Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

29 63 it may indeed sometimes be necessary that the

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Unformatted text preview: n showing how a particular phenomenon conforms to the general laws of nature, or (which is the same thing) in revealing the uniformity there is in the production of natural effects. Anyone can see this who attends to particular explanations that scientists have offered for phenomena. I showed in section 31 that the regular constant methods of working that the supreme agent keeps to have a great and obvious usefulness to us. And it is no less obvious that a particular size, shape, motion, and structure, though not absolutely necessary for any effect, are necessary for the effect to be produced according to the standing mechanical laws of nature. Thus, for instance, it cannot be denied that God (the intelligence that sustains and rules the ordinary course of things) could produce a miracle if he wanted to, causing all the motions on the dial of a watch, though nobody had ever supplied it with a working mechanism; but if he is to act in conformity with the rules of mechanism, established and maintained by him for wise ends, it is necessary that those actions of the watchmaker in which he makes and then adjusts the machinery precede the movements of the hands on the dial; and also that any disorder in those movement be accompanied by the perception of some corresponding disorder in the machinery, the correction of which cures the disorder. 29 63. It may indeed sometimes be necessary that the author of nature display his overruling power in producing some appearance that does not fit his ordinary pattern of events. Such exceptions from the general rules of nature are proper to surprise and awe men into an acknowledgment of the divine being; but then they are not to be used often, for if they were they would fail to have that effect. Besides, God seems to prefer Ÿconvincing our reason about what he is like through the works of nature, which reveal so much harmony and ingenuity in their structure and are such plain indications of wisdom and good-will in their author, to Ÿastonishing us by anomalous and surprising events into believing that he exists. 64. The objection brought in section 60 really amounts only to the following. Ideas are not produced anyhow and at random; there is a certain order and connection amongst them, like that of cause and effect; and they come in various combinations that are put together in a very regular manner as though by design. These combinations seem like instruments in the hand of nature. Hidden behind the scenes, so to speak, they secretly operate in producing the appearances that are seen on the world’s stage, though they themselves are detected only by the scientist who looks for them. But since one idea cannot cause another, what is the purpose of this order and connection? Since those ‘instruments in the hand of nature’ are mere powerless perceptions in the mind, and so cannot help in the production of natural effects, I am being asked why they exist at all. That is to ask why it is that when we closely inspect God’s works He causes us to observe such a great variety of ideas, inter-related in ways that are so regular and look so much like the result of a designer’s skill. It is not credible that He would to no purpose put himself to the expense (so to speak) of all that skillful design and regularity. 65. ·My answer to all this has two parts·. First, Ÿthe connection of ideas does not imply the relation of cause and effect, but only of a mark or sign with the thing signified. The fire I see is not the cause of the pain I suffer when I come too close, but a sign that warns me of that pain. Similarly, the noise that I hear is not an effect of a collision of nearby bodies, but a sign of it. Secondly, Ÿthe reason why ideas are formed into machines, that is, regular combinations that manifest a designer’s skill, is the same as the reason why letters are combined into words. If a few basic ideas are to signify a great number of effects and actions, there must be different ways of combining them; if these combinations are to be usable by everyone, they must be contrived wisely ·so that they can carry vast amounts of information yet still be understood by us·; and if they are to be always available and helpful, they must be governed by rules ·that do not change from time to time·. In this way we are given a great deal of information about what to expect from such and such actions, and how to go about arousing such and such ideas. And really that is all that is clearly meant when people say that by finding out the shape, texture, and structure of the inner parts of bodies, whether natural or artificial, we can discover what the thing is really like and how it can be used. 66. Hence it is evident that things that are Ÿthe wholly inexplicable source of great absurdities when they regarded as causes that help to produce effects, can be Ÿvery naturally explained, and have a proper and obvious use assigned them, when they are considered only as marks or signs for our information. What the scientist ought to be doing is to detect and decipher those signs (th...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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