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Date Posted: 22:15
Author: Eponymous-25Jul02
Subject: Berkeleyan Reality
In reply to: Anon-25Jul02 's message, "Re: The value of a currency note" on 22:13

Yeah, I actually once took a class on the British empiricists, of whom Bishop Berkeley was one. Berkeley's view is a little hard to sketch, but basically he contended that so-called physical objects are simply collections of "sensible ideas" (roughly, the sense perceptions of the minds apprehending them).

Note that Berkeley's view is not that the objects of perception are illusory. It's just that they aren't "physical" in the standard sense. [n.0]

You are right, therefore, to believe that Samuel Johnson’s famed demonstration [n.1] fails as a disproof in the case of Berkeley’s idealism. However, the reason it fails there is that the intent behind the demonstration confuses (1) the denial of the existence of mind-independent matter with (2) the denial of the reality of the objects of our experience of the world. Berkeley was only denying the former.

But Krishnananda seems to be denying both. Which is why Johnson’s demonstration would succeed as an at least pragmatic disproof of Krishnananda’s remarks. How? By demonstrating a core, epistemic, practical commitment to the objects’ being real - however this “reality” is to be construed.

Put it this way: If one seeks to avoid physical harm, it can only because one is fundamentally committed at that time to the idea that physical harm is in some important sense real. Sure, one might thereafter repair to the armchair [n.2] and, in a calmer moment, reflect on how it is all really just an illusion. But it seems to me that actions speak a lot louder about one’s basic beliefs than any armchair speculation can.

0. For one thing, they do not exist unless they are presently perceived. (Berkeley’s famous dictum is esse est percipi - “to be is to be perceived.”)
1. The standard apocryphum has Dr. Johnson merely kicking a stone to demonstrate realism, rather than assaulting the hapless Bishop Berkeley’s foot.
2. Or the yoga mat, if that is preferred.

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