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George Berkeley's Immaterialism

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    Argumentative essay

Describe Berkeley's philosophical view and explain the idea of a tree falling in a forest: if there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

George Berkeley's Immaterialism 

Immaterialism is a direction in  an idealistic philosophy that denies the existence of matter. George Berkeley was a famous English philosopher and well-known for his system of spiritualist philosophy. During his lifetime, Berkeley consistently developed the thesis that the "existence is that what is perceived, or that one who perceives. Berkeley's philosophical attitude has developed as a protest against prevailing at his  time ideas about realistic and materialistic theories, and partly under the influence of Locke's sensationalism. According to the teaching of Berkeley, only the spirit is real. All the material world is a deception of our senses. Involuntariness of this deception is rooted in the original submission. This spiritualism spurred  numerous misunderstandings of both philosophers and theologians against Berkeley. According to Berkeley, the formula "to exist means to be perceived" is applicable only to the objects of the sensible world. He denied the existence of the material world. He was inclined to believe that it is quite strange that in people's opinions houses, mountains, rivers and other sensible object have an existence of natural and real. According to Berkeley, all tangible things exist only in our mind  and similar to the items that a person might have in his dream. But, in contrast to the images of dreams, objects perceived in reality are not the product of the imagination but the result of the someone’s impact, for instance impact of God that put the "idea of sensations" in the human mind. To understand the concept of George Berkeley's immaterialism, it is essential to look closer on the aspect of tangible and intangible materials, such as our soul or thought and surrounding things.

In its concept, immaterialism is a type of subjective idealism. It is a trend in philosophy whose representatives denied the existence of independent consciousness from the consciousness of subject of reality. Philosophers think that the world in which we live and act, is merely a collection of sensations, feelings, moods, actions or, at least, believe that this set is an essential part of the world. Radical form of subjective idealism is solipsism, which recognizes that only real subject can be thinking subject, and everything else is declared to exist only in our mind.

If we admit the possibility of the existence of the spirit, that it is real, shaped and movable substances relevant to our ideas beyond bodies, then how would it be possible for us to know about them? We would need to know this either through the senses or by reason. As for our senses, they give us the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things which are directly perceived by the senses, but they do not prove to us that there is the spirit of things unperceived, similar to those which are perceived. This is recognized by the materialists. Consequently, we can assume that because we have some knowledge about external things, this knowledge is acquired through the reason, conclusions of their existence of what directly perceived the sensation. But Berkeley did not see any reason that could lead us to a conclusion about the existence of bodies without the mind only on the basis of what we perceive.

According to the theory of qualities, there are primary and secondary features of things. Primary qualities implies that each materials have features, ideas of which is similar to the qualities of things. For instance, it can be a form, density, wide of a thing. These characteristics are inherent features of the staff. Secondary qualities involve those features of things that are totally distinctive from the forms that created them. It is taste, sound, color, smell, temperature etc. Those features can be only perceived by our senses. While talking about Berkeley's immaterialism he reminds me about R. Descartes, the author of radical doubt in philosophy. Only the difference that Berkeley do not doubt the existence of human beings but rather doubt only the idea of material things.

In his work "Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge", the philosopher Berkeley asked whether there is a sound of falling tree in a forest, if there is no one around. The roots of the tree are broken, the trunk starts to fall and eventually crashes into the ground. All this creates vibrations that are transmitted through the air and through the ground. It is the energy of the fall goes here: in the sound of falling tree. The falling tree makes a sound, as it often happens in our life that something is going on but we do not see or do not here it. However, from the point of view of  subjective idealism there is no sound the tree makes. Contrary to traditional thought, the roots of the tree are broken, the trunk starts to fall and eventually crashes into the ground. All this creates vibrations that are transmitted through the air and through the ground. But no one hears it. If there are no people in the woods, we are able to assume that the forest is not at all a holder of a nervous system and it is difficult to be able to "hear" because no one hears the sound. According to Berkeley's,  it is not a fact that tree exists at all when we do not see it.

Work cited:

Berkeley: Immaterialism. Retrieved from http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/4r.htm 

A.C. Grayling. Berkeley's Argument for Immaterialism. Retrieved from http://www.acgrayling.com/berkeleys-argument-for-immaterialism-page-2 


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