The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God

By J. L. Mackie | Go to book overview

4
Berkeley's God and Immaterial Realism

(a) Berkeley's Theism-Exposition

BERKELEY'S immaterialist philosophy is even less likely than any form of the ontological argument to figure among widely accepted supporting reasons for religious belief. Yet as a philosophical view it deserves to be taken seriously, and as a form of theism it has the merit of giving a very clear meaning to the traditional doctrine that God has not only created the world but also continuously sustains it, and that our finite minds depend, for most of their knowledge, directly upon the infinite mind of God. We should not lightly dismiss it merely because it goes against common sense -- which it does, though Berkeley strenuously denied this -- but rather examine his arguments, and reject his conclusions only if we find his arguments less than cogent.

The outlines of his theory are well known. All that exists, he holds, is minds and ideas, and ideas are entities whose esse is percipi, which exist in and by being perceived. What we ordinarily take to be material things are really only collections of ideas. Ideas are wholly passive: there are regularities in the ways in which they accompany or follow one another, but one idea does not really bring about another--or produce anything else. All genuine activity and causation belong only to minds and wills. Both human minds and the divine mind are active, but God's mind is much more powerful than ours. In reply to the objection that his theory reduces the whole realm of ordinary, material, things to an illusion, Berkeley insists that there is still a distinction between illusion and reality, to be drawn on two grounds. From the perceiver's point of view, what we call real things are a sub-class of ideas, distinguished from another sub-class which includes various sorts of illusory or imaginary items, 'chimeras', by features of three kinds: the former ('Ideas of sense') are independent

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The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Miracles and Testimony 13
  • 2 - Descartes and the Idea of God 30
  • 3 - Ontological Arguments 41
  • 4 - Berkeley's God and Immaterial Realism 64
  • 5 - Cosmological Arguments 81
  • 6 - Moral Arguments for the Existence of a God 102
  • 7 - The Argument from Consciousness 119
  • 8 - Arguments for Design 133
  • 9 - The Problem of Evil 150
  • 10 - Religious Experience and Natural Histories of Religion 177
  • 11 - Belief Without Reason 199
  • 12 - Religion Without Belief? 217
  • 13 - Replacements for God 230
  • 14 - Conclusions and Implications 240
  • Index 263
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