Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

The atheist indeed will lose the rhetorical help he

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Unformatted text preview: ne thing in nature. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or in any way conceive or understand remains as secure as ever, and is as real as ever. There is a real world, and the distinction between realities and chimeras retains its full force. This is evident from sections 29, 30, and 33, where I have shown what is meant by ‘real things’ in opposition to chimeras or ideas made by us; but by that account real things and chimeras both exist in the mind, and in that sense are alike in being ideas. 35. I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can take in, either by sense or reflection. I don’t in the least question that the things I see with my eyes and touch with my hands do exist, really exist. The only thing whose existence I deny is what philosophers call ‘matter’ or ‘corporeal substance’. And in denying this I do no harm to the rest of mankind - ·that is, to people other than philosophers· - because they will never miss it. The atheist indeed will lose the rhetorical help he gets from an empty name, ·namely ‘matter’·, which he uses to support his impiety; and the philosophers may find that they have lost a great opportunity for word-spinning and disputation. 36. If you think that this detracts from the existence or reality of things, you are very far from understanding what I have said in the plainest way I could think of. Here it is again, in brief outline. There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, which cause Ÿideas in themselves through acts of the will, doing this as they please; but these ideas are faint, weak, and unsteady as compared with other Ÿideas that minds perceive by sense. The latter ideas, being impressed upon minds according to certain rules or laws of nature tell us that they are the effects of a mind that is more powerful and wise than human spirits. The latter are said to have more reality in them than the former: by which is meant that they are more forceful, orderly, and distinct, and that they are not fictions of the mind that perceives them. In this sense, the sun that I see by day is the real sun, and what I imagine by night is the idea of the former. In the sense I am here giving to ‘reality’, it is evident that every plant, star, rock, and in general each part of the system of the world, is as much a real thing by my principles as by any others. Whether you mean by ‘reality’ anything different from what I do, I beg you to look into your own thoughts and see. 37. You will want to object: ‘At least it is true that you take away all corporeal substances.’ I answer that if the word ‘substance’ is taken in the ordinary everyday sense standing for a combination of perceptible qualities such as extension, solidity, weight, etc. - I cannot be accused of taking substance away. But if ‘substance’ is taken in a philosophic sense - standing for the support of qualities outside the mind - then indeed I agree that I take it away, if one may be said to ‘take away’ something that never had any existence, not even in the imagination. 21 38. ‘But’, you say, ‘it sounds weird to say that Ÿwe eat and drink ideas, and are clothed with them.’ So it does, because the word ‘idea’ is not used in ordinary talk to signify the combinations of perceptible qualities that are called things; and any expression that differs from the familiar use of language is bound to seem weird and ridiculous. But this does not concern the truth of the proposition, which in other words merely says that Ÿwe are fed and clothed with things that we perceive immediately by our senses. The hardness or softness, the colour, taste, warmth, shape and such like qualities, which combine to constitute the various sorts of food and clothing, have been shown to exist only in the mind that perceives them; and this is all I mean by calling them ‘ideas’; which word, if it was as ordinarily used as ‘thing’, would sound no weirder or more ridiculous than ‘thing’ does ·in the statement that we eat and drink things and are clothed with them·. My concern is not with the propriety of words but with the truth of my doctrine. So if you will agree with me that what we eat, drink, and clothe ourselves with are immediate objects of sense that cannot exist unperceived or outside the mind, I will readily agree with you that it is more proper - more in line with ordinary speech - to call them ‘things’ rather than ‘ideas’. 39. Why do I employ the word ‘idea’, rather than following ordinary speech and calling them ‘things’? For two reasons: first, because the term ‘thing’, unlike ‘idea’, is generally supposed to stand for something existing outside the mind; and secondly, because ‘thing’ has a broader meaning than ‘idea’, because it applies to spirits, or thinking things, as well as to ideas. Since the objects of sense Ÿexist only in the mind, and also Ÿare unthinking and inactive ·which spirits are not·, I choose to mark them b...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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