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In Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous Berkeley attempts to show that believing in mind-independent matter leads to absurdity and skepticism Berkeley invites us to accept instead the doctrine of idealism where the only things that exist are minds and ideas Philonous - the spokesperson for Berkeleys considered view - uses several different kinds of argument to convince Hylas of idealism In this paper I will investigate one type of argument that Philonous offers Philonous claims that we cannot form abstract ideas and suggests that the impossibility of abstract ideas deprives Hylas of an otherwise promising conception of mind-independent matter pp 28-30 I will show that contrary to Philonous claims abstract ideas are possible This will not by itself prove that matter exists If I am right however then Hylas can argue that our idea of matter is an abstract idea Berkeley must offer some reason to reject abstract ideas In order to understand the importance of this for Berkeleys project we need to consider Philonous primary strategy of argumentation In the first dialogue Philonous invites Hylas to consider his ideas of sensible things In plainer language we may say that Philonous invites Hylas to consider the kinds of ideas that his senses give him Unsurprisingly senses deliver sensible ideas such as smells tastes and visual images Philonous then points out that on this conception of sensible things Hylas does not have a sensible idea of the cause of his sensible ideas p 10 For example in considering the heat of a fire Philonous argues that Hylas has a sensible idea of heat as a pain and a sensible idea of the appearance of the flame but that there is no sensible idea of the cause of the heat p 11 Likewise Hylas idea of a sound is not an idea of the motion of the air p 17 Even though we think that the motion of the air is the cause of sounds
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