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Berkeley's IdealismA Critical Examination$
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Georges Dicker

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381467

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381467.001.0001

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The Argument from the Ego-centric Predicament

The Argument from the Ego-centric Predicament

(p.139) 6 The Argument from the Ego-centric Predicament
Berkeley's Idealism

Georges Dicker

Oxford University Press

In both the Principles sections 2223 and the First Dialogue, Berkeley offers an argument that he regards as so unanswerable that he says, “I am content to put the whole upon this issue.” This is his notorious “master argument” or, as the author calls it (using an older label) the “ego-centric predicament.” The nerve of the argument is that one cannot conceive of a thing existing unthought‐of, or unconceived, or out of relation to a mind, because one is then conceiving it oneself. This chapter makes a standard criticism of this argument—that it turns on an ambiguity in “conceiving X existing unconceived,” but tries to formulate it in a newly perspicuous way that invokes an analogy with an “argument from the photographic predicament,” and that puts the argument into a standard premise-conclusion format and shows it to be unsound without invoking technical points of logic.

Keywords:   master argument, André Gallois, ego-centric predicament, Ralph Barton Perry, conceiving X existing unconceived, photographic predicament, imagining versus conceiving, Kant, conceiving as conferring, selecting a property

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