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[22]

22. Berkeley, then, has implicitly admitted that not only do we act
upon things but things act upon us; but, of course, he tries to save his
fundamental assumptions by contending that what acts upon us is, in
reality, another mind.

Now in regard to the general class of sensations that we
receive, this other mind is the infinite mind or the spirit which governs
the universe and expresses itself to us by communicating to us
the laws of nature. Now in terms of his absolute division between mind
and ideas or spirits and their objects, Berkeley would be quite unable
to explain what purpose would be served by the impressing upon our
minds by of ideas in that regular way. He cannot show, that is, why it should
matter to us whether we perceive one idea or another or how the infinite
mind could communicate to us anything at all beyond a multiplicity
of meaningless ideas on the basis of these supposed laws; that is, suppose
we are told that fire produces heat or that in ordinary experience
the visual idea of fire is followed by the idea of heat, then it would
not appear that we were any better off for that knowledge. The only
difference such objects can make to our minds is that after not knowing
them, we come to know them; but that knowledge would be entirely useless
as far as our own mental history (or the characteristics of our own
minds) was noteconcerned.

Now it is to be remembered that, in classifying ideas at the
beginning of the “Principles”, Berkeley made reference to the passions
or operations of the mind and, in suggesting that knowledge of the order
of ideas could be beneficial to us, he is implicitly admitting that
they could rouse our passions or appeal to our emotions in certain
unspecified ways. But, of course, if these emotions are really ours, if



  ― 42. ―
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they are part of our minds, then the notion of the mind as a pure
knower has to be given up; and we require to think of it both as having,
in the first place, peculiar mental characteristics in the form of
emotions which vary throughout the mind's history, and in the second
place, its history affected and these emotions produced by the things
which were supposed to be purely passive in relation to it; that is,
unless one thing pleases us better than another, then the communication
of ideas, whether in a regular order or absolutely chaotically,
cannot make the slightest difference to us. Again in saying that we
perceive certain successions of ideas and know that this succession
is not of our own doing, Berkeley is admitting that we can be confronted
with an object of knowledge [for this relation of succession is just
as much an object as the two things which have that relation], which
is not constituted by our knowing it, something which exists independently.
But if it is once admitted that the objects of our knowledge
are not constituted by our knowing them, then it cannot reasonably
be argued that they must be constituted by being known by some
other mind, finite or infinite. The laws of nature, then, are objects
in precisely the same sense as any single object of perception; and if
they exist independently of our knowing them, then it may just as
plausibly be argued that perceived things exist independently of
our perceiving them. The point is that Berkeley again finds it difficult
to account for the possibility of science on the basis of his
theories; for science can consist only of propositions which are true,
that is, which are objectively true and are not dependent on for their
truth for on our believing them; and therefore the doctrine that the
nature or being of apprehended things consists in their being apprehended
requires to be abandoned if there is to be any science at all.

Now in this connection Berkeley endeavours to save his position
by distinguishing among the objects of knowledge various elements
or unitary constituents and the relations which hold between
them. But he cannot show how these relations do hold because, in accordance
with his argument on perception, if an idea is really related
in a certain way, then that relation is part of its nature; in other
words, it is contained in the idea and therefore cannot link the idea
to any other idea. The only solution of this difficulty is to admit
that we know things from the beginning as interrelated with one
another, and that means that there is no such thing as a simple idea,
that the least that we can be presented with is a complex situation.
If we begin with simple ideas or elementary units, then it is quite
impossible to build up complex situations on the basis of these
units, in other words, it is quite impossible to formulate propositions.
And Berkeley only increases his difficulties when he suggests that
relations among ideas are known not by way of ideas but by way of
notions. We should then be held to have a notion of everything that
was independent of us and an idea of whatever was dependent upon us,
but we could never find any relation between the dependent and independent
things; and in addition, the argument to prove the dependence
of things we know by means of ideas could be applied equally to
prove the dependence of things we know by way of notions. And it may
be further said against Berkeley's theory that we wrongly imagined
that the fire produces heat when in reality it was a spirit which
produces the succession of fire and heat; that, if as he has maintained,
ideas are visibly inactive and if we only have an idea of fire, then
we could never have imagined that fire was capable of producing heat.
We can think so only by not seeing that the fire can be visibly inactive



  ― 43. ―
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and since, according to Berkeley's theory, an idea is whatever it is
perceived to be, it will follow that the fire is not visibly inactive
and therefore that it may quite possibly have produced the heat. And
that is apart from the further objection that in formulating the
proposition: “ideas are inactive”, Berkeley is again implicitly admitting
that they are complex and not simple.

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