The Enlightenment Period

George Berkeley

What was Berkeley’s answer to whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound?

Berkeley said that objects we sense only exist insofar as we have ideas of their sensory qualities. When we do not perceive those qualities, such as the sound of a tree falling in a forest, then they do not exist as our ideas. However, this would not entitle us to conclude that such a tree makes no sound. Our ideas of sensory qualities come to us from God, who has created them. If a tree falls in the forest and God creates the sound of its crashing down, then that idea in God’s mind would guarantee the occurrence of the sound, even though human beings could not perceive it. The same reasoning was applied by Berkeley to the continued existence of a room when no people are inside it. It would still exist as a series of ideas in God’s mind.


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