George Berkley Essay, Research Paper
As man progressed through the various stages of evolution, it is assumed that at a certain point he began to ponder the world around him. Of course, these first attempts fell short of being scholarly. As time passed on, though, these ideas persisted and were eventually tackled by the more intellectual, so-called philosophers. This, excavation of "the external world" began. As the authoritarianism of the ancients gave way to the more liberal views of the modernists, two main positions concerning epistemology and the nature of the world arose. The first view was exemplified by the empiricists, who stared that all knowledge comes from the senses. In opposition, the rationalists maintained that knowledge comes purely from deduction, and that this knowledge is processed by certain innate schema in the mind. Those that belonged to the empiricist school of thought developed quite separate and distance ideas concerning the nature of the substratum of sensible things were composed of material substance, the basic framework for the materialist position. The main figure who believed that material substance did not exist is George Berkeley. In truth, it is the immaterialist position that seems the most logical when placed under close scrutiny.
The initial groundwork for Berkley?s position is the truism that the materialist is the skeptic. His idea is that no one can ever perceive the real essence of anything. In short, the materialist feels that the information received through sense experience gives a representative picture of the outside world and one cannot penetrate to the true essence of an object. This makes logical sense, for the only way to perceive this real essence would be to become the object itself. Although the idea is logical it does contain a certain grounding for agnosticism. Let the reader consider this: if there is no way to actually sense the true material essence of anything, and all knowledge in empiricism come from the senses, then the real material essence can not be perceived and therefore it can not exist. This deserves careful consideration, for the materialist has been self-proclaimed a skeptic. If the believer in this theory were asked if a mythical beast such as a Cyclops existed he would most certainly say no. As part of his reply he might add that because it cannot be sensed it is not a piece of knowledge. After being enlightened by the above proposed argument, though, the same materialist is logically forced to agree that, because the material itself can not be sensed, its existence can not be futile as proving that the Cyclops exists; his ideas have lead him into skepticism.
Given that objects are ideas and human?s posses? minds to perceive them with, the nature of both ideas and minds deserves careful consideration. Berkeley assumes the view that ideas are passive and only perceivable in the mind. He goes on to state that these ideas are existent only when a mind perceives them. This is logical, for when something is not being ruminated upon it does not exist in the realm of knowledge at that particular time. As an example, if I were to move to another country and, after some time, forget about my old house in America, it would not exist to me anymore. In accordance with the immaterialists view, my actively perceiving mind would be electing not to reflect back upon the past. Thus, only the active mind can create the purely passive idea.
Since an idea only exists when it is being perceived or reflected upon, this brings into question the nature of reality. For instance, assume that a person attends an art museum on Sunday morning. As the person views the artwork, the painting themselves are sensible things, or ideas, actively being perceived by a mind; in short, they exist. However, then the museum closes and the person goes home, does the artwork continue to exist? Obviously the person pursues other activities of the day, and he ceases to think about what he did earlier. However, at a certain time those painting were part of what the person knew to be true though sensation; and the artwork was part of the person?s reality. Do the paintings therefore cease since they are no longer being thought about?
In the final analysis, it is evident that Berkley?s immaterialist position is logically feasible. From his definitions of minds and ideas to his careful attribution of their respective qualities, George Berkley has produced a compelling argument for his views.