Berkely Activity

Primary and Secondary qualities

You are going to reconstruct some arguments and compare them with one another and consdider in what ways they are similar to skeptical arguments and in what ways they are different. So the first question is, what is involved in reconstructing arguments? Reconstructing an argument involves figuring out what the main conclusion of the argument is and separating it from the premises explicity given in the text which go to show that it is true. Having finished this task, you add any premises which are implicit (not stated but implied by the text, e.g. "All men are mortal. So, Socrates is mortal." implies a missing premise "Socrates is a man.") You should mark implicit premises or conclusions which you add by putting them in brackets [Socrates is a man.]. Then you put the argument in standard form. List and number all the premises, draw a line and put the main conclusion as the last numbered proposition in the argument. I have given you many examples of this in the commentary on the Berkeley section.

I. Reconstructing an argument.

So, now that you now what reconstructing an argument is, you are going to reconstruct one of Berkeley's arguments.

  1. Bekeley (as noted in the commentary), having finished with heat takes up the rest of a list of secondary qualities; tastes (Pp. 225-226), odors (Pp. 226-227), sounds (Pp. 227-29), colors and light (Pg. 229- 233). Take one of the sections just listed (about taste, odors, sounds etc.) and reconstruct the argument(s) in it.
  2. Compare this argument with my reconstruction of the bucket of water argument.
II. Now that you have reconstructed the arguments and compared them, answer the following questions:
  1. Is there any similarity between these arguments of Berkeley and the arguments a skeptic would give to show that knowledge of X is not possible?
  2. What do Berkeley and the skeptic have in common (if anything)? In what ways, if any do they differ?