Berkeley's Theory of Vision

Berkeley's Theory of Vision

Berkeley's Theory of Vision

Berkeley's Theory of Vision

Excerpt

This essay is a critical examination of Berkeley Essay towards a New Theory of Vision. In section 2 Berkeley says that 'distance, of itself and immediately, cannot be seen', and this premiss is the basis of his conclusions. The most important of these are, firstly, that whatever is immediately seen has no existence outside the mind; and, secondly, that visible and tangible objects have no manner of spatial connection. The contributions to the psychology of vision, which the Essay also contains, are subsidiary to these two main themes.

However, it will be argued that the first conclusion does not follow validly from Berkeley's premiss, and hence that the Essay really does nothing to support Berkeleyan Immaterialism. This means that, whatever Berkeley's confusions on the matter, we ought to abandon the tradition of interpretation that sees the Essay as a half-way house to the Principles of Human Knowledge.

It will be argued, on the other hand, that the second conclusion, that visible and tangible objects are in no way spatially connected, does validly follow from Berkeley's original premiss. The main theme of the Essay therefore emerges as being a heterodox view of the general structure of the reality revealed to the senses of sight and touch, or, in more Berkeleyan fashion, a heterodox view of the relation of visual and tangible ideas.

It will be argued, however, that Berkeley's original premiss cannot be established; and further that the consequence it leads to is unacceptable. We are thus led back to a more orthodox account of the relations of the objects of sight and touch. Finally, the inquiry will be extended to the objects of the other senses: sounds, tastes and smells, which are not considered by Berkeley; and their relations to the objects of sight and touch will be discussed.

The Luce and Jessop edition of Berkeley's works has been used throughout. The abbreviation N.T.V. is used for the New Theory of Vision, and T.V.V. for Berkeley pamphlet The Theory of Vision Vindicated.

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