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Berkeley and Idealism

George Berkeley is a prominent thinker and philosopher of the 18th century which is known for his system of spiritualistic philosophy. He developed the thesis that “existence is the thing that is perceived or the one who perceives” (Berman 1995).

He lived and worked in the era of the industrial revolution, technological progress and the great scientific discoveries that shed light on the nature of the world; in an era when religion began to lose its centuries-long position in the minds of people, giving place to the scientific and philosophical outlook.

Originally from Ireland, the oldest British colony, Berkeley was the eldest of seven children in the family of the landed nobleman. From a young age his life was connected with religion and schooling, he put all his strength into the creation of a philosophical system, designed to eliminate atheism and the related materialist philosophy.

The history of philosophical thought Berkeley entered as one of the most prominent representatives of idealism. His works pursue the only goal – “to remove the cornerstone of matter from the system of atheists, after which the entire building will inevitably collapse.” (Turbayne 1982).

The philosophical system created by Berkeley, was exposed and is still subjected by the deserved criticism. At the same time, it has its followers. His works are still being studying and are of a great interest for philosophers.

The English philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753) criticized the concepts of matter as a real basis (substance) of bodies, as well as the Newton’s theory of space as a repository of all natural bodies, and the J. Locke’s theory of the origin of the matter and space concepts.

Berkeley remarked that the basis of the matter is the assumption that we can, apart from the particular properties of things, form the abstract idea of the common for all of them material as a kind of substrate. However, according to Berkeley, it is impossible: we do not have the sensory perception of matter; our perception of each item is expanded without any residue on the perception of a certain sum of individual sensations or ideas. Indeed, in this case there will nothing remain from the matter: it seems to be dissolved in some “fog” of uncertainty, which in general can not influence anything. So, here is an aphoristic postulate of Berkeley: “To be – means to be in perception.” (Ewing1957).

The philosophical ideas of Berkeley and his atheist position lead us to the following conclusion. If there is no God, then the things we consider the material objects must have a spasmodic life: suddenly emerged at the moment of perception, they immediately would disappear as soon they leave the field of view of the perceiving subject. But, Berkeley argued that due to the constant vigil of God, everything in the world (trees, rocks, crystals, etc.) exists constantly, as a good sense befits.

Berkeley was an outstanding writer, who had an elegant style (by the way, his numerous works he wrote when he was 28!). He was not only a priest (Bishop in Cloyne,Ireland) and a philosopher but a psychologist also.Berkeley tried to prove that we perceive only the properties of things: how these things affect our senses, but we do not grasp the very essence of things, even though the properties are relative to the perceiving subject. Sensory impressions are the phenomena of the psyche.

The philosophical doctrine of George Berkeley is aimed at a refutation of materialism and the justification of religion. For this purpose he used the nominalistic principles, established by William Ockham. The doctrine, created Berkeley is a subjective idealism. Rejecting the existence of matter, it recognizes the existence only of the human mind, in which Berkeley distinguishes the ideas and souls (minds) (Berman 1995).

Also, Berkeley created the theory of material objects and the theory of idealistic sensationalism, using a notion of secondary qualities of Locke.

Berkeley wrote a lot of works and the most famous works of them are: “An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision”(1709), “Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge”(1710), “Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous” (1713), “Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher”(1732), “Siris: A Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries” (1744) and many other (Hughes 1865).

Berkeley was one of the founders of idealism, taking an active part in the struggle between the two philosophical camps; his teaching put vividly the fundamental question of philosophy.

The philosophy of Berkeley continues to attract the attention of contemporary philosophers because of its educational value, because it clearly shows all the greatest evils of philosophical thought.

Without a doubt ,Berkeley is an outstanding classic of idealism. He formulated all the basic arguments of idealism, which can be put against materialism. He clearly raised the question of the relationship between objective and subjective in the feelings and the question about the causes and types of existence. His works affect the fundamental scientific knowledge and raise questions which are still not answered.

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