Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Talk at Bogazici, Ville Paukkonen (Helsinki), “Berkeley and the Metaphysics of Substance”

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There is a talk this coming Friday, May 13th, at 5pm, in TB 130 (Anderson Hall 130) at Bogazici University. All welcome.


“Berkeley and the Metaphysics of Substance”


After rejecting what has come to be known as the ”bundle theory” of the substance, Berkeley goes on to assert that mind is a substance. But what does Berkeley mean by substance? I will examine the Scholastic, Cartesian and Lockean legacies of thinking about the concept of being as they form the philosophical background for Berkeley’s understanding of spirit or mind as a substance. I will argue that Berkeley was well aware of the disputes and various interpretations concerning the nature of most fundamental being, substance, and critically considered and eventually rejected most of his contemporaries’ answers to the question “what is it to be a thing/being?”. The outcome of this critical evaluation is an emergence of a novel understanding of what it means to be a substance, which Berkeley hoped would avoid some of the major problems that he found the older theories to suffer from.

I will evaluate several interpretations that have been offered on Berkeley’s metaphysics of mind – most importantly mind as Cartesian thinking (perceiving) thing and mind as a propertyless Lockean substratum – and will argue that all of these interpretations face serious difficulties and were in fact explicitly rejected by Berkeley. I will discuss some of the major arguments Berkeley offered against these ways of understanding substance. Moreover, these interpretations, which try to locate Berkeleyan minds into broader metaphysical scheme, be it Cartesian or Lockean, fail to acknowledge the novelty of Berkeley’s metaphysics, namely the emphasis on the minds activity. However, this understanding of the being as fundamentally active was by no means a novelty introduced by Berkeley but has it’s root’s both in Aristotelian-Scholastic and Platonic traditions, of which Berkeley was well aware. I will end by offering an interpretation of Berkeley’s conception of mind as a substance in Siris as radicalization of the platonic themes of his earlier metaphysics of mind, which, surprisingly enough, has a strong affinity with the conception of substance offered by Spinoza.


Written by markedwardsteen

May 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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