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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Essi is percepi, Was George Berkeley right?

The Eighteenth Century British philosopher George Berkeley maintained that "to be is to be perceived." see http://www.iep.utm.edu/berkeley/ In short, he believed that everything in the material world is composed of ideas and, consequently, only really exists in the mind. More recently, some scientists have speculated along the same lines about the nature of reality.

Last year, an article appeared on the Daily Mail which explored the views of Donald Hoffman from the University of California on the subject. see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3554564/Do-reality-perception-world-simply-ILLUSION-says-leading-expert.html For Hoffman, we construct our own reality in order to manage and survive a reality that is too complex for us to comprehend. He contends that we only perceive "what we need in the moment," and that we exclude the things that we "don't need to know."

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I have mentioned on several occasions MIT Cosmologist Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. In that work, Tegmark proposes that mathematical equations are at the root of everything that we are and see around us. And, taking his speculation a step further, I have asked "doesn't this demand the presence of a mind - some master mathematician?"

Think for a moment about the implications of all of this for theology. If everything that we are and see really only exist within the mind of God, doesn't that have profound implications for many of the doctrines and philosophies expressed within the Judeo-Christian Scriptures?

Think for a moment about what Paul told the Athenians milling about on Mars' Hill. Speaking of God, he said "For in him, we live, and move, and have our being..." (Acts 17:28) He then went on to talk to them about the resurrection of the dead (verses 31-32). Was he suggesting that the resurrection was simply a matter of God retrieving a thought from some corner of "His" mind?

And what would the acceptance of these notions suggest about the nature of Jesus Christ? Once again, longtime readers of this blog know that I have avoided discussions about whether God exists as one, two, three or more entities. However, if we accept the premise that Berkeley and these scientists are correct about the nature of reality, aren't we inexorably drawn to the conclusion that such a discussion is pointless?

Allow yourself a moment to think about the implications which this has for some of the statements attributed to Jesus Christ in the "Gospel According to John." I'm thinking about things like:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1), "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), " If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake" (John 14:7-11), " And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5).

This perspective certainly gives new meaning to the notion of there being ONE God doesn't it? And, it certainly has profound implications for what it might mean for us to be one of God's children and to someday be a part of "His" family!

I'd like to hear some thoughts on all of this - especially in light of the fact that Berkeley's argument destroys many of the philosophical problems pointed out by those who reject the notion of God's existence. What do you think?


  1. Mine is a sympathetic ear, as testified by http://gordonfeil.blogspot.ca/2016/11/what-is-reality.html, https://gordon-feil-practical-living.blogspot.ca/2017/01/creating-reality.html, and http://gordonfeil.blogspot.ca/2017/01/shaping-reality.html.

    I should say that the notion that I am an illusion certainly takes a lot of the fear out of life.

  2. Lonnie... it is now confirmed: You've been very illusive of late. I think that you are just a figment of my imagination. (Boy - my imagination has been very creative lately!) I recall a Star Trek episode with the badly injured character Captain Christopher Pike as he was rescued from the crash of his ship by advanced aliens: His alien-created illusion environment become his reality. Of course "this" also happens when people get whacked out by drugs and fry their brain. Or, "this" (an illusion about reality) might happen when humans try to explain creation without the Divine revelation of scripture. Did something come from nothing? The answer is illusive - unless we consider the revelation of scripture which does say that everything that we see (or do we just "think" that we see it?) originated from the Mind of God. The Word spoke... and it came into being (but I'll concede that understanding that is beyond my pay grade).

    When Mr. Berkeley is resurrected in the second resurrection (yes, I still believe that!), perhaps he can converse with Rod Sterling about whether his new reality is The Twilight Zone or just an illusion.

    (Meanwhile... my big toe hurts! I think it is the universe contained therein - but yearning to be free! Or perhaps that is just my creative imagination again: After all - my imagination thought of you. :)