I have not been reading philosophy seriously for very long but I have come across George Berkeley, who said that material things are simply ideas in our minds. Therefore if we are not there to perceive the idea of the bird or tree, do they cease to exist? Also are there any faults in thinking in this way? Surely there are. Lets say you had just seen a bird for the first time, and it just so happened that it would let you touch it. It feels delicate, and soft due to its feathers, and then we get an idea and perception of what a bird is based on its properties. So, if we have got this idea from an actual material bird, then surely it is something physical that exists outside of our minds?

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  • I tried putting together my thoughts on the idea of an objective universe recently, and why I don't think we can ever say for sure that something does 'empirically' exist. I'm not the most articulate speaker, but it might be worth checking out - youtube.com/watch?v=6XkTfOTfWcI – Callum Bradbury Jun 2 '17 at 15:09
  • It's worth pointing out that Berkeley's solution to the problem is, roughly, to hold that everything at all times is perceived by God. Even when there's no human around to perceive something, it doesn't cease to exist because it is still perceived in the mind of God. – possibleWorld Jun 3 '17 at 12:36

First, some terminology: the view that material objects exist independently of anyone perceiving them is metaphysical realism; the view that denies metaphysical realism is called metaphysical anti-realism. Berkeley is a metaphysical anti-realist in this sense.

You ask: what's wrong with anti-realism? Well, it's tough to say without some motivation for the view. So here's a Berkeleyian argument for metaphysical anti-realism:

  1. Material objects are perceived.
  2. What is perceived are ideas in the mind.
  3. So, material objects are ideas in the mind.

Obviously, premise 1 looks pretty good. No one wants to deny that material objects are perceived. And 3 follows logically from 1 and 2, so 3 looks pretty good too. That leaves premise 2. The metaphysical realist should deny premise 2. One way to do so is to hold a version of direct realism. Direct realism holds that material objects are perceived directly, not mediately by ideas.

It's also worth pointing out that your response

So, if we have got this idea from an actual material bird, then surely it is something physical that exists outside of our minds?

begs the question against the anti-realist. The anti-realist denies that material objects exist outside of our minds. Your response assumes that to get the idea of the bird requires that the bird exist outside of your mind. But that's just what the anti-realist denies.

Further reading: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/realism-sem-challenge/

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The world is as you perceive it, and this idea happened to bring me back to a quote from a book series called The Chronicles of Amber, and how they'd asked a variation of this same question, Corwin of Amber and his musings on solipsism: https://cailcorishev.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/corwin-on-solipsism/

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  • The truth of claim that "the world is as you perceive it" is precisely what the OP is asking about. Simply stating that the world is as one perceives it doesn't answer the OP's question, because, presumably, the OP was looking for reasons for or against thinking that. – possibleWorld Jun 3 '17 at 12:40
  • Actually, in the text of the link there's a pretty interesting argument against solipsism, namely that if anyone truly believes this is all the creation of our minds then why do they not have a strong personal judgement about what they have created? It doesn't get around Berkely's religious solipsism, but it is more interesting an answer than it's brevity would initially suggest. – Isaacson Jun 4 '17 at 7:55
  • @isaacson Yeah, it's not clear to me that the view being argued against in the link is even metaphysical anti-realism. The anti-realist (or, at least, one kind of anti-realist) holds that material objects depend for their existence on their being perceived. That says nothing about material objects being created by the mind. Now, the view that material objects are created by the mind probably entails anti-realism, but the converse doesn't obviously hold. – possibleWorld Jun 4 '17 at 16:44

It's called spiritualism (philosophy) and in this case there is only two solutions.

  • Either everything is spiritual (we live in the consciousness of something bigger) and even if the outside world is "fake" you are a part of that "emptiness" so the nature of the reality is just spiritual.

  • or we only "exist" by the "inside" means that when you look at the tree you make it real. But here the trick you are not the only consciousness here, animals, and if you go further plants maybe the matter it self is looking to things so they make it real.

So in a case you are just a mirror of the emptiness and the other case every things is looking at everything and everyone make everything and everyone exist. At this moment you are not the mirror anymore but the reflection, the "image" of how the world (or you) see itself.

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  • Hi, and welcome to Philosophy.SE. This answer is interesting but would be stronger with some references to provide further insight into where the ideas are derived from. Consider adding some sourced material. – PV22 Jun 2 '17 at 20:36
  • Honestly, this doesn't make much sense. What is it to "live in the consciousness of something bigger" or to be "a mirror of the emptiness"? – possibleWorld Jun 3 '17 at 12:38
  • note. The fact that we are only spirits and by this fact "empty" means that everything is possible(creativity, freewill etc) no more "mechanist" ways of doing or create things. The old example of the Cave of plato with the shadows on the wall explain that very well. Also in the first movie Matrix, there is a scene with a bold child and a spoon, when neo wants to bend the spoon with his will, the child tell him that the spoon does not exists and that the only way of bending the spoon is to bend is own reflection (looking at himself and bending his own image). – Patrick Moumiet Jun 7 '17 at 13:23
  • For the "sense" I answered IN the spiritualism paradigm. If there is only spirits and no material reality, this means you and me we live into "something" ( Taoist call this The Tao for example) and it is only spiritual so all of us in this paradigm we live in a superior consciousness or create one all together.For the mirror its just a quote for understand what does it means in term of reality. If you are a spirit and you need to be look by something to exists, the first way to exist is to look at yourself, so your existence is "empty"(you>>you) read Bergson, Plato and Aristotle. – Patrick Moumiet Jun 7 '17 at 13:31

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