The Echoes of the Mind (9-17) George Berkeley

George Berkeley

That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what everybody will allow. ~ George Berkeley

Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley (1685–1753) agreed with Locke that all knowledge of the external world comes from experience. He then took empiricism a giant step further. Channeling Spinoza, Berkeley advocated subjective idealism: that material objects are figments of the mind, without independent existence. (A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710).)

All those bodies which compose the frame of the world have not any subsistence without a mind. ~ George Berkeley

Berkeley argued that the existence of all objects depends upon their perception. Despite Berkeley’s pedigree in antecedent philosophy, his subjective idealism was considered an affront to common sense and was met with derision from contemporaneous philosophers.

Berkeley answered that all sorts of activities went on without anyone paying attention because they continue to be perceived by the infinite mind of God. In an inversion of Anselm’s ontological argument, Berkeley regarded the seeming permanence of the material world as definitive proof of God’s existence. (Berkeley’s religious take on idealism is readily secularized by swapping out God for a Nature which emanates from a unified field of Ĉonsciousness. Stir in the neutral monism of coherent energy as the maker of matter and the recipe for explaining reality is complete.)

Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being perceived? Or, is it something distinct from their being perceived, and that bears no relation to the mind? ~ George Berkeley

Each sense yields a different type of information about an object. Through experience, associations are made between aggregate perceptions and specific objects. Through such categorization, objects are identified by associative memory. According to Berkeley, an object is nothing more than that: a perception from an accumulation of sensations.

Custom reconciles us to everything. ~ George Berkeley

Distance perception illustrates. Descartes and others attributed distance perception only to the geometry of optics, facilitated by eye movement.

Berkeley countered that people simply do not perceive distance that way. While agreeing that the visual angles of eye movement were important, it was because they provide cues for distance.

Berkeley’s empirical account of sensory aggregation marked a milestone in the history of psychology, as it showed how perception could be understood as an agglomeration of sensations from different senses. His theories of perception were couched as experimental science, and so constituted a model of scientific inquiry.

Berkeley’s Treatise has been seminal. ~ American psychologist B.R. Hergenhahn

Most importantly, in its basic thrust, Berkeley’s subjective idealism has since been scientifically validated. The problem remains that this critical finding has been universally ignored in favor of matterism – leaving modern science at root nothing more than religious belief in defiance of facts.

Truth is the cry of all, but the game of the few. ~ George Berkeley