Bishop Berkeley on the Metaphysics of Sensation1 (1871)

Collected Essays VI

[243] Professor Fraser has earned the thanks of all students of philosophy for the conscientious labour which he has bestowed upon his new edition of the works of Berkeley; in which, for the first time, we find collected together every thought which can be traced to the subtle and penetrating mind of the famous Bishop of Cloyne; while the "Life and Letters" will rejoice those who care less for the idealist and the prophet of tar-water, than for the man who stands out as one of the noblest and purest figures of his time: that Berkeley from whom the jealousy of Pope [244] did not withhold a single one of all "the virtues under heaven;" nor the cynicism of Swift, the dignity of "one of the first men of the kingdom for learning and virtue;" the man whom the pious Atterbury could compare to nothing less than an angel; whose personal influence and eloquence filled the Scriblerus Club and the House of Commons with enthusiasm for the evangelization of the North American Indians; and even led Sir Robert Walpole to assent to the appropriation of public money to a scheme which was neither business nor bribery.2

Hardly any epoch in the intellectual history of England is more remarkable in itself, or possesses a greater interest for us in these latter days, than that which coincides broadly with the conclusion of the seventeenth and the opening of the eighteenth century. The political fermentation of the preceding age was gradually working itself out; domestic peace gave men time to think; and the toleration won by the party of which Locke was the spokesman, permitted a freedom of speech and of writing such as has rarely been exceeded in later times. Fostered by these circumstances, the great faculty for physical and metaphysical [245] inquiry, with which the people of our race are naturally endowed, developed itself vigorously; and at least two of its products have had a profound and a permanent influence upon the subsequent course of thought in the world. The one of these was English Freethinking; the other, the Theory of Gravitation.

Looking back to the origin of the intellectual impulses of which these were the results, we are led to Herbert, to Hobbes, to Bacon; and to one who stands in advance of all these, as the most typical man of his time–Descartes. It is the Cartesian doubt–the maxim that assent may properly be given to no propositions but such as are perfectly clear and distinct–which, becoming incarnate, so to speak, in the Englishmen, Anthony Collins, Toland, Tindal, Woolston, and in the wonderful Frenchman, Pierre Bayle, reached its final term in Hume. And, on the other hand, although the theory of Gravitation set aside the Cartesian vortices–yet the spirit of the "Principes de Philosophie" attained its apotheosis when Newton demonstrated all the host of heaven to be but the elements of a vast mechanism, regulated by the same laws as those which express the falling of a stone to the ground. There is a passage in the preface to the first edition of the "Principia" which shows that Newton was penetrated, as completely as Descartes, with the belief that all the phenomena of [246] nature3 are expressible in terms of matter and motion.

"Would that the rest of the phenomena of nature could be deduced by a like kind of reasoning from mechanical principles. For many circumstances lead me to suspect that all these phenomena may depend upon certain forces, in virtue of which the particles of bodies, by causes not yet known, are either mutually impelled against one another and cohere into regular figures, or repel and recede from one another; which forces being unknown, philosophers have as yet explored nature in vain. But I hope that, either by this method of philosophizing, or by some other and better, the principles here laid down may throw some light upon the matter."4

[247] But the doctrine that all the phenomena of nature are resolvable into mechanism is what people have agreed to call "materialism;" and when Locke and Collins maintained that matter may possibly be able to think, and Newton himself could compare infinite space to the sensorium of the Deity, it was not wonderful that the English philosophers should be attacked as they were by Leibnitz in the famous letter to the Princess of Wales, which gave rise to his correspondence with Clarke.5

"1. Natural religion itself seems to decay [in England] very much. Many will have human souls to be material; others make God Himself a corporeal Being.

"2. Mr. Locke and his followers are uncertain, at least, whether the soul be not material and naturally perishable.

"3. Sir Isaac Newton says that space is an organ which God makes use of to perceive things by. But if God stands in need of any organ to perceive things by, it will follow that they do not depend altogether upon Him, nor were produced by Him.

[248] "4. Sir Isaac Newton and his followers have also a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to their doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up His watch from time to time; otherwise it would cease to move.6 He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God's making is so imperfect, according to these gentlemen, that He is obliged to clean it now and then by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it as a clockmaker mends his work."

It is beside the mark, at present, to inquire how far Leibnitz paints a true picture, and how far he is guilty of a spiteful caricature of Newton's views in these passages; and whether the beliefs which Locke is known to have entertained are consistent with the conclusions which may logically be drawn from some parts of his works. It is undeniable that English philosophy in Leibnitz's time had the general character which he ascribes to it. The phenomena of nature were held to be resolvable into the attractions and the repulsions of particles of matter; all knowledge was attained through the senses; the mind antecedent to experience was a tabula rasa. In other words, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, the character of speculative thought in [249] England was essentially sceptical, critical, and materialistic. Why such "materialism"7 should be more inconsistent with the existence of a Deity, the freedom of the will, or the immortality of the soul, or with any actual or possible system of theology, than "idealism," I must declare myself at a loss to divine. But, in the year 1700, all the world appears to have been agreed, Tertullian notwithstanding, that materialism necessarily leads to very dreadful consequences. And it was thought that it conduced to the interests of religion and morality to attack the materialists with all the weapons that came to hand. Perhaps the most interesting controversy which arose out of these questions is the wonderful triangular duel between Dodwell, Clarke, and Anthony Collins, concerning the materiality of the soul, and–what all the disputants considered to be the necessary consequence of its materiality–its natural mortality. I do not think that any one can read the letters which passed between Clarke and Collins, without admitting that Collins, who writes with wonderful power and closeness of reasoning, has by far the best of the argument, so far as the possible materiality of the soul goes; and that, in this battle, the Goliath of Freethinking overcame the champion of what was considered Orthodoxy.

In Dublin, all this while, there was a little [250] David practising his youthful strength upon the intellectual lions and bears of Trinity College. This was George Berkeley, who was destined to give the same kind of development to the idealistic side of Descartes' philosophy, that the Freethinkers had given to its sceptical side, and the Newtonians to its mechanical side.

Berkeley faced the problem boldly. He said to the materialists: "You tell me that all the phenomena of nature are resolvable into matter and its affections. I assent to your statement, and now I put to you the further question, 'What is matter?' In answering this question you shall be bound by your own conditions; and I demand, in the terms of the Cartesian axiom, that in turn you give your assent only to such conclusions as are perfectly clear and obvious."

It is this great argument which is worked out in the "Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge," and in those "Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous," which rank among the most exquisite examples of English style, as well as among the subtlest of metaphysical writings; and the final conclusion of which is summed up in a passage remarkable alike for literary beauty, and for calm audacity of statement.

[251] "Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, viz., that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth–in a word, all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world–have not any substance without a mind; that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently, so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit; it being perfectly unintelligible, and involving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit."8

Doubtless this passage sounds like the acme of metaphysical paradox, and we all know that "coxcombs vanquished Berkeley with a grin;" while common-sense folk refuted him by stamping on the ground, or some such other irrelevant proceeding. But the key to all philosophy lies in the clear apprehension of Berkeley's problem–which is neither more nor less than one of the shapes of the greatest of all questions, "What are the limits of our faculties?" And it is worth any amount of trouble to comprehend the exact nature of the argument by which Berkeley arrived at his results, and to know by one's own knowledge the great truth which he discovered–that the honest and rigorous following up of the argument which leads us to "materialism," inevitably carries us beyond it.

Suppose that I accidentally prick my finger with a pin. I immediately become aware of a [252] condition of my consciousness–a feeling which I term pain. I have no doubt whatever that the feeling is in myself alone; and if any one were to say that the pain I feel is something which inheres in the needle, as one of the qualities of the substance of the needle, we should all laugh at the absurdity of the phraseology. In fact, it is utterly impossible to conceive pain except as a state of consciousness.

Hence, so far as pain is concerned, it is sufficiently obvious that Berkeley's phraseology is strictly applicable to our power of conceiving its existence–"its being is to be perceived or known," and "so long as it is not actually perceived by me, or does not exist in my mind, or that of any other created spirit, it must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit."

So much for pain. Now let us consider an ordinary sensation. Let the point of the pin be gently rested upon the skin, and I become aware of a feeling, or condition of consciousness, quite different from the former–the sensation of what I call "touch." Nevertheless this touch is plainly just as much in myself as the pain was. I cannot for a moment conceive this something which I call touch as existing apart from myself, or a being capable of the same feelings as myself. And the same reasoning applies to all the other simple sensations. A moment's reflection is suffi[253]cient to convince one that the smell, and the taste, and the yellowness, of which we become aware when an orange is smelt, tasted, and seen, are as completely states of our consciousness as is the pain which arises if the orange happens to be too sour. Nor is it less clear that every sound is a state of the consciousness of him who hears it. If the universe contained only blind and deaf beings, it is impossible for us to imagine but that darkness and silence should reign everywhere.

It is undoubtedly true, then, of all the simple sensations that, as Berkeley says, their "esse is percipi "their being is to be "perceived or known." But that which perceives, or knows, is termed mind or spirit; and therefore the knowledge which the senses give us is, after all, a knowledge of spiritual phenomena.

All this was explicitly or implicitly admitted, and, indeed, insisted upon, by Berkeley's contemporaries, and by no one more strongly than by Locke, who terms smells, tastes, colours, sounds, and the like, "secondary qualities," and observes, with respect to these "secondary qualities," that "whatever reality we by mistake attribute to them [they] are in truth nothing in the objects themselves."

And again: "Flame is denominated hot and light; snow, white and cold; and manna, white and sweet, from the ideas they produce in us; which qualities are commonly thought to be the [254] same in these bodies; that those ideas are in us, the one the perfect resemblance of the other as they are in a mirror; and it would by most men be judged very extravagant if one should say otherwise. And yet he that will consider that the same fire that at one distance produces in us the sensation of warmth, does at a nearer approach produce in us the far different sensation of pain, ought to bethink himself what reason he has to say that his idea of warmth, which was produced in him by the fire, is actually in the fire; and his idea of pain which the same fire produced in him in the same way, is not in the fire. Why are whiteness and coldness in snow, and pain not, when it produces the one and the other idea in us; and can do neither but by the bulk, figure, number, and motion of its solid parts?"9

Thus far then materialists and idealists are agreed. Locke and Berkeley, and all logical thinkers who have succeeded them, are of one mind about secondary qualities–their being is to be perceived or known–their materiality is, in strictness, a spirituality.

But Locke draws a great distinction between the secondary qualities of matter, and certain others which he terms "primary qualities." These are extension, figure, solidity, motion and rest, and number; and he is as clear that these [255] primary qualities exist independently of the mind, as he is that the secondary qualities have no such existence.

"The particular bulk, number, figure, and motion of the parts of fire and snow are really in them, whether any one's senses perceive them or not, and therefore they may be called real qualities, because they really exist in those bodies; but light, heat, whiteness, or coldness, are no more really in them, than sickness, or pain, is in manna. Take away the sensation of them; let not the eyes see light or colours, nor the ears hear sounds; let the palate not taste, nor the nose smell; and all colours, tastes, odours and sounds, as they are such particular ideas, vanish and cease, and are reduced to their causes, i.e. bulk, figure, and motion of parts.

"18. A piece of manna of sensible bulk is able to produce in us the idea of a round or square figure; and, by being removed from one place to another, the idea of motion. This idea of motion represents it as it really is in the manna moving; a circle and square are the same, whether in idea or existence, in the mind or in the manna; and thus both motion and figure are really in the manna, whether we take notice of them or no: this everybody is ready to agree to."

So far as primary qualities are concerned, then, Locke is as thoroughgoing a realist as St. Anselm. In Berkeley, on the other hand, we have as complete a representative of the nominalists and conceptualists–an intellectual descendant of Roscellinus and of Abelard.10 And by a curious irony of fate, it is the nominalist who is, this time, the champion of orthodoxy, and the realist that of heresy.

Once more let us try to work out Berkeley's [256] principles for ourselves, and inquire what foundation there is for the assertion that extension, form, solidity, and the other "primary qualities," have an existence apart from mind. And for this purpose let us recur to our experiment with the pin.

It has been seen that when the finger is pricked with a pin, a state of consciousness arises which we call pain; and it is admitted that this pain is not a something which inheres in the pin, but a something which exists only in the mind, and has no similitude elsewhere.

But a little attention will show that this state of consciousness is accompanied by another, which can by no effort be got rid of. I not only have the feeling, but the feeling is localized. I am just as certain that the pain is in my finger, as I am that I have it at all. Nor will any effort of the imagination enable me to believe that the pain is not in my finger.

And yet nothing is more certain than that it is not, and cannot be, in the spot in which I feel it, nor within a couple of feet of that spot. For the skin of the finger is connected by a bundle of fine nervous fibres, which run up the whole length of the arm, to the spinal marrow, which sets them in communication with the brain, and we know that the feeling of pain caused by the prick of a pin is dependent on the integrity of those fibres. After they have been cut through close to the spinal cord, no pain will be felt, whatever injury [257] is done to the finger; and if the ends which remain in connection with the cord be pricked, the pain which arises will appear to have its seat in the finger just as distinctly as before. Nay, if the whole arm be cut off, the pain which arises from pricking the nerve stump will appear to be seated in the fingers, just as if they were still connected with the body.

It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that the localization of the pain at the surface of the body is an act of the mind. It is an extradition of that consciousness, which has its seat in the brain, to a definite point of the body–which takes place without our volition, and may give rise to ideas which are contrary to fact. We might call this extradition of consciousness a reflex feeling, just as we speak of a movement which is excited apart from, or contrary to, our volition, as a reflex motion. Locality is no more in the pin than pain is; of the former, as of the latter, it is true that "its being is to be perceived," and that its existence apart from a thinking mind is not conceivable.

The foregoing reasoning will be in no way affected, if, instead of pricking the finger, the point of the pin rests gently against it, so as to give rise merely to a tactile sensation. The tactile sensation is referred outwards to the point touched, and seems to exist there. But it is certain that it is not and cannot be there really, [258] because the brain is the sole seat of consciousness; and, further, because evidence, as strong as that in favour of the sensation being in the finger, can be brought forward in support of propositions which are manifestly absurd. For example, the hairs and nails are utterly devoid of sensibility, as every one knows. Nevertheless, if the ends of the nails or hairs are touched, ever so lightly, we feel that they are touched, and the sensation seems to be situated in the nails or hairs. Nay more, if a walking-stick, a yard long, is held firmly by the handle and the other end is touched, the tactile sensation, which is a state of our own consciousness, is unhesitatingly referred to the end of the stick; and yet no one will say that it is there.

Let us now suppose that, instead of one pin's point resting against the end of my finger, there are two. Each of these can be known to me, as we have seen, only as a state of a thinking mind, referred outwards, or localized. But the existence of these two states, somehow or other, generates in my mind a number of new ideas, which did not make their appearance when only one state was present. For example, I get the ideas of co-existence, of number, of distance, and of relative place or direction. But all these ideas are ideas of relations, and may be said to imply the existence of something which perceives those relations. If a tactile sensation is a state of the mind, and if [259] the localization of that sensation is an act of the mind, how is it conceivable that a relation between two localized sensations should exist apart from the mind? It is, I confess, quite as easy for me to imagine that redness may exist apart from a visual sense, as it is to suppose that co-existence, number, and distance can have any existence apart from the mind of which they are ideas.

Thus it seems clear that the existence of some, at any rate, of Locke's primary qualities of matter, such as number and extension, apart from mind, is as utterly unthinkable as the existence of colour and sound under like circumstances.

Will the others–namely, figure, motion and rest, and solidity–withstand a similar criticism? I think not. For all these, like the foregoing, are perceptions by the mind of the relations of two or more sensations to one another. If distance and place are inconceivable, in the absence of the mind of which they are ideas, the independent existence of figure, which is the limitation of distance, and of motion, which is change of place, must be equally inconceivable. Solidity requires more particular consideration, as it is a term applied to two very different things, the one of which is solidity of form, or geometrical solidity; while the other is solidity of substance, or mechanical solidity. If those motor nerves of a man by which volitions are converted into motion were all paralysed, and [260] if sensation remained only in the palm of his hand (which is a conceivable case), he would still be able to attain to clear notions of extension, figure, number, and motion by attending to the states of consciousness which might be aroused by the contact of bodies with the sensory surface of the palm. But it does not appear that such a person could arrive at any conception of geometrical solidity. For that which does not come in contact with the sensory surface is non-existent for the sense of touch; and a solid body, impressed upon the palm of the hand, gives rise only to the notion of the extension of that particular part of the solid which is in contact with the skin.

Nor is it possible that the idea of outness (in the sense of discontinuity with the sentient body) could be attained by such a person; for, as we have seen, every tactile sensation is referred to a point either of the natural sensory surface itself, or of some solid in continuity with that surface. Hence it would appear that the conception of the difference between the Ego and the non-Ego could not be attained by a man thus situated. His feelings would be his universe, and his tactile sensations his "mœnia mundi." Time would exist for him as for us, but space would have only two dimensions.

But now remove the paralysis from the motor apparatus, and give the palm of the hand of our [261] imaginary man perfect freedom to move, so as to be able to glide in all directions over the bodies with which it is in contact. Then with the consciousness of that mobility, the notion of space of three dimensions–which is "Raum," or "room" to move with perfect freedom–is at once given. But the notion that the tactile surface itself moves, cannot be given by touch alone, which is competent to testify only to the fact of change of place, not to its cause. The idea of the motion of the tactile surface could not, in fact, be attained, unless the idea of change of place were accompanied by some state of consciousness, which does not exist when the tactile surface is immoveable. This state of consciousness is what is termed the muscular sense, and its existence is very easily demonstrable.

Suppose the back of my hand to rest upon a table, and a sovereign to rest upon the upturned palm, I at once acquire a notion of extension, and of the limit of that extension. The impression made by the circular piece of gold is quite different from that which would be made by a triangular, or a square, piece of the same size, and thereby I arrive at the notion of figure. Moreover, if the sovereign slides over the palm, I acquire a distinct conception of change of place or motion, and of the direction of that motion. For as the sovereign slides, it affects new nerve-endings, and gives rise to new states of consciousness. Each of them is [262] definitely and separately localized by a reflex act of the mind, which, at the same time, becomes aware of the difference between two successive localizations; and therefore of change of place, which is motion.

If, while the sovereign lies on the hand, the latter being kept quite steady, the fore-arm is gradually and slowly raised; the tactile sensations, with all their accompaniments, remain exactly as they were. But, at the same time, something new is introduced; namely, the sense of effort. If I try to discover where this sense of effort seems to be, I find myself somewhat perplexed at first; but, if I hold the fore-arm in position long enough, I become aware of an obscure sense of fatigue, which is apparently seated either in the muscles of the arm, or in the integument directly over them. The fatigue seems to be related to the sense of effort, in much the same way as the pain which supervenes upon the original sense of contact, when a pin is slowly pressed against the skin, is related to touch.

A little attention will show that this sense of effort accompanies every muscular contraction by which the limbs, or other parts of the body, are moved. By its agency the fact of their movement is known; while the direction of the motion is given by the accompanying tactile sensations. And, in consequence of the incessant association of the muscular and the tactile sensations, they [263] become so fused together that they are often confounded under the same name.

If freedom to move in all directions is the very essence of that conception of space of three dimensions which we obtain by the sense of touch; and if that freedom to move is really another name for the feeling of unopposed effort, accompanied by that of change of place, it is surely impossible to conceive of such space as having existence apart from that which is conscious of effort.

But it may be said that we derive our conception of space of three dimensions not only from touch, but from vision; that if we do not feel things actually outside us, at any rate we see them. And it was exactly this difficulty which presented itself to Berkeley at the outset of his speculations. He met it, with characteristic boldness, by denying that we do see things outside us; and, with no less characteristic ingenuity, by devising that "New Theory of Vision" which has met with wider acceptance than any of his views, though it has been the subject of continual controversies.11

In the "Principles of Human Knowledge," Berkeley himself tells us how he was led to those [264] opinions which he published in the "Essay towards the New Theory of Vision."

"It will be objected that we see things actually without, or at a distance from us, and which consequently do not exist in the mind; it being absurd that those things which are seen at the distance of several miles, should be as near to us as our own thoughts. In answer to this, I desire it may be considered that in a dream we do oft perceive things as existing at a great distance off, and yet, for all that, those things are acknowledged to have their existence only in the mind.

"But for the fuller clearing of this point, it may be worth while to consider how it is that we perceive distance and things placed at a distance by sight. For that we should in truth see external space and bodies actually existing in it, some nearer, others further off, seems to carry with it some opposition to what hath been said of their existing nowhere without the mind. The consideration of this difficulty it was that gave birth to my "Essay towards the New Theory of Vision" which was published not long since, wherein it is shown that distance, or outness, is neither immediately of itself perceived by sight, nor yet apprehended, or judged of, by lines and angles or anything that hath any necessary connection with it; but that it is only suggested to our thoughts by certain visible ideas and sensations attending vision, which, in their own nature, have no manner of similitude or relation either with distance or with things placed at a distance; but by a connection taught us by experience, they come to signify and suggest them to us, after the same manner that words of any language suggest the ideas they are made to stand for; insomuch that a man born blind and afterwards made to see, would not, at first sight, think the things he saw to be without his mind or at any distance from him."

The key-note of the Essay to which Berkeley refers in this passage is to be found in an italicized paragraph of section 127:–

[265] "The extensions, figures, and motions perceived by sight are specifically distinct from the ideas of touch called by the same names; nor is there any such thing as an idea or kind of idea common to both senses."

It will be observed that this proposition expressly declares that extension, figure, and motion, and consequently distance, are immediately perceived by sight as well as by touch; but that visual distance, extension, figure, and motion, are totally different in quality from the ideas of the same name obtained through the sense of touch. And other passages leave no doubt that such was Berkeley's meaning. Thus in the 112th section of the same Essay, he carefully defines the two kinds of distance, one visual, the other tangible:–

"By the distance between any two points nothing more is meant than the number of intermediate points. If the given points are visible, the distance between them is marked out by the number of interjacent visible points; if they are tangible, the distance between them is a line consisting of tangible points."

Again, there are two sorts of magnitude or extension:–

"It has been shown that there are two sorts of objects apprehended by sight, each whereof has its distinct magnitude or extension: the one properly tangible, i.e., to be perceived and measured by touch, and not immediately falling under the sense of seeing; the other properly and immediately visible, by mediation of which the former is brought into view."–§ 55.

But how are we to reconcile these passages with others which will be perfectly familiar to every [266] reader of the "New Theory of Vision"? As, for example:–

"It is, I think, agreed by all, that distance of itself, and immediately, cannot be seen."–§ 2.

"Space or distance, we have shown, is no otherwise the object of sight than of hearing."–§ 130.

"Distance is in its own nature imperceptible, and yet it is perceived by sight. It remains, therefore, that it is brought into view by means of some other idea, that is itself immediately perceived in the act of vision."–§ 11.

"Distance or external space."–§ 155.

The explanation is quite simple, and lies in the fact that Berkeley uses the word "distance" in three senses. Sometimes he employs it to denote visible distance, and then he restricts it to distance in two dimensions, or simple extension. Sometimes he means tangible distance in two dimensions; but most commonly he intends to signify tangible distance in the third dimension. And it is in this sense that he employs "distance" as the equivalent of "space." Distance in two dimensions is, for Berkeley, not space, but extension. By taking a pencil and interpolating the words "visible" and "tangible" before "distance" wherever the context renders them necessary, Berkeley's statements may be made perfectly consistent; though he has not always extricated himself from the entanglement caused by his own loose phraseology, which rises to a climax in the last ten sections of the "Theory of Vision," in which he endeavours to prove that a pure intelli[267]gence able to see, but devoid of the sense of touch, could have no idea of a plane figure. Thus he says in section 156:–

"All that is properly perceived by the visual faculty amounts to no more than colours with their variations and different proportions of light and shade; but the perpetual mutability and fleetingness of those immediate objects of sight render them incapable of being managed after the manner of geometrical figures, nor is it in any degree useful that they should. It is true there be divers of them perceived at once, and more of some and less of others; but accurately to compute their magnitude, and assign precise determinate proportions between things so variable and inconstant, if we suppose it possible to be done, must yet be a very trifling and insignificant labour."

If, by this, Berkeley means that by vision alone, a straight line cannot be distinguished from a curved one, a circle from a square, a long line from a short one, a large angle from a small one, his position is surely absurd in itself and contradictory to his own previously cited admissions; if he only means, on the other hand, that his pure spirit could not get very far on in his geometry, it maybe true or not; but it is in contradiction with his previous assertion, that such a pure spirit could never attain to know as much as the first elements of plane geometry.

Another source of confusion, which arises out of Berkeley's insufficient exactness in the use of language, is to be found in what he says about solidity, in discussing Molyneux's problem, whether a man born blind and having learned to dis[268]tinguish between a cube and a sphere, could, on receiving his sight, tell the one from the other by vision. Berkeley agrees with Locke that he could not, and adds the following reflection:–

"Cube, sphere, table, are words he has known applied to things perceivable by touch, but to things perfectly intangible he never knew them applied. Those words in their wonted application always marked out to his mind bodies or solid things which were perceived by the resistance they gave. But there is no solidity, no resistance or protrusion perceived by sight."

Here "solidity" means resistance to pressure, which is apprehended by the muscular sense; but when in section 154 Berkeley says of his pure intelligence–

"It is certain that the aforesaid intelligence could have no idea of a solid or quantity of three dimensions, which follows from its not having any idea of distance "–

he refers to that notion of solidity which may be obtained by the tactile sense without the addition of any notion of resistance in the solid object; as, for example, when the finger passes lightly over the surface of a billiard ball.

Yet another source of difficulty in clearly understanding Berkeley arises out of his use of the word "outness." In speaking of touch. he seems to employ it indifferently, both for the localization of a tactile sensation in the sensory surface, which we really obtain through touch; and for the notion of corporeal separation, which is attained by the association of muscular and tactile sensa[269]tions. In speaking of sight, on the other hand, Berkeley employs "outness" to denote corporeal separation.

When due allowance is made for the occasional looseness and ambiguity of Berkeley's terminology, and the accessories are weeded out of the essential parts of his famous Essay, his views may, I believe, be fairly and accurately summed up in the following propositions:–

1. The sense of touch gives rise to ideas of extension, figure, magnitude, and motion.

2. The sense of touch gives rise to the idea of "outness," in the sense of localization.

3. The sense of touch gives rise to the idea of resistance, and thence to that of solidity, in the sense of impenetrability.

4. The sense of touch gives rise to the idea of "outness," in the sense of distance in the third dimension, and thence to that of space or geometrical solidity.

5. The sense of sight gives rise to ideas of extension, of figure, magnitude, and motion.

6. The sense of sight does not give rise to the idea of "outness," in the sense of distance in the third dimension, nor to that of geometrical solidity, no visual idea appearing to be without the mind, or at any distance off (§§ 43, 50).

7. The sense of sight does not give rise to the idea of mechanical solidity.

8. There is no likeness whatever between the [270] tactile ideas called extension, figure, magnitude, and motion, and the visual ideas which go by the same names; nor are any ideas common to the two senses.

9. When we think we see objects at a distance, what really happens is that the visual picture suggests that the object seen has tangible distance; we confound the strong belief in the tangible distance of the object with actual sight of its distance.

10. Visual ideas, therefore, constitute a kind of language, by which we are informed of the tactile ideas which will, or may, arise in us.

Taking these propositions into consideration seriatim, it may be assumed that every one will assent to the first and second; and that for the third and fourth we have only to include the muscular sense under the name of sense of touch, as Berkeley did, in order to make it quite accurate. Nor is it intelligible to me that any one should explicitly deny the truth of the fifth proposition, though some of Berkeley's supporters, less careful than himself, have done so. Indeed, it must be confessed that it is only grudgingly, and as it were against his will, that Berkeley admits that we obtain ideas of extension, figure, and magnitude by pure vision, and that he more than half retracts the admission; while he absolutely denies that sight gives us any notion of outness in either sense of the word, and even declares that "no proper visual idea appears to be without the mind, [271] or at any distance off." By "proper visual ideas," Berkeley denotes colours, and light, and shade; and, therefore, he affirms that colours do not appear to be at any distance from us. I confess that this assertion appears to me to be utterly unaccountable. I have made endless experiments on this point, and by no effort of the imagination can I persuade myself, when looking at a colour, that the colour is in my mind, and not at a "distance off," though of course I know perfectly well, as a matter of reason, that colour is subjective. It is like looking at the sun setting, and trying to persuade one's self that the earth appears to move and not the sun, a feat I have never been able to accomplish. Even when the eyes are shut, the darkness of which one is conscious, carries with it the notion of outness. One looks, so to speak, into a dark space. Common language expresses the common experience of mankind in this matter. A man will say that a smell is in his nose, a taste is in his mouth, a singing is in his ears, a creeping or a warmth is in his skin; but if he is jaundiced, he does not say that he has yellow in his eyes, but that everything looks yellow; and if he is troubled with muscæ volitantes, he says, not that he has specks in his eyes, but that he sees specks dancing before his eyes. In fact, it appears to me that it is the special peculiarity of visual sensations, that they invariably give rise to the idea of remoteness, and that Berkeley's dictum [272] ought to be reversed. For I think that any one who interrogates his consciousness carefully will find that "every proper visual idea" appears to be without the mind and at a distance off.

Not only does every visibile appear to be remote, but it has a position in external space, just as a tangibile appears to be superficial and to have a determinate position on the surface of the body. Every visibile, in fact, appears (approximately) to be situated upon a line drawn from it to the point of the retina on which its image falls. It is referred outwards, in the general direction of the pencil of light by which it is rendered visible, just as, in the experiment with the stick, the tangibile is referred outwards to the end of the stick.

It is for this reason that an object, viewed with both eyes, is seen single and not double. Two distinct images are formed, but each image is referred to that point at which the two optic axes intersect; consequently, the two images cover one another, and appear as completely one as any other two equally similar superimposed images would be.12 And it is for the same reason, that, if the side of the ball of the eye is pressed upon at any point, a spot of light appears apparently outside the eye, and in a region exactly opposite to that in which the pressure is made.

But while it seems to me that there is no reason [273] to doubt that the extradition of sensation is more complete in the case of the eye than in that of the skin, and that corporeal distinctness, and hence space, are directly suggested by vision, it is another, and a much more difficult question, whether the notion of geometrical solidity is attainable by pure vision; that is to say, by a single eye, all the parts of which are immoveable. However this may be for an absolutely fixed eye, I conceive there can be no doubt in the case of an eye that is moveable and capable of adjustment. For, with the moveable eye, the muscular sense comes into play in exactly the same way as with the moveable hand; and the notion of change of place, plus the sense of effort, gives rise to a conception of visual space, which runs exactly parallel with that of tangible space. When two moveable eyes are present, the notion of space of three dimensions is obtained in the same way as it is by the two hands, but with much greater precision.13 And if, to take a case similar to one already assumed, we suppose a man deprived of every sense except vision, and of all motion except that of his eyes, it surely cannot be doubted that he would have a perfect conception of space; and indeed a much more perfect conception than he who possessed touch alone without vision. But of course our touchless man would be devoid of any notion of resistance; and hence space, for [274] him, would be altogether geometrical and devoid of body.

And here another curious consideration arises, what likeness, if any, would there be between the visual space of the one man, and the tangible space of the other?

Berkeley, as we have seen (in the eighth proposition), declares that there is no likeness between the ideas given by sight and those given by touch; and one cannot but agree with him, so long as the term ideas is restricted to mere sensations. Obviously, there is no more likeness between the feel of a surface and the colour of it, than there is between its colour and its smell. All simple sensations, derived from different senses, are incommensurable with one another, and only gradations of their own intensity are comparable. And thus, so far as the primary facts of sensation go, visual figure and tactile figure, visual magnitude and tactile magnitude, visual motion and tactile motion, are truly unlike, and have no common term. But when Berkeley goes further than this, and declares that there are no "ideas" common to the "ideas" of touch and those of sight, it appears to me that he has fallen into a great error, and one which is the chief source of his paradoxes about geometry.

Berkeley in fact employs the word "idea," in this instance, to denote two totally different classes of feelings, or states of consciousness. For these [275] may be divided into two groups: the primary feelings, which exist in themselves and without relation to any other, such as pleasure and pain, desire, and the simple sensations obtained through the sensory organs; and the secondary feelings, which express those relations of primary feelings which are perceived by the mind; and the existence of which, therefore, implies the pre-existence of at least two of the primary feelings. Such are likeness and unlikeness in quality, quantity, or form succession and contemporaneity; contiguity and distance; cause and effect; motion and rest.

Now it is quite true that there is no likeness between the primary feelings which are grouped under sight and touch; but it appears to me wholly untrue, and indeed absurd, to affirm that there is no likeness between the secondary feelings which express the relations of the primary ones.

The relation of succession perceived between the visible taps of a hammer, is, to my mind, exactly like the relation of succession between the tangible taps; the unlikeness between red and blue is a mental phenomenon of the same order as the unlikeness between rough and smooth. Two points visibly distant are so because one or more units of visible length (minima visibilia) are interposed between them; and as two points tangibly distant are so, because one or more units of tangible length (minima tangibilia) are interposed between them, it is clear that the notion of [276] interposition of units of sensibility, or minima sensibilia, is an idea common to the two. And whether I see a point move across the field of vision towards another point, or feel the like motion, the idea of the gradual diminution of the number of sensible units between the two points appears to me to be common to both kinds of motion.

Hence, I conceive, that though it be true that there is no likeness between the primary feelings given by sight and those given by touch, yet there is a complete likeness between the secondary feelings aroused by each sense.

Indeed, if it were not so, how could Logic, which deals with those forms of thought which are applicable to every kind of subject-matter, be possible? How could numerical proportion be as true of visibilia, as of tangibilia, unless there were some ideas common to the two? And to come directly to the heart of the matter, is there any more difference between the relations between tangible sensations which we call place and direction, and those between visible sensations which go by the same name, than there is between those relations of tangible and visible sensations which we call succession? And if there be none, why is Geometry not just as much a matter of visibilia as of tangibilia?

Moreover, as a matter of fact, it is certain that the muscular sense is so closely connected with both the visual and the tactile senses, that, by [277] the ordinary laws of association, the ideas which it suggests must needs be common to both.

From what has been said it will follow that the ninth proposition falls to the ground; and that vision, combined with the muscular sensations produced by the movement of the eyes, gives us as complete a notion of corporeal separation and of distance in the third dimension of space, as touch, combined with the muscular sensations produced by the movements of the hand, does. The tenth proposition seems to contain a perfectly true statement, but it is only half the truth. It is no doubt true that our visual ideas are a kind of language by which we are informed of the tactile ideas which may or will arise in us; but this is true, more or less, of every sense in regard to every other. If I put my hand in my pocket, the tactile ideas which I receive prophesy quite accurately what I shall see–whether a bunch of keys or half-a-crown–when I pull it out again; and the tactile ideas are, in this case, the language which informs me of the visual ideas which will arise. So with the other senses: olfactory ideas tell me I shall find the tactile and visual phenomena called violets, if I look for them; taste, combined with touch, tells me that what I am tasting and touching with the tongue will, if I look at it, have the form of a clove; and hearing warns me of what I shall, or may, see and touch every minute of my life.

[278] But while the "New Theory of Vision" cannot be considered to possess much value in relation to the immediate object its author had in view, it had a vastly important influence in directing attention to the real complexity of many of those phenomena of sensation, which appear at first to be simple. And even if Berkeley, as I imagine, was quite wrong in supposing that we do not see space, the contrary doctrine makes quite as strongly for his general view, that space can be conceived only as something thought by a mind.

The last of Locke's "primary qualities" which remain to be considered is mechanical solidity, or impenetrability. But our conception of this is derived from the sense of resistance to our own effort, or active force, which we meet with in association with sundry tactile or visual phenomena; and, undoubtedly, active force is inconceivable except as a state of consciousness. This may sound paradoxical; but let any one try to realize what he means by the mutual attraction of two particles, and I think he will find, either, that he conceives them simply as moving towards one another at a certain rate, in which ease he only pictures motion to himself, and leaves force aside; or, that he conceives each particle to be animated by something like his own volition, and to be pulling as he would pull. And I suppose that this difficulty of thinking of force except as something comparable to volition lies at the bottom of [279] Leibnitz's doctrine of monads, to say nothing of Schopenhauer's "Welt als Wille und Vorstellung;" while the opposite difficulty of conceiving force to be anything like volition, drives another school of thinkers into the denial of any connection, save that of succession, between cause and effect.

To sum up. If the materialist affirms that the universe and all its phenomena are resolvable into matter and motion, Berkeley replies, True; but what you call matter and motion are known to us only as forms of consciousness; their being is to be conceived or known; and the existence of a state of consciousness, apart from a thinking mind, is a contradiction in terms.

I conceive that this reasoning is irrefragable. And therefore, if I were obliged to choose between absolute materialism and absolute idealism, I should feel compelled to accept the latter alternative. Indeed, upon this point Locke does, practically, go as far in the direction of idealism as Berkeley, when he admits that "the simple ideas we receive from sensation and reflection are the boundaries of our thoughts, beyond which the mind, whatever efforts it would make, is not able to advance one jot."–Book II. chap. xxiii. § 29.

But Locke adds, "Nor can it make any discoveries when it would pry into the nature and hidden causes of these ideas."

Now, from this proposition, the thorough mate[280]rialists dissent as much, on the one hand, as Berkeley does, upon the other hand.

The thorough materialist asserts that there is a something which he calls the "substance" of matter; that this something is the cause of all phenomena, whether material or mental; that it is self-existent and eternal, and so forth.

Berkeley, on the contrary, asserts, with equal confidence, that there is no substance of matter, but only a substance of mind, which he terms spirit; that there are two kinds of spiritual substance, the one eternal and uncreated, the substance of the Deity, the other created, and, once created, naturally eternal; that the universe, as known to created spirits, has no being in itself, but is the result of the action of the substance of the Deity on the substance of those spirits.

In contradiction to which bold assertion, Locke affirms that we simply know nothing about substance of any kind.14

"So that if any one will examine himself concerning his notion of pure substance in general, he will find he has no other idea of it at all, but only a supposition of he knows not what support of such qualities, which are capable of producing simple ideas in us, which qualities are commonly called accidents.

"If any one should be asked, what is the subject wherein [281] colour or weight inheres? he would have nothing to say but the solid extended parts; and if he were demanded what is it that solidity and extension inhere in? he would not be in much better case than the Indian before mentioned, who, urging that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on? to which his answer was, a great tortoise. But being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise? replied, something, he knew not what. And thus here, as in all other cases when we use words without having clear and distinct ideas, we talk like children, who, being questioned what such a thing is, readily give this satisfactory answer, that it is something; which in truth signifies no more when so used, either by children or men, but that they know not what, and that the thing they pretend to talk and know of is what they have no distinct idea of at all, and are, so, perfectly ignorant of it and in the dark. The idea, then, we have, to which we give the general name substance, being nothing but the supposed but unknown support of those qualities we find existing, which we imagine cannot exist sine re substante, without something to support them, we call that support substantia, which, according to the true import of the word, is, in plain English, standing under or upholding."15

I cannot but believe that the judgment of Locke is that which Philosophy will accept as her final decision.

Suppose that a rational piano were conscious of sound, and of nothing else. It would be acquainted with a system of nature entirely composed of sounds, and the laws of nature would be the laws of melody and of harmony. It might acquire endless ideas of likeness and unlikeness, of succession, of similarity and dissimilarity, but it [282] could attain to no conception of space, of distance, or of resistance; or of figure, or of motion.

The piano might then reason thus: All my knowledge consists of sounds and the perception of the relations of sounds; now the being of sound is to be heard; and it is inconceivable that the existence of the sounds I know, should depend upon any other existence than that of the mind of a hearing being

This would be quite as good reasoning as Berkeley's, and very sound and useful, so far as it defines the limits of the piano's faculties. But for all that, pianos have an existence quite apart from sounds, and the auditory consciousness of our speculative piano would be dependent, in the first place, on the existence of a "substance" of brass, wood, and iron, and, in the second, on that of a musician. But of neither of these conditions of the existence of his consciousness would the phenomena of that consciousness afford him the slightest hint.

So that while it is the summit of human wisdom to learn the limit of our faculties, it may be wise to recollect that we have no more right to make denials, than to put forth affirmatives, about what lies beyond that limit. Whether either mind, or matter, has a "substance" or not, is a problem which we are incompetent to discuss; and it is just as likely that the common notions upon the subject should be correct as any others. [283] Indeed, Berkeley himself makes Philonous wind up his discussions with Hylas, in a couple of sentences which aptly express this conclusion:–

"You see, Hylas, the water of yonder fountain, how it is forced upwards in a round column to a certain height, at which it breaks and falls back into the basin from whence it rose; its ascent as well as its descent proceeding from the same uniform law or principle of gravitation. Just so, the same principles which, at first view, lead to scepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to common sense."

1 The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., formerly Bishop of Cloyne, including many of his Works hitherto unpublished, with Preface, Annotations, his Life and Letters, and an Account of his Philosophy. By A. C. Fraser. Four vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871.

2 In justice to Sir Robert, however, it is proper to remark that he declared afterwards, that he gave his assent to Berkeley's scheme for the Bermuda University only because he thought the House of Commons was sure to throw it out.

3 So far as Descartes is concerned the phenomena of consciousness are excluded from this category. According to his view, animals and man, in so far as he resembles them, are mechanisms. The soul, which alone feels and thinks, is extra-natural–a something divinely created and added to the anthropoid mechanism. He thus provided their favourite resting-place for the supra-naturalistic evolutionists of our day.

Descartes' denial of sensation to the lower animals is a necessary consequence of his hypothesis concerning the nature and origin of the soul. He was too logical a thinker not to be aware that, if he admitted even the most elementary form of consciousness to be a product or a necessary concomitant, of material mechanism, the assumption of the existence of a thinking substance, apart from matter, would become superfluous.–[1894].

4 Utinam cætera naturæ phlenomena ex principiis mechanicis, eodem argumentandi genere, derivare licet. Nam multa me movent, ut nonnihil suspicer ea omnia ex viribus quibusdam pendere posse, quibus corporum particulæ, per causas nondum cognitas, vel in se mutuo impelluntur et secundum figuras

regulares cohærent vel ab invicem fugantur et recedunt; quibus viribus ignotis, Philosophi hactenus Naturam frustra tentarunt. Spero autem quod vel huic philosophandi modo, vel veriori, aticui, ptincipia hic posita lucem aliquam præbebunt."–Preface to First Edition of Principia, May 8, 1686.

5 Collection of Papers which passed between the learned late Mr. Leibnitz and Dr. Clarke .–1717.

6 Goethe seems to have had this saying of Leibnitz in his mind when he wrote his famous lines–

"Was wär' ein Gott der nur von aussen stiesse

Im Kreis das All am Finger laufen liesse."

7 See Note A appended to this Essay.

8 Treatise concerning the Principles Human Knowledge, Part 1. § 6.

9 Locke, Human Understanding, Book II. chap. viii. §§ 14, 15.

10 See note B.

11 I have not specifically alluded to the writings of Bailey, Mill, Abbott, and others, on this vexed question, not because I have failed to study them carefully, but because this is not a convenient occasion for controversial discussion. Those who are acquainted with the subject, however, will observe that the view I have taken agrees substantially with that of Mr. Bailey.

12 In the case of a near, solid, external object, such as a cube, this is not the whole story.

13 See Note C

14 Berkeley virtually makes the same confession of ignorance, when he admits that we can have no idea or notion of a spirit (Principles of Human Knowledge, § 138), and the way in which he tries to escape the consequences of this admission, is a splendid example of the floundering of a mired logician.

15 Locke, Human Understanding, Book II. chap. xxiii. § 2.


NOTE A (p. 249.).

The horror of "Materialism" which weighs upon the minds of so many excellent people appears to depend, in part, upon the purely accidental connexion of some forms of materialistic philosophy with ethical and religious tenets by which they are repelled; and, partly, on the survival of a very ancient superstition concerning the nature of matter.

This superstition, for the tenacious vitality of which the idealistic philosophers who are, more or less, disciples of Plato and the theologians who have been influenced by them, are responsible, assumes that matter is something, not merely inert and perishable, but essentially base and evil-natured, if not actively antagonistic to, at least a negative dead-weight upon, the good. Judging by contemporary literature, there are numbers of highly cultivated and indeed superior persons to whom the material world is altogether contemptible, who can see nothing in a handful of garden soil, or a rusty nail, but types of the passive and the corruptible.

To modern science, these assumptions are as much out of date as the equally venerable errors, that the sun goes round the earth every four-and-twenty hours, or that water is an elementary body. The handful of soil is a factory thronged with swarms of busy workers; the rusty nail is an aggregation of millions of particles, moving with inconceivable velocity in a dance of infinite complexity yet perfect measure; harmonic with like performances throughout the solar system. If there is good ground for any conclusion, there is such for the belief that [285] the substance of these particles has existed and will exist, that the energy which stirs them has persisted and will persist, without assignable limit, either in the past or the future. Surely, as Heracleitus said of his kitchen with its pots and pans, "Here also are the gods." Little as we have, even yet, learned of the material universe, that little makes for the belief that it is a system of unbroken order and perfect symmetry, of which the form incessantly changes, while the substance and the energy are imperishable.

It will be understood that those who are thoroughly imbued with this view of what is called "matter" find it a little difficult to understand why that which is termed "mind" should give itself such airs of superiority over the twin sister; to whom, so far as our planet is concerned, it might be hazardous to deny the right of primogeniture.

Accepting the ordinary view of mind, it is a substance the properties of which are states of consciousness, on the one hand, and energy of the same order as that of the material world (or else it would not be able to affect the latter) on the other hand. It is admitted that chance has no more place in the world of mind, than it has in that of matter. Sensations, emotions, intellections are subject to an order, as strict and inviolable as that which obtains among material things. If the order which obtains in the material world lays it open to the reproach of subjection to "blind necessity," the demonstrable existence of a similar order amidst the phenomena of consciousness (and without the belief in that fixed order, logic has no binding force and morals have no foundation) renders it obnoxious to the same condemnation. For necessity is necessity, and whether it is blind or sharp-eyed is nothing to the purpose.

Even if the supposed energy of the substance of mind is sometimes exerted without any antecedent cause–which is the only intelligible sense of the popular doctrine of free-will–the occurrence is admittedly exceptional, and, by the nature of the case, it is not susceptible of proof. Moreover, if the hypothetical substance of mind is possessed of energy, I, for my part, am unable to see how it is to be discriminated from the hypothetical substance of matter.

[286] Thus, if any man think he has reason to believe that the "substance" of matter, to the existence of which no limit can be set either in time or space, is the infinite and eternal substratum of all actual and possible existences, which is the doctrine of philosophical materialism, as I understand it, I have no objection to his holding that doctrine; and I fail to comprehend how it can have the slightest influence upon any ethical or religious views he may please to hold. If matter is the substratum of any phenomena of consciousness, animal or human, then it may possibly be the substratum of any other such phenomena; if matter is imperishable, then it must be admitted to be possible that some of its combinations may be indefinitely enduring, just as our present so-called "elements" are probably only compounds which have bcen indissoluble, in our planet, for millions of years. Moreover, the ultimate forms of existence which we distinguish in our little speck of the universe are, possibly, only two out of infinite varieties of existence, not only analogous to matter and analogous to mind, but of kinds which we are not competent so much as to conceive–in the midst of which, indeed, we might be set down, with no more notion of what was about us, than the worm in a flower-pot, on a London balcony, has of the life of the great city.

That which I do very strongly object to is the habit, which a great many non-philosophical materialists unfortunately fall into, of forgetting all these very obvious considerations. They talk as if the proof that the "substance of matter" was the "substance" of all things cleared up all the mysteries of existence. In point of fact, it leaves them exactly where they were.

The philosophical Materialist who takes the trouble to comprehend Berkeley finds that strict logic carries him no further than some such answer as this to the philosophical Idealist: Well, if I cannot show that you are wrong, you cannot show that I am; if I should happen to be right, your proofs of the impossibility of knowing anything but states of consciousness would be as valid as they are now; moreover, your religious and ethical difficulties are just as great as mine. The speculative game is drawn–let us get to practical work.

[287] NOTE B (p. 255).

I am afraid this paragraph is very faulty, and indeed misleading.

Scholastic "Realism" means the doctrine that generic conceptions have an objective existence apart from the human mind. Conceptualism asserts that they exist only in the mind; nominalism, that general terms are mere names indicative of the similarities of objective existences.

Locke's assertion that "motion and figure are really in the manna" is essentially a piece of realism in the scholastic sense. Berkeley would reply motion and figure are purely mental existences–abolish all minds, and what becomes of them? But that does not make him into a conceptualist, still less into a nominalist, and though he may have reached his ultimate position through conceptualism, his position is quite different.

Berkeley differs from all his predecessors in affirming that the only substantial existence is the hypothetical substratum of mind or "spirit"; and that the whole phenomenal world consists of nothing more than affections of human (and other?) spirits by the divine spirit. Pushed to its logical extreme, his system passes into pantheism pure and simple.

NOTE C (p. 273).

To any one who possesses the faculty of squinting I recommend the following experiment. Take two of the ordinary figures of a cube, drawn for the stereoscope, and place them some few inches apart on a screen or wall, the proper right hand figure being on the left and the proper left on the right; then squint so as to see the left hand figure with the right eye and the right with the left eye. After a little practice, there will suddenly appear, at the point of intersection of the lines prolonging the two optic axes, and apparently, suspended in the air, a figure of a cube. And this image of the cube is so real that a pencil held in the hand can be moved all round it, or driven through it.

Preface and Table of Contents to Volume VI, Hume, of Huxley's Collected Essays.

Next article: On Sensation and the Structure of the Sensiferous Organs [1879], pages 288-319.

Previous article: Hume, pages 1-242.



1.   THH Publications
2.   Victorian Commentary
3.   20th Century Commentary

1.   Letter Index
2.   Illustration Index

Gratitude and Permissions

C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University

§ 1. THH: His Mark
§ 2. Voyage of the Rattlesnake
§ 3. A Sort of Firm
§ 4. Darwin's Bulldog
§ 5. Hidden Bond: Evolution
§ 6. Frankensteinosaurus
§ 7. Bobbing Angels: Human Evolution
§ 8. Matter of Life: Protoplasm
§ 9. Medusa
§ 10. Liberal Education
§ 11. Scientific Education
§ 12. Unity in Diversity
§ 13. Agnosticism
§ 14. New Reformation
§ 15. Verbal Delusions: The Bible
§ 16. Miltonic Hypothesis: Genesis
§ 17. Extremely Wonderful Events: Resurrection and Demons
§ 18. Emancipation: Gender and Race
§ 19. Aryans et al.: Ethnology
§ 20. The Good of Mankind
§ 21.  Jungle Versus Garden