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[28]

28. Berkeley, in his philosophy, followed after Descartes and Locke
and adopted many of their assumptions. But he considered that it was
necessary for him to solve a problem which had not been solved in
their theories. Both Descartes and Locke recognised that there was a
difficulty in showing how the mind could be aware of things outside
of it---this being only one particular case of the general problem
of how a thing can be in any way related to something outside of it.
Their attempted solution of this problem was that of representation;
minds are aware of things outside of them by having ideas in them.

Now the importance of Berkeley's theory consists precisely
in this, that he recognised that this having of ideas must mean
knowing ideas or else there was no question of representation at all;
that is to say, if all that were meant by saying that we know external
things by having ideas, were that we know these things when our
minds are in a certain state, or that it is a certain state of our
minds that knows any given external thing, then there would be no



  ― 54. ―
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question of representation but there would be the recognition of a
certain relation---a relation which we can call knowledge---between
a state of mind, on the one hand, and an object, on the other---these
two things or states being external to one another. And in that case
the assumption would be that there was no real difficulty about external
relations but that we naturally accepted as fact the existence
of such relations. Accordingly, the real assumption that is made by
Descartes and Locke is that it is by knowing ideas that we know what
they regarded as external things. What Berkeley pointed out, then, was
note that this involved them in an impossible position, in saying that the
idea is what we know and yet, at the same time and by the same act of
knowledge, that there is an external thing which we know by means of
the idea. Berkeley points out very clearly that if we are going to
use the term idea for whatever is directly presented to our minds, then
all that we are aware of at any given time will come under this head,
that is, will be an idea or a number of ideas; and he also suggests,
although he does not make this point quite so definite, that representationalism
is no solution of external relations because the relation
of representation between idea and thing is just as external as the
relation of knowledge between mind and thing.

Now that shows that Berkeley has brought out a fundamental
inconsistency in Descartes and Locke and that if there is any difficulty
in regard to external relations, and, in particular, in regard to
the knowledge by one thing of another thing external to it, then there
is an equal difficulty in the notion of representation and that noion
cannot assist us to solve the problem.

Well, then, Berkeley, like his predecessors, does consider that
there is a difficulty in the notion of external relations and therefore
he says that we cannot know what is outside the mind or indeed
attach any real meaning to that expression. This denial of external
relations is, of course, connected with his adoption of the theory of
essence; whatever can be said of a thing applies to it, if at all,
essentially, or is a description of its inner nature. It follows that
if the mind has knowledge that knowledge belongs to its inner nature;
or if the mind has ideas, those ideas are in the mind.

Now there are many difficulties in this position connected
with the theory of essences and the criticisms which apply to that
theory in general apply to this view of Berkeley's in particular.
But the particular difficulty which comes out most strongly in connection
with Berkeley's view is that the getting of ideas into the mind
does not remove the problem of external relations; it simply raises
it in a new form, that is, we have now to think that within the mind
there are a number of entities, distinct from one another, and that
is really to say external from one another and therefore, if related
at all, related externally. Berkeley admits a plurality of ideas,
that is, he admits that ideas differ from one another and he has then
to show how they can be related to one another. This relation itself
cannot be an idea or else we should lose the distinction which Berkeley,
in accordance with his doctrine of essence, is anxious to maintain,
every idea, that is, being a simple essence; but if the relation is not
an idea, then we can never have in our minds one idea related to
another because whatever we have in our minds is, on Berkeley's view,
an idea. But that Berkeley sees this difficulty is shown by his sugestion
that relations are known by notion rather than by way of idea,
but that this is no solution can be shown in the same way as he himself
showed Locke's theory of knowledge to be untenable. The notion
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note


  ― 55. ―
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of significance which he has to employ to account for prediction and
for order among ideas is just as external, or stands for something
external, in the same way as the general notion of representation, and
the same applies to the notion of order itself and to the notion of
concomitance which Berkeley employs to account for our knowledge of
things, that is, of complex things as contrasted with his simple ideas.
Then, again, still within the mind, on Berkeley's view, we have a distinction
between the ideas known as the thing which knows them; and whether
we call the relation between the knower and the known external or not,
the fact remains that we have to give some account of it; that we have
to be able to state that a mind knows an idea.

Now again in order to avoid the admission that here we have
distinction and external relation, Berkeley introduces a reference to
notions which amounts to this, that when we know any idea we are, at the
notesame time, somehow aware of ourselves as knowing it. Now that is precisely
analogous to the representational theory of Locke, that, when we
know an idea, we are at the same time somehow aware of the external
thing which causes it, and this is pointed out, in effect, by Hume who
thereupon concludes that we have no more right to talk about mind than
about external things, that we can talk only about ideas. Now in taking
that view, Hume leaves himself open to some of the objections that can
be brought against Berkeley's position, but at the same time he brings
out a fundamental inconsistency in the position, just as Berkeley had
done in regard to the doctrines of Locke.

We find, then, that Berkeley, even in regarding all knowledge
including both the knower and the known as being within the mind, has
not succeeded in avoiding any difficulties that we may attach to the
conception of external relations, and in fact those difficulties can
only be avoided by dropping the conception of essence or the inner
nature of things, whether regarded as including, or as separate from, the
history of things; by dropping, in the same way, the conception of simplicity
and recognising that the least that we can talk about, and the
least that can exist, consists of complex things interrelated with one
another. And while getting things within the mind has been no real
solution for Berkeley, it introduces special difficulties; in the first
place, in connection with the distinction between truth and error which
leads Berkeley to the conception of laws of nature which are really
external to any given mind that knows them; and in the second place, in
connection with the knowledge of other minds which, according to Berkeley's
theory, as agents, can be known only by way of notions and which
yet must be recognised to be external to our own minds and cannot
therefore be known in the immediate way in which our own minds know
themselves. But apart from these special difficulties, the main difficulty
is connected simply with the doctrine of essence and the solution
rests in the recognition of things as complex and interacting,
that is, as each occurring among other things in space and time.

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