Michael Kaiser

PHIL 101 Creative Project 1

September 25, 2015

Instructor Reyes Espinoza

Locke’s Story

At three in the afternoon when school let out, I was waiting for my friend Berkeley as he packed up his books at his locker. Berkeley had the habit of meticulously going through all of his books and deciding whether or not he would need to bring each one home.

B: I know I’ll need this one.

Berkeley said, holding up his Earth science book. I looked at him skeptically.

D: What makes you so sure? Do you have any epistemological argument for knowing this? You have no knowledge of the future, do you? Then what makes you so certain that you will need this book?

B: Well, Monsieur Descartes, let me begin by stating what we must obviously accept as true. Objects take up space

D: Yes, of course. Objects have extension.

B: yes, and they have shape, quantity, and color.

D: And we can agree that cogito ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.

B: That’s your Archimedean Point.

D: Not to mention our clear and distinct perceptions must be veridical.

B: And how do you propose we can penetrate the veil of perception? Or do you subscribe to solipsism?

At that moment, Locke, the school custodian walked by.

L: Please don’t tell me you believe in solipsism.

D: Well, then could you please tell us how to penetrate the veil of perception?

L: Certainly, sir. But I warn you, it may require a step beyond reason alone. That is, I will argue from experience, an a posteriori argument.

D: For the sake of your argument you may, but I will refute it with an a priori argument, that is, with reason alone.

L: Very well, then. The mind begins as a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Our understanding (nearly all of it), comes from experience. Forget solipsism. Let us explore the solution to the problem of perception known as limited representationalism. Consider how our perceptions are largely beyond our control, yet exhibit pattern and coherence. This is because they are caused by material substance (let’s call this matter) that exists independently of our minds. Be careful not to confuse my view with naïve representationalism. I concede that not every perception accurately represents the matter that caused it. For this reason, I distinguish between primary and secondary qualities of objects.

D: I know. Primary qualities accurately represent the qualities of the perception.

L: Right, things such as extension, quantity, shape, size, and motion, are primary qualities.

D: And secondary qualities do not accurately represent the qualities of the perception.

L: Things such as: color, taste, smell, and warmth or coldness. Furthermore, I concede that knowledge gained from perception will probably not be absolutely certain. But it is still secure enough to be accepted as true.

At that instant, Berkeley spoke up.

B: Well, Locke, we agree on some points, but your argument fails, I’m afraid. Let me give it a crack. My philosophy is called idealism. But, people also refer to it as immaterialism or subjective idealism. You must first be aware, Mr. Locke, that I oppose solipsism. I hold that we do have knowledge of physical objects. Let me explain. Everything that exists is either a mind or the contents of a conscious mind.

L: Esse est percipi, to be is to be perceived.

B: Exactly! However, you must be aware that matter does not exist! It is a philosopher’s myth.

L: You crazy fool! Please do go on; you’re amusing me!

B: Don’t speak so fast, sir. Stuff is an idea. That means things are made of ideas; not matter.

As you can imagine, the Berkeley/Locke debate went on for much longer. I let them argue. I had my own philosophical inquiries to attend to.

The Analysis of this Project:

Here in this skit, I attempt to explain the three major epistemological arguments: Descartes’s rationalism, Locke’s limited representationalism, and Berkeley’s idealism. Each of these three arguments has significant impact on epistemology as a whole, continuing to shape philosophical thinking even today. It’s important to understand such arguments because they have great significance for philosophical studies in other branches. My hope in writing this skit was to make the complex ideas represented by each of these argument clearer and easier to understand.


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