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The Cave and the Consciousness: A Mythlic Account of Berkley's Idealism, and a Comparison with Platonic Formalism - Essay Example

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The Cave and the Consciousness: A Mythlic Account of Berkley's Idealism, and a Comparison with Platonic Formalism

In this allegory, he talks about the fact that if all we could perceive were shadows of objects cast on a cave wall, we could still perceive many things about their existence, and they would be, to us, at least in some ways, real, even though they are mere shadows of the things that actually truly exist (Plato 229). He uses this to explain his concept of formalism, in which objects we see are mere reflections of a higher realm of those objects – for instance, we can cognitively assume that there is such thing as a perfect isosceles triangle (with infinitely thin lines, perfect angles, exact measurements and so on). Yet we also know that any representation of that triangle that we have ever seen is imperfect – one line might be an atom or two too long, the way the pen catches the paper could create distortions and so on. This is, in its fundamentals, the philosophical concept known as Platonic Formalism. George Berkeley’s conception of reality, known as Subjective Idealism, differs from Plato’s in several important ways. This essay will first attempt to create a myth or allegory to explain Berkeley’s idealism, then move on to compare and contrast it with platonic formalism. George Berkeley’s understanding of reality essentially, in its most basic form, states that the only two things that exists are “spirits” and “ideas” (Berkeley 81). Though it can be difficult to translate these ideas into modern terminology, the crux of what he means by these two terms is essential the thinking or conscious mind, and the things that this mind perceives. It sounds as if this might be similar to fundamental skepticism (that you only know that you exist – cognito ergo sum), but this is not in fact the case. This is not necessarily to deny the existence of material things per se, but indicates that their existence is limited as they are understood by a conscious mind – thus an object’s existence does not really come into account when it is not perceived. He combines this all together with a dose of theology, indicating that God has a wider perception than other spirits, and thus provides existence for many things, possibly including people, and forms a sort of group consciousness (87). Now that the basics of his principles have been set out, I will attempt to explain them with a myth or allegory, in the form of a though experiment. First there was nothing, only a consciousness that did not have outside materials to understand or work on. In its boredom, the consciousness conceived of the idea of a place to house itself, and imagined itself as suspended in a physical body. This consciousness has incredible powers of imagination – so to it, it suddenly inhabited a body. Now, to what extent is this body real? If the only thing that truly exists in the universe is a consciousness, and this consciousness feels or knows that it inhabits this body, then in what way can that body be unreal? The only determiner of reality that exists calls it real: thus a body is born. Now imagine that this consciousness meats another consciousness – and perceives that it too is clothed in a body. Now the question remains: where does this new consciousness exist? It exists certainly in one place: in the mind of the original consciousness. The second consciousness then acts in an unexpected way – it walks into a house. The first consciousness had never ...Show more


Your Name Prof’s Name Date The Cave and the Consciousness: A Mythic Account of Berkley’s Idealism, and a Comparison with Platonic Formalism Philosophical ideas can often be nearly impossible to understand for a lay (or even a learned) audience upon first reading, and sometimes second, third or fourth reading…
Author : dleffler
The Cave and the Consciousness: A Mythlic Account of Berkleys Idealism, and a Comparison with Platonic Formalism
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