Archive for March, 2014

Berkley’s ideas

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Interesting to think that some Polisci people believe they can resolve a 400 (4000) year old debate.

Locke on the existence of objects in the world, they contain properties in of themselves but we also attribute to them properties that only make sense in the human mind. Things like smell, color, taste. On the other hand things like shape and size are in of itself. Example of apple.

Berkeley: Crucial role of group of thinkers who argue against the revealed nature of religion and transcendent truth.


We come to know the world by perception and what we perceive are different kinds of ideas. The world is not a world of material objects, for all we know and can say the world consists of bunches of sensory ideas which we combine. Objects are collections of perceptions.

Conta Locke Nothing in of itself or in the material object causing the ideas we perceive. Rather the object itself is the bundle of ideas. But ideas  cannot exist outside of the mind. Example of smell of apples, not the chemical but the sensation of the smell. That idea could not exist outside of the mind, it is intrinsically sensory, requires awareness. And that is how we know the world. We cannot conceive of the smell of lavender outside of the mind as a sensory experience. Whatever there is in the outside world, there is no way it could resemble the sensation of lavender, or the color of red, or the primary qualities like shape and size. We cannot conceive of something without giving it sensory qualities (like something being rough).

The nature or essence of objects is to be perceived.

Apple collection of qualities, each of those qualities is based in perception could not exist outside of mind, stopping there we have apples. Not turning things into ideas, but ideas into things. Sensory experiences are all that matter to us, all that we experience, we do not need to go farther in  questioning the world. You cannot prove anything is more than sensory experience. If something really was unperceived by any mind at all, it wouldn’t matter, it would make no practical difference. Things don’t exist unconceived is not a bad consequence.

There is no way out of Locke’s material world, objects cannot do anything, Locke cannot explain how physical objects cause ideas in the mind. Berkeley argues ideas have no agency, but Berkely can appeal to mind of god and human mind as active. World consists of spirits and passive ideas. Ideas exist only by being in the mind of spirits. Physics cannot explain how matter causes effects in matter.

Perception of our own minds not through perception, we get a notion of it by experiencing its output. By inference I get an awareness there is something inside me called the mind. We become aware that there is a mind through a different way than we become aware of other things.

He is a dualist, there is a deep divide in the world between mind and things, the things are composed of sensory bundles/experience but the mind is a spirit that experiences that senses. Unlike Descartian materialism where the mind is a substance as well.

Problems: Continuity of things when they are unperceived. Asteroids out of nowhere? He uses the continuity of things when they are not perceived as weak evidence of existence of God who continues perceiving things. How do we change the world, I look at an apple go away, come back the apple is eaten, someone else ate it, my sense perceive the apple different. Is it that another person changed that bundle of ideas? Why can’t we arbitrarily change our subjective experiences.

Religious dimension: Idealism as best antidote against materialism and atheism, attempt to reduce world to material objects, matter in motion. Idealism as best argument for existence of God. Physical world consists of non-material objects, objects are bundles of ideas, where do ideas come from if not from the object?  Then they come from God who imparts ideas on us, guarantees that they are regular, follow laws of nature. Means we are directly in contact with God. Newton’s space and time distances God from humanity, idealism brings god into everyday life by sensation.

Why fall out of favor? Scientific work received well, but accused Barkley of sliding into Pantheism, world as spiritual entity. God source of ideas, then god source of sins. Berkeley put on the table a view called idealism that was bound to stay. But transcendental idealism is different from Berkeley’s but he introduced the concept of idealism. Radical nature of his views. Cannot prove it is fales but no one is really convinced by it.

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