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[27]

27. A consequence of the treatment of ideas as pure particulars
is that any description means the particular and not anything about
the particular so that in the case of a thing which is, and is perceived,
its being and its being perceived are each simply the thing itself.
And as we have already noticed, this would mean that there could not be
many things which are perceived, and, in the identification of “being”
and “being perceived”, it would imply that the term “perceived” was
really meaningless.

Now further consequences of the same theory are found in
Berkeley's treatment of mind as purely active and ideas as purely
passive; that is, once we have said that anything is passive, once we
have attributed any sort of passivity to it, we must treat passivity
as the whole nature of a thing. Now ideas being known and “being
known” being a passivity, it follows that ideas are purely passive.
Now one of the difficulties, as before, is that of distinguishing one
idea from another idea when this assumption is made; and similarly,
there would be the difficulty of distinguishing one passivity from
another, for example, of distinguishing being known from being acted
upon. Yet Berkeley does seem to make that distinction; in fact it is
necessary for his theory that he should make it. And we find again,
in the case of minds, that they are said not only to have different
activities, perceiving and willing, but to have passivities, that is,
to be acted upon as well. Now this involves the admission that the
same thing has many different characteristics and consequently that
its nature cannot be summed up in any one of these. And once it has
been admitted that the same thing, namely, a finite mind, can both act
and be acted upon it can no longer be inferred from the fact that
certain things are known that these things are incapable of acting,
that is, Berkeley is no longer entitled to say that it is not the
very things that we are aware of in sensation that have acted on our
minds and produced the sensations, that is, caused us to be aware of
the things.

A further point may be made in regard to the activity of
the things we perceive, namely, that, while not recognising that our
individual ideas exist independently of our minds, Berkeley does admit
that laws of nature exist independently of our minds; and unless
he is going to be committed to the same type of representationalism
as he has criticised in Locke, he must recognise that what we have in
mind, that is, what we are aware of, in knowing laws of nature are those
laws of nature themselves. He admits, then, that we are aware of something
which exists independently of us and which may quite possibly
act upon our minds since it has this independent existence. Thus the
rejection of Berkeley's theory of generality, namely, the representation
of a number of particular ideas by one particular idea, cuts at the
root of his whole idealistic theory and shows that his principle of
perception and his conceptions of the relations between mind and its
objects are erroneous. And it follows from this that we have no reason



  ― 53. ―
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for assuming that minds cannot be known in the very same way as
other things are known, Berkeley's theory of the peculiar kind of
knowledge of active things being contradictory to his own primary
assumptions, because however we know active things, in being known,
they partake also of passivity.

Now this consequence, that minds may be known by observation
and, in general, that knowledge takes place as an interrelation between
independent things and by means of interaction between these things,
is important; but the most important consequence, from the logical
point of view, is that all the things that we do know are complex and
not simple; in other words, that we are dealing, not with isolated and
unitary objects, but with complex situations such as are represented
in the proposition.

Now just like Locke, Berkeley is really unable to give any
cohernet account of the proposition; his theory of generality is one
example of the difficulties in which he finds himself; another is his
treatment of certain ideas as going together and a third is his
treatment of ideas as existing in regular sequence. These are the
three main types of significance or representation which Berkeley
introduces in endeavouring to account for our propositional knowledge
in terms of simple ideas; in endeavouring in other words, to account, in
these terms, for the fact that we speak about things and their characters
and also of their activities and interrelations.

Now if we take the case of a number of ideas going together,
we may accept Berkeley's criticism of Locke's doctrine of substance
as that in which all these ideas inhere since, as Berkeley points out,
if we did have any such idea it would simply be on the same level as
those which were said to inhere in it and we should have to look for
another connecting link between the ideas which we now have so that
we should in that case have an insoluble problem. But while Locke's
explanation of coherence in terms of substance is untenable, the same
may be said of Berkeley's position; that is, he can really give no account
of what is meant by the ideas going together because this going
together ought, on his view, to be another particular idea. In fact
Berkeley's general inability to give account of relations of concomitance
and succession is connected with the shortcomings of his theory
of space and time which he treats as so many separate ideas of extension
and duration; so that he is really unable to give an account of
independent existence since that requires the conception of existence
in a single space and in a single time.

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