Friday, 12 February 2016


This particular statement is said by George Berkeley. He said it in Latin language - “Esse est percipi” which means to be is to be perceived. According to him we cannot know if an object is, but we can only know if an object is perceived by a mind. Therefore, we cannot think or talk about an object’s being. We can only think or talk about an object’s being perceived by someone. All that we know about an object is our perception of it. The existence of an idea cannot be separated from its being perceived. If an idea or object is not perceived, then it does not exist. Everything in the universe depends on perception.

Berkeley attacked the notion that ideas are ‘modes’ in a subject mind. He wanted us to see that the ideas are objects in the mind, not properties flowing from it. And he goes on to explain that there is a real distinction between the mind and the objects of the mind. We don’t know their innermost secrets; we do not know why one idea follows another. God surely knows, because He is their creator and absolute sustainer.

Image result for TO BE IS TO BE PERCEIVEDThough we hold indeed the objects of sense to be nothing else but ideas which cannot exist unperceived; yet we may not hence conclude that they have no existence except only while they are perceived by us, since there may be some other spirit that perceives them though we do not. According to Berkeley things like trees, books and mountains are groups of ideas or sensible qualities and are therefore as much within the mind as the latter are. A tree is a group of ideas touched, seen and smelled; a cherry, a group of ideas touched, seen, smelled and tasted. The sensible qualities or ideas without which we should have no conception of a tree or cherry, don’t belong to some unseen, untouched, untasted substance, for the very conception of such a “something I know not what” is incoherent and rests upon the false view that we can conceive something in complete abstraction from ideas of sense.

According to Berkeley we perceive trees and cherries directly by seeing, touching and tasting them, just as the plain man thinks, we do, whereas his opponents regard them as perpetually hidden from us by a screen of intermediaries that may be always deceiving us. Berkeley considered that by this view he had refuted skepticism of the senses, for, according to his theory, the objects of the senses are the things in the world: the trees, houses and mountains, as compounded of sensible qualities or ideas cannot exist without the mind.

Gilson, Etienne and Thomas Langan. Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant. New York: Random House, 1963.

Berchert M. Donald. “George Berkeley”. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York: Macmillan Reference.

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