Why does Berkeley consider himself the defender of common sense? Do you agree with this self-assessment?

Essay by garimanitariaUniversity, Bachelor's December 2004

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Because Berkeley's ideas are so unconventional, it is surprising that he claims that his ontology is actually a validation of common sense. The common sense view that Berkeley believes himself to be defending consists of the following interrelated ontological and epistemological claims: (1) We can trust our senses. (2) The things we see and feel are real. (3) The qualities we perceive as existing really do exist. (4) All skeptical doubt about the real existence of things is, therefore, precluded. Berkeley contrasts this common sense view with the view of philosophers, in particular the views of Descartes and Locke. The philosophical view Berkeley opposes distinguishes between subjective ideas, which exist only as the content of our consciousness, and real material things, which exist objectively in the external world and do not depend on their being apprehended by any mind in order to exist. On this view it is only the ideas and not the "real things", of which the ideas are representations, to which we have immediate access (counter to common sense claim two).

Therefore, this view raises the worry of how we can know anything about the external world (counter to common sense claim four). The philosophical view also draws a distinction between primary qualities (such as size, motion, and shape) and secondary qualities (such as color, sound, taste, and smell). Primary qualities, it is said by the philosophers, really exist within the objects of perception, but secondary qualities are nothing more than ideas (counter to common sense claims one and three).

According to Berkeley's ontology, there are only two types of things existing in the world: ideas and the spirits which have them. He identifies sensible objects such as flowers, chairs, and hands, with those ideas we call "sensations". In other words, he eliminates the philosopher's...