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Philonous arguments about material substances

Three crucial concepts analyzed in Philonous’ and Hylas’ dialogues are the master or conceivability argument, relativity arising out of perception and phenomenalism. Relativity brought about by perception proposes that a single item may have different traits owing to an observer’s viewpoint. Shape is not a factual trait since objective traits of objects can only be altered when an object intrinsically changes. Berkeley assumes Hylas to be his major modern-day philosophical antagonist and uses Philonous to advance his metaphysical ideas. Berkeley holds the philosophical view of Immaterialism; that material entities don’t exist.

Idealism, only mental items exist, is another of Berkeley’s philosophical notions. Another philosophical idea, Reconstruction of the physical world, proposes that material objects are complex notions. Esse est percipi suggest that ideas, complex or simple, must be essence apparent. Berkeley held that the Mind of God houses all notions and all notions are perceived therein (Berkeley, Robisnson, 1999, 23). Berkeley’s aim was to discount both philosophical and theological skepticism. He had the conviction that his philosophy entailed common sense. He argues that real objects are the ones that are immediately seen.

This is a rejection of cynicism and a perspective of the offensive. Berkeley also proposes that directly perceived objects are notions that are present in brains only. This represents philosophers’ viewpoints and is an end result of illusory arguments. Berkeley thus proposes that actual objects represent the notions. As regards sensible traits, Berkeley argues that physicals objects possess rational qualities like hardness and that these traits are only existent in the brain. He argues that any entity possessing rational qualities exists in the brain. He adds that material items must be existent in the brain.

Hylas retorts to Philonous’ arguments by noting that “sensible traits” encompasses ambiguities. “Sensible traits” could imply either of the following: a characteristic inherent in an entity that arouses notions in the mind upon perception of the entity or the notion that is generated in the mind upon perception of the object. Philonous responds by advancing an argument in opposition to abstraction. He states that defective reasoning occasions the concept of the existence of an entity separate from the ideas. He gives the analogy of seeing a blue object and envisaging the existence of blueness separate from the item to illustrate faulty logic.

Philonous further illustrates faulty logic by suggesting the existence of notions about an item and imagining the existence of the item separate from generation of the notions. To respond to Hylas’ critique on sensible traits, Philonous advances an argument opposing causal linkage. He states that a physical body can not generate the notions in the mind. Numerous philosophers at the time believed that if item B is made to acquire some trait by item A, then item A grants that trait on item B. However, a material item cannot grant a trait to a mental item since the two have different properties (Berkeley, Robinson, 1999, 31).

As regards material items, Philonous apparently attacks the reasoning of Hylas. Philonous critiques the likelihood of physical objects with a view of safeguarding common sense convictions and religious truths. Berkeley’s aim was to refute skepticism, religious doubts and atheism which were fast gaining acceptance in the intellectual world. Berkeley advances the idea of inconceivability (empiricism) by stating that conception is only possible for entities whose notions can be generated. He adds that non-ideas cannot be represented by ideas, thus, ideas of physical substances cannot be generated.

Material objects cannot be conceived. The dominant notion of objects at Berkeley’s time was in form a set of traits sustained through a fundamental substratum. Berkeley regarded this notion as incoherent since a substratum could not literally sustain the traits. He sensed some metaphor here which had no substitute (Bekeley, Robinson, 1999, 46). In Dialogue one, Philonous regards Hylas as a skeptic because the latter held that material matter did not exist and this triggers a philosophical exchange between the two. Philonous states that Hylas is the skeptic and vows to provide proof for this.

Hylas is systematically interrogated by Philonous as regards human knowledge of the world. Philonous scrutinizes secondary traits like heat in a bid to illustrate that these qualities exist only within individual intellects. Philonous then examines primary traits, for instance, shape and extension, and suggests that they depend on individual perceptions. He argues that a big mountain looks small at a distance and that microscopes greatly alter an object’s shape. Hylas has a concept of substance originating from platonic hypothesis of shapes or conceptual objects existing outside the logical world.

Philonous trashes Hylas concept of substance and abstract things existent out of the rational world. Philonous argues that since it is only rational qualities that make matter known, absence of the qualities makes it impractical to explain or envisage matter. Matter without rational traits loses its crucial traits. Philonous thus concurred with Plato who held that actual substance existed in a different dimension or plane from the earth and that the substance did not posses sensible traits. This view was dominant during Berkley’s time and thus his proposition was disastrous to the age-old platonic theory (Berkeley, Robinson, 1999, 52).

Philonous further argues that sensible traits aren’t intrinsic in substance but are endorsed and comprehended by the brain. Temperature, sound, color and shape are relative traits solely reliant on the brain; it’s impossible to envisage matter in the absence of a brain. To the question whether a falling tree produces sound in the absence of a human, Philonous answers that the presence of a human brain is not absolutely essential for the tree to produce a sound. He suggests that God’s brain, that grants substances sensible qualities, is present. Matter per se does not grant itself sensible traits.

Berkeley’s viewpoint was opposed by numerous philosophers aligned to Plato’s viewpoint. Philosophers in Berkeley’s time considered him vulgar since his views appeared to concur with those of lower castes. The prevailing conviction was that all things on earth were created by God and that these things were actual objects. Majority of philosophers didn’t believe that God existed. They held that substances existing on earth were merely imitations of real substances existent in another plane. Berkeley’s viewpoint concurred with the common belief at then time.

Berkeley was erroneously criticized as to be claiming that subsequences don’t exist. Other than advance such claim, Berkeley defended the widespread viewpoint. In Philonous and Hylas dialogue three, a basic self-comprehension stance is stated by George Berkeley. Philonous states that he, thinking, spirit substance, certainly existed as well as his ideas. He adds that he intuitively understood himself. However, Philonous’ and Hylas’ definition of self are different. Philonous defines the spirit, soul or mind to be an indivisible fixed entity that acts, perceives and thinks.

He adds that extended mobile objects are ideas whereas an entity that comprehends ideas, wills and thinks is not an idea nor does it resemble ideas. Philonous thus doesn’t explain why entities can’t perceive and be evident simultaneously. He postpones such a defense to when he advances the ontology (Berkeley, Robinson, 1999, 74). Philonous revisits the issue of how he arrived at comprehending himself. He argues that he intuitively comprehends his notions and mind. He suggests that he expressly comprehends issues as he reflects on himself.

While perceiving notions, Philonous realizes that an entity within him ought to be seeing the insights. He thus comprehends himself as regards how he thinks and comprehends himself. Philonous doesn’t deem it necessary to debate on his existence since he is well versed with his notions. He is also quite sure of a self that comprehends his notions. He doesn’t see t necessity for any additional thing on top of these basic self-comprehension intuitions. Hylas advances two protests to Philonous individual-knowledge theory. None of the objections are sufficiently strong and thus Philonous quickly disregards them.

Hylas initial objection attacks the apparent inconsistency in Philonous’ ontology. Hylas states that spiritual, and not physical, substance are admitted in Philonous’ ontology (Berkeley, Robinson, 1999, 105). Hylas suggests that Philonous’ lack of a notion on physical substance led him to reject the same in his ontology. Hylas implies that Philonous ought to either endorse material matter or denounce spiritual matter so as to be seen as being consistent. Philonous responds by explaining that he cannot, and will not, comprehend spiritual matter but can envisage it.

He adds that his idea of material matter is inconsistent and thus he rejects material matter and accepts spiritual matter. Hylas is not accorded ample time and opportunity to adequately advance his argument. Assessment of whether Hylas’ objection would have more weight is not thus possible. Philonous is thus allowed to juggle the idea of physical matter to suit his preferences. Philonous assumes his ontology in a bid to trash the idea of material matter as repugnant and inconsistent. Hylas protest does not have an opportunity to counter Philonous’ refutation

Hylas changes tack and points out that Philonous seems to be a structure of suspended notions without a supporting substance in the second protest. He thus arouses an apparent Humean idea of self. He adds that Philonous’ idea of spiritual matter has as little meaning as is Hylas’ notion of physical matter. Philonous thus ought to trash the notion of material matter as he did with spiritual substance. The idea of Hylas utilizing his opponent’s arguments to defeat the later appears to be effective. Berkley’s idea of self-comprehension would triumph if Hylas argument is defeated.

Philonous responds by merely repeating his argument without any elaborations to make it appear like it was obvious. He categorically states that he and his notions and sensible entities are distinct. Philonous doesn’t however elaborate his position since he assumes that it is intuitively apparent (Berkeley, Robinson, 1999, 146). Hylas questioning of the issue indicates that it isn’t intuitively apparent. Advancing intuition isn’t particularly a strong defense and hence Hylas’ argument appears to carry more weight. Hylas halts his objections and gives in to Philonous’disproof.

Hylas’ two objections don’t separately triumph since they don’t directly hit at the issue. Hylas never directly interrogates the ontology of Philonous. To be effective, Hylas ought to have attacked his protagonist at the instance when Philonous stated that it is disgusting for notions to exist in unseen entities or be generated by entities that don’t act. In most of the dialogue, Hylas is restricted to concurring with Philonous. Hylas’ attempts to advance ‘external items’ as defense is devoid of conviction and is easily depicted as weak by Philonous. Upon positively confirming on matter, Hylas struggles to prove his argument.

Philonous quickly trashes Hylas’ idea that physical objects support traits. To assert that basic secondary traits possess only a biased reality is to affirm that they are existent in ideas only, or are objects-in-perception. The remaining concept to illustrate is the non-existence of crucial disparities between secondary and primary traits. Thus Philonous’ arguments carry the day, not because they are excellent, but because of the weaknesses of his opponent. Works cited Berkeley George, Robinson Howard. Principles of Human Knowledge and the Three Dialogues: And Three Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1999).

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