May 9, 2011

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Berkeley and Stillingfleet

I'm increasingly convinced that the debate between Locke and Stillingfleet is important background to Berkeley. Berkeley, like Stillingfleet, thinks that Locke's philosophy leads to 'Socinian scruples' (PHK 95). Furthermore, even in the early works, Berkeley seems to be attacking the 'free-thinkers' (DHP, Pref.), but the only writer he quotes is Locke. This was the behavior Locke complained about in Stillingfleet. Stillingfleet was attacking 'the gentlemen of the new way of reasoning', who, according to Stillingfleet, denied the Trinity (the main target was John Toland), but only Locke is ever quoted.

In addition to the fact that the Locke-Stillingfleet correspondence was very widely discussed during the time Berkeley was studying at Trinity, there are two pieces of circumstantial evidence from Berkeley's early works which suggest that he had the Locke-Stillingfleet correspondence in mind. The first occurs at PHK 34, where Berkeley considers the objection that if his view is correct, "all that is real and substantial in nature is banished out of the world." The Locke-Stillingfleet correspondence started as Locke's response to Stillingfleet's claim in his Discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity that the 'gentlemen of the new way of reasoning' had "almost discarded substance out of the reasonable part of the world." Much of the correspondence consists of Locke complaining that he doesn't even know what this means.

Second, in DHP, Berkeley uses a cherry as an example of a sensible object (L&J p. 249). The same example is used throughout the Locke-Stillingfleet correspondence.

Posted by Kenny at May 9, 2011 12:24 PM
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Berkeley and Sergeant
Excerpt: John Sergeant was a late seventeenth century English proponent of Roman Catholicism and Aristotelian philosophy. He is now mostly forgotten, though he is occasionally mentioned as a critic of Locke, partially because Locke and Stillingfleet discuss Ser...
Tracked: July 21, 2011 11:00 AM


Thank you Professor Pearce for this post.

Posted by: Matteo at September 14, 2016 8:32 AM

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