Mind Dependence

Course description

In this course we will consider how philosophers have defended the mind-dependence of some or all objects of experience. In its most extreme forms, such defences of mind-dependence result in Idealistic views about the nature of reality as we know it. But the more widely accepted distinction between primary and secondary qualities of experience equally reduces important features of the world to mere modifications of mind or experience. In this course we will consider different discussions about mind dependence, and consider whether arguments for the mind-dependence of some phenomenon are sound, and whether their conclusions are as problematic as some philosophers have claimed. We will begin by considering the discussion about primary and secondary qualities, and move on to contrast a Naïve Realism about the objects of experience with two forms of Idealism that have been proposed as surperior theories.

Feel free to contact me at ms2416@cam.ac.uk if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about this course.

General reading

  • Nolan, Lawrence (ed.). 2011. Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate, Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge. Also available online at: www.dawsonera.com.
  • George Berkeley, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Also available online at: www.dawsonera.com.
  • Campbell, John and Quassim Cassam. Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us?. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Online resources

Outlines and handouts will be made available on:

http://msteenhagen.github.io/teaching/2016mde/

Where and when

Friday 2-3. Lecture Block Room 1


Lecture 1: Drawing the Primary/Secondary Quality distinction

The qualities we experience objects to have are varied. But many philosophers think that we can distinguish two kinds of qualities: the primary ones and the secondary ones. In many ways the distinction between primary and secondary qualities still underpins much of our thinking about the mind, perception, and consciousness. In this lecture we will consider the motivations for the distinction, and different ways of drawing it. (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Nolan, Lawrence (ed.). 2011. Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate, Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Burnyeat, Myles. ‘Conflicting Appearances’. Proceedings of the British Academy 65 (1979): pp. 69-111.
  • Hyman, John. The Objective Eye. University of Chicago Press, 2006. CHS 1-2

Lecture 2: Undoing the Primary/Secondary Quality distinction

In this lecture we will consider in what ways one can resist the distinction between Primary and Secondary qualities. In The Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley argues against the distinction, and concludes that both qualities are mind-dependent. Others agree that the distinction is suspect, but deny that either primary or secondary qualities are mind-dependent. (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge. Also available online at: www.dawsonera.com.
  • Hyman, John. The Objective Eye. University of Chicago Press, 2006. CHS 1-2
  • Martin, M.G.F. ‘What’s in a Look’ in: Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 160-225. (This is a long and difficult article.)

Lecture 3: Berkeley’s Puzzle

In this lecture we will discuss how Berkeley’s arguments seem to lead to a puzzle about our knowledge of a mind-independent world. If sensory experience only affords us knowledge of what it is like to experience the world, then how can we ever know what the world is like independent of the mind? (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge. Also available online at: www.dawsonera.com.
  • Campbell, John and Quassim Cassam. Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us?. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Rickless, Samuel C. ‘The Argument for Idealism in the First Dialogue’ In Berkeley’s Argument for Idealism. Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 138–87.

Lecture 4: Idealism

If all objects of perception and knowledge are mind-dependent, then it seems idealism is true. In this lecture we consider different types of idealism, their motivations, and which is ultimately the most attractive. (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Foster, John. ‘The Succinct Case for Idealism’ in Howard Robinson (ed.) Objections to Physicalism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, pp. 293–315.
  • Moore, G.E. ‘The Refutation of Idealism’, Mind, New Series, 12, no. 48 (1903), pp. 433–53.
  • Russell, Bertrand. ‘Idealism’ In The Problems of Philosophy. Williams and Norgate, 1912.
  • Sprigge, Timothy. ‘Idealism’ in Richard M. Gale (ed.) The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics, 1998, pp. 219–41. doi:10.10029780470998984