the way
in which it is expressed, it does denote an equally objective relation,
namely, “greater than the selected standard”---the object in question
as well as the standard with which it is compared being regarded as
having absolute and not relative existence and requiring really to have
size if that comparison with one another is to be possible. We may say,
for example, that an object is two, three or four feet long, but this is
impossible if no definite size is meant when we say a “foot”, “yard”, etc.

Now the third argument that Berkeley employs has a more definite
application to the theories of Locke and others taking a similar
view in that, taking figure and extension as primary qualities on the
one hand, and such qualities as colour on the other, he points out that
by the very same kind of argument as that which was employed to show
that there were no objective colours of things, it can be shown that
there are no objective sizes, shapes or motions. The argument is that
a thing cannot really have a certain colour because under different
conditions and from different points of view it appears to have different
colours. There cannot, therefore, be anything which we can call
the real colour of the object. Now, as Berkeley proceeds to point out,
the sizes, shapes and motions of things likewise appear different
under different conditions and from differnet points of view; and, therefore,
by the same argument we could say that there is nothing which we
are entitled to call the real size or shape of the object.

Now here again we observe an inconsistency in Locke's argument



  ― 30. ―
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but we also find difficulties for Berkeley's own argument, i.e., unless
we are actually acquainted with things, unless they have a real existence
in time, we cannot understand what is meant by saying that a particular
thing is in different conditions at different times or that
we can consider it from different points of view. That in itself
implies objective motion and extension in that we are supposed to move
about and consider the thing from different angles; but this particular
objection need not be pressed against Berkeley because, as he himself
admits, arguments of this kind do not show that a body has no extension
but only that we may be mistaken as to what extension it has, i.e., we
cannot say that the contradiction between different conceptions of a
certain extension shows them all to be false because it is only on the
evidence of one of them that we have any reason for doubting any other.
At the same time this way of expressing the matter brings out a recurring
difficulty in Berkeley's statement of his views just as when he
spoke of going in and out of his study. That expression, on the face
of it, implies that human beings and material bodies move in relation
to one another in absolute space.

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