ADVANTAGES

In his two great works of metaphysics, Berkeley defends idealism byattacking the materialist alternative. What exactly is the doctrinethat he's attacking? Readers should first note that“materialism” is here used to mean “the doctrinethat material things exist”. This is in contrast with anotheruse, more standard in contemporary discussions, according to whichmaterialism is the doctrine that only material thingsexist. Berkeley contends that no material things exist, notjust that some immaterial things exist. Thus, he attacks Cartesian andLockean dualism, not just the considerably less popular (inBerkeley's time) view, held by Hobbes, that only material thingsexist. But what exactly is a material thing? Interestingly, partof Berkeley's attack on matter is to argue that this question cannotbe satisfactorily answered by the materialists, that they cannotcharacterize their supposed material things. However, an answerthat captures what exactly it is that Berkeley rejects is thatmaterial things are mind-independent things orsubstances. And a mind-independent thing is something whose existenceis not dependent on thinking/perceiving things, and thus would existwhether or not any thinking things (minds) existed. Berkeley holdsthat there are no such mind-independent things, that, in the famousphrase, esse est percipi (aut percipere) — to be is tobe perceived (or to perceive).

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