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Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

The set rules or established methods whereby the mind

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Unformatted text preview: own thoughts, however, I find that the ideas I get through my senses don’t depend on my will in the same way. When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose whether or not I shall see anything, or to choose what particular objects I shall see; and the same holds for hearing and the other senses. My will is not responsible for the ideas that come to me through any of my senses. So there must be some other will - some other spirit - that produces them. 19 30. The ideas of sense are stronger, livelier, and clearer than those of the imagination; and they are also steady, orderly and coherent. Ideas that people bring into their own minds at will are often random and jumbled, but the ideas of sense are not like that: they come in a regular series, and are inter-related in admirable ways that show us the wisdom and benevolence of the series’ author. The set rules or established methods whereby the mind we depend on - ·that is, God· - arouses in us the ideas of sense are called the laws of nature. We learn what they are by experience, which teaches us that such and such ideas are ordinarily accompanied or followed by such and such others. 31. This gives us a sort of foresight that enables us to regulate our actions for the benefit of life. Without this we would always be at a loss: we could not know how to do anything to bring ourselves any pleasure or save us from any pain. That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, and fire warms us; that to sow in the spring is the way to get a harvest in the fall, and in general that such and such means are the way to achieve such and such ends we know all this not by discovering any necessary connection between our ideas but only by observing the settled laws of nature. Without them we would be utterly uncertain and confused, and a grown man would have no more idea of how to manage himself in the affairs of life than a new-born infant. 32. This consistent, uniform working obviously displays the goodness and wisdom of ·God·, the governing Spirit whose will constitutes the laws of nature. And yet, far from leading our thoughts towards him, it sends them ·away from him· in a wandering search for second causes - ·that is, for causes that come between God and the effects we want to explain·. For when we perceive that certain ideas of sense are constantly followed by other ideas, and we know that this is not our doing, we immediately attribute power and agency to the ideas themselves, and make one the cause of another - than which nothing can be more absurd and unintelligible. Thus, for example, having observed that when we perceive by sight a certain round luminous figure, we at the same time perceive by touch the idea or sensation called heat, we infer that the sun causes heat. Similarly, when we perceive that a collision of bodies is accompanied by sound, we are inclined to think the latter an effect of the former. 33. The [1] ideas imprinted on the senses by the Author of Nature are called ‘real things’; and those [2] that are caused by the imagination, being less regular, vivid, and constant, are more properly called ‘ideas’ or ‘images’ of things that they copy and represent. But our [1] sensations, however vivid and distinct they may be, are nevertheless ideas; that is, they exist in the mind, or are perceived by it, as truly as [2] the ideas that mind itself makes. The [1] ideas of sense are agreed to have more reality in them - that is, to be more strong, orderly, and coherent than ideas made by the mind; but this does not show that they exist outside the mind. They are also less dependent on the spirit or thinking substance that perceives them, for they are caused by the will of another and more powerful spirit, ·namely God·; but still they are ideas, and certainly no idea - whether faint or strong - can exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it. 34. Before we move on, I have to spend some time in answering objections that are likely to be made against the principles I have laid down. ·I shall answer twelve of them, ending in section 72; and further objections will occupy sections 73-84. My answer to the first of the twelve will run to the end of section 40·. If fast-thinking readers find me too long- 20 winded about this, I hope they will pardon me. ·My excuse is that· people are not all equally quick in getting a grasp on topics such as this, and I want to be understood by everyone. First, then, this will be objected: By your principles everything real and substantial in nature is banished out of the world, and replaced by a chimerical [= ‘unreal or imaginary’] system of ideas. All things that exist do so only in the mind ·according to you·, that is, they are purely notional. Then what becomes of the sun, moon, and stars? What must we think of houses, rivers, mountains, trees, stones - even of our own bodies, for that matter? Are all these mere illusions, creatures of the imagination? To all this - and any other objections of the same sort - I answer that the principles I have laid down don’t deprive us of any o...
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