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Friday, November 21, 2014

Philosophers on Science (1 of 4): George Berkeley

When it comes to science, George Berkeley certainly has an odd view of what it achieves. A little background to his philosophy will probably be beneficial in understanding his perception of science.

Berkeley was a major proponent of idealism. Idealism is the idea that reality is simply a series of perceptions of the mind. This basically means that everything you think is real is only a thought produced by your mind. This makes it seem as though real and imaginary ideas are not distinct. However, he argued that the two can be distinguished. He said that (perceptions of) real things always have an order to them, as God deemed that these (perceptions of) laws of nature would be helpful to us.

Although I find idealism a difficult concept to believe, I most certainly agree with the previous statement. It would be torturous to wake up wondering if gravity was going to work (or if I was going to perceive gravity working if following Berkeley’s ideology). However, his idea that laws of nature are only regularities in our perceptions puts science in an awkward position. Based on idealism, science is no longer the art of determining how nature works but rather determining the regularities in how we perceive nature. Apparently instead of putting together the puzzle of Nature, scientists just stare at the puzzle until it becomes clear. That does not sound nearly as impressive. According to this ideology, all the technology that we have is just a conglomeration of perceptions that look much more incredible when perceived simultaneously. Being a physics major, I must say that I do not quite agree with Berkeley’s view of reality, but that’s just my opinion. Make of this what you will.

 By Nicholas Moore: Section 9, group 1

My information on Berkeley came from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/

1 comment:

  1. Well, as a physics major I'd say your opinion cuts deeper in matters of science than does that of a pre-scientific Bishop.

    It's so odd to think of Berkeley as an empiricist, given the modern association of that way of thinking with a more scientifically inclined worldview than Berkeley ever managed to conceive. But that just shows how flexible and misleading "experience" can be, if we make unsupported assumptions about it - as Berkeley definitely did, when he agreed with Locke that we immediately encounter just our ideas.