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[32]

32. According to Berkeley we are entitled to say that the earth
really moves although we have never seen it do so because from what
we have actually perceived we can infer that if we were placed in a
certain situation we should perceive the motion of the earth.

Now it would be necessary to attempt to avoid the difficulties
connected with this notion of being in a certain situation by
reference to the theory of significance. For what we mean by “being
in a certain situation”, Berkeley would have to say simply “having
certain ideas”, and the argument would be that when, or if, we had those
ideas we should at the same time have certain others; and the question
is: whether this notion enables us really to avoid the difficulties?

Now the point is that if we think about this situation at
all, then we really have the ideas in question and therefore we ought
to have the others which, according to Berkeley, follow from them. But
Berkeley would say that we have those ideas in imagination. The possibility,
therfore, of maintaining a doctrine of the type held by Berkeley
in regardsto natural science generally and space in particular, depends
on the possibility of making a distinction between sense and
imagination. And the question is whether that distinction can be made
without admitting what Berkeley wishes to deny, namely, the objectivity
of space and time. Now when we distinguish between sensation and
imagination or between perception and anticipation, we do so in reality
in terms of what we suppose to be there or not there. As we have
already noted in relation to Berkeley's illustration of the heat of
the fire, our anticipation of the heat is sometimes a reason for our
not approaching the fire and therefore for our not having the sensation
of heat. But if we do not have the sensation of heat, then our
anticipation was mistaken and therefore we are no longer entitled to
believe the general proposition that “fire causes heat”. But as a
matter of fact we do continue to believe the general proposition even
if we do not feel the heat, and the reason can only be that the proosition
is concerned not with our perceptions but with things themselves,
that is, we believe that the fire is there in a particular
place giving out actual heat, and because we desire not to feel the
heat we do not approach it too closely. We see, then, that Berkeley's
general theory of significance and scientific truth really involve
the objective existence of things, their occurrence in spacial -temporal
situations.

We find, then, that in giving an account of spacial relations
among the things we know, even although he tries to reduce these rel



  ― 61. ―
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ations to ideas, Berkeley already implies that the objects in question
exist in a spacial medium. In this respect his position is inferior
to that of Descartes and Spinoza who recognise that we cannot think
of space as having elements although at the same time their treatment
makes it difficult to recognise the spacial characters of any
particular thing.

note

According to Descartes extension is perfectly transparent,
that is, any knowledge of it contains the grounds of any other possible
knowledge of it; if we know anything at all about space, we can
derive from it a complete knowledge of it. And the same is implied in
the position of Spinoza. But although that position cannot be maintained,
it can at least be said that Descartes and Spinoza avoid the
difficulties which are involved in reducing space and time to a number
of separate elements. There might be a case for regarding space
and time as within the mind or in some sense dependent on the mind (as,
in Kant's theory of space and time, forms of sense) if we treated them
as wholes. But if we say that individual spacial and temporal relations
are in the mind, then, apart from the difficulties about the classification
of ideas generally, there are fundamental difficulties in
connecting them with other ideas and showing how they can act themselves
as connections between other ideas.

Now Berkeley points our rightly enough in regard to places
and motions that we define these in our experience in a relative way,
that is, that we cannot recognise any absolute place but can speak of
a place only in terms of things which are in or around it. And similarly
if we are going to recognise, and particularly to measure, a
certain motion, we must consider that motion in relation to something
else which is taken as a system of reference. But while that may be
admitted, while it may be impossible to recognise an individual place
or to measure a motion in an absolutely unambiguous manner, the answer
to Berkley is that these things could not even be determined relatively
if there were not definitely such a thing as place and such a
thing as motion in a perfectly unambiguous sense; that is, it may be a
matter of indifference whether we say that the earth goes round the
sun or the sun goes round the earth. If we take the one as fixed, then
we can take the other as moving relatively to it; but we could not do
either of those things if there were not some definite motion in the
situation we were considering, so that we must recognise absolute motion
and absolute place in some sense even in order to give a relative
specification of space and motion. Berkeley seems to think that when
he has said that it is relative, he has reduced it to dependence on
the mind. But it is absolutely necessary for science to recognise
that even such relative measurements as we make can be made rightly
or wrongly, so that a particular mind can be quite mistaken as to the
relative motion of two particular bodies. And that means that even
that relative motion, that is, even the motion of one thing in relation
to another, must be regarded as in some sense absolute, that is, as
having an independent existence.

Now if Berkeley denies this, then he is denying the very possibility
of physical science; and his treatment of time would suggest
that he does deny this because he regards time simply as the passage
of ideas in the mind and as being measured by the mind which has these
ideas. And it is in terms of this view that he holds that the mind
always thinks, a position that had been held by Descartes but denied by
Locke. Now this particular view contradicts not only the procedure of
science but the facts of ordinary experience, that is, for example, we



  ― 62. ―
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recognise sleep as being an occasion upon which the mind is at rest
and thinking is not going on. But if we accepted Berkeley's view we
should have to say that the existence of sleep was a pure illusion.
The argument would be that if we are said to be unconscious at that
time, then we ourselves cannot be un conscious of that unconsciousness
and no one else is entitled to say within what limits our consciousness
operates and so it can never be said either ofourselves or of by
anyone else that our consciousness lapsed for a certain period. But
the difficulty for Berkeley is that precisely that is said, that we do
say we were unconscious at a certain time although he would regard it
as a meaningless statement; and he cannot even explain, as it is necessary
to explain, how that illusion is possible, how we come to think that
this meaningless expression really does mean something and that what
it means is as a matter of fact correct.

Now what it implies is simply this: that we recognise time is
going on, or events are going on, quite independently of us and we find
no difficulty in understanding the statement that a certain thing
happened when we were not aware of it and even when we were not aware
of anything at all. If Berkeley's theory were correct, then we could
not possibly understand what was meant by past history, by an account
of events which happened before we were born whereas we have no difficulty
in knowing what is meant. Now the main point of criticism of
Berkeley's theory is that when he says that time is nothing abstracted
from the succession of ideas in the mind, the very term “succession”
implies that time which Berkeley is rejecting, that is, he is saying
that one idea comes after another, and unless there is really such a
relation as that of “before” and “after”, we cannot know what this
means. Now strictly in terms of Berkeley's theory of ideas there would
not be that relation, there would only be the individual idea “before”,
for example, but there would be no meaning that could be attached to the
statement “A is before B”, nor would it be possible to infer from
that statement that “B is after A”.

Now the fact that these definite relations and that connection
between them are recognised, shows that we do take time as
something objective; and the objection to Berkeley's theory of time
as a succession of ideas is simply a part of the objection to his
whole theory of significance, in which he fails to demonstrate how
one idea can be related to another either by the relation of succession
or by that of concomitance or by that of representation. And,
of course, there are additional difficulties in his way of showing
how ideas can be related to minds as being known by them or being in
them or representing them in the way in which Berkeley says certain
groups of ideas do represent other minds to us. In order to give an
account of these relations, in order even to give an account of the
existence of any one thing, we have to introduce considerations of
complexity and interaction, we have to introduce the consideration of
the proposition, in fact we have to take account of space and time.
And once we do take account of space and time and of the independent
existence which is existence in space and time, the difficulties
which arise, on Berkeley's principles, can easily be dealt with.

Now the development to a more exact understanding of space
and time took place through Hume's criticism of Berkeley and his
other predecessors, particularly in regard to causality, and through
Kant's recognition of the seriousness of the difficulties which
Hume had raised.

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