A Conversation for George Berkeley, Sceptic, Philosopher, and Bishop

Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 1

Steve K.

Believe it or not, I happen to be wearing my BFC T-shirt:

http://www.northernsun.com/cgi-bin/ns/16773.html

smiley - magic


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 2

Recumbentman

Question Reality -- is that a BFC thing or do you just wear it that way? smiley - cool


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 3

Steve K.

Yes. I think.
smiley - erm


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 4

Recumbentman

smiley - huh which?


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 5

Steve K.

Ah, you caught me. The "BFC" is a figment of my imagination. But then maybe everything is ... smiley - fairy


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 6

Recumbentman

Well this is the place for clubs of the imagination. I apply for membership.


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 7

Steve K.

I see by your "title" that you are "not really here", which makes *you* a figment of the imagination. Thus, you are eminently qualified for membership in the BFC and accepted immediately. Put in a good word for me, will you? All I got was this T-shirt ... smiley - envy


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 8

SemiRecumbent

Your Berkeley piece is a polished gem.

I was stopped by the sentence: "He allowed only two ways for something
to have a claim to existence: either by perceiving, or by being
perceived". Picture me on the bike, coming to a shuddering stop and
falling, my feet still Locked to the pedals (ouch2). Had the last word been "perceptible", I would have freewheeled past.

Thinking about it in the bath, I had an emotional need for the bath to
have a greater claim to existence than my superficial perception.
Imagine a vastly complex flux of energy, (presumably no more acceptable
than matter), knotted into quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules,
cosmic rays, photons, all by the billion. Help me up.

SemiRecumbent

smiley - smiley


Berkeley's Fan Club

Post 9

Recumbentman

Thank you and welcome to h2g2!

Well you hit on a central thing there. Does "perceptible" mean the same as "perceived"? I think so, yes.

For Berkeley, if it's not perceived, it ain't there; at least that's the bald initial statement. But there's the question of the trees in the park; what is their status when there's nobody looking?

He answered this himself in his notebook: "The trees are in the Park, that is, whether I will or not[,] whether I imagine any thing about them or no, let me go thither & open my eyes by day & I shall not avoid seeing them."

The lesson is, to say that things are in our minds is not to say we can create them and annihilate them at will. We have not the power to choose what we perceive and what we don't; we have at most the power to decide what we call it, how we categorise it, how we deal with it. We don't individually create a world, we discover it (though discovery has its creative aspect). His dualism is between the perceived and the perceivers, and he denies the need for a third entity, something imperceptible in which the perceivable somehow persists unperceived.

But if your image of matter is of energetic stuff, I think that is a very different case from the inert matter Locke and Newton had in mind. Newton's atoms were like billiard balls, with no latent energy beyond resistance and bounce. Newton is described as a Deist, that is one who supposes that a god started the universal clockwork going and then left it to run its course. A Theist by comparison supposes a god that is constantly involved.

Berkeley was a Theist, but I also see him as a precursor of the Rev Billy Wynne, who once described himself to me as a "Christian agnostic".


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Berkeley's Fan Club

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