Issues in Philosophy: An Introduction by Calvin Pinchin (auth.)

By Calvin Pinchin (auth.)

This considerably revised and up to date variation of Calvin Pinchin's balanced and lucid introductory advisor to philosophy is prepared round the key components scholars will conceal, together with: conception of information; Ethics; Social and Political Philosophy; Philosophy of faith; Philosophy of brain; and - new for this version - Philosophy of Science.

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We are allowing for the possibility that what we say could be wrong. Thus, for example, we might say that this ring seems to be made of gold, where the use of 'seems' allows for the possibility that it is made of some other metal. The point here is that there are always procedures which we can adopt to see whether what seems to be the case is the case or not. It is the possibility of adopting such procedures which gives a sense to 'seems'. The problem with Russell's use of 'seems' is that there are no procedures for finding out whether what seems to be the case is the case.

The problem for Locke is that we are unable to say what this substance is. The nature of the material substance is, for Locke, unknowable, secret and abstract. Berkeley's Idealism contains an assault on Locke's theory of material substance. He is denying the existence of Locke's matter and claiming that common sense is left undisturbed by such a denial. He points out that on Locke's theory of language words stand for ideas but as there is no idea corresponding to material substance the term must be meaningless.

If the example is taken in this way, then the analogy with the existence of matter is destroyed. In the case of judging matter to exist, we are dealing with something with which it is in principle impossible to be acquainted given Russell's claim that what we are directly acquainted with in perception are sense-data. This is the status of Locke's matter; it is essentially unknowable. In citing the Emperor example, Russell has switched to our ordinary way of talking in which we say that we are acquainted with physical things.

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