[lit-ideas] Re: Berkeleyiana

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2015 07:22:20 -0700


I started out last night writing to the forum, but chickened out and wrote only to Geary -- at first wanting to disagree with his seeming Berkeleyism but noting that he added a qualifying clause, a clause you neglect to address, I decided he wasn't so far from my beliefs -- although having read Berkeley in the past and rejected him don't like the association. The complete sentence that you quote a portion of is,

"Without me perceiving nothing would exist, not as far as I'm concerned anyway."

So if you can ignore the Berkleyan implications you would I suspect concede that if Geary were to die the world _for him_ would cease to exist. He wouldn't, I suspect, argue that the world in actuality will cease to exist.

My association with Berkeley is even less than that. Sometimes my mind is jumbled with unrelated thoughts. What I've learned to do is to grab one of these thoughts, the most pressing if I can find it, and beginning hemming it in with words. I'll get a piece of paper and start with this thought and very often a poem will be the result. My own assumption is that I am half in and half out of my subconscious and only by bringing something out and looking at it can I get the mental chaos to subside. I am in effect creating a coherent idea, or set of ideas and for me (or to use Geary's words "as far as I'm concerned") I have created a certain (but very limited) reality. I would never be so bold as to suggest, as you seem to be implying for Geary, that what I do is an absolute in the Berkleyan sense. I suspect that very few people function as I do and so believe I'm at the farthest extreme from any sort of absolute -- I suspect that Geary is as well, but I'll leave that up to him.


On 9/24/2015 5:00 AM, (Redacted sender Jlsperanza for DMARC) wrote:

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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