Berkeley, Suárez, and the Esse-Existere Distinction

American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 74 (4):621-636 (2000)
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For Berkeley, a thing's existence 'esse' is nothing more than its being perceived 'as that thing'. It makes no sense to ask (with Samuel Johnson) about the 'esse' of the mind or the specific act of perception, for that would be like asking what it means for existence to exist. Berkeley's "existere is percipi or percipere" (NB 429) thus carefully adopts the scholastic distinction between 'esse' and 'existere' ignored by Locke and others committed to a substantialist notion of mind. Following the Stoics, Berkeley proposes that, 'as' the existence of ideas, minds "subsist" rather than "exist" and, accordingly, cannot be identified as independently existing things.

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Stephen H. Daniel
Texas A&M University


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