Monday, June 13, 2011

Berkeley:  Reason is impossible, therefore, reason compels us to ...

I have seen this pattern before.  Berkeley is going down the path of skepticism.  People think they are discussing reality, but they are only discussing images of reality.  We think we are dealing with concrete knowledge, yet in fact we are only dealing with spurious abstractions.  The problem is that all thought is lumped together into one category and then dealt with.  Aristotle's three fold division of thought: philosophy (pursuit of wisdom), sophistry  is lost and we have a framework that is inferior to what went before.  The final word on what to do with Skeptics was already given by Epictetus 1,500 years earlier.  The skeptic can never have a therefore after his philosophy.

Admittedly I don't know yet where Berkeley is going with his rediscovery of skepticism, but there are a few remarks in his tutorial that got a smile out of me.  Here is one:

"For example, when a Schoolman tells me, 'Aristotle has said it,' all I conceive he means by it is to dispose me to embrace his opinion with the deference and submission which custom has annexed to that name."  - Principles of Human Knowledge, book I.

Indeed, and the Schoolman most likely hasn't read Aristotle. So far this has been a good catalog of the abuses of reason, yet at the same time it hasn't yet begun to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly of reason.  Onward ...

2 comments:

Rummuser said...

What a coincidence! I bet that you will find this fascinating, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/arts/people-argue-just-to-win-scholars-assert.html?_r=1

Looney said...

Yes, the article is cute. If the thesis in the article is true, then the evolutionary purpose of psychology isn't to seek truth about human behavior, but rather to dispute regarding human behavior!