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Heat Cannot Exist Unperceived: Berkeley’s Argument Term Paper

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Updated: Nov 27th, 2021


Theories are accepted in philosophy if they have been analyzed, discussed and compared. There are some theories in philosophy such as subjective, correspondence, and coherence theories and whenever there is an argument for or against any forms based on the subjective theories, a constant discussion will always be necessary. For instance, after the world was created, all the way to middle age, the earth’s shape has never changed. We will, though, agree that people’s beliefs and ideas have been changing over this period (Jessop 7). To come up with a classical theory, there must be enough propositions that will be used as the truth bearer for such a theory. Berkeley has been a hostile barrier to most of today’s scientific accounts concerning the perception of the world. He has also been trying to reject the argument that the world, after all, may not be the way it appears to human eye (Phillip 33).

Berkeley’s Argument: Heat Cannot Exist Unperceived

To understand this argument, it would be important to understand that anything sensible includes all the things that are instantly perceived by all the human senses. These sensible qualities include sound, colors, smell or odor, taste and feel. Again, an immediate perception is an act of perceiving something without any single intervention by another person; mediate perception is whereby the perception will occur due to the intervention from another person. It would also be important to understand that a material substance is anything senseless. These materials include all things with solid, inactive, senseless or inactive qualities in them (Phillip 35).

With Berkeley’s idealism, there are two main fundamental theses: metaphysical and ontological. All things existing on the earth can only be a mind or an object in terms of perception (Phillip 39). The objects with perception will exist only when, and in virtue, their being is perceived by the mind. With the ontological theses, it has anti-realist reactions on its own, and tends to rule out all unobservable things. Such unobservable things or particulars include the very small rocks from another planet where there is no life, or any unobservable thing such as a quark. Metaphysics is very common with Berkeley and other Realists where in that case, it does not have an immediate anti-realist consequence (Phillip 42). Once these two, metaphysics and ontological, are combined, there is a distinctive as well as radical view of the universe the way it is caricatured by this one consequence in that, a thing will pop in and out of existence depending on whether these things are perceived or not (Jessop 21).

These two theses are generally indeterminate of each other in some ways: The ontological theses fail to specify the kind of item a mind is (Jessop 36). On the other hand, metaphysics will not say anything on how a thing will exist by the virtue for it to be perceived (Phillip 57). Berkeley, though, seemed not to say much about the kind of thing the mind is. What we know is that he referrers to an idea as the exact object of perception (Phillip 25). In such cases, therefore, it will be unreasonable for one to think that there is an answer concerning how a thing will exist only because it has the virtue to be perceived. Such things include feelings, mental ideas, or serious sensations of tickles and pain. Considering this to be right, immaterialism will be extremely radical since it holds that all things existing are mental and hence we do not have a physical universe. It is the mind that makes the world physical, depending on the things that happen in the human mind (Jessop 43).

We will, though, notice that when one combines the two theses, then he thinks that all objects of perception cannot be mental at all and the person will therefore be arguing on something that is quite amenable and close to the human common sense. This will lead to the persuasion that metaphysics can be true for all the non-mental items of perception (Phillip 56). This is exactly the intention of Berkeley here; he intends to argue that an object of perception will not be the state of the human mind but an item of the universe. This means that something has to exist for it to be perceived. As a point of question, he argues that whatever people eat or drink cannot exist if they cannot perceive them, or without the mind. Again, Berkeley is much confident that all ordinary and non-philosophical individuals don’t care much about what they perceive or not, hence the reason such folks cling to metaphysics for all the common-sense physical items (Jessop 45).

The Argument why Heat Cannot Exist Unperceived

Color is seen by the human eye, the same way we see fire. Color can then be held to be either apparent or actual. Somebody may say that although the apparent color is generally dependent on the mind, the actual color is not in any way dependent on the mind and the reason we should see them be real (Phillip 56). In Berkeley’s work, Philonous has two responses concerning this. He points that the discussion focuses on things that are sensible, things that will be immediately perceived by the human senses (Jessop 46). In such a case, such a discussion on colors means that colors may not be perceived but Philonous believes that this is something that is a mere sort of a joke. He also makes fun of the idea that real colors will not be perceived immediately and makes a joke. “How can we have colors that we may not see, or sounds that we may not hear, or odors that we cannot smell?” (Phillip 67). In that case, Berkeley suggests that such a view attacks human common sense in a very big way.

To understand this better, we will agree that a material thing is that thing that will not be perceived. A thing that is non-perceivable will not cause pain in a person. Also, a material thing will not be a subject or a cause of pain. Then, any great degree of heat should be considered as pain. Therefore, any material or thing cannot be a subject to an intense degree of heat, which is pain (Phillip 76). Pain will never exist in the absence of the mind; it is unperceived. Therefore in that case any intense degree of heat will never exist outside the mind (Philip 78).

In the issue of heat, we can say that, when one places his or her hand near fire, he or she will feel simple and yet uniform idea in his/her mind. This basically means that the heat is perceived immediately. After a short while, the pain caused by the heat is perceived. Therefore, the intense amount of pain is immediately perceived but it is not different from the heat that had already been perceived in the very beginning. Therefore, according to Berkeley, it will be agreed that we cannot perceive the two at the same time. It will be quite impossible for someone to form a concept or idea of pain being abstracted from given sensations because of coldness, heat, and so on. This is generally a vehement kind of sensation, heat and cold, which will not be conceived if no pain or pleasure is depending on the intended purpose. In that case, we can see that any sort of pain that is sensible is nothing different from a sensation depending on its intensity or degree. Several objections have been raised on this issue. It has been argued that there is no possibility that we can perceive the heat or experience it, and at the same time the heat is in the material/object (Phillip 79).


In Berkeley’s dialogue of Philonous and Hylas, we can derive some arguments on when to prove that some qualities such as taste, smell, sound, shape or color may not exist if the mind cannot perceive them. Berkeley argues that the sound we may hear exist without us; it is a mere vibrating motion in the air. In that case, we see that all the causes that are being inferred, not sensed, or anything else that is only a cause to what we hear or see, but not exactly what we perceive. We will therefore say that such a thing does not exist. In terms of heat, Berkeley argues that intense heat is simply nothing distinct and different from the pain that one may get in the mind when exposed to the heat. This is the same thing as with sound; therefore such heat won’t exist when it cannot be perceived. Something like warmth or coldness also doesn’t exist; this is because nothing exists without the mind. The thing here is that whatever the degree of the heat we feel; the existence of such heat is disproved by the fact that such a thing cannot be perceived.

Works Cited

Jessop, Timothy. The Works of George Berkeley. London: Thomas Nelson, 2001. 21, 36, 43, 45-46.

Phillip, David Cummins. Berkeley’s Ideas of Sense. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. 25, 33, 35, 39,42,56,67,76,78,79.

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