- *George Berkeley. A Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision.
Famous Idealist Philosopher – George Berkeley (1685 – 1753)
Explaining George Berkeley’s idealism philosophy (esse est percipi) and the interconnection of mind, body and universe with realism of Wave Structure of Matter (WSM).
George Berkeley Quotes ‘The Principles Concerning Human Knowledge’, Pictures, Biography
My purpose therefore is, to try if I can discover what those principles are, which have introduced all that doubtfulness and uncertainty, those absurdities and contradictions into the several sects of philosophy; insomuch that the wisest men have thought our ignorance incurable, conceiving it to arise from the natural dullness and limitation of our faculties. …
Nothing seems of more importance, towards erecting a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be proof against the assaults of scepticism, than to lay the beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by thing, reality, existence: for in vain shall we dispute concerning the real existence of things, or pretend to any knowledge thereof, so long as we have not fixed the meaning of those words. (George Berkeley, 1710)
.. we are under an invincible blindness as to the true and real nature of things. .. Hence a great number of dark and ambiguous terms presumed to stand for abstract notions, have been introduced into metaphysics and morality, and from these have grown infinite distractions and disputes amongst the learned. (George Berkeley, 1710)
Introduction to George Berkeley’s Idealism Philosophy
George Berkeley is one of my favorite philosophers, despite the fact that I consider his conclusions on Idealism to have been a major impediment to the progress of Philosophy and the Sciences. His motivation was admirable, to find what was certain as a way of overcoming the destructive influence of Skeptics, Atheists, and Abstract Concepts masquerading as real things. His conclusion – we can only be certain about things we experience in the mind – thus that is what really exists! He writes;
Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived).
All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth – in a word, all those bodies which compose the frame of the world – have not any subsistence without a mind. (George Berkeley)
Unfortunately, his conclusions are founded on errors, as becomes obvious once we know what physically exists.
So what does physically exist, what is Reality, and how can we get from the mind and the representation of Reality to knowing Reality itself? (Or as Kant puts it, from knowing our ideas of things to knowing things in themselves.)
Surprisingly, the solution is very simple (once known), though philosophers should have always known that Reality must be simple, as Reality must be founded on ONE thing which is necessary to cause and connect the many things we experience, as Leibniz explains;
Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another. (Leibniz, 1670)
Now it is clear that Space is the One and only thing that is common to all things. And I ask you all to seriously consider this! Do any of you experience yourselves not existing and moving about in Space? e.g. Driving your car, walking, the existence of your house, your children, the Motion of the Earth about the Sun – all these things require Space. What they also require is Motion (think about it), giving rise to the Metaphysics of Space and Motion.
The error has been the foundation of the Sciences on the Metaphysics of Space and Time, and the further abstract ideas of the Motion of Matter ‘Particles’ and their interconnected ‘Forces’ (causing changes in motion / acceleration).
Following this introduction you will find many very interesting quotes from George Berkeley, On the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710). While we have not yet written them up, you will find your own solutions to his problems by discarding the particle conception of matter in Space and Time. I shall give you two simple examples. Firstly, Berkeley writes;
By matter therefore we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure and motion do actually subsist. (George Berkeley, 1710)
This is largely correct, Extension comes from Space, Figure comes from the Spherical shape of the Waves, and Motion is obviously the Wave Motion of Space. Thus his error is in describing matter as inert, Matter is active (the cause of our ideas of time), and this obviously explains why matter can move in Space, because matter is the wave Motion of Space.
With respect to our senses, and how we can sense the motion of Matter in the Space about about us, it is obvious that the concept of discrete particles causes the fundamental problem of the connection between the subject and the object. This led Berkeley to conclude that it must be ‘God’ who connects all things.
Everything we see, hear, feel, or any way perceive by sense, being a sign or effect of the power of God; as is our perception of those very motions. (Berkeley, 1710)
Once we realise that matter is large, that matter and Universe are one and the same thing (as the Spherical Standing Waves determine the size of our finite spherical universe within an infinite space – see Cosmology) then we unite the subject and object and thus understand how they can be connected. As Einstein and Schrodinger (who both rejected the ‘particle’ concept of matter) wrote;
(Albert Einstein, 1928, Leiden) According to the general theory of relativity space without ether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time. (Albert Einstein, 1934) From the latest results of the theory of relativity it is probable that our three dimensional space is also approximately spherical, that is, that the laws of disposition of rigid bodies in it are not given by Euclidean geometry, but approximately by spherical geometry …. According to the general theory of relativity, the geometrical properties of space are not independent, but they are determined by matter. … I wished to show that space time is not necessarily something to which one can ascribe to a separate existence, independently of the actual objects of physical reality. Physical objects are not in space, but these objects are spatially extended. In this way the concept ‘empty space’ loses its meaning.
Erwin Schrodinger – The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists.(Erwin Schrodinger) What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances). … The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
This then explains how we can sense the motion of matter in the Space around us (as our Spherical In-Waves flow in through all other matter in the universe and provide us with knowledge of the ‘external’ world). In this way we unite the mind, body and universe as all being constructed of One thing, Space and Matter as Spherical Standing Waves the size of the universe.
And is this not a most amazing thing, to realise that we are ‘God’ that we are creatures that encompass the entire universe, and thus we rise above our naive real sense of the world (as existing in discrete bodies, constructed of discrete particles) and finally understand our true selves.
(I also strongly recommend that you read the web page on Immanuel Kant which explains and solves Kant’s Metaphysics, and the page on Cosmology)
George Berkeley Quotations , The Principles Concerning Human Knowledge (1710)
Since I do not think myself any further concerned for the success of what I have written, than as it is agreeable to truth. But to the end this many not suffer, I make it my request that the reader suspend his judgement, till he has once, at least, read the whole through with that degree of attention and thought which the subject matter shall seem to deserve. For as there are some passages that, taken by themselves, are very liable (nor could it be remedied) to gross misinterpretation, and to be charged with most absurd consequences, which, nevertheless, upon an entire perusal will appear not to follow from them: so likewise, though the whole should be read over, yet, if this be done transiently, it is very probable my sense may be mistaken; but to a thinking reader, I flatter myself, it will be through-out clear and obvious. As for the characters of novelty and singularity, which some of the following notions may seem to bear, it is, I hope, needless to make any apology on that account. He must surely be either very weak, or very little acquainted with the sciences, who shall reject a truth, that is capable of demonstration, for no other reason but because it is newly known and contrary to the prejudices of mankind. Thus much I thought fit to premise, in order to prevent, if possible, the hasty censures of a sort of men, who are too apt to condemn an opinion before they rightly comprehend it. (George Berkeley, p35)
Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and truth, it may with reason be expected, that those who have spent most time and pains in it should enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, a greater clearness and evidence of knowledge, and be less disturbed with doubt and difficulties than other men. Yet so it is we see the illiterate bulk of mankind that walk the high-road of plain, common sense and are governed by the dictates of nature, for the most part easy and undisturbed. To them nothing that is familiar appears unaccountable or difficult to comprehend. They complain not of any want of evidence in their senses, and are out of all danger of becoming sceptics. But no sooner do we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a superior principle, to reason, meditate and reflect on the nature of things, but a thousand scruples spring up in our minds, concerning those things which before we seemed fully to comprehend. Prejudices and errors of sense do from all parts discover themselves to our view; and endeavouring to correct these by reason we are insensibly drawn into uncouth paradoxes, difficulties, and inconsistencies, which multiply and grow upon us as we advance in speculation; till at length, having wandered through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves just where we were, or, which is worse, sit down in a forlorn scepticism.
2. The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of things, or the natural weakness and imperfection of our understandings. It is said that faculties we have are few, and those designed by nature for the support and comfort of life, and not to penetrate into the inward essence and constitution of things. Besides, the mind of man being finite, when it treats of things which partake of infinity, it is not to be wondered at, if it run into absurdities and contradictions; out of which it is impossible it should ever extricate itself, it being of the nature of infinite not to comprehended by that which is finite.
3. But perhaps we may be too partial to ourselves in placing the fault originally in our faculties, and not rather in the wrong use we make of them. It is a hard thing to suppose that right deductions from true principles should ever end in consequences which cannot be maintained or made consistent. We should believe that God has dealt more bountifully with the sons of men, than to give them a strong desire for that knowledge, which he had placed quite out of their reach. (George Berkeley, p38)
Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain we cannot see.
4. My purpose therefore is, to try if I can discover what those principles are, which have introduced all that doubtfulness and uncertainty, those absurdities and contradictions into the several sects of philosophy; insomuch that the wisest men have thought our ignorance incurable, conceiving it to arise from the natural dullness and limitation of our faculties. (George Berkeley, p38)
The constituent parts of the abstract idea of animal are body, life, sense and spontaneous motion. (George Berkeley, p40)
By matter therefore we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure and motion do actually subsist. (George Berkeley, p.56)
In short, extension, figure and motion, abstracted from all other qualities, are inconceivable. Where therefore the other sensible qualities are, there must these be also, that is, in the mind and nowhere else. (George Berkeley, p56)
But though it were possible that solid, figured, moveable substances may exist without the mind, corresponding to the ideas we have of bodies, yet how is it possible for us to know this? Either we must know it by sense, or by reason. As for our senses, by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things that are immediately perceived by sense, call them what you will: but they do not inform us that things exist without the mind, or unperceived, like to those which are perceived. This the materialists themselves acknowledge. It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge at all of external things, it must be by reason, inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. By what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind, from what we perceive, since the very patrons of matter themselves do not pretend, there is any necessary connection betwixt them and our ideas? (George Berkeley, p59)
You will say there have been a great many things explained by matter and motion: take away these, and you destroy the whole corpuscular philosophy, and undermine those mechanical principles which have been applied with so much success to account for the phenomena. (George Berkeley, p70)
For example, the motion of the earth is now universally admitted by astronomers, as a truth grounded on the clearest and most convincing reasons; but on the foregoing principles there can be no such thing. For motion being only an idea, it follows that if it be not perceived, it exists not; but the motion of the earth is not perceived by sense. I answer, that tenet, if rightly understood, will be found to agree with the principles we have premised: for the question, whether the earth moves or not, amounts in reality to no more than this, namely, whether we have reason to conclude from what has been observed by astronomers, that if we were placed in such and such circumstances, and such a such position and distance, both from the earth and sun, we should perceive the former to move among the choir of the planets, and appearing in all respects like one of them: and this, by the established rules of nature, which we have no reason to mistrust, is reasonably collected from the phenomena. (George Berkeley, p74)
Colour, figure, motion, extension and the like, considered only as so many sensations in the mind, are perfectly known, there being nothing in them which is not perceived. But if they are looked on as notes or images, referred to things or archetypes existing without the mind, then are we involved all in scepticism. We see only the appearances, and not the real qualities of things. What may be the extension, figure or motion of any thing really and absolutely, or in itself, it is impossible for us to know, but only the proportion or the relation they bear to our senses.(George Berkeley, p85)
Nothing seems of more importance, towards erecting a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be proof against the assaults of scepticism, than to lay the beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by thing, reality, existence: for in vain shall we dispute concerning the real existence of things, or pretend to any knowledge thereof, so long as we have not fixed the meaning of those words. (George Berkeley, p86)
At first, I shall say something of natural philosophy. On this subject it is, that the sceptics triumph: all that stock of arguments they produce to depreciate our faculties, and make mankind appear ignorant and low, are drawn principally from this head, that is, that we are under an invincible blindness as to the true and real nature of things. (George Berkeley, p90)
..of late they are mostly resolved into mechanical causes, that is, the figure, motion, weight, and such like qualities of insensible particles: whereas in truth, there is no other agent or efficient cause than spirit, it being evident that motion, as well as all other ideas, is perfectly inert. Hence, to endeavour to explain the production of colours or sounds, by figure, motion, magnitude and the like, must needs by labour in vain. (George Berkeley, p90)
That a stone falls to the earth, or the sea swells towards the moon, may to some appear sufficiently explained thereby. But how are we enlightened by being told this is done by attraction? (George Berkeley, p91)
..for as to the manner of the action whereby it is produced, or the cause which produces it, these are not so much aimed at. (George Berkeley, p91)
First, it is plain philosophers amuse themselves in vain, when they inquire for any natural efficient cause, distinct from a mind or spirit. (George Berkeley, p92)
It does not appear to me that there can be any motion other than relative: so that to conceive motion, there must be at least conceived two bodies, whereof the distance or position in regard to each other is varied. Hence if there was only one body in being, it could not possibly be moved. This seems evident, in that the idea I have of motion does necessarily include relation. (George Berkeley, p95)
..of thinking either than real space is God, or else that there is something beside God which is eternal, uncreated, infinite, indivisible, immutable. Both which may justly be thought pernicious and absurd notions. (George Berkeley, p97)
Particularly, matter or the absolute existence of corporeal objects, has been shown to be that wherein the most avowed and pernicious enemies of all knowledge, whether human or divine, have ever placed their chief strength and confidence. (George Berkeley, p104)
Hence a great number of dark and ambiguous terms presumed to stand for abstract notions, have been introduced into metaphysics and morality, and from these have grown infinite distractions and disputes amongst the learned. (George Berkeley, p107)
..everything we see, hear, feel, or any way perceive by sense, being a sign or effect of the power of God; as is our perception of those very motions, which are produced by men.
It is therefore plain, that nothing can be more evident to anyone that is capable of the least reflection, than the existence of God, or a spirit who is intimately present to our minds, producing in them all that variety of ideas or sensations, which continually affect us, on whom we have an absolute and entire dependence, in short, ‘in whom we live, and move, and have our being’. That the discovery of this great truth which lies so near and obvious to the mind, should be attained to by the reason of so very few, is a sad instance of the stupidity and inattention of men, who, though they are surrounded with such clear manifestations of the Deity, are yet so little affected by them, that they seem as it were blinded with excess of light. (George Berkeley, p109-110)
Nature in this acceptation is a vain chimera introduced by those heathens, who had no just notions of the omnipresence and infinite perfection of God. (George Berkeley, p110)
Berkeley, G. “Principles of Human Knowledge / Three Dialogues” (1710,1713) Penguin Classics 1998
Links / Philosopher George Berkeley, Idealism Philosophy
Metaphysics: Problem of One and the Many – Brief History of Metaphysics and Solutions to the Fundamental Problems of Uniting the; One and the Many, Infinite and the Finite, Eternal and the Temporal, Absolute and Relative, Continuous and Discrete, Simple and Complex, Matter and Universe.
Metaphysics: Philosophy – Uniting Metaphysics and Philosophy by Solving Hume’s Problem of Causation, Kant’s Critical Idealism, Popper’s Problem of Induction, Kuhn’s Paradigm.
Philosophy – On Philosophy as Love (Philo) of Wisdom (Sophy), and that we must know the Truth to be Wise. Most importantly, all Truth comes from Reality thus we must know Reality to be Wise. Quotes on Philosophy, Truth, Reality by Famous Philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Montaigne, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Einstein, et al. ‘Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and truth,..’ (Berkeley)
Philosophy: Postmodernism – On Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Popper Kuhn. The End of Postmodernism Relativism & the Rise of Realism.
Philosophy: Realism Idealism – The Rise of Absolute Truth and Realism, the End of Post Modern Relative Idealism. Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Einstein. ‘The more plebeian illusion of naive realism, according to which things ‘are’ as they are perceived by us through our senses … dominates the daily life of men and of animals; it is also the point of departure in all of the sciences, especially of the natural sciences.’ (Albert Einstein)
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