Some Further Developments

Nicholas Jolley

in The Light of the Soul

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198238195
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597824 | DOI:
 Some Further Developments

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Historians of the ‘way of ideas’ tradition face a danger of falling into two opposite errors. On the one hand, by being overimpressed by the fact that they all define ideas in terms of objects of the understanding, scholars may be tempted to lump Locke, Berkeley, and Malebranche together as champions of a single theory; on the other hand, by being overimpressed by the fact that Locke, Berkeley, and Arnauld are all critics of Malebranche's theory of ideas, they may be tempted to infer that the theory of ideas as objects of some sort was not as prominent as is often supposed. In this chapter, I want to steer a middle course between these two errors by examining the reactions of Locke, Berkeley, and Reid to Malebranche's theory of ideas. I shall argue that Locke and Berkeley are critical of Malebranche not because he thought ideas are objects but because he thought they are not mental objects, and that Reid regarded this aspect of Malebranche's theory of ideas as a positive recommendation. I conclude by noting that the debate did not become central again in philosophy until the time of Frege and Husserl when the issues could be discussed without theological trappings.

Keywords: Berkeley; Frege; Husserl; ideas; Kant; mental objects; Reid; sentiments; way of ideas; Wittgenstein; Yolton

Chapter.  5252 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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