The qualities are not perceptible separately from the
The central part of Berkeleys metaphysics seems paradoxical or even absurd.
Its claim is that what we call solid, and indeed everything else that we find laid out in the three-dimensional physical word that is apparently around us, is only fictional. It appears to be there, but it does not really have an independent existence. The physical world is, according to Berkeley, dependent on and only perceived through a mental state. In Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, Berkeley tried to explain how a seemingly noncommonsensical theory can actually consist of commonsensical characteristics. There are two contentions made by Berkeley in his attempt to prove that commonsense is the basis of his theory, rather than absurdity. The first is that in order for a material object to exist there must be a perceiver. The second is that of the existence of finite spirits (us) and an Infinite Spirit (God).
Berkeley ascribed to an imperialistic view in the sense that the immediate object of our knowledge is ideas or subjective impressions. He denied the distinction between primary qualities (size, shape, motion, time,) which are objective, real/true features of the world, and secondary qualities (color, taste, smell, sound, ect.), which are subjective/relative qualities existing in the mind.
Berkeley argued that primary qualities are not perceptible separately from the secondary qualities; primary qualities are just as relative to the perceiver as are secondary qualities. If ten people were asked to draw a particular desk, the drawings would indicate ten different shapes for that one desk. Which drawing would reflect the true shape of the desk? Also, a soda can may be small to a human, yet appear large to a fly. The point Berkeley made is that all qualitiesprimary and secondaryare relative to the perceiver and cannot, therefore, exist in the objects themselves. Hence, none or these qualities exist outside the mind because we all see things differently.It is impossible, therefore, that matter be something existing in itself, objective, inert, and devoid of thought. According to Berkeley, when we say that a thing exists, we mean nothing more than that such a thing is merely perceived by us.
Berkeley stated, To be is to be perceived. Berkeleys answer to the philosophical question, if there is no one in the forest when a tree falls, is there a sound, would be no because the forest cannot exist without a perceiver. Primary or secondary qualities, substances and impressions are nothing other than acts of perception, that is, mental facts; and their existence signifies their being perceived as mental acts. If I walk into a room containing a table, the table exists. However, when I leave the room, the table no longer exists.
The Paradoxical problem arises when one asks, how is it then that when I return to the room, the table is still there? While denying the existence of a material world, Berkeley did not deny the existence of the world of spirits/minds. He believed that from the very presence of ideas and impressions, there had to existence finite spirits/minds, and because there had to be an origin of these ideas/impression, there had to exist a finite spirit/mind. Finite spirits/minds refers to humans and the Infinite Spirit/Mind refers to God. Now Berkeley was able answer the question posed above. He explained that God, who exists, produces the order, harmony, and constancy of perceived ideas/impressions.
So, when you leave the room and return to see the very same table before you, it is because God has kept in His mind some type of mental note of how the table looked when you left it, and will reproduce it exactly when you go back into the room. In other words, God perceives objects that are not perceived by finite spirits/minds. God is the origin of all that is perceived and this is how God reveals Himself to us and speaks through us. The Infinite Spirit/Mind presupposes our ideas/impressions. This is how Berkeley explained order, constancy, and harmony in the physical, material world.
Berkeley contended that physical objects are not made up of atoms and photons. If this were true, the table in the room would exist if there were not a conscious mind to perceive it. However, according to Berkeley, this is not the case. Berkeleys claim that the external world exists only in our minds is commonsensical only in terms of science. Berkeley did not deny the truths of scientific theories.
He did, however, postulate that they are merely tools and ways of explaining things. Atoms are hypothetical objects in that no one has ever seen an atom. It cannot be scientifically proven that physical objects are made up matter.
This is why physical objects will not exist when I turn and walk away from them. Since it has been established, according to Berkeley, that physical objects are not material objects in the sense of the scientific definition of matter, they have been reduced to merely perceived ideas/impressions existing in our minds. In order for the theory to continue its rationality, Berkeley explained that if it is not matter, which allows us to perceive physical objects, than it must be God. Therefore, following Berkeley thought, when we talk about matter, we are talking about God. That which we attribute to matter must refer to God, the revealer of ideas corresponding to material things. It would then follow that it is God who is the True Essence of physical objects and not atoms, photons, or protons.
However, this explanation may be just as commonsensical as his explanation against science in that neither God nor matter has been proven scientifically to exist. Both are theoretical ideas. Since neither God nor matter can be proven to exist, it would follow that Berkeleys theory of external objects is just as commonsensical as postulating that physical objects contain atoms, photons ect, (reality consists of matter) and that God does not exist–the materialistic/ functionalistic theory.Bibliography: