Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

Secondly some time later men became convinced that

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: cannot see anything else that we can reasonably infer. To me, I say, it is obvious that the existence of an infinitely wise, good, and powerful spirit is abundantly sufficient to explain all the appearances of nature. As for inert, senseless matter: nothing that I perceive has the slightest connection with it, or leads to the thoughts of it. I challenge anyone to Ÿexplain any the natural phenomenon by it, however small, or Ÿshow any sort of reason, even one yielding only a very low probability, that he has for believing in its existence, or even Ÿprovide a tolerable sense or meaning for that supposition. ·The last point is not met by saying that matter is at least an occasion·. For, as to its being an occasion, I think I have shown plainly that with regard to us it is no occasion; so if it is an occasion to anyone it must be to God - his occasion for causing ideas in us - and we have just seen what this amounts to. 73. It is worthwhile to reflect a little on the motives that induced men to suppose the existence of material substance. As we watch those motives or reasons gradually weaken and die, we can correspondingly withdraw the assent that was based on them. ŸFirst, it was thought that colour, shape, motion, and the other perceptible qualities really do exist outside the mind; and this led them to think they needed to suppose some unthinking substratum or substance in which the qualities exist, since they could not be conceived to exist by themselves. ŸSecondly, some time later men became convinced that colours, sounds, and the rest of the perceptible secondary qualities have no existence outside the mind; so they stripped those qualities off this substratum or material substance, leaving only the primary ones, shape, motion, and such like, which they still conceived to exist outside the mind and consequently to need a material support. But I have shown that none even of the primary qualities can possibly exist otherwise than in a spirit or mind that perceives them, so we are left with no remaining reason to suppose the existence of matter. Indeed it is utterly impossible that any such thing should exist, so long as ‘matter’ is taken to stand for an unthinking substratum of qualities, in which they exist outside the mind. 32 74. The materialists themselves conceded that matter was thought of only for the sake of supporting qualities. With that reason having entirely collapsed, one might expect that the mind would naturally and without reluctance give up belief that was based on it alone. Yet the prejudice is riveted so deeply in our thoughts that we can hardly tell how to part with it, and this inclines us, since the thing itself is indefensible, at least to retain the name, which we use to convey I know not what abstracted and indefinite notions of being or occasion, though without any show of reason, at least so far as I can see. Looking at it from our side: what do we perceive among all the ideas, sensations and notions that are imprinted on our minds by sense or reflection from which we can infer the existence of an inert, thoughtless, unperceived occasion? Looking at it from the side of ·God·, the allsufficient spirit: why should we believe or even suspect that he is directed by an inert occasion to cause ideas in our minds? 75. We have here a very extraordinary and lamentable instance of the force of prejudice. Against all the evidence of reason, people remain devoted to a stupid, thoughtless something that they insert in such a way as to screen themselves off, so to speak, from the providence of God, and remove him further off from the affairs of the world. But even if Ÿthey do all they can to secure the belief in matter, even if Ÿwhen reason forsakes them they try to support their opinion by the bare possibility of the thing, and even if Ÿthey defend that poor possibility by an uninhibited use of imagination with no guidance from reason - still the most they get out of this is that there are certain unknown ideas in the mind of God; for this is what is meant (if indeed anything is meant) by ‘occasion with regard to God’. And this, at the bottom line, is no longer contending for the thing but only for the name. 76. I shan’t argue about whether there are such ideas in the mind of God, and whether they may be called ‘matter’. But if you stick to the notion of an unthinking substance, or support of extension, motion, and other perceptible qualities, then to me it is most evidently impossible there should be any such thing. Since it is a plain contradiction that those qualities should exist in or be supported by an unperceiving substance. 77. You may say this: But granting that there is no thoughtless support of extension and of the other Ÿqualities that we perceive, perhaps there is some inert unperceiving substance or substratum of some Ÿother qualities that are as incomprehensible to us as colours are to a man born blind, because we don’t have a sense adapted to them. If we ha...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Ask a homework question - tutors are online