Berkeley Part 2: Berkeley’s Possible Response

Possible Berkeleyan Response

            I believe that Berkeley may have an underlying principle that would help support his ontology. In sections 5 through 6 Berkeley gives us a test we can’t seem to pass, the test being, abstract the principle of being perceived from the object.  So for example Berkeley demonstrates that he himself can abstract something if what is meant by abstraction is imagining some thing’s existence apart from those things that it exists in combination with. For example, Berkeley says we can imagine a torso without the arms or the smell of rose without the rose even if we have never experienced this. But, we cannot separate the perceptibility of the object from the object. If we try we are left with no object at all. This why Berkeley believes there is a necessary connection to the things being perceived and it being. Thus it would render many of my question-begging objections false since he is merely describing objects the way the way they seem to exist; inseparable from their being perceived (and in a demonstrable way by the example of abstraction).


            I don’t believe this a very sound objection to there being no physical objects. Berkeley may put me in an agnostic state toward matter but I don’t believe he can prove that matter doesn’t exist. I say this because the abstraction example above, while powerful, seems to be true even if matter does exist. The logically consistent story we would give back to Berkeley would be that of a Humean nature (where one cannot imagine anything unperceived). If matter exists and we can perceive it, and we cannot conceive of anything we haven’t perceived, then we just have a strong connection between ideas and things sensed. Imagine something you haven’t perceived (and isn’t just an adding or subtracting or composition of ideas and so on…). You can’t. So of course you can’t abstract the perceptible qualities from the object of thought. If perceiving is a necessary condition for having the idea of something then we could never have this non-sense of abstracting perceptible qualities from a thing.

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