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can it be denied that this tulip may exist independent of your mind or mine; but, that any immediate objects of the senses that is, any idea, or combination of ideas should exist in an unthinking substance, or exterior to all minds, is in itself an evident contradiction.”ı
Now we shall understand Berkeley's meaning if we can apprehend this "evident contradiction.” “The tulip which I see” is idea; and it belongs to the essential character of ideas that they should be in mind; hence it is contradictory to assert that “the tulip which I see” is exterior to mind. If all redundancy and quivocation is eliminated, this amounts to the assertion that a tulip when seen, or defined as seen, is not a tulip unseen. But what Berkeley sought to establish was virtually the proposition that the tulip which I see can never be unseen; and this does not follow. For it is not contradictory to assert that the tulip which I see today was unseen yesterday, or that many tulips are “born to blush unseen” forever. Berkeley's error lies in his inferring that because the tulip is seen, therefore its being seen is its essential and exclusive status.
Berkeley's reasoning at this point is so characteristic of idealistic reasoning in general as to make it worth our while to generalize it. It does not occur to him, apparently, that a natural body, like a tulip, can belong both to the order of ideas and also to another and independent order. In other words, he assumes that an identical element can belong to only one complex. But, as a matter of fact, such is not the case. The letter a, for example, is the second letter of the word 'man,' and also the fifth letter of the word ‘mortal'; and it enters into innumerably many other words as well. It possesses, in other words, a multiple and not an exclusive particularity. And the false assumption to the contrary gives rise to a specious argument. For having found an entity, like the tulip, in the mental context, where it is named 'idea,' and having assumed that it can
Op. cit., Fraser's edition, Vol. I, p. 406. (The italics are mine.)
belong to only one context, Berkeley thereupon defines it as idea, and concludes that it is such exclusively. But this is as though, having found the letter a in the word ‘man,' we should propose to define it as 'the second letter in the word man’ and so to preclude its occurring in any other word.
This specious argument, involving the assumption of 'exclusive particularity,' may be conveniently described as definition by initial predication.'' It consists in regarding some early, familiar, or otherwise accidental characterization of a thing as definitive. I may, for example, owing to the accident of residence, first learn of Columbus through the fact that the Columbia River was named for him; but it does not follow that the man the Columbia River was named for' may be substituted for 'Columbus' in historical science, for the obvious but sufficient reason that this characterization is not adequate. Similarly, Columbus is 'the man I am now thinking of'. the fact is not to be impeached; but to treat him as such in all subsequent discourse would be to assume that his being thought of by me was the most distinctive thing about him; which is, of course, contrary to fact. Now idealists habitually construe things as 'thought of,' and accordingly name them ' objects of thought,' or 'ideas.' But while, as we have seen, it is proper to say that it is the thing itself, and not a duplicate or representation of it that is thought of, it does not follow that to be thought of, or otherwise known, is either necessary or important for things. And it is precisely this which idealism must prove if it is to justify itself. It must prove that to classify things as ideas, objects of knowledge, or experiences, is the most fundamental disposition that can be made of them. To classify them thus at the outset, and then to prefer this classification to the many other possible ones, is simply to assume the very thesis under discussion. 89. Berkeley's argument assumes a different form in the following passage taken from the Principles of Human Knowledge:
1 Cf. also below, pp. 133, 158-162.
“But, say you, surely there is nothing easier The Argument from the Ego than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a centric Predic- park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody ament'
by to perceive them. I answer, you may so, there is no difficulty in it. But what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you can call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose; it only shows you have the power of imagining, or forming ideas in your mind; but it does not show that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind.” 1
In other words, one cannot conceive things to exist apart from consciousness, because to conceive is ipso facto to bring within consciousness. It is to this argument that Berkeley appeals in the last resort, and his procedure is here again so typical as to deserve to be ranked with definition by initial predication as one of the fundamental arguments for idealism.
The argument calls attention to a situation that undoubtedly exists, and that is one of the most important original discoveries that philosophy has made. No thinker to whom one may appeal is able to mention a thing that is not idea, for the obvious and simple reason that in mentioning it he makes it an idea. No one can report on the nature of things without being on hand himself. It follows that whatever thing he reports does as a matter of fact stand in relation to him, as his idea, object of knowledge, or experience. In order to avoid making inferences unawares, it is necessary to have a name for this situation just as it stands. It will be convenient to call it 'the egocentric predicament.'?
1 Fraser's edition, Vol. I, p. 269. • I have formulated and criticised this argument more fully in an article entitled “The Ego-centric Predicament,” Jour. of Phil., Psych., and Sc. Methods, Vol. VII, 1910, No. 1. A part of what follows is reprinted from that article. Cf. also below, pp. 133-134, 158.
This predicament arises from the attempt to discover whether the cognitive relationship is indispensable to the things which enter into it. In order to discover if possible exactly how a thing is modified by the cognitive relationship, I look for instances of things out of this relationship, in order that I may compare them with instances of things in this relationship. But I can find no such instances, because 'finding' is a variety of the very relationship that I'am trying to eliminate. Hence I cannot make the comparison, nor get an answer to my original question by this means. But I cannot conclude that there are no such instances; indeed, I now know that I should not be able to discover them if there were.
Again, with a view to demonstrating the modification of things by the cognitive relationship, I examine the same thing before and after it has entered into this relationship with some knower other than myself. But in making the comparison, I institute this relationship with myself, and so am unable to free the thing altogether from such relationships.
Again, within my own field of consciousness, I may attempt to define and subtract the cognitive relationship, in order to deal exclusively with the residuum. But after subtracting the cognitive relationship, I must still 'deal with’ the residuum; and 'dealing with’ is a variety of the very relationship which I sought to banish.
Finally, just in so far as I do actually succeed in eliminating every cognitive relationship, I am unable to observe the result. Thus if I close my eyes, I cannot see what happens to the object; if I stop thinking, I cannot think what happens to it; and so with every mode of knowledge. In thus eliminating all knowledge, I do not experimentally eliminate the thing known, but only the possibility of knowing whether that thing is eliminated or not.
This, then, is 'the ego-centric predicament.' But
what does it prove, and how does it serve the purpose of idealism? It should be evident that it proves nothing at all. It is simply a peculiar methodological difficulty. It does, it is true, contain the proposition that every mentioned thing is an idea. But this is virtually a redundant proposition to the effect that every mentioned thing is mentioned — to the effect that every idea, object of knowledge, or experience, is an idea, object of knowledge, or experience. And a redundant proposition is no proposition at all.
The assertion that an idea is an idea conveys no knowledge even about ideas. But what the idealist requires is a proposition to the effect that everything is an idea, or that only ideas exist. And to derive this proposition directly from the redundancy just formulated, is simply to take advantage of the confusion of mind by which a redundancy is commonly attended.
It may be argued, however, that the ego-centric predicament is equivalent to an inductive proof of the proposition that all things are ideas. Every observed case of a thing is a case of a thing observed. Neglecting the redundancy, which is sufficient of itself to vitiate the assertion, we remark that the induction proceeds entirely by Mill's “method of agreement,” which is invalid unless supported by "the method of difference,” that is, the observation of negative cases. But the ego-centric predicament itself prevents the observation of negative cases. It is impossible to observe cases of unobserved things, even if there be any. In other words, there is a reason connected with the conditions of observation why only agreements should be observed. But where this is the case the method of agreement is worthless; and the use of it is a fallacy. Thus, I cannot conclude that English is the only intelligible form of speech simply because whomsoever I understand speaks English. On the contrary, my peculiar situation, as one acquainted only with a single language, is sufficient to discredit my results. If I should discover that I had been wearing blue glasses, I would at once discount the apparent blueness of