Berkeley's contemporaries commonly held that a thing's qualities belong to it by virtue of inhering in a substance or substratum that is not identical with any of its qualities or any collection of qualities. Locke, who was a reluctant advocate of this substance theory, famously characterized substance/substratum as a “supposed, I know not what” that supports a thing's qualities. In his Principles Berkeley rejected this view as unintelligible, and in the First Dialogue he backed up this rejection with an ingenious infinite-regress argument. This chapter analyzes his critique and offers a step-by-step reconstruction of the regress argument. It argues that although the argument is effective against the substance theory, it does not refute materialism or support idealism because one can believe in matter without accepting the substance theory—one can hold bundle theory. As Bennett has shown, Berkeley conflates the belief in matter with the belief in “material substance.”
Keywords: substance theory, bundle theory, argument from change, J. L. Mackie, logico-linguistic argument, Bishop of Stillingfleet, reference versus description, spread under, supports, infinite regress
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