Berkeley and the Argument from Microscopes



In the course of his discussion of the sensible quality of color in the Dialogues Berkeley advances an argument that I shall refer to as the argument from microscopes (AFM). I offer an account of the AFM that treats it as part of Berkeley’s extended Reductio of Hylas’ philosophical theory of metaphysical realism. I then criticize two representative interpretations of the AFM which fail to appreciate its Reductio structure and, as a consequence, mistakenly attribute to Berkeley such problematic claims as that sensible objects are not colored and that the microscopic view of objects reveals the real nature of objects. If I am correct, properly construed, Berkeley’s AFM escapes these and other objections commonly raised against it.