Reality, the Mind, and God
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Great Britain
are marked by a general and persistent concern about threats
to orthodoxy in religion. Many doctrines and views were seen
as threatening: theories about the origin and nature of human
knowledge, metaphysical claims about the nature of the world,
claims about human nature, about the person and action. (Yolton 3)
According to the major viewpoints held in metaphysics, one of the four major categories in the study of philosophy, there are three major ways to regard the constitution of reality. Materialism is "[…] the view that all that exists is material or is completely dependent on matter […]" (Gould 421) in order to be perceived and to exist.
This is one of the two major, extreme views that exist concerning the substance of reality. The other extreme view, idealism, is the belief that reality consists of mental perception and ideas, that "[…] what exists is either an idea or a perceiver of that idea" (Gould 437). According to this view, matter contains no material substance. All matter is comprised of a collection of ideas and the one who is accepting and interpreting those ideas. Beyond these two extreme viewpoints is one of the most popular beliefs concerning reality, especially in Western culture. The belief of dualism denotes that reality is a uniform combination of both material and non-material substance. This view states that reality is made of objects that contain material substance to them. But this perspective of reality holds that there is also a component to reality that depends upon the perceiver, what mental impression he obtains from the material substance, and how he can manipulate that impression within his mind to form new ideas.
Choosing to understand the configuration of reality from one perspective will usually, but not always, lead one towards the viewpoint in epistemology, the study of how knowledge and beliefs are acquired, that correlates with stand one takes on the subject of metaphysics. Each major perspective in metaphysics seems to bear a striking resemblance to one of the three great perspectives in the major epistemological issue: How do we obtain knowledge and views? Empiricism is the belief that all knowledge and ideas come from out natural, tangible surroundings. The empiricist regards two aspects of mental activity: perception through the use of the senses and reflection upon the impression one gains from the senses. According to the empiricist, all knowledge is either directly received from experience, or the mind can create ideas of its own operations through reflecting upon experiences. "The mind itself is a blank page upon which the ideas of experience are written" (Gould 289) in the view of the empiricist. Empiricism can easily be joined with materialism to understand the substance of reality and how the mind gains knowledge from its surroundings. Since materialism...