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[4]

4. Now the proposition “I think, therefore I am” is subject to various
criticisms, in the first place, it is regarded as a statement which cannot
be doubted although Hume, for instance, says that his statement may
actually be doubted; and, in the second place, if we say that “I am
essentially a thinking being, there appears to be no distinction between
the two terms; it is simply asserted that “thinking is thinking”; and it
is to be noticed that, in exactly the same way as Descartes, so Berkeley
maintains that those things which are thought about are simply thought
about---”The existence of an idea consists in its being perceived, says
Berkeley in the second paragraph. These two views are substantially
similar and when Berkeley says there is a mind over and above is ideas
he is simply repeating Descartes' view. He assumes the existence of
the self in exactly the same way and he makes a corresponding assumption
in the case of ideas---the one exists by thinking, and is therefore
supposed to know itself or to be an independent, self-supporting thing;
the other, the idea, exists in being thought or known and is therefore
regarded as being a dependent thing, something which has no existence of
its own but only exists relative to a mind.

Now it is those dependent things that Berkeley calls ideas and it
is from those as elements that he proposes to build up a general body
of knowledge. Thus we find him, in the first paragraph, speaking of a
number of those elementary objects or ideas “going together” so as to
constitute what we call a thing. “Thus, for example,” he says, “a certain
colour, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go
together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name apple”;
and similarly, in the case of tree, stone, book---these are constituted
by the going together of a number of different ideas. This description
in itself raises a difficulty, namely of giving any account of this
“going together”. If it is something of which we are aware along with
the various ideas, then it would seem to be another individual idea and
so we should simply have a multiplicity of single ideas without anything
to hold them together or to enable us to group them in particular ways,
i.e., for example, we should have three distinct ideas, colour taste
and association; and there is nothing in these taken by themselves to
explain what is meant by the association of colour and teaste. This
would imply a complexity among the ideas and if we simply have those
single ideas as the beginning of our knowledge we have no way of
putting them together.

Now this is one of the fundamental errors with which Berkeley's
is concerned and this difficulty is connected with Descartes' doctrine
of essence, i.e., if we have something whose whole nature consists in
thinking, then there is nothing more to be said about it; we simply use



  ― 7. ―
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the term thinking and that particular essence is entirely comprehended
by us. It follows that we can never express or communicate our knowledge
of that essence for if any doubt or difficulty arose, then we should
have to use different terms to explain the matter but these diiferent
terms would mean different natures or essences otherwise the matter would
be no clearer than it was before But in that case instead of having
a true explai nation, we should really have a false explai nation; if we
tried to explain what thinking means by talking about perceiving or imagining,
then either we are using the same term over again or we are
talking about something different and this comes to means that we cannot
have elementary units of thought or of reality. If the least that we
can think of is not an essence or simple nature but a complex situation
with various interacting factors, then it is possible, at any time, to develop
further our knowledge of that situation and to see new factors entering
into it. But that again is possible only if the situation has
an independent existence for if it has, then we can actually see the
different factors coming together, as Berkeley says, but if it has not,
then what he calls coming together is just another simple nature unrelated
to any other.

In speaking about “going together”, then, Berkeley is introducing a
conception which is not in accordance with his original assumptions, i.e.,
he is going beyond the assumtion, and is really contradicting it, that we
begin with a number of separate units of knowledge. But because going
together is something of which we have knowledge in our ordinary
experience, we are inclined to allow Berkeley's argument to pass and this
allows him to proceed from mere identities to a complex situation just
as Descartes proceeds from the identity of thinking to the various modes
of mental operation such as perceiving and imagining because we all
recognise from our actual experience that perceiving and imagining are
modes of thinking or of mental operation; but this knowledge which we
derive from experience Descartes professes to derive from the identity
of thought with itself.

Now the third paragraph of the “Principles” exhibits the same kind
of confusions on the part of Berkeley, i.e., it exhibits the attempt to
derive positive information from a mere identity so confusing the
informative proposition with the identity as to make the derivation
appear plausible. The conclusion which he wishes to establish is that
ideas cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them and for
purposes of his argument, “in” may be understood as “in/dependence on” or
“in relation to”. This doctrine is to be supported by a consideration
of what is meant by the term “exist” when applied to sensible things-sensible
meaning being known through the senses. “The table I write on,
I say, exists, that is I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I
should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I was in my study I
might perceive it or that some other spirit does actually perceive it”.

Now there are a number of minor difficulties here--in the first
place, there is the distinction between seeing and feeling. But if the
existence of a thing consists of its relation to my mind or to whatever
mind is aware of it, then in the case of something which I see, its existence
consists of its being seen by me, and in the case of something which
exists by being felt, its existence is by being felt. And here, unless
seeing and feeling are identical we cannot say that we feel and see
the same thing. This is simply another way of expressing the fact
that, in our ordinary description of our relation to things, we describe
those things of as being independent of us, and it may be argued that



  ― 8. ―
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unless a thing is independent of its relation to us, there is nothing
for us to be related to. But this is all the more clearly brought out
when we say we have two different relations to the same thing since if
its whole existence consisted in either of those relations then it could
not have the other.

In the second place, there is a difficulty, which may be overcome in
the fuller working out of his theory, when he speaks of being “in” or
“out” of his study. That seems to imply that he or his mind can be
“in” the study whereas according to his previous argument, his study is
in his mind. But, according to his theory, what we call our bodies are
simply particular ideas among others although it is really impossible
for Berkeley to explain why we should call those ideas peculiarly
“ours” or think that they are more intimately related with our minds
than the idea of tables or of chairs. And in the third place, in talking
about another mind perceiving the same thing Berkeley is again
implicitly attributing independent reality to the thing because if the
thing's nature consists in its relation to me it cannot be related to
other persons and vice-versa--the only solution would be to say that
I and the other person were identical.

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