George Berkeley’s Basic Concept of Insight, What is Basic Insight?

George Berkeley’s Basic Concept of Insight, What is Basic Insight?

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

While most of the famous philosophers of the past produced a corpus of works covering a wide problem area, Berkeley has since been remembered for a single thought that no one has completely ignored.

Berkeley states that Locke is completely right when he says that the things we can grasp directly consist of the content of our own consciousness. But in this case, he asks, on what grounds can we argue that the existence of our minds is caused by things of a completely and fundamentally different nature from them, namely material objects, which we can never directly reach? In what sense can this be true if, as it is said, we reach these objects indirectly through the sensory images we acquire from them? They explain this by saying that our sensory images are “replicas” of objects; but how can such a meaning come from it?

How could it be a replica of something that was not a subject of experience, such as color or sound, or even “like” it in any way? Is there any doubt that a color can only be (or cannot) be similar to another color, a sound only to another sound? All this is conceptual nonsense, says Berkeley. Locke argued for the existence of an independent non-sensory domain that we can never conceptualize, about which we cannot find evidence, and whose presence or absence would make no difference to us. Are there any understandable reasons for doing this?

Since each of us is directly conscious of being such a subject and being a subject’s experience (experiences), we know that experiences are inherent in a subject’s nature, says Berkeley; however, we have no reason to believe that these experiences depend on objects outside of us. Therefore, says Berkeley, a consistent empiricism leads us to the conclusion that what exists are mental things and the contents of the mind, or subjects and their experiences. There is no reason to believe that anything else exists.

We have no reason to believe that there is an enduring, independent matter, the material substance of Locke (which he himself considered incomprehensible). In arguing that something exists outside the limits of the realm of possible experience, Locke violated the fundamental principle of empiricism.

“The truth that a few people turn into a game is the cry of all people.” Berkeley

This is a solid philosophical argument that thinkers have had trouble getting to grips with ever since. Berkeley, a Christian, aligned this argument with a holistic view of reality as existing in God’s mind, an eternal spirit that creates us finite souls and communicates with us through our experiences. According to this view, everything that exists exists either in our mind or in God’s mind; or otherwise, what exists is either us or God. Non-religious thinkers have set this religious framework aside, noting that Berkeley has no reason to isolate the existence of a God, or even a permanent self; but Berkeley’s other philosophical arguments remain difficult to answer.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook