2. Locke said _____ continuity establishes personal identity (bodily, psychological); Thomas Reid said identity relies on ______ memories, not total recall.
3. Bishop George Berkeley was a metaphysical idealist because he believed all that exist are____; he was an immaterialist because he denied that ______ exists; he was an _______ because he said all knowledge comes from direct personal experience.
4. Esse est percipi means what?
6. What was Berkeley's response to the criticism that his view allows no distinction between reality and illusion?
BONUS+: What's the function of brains, according to Campbell?
1. If the inner world of a newborn is a "blooming buzzing confusion," as William James said, does that show Locke to be right about the contentlessness of the natal mind? Does the mind really start from scratch, an empty vessel? Or might people like the linguist Noam Chomsky and psychologist Steven Pinker be right, to say that the human mind comes equipped with specific, evolved structures for learning language and other things?
2. What's your earliest stored memory? How do you know you're the same person you were before your first recorded memory? Would this be an especially frightening question if you had Alzheimer's? If you ever experience significant or total memory loss, will that be the end of you?
3. Do you notice a difference in the quality of your various experiences. such that some feel immediate and direct (a sunset, an interpersonal encounter, an "epiphany" etc.) while others are more remote, filtered, or "mediated" (a televised sunset, an online chat, a familiar thought)? Is that feeling of immediacy real? What do you think you are encountering, when you have an immediate experience: sensations, perceptions, concepts, ideas... or the world that causes them?
4. How would you fill out the phrase Esse est ____, To be is to be _____?
5. Do you support separation of chuch and state? Do you value and practice "toleration"? Or is even that too mild an acceptance of others' freedom? Would you want to live in a society whose rules were imposed by Imams, Ayatollahs, or the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church?
6. What do you think of Morpheus' speech in The Matrix, when he says if you think of things you can touch, feel, hear, see etc. as "real," then reality is just electrical signals in the brain? Agree? Does that make you a skeptic? Can you draw the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, as Locke did, without becoming either a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist like Berkelely? If you did agree with Berkeley, how would that change your daily life and experience? Is this ultimately a distinction (Primary & Secondary Qualities) without a difference, hence irrelevant from a pragmatic POV?
Toleration and the Separation of Church & State
John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704) was a British philosopher, Oxford academic and medical researcher. Locke's monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is one of the first great defenses of empiricism and concerns itself with determining the limits of human understanding in respect to a wide spectrum of topics. It thus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to know and what one cannot. Locke's association with Anthony Ashley Cooper (later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively a government official charged with collecting information about trade and colonies, economic writer, opposition political activist, and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Among Locke's political works he is most famous for The Second Treatise of Government in which he argues that sovereignty resides in the people and explains the nature of legitimate government in terms of natural rights and the social contract. He is also famous for calling for the separation of Church and State in his Letter Concerning Toleration. Much of Locke's work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This is apparent both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them. On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by these institutions. Locke believes that using reason to try to grasp the truth, and determine the legitimate functions of institutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare. This in turn, amounts to following natural law and the fulfillment of the divine purpose for humanity... SEP
From John Locke's "Letter Concerning Toleration" (1689)-
...Nobody, therefore, in fine, neither single persons nor churches, nay, nor even commonwealths, have any just title to invade the civil rights and worldly goods of each other upon pretence of religion. Those that are of another opinion would do well to consider with themselves how pernicious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a provocation to endless hatreds, rapines, and slaughters they thereby furnish unto mankind. No peace and security, no, not so much as common friendship, can ever be established or preserved amongst men so long as this opinion prevails, that dominion is founded in grace and that religion is to be propagated by force of arms.==
In the third place, let us see what the duty of toleration requires from those who are distinguished from the rest of mankind (from the laity, as they please to call us) by some ecclesiastical character and office; whether they be bishops, priests, presbyters, ministers, or however else dignified or distinguished. It is not my business to inquire here into the original of the power or dignity of the clergy. This only I say, that, whencesoever their authority be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the Church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immovable. He jumbles heaven and earth together, the things most remote and opposite, who mixes these two societies, which are in their original, end, business, and in everything perfectly distinct and infinitely different from each other. No man, therefore, with whatsoever ecclesiastical office he be dignified, can deprive another man that is not of his church and faith either of liberty or of any part of his worldly goods upon the account of that difference between them in religion. For whatsoever is not lawful to the whole Church cannot by any ecclesiastical right become lawful to any of its members.
Johnson refutes Berkeley
Or does he?
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus." Boswell's Life
Suppose a brave officer to have been flogged when a boy at school, for robbing an orchard, to have taken a standard from the enemy in his first campaign, and to have been made a general in advanced life: Suppose also, which must be admitted to be possible, that when he took the standard, he was conscious of his having been flogged at school, and that when made a general he was conscious of his taking the standard, but had absolutely lost the consciousness of his flogging.
These things being supposed, it follows, from Mr LOCKE's doctrine, that he who was flogged at school is the same person who took the standard, and that he who took the standard is the same person who was made a general. When it follows, if there be any truth in logic, that the general is the same person with him who was flogged at school. But the general's consciousness does not reach so far back as his flogging, therefore, according to Mr LOCKE's doctrine, he is not the person who was flogged. Therefore the general is, and at the same time is not the same person as him who was flogged at school (Essays, 276).==
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Locke, Reid, & Berkeley
Today in CoPhi it's John Locke (not the "Lost" one) and Thomas Reid on personalidentity (and John Dunn on Locke's concept of toleration), George Berkeley, and John Campbell on Berkeley's Puzzle.
John Locke has become a more difficult figure to research, ever since the Lost television series pushed his namesake to the forefront of popular consciousness and search results. The fictional John Locke can walk, not back in civilization but on his freaky island. (But I can't listen to this song.)
The real John Locke, "apostle of the Revolution of 1688" (Russell) apparently had trouble walking too.
He was naturally very active, and employed himself as much as his health would permit. Sometimes he diverted himself with working in the garden, which he well understood. He loved walking, but not being able to walk much, through the disorder of his lungs, he used to ride out after dinner...
[I have to keep reminding myself that these "riding" philosophers were on horseback, not bikes. Philosophy Rides, the sequel, will not be a historical survey.]
His bad health was a disturbance to none but himself... his usual drink was nothing but water...Good for him, I guess. He's not the philosopher I'd most like to spend time in a pub with, though I admire his most pragmatic statement that "the actions of men [are] the best interpreters of their thought."
His near-dying words were that we should regard this world and life as nothing but a vanity and "a state of preparation for a better." Repugnant words, to a happy humanist and to all those "atheists in foxholes - there is indeed a list." And yet, other words of his ("all mankind being equal and independent, none ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty") inspired some of our greatest social and political experiments.
And some of our strangest television. Don't tell me what I can't do.
The Locke who inspired the eighteenth century was the philosopher who wired Aristotle's most important insight, that all knowledge comes through experience, into the modern western mind. (Cave & Light)
Locke said the key to personal identity is memory. Oh-oh! But Thomas Reid, Mr. Scottish Common Sense, helpfully said you can get there from here: if you remember yourself in (say) 1998, and that Self remembers itself in 1980, and that one remembers version 1975, and so on… well, you’re the same person you were back in the day. Whew! That’s a relief. The Ship of Theseus may be seaworthy, after all.
But Walter ("That's the way it is") Cronkite used to ask “Can the world be saved?” Honestly, it’s too soon to tell. But I think William James had it right when he wrote: “The world may be saved, on condition that its parts shall do their best. But shipwreck in detail, or even on the whole, is among the open possibilities.”
Cesar Kuriyama told TED he intends to record, splice, and archive a second of every day of his life. He wants never to forget. What would Locke say? Or Nietzsche?
“Consider the herds that are feeding yonder: they know not the meaning of yesterday or today; they graze and ruminate, move or rest, from morning to night, from day to day, taken up with their little loves and hates and the mercy of the moment, feeling neither melancholy nor satiety. Man cannot see them without regret, for even in the pride of his humanity he looks enviously on the beast’s happiness. He wishes simply to live without satiety or pain, like the beast; yet it is all in vain, for he will not change places with it. He may ask the beast—“Why do you look at me and not speak to me of your happiness?” The beast wants to answer—“Because I always forget what I wished to say”; but he forgets this answer, too, and is silent; and the man is left to wonder.”
Gayatri Devi says if you want a better memory you must make yourself forget more.
Locke is more familiar to Americans as the underwriter of our pursuit of life, liberty, and property. (Thomas Jefferson, we know, edited Locke on that last point.) He defended separation of church and state (as did Thomas Jefferson), and toleration. [AU] A very enlightened guy, for his time and place, but still not clear-sighted about freedom from worship for those who choose it. [Matthew Stewart, Nature's God reviewed... Locke's radical idea (Cave&Light)]
And, we can blame him in large part for Bishop George Berkeley‘s (careful with that pronunciation) startling esse est percipi thesis, since Berkeley drove through the hole Locke's representational realism had opened. Also today, John Campbell on Berkeley's Puzzle.
Bishop Berkeley was one odd empiricist, insisting that we “know” only our ideas and not their referents. Here’s that famous scene with Dr. Dictionary:
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.” Boswell’s Life of Johnson[Johnson's Boswell]
The conventional judgment of philosophers, in relating this funny little story, is that Johnson missed Berkeley's point. Mine is that Berkeley missed the point of Johnson's demonstration: nobody really lives exclusively in his own (figurative or literal, res cogitans or res extensa) head. Not even distracted bishops or philosophers.
Berkeley gave his name (though not its pronunciation) to the California town and college campus where there’s lately been a revival of interest in him.
There’s a story that when George Berkeley, the future philosopher, was a student he decided to see what it was like to approach death. He hung himself, arranging to have a friend cut him down and revive him after he lost consciousness…Berkeley is now hung again, as large as life, but only in portrait form on the campus that is his namesake.
Well, the idea of him is now hung again anyway. If a portrait hangs in a gallery but nobody looks at it, does it make an impression? Its subject surely did, we always talk about him between Locke and Hume. Why is that? He was an empiricist only nominally, not temperamentally and (despite the extremity of his view) definitely not radically: Radical Empiricists [wiki]who think like William James perceive the relations in experience that connect us and our sometimes-whacky ideas to the real "external" world.
Campbell (who, btw, speaks in the most charming Scots brogue) nonetheless describes Berkeley's puzzle and its solution as radical, tearing at the roots of everyday common sense. "If all I've got to go on is this wall of sensation, how can I even frame the idea of something beyond that?" His solution is no solution: "You can't, it's just an illusion... All we have are our ideas." That's a really bad idea, Bishop B.
Campbell himself makes more sense. There are "different levels in the description of reality," and everything we experience, from colors and smells and tastes (the so-called secondary qualities of experience) to quantum phenomena to observer-independent quantitative/"objective" features of the world, is "out there," i.e., real... but appropriately described in different terms. James again clarifies: "Common sense is BETTER for one sphere of life, science for another, philosophic criticism for a third; but whether either be TRUER absolutely, Heaven only knows."
That last bit is purely rhetorical, James didn't think heaven has a dog in this hunt. It's up to us to decide when to speak the language of common sense and when to defer to some corrective scientific or critical or other specialized vocabulary. Levels. And brains, "it's very important that we have brains. But their function is to reveal the world to us, not to generate a lot of random junk."
Russell again: "There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy, but only as showing that our theoretical principles cannot be quite correct so long as their consequences are condemned by an appeal to common sense which we feel to be irresistible."
This In Our Time is all about Berkeley.
Calvin, btw, seems to have taken the Bishop seriously.