Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Berkeley

Berkeley's view that the physical is really mental is a paradigm of a clearly absurd view that does not need more refutation than its being stated. Why shouldn't we take physicalist views on which the mental is really physical as absurd in the same way?

15 comments:

N. N. said...

They certainly are both absurd. As Ryle puts it,

"both Idealism and Materialism are answers to an improper question. The 'reduction' of the material world to mental states and processes, as well as the 'reduction' of mental states and processes to physical states and processes presupposes the legitimacy of the disjunction 'Either there exist minds or there exists bodies (but not both)'. It would be like saying, 'Either she bought a left-hand glove and right-hand glove or a pair of gloves (but not both)'." (Concept of Mind, pp. 22-3)

Mike Almeida said...

I don't take Berkeley's views to be absurd--not in the least--nor do I take idealism in general to be an absurd position. Were it so, there would not have been the quality and quantity of thinkers that have endorsed idealism--thinkers ranging from Hegel to Russell!

MG said...

Preposterous is a good way of describing Berkeley's view.

I think the idealist knows good and well that the view is absurd. Berkely tried to act as if his position was the common sense position, but I think he was joking. The text of Berkeley's dialogue shows that he knew everyone thinks his position is ridiculous.

It's strange to say that any view supported by intelligent people is a reasonable view. If that were true, then if we could just get enough intelligent people to affirm the moon's being made of cheesecake, then it would be a reasonable position. It shouldn't be too hard, since there can never be enough cheesecake.

Mike Almeida said...

It's strange to say that any view supported by intelligent people is a reasonable view. If that were true, then if we could just get enough intelligent people to affirm the moon's being made of cheesecake, then it would be a reasonable position.Right, of course, that conditional is true. What's the problem? Maybe you could tell me what the problem is supposed to be. You seem to think that if the conditional is true, then its antecedent is true in some world. But that's, of course, plainly false.

Dan Johnson said...

Alex,

One might say the same about any view which denies the existence of ordinary objects like tables and chairs. :)

Alexander R Pruss said...

Touché.

I am thinking about my intuitions about existence. I think that I think of only irreducible things as existing. But there may be more than one sense of "exists". And it could be that in one of the analogous ones, reducible things do exist.

Of course, Berkeley and the materialist make the same move. But I think there is a difference. I don't think the ordinary person minds one saying "There are no tables and chairs" if by that one means that there is nothing there but particles arranged table- and chairwise. But to say that the physical reduces to the mental--that reductive claim seems more absurd.

Dan Johnson said...

That's fascinating, Alex. I have a very strong felt distinction between reduction and elimination. I'm perfectly fine saying that something exists even though its existence can be reduced to other facts. So there are at least two types of existence: existence of the most fundamental sort, and the existence of something which can be reduced to other facts. I don't think, though, that this means that there are two "meanings" of the word existence.

I think, though, that all the major arguments against ordinary objects, including the arguments uniquely yours, justify not reduction but elimination. Am I wrong about that?

Mattie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mattie said...

Idealism is more plausible than materialism though. I can understand what it is for there to be no real objects behind my mental images, but not what it means for there to be real objects but no mental images.

And if you claim that my mental images just are the real things, that seems to be idealism to me, not materialism.

radical_logic said...

How does materialism imply that there are no mental images? Materialism is not behaviorism.

graham veale said...

RL

Eliminative Materialism moves in this direction, I suppose. But it's not true of all materialists. Hence the "eliminative" in front of "materialism".

Alexander R Pruss said...

And parallel to the distinction between materialism and eliminative materialism, one can have a distinction between idealism and eliminative idealism. I think Berkeley moves a little in the direction of eliminative idealism, but I think both forms of idealism are absurd.

Ryan said...

Alex,

Do you think we're ever justified in simply dismissing an argument because it seems crazy to us? If so, why isn't that principle a slippery slope that permits anyone to dismiss arguments they don't like?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, there are certain conclusions which are so absurd that we are hard pressed to imagine the kind of premises that would be needed to argue for them: the premises would have to be more plausible than the negation of the conclusion.

Reuben said...

Keith Ward certainly doesn't think that Idealism is absurd. You can check out his interview on Eastern and Western Idealism at philosophy bites podcasts:

http://nigelwarburton.typepad.com/philosophy_bites/2009/02/keith-ward-on-idealism-in-eastern-and-western-philosophy.html