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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement
Publisher Cambridge University Press ({CUP})
Volume (Issue) 88
Page(s) 7 - 31
Title of proceedings Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement
DOI 10.1017/s1358246120000089

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


In this paper, we focus on Berkeley's reasons for accepting the ‘resemblance thesis’ which entails that for one thing to represent another those two things must resemble one another. The resemblance thesis is a crucial premise in Berkeley's argument from the ‘likeness principle’ in §8 of the Principles. Yet, like the ‘likeness principle’, the resemblance thesis remains unargued for and is never explicitly defended. This has led several commentators to provide explanations as to why Berkeley accepts the resemblance thesis and why he also takes his opponents to do so too. We provide a contextual answer to this question, focusing on epistemological discussions concerning resemblance and representation in Early Modern Irish Philosophy. We argue that the resemblance thesis is implicit in early responses to William Molyneux's famous example of the ‘man born blind made to see’ and trace the ‘Molyneux man’ thought experiment as it is employed by Irish thinkers such as William King and Berkeley himself. Ultimately, we conclude that Berkeley's acceptance of the resemblance thesis can be explained by the Irish intellectual climate in which he was writing.