'94 UCSC Philosophy Major Becko Copenhaver: Berkeley on the Language of Nature and the Objects of Vision

Philosophy Colloquium

January 17, 2014


Thursday, Feb 20


Humanities 2, 259


Berkeley holds that vision, in isolation, presents only color and light. He also claims that typical perceivers experience distance, figure, magnitude, and situation visually. The question posed in New Theory is how we perceive by sight spatial features that are not, strictly speaking, visible. Berkeley’s answer is “that the proper objects of vision constitute an universal language of the Author of nature.” For typical humans, this language of vision comes naturally. Berkeley identifies two sorts of objects of vision: primary (light and colors) and secondary (distance, figure, magnitude, situation). But Berkeley also appeals to a third class of a different sort: visible figure, magnitude, and situation, constituting the vocabulary of the language of vision. By considering two perceivers who lack this vocabulary we may better understand this third category and the difference between those who must learn the language of vision and those for whom it is a natural endowment.

Read the paper here: Berkeley on the Language of Nature and the Objects of Vision


Rebecca Copenhaver is Professor of Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College, where she has taught since 2001. Her research interests are in Early Modern Philosophy, Thomas Reid, and Philosophy of Mind. Her work has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Res Philosophica, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Quarterly, History of Philosophy Quarterly, The Journal of the History of Philosophy, The British Journal for the History of Philosophy, and The Oxford Handbook on British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. She is co-author with Brian P. Copenhaver of From Kant to Croce: Modern Philosophy in Italy, 1800 – 1950 (University of Toronto Press, 2012). She is currently writing a book on Thomas Reid’s theory of mind.