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The focus of this paper is Berkeley’s putative objections to matter or at least his objections to the possibility of experiencing and knowing material substance. The discussion centers around some context and a couple of different readings of Berkeley’s ‘Master Argument’ for the conclusion that there is nothing that exists in a mind-independent way, or at least that there is no knowing of anything that is mind-independent. In presenting these arguments, I alternate between strong critique and attempted defense of Berkeley, toward the goal of trying to arrive at a fair view of his position, a view that is hopefully not too easily capsized by the sheer weight of commonsense.
Berkeley’s objections to matter are, intuitively, and perhaps particularly in their motivation, incredibly strange-seeming. Assuming in broad strokes that Berkeley does indeed wish to argue that there are no such things as physical, material objects which exist outside our minds, it is the sort of conclusion and position which runs so counter to commonsense that taking it seriously is in itself difficult work...
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