AS Philosophy Idealism high-mark answer

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Assess the claim that only minds and ideas exist (30 marks)
The theory which states that only minds and ideas exist is idealism. Idealism is
based upon the notion that because we can't claim to have any direct
knowledge of the material world, there is no way we can be sure that the
world around us is actually exists. It is a radically empiricist position, which
states that there is no external, independently existing, material world and is
also an posteriori theory. Idealism believes that `objects' are collections of
ideas and do not consist of mind independent matter. Statements about these
objects can be known to be true through sense experience as objects are
collections of sense data. These objects only exist when they are being
perceived as they are a mental phenomenon according to idealists.
This theory is a reply to representative realism, Berkeley agrees with Locke
that we experience directly the contents of our mind it is ideas (sense data) of
which we are immediately or directly aware in experience. According to Locke
objects really possess their primary properties like shape and number while
they cause observers the experience of secondary properties like colour or
sound. Berkeley believes that if we are to have knowledge of the world we
need to close the gap between reality and experience. This leads Berkeley to
the view that it is only if physical objects are conceived as collections of ideas
which hang together in experience that we have any empirical evidence for
their existence. Further, the distinction drawn between primary and secondary
properties cannot support the view that there are mind independent objects.
A first argument for Berkeley's view is that Locke is an incoherent empiricist
and the concept of matter is meaningless. This is because one of the
fundamental principles of Empiricism is that all concepts must have their origin
of sense experience. If we have a concept which cannot be traced back to
sense-experience then it is not a real concept. The concept of matter has never
been experienced according to Locke's representative realism; it lies behind
`the veil of perception'. The idea of an unperceivable thing is a contradiction in
terms, this leads Berkeley on to his most famous statement Esse est percipi (to
be is to be perceived).

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Another argument is that idealism resolves the problems of representative
realism. For Berkeley, in order for anything to exist, it must be observed. He
views this as a natural resolution to the problems encountered with
representative realism, whereby the existence of the external world, beyond
the `veil of perception' could never be proved. For Berkeley, we only need to
remove the external world from the equation, leaving minds and ideas as the
only existents.…read more

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Where do our ideas come from?
Why can I be pretty sure of the taste of an apple before I have put it to my
mouth? In light of this, surely realism is a better explanation objects exist in the
world and they cause me to have certain perceptual experiences. The idealist
tries to deal with this problem as Berkeley argues that the materialist's claim
that `matter' behaves in a regular and ordered manner is just as miraculous as
Berkeley's claim.…read more


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