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Materialism and Idealism: Epicurus and Berkeley - Essay Example

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Materialism and Idealism: Epicurus and Berkeley

According to Epicurus, “The first principle is that nothing can be created from the nonexistent” (Author 108). This is rather a common sense view of things, for how can one thing arise from something that does not exist. However, this basic principle of materialism rejects the idea of creation, or making something out of nothing. It therefore rejects the possibility that there is a God who creates something out of nothing, and thus it rejects the possibility that something may actually exist from nothing. This possibility, however, is unscientific and more religious in nature, and thus it is but sensible for many people, including Epicurus, to reject it. The universe, according to Epicurus, “consists of material bodies and void” because the latter is the place where matter is to exist (109). Therefore, the existence of the “void” is considered necessary as it is the one that should contain the matter or the material substance. Epicurus also believes that “the universe as a whole is infinite,” although this may purely have been concluded based on the fact that Epicurus could not possibly comprehend a particular finiteness of the universe (109). It therefore also follows that the number of atoms is infinite, and since the number of atoms is infinite, then the void that holds them must also be infinite. Epicurus is very logical in making this distinction between material substance and “void” since he considers matter to occupy space just like the science of Democritus has established matter to be so, and so he assigns “void” as this space where matter exists (109). The idea of infinity, however, may only be the subjective part of Epicurus’ principles. There may actually be limits to the universe unknown to Epicurus or to any other human being, but perhaps Epicurus or any other human being simply will not be able to know whether such a limit exists. Such idea of infinity, however, translates as infinity even in terms of the “number of worlds, some like ours and some unlike” (110). The reason for this is that the number of atoms is infinite and that they move through great distances. Thus, these atoms which have not been utilized yet in the formation of a single world or many worlds can do the same thing. Moreover, as atoms create materials that create worlds, it is very much true that atoms somewhere may also create earthlike worlds in other parts of the universe. Apart from the idea of infinity, Epicurus has also mentioned something about the formation of images known as “idols” (110). Idols form from air and solid bodies. They possess a very fine texture and they are created as swiftly as thought, and that they flow from the surface of the body of any solid object “in a constant stream” (110). These “idols” are actually the basis of the existence of things as a human being perceives them. How then do we perceive things based on Epicurus’ point of view? It is these idols, specifically their continuous impact or an impression one of them leaves, that actually give the mind a mental picture of an object or an object’s shape (111). Thus, the pure object perceived by the mind is actually not a mental perception but the material impression of the idol or what is created by its continuous impact or stream. Moreover, according to Epicurus, the physical impression made by the idols or the continuous stream of idols on the senses is pure truth, but “ ...Show more


(Name) (Professor) (Subject) (Date) Epicurus’ Materialism and Berkeley’s Idealism It has always been a wonder whether what we can see, hear, feel, smell and touch is real or not. Sometimes, the sensations that we feel are so real, but that thing where one derives his sensations may be existent – or may not…
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Materialism and Idealism: Epicurus and Berkeley essay example
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