Heat is mind dependent:
Abstraction, the third
Philonous goes on to give yet another argument. He says (beginning at the
top of Pg. 223):
line 1 Phil. Again, try in your thoughts, Hylas, if you can conceive a
vehement sensation to be without pain or pleasure.
line 2 Hyl. I cannot.
line 3 Phil. Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sensible pain or
pleasure in general, abstracted from every particular idea of heat, cold,
tastes, smells, &?
line 4 Hyl. I do not find that I can
line 5 Phil. Doth it not therefore follow, that sensible pain is
nothing distinct from those sensations or ideas, in an intense degree?
line 6 Hy. It is undeniable; and to speak the truth, I begin to
suspect that a very great heat cannot exist but in a mind perceiving
How do we know this is another argument? One reason is that Philonous
had already reached the conclusion that heat and pain are not distinct.
So this part is not needed for that argument. And Philonous begins by
saying "Again..." which suggests an a dditional consideration. Finally
this argument is about abstraction, which had not been mentioned in the
previous argument. So, the content is different. These give us good
reasons to take this as a separate argument.
Abstraction is one of Berkeley's bug-a-boos. Abstracting is a process
which Locke describes of leaving out various elements in an idea so that
it applies to more than one individual or class. If you think of the way
a classificatory system works -- say the class of trees, you can see how
this works. Some trees are deciduous, some are evergreen. You must leave
out the characteristics which makes these different if you want to give a
definition which includes both. Berkeley things one can have general
ideas, but not abstract general ideas. On his view, every general idea is
a particular idea which is used to refer to a whole group. Related to the
view that there is not such thing as an abstract general idea is another
one -- that all ideas are images. If you have an image of some particular
triangle, it will either be right angled, isosceles, or scalene. Now try
to come up with an image of a triangle which combines or leaves out
these properties. It cannot be done. You may have a definition in words
which is not an image -- like a triangle is any enclosed plane figure made
up of three straight lines and three angles -- but for Berkeley that does
not count as an idea! Berkeley is convinced that there is no such thing
as an abstract general idea, and he thinks th at philosophers like Locke
who think that there are such things are deluding themselves and that this
delusion leads to serious errors -- like thinking that things can exist
without being perceived. So, when Hylas says that he cannot frame an idea
of sensible pain or pleasure in general, abstracted from every particular
idea of heat, cold etc. he is agreeing with Berkeley. If pain cannot be
separated from intense heat, in this case by abstraction, they must be
identical! So, we reach the same conclusion as that of the previous
argument from a different angle. This does not seem to be a particularly
strong argument against Locke, who is quite convinced that abstraction is
a quite legitimate activity of the mind. But Berkeley thinks this point
so important, that he cannot stop himself from giving the argument here --
though he gives it in addition, probably recognizing that by itself it
will not convince an opponent who believes in the legitimacy of
|Summary of the section|
|"...because intense heat is nothing
else than a particular kind of painful sensation; and pain cannot exist
but in a perceiving being, it follows that no intense heat can exist in an
unperceiving corporeal substance." |
Heat in an
One might now think that we have had enough effort to show that heat is
a mind dependent quality and that we can go on to some other quality. But
Berkeley is just getting going. Philonous has gotten Hylas to agree that
intense heat must be mind depen dent, but he is not going to agree that
lesser degrees of heat are! This may be somewhat surprising as Philonous
was careful at the beginning to get Hylas to agree that real existence was
compatible with all degrees of heat and not just some. But now Hy las is
going to go back on that agreement! Why would Berkeley have Hylas do
this? Well, so that now, having established to his own satisfaction that
intense heat can only exist in the mind, he can deal with those who would
not be inclined to make the co ncession which Hylas made at first. And
this also shows one of the virtues of a philosopher engaged in the search
for truth! If your opponent makes a slip which he then recognizes, let
him change his position. Thus Berkeley can take a step towards refuting
all the available positions and be philosophically virtuous at the same
Phil. Is it therefore certain, that there is no body in nature really
Hyl. I have not denied that there is any real heat in bodies.
I only say that there is no such thing as an intense real heat.
But did you not say before, that all degrees of heat were equally real: or
if there was any difference, that the greater were more undoubtedly real
than the lesser?
Hyl. True, but it was because I did not then consider
the ground there is for distinguishing between them, which I now plainly
see. And it is this: because intense heat is nothing else than a
particular kind of painful sensation; and pain cannot exist b ut in a
perceiving being, it follows that no intense heat can exist in an
unperceiving corporeal substance. But this is no reason why we should
deny heat in an inferior degree to exist in such a substance.
Philonous goes on to ask how we are going to distinguish those degrees
of heat which can exist only in the mind from those which cannot. Hylas
replies that this is easy, the ones which cause pain, even a little pain,
can exist only in the mind, the re st not. Im response, Philonous now
turns from examining the connection of pain with heat to pleasure and heat
and cold as well. On Pg. 224 Hylas in answer to Philonous questionns
works out his new position. Intense heat and intense cold cannot exist in
external bodies because they are pains. A slight warmth or cold can exist
in an external object because it is neither a pleasure or a pain, but
rather what Hylas calls an indolence --nothing more than a
privation of both pleasure and pain. He is driven to this because if he
admits a slight warmth or cold is a pleasure or pain, he will be forced
to admit that these cannot exist in a material substance because of the
previous arguments about intense heat.
Finally Philonous sums up the new position:
Phil. Those bodies, therefore, upon whose application to our own we
perceive a moderate degree of heat, must be concluded to have a moderate
degree of warmth in them; and those upon whose application we feel a like
degree of cold, must be thought to have cold in them.
mind dependent: the fourth argument -- "The Bucket of Water
Note that this hypothesis is simply a qualified version of the general
claim that Hylas assented to when the discussion about heat began (back on
Pg. 221): "Whatever degree of heat we perceive by sense, we may be sure
the same exists in the object that occasions it." Philonous now proceeds
to give an argument which one can find in Locke's account of the
distinction between primary and seondary qualities. He begins:
Phil. Can any doctrine be true that necessarily leads a man into an
Hyl. Without doubt it cannot.
Phil. Is it not an absurdity to think that the same thing should be at the
same time both cold and warm?
Hyl. It is.
Phil. Suppose now one of your hands hot and the other cold, and that they
are both at once put into the same vessel of water, in an intermediate
state, will not the water seem cold to one hand and warm to the other?
Hyl. It will.
Phil. Ought we not therefore by your principles to conclude, it is really
both cold and warm at the same time, that is, according to your
concession, to believe an absurdity?
Hyl. I confess it seems so.
"The Bucket of Water Argument"
Let us reconstruct this argument in the way in which we did the
P1. Any docrtine which necessarily leads a person into an absurdity
cannot be true.
P2. To claim that the same thing should be at the same
time both cold and warm is just such an absurdity.
P3. Those bodies
upon whose application to our own we perceive a moderate degree of heat,
must be concluded to have a moderate degree of warmth in them; and those
upon whose application we feel a like degree of cold, must be thought to
have cold in them. (Hylas' hypothesis)
P4. If one puts a hot hand and
a cold hand into water in an intermediate state, the water will seem cold
to one hand and warm to the other.
P5. One ought to conclude from
Hylas' principles that the water in fact is both warm and cold. (From P3
P6. But this (P5) is precisely what was admitted to be an
Cl 7 Therefore, the hypothesis (P3) must be false.
Let us call this the bucket of water argument. One point of interest
is that this argument fits the standard form of skeptical reasoning.
Consider, for example, P2. This is simply a version of the standard
skeptical principle that reality must be consistent and
non-contradictory. The remainder of the argument goes to show that what
we experience (in this case heat and cold) does not have this character.
So, one might conclude that our experience of heat and cold only gives us
appearance and not reality, opinion and not knowledge. It is quite plain
from the introduction to the first dialogue that Berkeley does not in the
least consider himself a skeptic. In fact he thinks that the corpuscular
philosophy of Locke, Boyle and Newton which he is opposing is skeptical
and leads to atheism. So, why would Berkeley use what are clearly
skeptical arguments? The answer is that Berkeley and the skeptics go a
certain way along the road together, and then they part company.
mind dependent: the fifth argument
On Pg. 225 Berkeley gives one final argument to show that heat is a
mind dependent quality. Right at the conclusion of the bucket of water
argument, Hylas lets out one last wail: Hyl. "But after all, can anything
be more absurd than to say, there is no heat in the fire."
Philonous replies: "In two cases exactly alike, we ought not to make the
same judgement?" Hylas agrees. The dialogue now continues:
Phil. When a pin pricks your fingers, does it not divde and rend the
fibers of your flesh?
Hyl. It doth.
Phil. And when a coal burns your finger, doth it any more?
Hyl. It doth not.
Phil. Since therefore you do not judge the sensation itself occasioned by
the pin, nor anything like it to be in the pin, you should not,
conformably to what you have now granted, judge the sensation occasioned
by the fire, or anything like it, to be in t he fire.
Hyl. Well, since it must be so, I am content to yield this point, and
acknowledge, that heat and cold are only sensations existing in our minds;
but there still remains qualities enough to secure the reality of external
the fifth argument
Reconstructing this argument, you get something like this:
P1. In two cases exactly alike, we ought to make the same judgement.
P2. When a pin pricks your finger, it divides and rends the fibers of your
P3. When a coal burns your finger, it does exactly the same.
[P4. The pin is an unperceiving and unsensing thing and cannot feel pain]
P5. In regard to the pin, you make the judgement that the sensations
itself occasioned by the pin and anything like it, are not in the pin
Cl. 6 Therefore, the sensation itself occasioned by the fire and anything
like it, are not in the fire.
At this point Hylas gives in about heat and cold but announces that the
still remain "qualities enough to secure the reality of external things."
Philonous replies: "But what will you say, Hylas, if it shall appear that
the case is the same with regar d to all other sensible qualities?" That
is what remains to be shown.
secondary qualities -- An Activity
Having dealt with heat and cold, Bekeley, as noted earlier 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). As you
can see from these page references, these each get a somewhat less
thorough going over than heat did. The reason for this is the one just
noted, that Berkeley thinks the case is the same with regard to all of
them. I am going to skip a detailed analysis of these sections for you to
do as a n exercise. The instructions for this exercise are in the
Activity section of this unit.