Berkeley pp 135-148 | Cite as

Notions and Archetypes

  • Harry M. Bracken
Part of the Philosophers in Perspective book series


One of the most perceptive commentators on Berkeley’s doctrine of spirits was Bishop Ian T. Ramsey. Among other things, he reminds us that Berkeley does not narrowly assign notions to the mental and ideas to the physical. ‘The heart of Berkeley’s doctrine of notions is the notion each of us has of his own activity.’’ Notions are used by Berkeley when he talks about things which cannot be expressed in the language of ideas. Taking Ramsey’s remarks as my point of departure, I first group together the several uses of notions. Second, since these pertain to the activity of substances, I again examine spirits. Third, I provide a way to make sense of notional knowledge in relation to (a) Berkeleian signs (b) non-terminating judgements and (c) archetypes. Finally, I compare Berkeley’s views with those of Malebranche and the Cartesians.


Innate Idea Perceptual Error Proper Object Conceptual Entity Language Metaphor 
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  1. 2.
    See E. J. Furlong, ‘Berkeley on Relations, Spirits and Notions’, Hermathena, cvI (1968) pp. 60–6 for a lucid discussion of some of these problems.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Cf. E. J. Furlong, ‘An Ambiguity in Berkeley’s Principles’, Hermathena, xciv (1960) pp. 84–102.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See George Boas, Dominant Themes of Modern Philosophy (New York, Ronald Press, 1957), where the difficulty is resolved by considering Berkeley within both the British and the Continental traditions.Google Scholar

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© Harry M. Bracken 1974

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  • Harry M. Bracken

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