Editors: David Berman and Paul O’Grady



Download 93.17 Kb.
Date03.05.2016
Size93.17 Kb.
#29126
Berkeley Newsletter
Number 14 1995/96

Second edition


Editors:
David Berman and Paul O’Grady

Philosophy Department, Trinity College, Dublin

Editorial Consultants

Bertil Belfrage, Lund, Sweden

Harry Bracken, Montreal, Canada

Phillip Cummins, Iowa, USA

Ian Tipton, Aberystwyth, Wales

Contents
Clara Isabel Llamas-Gomez:

Introduction to “Berkeley’s Crossroads” 1

Jorge Luis Borges:

Berkeley’s Crossroads 5

Patrick Kelly:

Berkeley’s Servants 13

Reviews:

James Mahon:



The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Philosophy, Peter Walmsley 15

Recent Publications on Berkeley 18

© Contributors 1996
The Berkeley Newsletter is sponsored by

the Royal Irish Academy, the International Berkeley Society

and the Philosophy Department, Trinity College, Dublin
Introduction to “Berkeley’s Crossroads”

Clara Isabel Llamas-Gómez

Trinity College Dublin


Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires just before the start of the 20th century, in 1899. His family belonged to the intellectual middle class and was of English, Spanish and Portugese origins. He went to school in Geneva and later travelled to Spain, where he became acquainted with new tendencies in literature, such as ultraism. Back in Buenos Aires, he published his first book of poetry in 1923, Fervor de Buenos Aires, which was followed by Luna de enfrente (1925) and Cuaderno San Martin (1929). Also in the 1920s he published some collections of essays: Inquisiciones (1925), El tamano de mi esperanza (1926) and El idioma de los argentinos (1928). In the 1930s he started writing short narrative rather than poetry and essays. In 1935 he published a collection of short stories, Historia universal de la infamia. His best known works followed: Ficciones (1944), El Aleph (1949) and Otras inquisiciones (1952). In 1961 he was awarded, together with Samuel Beckett, the International Publishers’ Prize and in 1979 he won the Cervantes Prize. His last book, Los conjurados was published in 1985. He died in Geneva a year later.


Borges’ writings have been said to be “metafiction.” This term designates the kind of fiction that is conscious of its status, functioning as a means to pose questions about fiction and reality.1 The nature of everyday reality, especially its illusory character, is a constant theme in Borges’ writings. Concepts such as the self, time and language have a predominant role not only in his essays but also in his short stories and poems. If Borges’ metafiction is understood as a preoccupation with such concepts, his literary activity and that of the philosopher share some common ground.

Borges became interested in philosophical problems from an early stage, through his father’s teachings:


He also, without my being aware of it, gave me my first lessons in philosophy. When I was still quite young, he showed me, with the aid of a chess board, the paradoxes of Zeno-Achilles and the tortoise, the unmoving flight of the arrow, the impossibility of motion. Later, without mentioning Berkeley’s name, he did his best to teach me the rudiments of idealism.2
The British empiricists were an important influence on the young Borges, as is later manifest in his writings. He found Berkeley’s and Hume’s works in his father’s library and it is possible that he read them in the original English. Borges was fluent in English and there is an important influence in his works of English writers such as G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells and J. W. Dunne. Elements of Irish culture can also be found: there are various references to Joyce, Bernard Shaw, Wilde, and, most importantly, Berkeley. Ireland is also the scene of one of Borges’ stories, Theme of the Traitor and the Hero (1956).3
Later he would become interested in German idealism, especially in Schopenhauer, of whom he says:
were I to choose a single philosopher, I would choose him. If the riddle of the universe can be stated in words, I think these words would be in his writings.4
Schopenhauer and Berkeley are certainly those philosophers whose presence is strongest in Borges’ works. They are already mentioned in his poem “Dawn,” which appeared in Borges’ first book, Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923):

and intimidated by the threat of dawn,

I felt again that tremendous conjecture

of Schopenhauer and Berkeley

which declares the world

an activity of the mind,

a dream of souls,

without foundation or purpose or volumes.5


This idea of reality, as a dream or illusion, is the main theme of the essay that follows, and one of the central topics in Borges’ works. As with most of Borges’ main themes, it was borrowed from metaphysics. Philosophy and theology were always important sources of inspiration for his fiction. However, Borges does not subscribe to any particular doctrine. His attitude towards metaphysical enquiry could be described as ironic. He uses philosophical views to bring into question our everyday reality, but, later, this very common sense view of reality will ridicule the metaphysical conclusions. The outcome of this dialectic is precisely a lack of definite conclusions and an acceptance of uncertainty.6 This contrast between common sense reality and metaphysical explanation is emphasized by situating elaborate speculations in the most banal and common contexts, a practice that is common in Borges’ stories and essays.
Borges suggests in his stories the fictional character of concepts like reality, self and time. The illusory nature of the world, the metaphor of life as a dream without a dreamer, is a constant theme in Borges’ writings. The following essay constitutes an early formulation of this idea that will become so central to Borges’ literary production. Also in this essay the origin of this intuition is made explicit: Berkeley’s idealism. Two other recurrent themes in Borges’ works are already present in this essay: the loss of the self and the fictional nature of time.
“La encrucijada de Berkeley” (“Berkeley’s Crossroads”), together with “La nadería de la personalidad,” are the two metaphysical essays of the volume Inquisiciones (Seix Barral, Barcelona, 1994) which was Borges’ first published work in prose. It appeared in Buenos Aires in 1925 in a limited edition of only 500 copies. It was not reprinted again until 1994 and it has not been translated into English before.
Borges’ prose is as difficult to translate as poetry. The structure of his language (i.e. extremely long sentences, very unusual words, never-ending succession of adjectives) can be so complex as to make the message hard to grasp in Spanish, let alone express it in another language. My aim has been to be faithful to Borges’ style while making the content understandable in English. Sometimes, however, I have been compelled to sacrifice one in order to achieve the other. Lack of clarity is unavoidable in Borges’ texts, but I have attempted to limit this obscurity to those paragraphs which are also cryptic in the original: “since Borges’ language does not read ‘smoothly’ in Spanish, there is no reason it should in English.”7

I have included the Spanish translations of Berkeley’s Principles as an appendix, since they are likely to have been by Borges, given that there seems to be no Spanish translation of that work prior to the 1930s.8


Berkeley’s Crossroads

Jorge Luis Borges

In an earlier work entitled La nadería de la personalidad,1 I unfolded, in many of its derivations, the identical thought whose account is the object and end of these lines. But that work, excessively punished with literary words, is nothing but a series of suggestions and examples, assembled without a continuous line of argument. In order to emend that blot I have determined to expose, in the lines that follow, the hypothesis that led me to undertake its writing. In this manner, with the reader positioned next to me within the fountain of my reasoning, we can feel hand in hand the difficulties as they arise. Letting our meditations slide down with resolute ease, along one and the same channel, we shall together undertake the eternal adventure of the metaphysical problem.

Berkeley’s idealism was my spur. For the recreation of those readers in whose memory such speculation doesn't emerge with solid prominence (either due to the substantial time gone by since some disbelieving teacher pointed it out to their indifference, or to their never having frequented it) it is convenient to summarize in a few words the most substantial elements of that doctrine.

Esse rerum est percipi: perceptibility is the being of things, they only exist inasmuch as they are noticed. On that brilliant truism lies and from it rises the illustrious fabric of Berkeley’s system. With that meagre formula he exorcises the tricks of dualism and shows us that reality is not a remote riddle, elusive and laborious to decipher, but rather an intimate closeness, easy and open all round. Let us scrutinize the details of his argumentation.

Choose any particular idea: for instance, that which the word fig-tree designates. It is clear that the concept thus labelled is nothing but an abbreviation for many diverse perceptions: in our eyes the fig-tree is a diffident and twisted trunk which expands

upwards into clear foliage; for our hands it is the rounded hardness of the log and the roughness of the leaves; while for our palate only the covetable flavour of the fruit exists. There are also the olfactory and hearing perceptions, which I shall purposely leave aside so as not to entangle this matter excessively.

All of these, says the non-metaphysical man, are different qualities of the tree. But if we delve deeper into this plain assertion, we will be appalled by the multitude of mist and contradictions that it hides.

While anybody would admit that greenness is not an essential quality of the tree (since at dusk its glitter expires, the leaves yellow and the trunk becomes blackened and dark) it is agreed that convexity and volume are realities intimate to it. The matter changes regarding taste. No one would claim that the flavour of a fruit does not need our palate in order to exist in its utmost completeness. >From distinction to distinction, we approach the dualism sheltered by physics today: a device which (according to the precise definition given by the English Hegelian, Francis Bradley) lies in considering some qualities as nouns of reality and others as adjectives.

As a rule, substance is only awarded to extension. The rest of the qualities (colour, taste and sound) are considered embedded in a borderland between spirit and matter: an intermediate universe or boundary which is shaped, in continuous and secret collaboration, by spatial reality and our organs of perception. That conjecture suffers from serious flaws. The bare extension, pure and simple, that, according to the dualists and materialists, constitutes the essence of the world, is a useless nothingness:2 blind, vain, shapeless, sizeless, with neither softness nor hardness. An abstraction that no one manages to imagine. Granting substance to it amounts to the desperate recourse of an anti-metaphysical prejudice. Unable to come to terms with a flat denial of the external world's essential reality, it finds refuge in throwing this verbal charity at it. This hypocrisy is comparable to the concept of the atom, only devised as a defence against the idea of a never-ending divisibility.

Berkeley, in a decisive argument, roots out the problem:

That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what every body

will allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. [...]

The table I write on, I say, exists, that is, I see and feel it; and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. [...]

For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence, out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.3

And elsewhere, anticipating objections, he writes:



But say you, surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a closet, and no body 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 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?4

And, enlarging his idea:



Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, to wit, that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit.5

The previous lines were written by Berkeley the philosopher, except for the final line which shows Berkeley the bishop. Such demarcation is important: for if Berkeley, as a thinking man, could break the universe into small pieces as he wished, such freedom was unbearable to his status as serious prelate, versed in theology and implacable in the conviction of being in possession of the truth. For him God served as mortar to join the dispersed pieces of the world or, more accurately, as a link for the scattered beads that are our diverse perceptions and ideas. Berkeley declared this by stating that the complex totality of life is nothing but a parade of ideas in God’s consciousness and that all that our senses perceive is only a glimpse of the universal vision that unfolds before his soul. According to this concept, God is not the maker of things, but rather a meditator on life or an immortal and ubiquitous spectator of the living. His eternal vigilance prevents the universe from being annihilated and revived at the whim of individual intentions, while it also endows the entire system with firmness and grave prestige. (Berkeley forgets that once cognition and being have been equated, things cease to be autonomous existences and could only in a figurative sense be said to be annihilated and revived).

Moving away from such solemn sophistries, which are more apt to be spoken than to be understood, I want to show where the rooted fallacy of Berkeley’s doctrine hides. I shall do this by means of adjusting the identical argument that he addresses to matter, to the spirit.

Berkeley states: things only exist inasmuch as the mind is set on them. It is fair to answer: yes, but the mind only exists as perceptor and mediator of things. In this manner, not only the unity of the external world becomes thwarted, but also that of the mind. The object expires, and together with it, the subject. Both enormous nouns, spirit and matter, vanish at one and the same time and life becomes an entangled crowd of mindless situations, a dream without a dreamer. We should not grieve over the confusion brought about by this doctrine, for it solely concerns the imaginary whole of all the instants of life, leaving alone the order and rigour of each of them as well as their small partial groupings. What turns into smoke are the great metaphysical continuities: the self, space, time... Indeed, if someone else’s perception determines the being of things, if these cannot subsist but in some mind that thinks them or takes notice of them, what should be said, for example, of the succession of pleasant, calm and painful feelings whose linking constitutes my life? Where is my past life? Consider the frailty of memory and you will accept without a

doubt that it is not within me. I am limited to this dizzy present and it is inadmissible that its minute narrowness could encompass the frightening number of other isolated instants. If you don't want to appeal to miracle and invoke (for the benefit of your attacked urge for unity) the enigmatic help of an omnipotent God who embraces and passes through everything that happens like light through glass, you will agree with me about the absolute nothingness6 of those wide words: Self, Space, Time...

It will be of little use to defend the first of these, the famous bulwark cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. If that Latin meant: I think, therefore there is a thinking (the only logical conclusion that the premise would carry), its truth would be as incontestable as it is useless. If employed to mean I think, therefore there is a thinker, it would be accurate, in the sense that every activity involves a subject, but deceitful in the ideas of individuation and continuity that it suggests. The trap is in the verb to be which, as Schopenhauer said, is merely a link that joins subject and object in every sentence. But remove both terms and only an ungrounded word, a sound,7 remains.

And since we are talking about objections, I want to oppose those that Spencer, in his illustrious Principles of Psychology (volume two, page 505), raises against the idealist doctrine. Spencer argues:8

Of the proposition that there is no existence beyond consciousness, the first implication is that consciousness is unlimited in extension. For a limit which consciousness cannot transcend implies an existence which imposes the limit; and this must either be an existence beyond
consciousness, which is contrary to the hypothesis, or an existence within consciousness other than itself, which is also contrary to the hypothesis. Something which restrains consciousness to a certain sphere, whether it be internal or external, must be something other than consciousness — must be something co-existing, which is contrary to the hypothesis. Hence consciousness being unrestrained in its sphere becomes infinite in space.9

There are various fallacies in the above. Reasoning that the supposition that nothing exists beyond consciousness forces it to be unlimited is like arguing that I have an infinite sum of money in my pocket given that it is full of pennies. There is nothing beyond consciousness amounts to saying: whatever takes place is of a spiritual order, a matter of quality which does not affect in the least the quantity of events whose lining up constitutes life.

As regards the concluding sentence, it is incomprehensible. Space, according to the idealists, does not exist in itself: it is a mental phenomenon, like pain, fear and sight, and being part of consciousness it cannot be said in any sense that consciousness is embedded in space.

Spencer goes on:



A further implication is that consciousness is infinite in time. To conceive any limit to consciousness in the past, is to conceive[...] that preceding this limit there was some other actual existence at the moment when consciousness commenced, which would be contrary to the hypothesís, [....].10

This objection could be answered by pointing out that such an infinity of time does not necessarily comprise an extended duration. Suppose, with some philosophers, that only one subject exists and that everything that happens is nothing but a vision unfolding before his soul. Time will last as long as the vision, which nothing prevents us from imagining as very brief. There would be no time previous to the initiation of the dreaming, nor subsequent to its end, for time is an intellectual fact and does not exist objectively. We would thus have an eternity that would comprise all possible time but that, however, could fit within a

few seconds. Also theologians had to translate God’s eternity into a duration with neither beginning nor end, without vicissitudes or change, into a pure present.

Spencer concludes:



In the absense of any other existence limiting it in time and space, consciousness must be absolute of unconditioned. [...] — everything within it is self-determined. (...), any state of consciousness, as a pain, is self-produced, and continues only in virtue of conditions which consciousness itself imposes. The ending of any state, say a pleasure, is caused solely by the operation of consciousness on itself.11

The trick of such argument lies in the instrumental, personal, even mythological sense, that Spencer introduces in the word consciousness, a procedure that nothing justifies...

And with this I shall finish my claim. As regards the negation of the autonomous existence of visible and palpable things, it is easy to be reconciled with it by thinking: reality is like that image of us that emerges in every mirror, a simulacrum that exists for us, that comes with us, gestures and leaves with us, but that we only need to go in search of, to always run into.

Translated by Clara Isabel Llamas-Gómez

(Copyright © 1996 by Maria Kodama, published with the permission of Wylie, Aitken & Stone, Inc.)

Appendix


The following are Borges’ Spanish translations of Berkeley (see above p.7)

I. The first Spanish translation is of section 3 of The Principles of Human Knowledge:



Cualquiera admite, escribió que ni nuestros pensamientos ni nuestras pasiones ni las ideas formadas por nuestra imaginación existen sin la mente. No es menos cierto a mi en tender que las diversas sensaciones o ideas que afectan a los sentidos, de cualqier modo que se mezclen (vale decir, cualesquiera objetos que se formen) sólo pueden subsistir en una mente que las advierta...

Afirmo que la mesa sobre la cual estoy escribiendo, existe; esto es, la miro y la palpo. Si estando fuera de mi gabinete afirmo lo mismo, quiero indicar por ello que si me hallara aquí la advertiría o que la advierte algún otro espíritu. En cuanto a lo que se vocea sobre la exisencia de cosas no presentes, sin relación al hecho de si son o no percibidas, confieso no entenderlo. La perceptibilidad es el ser de las cosas, o imposible es que existan fuera de las mentes que las perciben.

II. The second translation is of Principles, section 23:



Mas, me diréis, nada es tan fácil para mí como imaginar una arboleda en un prado o libros en una biblioteca, y nadie cercano para advertirlos. En efecto, no hay dificultad alguna en ello. ¿Pero qué es tal cosa, os pregunto, sino formar en vuestra mente ciertas ideas quesllamáis árboles y libros, y al mismo tiempo no formar la idea de alguien que los percibe? ¿Y mientras tanto, no los advertís o no pensáis en ellos vosotros mismos?

III. And, finally, the third is of Principles, section 6:



Verdades hay tan cercanas y tan palmarias que bástale a un hombre abrir los ojos para verlas. Una de ellas es la importante verdad: Todo el coro del cielo y los aditamentos de la tierra - los cuerpos todos que componen la poderosa fábrica del mundo - no tienan subsistencia allende las mentes; su ser estriba en que los noten y mientras yo no los ad advierta o no se hallen en mi alma o en la del algún otro espíritu creado, hay dos alternativas; o carecen de todo vivir o subsisten en la mente de algún espíritu eterno.

Berkeley’s Servants



Patrick Kelly

Trinity College Dublin

A recent exhibition in the FitzWilliam Museum, Cambridge, entitled “Handmade Readings,” raises a query about the possible identity of two of Berkeley’s servants. The subject of the exhibition is a series of handmade mid-eighteenth century reading cards and other educational material which come from the Elizabeth Ball Collection of historical children’s material in the Lilly Library, Indiana University. These elaborate cards and pictures were produced by Jane Johnson (1708-1759) wife of the Reverend Woolsey Johnson (1696-1756), vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire, for her four children; Barbara (born 1738, George William (born 1740), Robert Augustus (born 1745) and Charles Woolsey (born 1748). The experience of the Johnson family was not, however, restricted to rural Buckinghamshire, where Olney is a village on the Great Ouse situated some twenty miles south-east of Northampton. The Johnsons clearly belonged to the world of the gentry, having a family home at Witham-on-the-Hill, Lincolnshire and a London residence at Warwick Court, Holborn.
The material which Jane Johnson so carefully prepared consisted of alphabet and word cards, story and lesson cards, as well as two small books. Much of it is elaborately designed and consists of cut-outs of engravings pasted on cards, which were then bound with decorative paper. As might be expected, religious material figures prominently in the form of paraphrases of biblical verses, but there are also secular poems for children, illustrations of everyday objects and events, and a small amount of material of a more topical kind. In the last category are found two cards relating to Berkeley and tar-water. One reads:
Enoch Martyr, a Footman to the Bishop of Cloyne; filling six large jars, in order to make Tarwater, which is the best Medicine in the world for a Fever, Consumption, the small pox, kings Evil and all sorts of disorders, and to preserve health.
and the other:
Dr Berkley [sic] the good Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland, advising Mrs Wilson who has got a Cancer in her Breast to Drink Tarwater, and he is likewise sending Patrick Norway his Servant with a Pitcher of Tarwater to a poor woman in Schoolhouse-lane that has got an Ague and Fever.
Among the questions, which these cards raise, are: what, if any, was the source of Mrs Johnson’s information concerning Berkeley’s servants? Were there indeed two such people as Enoch Martyr and Patrick Norway in the bishop’s service in Cloyne in the 1740s to which period the information presumably relates? No light is shed on the matter by Berkeley’s surviving correspondence nor by A. A. Luce or any of his other biographers. The names would seem somewhat unusual for the south of Ireland in the eighteenth century, prompting Professor William Lyons to raise the possibility of the bearers of these names having perhaps been former slaves, who had come with Berkeley from America. Can any reader throw further light on this intriguing matter ?

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the leaflet prepared by the FitzWilliam Museum for the exhibition “Handmade Readings: an Eighteenth-Century Mother’s Nursery Library,” 4 April - 21 May 1995, for the information relating to Jane Johnson and her family.


Reviews


The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Philosophy, Peter Walmsley, Cambridge University Press, 1990, 189pp.

In his 1889 book, A History of Eighteenth Century Literature, the prominent English critic Edmund Gosse remarked in the section devoted to Berkeley that,

In this place no attempt can be made to sketch Berkeley’s contributions to thought. We have only to deal with him as a writer. In this capacity we may note that the abstruse nature of his contributions to literature has unduly concealed the fact that Berkeley is one of the most exquisite of all writers of English prose. Among the authors who will find a place in the present volume, it may perhaps be said that there is not one who is quite his equal in style.

Given the talents of Berkeley’s competitors here — Addison, Defoe, Swift, Fielding, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gibbon, Burke, etc. — this is immense praise indeed from Gosse; but he is perfectly correct about the matter of recognition. Berkeley’s talent as a writer has been “unduly concealed.” Peter Walmsley’s The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Phiosophy, originally a 1988 Ph.D thesis for the Department of English in Cambridge, and now published as a title in the series Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Thought, is actually the very first book-length assessment of Berkeley as a writer. There have, until now, been only essays, particularly those by Donald Davie, and the odd section of a book, such as that in John Richetti’s Phiosophical Writing: Locke, Berkeley, Hume (1983). This despite the fact that, as Walmsley points out in his Introduction, Berkeley was welcomed as a man of letters by London’s literary circle in 1712, was courted by such luminaries as Swift, Pope, Addison and Steele, the latter of whom persuaded him to contribute some papers to The Guardian, and was throughout his life considered a knowledgeable literary critic. Walmsley’s book is a well researched, scrupulously detailed analysis of Berkeley’s four major texts - the Principles, the Three Diaogues, Alciphron, and



Siris. Each is analysed in terms of its form, its mode of presentation, its style and its rhetorical method. In analysing these published texts he also draws upon early manuscript drafts, the Philosophical Commentaries, the correspondence, the literature of the period, the curricula of Trinity College Dublin, and details of Berkeley’s private library. It is all highly informative, and impresses upon the reader that Berkeley was at all times and on all points a prose stylist, who understood that “... in Metaphysiques & Ethiques... the dry strigose way will not suffice,” and that he should “...correct my Language & make it as Philosophically nice as possible.” (p. 16)

The book does more, however, than establish that Berkeley was an accomplished author of lucid prose, who built structures of effective imagery and who proved a master of each of the literary genres he turned his hand to — the treatise, the dialogue, and the essay. It also argues for a deeper understanding of Berkeley’s theory of language, and the manner in which Berkeley put it to use. As is known, Berkeley broke free of Locke’s ideational theory of language, arguing in the Principles that language had ends other than the communication of ideas, such as “the raising of some passion, the exciting to, or deterring from an action, the putting of the mind in some particular disposition” (p.18). Walmsley argues that this is an “explicitly rhetorical” (p.29) theory of language, and throughout the book he tries to show that Berkeley used the forms and devices of classical rhetoric and disputation in his works. The different sections of the Principles, for example, roughly fall into the conventional “parts” of classical rhetoric: the “Introduction” is the exordium, which establishes Berkeley’s persona. The “Idealism” section is the first half of the amplificatio, or positive proof. The “Objections and replies” section is the refutatio, or extensive passage of refutation. The “Consequences of idealism” section, is the second half of the amplificatio. And throughout the work, Berkeley uses the device of prolepsis, or the anticipation of an objection. The Three Dialogues and Alciphron, to provide another example, are both modelled on the Platonic form of dialogue, which, as Walmsley points out, was unpopular at the time (in general, Ciceronian

models prevailed.) They both use the device of elenchus, which is outlined as follows: One student, who accepts the role of answerer, states a thesis. Another then attempts to refute this thesis, not by direct argument or evidence, but by asking a series of simple questions. To each question the answerer may only reply “yes” or “no.” The questioner’s aim is to force the answerer to contradict his initial statement.” (p. 69) Berkeley had been trained in the use of this device as an undergraduate, and was to preside over students’ use of it as a Junior Greek Lecturer in Trinity.

The book could perhaps have done with a short chapter dealing with the Guardian “papers” and occasional essays (e.g. An Essay towards preventing the Ruin of Great Britain), as opposed to merely discussing aspects of them in the course of other chapters, and there appears to be no reason for the absence of chapters on the Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, The Querist, The Analyst, or A Defense of Free-Thinking in Mathematics, other than considerations of length and the possibility of repetition. It is, however, a valuable contribution to the scholarship, and hopefully should result in Berkeley being granted his long overdue place in the literary pantheon.


James Edwin Mahon

Duke University


Recent Publications on Berkeley
[Included in the Bibliography of Berkeley Newsletter No. 16.]

Recent Publications on Berkeley (cont.)


[Included in the Bibliography of Berkeley Newsletter No. 16.]

Colin and Ailsa Turbayne International Berkeley

Essay Prize Competition

Professor and the late Mrs. Colin Turbayne established an International Berkeley Essay Prize competition in conjunction with the Philosophy Department at the University of Rochester.


The next deadline for submitting papers is November 1 1996. Submissions on any aspect of Berkeley’s philosophy are welcome. Essays should be new and unpublished and should be written in English and not exceed 5000 words in length. All references to Berkeley should be to Luce/Jessop, and a MLA or similar standard for notes should be followed. Submissions will be judged by members of a review board selected by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Rochester. The winner will be announced March 1 1997 and will receive a prize of $2000. Copies of the winning essays are to be sent to the George Berkeley Library Study Center located in Berkeley’s home in Whitehall, Newport, RI. Submissions should be sent to
Chair, Department of Philosophy

University of Rochester

Lattimore 532

Rochester, NY 14627-0078.



1Didier T. Jaen, Borges Esoteric Library: Metaphysics to Metafiction, London 1992 p. xi.

2Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969, New York, 1971, p. 138.

3For a full analysis of this story see Jaime Alazraki, La prosa narrativa de Jorge Luis Borges, Madrid, 1974, p.103-106.

4Ibid. p.147

5Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems 1923-1967, New York, 1972, p.49.

6See Dither T. Jaen, op. cit. p.23 and 40.

7James E. Irby, “Introduction” to J. L. Borges Labyrinths: Selected Stories and other Writings, London, 1962, p.21.

8See T. E. Jessop, A Bibliography of George Berkeley, 2nd edn. 1973, p.13.

1[A possible translation would be The nothingness of personality; although the English word nothingness does not capture the double sense that the word nadería could have in this context: trifle as well as nothingness.]

2[See note 1.]

3[ G. Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge, p.42, section 3 in The Works of George Berkeley Bishop of Cloyne, volume two, edited by A. A. Luce and T. E. Jessop, London, 1949. See appendix for Borges’ Spanish versions of this and the following quotations.]

4[Ibid., p.50, section 23]

5[Ibid., p.43, section 6]

6[See note 1.]

7In the metaphysics text composed by Jose Campillo y Rodriguez, it is stated that the dogmatic argument cogito, ergo sum is only the abbreviation of the idea that the doctor Gomez Pereira published in 1554. The anticipated paraphrase of Castilian reads as follows: Nosco me aliquid noscere: at quidquid noscit, est quidquid noscit, est: ergo ego sum. I know that I know something and everything that knows is, therefore I am.

I have also read — in an old Vie de Monsieur Descartes, published in Paris in 1691 and of which I only possess the second volume, unpaired and with no author that it was the determination of many to accuse Descartes of having taken his speculation about the mechanical nature of beasts, from the book Antoniana Margarita by the formerly mentioned Gomez Pereira. This book is the same that includes the previous formula.



8[Borges took some liberties translating Spencer which, in my opinion, makes the text gain in style and have a more poetic effect. However his translation of certain words and the elimination of a number of lines, probably makes the Spanish version more obscure.]

9[Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology, Williams and Norgate, London and Edinburgh, 1881, p. 505.]

10[Ibid.]

11[Ibid.]


Download 93.17 Kb.

Share with your friends:




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2022
send message

    Main page