Answering Stove on Berkeley

I happen to be reading David Stove because he addressed Berkeley (and the later British idealists) at some length. Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming Berkeley paper addressing Stove in particular:


To Stowe’s credit, he does avoid one frequent error committed by Berkeley’s critics:
“People think, that is, that Berkeley maintained a causal dependence of physical objects on perception: that things go in and out of existence, depending on whether or not we are perceiving them… [this view] is certainly not Berkeley… The benevolence and steadiness of the Divine Will, and nothing else, ensure that the ideas produced in the various finite spirits are, on the whole, in harmony with one another” (1991: 108).

But once again, having gotten that much right, Stove immediately goes horribly wrong, saying that this means that “there are no physical objects Berkeley’s world” (1991: 109). Once again, we must point out that Berkeley never denies the existence of the physical world of common sense: the wall you see in front of you is really there in the exact way common sense thinks it is, as a solid, say red, flat surface, which, if you try to walk through, you will fail and be hurt in the process. What Berkeley is doing is trying to get at the source of why this is so, and his answer is, “Because God wills it.” One may not like that answer, but it is far from the nonsense Stove attributes to Berkeley.


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