Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics by Douglas M. Jesseph

By Douglas M. Jesseph

In this primary glossy, severe overview of where of arithmetic in Berkeley's philosophy and Berkeley's position within the historical past of arithmetic, Douglas M. Jesseph presents a daring reinterpretation of Berkeley's paintings. Jesseph demanding situations the existing view that Berkeley's mathematical writings are peripheral to his philosophy and argues that arithmetic is actually vital to his proposal, constructing out of his critique of abstraction. Jesseph's argument situates Berkeley's rules in the better ancient and highbrow context of the medical Revolution.

Jesseph starts with Berkeley's radical competition to the acquired view of arithmetic within the philosophy of the overdue 17th and early eighteenth centuries, whilst arithmetic was once thought of a "science of abstractions." for the reason that this view heavily conflicted with Berkeley's critique of summary rules, Jesseph contends that he was once compelled to come back up with a nonabstract philosophy of arithmetic. Jesseph examines Berkeley's designated remedies of geometry and mathematics and his well-known critique of the calculus in The Analyst.

By placing Berkeley's mathematical writings within the viewpoint of his better philosophical undertaking and studying their influence on eighteenth-century British arithmetic, Jesseph makes a huge contribution to philosophy and to the heritage and philosophy of science.

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On the whole I think that Berkeley makes a strong case against certain extreme versions of the abstractionist thesis, but it is not clear that he can embarrass every variety of abstractionism. In fact, there are moderate versions of the abstractionist thesis which are close to his own view, so that his claim to have refuted all varieties of the doctrine of abstract ideas is rather overblown. This can best be seen by presenting his central argument and noting how a defender of the doctrine of abstract ideas could avoid much of its force.

Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics Account: ns148561 Copyright © 1993. University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. S. or applicable copyright law. • 39 • Abstraction and the Berkeleyan Philosophy of Mathematics attacks consisted of the charge that there is nothing in the world to correspond to these terms and that these meaningless words had introduced an intolerable confusion into philosophy. Malebranche spent a good deal of time attacking abuses of abstraction, but antischolastic polemics were hardly unique to Malebranche or the Cartesians.

This shift can only be allowed if something analogous to premise c is employed. Berkeley follows a parallel strategy when he characterizes the abstract general idea of man. He begins with the claim that the mind can observe resemblances between men but then claims that the abstract general idea of man must be the idea of a generic man, or an idea "wherein all the particulars equally partake, abstracting entirely from and cutting off all those circumstances and differences, which might determine it to any particular existence" (Introduction, §9).

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