History of Psychology 2008
TA: Michelle Hilscher
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
Office hours: Wed 1-2; Thurs 12-1
Office hours: Wed 12-2 pm
Benjafield’s History of Psychology
Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753)
George Berkeley, also known as Bishop
Berkeley, was an influential Irish philosopher
whose primary philosophical achievement is
the advancement of what has come to be
called subjective idealism, summed up in his
dictum, “Esse est percipi” (“To be is to be
perceived”). The theory states that individuals
can only directly know sensations and ideas
of objects, not abstractions such as “matter”.
He wrote a number of works, the most widely read of which are
his New Theory of Vision (1909), Treatise Concerning the
Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Three Dialogues
between Hylas and Philonous (1713) (Philonous, the “lover of the
mind”, representing Berkeley himself and Hylas, named after
the ancient Greek word for matter, representing the ideas of
Locke). In 1734 he published The Analyst, a critique of the
foundations of science, which was very influential in the
subsequent development of mathematics.
The city of Berkeley, California is named after him, by virtue of it
growing up around the university there that was named after
him, but the pronunciation of its name has evolved to suit
American English. A residential college in Yale University also
bears his name, as does the copyright library at Trinity College
He published his major works by the time he was 25 years old.
Interestingly, he also sought to found a university for Indians
and colonists in Bermuda.
He knew little about ancient philosophies but he knew Descartes
and Locke thoroughly.
His major principle reflected the fact that he denied matter as
such and affirmed mind as the immediate reality.
Locke denied the innate ideas of Descartes but did not transcend
this dualism. There were still two worlds, the one knowing about
the other through experience.
Berkeley cut the knot. The ideas themselves are the one thing of
which we are aware.
Esse est Percipi (to be is to be perceived).
He argued that all qualities of perception, primary and
secondary, are dependent on the observer thereby destroying the
So the problem is not (1) how mind relates to matter (Descartes)
nor (2) how matter generates mind (Locke) but rather (3) how
mind generates matter (Berkeley).
But this radical approach leads to solipsism, the belief that
there is only one mind in which other minds exist only as ideas.
As a consequence, collective thought is abolished. This position
is not capable of disproof. It is merely a reductio ad absurdum.
He felt that this approach would resolve problems in visual
perception such as illusions.
Example 1: Distance
Consider the size of the moon and its distance from the earth.
The idea that it is just so big and of such a distance from the
earth cannot apply to the visible moon “which is only a round
luminous plane of so many (30) visible points in diameter.”
If someone were taken closer to it, the
moon would have changed and
appeared larger. So perception is not
an illusion when esse est percipi: it is
the consistency of objects that is the
Berkeley emphasizes the creation of
perceptions by the mind.
Distance itself cannot be seen in the sense that a tape measure
extends from the eye to the object. Rather, it is an act of
judgment based on experience. The perception of distance is a
matter of sensation or idea.
Continuing Example 1: Distance
Secondary criteria of distance perception,
including interposition, aerial perspective,
relative size, and light and shade, play a
critical role. (Relative movement has recently
Primary criteria include:
1. Converging distance between the pupils
when objects approach.
2. Blurring when the object is too close to the
eyes (but objects blur at a distance as well).
3. Straining of the eyes to keep them from
Example 2: Magnitude
One might suppose that magnitude could be directly perceived
from a true image on the retina. This would be according to
Locke’s approach and the concept of primary properties but
Berkeley did not believe in this.
1. Magnitude is not directly perceived because it depends on
distance which is a matter of judgment.
2. Perceived magnitude does not correspond to the geometry of
space. There is a minimum visible and tangible. This is the
psychological principle of the limen (or threshold).
So mind generates matter and we substitute for a theory of
knowledge about objects a psychological description of objects.
These ideas or descriptions are formed through experience and
so Berkeley is clearly an empiricist.
His theory of objects is associationist. The problem of meaning is
resolved through the association of ideas.
Aristotle has made the primary division of 5 senses and had the
common sense to integrate them.
Locke emphasized the sensory nature of ideas.
Berkeley insisted that ideas were the most important but
separated them according to the different senses. Accordingly,
vision and touch are prior to form. There are no abstract forms.
In terms of associationism: We hear the coach, then see it, then
feel it. Since the sensations are observed to constantly go
together, they are spoken of as relating to one and the same
thing… in this case, the coach.
This anticipates Piaget’s concept of sensorimotor relations
and the emergence of the schemas!
1. In relation to emotion judgment, we perceive the feelings of
another person through changes in the colour of the person’s
2. In relation to language, meanings are attached to words
through a process of learning or association.
David Hume (April 26, 1711 - August 25, 1776)
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, economist, & historian,
as well as an important figure of Western philosophy and of the
Scottish Enlightenment. Although in recent years, interest in
Hume’s works has centred on his philosophical writing, it was as
an historian that he gained his initial fame and his History of
Great Britain was the standard work on English history for sixty
or seventy years until superseded by the History of England by
Historians most famously see Humean philosophy as a
thoroughgoing form of skepticism, but many commentators have
argued that the element of naturalism has no less importance in
Hume’s philosophy. Hume scholarship has tended to oscillate
over time between those who emphasize the skeptical side of
Hume (such as the logical positivists) and those who emphasize
the naturalist side (such as Don Garrett, Norman Kemp Smith,
Mark Powell, Kerri Skinner, Barry Stroud, and Galen Strawson).
Hume was heavily influenced by empiricists John Locke and
George Berkeley, along with various Francophone writers such
as Pierre Bayle, and various figures on the Anglophone
intellectual landscape such as Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke,
Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and Joseph Butler.
He was Berkeley’s successor. Like Berkeley, he was precocious
and developed in relative isolation. He was extremely ambitious,
a perfectionist with a restless and nervous personality.
At the age of 28 he published three volumes titled A Theory on
* He preserved the tradition that philosophy is basically
* He re-emphasized Locke’s notion of the compounding of simple
ideas into complex ideas.
* He developed and made more explicit the notion of association.
* He made an important direct contribution to modern
psychology in his clear distinction between sensations and
impressions, ideas or images.
The distinction between impressions and ideas was fundamental.
He sought to restore the word to its original meaning which was
altered by Locke who used the term to include sensation.
- An idea is the experience we have in the absence of its object.
- An impression is the experience we have in the presence of its
Both ideas and impressions are different kinds of experiences
and were included by Locke under the term idea.
What is the difference between impressions and ideas?
The difference lies in their relative vivacity.
The impressions (sensations, passions, and emotions) are more
vigorous, lively, and violent compared with ideas. Ideas are
relatively weak and faint and are used for reasoning and
But: The faintest impression may be weaker than the strongest
idea. He was aware that ideas in dreams, madness and violent
emotion may approach the intensity of impressions. But he said
that generally they are different in intensity. He also saw them as
qualitatively different. He said that ideas are faint copies of
In addition, both impressions and ideas may be simple or
- A simple idea always resembles a simple impression.
- A complex idea, since it may be constituted of simple ideas in a
novel manner, need not resemble an impression.
- He regarded impressions as causing their corresponding ideas.
So the world of real objects cannot be more tangible that the
ideas which constitute man’s belief in it.
If we reject innate ideas and primary or secondary qualities,
what is left? Nothing but an ordered array of mental contents.
What does he mean by causal relations?
Hume thought of association as an attraction or “gentle force”
among ideas whereby they unite or cohere. This is a form of
Two laws of association:
2. Contiguity in time or space
Cause and effect are always contiguous in time or space.
The perceived cause is always prior to the effect.
If all knowledge comes through the senses, through what sense
is the notion of causality perceived? He did not want a
subordinate rational faculty.
Necessary connection is a result of constant pairing of cause and
effect… a “constant conjunction” of the two events.
The perception of cause and effect is therefore based on
psychological experience. Causality is a mental habit!
Philosophically this is also related to a kind of skepticism. The
world of real objects cannot be formally certified as anything
more tangible than the ideas which constitute man’s belief in it.
This led to doubt about the existence of g-d, the external world,
or the personal ego.
There can be no experience of a continuous entity called the self.
The self is an abstraction from particular experiences. We have
only data and not constructs. We, as empiricists, can only
believe those constructs that represent sensory impression
(perceptions of hot-cold, light-shade, pain-pleasure and each
quality is experienced in isolation).
* Rationalism goes back to Plato and particularly to Aristotle’s
doctrine of the rational “soul” as something above the nutritive
and sensory functions of the individual.
Rationalists believe in a special mental substance with its own
inherent properties and which cannot be reduced to matter.
* Christian theologians kept the idea alive during the Middle Ages.
However, they emphasized destiny rather than nature and its
* Descartes also described a thinking substance, res cogitans,
which was distinct from physical matter. I am speaking of a nonmaterial rational principle that reveals itself in the facts of
* The Empiricists had asserted that Aristotle’s five senses were
the sole source of knowledge.
* Opposed to this are mental faculties or functions or activities
which can be classified and which imply pre-existing mental
* They are revealed in experience but not created by experience. A
faculty psychology does not deny the importance of observation.
Rather, we must have a complete inventory of psychological