Philosophy 458: Major Figures in Modern Philosophy
The Philosophy of George Berkeley
MW 10:00-11:00, 3:00-4:00
E & T A 423
In this course we will explore the central doctrines of Berkeley’s philosophy – the thesis that there is no such thing as matter and the thesis that sensible things (such as trees, tables, and the like) are dependent for their existence upon the mind. We will pay particular attention to Berkeley's religiously motivated agenda of undermining atheism and skepticism, as well as his stunning project of restoring philosophers to “common sense.” His Philosophy of Spirit will play a central role in our understanding of the overall philosophical account.
(1) To help you understand some of the philosophical problems, themes, and positions of the 17th and 18th centuries.
(2) To help you understand Berkeley’s basic philosophical views (and his arguments in
favor of those views).
(3) To help you develop your ability to interpret text, provide arguments in favor of your
interpretation, assess the interpretations of others, etc.
(4) To help develop your ability to identify, and evaluate arguments, assumptions, perspectives of
great philosophers such as Berkeley.
(5) To help you exercise (and thereby improve) you own analytic and synthetic reasoning skills.
(6) To help you develop a sensitivity to historical/intellectual context and the difficulties involved in making sense of the history of philosophy
Berkeley Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, ed. Robert Merrihew Adams, Hackett Publishing, 1979
Berkeley A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, ed. Kenneth Winkler, Hackett Publishing, 1983
Bettcher, Talia Berkeley: A Guide for the Perplexed (unpublished manuscript, available on-line) http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/tbettch/Berkeley.htm
I may assign other readings (handouts, etc.).
Late Policy: Papers not submitted will receive 0 pts. I accept late papers up to two weeks past the due date. After that, papers receive 0. I deduct 1/6 of a grade for every day the paper is late (including weekend days, vacation days, etc.). Lateness will be excused ONLY in the case of documented emergency (health, family, etc.).
Plagiarism and Cheating: “At Cal State L.A., plagiarism is defined as the act of using ideas, words, or work of another person or persons as if they were one’s own, without giving proper credit to the original sources” (CSULA 2007-09 University Catalog, p. 760). In this course, any cheating or plagiarism will be penalized with a failing grade for that assignment. Administrative sanctions may also follow (some sanctions include expulsion, suspension, probation). For further information please see the University Catalog, pp. 760-6).
(1) Attendance and Participation
It is essential that you attend class regularly and that you participate actively in small group/entire class discussion. Additionally, I may assign short homework exercises.
This requirement is ungraded. Instead, I will use this requirement in assessing ‘borderline cases.’ Additionally, excellent completion of this requirement may boost your grade by a ‘+’ and a serious failure to complete this requirement may result in your grade being decreased by a ‘+’.
(2) Two In-Class Tests @ 20% each (total at 40%).
Tests will be used to assess general understanding of readings, lectures, and in-class discussions. They will be comprised of questions requiring mostly short to medium-length answers and will last approximately 30-40 minutes.
DATES: 10-31 WK 6; 12-3WK 11
(3) Term Paper
(A) Students will select a passage from Berkeley and then write a short paper (5 pages, double spaced) which presents Berkeley’s core ideas in the passage and which critically assesses Berkeley’s position (15%). Due: 10-24 WK 5.
(B) Students will receive comments back from instructor. They will revise their work in light of these comments (15%). Due: 11-7 WK 7.
(C) Students will exchange papers with another student. Pairs will exchange
comments/criticisms (which will also be submitted to instructor) (15%). Due: 11-
21 WK 9.
(D) Students will re-write papers in light of these comments in consultation with instructor (15%). Papers should be 7-10 pages. Due 12-7: WK 11.
More detailed instructions will be provided in class and on-line.
Email submissions are preferred.
“PHK” stands for the Principles of Human Knowledge. The numerals which follow indicate sections.
“3D” stands for Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. The roman numerals which follow indicate dialogue number (First, Second, or Third). This is usually followed by page number (i.e. p. xx). If you have any questions, please let me know.
“TMB” stands for Bettcher’s Berkeley: A Guide for the Perplexed
NOTE: This schedule lists the passages on which we will be focusing for any given day. My recommendation is to, in addition to keeping up with the passages, read both the Principles and the Dialogues from cover to cover as soon as possible.
Sept 24 Introduction/Admin
Sept 26 Man and Myth
TMB Man and Myth
Oct 1 The Project
PHK Title Page, PHK Preface, Intro (§1-5) & PHK §155-6
3D Title Page, Ed. Intro, 3D Preface
TMB The Project
Oct 3 above continued
Oct 8 Philosophy of Language
PHK Editor’s Intro 1 (xi-xxi), PHK Intro (§6-to end)
TMB Philosophy of Language
Oct 10 above continued
Oct 15 The Universe According to Berkeley
PHK §1-2, 7, 27, 89, 135-144 (Spirits); 3D III pp. 63-7 (Spirits Defended).
TMB The Universe According to Berkeley
Oct 17 above continued
Oct 22 Common Sense and the Mind Dependence of Sensible Things
3D First Dialogue
TMB Common Sense and the Mind Dependence of Sensible Things
Handout Four The First Dialogue/Pain Argument
Handout Five Material Substratum
Oct 24 above continued
Oct 29 Perception and the Divine Spirit
3D II pp. 43-50; 3D III (Complete)
TMB Perception and the Divine Spirit
Handout Six Argument for God's Existence
Handout Seven Problem of Time
Oct 31 above continued
Nov 5 Ontology and the Mind Dependence of Sensible Things
PHK I §1-24
TMB Ontology and the Mind Dependence of Sensible Things
Handout Eight The Master Argument
Nov 7 above continued
Nov 12 No Class
Nov 14 Causation and the Divine Spirit
PHK §25—33 (Argument for the Existence of God); PHK §50-53 (Causation Objection); PHK §43-44 (Perception of Distance); PHK §145-56 (Spirits Represented by Ideas and
the Problem of Evil)
3D II pp. 50-60 (end) (Rejecting Matter as Cause); 3D III (pp. 69-71) (Causation
TMB Causation and the Divine Spirit
Handout Nine The Divine Language
Nov 19 above continued
Nov 21 Mathematics and Natural Science
PHK I 101-134
TMB Mathematics and Nature Science
Handout Ten The Rentrenchment
Nov 26 above continued
Nov 28 The Return to Virtue
TMB The Return to Virtue