George Berkeley's Elaboration Of Idealism

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George Berkeley’s elaboration of idealism has become one of the most widely discussed ideologies in Western philosophy. This discussion has come with some controversy; many individuals today view Berkeley’s ideas as maverick due to the increasing acceptance of materialism due to developments in science and technology over the last century. Others might even view Berkeley’s work as fundamentally wrong. For example, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would view Berkeley’s argument for God as a way for moralists to try to control and stifle the ability of others to be happy and virtuous. Nonetheless, Berkeley’s work is notable due to his bold claims, such as the argument against the existence of matter. Berkeley’s seemingly wild claims…show more content…
“In reading a book, what I immediately perceive are the letters on the page, but mediately or by means of these the notions of God, virtue, truth, etc. are suggested to my mind.”2 In other words, people immediately perceive the shapes of letters with their eyes, but mediately derive the meaning of words in the mind. With this Berkeley progresses the argument by asserting that sensible things, that is, things which are perceived by the senses, are only things “that can be perceived immediately by sense,” not mediately.3 Hylas then makes the erroneous claim that “to exist is one thing, and to be perceived is another.”4 However, because sensible things exist only due to sensible qualities that the mind perceives, and these sensible qualities cannot exist outside of the mind, Berkeley’s stipulates that the existence of something is predicated upon its ability to be perceived by the mind; hence, to be is to be perceived. If existence requires perception, then an event cannot occur if it is not perceived; for example, if a tree falls in a forest and no one sees or hears it, then the tree could not have fallen. “Upon looking into it I find that I can’t understand how anything but an idea can be like an idea. And it is most evident that no idea can exist outside of the mind.”5
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