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George Berkeley is credited with the development of subjective idealism.

Subjective idealism is a theory in the philosophy of perception. The theory describes a relationship between human experience of the external world, and that world itself, in which objects are nothing more than collections (or bundles) of sense data in those who perceive them. This theory has much in common with phenomenalism, the view that physical objects, properties, events, etc. (whatever is physical) are reducible to mental objects, properties, events, etc. Thus reality is ultimately made up of only Mind and mental objects, properties, events, etc.

Subjective idealism is monist, because it states that only the Mind exists (matter is then empirically unprovable as an independently objective reality external to subjective perceptions).



A famous proponent of subjective idealism was 18th century Irish philosopher George Berkeley. He began the theory of subjective idealism in response to John Locke's materialism. He believed that existence was tied to experience, and that objects existed as perception, but not as matter separate of perception. A quotation from his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, demonstrates his ideas.

…For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that is to me perfectly unintelligible. Their esse [to be] is percipi [to be perceived]; nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds of thinking things which perceive them… all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind ; that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit: it being perfectly unintelligible and involving all the absurdity of abstraction to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. To be convinced of which, the reader need only reflect and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of a sensible thing from its being perceived. From what has been said, it follows, there is not any other substance than spirit, or that which perceives.”

Cultural depictions

Subjective idealism is featured prominently in the Norwegian novel Sophie's World, in which "Sophie's world" exists in fact only in the pages of a book.

A parable of subjective idealism can be found in Jorge Luis Borges' short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, which specifically mentions Berkeley.

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