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Philosophy

“Berkeley on the Heterogeneity of the Senses”, Honors Thesis Presented by Bridger Ehli

Date: 3:30pm PDT April 21 Location: JRHH 202

JRHH 202

In his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, George Berkeley presents a revolutionary theory of visual perception. Central to this theory is what scholars have dubbed the “Heterogeneity Thesis,” which Berkeley calls the “main part and pillar” of his theory. This thesis is often interpreted as the claim that there are no common sensibles––that the sensible qualities we touch, for example, are not the sensible qualities we see. On the face of it, the thesis appears to be false, or at least to depart from common sense: we think we often see and touch the same quality or the same object. The aim of this paper is not to defend the Heterogeneity Thesis but to answer a series of questions: what is the Heterogeneity Thesis, what role does it play in Berkeley’s theory of perceptual experience, and why did he view it as the main part and pillar of his theory? I argue that Berkeley adopts several versions of the Heterogeneity Thesis, and that each version plays a crucial role in Berkeley’s story of how we navigate a spatial world, visually.

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