Throughout Berkeley’s Principles and Dialogues between Philonous and Hylas, we see him unveil his belief of the mind and its ideas as the only valid things. Berkeley justifies his argument by stating that there are two types of minds, the mind is an immaterial substance, the mind and its ideas differ from one another and therefore concludes that the mind and its dependent ideas are the only existent things. Objections of how Berkeley’s reasoning seems inconsistent bring his readers to question the validity of this argument. He states his assurance in something he has no idea of, yet at the same time finds disbelief in something for that very same reason. He is, however, able to defend himself by proving how we have neither knowledge nor substantiation of finite spirits and through our experience we are revealed what does and does not exist. I find it difficult to agree with Berkeley because of this inconsistency and contradiction that author Janice Thomas mentions in The Minds of the Moderns.
Berkeley’s argument begins with his focus that there are two kinds of minds: a created mind and an eternal mind. He distinguishes these minds through their functions. Although they are both active and perceive ideas, a created mind differs from an eternal mind because it can will, imagine, understand or remember while an eternal mind can create ideas from nothing. This eternal mind, which he associates to God, lacks the ideas of sense in the same manner as a created mind but possesses the ability to have its ideas continue in existence without any other minds. He next brings up the point that the mind is an immaterial substance. He states in Principles §139 that the mind refers to the same concept as the soul or spiritual substance. Souls as an immaterial substances because it is an active being whose existence does not depend on being perceived but rather perceiving ideas and thinking. Berkeley’s continues by mentioning how the created mind and its ideas are different. The mind, as defined as an active being encompasses passions, actions and understanding through which willing, knowing and perceiving exists. This is all the while translucent to the mind experiencing them. Its ideas on the other hand, are inactive and lack power. He continues his argument by restating that since no material substance could possible cause such ideas, they must depend on an intangible active substance. Through all of the previous points mentioned Berkeley concludes that the mind and any mind-dependent items are consequently the only real things.
Although Berkeley seems to have a compelling argument, author Janice Thomas raises some critical objections. In describing how the mind is an active principle, Thomas points out Berkeley’s inconsistency when it comes to approving the spirit’s existence while disproving matter. In the Third Dialogue, Hylas confronts Philonous by stating: “You admit…that there is no spiritual substance, although you have no idea of it, while you deny there can be such a thing as material substance, because you have no notion or idea of it.” Berkeley defends his argument by explaining that a material substance can only exist if it has sensible qualities and yet not a perceiver- both of which are conflicting conditions and inconceivable to possess. Aside from that, he also mentions how there are no good reasons nor actions, passions, or ideas that give him the idea of a material substance.
Along with that objection raised, we later see in Berkeley’s argument how he finds it possible to agree that the cause of these ideas must be matter while at the same time disbelieving in such things. Philonous proves his statement accurate by insisting that although we infer the need of a cause- call it matter- that still does…