- Term Papers and Free Essays

George Berkley

Essay by   •  August 31, 2010  •  1,203 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,652 Views

Essay Preview: George Berkley

Report this essay
Page 1 of 5

"George Berkeley: Esse Est Percipi?"

George Berkeley was an ordained Catholic priest who lived during the 17th century (Price, 206). He wrote some of the most profound works of this time period, which at best, is characterized by the Rationalist and British Empiricist movements. Berkeley was a member of the Empiricists. As a whole, the British Empiricists believed that knowledge is derived from the senses and "sense experience"(Price, 193). Therefore, they believed that no innate knowledge exists, only knowledge gained after the fact, or a posteriori (Price, 193). Berkeley, for the most part, focused on his ideas of reality and God. However interesting it may be, George Berkeley and his philosophy fail to establish concrete evidence to support his belief of immaterialism, drawing instead upon basic assumptions of God and his existence.

im a tool bag. Immaterialism, as aforementioned, was the basis of all of Berkeley's arguments. Immaterialists deny the actual existence of material objects (Dancy, 94). According to Berkeley, human knowledge is composed of ideas, that of which are formed by things: "imprints on the senses, the passions and operations of the mind, and composites of memory and imagination"(Berkeley). Basically broken down, this means that what man knows about objects and the material are what he perceives of it. The senses leave impressions which lead to ideas, the mind can come up with ideas of its own (perhaps what Berkeley means by the "passions and operations" is that the mind can come up with concepts by using reason), and composites, or rough sketches, of previous perceptions can lead to new ideas. "Thus, for example, a certain colour, taste, smell of a

figure, and consistence of having been observed to go together, are accounted one distant thing, signified by the word apple"(Berkeley). Berkeley is saying that if it was not for the senses one could not perceive, and the object would cease to be. Therefore, the very existence of an idea depends upon if it can be perceived by something. An idea or object cannot exist outside of a mind. "The things that exist truly are those which can do the actual perceiving. Berkeley calls this the mind, soul, spirit, or self" (Dancy, 101). To show this is true, let us go back to the example of the apple. Berkeley points out the fact that it is impossible to think of an object without thinking of your perceptions of it (Price, 207). You would not be able to think of an apple without thinking of its color, shape, taste, etc. This is what leads him to the conclusion that things which are imperceptible or are not perceived do not exist in reality. He is saying that if there were no minds at all, there would be nothing and no one to perceive an apple, so it would be completely non-existent, because it only existed in minds in the first place. One of Berkeley's famous quotes works well here to further understand immaterialism-"To Be is to be perceived"(Price, 208).

This is not to say that Berkeley believed that everything in the world was non-existent. Berkeley believed that the world was real. However, Berkeley argues that there is only one true substance, the soul. "The soul is that which perceives" (Price, 209). He says this comes from one source, God. Berkeley explains the existence of all objects when we do not perceive them, through God. He calls God the "omnipresent eternal mind", through which all objects are ordered and formed (Price, 210) Essentially he is using his philosophy as a platform for his religious views. Berkeley believed that "the

whole world and our whole life exist in God. He is the one cause of everything that exists. We exist only in the mind of God" (Price, 210).

What Berkeley seems to do is say is that the only true substances are minds,



Download as:   txt (6.4 Kb)   pdf (88.4 Kb)   docx (10.8 Kb)  
Continue for 4 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 08). George Berkley. Retrieved 08, 2010, from

"George Berkley" 08 2010. 2010. 08 2010 <>.

"George Berkley.", 08 2010. Web. 08 2010. <>.

"George Berkley." 08, 2010. Accessed 08, 2010.