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Berkeley's Theory Of Immaterialism Essay

2307 words - 9 pages

As man progressed through the various stages of evolution, itis assumed that at a certain point he began to ponder the world aroundhim. Of course, these first attempts fell short of being scholarly,probably consisting of a few grunts and snorts at best. As time passedon, though, these ideas persisted and were eventually tackled by themore intellectual, so-called philosophers. Thus, excavation of "theexternal world" began. As the authoritarinism of the ancients gave wayto the more liberal views of the modernists, two main positionsconcerning epistemology and the nature of the world arose. The firstview was exemplified by the empiricists, who stated that all knowledgecomes from the senses. In opposition, the rationalists maintained thatknowledge comes purely from deduction, and that this knowledge isprocessed by certain innate schema in the mind. Those that belonged tothe empiricist school of thought developed quite separate and distinctideas concerning the nature of the substratum of sensible objects.John Locke and David Hume upheld the belief that sensible things werecomposed of material substance, the basic framework for thematerialist position. The main figure who believed that materialsubstance did not exist is George Berkeley. In truth, it is theimmaterialist position that seems the most logical when placed underclose scrutiny.The initial groundwork for Berkeley's position is the truismthat the materialist is a skeptic. In the writing of his threedialogues, Berkeley develops two characters: Hylas (the materialist)and Philonous (Berkeley himself). Philonous draws upon one centralsupposition of the materialist to formulate his argument of skepticismagainst him; this idea is that one can never perceive the real essenceof anything. In short, the materialist feels that the informationreceived through sense experience gives a representative picture ofthe outside world (the representative theory of perception), and onecan not penetrate to the true essece of an object. This makes logicalsense, for the only way to perceive this real essence would be tobecome the object itself! Although the idea is logical, it doescontain a certain grounding for agnosticism. Let the reader considerthis: if there is no way to actually sense the true material essenceof anything, and all knowledge in empiricism comes from the senses,then the real material essence can not be perceived and therefore itcan not be posited. This deserves careful consideration, for thematerialist has been self-proclaimed a skeptic! If the believer inthis theory were asked if a mythical beast such as a cyclops existedhe would most certainly say no. As part of his reply he might add thatbecause it can not be sensed it is not a piece of knowledge. Afterbeing enlightened by the above proposed argument, though, that samematerialist is logically forced to agree that, because the "materialsubstratum1" itself can not be sensed, its existence can not betreated as knowledge. The materialist belief has,...

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