What Is Berkeley's Immaterialism? What Are Its Problems?

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What Is Berkeley's Immaterialism? What Are Its Problems?

By | March 2006
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Berkeley's Immaterialism or 'idealism' can be examined by first looking at his aims in creating this theory of metaphysics, then by proceeding through the arguments, and finally finding and investigating any problems that may arise. The primary aim of Berkley is to discover a way in which metaphysics can be explained in such a way as to be consistent with the views of a 'plain man'. The main way in which he does this is to deny the idea of 'abstraction', which he feels is distasteful to the 'plain man'. In doing so, however, Berkeley's immaterialism creates a world that is arguably very different to the ordinary, 'vulgar' views of the 'plain man'. The result of immaterialism is that the idea of 'matter' and the external physical world is denied, and our entire worldly experience exists only within our mind. Also, the most famous result of Berkeley's philosophy is the conclusion that 'to be is to be perceived'. The way in which Berkley arrives at this is shown below, and any problems that are found are dealt with as they arise. Berkeley starts his philosophy with an examination of the senses. He argues that the only things we can be aware of, are 'sensible objects', those objects which can be immediately perceived by the senses. This means that when one looks at a blue chair, then what is perceived is the blue light striking the eye in a certain pattern. Assuming for the moment that there is a material external world, the sense-object that we perceive, is not the extended, solid, blue chair. The structure of this external chair has no 'blueness', the blueness is a state of the consciousness which has been caused by the mind's perception of the chair. Berkeley concludes that the 'proper objects' of the senses can only be of the mind, with no exceptions. Following from this, if the 'sensible objects' that we perceive are of the mind, then we can not claim that there is an external world. It can be seen that this argument is not a disproof of the external...

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