Berkeley's Theory of Immaterialism

Essay by dogsnameA, March 2004

download word file, 9 pages 4.0 2 reviews

Downloaded 160 times

As man progressed through the various stages of evolution, it

is assumed that at a certain point he began to ponder the world around

him. Of course, these first attempts fell short of being scholarly,

probably consisting of a few grunts and snorts at best. As time passed

on, though, these ideas persisted and were eventually tackled by the

more intellectual, so-called philosophers. Thus, excavation of "the

external world" began. As the authoritarinism of the ancients gave way

to the more liberal views of the modernists, two main positions

concerning epistemology and the nature of the world arose. The first

view was exemplified by the empiricists, who stated that all knowledge

comes from the senses. In opposition, the rationalists maintained that

knowledge comes purely from deduction, and that this knowledge is

processed by certain innate schema in the mind. Those that belonged to

the empiricist school of thought developed quite separate and distinct

ideas concerning the nature of the substratum of sensible objects.

John Locke and David Hume upheld the belief that sensible things were

composed of material substance, the basic framework for the

materialist position. The main figure who believed that material

substance did not exist is George Berkeley. In truth, it is the

immaterialist position that seems the most logical when placed under

close scrutiny.

The initial groundwork for Berkeley's position is the truism

that the materialist is a skeptic. In the writing of his three

dialogues, Berkeley develops two characters: Hylas (the materialist)

and Philonous (Berkeley himself). Philonous draws upon one central

supposition of the materialist to formulate his argument of skepticism

against him; this idea is that one can never perceive the real essence

of anything. In short, the materialist feels that the information

received through sense experience gives a representative picture of...