Thursday, June 16, 2011

Berkeley:  Skepticism leads to theism?

In Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley starts out by repeating classic skeptical rhetoric that sounds worthy of The Matrix.  Our mind imagines whatever it wants regarding reality.  But then there is a sudden transition:

"But, whatever power I may have over my own thoughts, I find the ideas actually perceived by sense have not a like dependence on my will.  When in broad daylight I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular objects shall present themselves to my view; and so likewise as to the hearing and other senses; the ideas imprinted on them are not creatures of my will.  There is therefore some other will or spirit that produces them." - Principles of Human Knowlege.

Thus, he deduces a theistic will that produces the world around us.  I am not so sure of the stream of consciousness here, but it does seem to me a far cleaner and more appropriate conclusion of the matter than modern skepticism which invariably demands a mindless servitude to atheist intellectualoids and their innumerable hierarchies of abstract principles.  Why should skepticism only lead to atheism?

Berkeley finds all abstractification to be abhorrent, or so he claims.  The only thing that is valid is the simplest of deduction made from the world around us.  One thing that I am inclined to agree with Berkeley about is his criticism of the notion that abstract theories can "explain".  Going on the assumption that theories are merely the accumulation of experience and processing via inductive reasoning, it is certainly impossible for any theory to explain anything.  A new instance will either confirm the inductive process or else conflict with it.  The theory can never be above the reality.  Only something that derives from reality.

Christianity, however, turns all this on its head.  Jesus is the Word, the Truth, the Light, ...  He is the abstract brought into the world and made available to our senses.


Marf said...

I'd of went down a different thought branch. Without quoting the entire thing...

"'... the ideas imprinted on them are not creatures of my will.' My will is not significantly any more or less than my fellow humans. Therefore, not everything is dependent upon a will."

Admittedly, that's taking about as big of a logical leap as Berkeley did. I just don't see any reason to assume a higher spirit or will.

You're right about theories. If there is a God outside the observable universe pulling the strings in a predictable way, it would be indistinguishable from nature. Or if we're in a matrix simulation.

Scientific theories attempt to explain and predict the reality we perceive in a way that is useful to our lives. It has an amazingly good track record in doing so. Whether we're predicting the rules within the confines of a matrix simulation (or God puppetry) is more or less irrelevant. It is the reality we're presented with, and the only one that it is of any practical use to figure out.

Science hasn't figured everything out. Probably never will. But trying to figure out what we can is better than sitting back and saying "God did it." With that attitude, we'd fall back into the dark ages.

Delirious said...

I'm not sure if I understood you correctly Marf, but I don't see God so much as a puppeteer pulling strings to make everything in this world go his way, but as a parent allowing his children to learn and experience. I believe that God gives us free will to make our own decisions, and allows humanity to make mistakes. He intervenes at times to make sure that the important things he wants for us stay on the course , and also to answer prayers. But I don't look at him as controlling our every movement. At the same time, I think God also doesn't normally "pull strings" when it comes to nature. He allows nature to follow it's natural course. The exception would be if he wants to use nature to help further his work and purposes. The account of Moses comes to mind.

Looney said...

Marf, I have wondered that most evolutionists talk of Evolution as if it had a Will and a higher Reason. Otherwise, it would seem inexplicable that it should have done what they claim evolution to have done. In some sense it looks to me that they ended up claiming to have an inanimate object with no intelligence that somehow exhibits supernatural behavior.

Marf said...

@ Looney: Much like the word theory, evolution gets misused a lot. Not everyone that uses evolution as a canned answer really understands what evolution is suppose to explain. One thing evolution is not is a theory of abiogenesis: it in no way explains how the first life came out of inanimate matter.

It does explain how one or more species can come from the same ancestors. But we've been down this path before.

Evolution and religion don't even have to be at odds, unless you're a diehard young Earth believer (6,000 years simply wouldn't be enough time for evolution). If you take the point of view Delirious pointed out, "He allows nature to follow it's[sic] natural course." Evolution is a product of nature taking its course.

I certainly don't use the theory of evolution to dispute religion. Sure I'll use evolution to dispute young Earth. But not God.

Looney said...

@Marf, we do get to wonder how evolution could be so misunderstood!

But I do agree with you that evolution explains how one species becomes another. In fact, for any two species, evolution always provides an infinite number of explanations of how they are related. This is unique about evolution and distinguishes it from true scientific theories. Evolution is an infinite explaining device.