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[3]

3. Now if we take Berkeley's classification of the objects of human
knowledge, we find that a great deal has already been assumed. Locke,
Berkeley and Hume all begin in this way by professing to give a classification
of the objects of knowledge which they have dealt with as being
contents of our mind, but obviously the classifications which they give
are based upon a great deal of previous theorising on the subject that
is to say, no one, if they were set to give a classification of this kind
for the first time, would classify the objects of knowledge in those
precise ways. Berkeley's classification, in particular, pre-supposes that
we know what is meant by an idea, by “an impression on the senses” and by
various mental faculties and their modes of operation. Accordingly he
must have some theory of the mind's operation prior to making this
classification. Now in any argument of this kind it is necessary to
begin by making certain assertions which need not be made in any dogmatic
fashion, i.e., as if not subject to review in the light of further evidence
and if Berkeley had begun by saying that he wished to treat this classification
as a hypothesis or supposition which would be treated tested in the
process of further argument, then no exception could be taken to his p
procedure. But in speaking as if these original assertions would be
agreed to by every one who had any acquaintance with the subject, Berkeley
is really concealing a great deal of argument which might be highly
disputable and which has led up to these assertions as conclusions.

Thus we find that at the end of the second paragraph, he says
that the existence of an idea consists in being perceived but he does
not raise the question whether ideas, as he understands the term, really
exist at all, i.e, he speaks about ways in which ideas are imprinted on
the senses or mind, ways in which we receive these ideas but does not at
all explain what this process of receiving is like.

We know in ordinary life that certain beings receive some object
or some new characteristic through communication with other beings but
in that case both the giver and the receiver and also that which is
received and the process whereby it is received--the process of passing
it from one to the other--all these objects are of the same general
nature, i.e., we can become acquainted with any one in the same way as we
become acquainted with any other, namely, by observation. But in the
case of the receipt of ideas by the mind, Berkeley makes a distinction
between the mode of existence of what is received and the mode of existence
of the receiver; the former--the ideas--exist in a mind and being
contained in a mind is the kind of existence that they have, whereas
mind itself has an independent existence and this does not require it
to be referred to something else which contains it in order that its
existence may be recognised. And, in addition to that, the process of
receiving is something that cannot be observed because, as Berkeley himself
would admit, if it were observed it would be an idea and consequent



  ― 5. ―
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ly it could not be a relation between an idea and something which was not
an idea, namely the mind itself; so that there seems to be a difficulty at
the beginning in the way Berkeley conceives mind and its object.

Now as regards this mind which is supposed to be over and above our
ideas and to have knowledge of them, we find an apparently straightforward
argument but one which again conceals a great deal of difficulty. Berkeley
says that mind is something over and above all ideas which it is said
“to have” and that, at first sight, seems a very natural assumption because
we should say at first that if the mind were not distinct from its ideas
then there is nothing existing which can be said to have that knowledge.
But if we then take the method from the opposite point of view and if we
assume for the sake of argument that mind is something distinct from the
objects which it knows, it immediately follows that the mind is not an
object, namely, that it is not known and if we are not acquainted with anything
in particular that we can call the mind, then we are not entitled
to use that term. So that we have an apparent dilemma, the mind simply
being an idea among others and there is nothing then to have or know these
ideas; the mind not being founded among on ideas and therefore we know nothing
about it. This difficulty arises simply from the assumption that if there
is anything which knows something else, it cannot itself be known because when
we speak of knowledge we immediately suppose the existence of two
different things, one of which we call the knower, the other the known and
which have a special relation to one another. But to admit that where
there is knowledge there are two different constituents of that situation,
the knower and the known, does not involve the admission that the knower is
incapable of being known, i.e., if we assume an object A which is known by
B, then it is quite possible that B stands in the same relation to a third
object C as A to B. (We can no more say that knowers may not be known
than we can say that parents may not be children of older parents, i.e.,
the two classes do not exclude one another).

We can say, then, that Berkeley is not entitled to say that the mind
is something in addition to the various classes of ideas or things known,
but on the contrary it must be included among things that we know as it is
shown from the mere fact that we talk about it and understand what is meant
by the term “mind”.

We find that Berkeley has a special theory to meet this difficulty
and that that theory depends on maintaining that the mind, when it is known,
is known in a different way from that in which anything else is known, i.e.,
a special type of knowledge whereby minds become acquainted with themselves
and their own operation---the argument, having begun with the assumption
that knowledge is a relation between two different things, goes on to formulate
a special case in which the two terms are not different and where
accordingly we must have a different type of knowledge. The argument is
that mind is aware of itself but in a different way to that in which it
is aware of ideas--it knows ideas by receiving them, but it knows itself
by simply being itself; that is to say, there is really an assumption underlying
Berkeley's argument and it is an assumption which he derived from
Descartes, just as he derived his method of classification from his, Descartes',
method of doubt.

Descartes laid down the principle as that on which he intended to
found his philosophy--”I think, therefore I am”. This is found to mean
that in the mere fact of his thinking, he has a certain knowledge of his
own thinking--this is one thing, he says, which he can be sure about to



  ― 6. ―
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begin with, however much further knowledge he may gain later; and further
in his method doubt, Descartes had contended that he could clear away
every doubtful proposition and leave only those which were perfectly
certain. But, just as in Berkeley's method of classification, so in Descartes'
method of doubt, a very great deal is taken for granted and not
subjected to doubt at all---in particular, Descartes assumes that he can
undertake this process of doubting and, in so doing, that he can rid his
mind of all doubtful beliefs and leave a residue of certainty. But this
in itself must be very doubtful; at any rate it requires proof, and it
involves the taking for granted of a great deal more than what was said
in the argument to be perfectly certain.

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