Berkeley's Missing Argument: The Sceptical Attack on Intentionality

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Illinois Chicago]On: 08 December 2014, At: 16:58Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    Berkeley's Missing Argument:The Sceptical Attack onIntentionalityJonathan Hill aa Faculty of Philosophy , University of OxfordPublished online: 26 Jan 2011.

    To cite this article: Jonathan Hill (2011) Berkeley's Missing Argument: The ScepticalAttack on Intentionality, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 19:1, 47-77, DOI:10.1080/09608788.2011.533011

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  • ARTICLE

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT: THESCEPTICAL ATTACK ON INTENTIONALITY

    Jonathan Hill

    Berkeley argues that our ideas cannot represent external objects, becauseonly an idea can resemble an idea. But he does not offer any argument forthe claim that an idea can represent only what it resembles - a premise

    essential to his argument. I argue that this gap can be both historicallyexplained and filled by examining the debates between Cartesians andsceptics in the late seventeenth century. Descartes held that representation

    involves two relations between an idea and its object resemblance andcausation and that these relations are very closely linked to each other. Ilook at variations upon this claim in later Cartesians, especially Desgabetsand Regis. I also examine the critics who attacked this claim, especially

    Huet, Foucher, and Du Hamel, who developed arguments similar toBerkeleys but concluded that (Cartesian) representation is simplyimpossible. I also argue that Malebranche, although an adherent of the

    Cartesian theory of intentionality, used a modified version of thisargument to argue for his claim that ideas do not exist in the mind at all.These thinkers, and especially Malebranche, provide the context in which

    we should understand Berkeley.

    KEYWORDS: Berkeley; Foucher; Malebranche; intentionality;

    representation; scepticism

    Much of the analysis of Berkeleys argument or string of arguments in thePrinciples of Human Knowledge has focused upon two main groups ofarguments. The first is the series of arguments in x17, in which he argues thatthe objects we directly perceive must be mind-dependent; his conclusion in x7is that the only substances that exist are minds, and everything else exists onlywithin those minds.1 The second main group of arguments appears in x933,where Berkeley attacks the notion of material substance, concluding thatsense perceptions are caused not by material substance but by God.

    Nestled between these two major groups of arguments, however, isanother argument, contained in x8, which sets the theme for much of whatfollows. The argument is presented as an answer to an imaginary

    1On the importance and independence of the arguments in x17, see A. C. Grayling, Berkeley:the Central Arguments (London: Duckworth, 1986).

    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19(1) 2011: 4777

    British Journal for the History of PhilosophyISSN 0960-8788 print/ISSN 1469-3526 online 2011 BSHP

    http://www.informaworld.com DOI: 10.1080/09608788.2011.533011

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  • interlocutor who criticizes the arguments of x17 and their conclusion thatsensible bodies do not exist outside the mind. The interlocutor suggests thatalthough what is immediately perceived may not exist outside the mind,material substances do, and these resemble our perceptions:

    But, say you, though the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind, yetthere may be things like them, whereof they are copies or resemblances,

    which things exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. I answer, anidea can be like nothing but an idea; a colour or figure can be like nothingbut another colour or figure. If we look but never so little into our thoughts,

    we shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only betweenour ideas. Again, I ask whether those supposed originals or external things,of which our ideas are the pictures or representations, be themselves

    perceivable or no? If they are, then they are ideas and we have gained ourpoint; but if you say they are not, I appeal to any one whether it be sense toassert a colour is like something which is invisible; hard or soft, like

    something which is intangible; and so of the rest.2

    In this paragraph, we find an argument against material substance whichseems to be quite distinct from the arguments that appear in the followingsections. It is based upon the insight that ideas can resemble only other ideas;but ideas exist only in the mind, as Berkeley has already shown; therefore,there cannot be anything outside the mind which resembles our ideas.

    This section can be regarded as a pivot upon which Berkeleys argumentturns. In the preceding sections, he is arguing that perceptible things existonly in the mind. In the succeeding sections, he is arguing that there are noimperceptible things other than spirits. The arguments in those sections areintended to bolster the claim of x8 that any supposed imperceptible entitieswould not resemble our ideas in any way. The extension of traditionalarguments about secondary qualities to primary qualities, found in x910and 14, has this conclusion, as does the insistence in x15 that ideas areinactive and therefore anything causing them must be fundamentally unlikethem. Indeed, when Samuel Johnson wrote to Berkeley to tell him that hehad almost become convinced of the non-existence of matter, it was thisargument that he listed first as the most impressive.3

    Yet surely there is something missing from Berkeleys argument. PhillipCummins has analysed it as an attempt to show that it is impossible thatideas represent anything non-ideal, on the basis that they cannot resembleanything non-ideal. Cummins comments that . . . the principle that the only

    2Principles of Human Knowledge x8 L&J II, p. 44. All the references to paragraph numbers inthe Principles are to part 1 of that book. All references to Berkeleys works are to The Works of

    George Berkeley Bishop of Cloyne, edited by A. A. Luce and T. E. Jessop (London: Nelson,

    194857) (L&J).3Johnson to Berkeley, 10 September 1729 L&J II, p. 271. Johnson is apparently thinking of the

    version of the argument that appears in the Dialogues; see L&J I, p. 283.

    48 JONATHAN HILL

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  • thing like an idea is an idea . . . is the critical premise in the argument.4 It iscertainly a critical premise in the argument, but is it the sole one? We can setout Berkeleys argument like this:

    1. If X is to represent Y, X must resemble Y.2. Ideas cannot resemble non-ideal things.3. Therefore, ideas cannot represent non-ideal things.

    Call this the Representation Argument (RA). Cummins portrays Berkeleysopponent as needing to show that premise (2) is false in order to salvage theclaim that ideas do represent external objects. Such an opponent would haveto overturn the battery of arguments Berkeley produces in support of (2) adaunting task; but clearly there is an alternative: why not accept (2), or atleast leave it unchallenged, and instead reject (1)? Berkeleys argument worksonly if one accepts a resemblance theory of intentionality; yet he says nothingto argue against any alternative theory. Indeed, he says nothing in hispublished writings to support (1) at all; it seems to be a suppressed premise.

    At least some of his contemporaries spotted this hole in his argument. Theauthor of the review of the Dialogues which appeared in the JournalLiteraire in May/June 1713 commented:

    What is specious in Mr. Berkeleys reasoning is this: he supposes that only aspirit something itself capable of having ideas can give rise to ideas in

    another spirit. Say what he will on this subject, he can never show that God isnot powerful enough to have made inanimate beings and rendered themcapable, by means unknown to us, of acting on spirits in a way that producesideas in them.5

    The reviewer was surely right. Berkeley devotes a great deal of care toshowing that any material substances that might exist could not resemblethe objects of direct perception, but he does not even seem to consider thepossibility that there might be material substances that do not resemblethe objects of direct perception at all, but which nevertheless cause them.

    We can see this more clearly if we consider how Berkeley characterizes thetheory against which he is arguing, together with his claims about what he hasdisproven. In x8, his imaginary interlocutor proposes material substances thatresemble our ideas, not material substances that cause them. This enablesBerkeley to demolish any notion that material substances could resembleideas. By the time we reach x18, the opponents theory has changed subtly:

    I say it is granted on all hands (and what happens in dreams, phrensies, andthe like, puts it beyond dispute) that it is possible we might be affected with all

    4P. Cummins, Berkeleys Likeness Principle, inLocke and Berkeley: ACollection of Critical Essays,

    edited by C. Martin and D. Armstrong (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968).5Quoted in Berkeleys Principles and Dialogues: Background Source Materials, edited by C.

    McCracken and I. Tipton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 184.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 49

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  • the ideas we have now, though there were no bodies existing withoutresembling them. Hence, it is evident the supposition of external bodies is notnecessary for the producing our ideas; since it is granted they are produced

    sometimes, and might possibly be produced always in the same order, we seethem in at present, without their concurrence.6

    Here, the theory Berkeley is opposing is the theory that there exist externalmaterial substances that resemble our ideas, and which also cause them. Thislatter element is new, and for the rest of the Principles, it remains part of thetheory which Berkeley attacks:

    philosophers having plainly seen that the immediate objects of perception do

    not exist without the mind, they in some degree corrected the mistake of thevulgar; but at the same time run into another which seems no less absurd, towit, that there are certain objects really existing without the mind, or having a

    subsistence distinct from being perceived, of which our ideas are only imagesor resemblances, imprinted by those objects on the mind.7

    Despite the addition of this new element to his opponents position,Berkeley ignores it in the arguments he brings against it. He continues toargue as though the critical element of the materialist hypothesis were thatmaterial substances resemble ideas, and says little, if anything, to attack theclaim that material substances cause ideas.8 Where he does focus upon thisclaim, he always subordinates it to the resemblance thesis. For example, inx102, Berkeley comments that no primary qualities such as figure or motioncan have any causative power, and refers his readers back to x25. There, hehad argued that ideas have no causative power and therefore cannotresemble any material substances that are supposedly causing them andrefers his readers back to x8. In other words, Berkeley seems to think that bydemolishing the claim that material substances resemble ideas, he is alsodemolishing the claim that they cause them; yet he offers no argument insupport of this. He does attack the notion that material substances supportsensible qualities.9 This relation of support does not seem to be quite thesame as the relation of causation; indeed, Berkeleys attack upon it revolvesaround his insistence that support is quite meaningless, which suggests thathe does not see it as another name for cause.

    The RA returns in the Dialogues, although it does not have the same rolein the overall argument. This time, it comes some time after the discussionabout primary and secondary qualities, suggesting that it does not underlie

    6Principles x18 L&J II, p. 48.7Principles x56 L&J II, pp. 645.8See, for example, x1378, where Berkeley disposes of the suggestion that ideas may resemblematerial substances in some respects but not all.9Principles x16 L&J II, p. 47; see also Dialogue 1 L&J II, pp. 1989.

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  • that discussion, as it does in the Principles.10 Berkeley still implies that it is avery important point, since it is the climax of the first dialogue, and theargument that above all else reduces Hylas to a state of scepticism. Berkeleyrepeats the claim that what is sensible must, necessarily, not be able to resemblethat which is insensible. He also offers a new argument for the claim that ideasdo not resemble external objects: ideas vary as we move, but the supposedexternal objects do not.11 Here, again, however, Berkeley seems to think that hehas shown that external material substances could not cause ideas, when in facthe has offered no argument to that effect. In the second dialogue, he goes on tooffer a new argument which does not appear in the Principles, to the effect thatany supposed material substance that might cause our ideas would not bematerial substance as it is normally conceived, so such a hypothesis is simplyplaying with words.12 He has Hylas suggest that this substance causes our ideasby motion, which allows Philonous to refute him by pointing out that motionhas already been proved to be a sensible quality and therefore to exist only inthe mind.13 This does not preclude there being some kind of external, non-mental cause of our ideas; the most that Berkeleys arguments show is that thiscause cannot involve motion (or any other qualities that ideas have) and that ifwe call it matter, we are not using the word in the normal sense.

    This, then, is the apparent gap in Berkeleys argument. He conceives hisopponents as holding a theory according to which our ideas correspond toexternal material substances. There is a dual relation between our ideas andthese substances: one of causation (substances produce ideas) and one ofresemblance (ideas resemble substances); yet all of his artillery against thistheory in the Principles is directed against only one half of it: the notion thatexternal material substances resemble our ideas. An opponent who held thetheory he attacks could concede to Berkeley all the conclusions of hisarguments, and admit that external material substances do not resemble ourideas, but still hold that they nevertheless cause them. Berkeley uses the RA,but fails to support or even articulate premise (1).

    How can we account for this gap in Berkeleys argument? Did he really notenvisage the possibility of someones holding that our ideas are caused byexternal physical objects that do not resemble them? I suggest that the gapcan be explained and perhaps filled if we place Berkeleys argument andthe role of the RA in it in the context of a particular philosophical traditionthat had become commonplace by the end of the seventeenth century, namelythe sceptical criticism of common explanations of intentionality. His relianceupon elements of that tradition means that Berkeley is working with a hiddenpremise, namely that there must be resemblance between an idea and itsobject. If there is no resemblance, there is no object of the idea.

    10Dialogue 1 L&J II, pp. 2036.11Dialogue 1 L&J II, pp. 2056.12Dialogue 2 L&J II, p. 216.13Dialogue 2 L&J II, p. 217.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 51

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  • II

    The RA developed in the context of Cartesian philosophy and the reactionagainst it. To understand its development, then, we must begin with a fewwords on Descartess understanding of ideas and, in particular, how theyrepresent. The problem of establishing precisely what Descartes meant byidea is one of the central issues in Descartes scholarship today (just asparallel problems are central to Locke scholarship, Malebranche scholar-ship, and so on). In this section we will therefore only sketch the broadoutlines of Descartess understanding of representation. That understandingis not dependent upon settling the vexed question of what Descartes meantby idea. Indeed, provided that idea means something mental (an act or anobject), rather than the external object of thought itself, Descartesscomments about what it is for an idea to represent an object make equalsense. As we shall see below, Du Hamel shrewdly pointed out that theCartesian definition of idea as something mental, distinct from an externalobject, was at the heart of the Cartesian theory of representation and thesource of its inadequacy as he perceived it.

    Descartes insists that intentionality is a distinguishing characteristic of allmental phenomena. In the third Meditation, for example, he defines ideasas thoughts which are as it were the images of things.14 He goes on to notethat other thoughts have various additional forms. These thoughts involveimages as well, but are more than that. It is one thing to think of chocolateand another thing to want chocolate: for Descartes, the first thought is anidea while the second is not. However, both thoughts are about chocolate;the latter is simply an idea with something added, not a completely differentsort of thing. As Descartes comments a little later, there can be no ideaswhich are not as it were of things.

    The way in which Descartes is at the same time rooted in the scholastictradition and making a break with it is shown in his use of the termobjective reality. To the scholastics, the objective reality of a mental act issimply the object of that act, considered as the object of the act; that is, theobjective reality of my idea of God is simply God.15 Johannes Caterusexplains this understanding of the term to Descartes in the FirstObjections,16 but Descartes rejects this interpretation. For him, theobjective reality of an idea is not the external object but a quality of theidea itself. Objective reality is something that an idea has:

    14C II p. 25. All references to Descartes are to The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, edited by J.

    Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) (C).15Normore suggests that the first person to articulate this view clearly was the early ScotistWilliam

    of Alnwick. See Normore, C. (1986) Meaning and Objective Being: Descartes and his Sources, in

    Essays on Descartes Meditations, edited by A. Rorty (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

    1986) 233. By the seventeenth century, it had become an important element of scholastic

    epistemology, partly because of Suarezs defence of it. See N. Wells, Objective reality of ideas in

    Descartes, Caterus, and Suarez, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 28 (1990) No. 1: 3943.16First Objections, C II, pp. 667.

    52 JONATHAN HILL

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  • [Caterus] is referring to the thing itself as if it were located outside the intellect,and in this sense objective being in the intellect is certainly an extraneouslabel; but I was speaking of the idea, which is never outside the intellect, and in

    this sense objective being simply means being in the intellect in the way inwhich objects are normally there.17

    Descartes goes on to contrast the sun itself, which when I think of it hasobjective being in my mind in Cateruss sense of the term, with my idea ofthe sun, which has objective being in my mind in quite a different way.Descartess point is that when he uses the term objective being, he means itin this second way.

    Richard Field detects, in Descartess insistence that all ideas necessarilyhave objects and his explanation of objective reality, two different accountsof intentionality. He describes the first account like this: An idea, then, hasobjective being, and is the representation of something, quite apart from anyrelation, whether actual or hypothetical, it might have to a thing. In otherwords, the idea is in itself, or essentially, representative.18 He goes on:

    If the possible existent that is represented in this manner by an idea actuallydoes exist, then the idea can be said to represent something in a second way byvirtue of the conformity of the objective being of the idea to the actualized

    nature, or what Descartes calls the formal being, of an existing object . . . Un-like the previous manner of representation, which is nonrelational andessential to the character of ideas, representation in this second manner does

    require a relation between an idea and an existing object.19

    I am not sure, however, that Descartes is really offering two distincttheories. One reason is that the first theory, as it stands, seems hopelesslyinadequate. If the object of an idea is simply some feature of that idea itscontent, say then it would follow not simply that we never think about anyexternal objects, but that we never even think about our own ideas. Wewould only think about the contents of those ideas. It seems uncharitable tointerpret Descartes as saying something so problematic. A second reason forthinking that these are not distinct theories is that Descartes seems to runthem together. Consider, for example, the following passage, in whichDescartes makes the highly unscholastic claim that an ideas objectivereality must come from its object:

    the greater the amount of objective perfection [ideas] contain withinthemselves, the more perfect their cause must be. For example, if someone

    has within himself the idea of a highly intricate machine, it would be fair to askwhat was the cause of his possession of the idea: did he somewhere see such a

    17First Replies, C II, p. 74.18R. Field, Descartes on the Material Falsity of Ideas, in Descartes, edited by T. Sorrell

    (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999) 1901.19Field (1999) 191.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 53

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  • machine made by someone else; or did he make such a close study ofmechanics, or is his own ingenuity so great, that he was able to think it up onhis own, although he never saw it anywhere? All the intricacy which is

    contained in the idea merely objectively as in a picture must be contained inits cause, whatever kind of cause it turns out to be; and it must be containednot merely objectively or representatively, but in actual reality, either formally

    or eminently, at least in the case of the first and principal cause.20

    Here, Descartes does suggest that the intentional content of an idea can bedescribed non-relationally: to have objective reality at all is to have certainfeatures, just as a painting can have content without requiring an externalobject for it to be a painting of. At the same time, that content must comefrom somewhere. We are told that the more objective perfection [ideas]contain, the more perfect their cause must be: every idea has a cause, andthat cause is the source of its objective reality. In other words, to say that anidea has objective reality at all is to say that it has some external cause. Infact, the objective reality must come from an external object which in someway resembles the idea. It is worth noting that this resemblance need not bepictorial. With his example of the idea of a complex machine, Descartes doesnot specify precisely what needs to be explained: is it the whole content ofthe idea, or just the complexity of that content? If the idea acquires itscontent from an external object, does it resemble it solely in complexity, or isthe resemblance wider than that? Although Descartes does not clearlyanswer this question, there is at least some resemblance between the ideaand the object at the very least, in that the degree of objective realitypossessed by the idea must be the same as the degree of subjective realitypossessed by the object. The idea gets its objective reality from the object.

    To that extent, there is a clear causal relation between ideas and theirobjects.21 It is because an idea gets its objective reality from its object that itresembles its object (its objective reality matches the objects formalreality22). It is worth noting that Descartes certainly believes that thesetwo features of an idea, in virtue of which it represents its object, can beconsidered separately from each other. At the beginning of the ThirdMeditation, Descartes accepts that all his ideas could be caused by himself,even though they appear to be caused by external objects, but he still realizesthat he can distinguish between them in virtue of their different contents: in

    20Principles of Philosophy, I 17 C I, pp. 1989.21Although it is a different sort of causation from the mechanistic one that Descartes believes

    operates in the physical world, since the mind is not part of that world. So although Descartes

    thinks causation and resemblance are involved in intentionality, neither is straightforward the

    resemblance is not like that of a painting, and the causation is not the familiar kind. See L.

    Alanen, Descartes Concept of Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003) 120.22Alanen (2003, 127) suggests that Descartes was the first to apply the principle that the effect

    cannot be greater than the cause to ideas in this way, and therefore the first to argue that an idea

    cannot have more objective reality than its object has formal reality.

    54 JONATHAN HILL

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  • this way, he brackets out considerations of causation and examines onlycontent.23 However, he eventually concludes that different ideas havedifferent contents in virtue of their different causes. In other words, althoughcontents and causes are conceptually distinct, they are in reality closelyconnected. Examining the former can tell you about the latter, and this ishow Descartes can bridge the apparent gap between appearance and realitywhich he finds so overwhelming in the First Meditation.

    Normore notes that Descartes draws this dual relation from the scholastictradition, citing, in particular, Suarez, who wrote that an image involvestwo relations, one of similarity and one of being produced with thatsimilarity.24 Normore argues that any theory of intentionality needs toallow for a Janus-like role in which mental acts or entities have some kindof link to external objects, and also have meaning to the thinker.25 Heconcludes that, because Descartes inherits from Suarez the notion that ideashave the two relations of similarity and causation with their objects, histheory meets this criterion:

    Cartesian images are both similar to and causally connected with what theyimage, and Cartesian ideas, which are as if images, both resemble and arecausally connected with what they are ideas of. It is this double relation thatenables ideas to play their Janus-like role. Because ideas are connected causally

    with their objects, they are about them, and so there is a nonholistic constrainton reference. Because ideas resemble their objects, having the idea is havinginformation about the object, and so there is a nonreferential aspect to

    meaning.26

    This seems a better interpretation of Descartes than Fields two theoriesversion, according to which Cartesian ideas have objects in two differentways, only one of which is relational. For Descartes, at least, resemblanceand causation cannot be separated. This is true, for example, of the idea ofGod, since Descartes uses the fact that this idea has an infinite amount ofobjective reality to argue that an object with this amount of formal realitymust exist. Therefore, our idea of God does resemble God, in that itsquantity of objective reality is equal to Gods quantity of formal reality.

    This, then, is the tradition with which subsequent Cartesians and theircritics were working: a theory of representation which identified tworelations between the idea and its object, one of resemblance and one ofcausation. There are two corollaries to this which are relevant to ourpurpose. The first is that if the idea does not resemble its object, it does notrepresent its object, because both of those relations must be present for

    23See C. Wee, Material Falsity and Error in Descartes Meditations (London; New York:

    Routledge, 2006) 401.24De Mysterio Trinitatis, IX 9, quoted in Normore (1986) 235.25Normore (1986) 2245.26Normore (1986) 236.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 55

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  • representation to work. The second corollary is derived from the claim thatthese relations are very closely linked: the idea resembles its object because itis caused by it. This means that if the idea does not resemble its object, it isnot caused by it either.27 In other words, if one component of representationis absent, the other component must be absent too. There is no such thing ashalf-representation: either an idea represents its object or it does not. Theseconsiderations are what underlie the RA.

    III

    The RA has its roots in ancient scepticism, especially the Pyrrhonist variety,and above all the work of Sextus Empiricus, which was so influential in earlymodern philosophy. In his Outlines of Scepticism, Sextus describes the tenmodes by which ancient sceptics cast doubt upon our ability to perceive theworld as it really is. The first seven of these, in particular, attack thereliability of the senses.28 Sextus lists the familiar cases of the square towerthat from a distance appears to be round, the jaundiced man who seeseverything as yellow, and so on. However, although arguments such as thiswere certainly influential upon the development of the RA, nothing quitelike the RA is found in Sextus. Sextus does not speak of ideas or anythingsimilar in the mind of the observer. Neither does he formulate any kind oftheory of representation. The RA depends upon the premise thatresemblance is necessary for representation, and the premise that ideas donot resemble their objects; the conclusion is that ideas do not represent atall. Most of the philosophical work required of the defender of the RA,therefore, involves defending those two premises. Sextus says nothing aboutrepresentation, and argues only that our perceptions of objects do notprovide a firm basis for forming beliefs about the nature of those objects.Something similar can be said about Sextuss argument later in the Outlineabout the impossibility of perceiving physical bodies, to the effect that thequalities we believe bodies to have such as extension and resistance cannot really be in those bodies.29 The argument here is an ancestor of theargument employed by Foucher, Bayle and Berkeley to collapse thesupposed distinction between primary and secondary qualities, but it is quitedifferent from the RA.

    We can see how arguments like those of Sextus were adapted to the post-Cartesian philosophical climate by looking briefly at the version of the RAthat appears in the work of the theologian and scholar Pierre-Daniel Huet,

    27See R. Watson, The Downfall of Cartesianism: 16731712 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966) 33.

    Watson suggests that this theory is based upon the old principle that only like can cause like.28J. Annas and J. Barnes (eds), Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

    2000) 1235.29Annas and Barnes (2000) 1528.

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  • whose Censura Philosophiae Cartesianae was very widely read, to such adegree that it was regarded in at least some quarters as the response toCartesianism. It was even a set text at the University of Leiden, wherestudents had to refute its arguments.30 Nothing like the RA appears in thatbook; indeed, Huet does not touch upon Cartesian theories of representa-tion at all. However, a version of the RA does appear in Huets TraitePhilosophique de la Foiblesse de lEsprit Humain, which was written in theearly 1690s, had limited circulation in manuscript form, and was finallypublished in 1723 after his death.31 In this work, Huet writes:

    The species, or image, which is part of a tree, is it a tree? And if it isnt a tree, can itresemble a tree (etre semblable a un arbre)? For we abuse the word resemblance(ressemblance), when we say that a picture or a statue resembles its original. It is atrue and perfect resemblance (veritable & parfaite ressemblance) which does not

    represent only the external figure, the size, and the colour, but all the properties ofthe whole body and the parts which compose it, those on the inside as much asthose on the outside. If something is missing, there will be a dissimilarity

    (dissemblance) in that, and we will not know the external object as it is. Now thespecies, or image, of this tree is different from the tree in several ways. The tree isvisible, it is immobile, it is solid; its species, or image, is not visible at all, it has no

    consistency, and it is very mobile, very thin and very fluid.32

    This passage appears in the part of the text where Huet presents his versions ofthe Pyrrhonist arguments about the unreliability of sense perception. Thisargument is intended to lead to the same conclusion as Sextuss that wecannot assume that the senses give us reliable information about the outsideworld but it differs in that Huet assumes a distinction between the externalobject of sense and the internal idea (or species or image). Huet thusconsiders the relation between these two entities, something that SextusEmpiricus never did. His claim is that the idea cannot resemble the externalobject at all, although the argument he offers for this position which does notappear in the other sceptical authors we shall look at is surely unconvincing.It seems obviously false to insist that X can resemble Y only if X and Y areidentical in every respect; it is not ordinary language but Huet himself whoabuses the word resemblance by refusing to apply it to portraits and statues.

    Although this emphasis upon resemblance between the idea and itsobject and the impossibility of such resemblance ever occurring isfundamental to the RA, Huets argument is not the full version of the RA.As I have presented it, the RA involves arguing that for an idea to representits object, it must resemble its object and that it could not resemble it;

    30T. Lennon (ed.), Against Cartesian Philosophy (New York: Prometheus, 2003) 27.31See R. Popkin, The History of Scepticism: from Savonarola to Bayle (Oxford: Oxford

    University Press, 2003) 2801.32D. Huet, Traite Philosophique de la Foiblesse de lEsprit Humain (Amsterdam: Sauzet, 1723)

    356.

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  • consequently no idea could represent an object at all. But Huets point isonly that ideas cannot resemble their objects, and consequently we cannotknow what exterior objects are really like. He does not conclude that ourideas do not have objects at all. The passage is part of an extended attemptto convince his readers that we have no reliable knowledge about theexternal world; it is not an attack upon Cartesianism or any Cartesianauthor in particular. To see the full version of the RA, we must turn to thosesceptical authors who used it to attack what they understood the Cartesiantheory of representation to be.

    IV

    The first critic of Cartesianism to articulate the RA fully was SimonFoucher.33 Fouchers status as an influence upon Berkeley albeit anindirect one has long been recognized. In the secondary literature, thisstatus rests upon Fouchers formulation of an argument which would laterbe repeated and expanded upon by Bayle, before finding its way intoBerkeleys work. This argument is an attack upon the standard Cartesiandistinction between primary and secondary qualities.34 In Fouchers view,the claim that our ideas of primary qualities give us reliable informationabout what bodies are really like, while our ideas of secondary qualities donot, is arbitrary. The arguments that are used to cast doubt upon the fidelityof our ideas of secondary qualities to bodies might just as well be applied toour ideas of primary qualities.

    However, Fouchers criticism of the Cartesian doctrine of representation as he understood it was also a major element of his attack.35 He developedthis criticism during the course of his three-pronged controversy withMalebranche and Desgabets. This rather confusing controversy began in1674, when Malebranche published the first volume of his Recherche de laVerite. The following year, Foucher published his Critique de La Recherchede la Verite. In that work, one of his central criticisms concernsMalebranches claim that our ideas represent external objects to us. Foucherargues that the fundamental unlikeness of the mind and material bodies anessential doctrine of Malebranches renders this claim impossible.36 There

    33The only book-length study of Fouchers thought is F. Rabbe, LAbbe Simon Foucher:

    Chanoine de la Sainte Chapelle de Dijon (Paris: Didier, 1867). See also Watson (1966) 1328, and

    on his argument from representation, 378.34See Popkin (2003) 2757.35Indeed, Jose Maia Neto states that the impossibility of Cartesian ideas representing external

    objects is Fouchers Main Criticism of Cartesianism. See J. Maia Neto, Academic Skepticism

    in Early Modern Philosophy, Journal of the History of Ideas, 58 (1997) No. 2: 2055.36Foucher was working on the belief that Malebranche located ideas in the mind, a view which

    Malebranche repudiated in the second volume of the Recherche, which had not yet been

    published.

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  • are two main stages to this argument as Foucher presents it. First, he offersit as an extension of Malebranches own argument that sense perceptioncannot give knowledge of the external world:

    since . . . our soul has nothing in it that is like matter and extended beings, it is

    difficult to conceive how it could represent anything other than its own ideas.The author has very well remarked that our senses do not give us knowledge

    of things that are outside us.

    Because objects outside us have nothing in themselves like what theyproduce in us, for matter cannot have ways of being that are like those ofwhich the soul is capable.But the same reasoning leads to the conclusion that we should no more

    judge of the objects that are outside us by the ideas we might have of them bythe imagination or by pure intellection.For if matter is not capable of having ways of being like those of the soul, it

    is necessary to recognize also that the soul cannot have ways of being like thosethat can be in matter.37

    Second, and more fundamentally, Foucher offers it as a criticism ofMalebranches claim that resemblance is not essential for representation. Heattacks this claim by offering his readers a stark choice:

    Either our ideas can represent without being like, or not.If they can represent without being like, not only all the ideas we have,

    whether in our senses, imagination, or some other way whatever it be, have asmuch right to represent, the ones as much as the others, but all our ideas,whatever they are, would be able to represent one and the same subject, a

    position one cannot support.If it is necessary that our ideas be like to represent, either one must conclude

    from this that we cannot have science, or else that the notions of the soul and

    of matter on which the author relies are entirely contrary to what is true ofthem.I leave the untying of this knot to whoever will undertake to do it.38

    In this passage, we have an argument to show the absurdity of the claim thatideas can represent objects without resembling them, followed by anargument to show the absurdity of the claim that ideas can resemble objectsat all (at least, on Malebranches principles). The first of these twoarguments, however, seems highly suspect. It is based upon the presupposi-tion that any meaningful account of representation must involve resem-blance. Given this presupposition, it is true that if our ideas do not resembletheir objects, then one cannot meaningfully say that this idea represents that

    37S. Foucher, Critique de la Recherche de la Verite (Paris: Coustelier, 1675) 456; translated in

    Malebranches First and Last Critics, edited by R. Watson and M. Grene (Carbondale and

    Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995) 30 (W&G).38Foucher (1675) 512; W&G 32.

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  • object as opposed to another one; but that presupposition is precisely whatFoucher is supposed to be establishing. His second argument is basically arestatement of his earlier point that if the mind has nothing in common withbodies, then ideas in the mind cannot resemble bodies in any way.

    Fortunately, Foucher quickly goes on to give an argument for the claimthat representation requires resemblance. Unfortunately it is rather terse:

    By represent (representer) one understands nothing other than to render athing present, or to cause the same effect as if it were acting at the present time,or at least to cause a likeness (semblable) of it. Otherwise one would not know

    what the word means.39

    Therefore, in this chapter of the Critique de La Recherche de la Verite,Foucher argues for both premises of the RA as we set it out earlier.However, the arguments are somewhat brief and, at points, decidedly shaky.

    V

    Nevertheless, Foucher was forced to refine his argument when RobertDesgabets stepped into the fray as the self-appointed champion ofMalebranche. Before 1675 was out, Desgabets had published his Critiquede la Critique de La Recherche de la Verite. Epistemologically, Desgabets ismost well known for his claim as contrary to Descartes as it is to commonsense that every thought has a really existing object. However, apparentlyunCartesian as this may be, Desgabets bases it upon the highly Cartesianprinciple that clear and distinct ideas must resemble their objects. TadSchmaltz labels Desgabetss version of this principle the intentionalityprinciple.40 It is pushed to the limit when Desgabets concludes that no ideacan have a non-existent object for if it did, no similarity would hold.Monte Cook analyses this claim in some detail,41 as well as Desgabetssresponses to counter-examples such as ideas of impossible objects orfictional ones. He does not touch upon what Desgabets thinks intentionalityactually is.

    In the Critique de la Critique, Desgabets argues that resemblance(ressemblance) is essential to all kinds of representation:

    If there were no resemblance between the flat painting and the relief which itrepresents, between the description of a battle that someone makes in writing

    39Foucher (1675) 52; W&G 32.40T. Schmaltz, Radical Cartesianism: the French Reception of Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge

    University Press, 2002) 131.41M. Cook, Robert Desgabetss Representation Principle, Journal of the History of Philosophy,

    40 (2002) No. 2: 189200.

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  • or orally and the battle itself, the one could not serve to represent the other atall.42

    The example of a description of a battle is interesting, indicating that forDesgabets, resemblance does not mean simply pictorial similarity.Unfortunately, he does not explain what sort of similarity he thinks doeshold between a verbal description and the thing described; he simply takes itas demonstrated that representation is always a matter of resemblance.However, he goes on to distinguish between two different kinds ofresemblance:

    We must therefore hold it as a principle (constant), that intentional(intentionelle) or representative resemblance is of a completely different genusfrom the real kind, and that however perfect it may be, one cannot draw from

    it any consequences concerning resemblance of being or nature (destre ou de lanature). It follows that everything you say, Monsieur, to prove that theresemblance between our thoughts and their objects occurs only in

    representative resemblance, which we do not deny at all, and all of yourwork, turns out to be hardly necessary.43

    Desgabetss distinction between real and intentional resemblancerepresents a striking combination of the scholastic and Cartesian traditions.The notion that intentionality involves a unique kind of relation had beenpart of scholasticism since Aquinas, who had distinguished between takingon a species in a natural (naturalis) way and doing so in a spiritual(spiritualis) way.44 So the eye that sees a stone and the mind thatcontemplates a stone both take on the species of stone. Ordinarily, thatwould simply be a roundabout way of saying that they become stones, butobviously this does not happen. They take on the species of stone in aspiritual way rather than a natural one. Does this have any positivemeaning? Or does it have only the negative meaning that to take on a formspiritually just means to take it on in a non-natural way, that is, withoutbecoming the thing in question? Aquinas seems to think that it does notrequire any further explanation. Indeed, Miles Burnyeat argues that, for anAristotelian such as Aquinas, the view that a perceiver simply has the powerof perception (and thus, the ability to take on a form spiritually) is a

    42R. Desgabets, Critique de la Critique de La Recherche de la Verite (Paris: du Purs, 1675) 119

    20.43Desgabets (1675) 120. I think Watson is wrong (1966, 66) to interpret Desgabets as rejecting a

    resemblance theory of representation; rather, he is modifying that theory. He makes it clear that

    intentional resemblance is still a kind of resemblance, and furthermore that it is all that is

    required for representation to occur.44Summa Theologiae I 78 3 in The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, ed. (1920) The

    Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne) vol. IV, p.

    83.

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  • satisfactory answer which requires no further explanation.45 It is a faculty,or ability, which is explained simply by the fact that it is part of its ownform: thus, to have the form of a perceiver is, in part, to have the faculty oftaking on forms spiritually.

    Where Aquinas talked of two kinds of immutation (immutatio),Desgabets talks of two kinds of resemblance. This reflects his belief thatrepresentation does not simply happen to involve resemblance it isresemblance, or at least a kind of resemblance. Otherwise, however, hisdistinction is much the same as Aquinass. For him, a real resemblancemeans something like the examples he gives in the first passage quotedabove: the resemblance that holds between a painting or a description andits object. The contrast between this and intentional resemblance is evidentwhen Desgabets explains the role of the brain in this: . . . the corporealspecies which is traced upon the brain has some true resemblance to theobject, and the soul turns towards this image to form a spiritual idea . . . .46

    In sensory perception and imagination, then, there is a corporeal speciesor image physically present in the brain, which resembles its object in a realway. The mind uses this image to form the idea of that object, but this idearesembles the object in a completely different way, one which has no realparallel and thus cannot be analysed at all.

    Notably, Desgabets implies that this is all there is to intentionality whenhe denies that the relation of causation is important at all:

    If Peter speaks and I take Paul for him; if someone shows me leather and it

    makes me think of gold, it is neither Peter nor the leather which is the object ofmy thought; but if I see a horse running and I think about this race, my ideahas for its object this same thing that acts upon me, and which gives me theidea that I have.47

    In other words, the object of the idea is whatever it resembles (in the special,intentional way of resembling). Whether the idea is actually caused by thatobject is really neither here nor there, at least as far as identifying the objectgoes. It should be clear that this goes well beyond anything in Descartes.Descartes had argued for a distinction between formal falsity and materialfalsity: the former is when we mistake an idea of X for an idea of Y, and thelatter is when our idea of X itself misrepresents X.48 In other words, amaterially false idea is one that misrepresents its object. It fails to resembleits object, but it is still of that object. If such a thing is possible, then it ispossible to have representation where there is no resemblance, in which case

    45M. Burnyeat, Aquinas on Spiritual Change in Perception, in Ancient and Medieval

    Theories of Intentionality, edited by D. Perler (Leiden; Boston, MA: Brill, 2001) 12953.46Desgabets (1675) 122.47Desgabets (1675) 121.48Meditations III C, p. 30.

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  • representation is not the same thing as resemblance. But for Desgabets, sucha possibility runs counter to the Cartesian emphasis upon clear and distinctideas. Descartes believes that clarity and distinction are properties that someideas have, but these ideas are only a subset of the wider set of ideas thatrepresent. Clarity and distinctness are not the criteria of representation avaguer kind of resemblance, together with causation, fills that role in hissystem. Desgabets makes clarity and distinction so important that withoutthem, an idea fails to represent altogether. Clear and distinct ideas areprecisely those ideas which represent, because they are the ideas that reallydo resemble their objects. Desgabets leaves no conceptual room for thepossibility of materially false ideas.

    VI

    In 1676, Foucher answered Desgabetss defence of the theory ofintentionality with his even more cumbersomely titled Reponse a la Critiquede la Critique de la Recherche de la Verite (it was actually published in167949). Interestingly, Foucher tells us on the very first page of the preface tothis short work that Desgabetss views are very common, and that in theassemblies of the wise, and in the societies where science is discussed, thesame things are often said which are contained in the book which isexamined here.50 He does not tell us whether Desgabetss distinctionbetween real and intentional resemblance is one of these common doctrines,but given its scholastic heritage and the appearance of similar doctrines inother Cartesians of the period (as we shall see shortly), it is not unreasonableto suppose that it is.

    There are two new developments in Fouchers argument in the Reponse.The first is a rejection of the supposed distinction between real andintentional resemblance. After making it clear that, although his immediatetargets are Desgabets and Malebranche, their errors are common to alldogmatists, Foucher jibes:

    What does this mean, that our ideas are intentionally or representationallysimilar [to their objects], if not that they are resemblances [semblables], that is,

    that it is necessary that they be resemblances in order to represent? And thatsall that is at issue. We need to know in what the similarity between ideas andthe things they represent consists, and when someone says that this similarity isintentional or representative, he simply repeats the problem in a slightly more

    embarrassing way, using a barbarous expression.51

    49Watson (1966, 68) attributes the delay to the understandable reluctance of publishers to invest

    in such a work.50S. Foucher, Nouvelle Dissertation sur La Recherche de la Verite, Contenant la Reponse a la

    Critique de la Critique de la Recherche de la Verite (Paris: de la Caille, 1679) i.51Foucher (1679) 35.

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  • However, having challenged the Cartesians to explain intentional resem-blance, Foucher then argues that any such explanation is impossible.He does this with the second new development in his argument, which is anew defence of the claim that representation must involve real resemblance.This defence is longer and more satisfying than the cursory one he hadoffered in his Critique. He points out that a picture of Caesar cannotrepresent any of his interior or imperceptible qualities; it portrays only hisvisible properties. Foucher goes on:

    Now, how could this picture represent the external figure of this prince if it didnot have a true figure which is expressed and traced on the canvas which

    supports the colours? And does not all the art of painting consist in makingthis figure resemble that of the original?We are well aware that this figure will never resemble that of the original as

    closely as it would if it were a relief, just as it does not represent the figure of

    Caesar as perfectly as a statue could represent it. And from that, you see thatthe more resemblance there is, the more representation there is too.52

    Representation, then, is resemblance, but all such resemblance, according toFoucher, is based upon what Desgabets would call real similarity. Forexample, the resemblance between a picture and its object holds onlybecause a picture has a real shape and real colour, which directly resemblethe shape and colour of its object. Foucher concludes:

    Paintings therefore show us only beings that have resemblance, and whichrepresent exterior shapes, because they have real shapes which resemble thosewhich they represent to us. Consequently, this example which you produce

    doesnt demonstrate anything in your favour.53

    In other words, ideas cannot represent in the way that paintings do, becausethey lack the features in virtue of which paintings can represent.

    Therefore, Foucher effectively denies that there exists any kind ofresemblance other than what Desgabets calls real resemblance; hissupposed distinction between real and intentional resemblance is thus adistinction between reality and fantasy; but real resemblance cannot hold atall between ideas and their objects. The Cartesians are therefore caughtbetween two untenable positions: they cannot duck their need to explainintentionality, but the only explanation they have fails.

    With the Reponse, then, Fouchers statement of the RA is complete. Wecan summarize the full argument as:

    1. Representation always varies in direct proportion to (real) resemblance,and no other relation.

    52Foucher (1679) 40.53Foucher (1679) 41.

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  • 2. Therefore, representation is (real) resemblance.3. (Real) resemblance requires that the relata have properties in common.4. However, ideas and their objects can have no properties in common.5. Therefore, ideas cannot represent objects.

    VII

    In 1690, the Cartesian Pierre-Sylvain Regis published his enormous Systemede Philosophie. The first part of the first volume is devoted to a discussion ofideas and their various objects, but Regis does not explicitly address thequestion how ideas have objects at all and what that means. He does,however, hint at something of a theory. After distinguishing between simpleand complex ideas, he tells us:

    There is this difference between simple ideas and complex ideas, that the simpleideas are always real, that is to say always conformed (conformes) to theiroriginal, or to a real existence in things (lexistence reelle des choses). Whereas

    complex ideas do not always have this conformity.54

    Does conformity mean a kind of resemblance? What Regis says nextsuggests that it need not be. He gives an example of what it means for anidea not to conform to its object:

    For example, the idea of the heat of fire, taken in the ordinary sense, is false,because it reinforces a judgement by which the soul affirms that this heatresembles a feeling (sentiment) that it has, which it also calls heat, which is nottrue.55

    Conformity is to do with the information that is provided about the object.An idea that conforms to its object is one that causes us to make ajudgement about the object which is true. Regis is careful to distinguishbetween different kinds of idea that fail to do this. Some ideas do notproduce true judgements about objects, but they are not false ideas, becausethey do not produce judgements at all; Regis classes these ideas aschimerical (chimeriques) and invented (inventees). Ideas which do producea judgement, and one which is false, are themselves false.

    Clearly, this account does not necessarily presuppose that true ideasresemble their objects. Conformity is about the judgement that an ideacauses us to make; an accurate written description of an event wouldconform to that event in Regiss sense, but we would not normally say thatit resembles the event. As we have seen, though, Desgabets seems to think

    54P. Regis, Systeme de Philosophie (Paris: Thierry I, 1690) 59.55Regis (1690) I, p. 60.

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  • that it would. We might therefore say that Regiss conformity is much thesame as Desgabetss real resemblance, bearing in mind that whatever wecall it, it is wider than what we would normally be inclined to callresemblance. It is certainly wider than pictorial resemblance.

    Two years after the publication of the Systeme de Philosophie, an attackupon it appeared, entitled Reflexions Critiques sur le System Cartesien de laPhilosophie de M. Regis. The author of this rather long and penetratingbook was Jean Du Hamel. He should not be confused with the more famousphilosopher, theologian and mathematician, Jean-Baptiste Du Hamel, aprominent Oratorian, who also took an undogmatic and cautiously scepticalapproach to philosophy.56 Our Du Hamel was a former professor ofphilosophy at the Sorbonne,57 but his analysis of Regiss work reveals himalso to be fairly undogmatic and somewhat sceptical. Like Huet, whosework he mentions often, he is willing to draw upon the Pyrrhonists and theAcademics as well as upon conventional Catholic piety for his anti-Cartesian arguments.58

    Du Hamels attack upon Regis is similar to Fouchers upon Malebrancheand Desgabets. However, where Foucher devoted some time to proving thatrepresentation requires resemblance, Du Hamel does not bother with thispreliminary step. He seems simply to take this principle for granted. Hisargument begins with something like Desgabetss distinction betweenintentional and real resemblance. Du Hamel notes that this distinctionis scholastic in origin:

    The scholastics say that the idea resembles the thing by an intentionalresemblance, and not a real one; similis intentionaliter, non realiter; similis inrepraesentando, non in effendo; and at the same time agree that thisresemblance is improper, that they cannot give an example of it.59

    He then points out that any attempt to use examples of real resemblance toillustrate intentional resemblance is inevitably doomed to failure:

    For to want to explain this resemblance of ideas, by the resemblance ofpictures and of statues, would be to prove the exact opposite of what isintended; for pictures never represent the colours and figures of their original,

    which is all that they represent of them, unless they resemble them really and

    56On the Oratorian, see D. Sturdy, Science and Social Status: the Members of the Academie Des

    Sciences (Boydell & Brewer, 1995) 836.57On Du Hamel and his criticism of Regis, especially on the cogito and the method of doubt, see

    R. Ariew, Descartes and the Last Scholastics, 2004; see also Schmaltz (2002) 2336.58Just one example: in attacking Regiss claim that no one doubts that evidence is the true mark

    of the truth, he points out that the Pyrrhonists certainly doubted it, and that the Christian faith

    holds many things to be true that are not self-evident. See J. Du Hamel, Reflexions Critiques sur

    le System Cartesien de la Philosophie de M. Regis (Paris: Couterot, 1692) 1618.59Du Hamel (1692) 27.

    66 JONATHAN HILL

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  • truly in colour and figure; statues never represent the traits, figure and size,which is all they represent of them, unless they resemble them really and trulyin traits, figure and size; and consequently, far from the example of pictures

    and statues showing that one thing can represent another, without being trulyand really a resemblance of it; on the contrary, it shows, that all that representsin genere causae formalis, in the genre of the formal cause, that is, what is a

    representation of a thing, must resemble it by a real, true, proper, and univocalresemblance.60

    However, where Foucher pressed this point as a weakness of alldogmatists, Du Hamel uses it solely to attack the Cartesians. He recognizesthat the Cartesians are really saying nothing on this score that has notalready been said by the scholastics, but argues that the Cartesians do nothave the same right to say it that the scholastics did. This is because, on hisinterpretation, the exact resemblance of ideas to objects is central to theirsystem in a way that it never was for the scholastics:

    And when this method of explaining the resemblance of ideas with thingswould be tolerable in the scholastics, it is not at all in the Cartesians. The

    reason for this difference is that the scholastics do not posit, as the Cartesiansdo, as the first principle of human certainty, that it necessary to judge thingswhich are outside us by the ideas which are in us; they do not posit as theCartesians do for the first axiom, that all that is contained in the clear idea of

    something must be attributed to that thing.61

    Du Hamel goes on to criticize the Cartesian claim that all that is containedin the clear idea of a thing is truly in the thing, since the idea is amodification of the soul whereas its object clearly is not; furthermore, theidea represents while the object is represented. Clearly, then, each hasproperties which the other lacks. His conclusion is quite devastating toCartesian epistemology:

    If the power of representing, which is essential to ideas, were founded uponsome true and real resemblance between the ideas, which are in us, and thethings which are outside us, one could truly judge the things which are outside

    us by the ideas which are in us: just as one rationally judges absent men bypresent ones, quia similium quatenus similia sunt, eadem sunt preprietates etaffectiones, and consequently eadem judicia; but since neither our author, nor

    any Cartesian that I know of, has shown this real and true resemblancebetween ideas and things, it is rashly that they judge the things, which areoutside us, by the ideas, which are within us, it is without legitimate foundation

    60Du Hamel (1692) 278.61Du Hamel (1692) 28. The slogan it necessary to judge things which are outside us by the ideas

    which are in us appears frequently throughout Regiss Systeme de Philosophie.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 67

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  • that they insist, that all that is contained in the clear and distinct idea of a thingmust be attributed to that thing.62

    Du Hamel does note that this sceptical conclusion depends upon theCartesian doctrine as he interprets it that ideas are modifications of themind as it contemplates objects. He mentions an alternative understandingof idea, namely the object itself as it is being contemplated, and points outthat if one holds that view, then ideas certainly do resemble their objectsreally and truly, because they are their objects.63 Such a view sounds similarto the one held by Caterus and, also, Arnauld.

    Regis responded quickly and rather abruptly to Du Hamel later in thesame year in his Reponse aux Reflexions Critiques de M Du Hamel.However, his response to Du Hamels version of the RA is relatively long,although it is quite simple. He castigates Du Hamel for saddling him with atheory he has never held: he does not think that ideas represent their objectsin virtue of resembling them. In fact, they do not resemble them at all. Hetells us that:

    the word representation is highly equivocal, when we apply it to ideas and to

    pictures. When we apply it to pictures, it means to represent by resembling;and when we apply it to ideas, it means only to make known withoutresembling.64

    Regis was right to say that he had never defended any kind of resemblancetheory in the Systeme de Philosophie, although he had never explicitlyrejected one either, so perhaps Du Hamel could be forgiven hismisinterpretation. In any case, Regiss point is that the basic fact aboutideas is not that they resemble their objects, but that they make themknown. This does not necessarily require resemblance. How, then, does itwork? Regis tells us that we might as well ask how light makes us able to seeobjects.65 It is in the nature of ideas to make their objects known. As for DuHamels argument against the claim that the object has all the propertiesthat the idea represents it as having, Regis retorts surely rightly that DuHamel has utterly misunderstood the claim. The Cartesians do not believethat the idea and the object have precisely the same properties that wouldindeed be absurd but that the object has all of those properties that theidea tells us it has.66 Regis, then, does not think that an idea is identical withthe object, being thought of. He holds, rather, that an idea is a property ofthe mind that thinks of the object. Whether that means that it is a direct

    62Du Hamel (1692) 323.63Du Hamel (1692) 33.64P.-S. Regis, Reponse aux Reflections Critiques de M Du Hamel (Paris: Cusson, 1692) 9.65Regis (1692) 11.66Regis (1692) 1213.

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  • object of thought or simply the act of thinking itself is unclear. What is clear,however, is that the idea does not resemble its object it merely makes itknown.

    VIII

    We have seen how Foucher first articulated the RA as a criticism ofMalebranche; it may seem rather strange to end our survey withMalebranche himself as another proponent of the argument, but this is,unexpectedly, exactly what we find in the Eclaircissements, which Male-branche published in 1678 with a new edition of La Recherche de la Verite.

    We saw earlier how Foucher expresses exasperation at Desgabetss refusalto provide a proper explanation of the kind of resemblance found inintentionality. Malebranche expresses a similar sentiment:

    I am amazed that the Cartesian gentlemen who so rightly reject the generalterms nature and faculty should so willingly employ them on this occasion.

    They criticize those who say that fire burns by its nature or that it changescertain bodies into glass by a natural faculty, and yet some of them do nothesitate to say that the human mind produces in itself the ideas of all things by

    its nature, because it has the faculty of thinking. But, with all due respect, theseterms are no more meaningful in their mouth than in the mouth of thePeripatetics.67

    It is hard to resist the temptation to suppose that the Cartesian gentlemenincluded Desgabets, from whom Malebranche had found it necessary todistance himself. Indeed, in Eclaircissement X, Malebranche not only offersa more detailed account of intentionality than the Cartesian gentlemen butbases a new argument for his theory of ideas being in God upon it. In facthe presents a number of arguments in this Eclaircissement in defence of thattheory, which are not clearly distinguished from each other. Among them,however, we can distinguish a series of arguments that are effectively a newversion of the RA. What I suggest here is a reconstruction of whatMalebranches version of the RA looks like, or would look like, if we focuson just these elements and ignore the other arguments in Eclaircissement X.

    Malebranche agrees with Descartes that all thought (though not allmental activity) is intentional, in that it is directed towards something; as hefamously puts it elsewhere, It is evident that to see nothing, not to seeanything, is not to see at all.68 He holds that Descartess understanding of

    67Elucidation 10 L&O p. 622. All references to the Recherche and the Eclaircissements are to The

    Search After Truth, edited by T. Lennon and P. Olscamp (Cambridge: Cambridge University

    Press, 1997) (L&O).68Three Letters I, in Oeuvres Completes, edited by A. Robinet (Paris: Vrin, 1966) (R) VI, p. 202.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 69

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  • ideas and their role is insufficient to explain this phenomenon, and he doesthis by defending two main claims. The first is that corporeal things areintrinsically incapable of being represented, something that he takes to beintuitively obvious:

    It is evident that bodies are not visible by themselves and that they cannot acton our mind or represent themselves to it. This needs no proof it can be seen

    through simple perception with no need of reasoning, for the slightestattention of the mind to the clear idea of matter suffices to show it.69

    The second main claim is that the mind is intrinsically incapable ofrepresenting. In La Recherche de la Verite, Malebranche had built his casefor locating ideas in God largely upon the claim that there are some ideas wehave that cannot be contained in the mind, such as ideas of the infinite.70

    This argument reappears in Eclaircissement X,71 but it is prefaced by whatseems to be a distinct argument that the mind could not contain any ideas, atleast not ideas that represent anything. This insistence derives from afundamental belief that representation must involve similarity of at leastsome kind, but there can be no similarity between the mental and the non-mental at least, not the kind of similarity that is required forrepresentation. Sensations, in particular, are in no way different from us,and . . . as a result can never represent anything different from ourselves.72

    What goes for sensations goes for minds in general: . . . as the soul is aparticular being, a limited being, it cannot have extension in it withoutbecoming material, without being composed of two substances . . . the soulcannot see in itself what it does not contain . . ..73

    Daisie Radner interprets Malebranche as assuming that the idea of Fmust itself be F: the idea of body must itself be corporeal, which is why themind cannot contain it.74 As Malebranche frames his argument at thispoint, he does seem to be relying upon such a dubious principle. However,the structure of his argument is really somewhat subtler. His point is thatideas as his opponents conceive them do entail such an absurd conclusion. Ifideas are really modes of the mind (or indeed of God), then they mustrepresent in virtue of sharing properties with their objects; so if you want tothink of ideas as modes of the mind, you must make the mind corporealwhenever it thinks of corporeal things. Since this would be absurd, ideascannot be modes of the mind. Indeed, not only is such an account absurd, itis self-defeating. If my idea of X were a mode of my mind, then (on the

    69Elucidation 10 L&O, p. 612.70La Recherche de la Verite III 2 vi L&O, pp. 2323.71Elucidation 10 L&O, pp. 6246.72Elucidation 10 L&O, p. 621.73Elucidation 10 L&O, p. 624.74D. Radner, Malebranche: A Study of a Cartesian System (Amsterdam: van Gorcum, 1978)

    512.

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  • assumption that ideas resemble their objects) I would think of X itself asdependent upon my mind; but I do not think of X in any such way:

    The soul does not contain intelligible extension as one of its modes because

    this extension is not perceived as a mode of the souls being, but simply as abeing. This extension is conceived by itself and without thinking of anythingelse; but modes cannot be conceived without perceiving the subject or being of

    which they are modes.75

    What we have, then, is a novel reworking of the RA. Like Foucher and theother sceptics, Malebranche defends the claim that representation must workby resemblance, and the claim that ideas in the mind cannot resemble externalobjects. His argument for this second claim, which is the main part of hisargument, is in some respects original, especially the insistence that bodies areintrinsically incapable of being represented. The other half of the argument to the effect that minds are intrinsically incapable of representing is more inline with the arguments we have seen from the sceptics. Either way, theconclusion is the same: mental ideas cannot represent physical objects.

    However, Malebranche then uses this conclusion in a highly original way.He takes it as a premise that ideas do in fact represent physical objects; hetherefore concludes that ideas are not mental. More precisely, they are notmodifications of the mind.76 Therefore, how can anything represent?Malebranche explains that all intentionality must derive from God:

    But, you will say, for these same reasons God would not be able to see Hiscreatures in Himself. This would be true if ideas of creatures were modification

    of His substance, but the Infinite Being is incapable of modifications. Godsideas of creatures are, as Saint Thomas says, only His essence, insofar as it isparticipable or imperfectly imitable, for God contains every creaturely

    perfection, though in a divine and infinite way; He is one and He is all.77

    If representation is a matter of resemblance, how can God representanything? Surely he resembles physical objects even less than created mindsdo. Malebranche answers that God can resemble things because theparticipation of created things in his essence means that there is a sort ofsimilarity between them. This is possible because of the infinity of God,which encompasses all things. Indeed, for Malebranche, anything whichpossesses a property to a perfect degree can be said to represent anythingelse which possesses that property to an imperfect degree. However, Godpossesses all perfections, so he represents all created things, which simply

    75Elucidation 10 L&O, p. 624.76Dialogue III in Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, edited by N. Jolley and D. Scott

    (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) 33.77Elucidation 10 L&O, p. 625.

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  • reflect Gods qualities more or less imperfectly. In scholastic terms, Godpossesses eminently whatever properties creatures possess formally, andbecause of this, he represents them.78 We, however, are finite and do notencompass all things; in other words, our essences are not related to otherthings in the same way that Gods is, which means that we cannot containideas as he does:

    Thus God sees in himself all possible beings, because he contains within hisessence the perfections of all these beings, as St Thomas says. But as our soul is

    a limited and particular being, as its essence can in no way be participated in orimitated by all creatures, it cannot see in itself any creature.79

    Therefore, we can have an idea of X only inasmuch as we are related to Godin a certain way. God is not simply the paradigm case of intentionality forMalebranche he is what makes intentionality in creatures possible too.When I think of X, my thought is of X not because of any intrinsicproperty of my thought or indeed of my mind; it is because my mind isrelated in a certain way to Gods idea of X. That idea, and not anything inmy mind, is what does the work of representation.

    In Malebranche, then, we have a dramatically original use of the RA thatwas being developed during this period by sceptical critics of Cartesianism.Like those critics, Malebranche insists that intentionality cannot simply be abasic function of mental acts or of ideas which cannot be explained, andagain like those critics, he argues that intentionality must involveresemblance. He draws the same conclusion that ideas, as conceived bythe Cartesians, cannot represent at all, but where the critics of Cartesianismleave it at that, Malebranche goes on to argue that, given that representationclearly does occur, ideas must exist but be radically different from how theCartesians have conceived of them. Ideas conceived as mental entitiescannot represent, but ideas conceived as existing in God can, because God isable in a way which is not possible for creatures to resemble everything.It is true, as Richard Popkin has claimed, that Malebranche showedpractically no interest in the writings of sceptics,80 at least to the extent thathe did not engage explicitly with their ideas and arguments. He wrote nolong attack upon Bayle, as Leibniz did in his Theodicee, and he did not evenbother to respond to Fouchers criticisms of his own work or Desgabetssdefence of it apart from a few dismissive comments about both of them atthe start of the second volume of the Recherche. However, if our analysishere is correct, then Malebranche was interested just as Berkeley wouldlater be in taking some of the sceptics ideas (without acknowledgement)and using them as part of an anti-sceptical argument.

    78See M. Cook, The Ontological Status of Malebranchean Ideas, Journal of the History of

    Philosophy, 36 (1998) No. 4: 5378.79Letter III, 19 March 1699 R IX, p. 955.80Popkin (2003) 255.

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  • IX

    We have traced versions of the RA in a number of sceptical and non-scepticalauthors in the final quarter of the seventeenth century. Could Berkeley havepicked it up from any of these figures? While he might have read HuetsCensura Philosophiae Cartesianae, it is very unlikely that he could have readthe Traite Philosophique de la Foiblesse de lEsprit Humain, given that althoughit was already written, it was not widely available. We do not know whetherBerkeley ever read Foucher or Du Hamel, but it has been known for a longtime that his main source for sceptical arguments was Bayles Dictionary.81 Innote B to his article on Pyrrho, Bayle restates Fouchers argument extendingthe Cartesian view of secondary properties to primary properties; he attributesthis argument, quite properly, to Foucher.82 The argument although not theattribution to Foucher appears again in note G to the article on Zeno.83

    However, neither in these articles nor anywhere else does Bayle reproduce theRA or anything like it, so Berkeley could not have known it from Bayle, atleast not directly. On the other hand, given that Berkeley appropriated theargument about primary and secondary qualities, it is perfectly possible that hemight have looked up the source Bayle gave and read Foucher for himself. Ifhe did that, then he could easily have picked up the RA from Foucher.

    However, the fact that Foucher gives the fullest version of the RA may initself be evidence that Berkeley did not get the argument from him. Berkeley,as we have seen, leaves out part of the argument at least as Foucher presentsit namely, the part showing that representation requires resemblance. Thereis, then, no clear evidence that Berkeley might have read the argument first-hand in sceptical authors. However, there are two other obvious methods bywhich he might have become aware of it. The first is by oral discussion. As Ihave mentioned, Foucher tells us that all learned societies were discussing thesorts of things he deals with in his criticism of Desgabets. Even if this was thecase in Paris in the 1670s, it does not follow that it was so in Dublin inthe 1700s. Certainly, there is no reason why the sceptical criticisms ofCartesianism in particular and dogmatic philosophy in general might nothave been known and discussed at Dublin when Berkeley was there.

    The second obvious method whereby Berkeley might have picked up theargument was in Malebranches Eclaircissements. Berkeley probably knewMalebranches Recherche de la Verite in the English translation by ThomasTaylor, which was published in 1694 (and again in 1700).84 That edition

    81On this, see R. Popkin, Berkeley and Pyrrhonism, The Review of Metaphysics, 5 (1951), No.

    2, and H. Bracken Berkeley and Skepticism: Berkeleys Diagnosis of Skepticism and his

    Proposed Cure, in Skepticism in Renaissance and Post-Renaissance Thought, edited by J. Maia

    Neto and R. Popkin (New York: Prometheus, 2004), esp. 18892, 195.82P. Bayle, The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr Peter Bayle, London IV (1734) p. 654.83Bayle (1734) V, p. 612.84See A. Luce, Berkeley and Malebranche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934) 4. The 1700

    edition was among the books that Berkeley later gave to the library at Yale see A. Keogh,

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 73

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  • contained the Eclaircissements. Moreover, as I have suggested, Malebranchedid not simply reproduce the argument but made a bold innovation in itsapplication: in his hands it became not an instrument of scepticism but atool for a new dogmatic philosophy. That was precisely what Berkeleyaimed to be doing with other sceptical arguments, such as the extension ofarguments about secondary qualities to primary qualities.

    Despite the parallels between Berkeleys version of the RA and those ofother authors, however, elements of Berkeleys version are certainly original,quite apart from the use to which he put the argument as a whole. Anexample is a new defence he offers of the claim that an idea can resembleonly another idea, an argument which does not appear in any of the otherauthors we have considered so far. It appears in the PhilosophicalCommentaries, but not in any of his published writings:

    16 Two things cannot be said to be alike or unalike till they have beencompard.

    17 Comparing is the viewing two ideas together, & marking wt they agree

    in & wt they disagree in.18 The mind can compare nothing but its own ideas.19 Nothing like an idea can be in an uperceiving thing.85

    As Kenneth Winkler notes, the argument seems verificationist in tone: ifBerkeley is to escape the obvious rejoinder that perhaps an idea canresemble its object without our ever being able to check, he needs to becommitted to the principle that the possibility of checking is part of what itis for an idea to resemble its object.86 Perhaps Berkeley omitted thisargument from his published writings because he felt that many of hisreaders would be unprepared to commit to that principle.87

    Bishop Berkeleys Gift of Books in 1733, The Yale University Library Gazette, 8 (1934) 12.

    Note also that page 15 of this text also lists an edition of Sextus Empiricus as among Berkeleys

    gifts to Yale.85Philosophical Commentaries x378. The argument is preceded by another which is effectively asketch version of the one that appears in the Principles and the Dialogues. Berkeley notes

    immediately after them that These arguments must be proposd shorter & more separate in the

    Treatise. Evidently he decided in the event to drop the second argument.86See K. Winkler, Berkeley: an Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989) 1467.87There may be another clue to his reasons for dropping the argument in his discussion in

    Dialogue I (L&J II, pp. 2034) about Caesars picture, and what the difference is between

    someone who sees the picture and thinks of Caesar and someone who sees the picture but knows

    nothing of Caesar. Berkeley argues that the difference is that the former uses his reason and

    memory to link the picture to its original, whereas the latter, having no knowledge of Caesar,

    does not. But this discussion, and especially the choice of example, seems to undermine the

    argument of the Philosophical Commentaries. If it is possible to recognize a picture of Caesar as

    being of Caesar, then the recognition of the likeness between them let alone the existence of

    that likeness itself cannot depend upon a prior comparison, because no one alive in Berkeleys

    day could have seen the real Caesar. Berkeleys appeal to reason in addition to memory

    suggests this: the viewer of the picture might, perhaps, realize that it depicts Caesar because of

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  • X

    How can we account for the incompleteness of the RA in Berkeley? Webegan by noting that he argues for the claim that an idea cannot resembleany supposed external object, and concludes that it cannot represent anysuch object; but he does not offer any argument for the claim thatrepresentation requires resemblance in the first place. Winkler argues thatBerkeley rejects any alternative account of representation because he iscommitted to two principles: first, when we perceive something, we perceiveit absolutely and not relatively; and second, when we perceive something,the mind is passive, not active. If ideas were to represent external objects invirtue of being caused by them, these conditions would not be met, becausewe would effectively be inferring the existence of the objects from the ideas and that would not be perception. Such a relation would therefore beinsufficient for representation to occur.88

    However, although such considerations may well underlie Berkeleysthinking, he does not frame any argument of this kind. In fact, Berkeley wasnot alone in missing out this step of the RA. Foucher, who gives the fullestversion of the RA, defends this point in a cursory fashion in his Critique;only in the Reponse does he present a fuller defence in response toDesgabetss arguments. Du Hamel and Huet omit this step entirely; theyassume that a proof that (Cartesian) ideas cannot resemble their objectsamounts to a proof that they cannot represent them. Malebranche, too,insists that there can be no similarity between mental modifications andexternal objects, and concludes that mental modifications cannot representexternal objects, which means not that our ideas cannot represent (as thesceptics would have it) but that our ideas, which do represent, are notmental modifications. He, too, says little to support the notion thatrepresentation requires resemblance. The conclusion is evident: for thesephilosophers, representation must be about resemblance. The point is soclear to them that they rarely bother to argue for it. This is particularlyobvious in the case of Du Hamel. He argued against Regis the familiarpoint that Cartesian ideas cannot represent external objects because theycannot resemble them. Regis retorted that he had never suggested thatrepresentation is a matter of resemblance at all, and went on to sketch analternative theory. In other words, Du Hamel assumed that a Cartesian wascommitted to a resemblance theory of representation, an assumption sodeep that he thought he saw such a theory even when it was absent.

    features of the image that he knows are associated with Caesar, such as the outfit, stance,

    lettering, and so on. There is no need to have seen Caesar himself, or even to know what he

    really looked like, to do this. If this is so, then Berkeley realized (I think rightly) that the claim

    that similarity depends upon comparison was insupportable, which is why the argument of the

    Philosophical Commentaries does not appear in his published works.88Winkler (1989) 1389.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 75

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  • That assumption was not an entirely unwarranted one. Our brief outlineof Descartess understanding of representation indicates that the Cartesiantradition included a strong tendency to the view that resemblance is at leastnecessary for representation. Desgabets, for one, defended an extremeversion of that theory, according to which resemblance is both necessaryand sufficient for representation, and causation is completely irrelevant, andFoucher tells us that his views were very common. Even if that is true, thesceptics were still guilty of a misrepresentation of their own even acaricature. Regiss indignant response to Du Hamel illustrates this well.Indeed, Regiss claim that the representational nature of ideas is afundamental, inexplicable mental feature is very similar to the theory thatAntoine Arnauld defended in his Des Vraies et des Fausses Idees.89 Regisand Arnauld, at least, would not have recognized the theory ofrepresentation that the sceptics sought to saddle them with.90 Evidently,there was disagreement among the Cartesians about the nature ofrepresentation, but the anti-Cartesians sought to tar them all with the samebrush of the resemblance theory.

    This, then, is the context in which we should understand Berkeley. I statedat the beginning that Berkeley seems to hold a resemblance theory ofrepresentation as a suppressed premise; he neither argues for it nor states itat all in his published work; but he does at least articulate it in his originaldraft of the introduction to the Principles:

    Any name may be used indifferently for the sign of any idea, or any number of

    ideas, it not being determind by any likeness to represent one more thananother. But it is not so with ideas in respect of things, of which they aresupposd to be the copies & images. They are not thought to represent them

    any otherwise, than as they resemble them. Whence it follows, that an idea isnot capable of representing indifferently any thing or number of things it beinglimited by the likeness it beares to some particular existence, to represent it

    rather than any other.91

    Winkler suggests that this does not appear in the published introduction tothe Principles partly because there, Berkeley does not want to encouragematerialism or prematurely introduce immaterialism.92 An equally reason-able explanation is that Berkeley omitted it simply because he thought itsuperfluous. This passage suggests that resemblance is the only availabletheory of representation. That is a remarkable thing for anyone who hadread Locke to think, given that Locke rejects such a theory, although he also

    89E. Kremer, On True and False Ideas (Lampeter: Mellen, 1990) 67.90Louis de La Forge and Jacques Rohault were also Cartesians who rejected the resemblance

    theory of representation, regarding it as scholastic. See Watson (1966) 714.91First Draft L&J II, p. 129.92Winkler (1989) 1112.

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  • testifies to its popularity.93 It would be entirely natural for anyone familiarwith the Cartesian tradition and especially the sceptical criticism of thattradition.

    By placing Berkeley within this dual tradition of Cartesianism and thesceptical attack upon it I do not suggest that Berkeley was either aCartesian or a sceptic. Harry Bracken has argued at length thatCartesianism without material substance is what Berkeley seeks toproduce.94 That seems to me to take things too far. I suggest that, as faras his use of the RA goes, Berkeley fits in not as a Cartesian but as a criticof Cartesianism; like those critics, he assumes a resemblance theory ofrepresentation. Like Malebranche, he adapts this anti-Cartesian argumentof the sceptics into an argument for a positive and original position. Byrelating Berkeley to the sceptics in this way, we can explain the missingelement of his version of the RA and fill it in both historically andphilosophically. From a historical point of view, he omitted it simplybecause a resemblance theory of representation seemed obvious to him, andit did so because it was part and parcel of the sceptical tradition he inherited.From a philosophical point of view, the hole in his argument can thereforebe patched up with the arguments for a resemblance theory of representa-tion found in Foucher, Desgabets and the others. Whether that makes theRA itself, or Berkeleys version of it, a good argument is, of course, anothermatter.95

    Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford

    93Essay Concerning Human Understanding II 8 x7.94H. Bracken, Berkeley (London: Macmillan, 1974) 155.95I would like to thank Cecilia Wee, and an anonymous reader for The British Journal for the

    History of Philosophy, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

    BERKELEYS MISSING ARGUMENT 77

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