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Having an Idea of Matter: A Peircean Refutation of Berkeleyan Immaterialism

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 67, Number 2, April 2006
pp. 291-313 | 10.1353/jhi.2006.0020


This paper explores Berkeley's denial of matter in the light of criticisms voiced by Charles S. Peirce, who wrote two extensive review essays, one in 1871 and one in 1901, on the Fraser editions of Berkeley's Works. Elaborating upon Peirce's criticisms and utilizing Peirce's semiotics and pragmatism (two doctrines for which Peirce gives partial credit to Berkeley), it is shown that Berkeley's argument against matter is inconclusive, that the hypothesis of matter can be made to fit within Berkeley's thought, and that doing so need not undermine the latter's esse is percipi doctrine.

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