[lit-ideas] Berkeleyiana

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2015 08:00:05 -0400

In a message dated 9/23/2015 9:08:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, jejunej
esuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx writes:
"Without me perceiving nothing would exist..."

That is why Lisa Downing, at

Downing, Lisa, "George Berkeley", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =


Berkeley holds that there are no such mind-independent things, that, in the
famous phrase, esse est percipi (aut percipere) — to be is to be perceived
(or to perceive).

Witters quotes this as

i. esse est percipi.

with percipi as the passive vocie of percipere, i. e.

ii. To be is to be perceived.

Note that in "to be" perceived, "to be" occurs, yet Berkeley* holds this is
not circular.

Why he would use Latin may be just because no such circularity is so
obvious in Latin, as it is in English, for the simple reason that the passive
voice in Latin (but not, say, in Italian) is formed _analytically_, rather
than _synthetically_.

But note that Lisa also uses 'aut', which logicians formalise as

iii. p w q


iv. My wife is in the garden OR in the kitchen (but hopefully not in both
-- the garden does not connect with the kitchen, and my wife is one whole

As Downing quotes it, again in Latin -- for this Irish bishop that Berkeley
was loved the language of the Vulgata:

v. Esse est percipi aut percipere.

Matter of fact, Downing version is parenthetical:

vi. Esse est percipi (aut percipere).

She translates it again parenthetically:

vii. To be is to be perceived (or to perceive).

Note that in

viii. To be is to perceive.

none of the circularity of the occurrence of 'to be' in the analysandum
("to be") and the analysandum ("to be perceived") appears.

Geary applies this to the stars, which was a favourite example by Frege:

ix. Hesperus = Phosphorus

x. The Evening Star = The Morning Star

Frege knew that both stars were the same, but since 'esse est percipi' if
the Greeks thought otherwise, it _was_ otherwise (for _them_, not for Frege)
-- unless, as Popper would say, the Greeks were SHOWN that what they think
or perceive as TWO DIFFERENT stars are just ONE STAR, and again, with
Popper if not Dodds (vide his "The Greeks and the Irrational"), the Greeks
preferred to change their ways of interpreting their perceptions.

Frege was not sure this would happen ("it was a long time ago") and thus
coined the phrase "mode of presentation" (or perception) to allow for a being
to be perceived in more than one way.




* Berkeley has to be distinguished from the place in England, Berkeley,
famous for the fox hunts that gave origin of all things to some rude truncated
Cockney slang, much used by Pinter in his dialogues (*now playing on
Broadway). And while both Berkeleys need to be distinguished, Frege would say
that they are still inter-connected, as they are.

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