Berkeley’s Common Sense Approach to Locke’s Theory of Inferential Knowledge

Orla Slattery


This paper shall focus on one central claim that Berkeley’s immaterial hypothesis embodies; to provide a philosophical account of perception that is in keeping with a common sense viewpoint. I shall demonstrate that it is in his polemic against Locke that the nature of this common sense outlook most clearly manifests itself , as a sustained attempt to overcome those aspects of Locke’s system that contradict the common sense belief that we have direct and non-inferential knowledge of physical objects . I shall argue that Berkeley succeeds in demonstrating that Locke’s representationalist theory of perception, leads to scepticism regarding the nature of physical objects, since it postulates a dichotomy between perceptible mental ideas and imperceptible physical objects. Furthermore I shall show that Berkeley effectively undercuts Locke’s claim to materialism as he succeeds in demonstrating that Locke’s account of primary qualities together with his doctrine of materialism substance are without completely without foundation. Berkeley’s resulting immaterial hypothesis offers an account of perception whereby the subject of experience is afforded direct and non-inferential knowledge of physical objects, and as such Berkeley’s claim to common sense can be legitimate

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