Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I Refute Berkeley Thus

I think no one has noticed my reference to a piece of what I thought was a piece of standard philosophical lore when I mentioned kicking a stone. I provide a link to a site that provides an account of this.

One prominent physician of his day claimed Berkeley was
insane. The great Dr. Samuel Johnson dismissed Berkeley's ideas with
his famous "I refute Berkeley thus" and then he kicked a rock. Of course,
this did not refute Berkeley at all. It only proved Johnson had not
understood Berkeley's point. Berkeley did not claim the non-existence of
stones or that kicking a stone will not produce sensation. He claimed the
rock did not exist apart from the perception of its solidity or the
perception of pain when struck, and so on. An oft-repeated epitaph
summarizes the general reaction to Berkeley: "His arguments produce no
conviction, though they cannot be refuted."


Anonymous said...

You are exactly right, I think, that any evidence of the existence of an external material world is not obviously incompatible with Berkeley's idealism.

(I say external material world because Berkeley was quick to note that he didn't deny the existence of the external world, he simply was redefining it in a different way. So he says:

"I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend by sense or reflexion. That the things I see with my eyes and touch with my hands do exist, really exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny is that which philosophers call Matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I dare say, will never miss it." A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, §35.)

Ken said...

I missed the reference, and correct me if I'm wrong, are you saying it is a matter of different understanding or systematic interpretation of the same readily available evidence? If so, point taken. However, I'm still curious if there is a even a proverbial stone for theists to kick.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Though I don't know for sure what Dr. Johnson had in mind when he kicked the stone, I wonder if the person you quote above hadn't misunderstood Johnson's point. Personally, I'm quite fond of table-pounding dismissals of absurd theses.

Also, whoever wrote that passage doesn't know their Hume. The correct quote is "admit of no answer and produce no conviction."

My First Blog said...

I can't find a better place to ask this question, so I will post it here:

Where can I find information about how to explain the "argument from reason" to someone with no background in philosophy?

Shackleman said...

Chapter 3 of Lewis' Miracles is a good place to start for the uninitiated.

Lewis is pretty accessible for the average reader.

I haven't compared this to my hard-copy, but a brief skim through and it looks accurate and complete:

awatkins909 said...

I just finished reading Bertrand Russell's book, An Outline of Philosophy, and he describes this in there as well.

IlĂ­on said...

"I think no one has noticed my reference to ..."

Some did.

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