George Berkeley: Rocks Not As Matter, But as Perceptions

  • Hylas to Philonous: You were represented, in last night's conversation, as one who maintained the most extravagant opinion that ever entered into the mind of man, to wit, that there is no such thing as MATERIAL SUBSTANCE in the world.

    Philonous: That there is no such thing as what PHILOSOPHERS CALL MATERIAL SUBSTANCE, I am seriously persuaded: but, if I were made to see anything absurd or skeptical in this, I should then have the same reason to renounce this that I imagine I have now to reject the contrary opinion.

    Hylas: . . . can anything be more fantastical, more repugnant to Common Sense, or a more manifest piece of Scepticism, than to believe there is no such thing as MATTER? (Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), First of The Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists.)

  • Sir, I refute it thus! (Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) kicking a rock on being told by Boswell of Berkeley's contention that matter does not exist.)

  • . . . the elementary particles making up the trees, people, and planets—what we see around us—are apparently just distributions of likelihood until they are measured (that is, measured or observed). So much for the Victorian view of solid matter! (Laurance R. Doyle, SETI Institute)

  • Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems. (Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Atomic Physics and the Description of Nature)
    Berkeley's limericks mocking those who scorned his point of view:

  • There was a young man who said God,
    must find it exceedingly odd
    when he finds that the tree
    continues to be
    when noone's about in the Quad.

  • Dear Sir, your astonishment's odd
    I'm always about in the Quad
    And that's why the tree
    continues to be
    Since observed by, yours faithfully, God
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