In this essay, the purpose it to discuss Berkeley's Third Dialogue. Part A explains the
immaterialism and contains an explanation of Hylas's objection with regards to the belief that
two different perceivers never perceive the same thing. It will also contain a discussion of
Philonous's response to Hylas's argument. Part B will contain an argument that the responses
given by Philonous are not satisfactory and why the author of this paper thinks so. Hylas
objects the argument that is brought forth in immaterialism that two people will not perceive
the same thing at the same time (Adams pp. 79).
Berkeley holds the belief that materialism or a person’s belief in the mind-independent
material objects is weak, incoherent, and most of the time, leads to skepticism. He instead
argues that immaterialism gives a more persuasive account. According to immaterialism, all
the things that exist in the world are ideas that are perceived by the minds of the people in the
society (Berkeley, 2016). Hylas’s wallows in a new kind of skepticism where he argues that it
is possible to see how things appear to us but we can never know how they are really like.
Philonous is annoyed with Hylas’s views arguing that there is no difference between how the
world is and how it appears to us.
Philonous explains that anything that human beings perceive is an idea. Hylas, on the other
hand, objects the argument on immaterialism and attempts to justify the common notion that
the external things can be sensed, but in any explanation that he gives, he is not able to
counter the Philonous views and opinions and has to admit that his intuitive opinion does not
hold. All the people in the world sense things in a different way, and an individual will
perceive various things differently in different situations. The relativism in the perception of
the people is, therefore, an implication to Philonous that it is possible for a single object to
underlie all of the diverse ideas. It also means that the insensible things are passive and
cannot affect our minds in any way and they do not have the power to influence the people in
the society in any way. Therefore, the claim that they may somehow produce or somehow
lead to the conception of some ideas in the minds of the people is a fantasy that should not be
supported in any way (Berkeley, 2016).
Philonous manages to bring Hylas to the admission that sensible things are immediately
perceived hence immaterialism. Hylas is unable to justify the connection between the
external object and the human mind, and he is forced to give the qualities that matter to have
at a given time from the secondary qualities that include taste and color to the primary
qualities that include the three-dimensional extension. That means that he is not able to point
out anything that is wrong in his objection in dialogue 3. According to Philonous conclusion,
he "cannot possibly conceive how anyone corporeal sensible thing should exist otherwise
than in mind." He holds the belief that the human brain is only able to perceive the ideas that
are already existing in someone’s mind. He then concludes that it is not possible for two
people to perceive the same thing in the same way exactly. Hylas, on the other hand, argues
that the ideas are very absurd. The two philosophers go on with their arguments over the
reasons why words are not perfect, and they are a result of illogical obligation. Philonous
attempts to change the concept that Hylas gave with regards to certain words (Berkeley,
It is amazing to Hylas why different senses cannot disclose a particular thing. Philonous
argues that people do not see the same thing as they feel. Alternatively, different people are
likely to group various things to ensure that they are successful. Hylas is perplexed at how
Philonous would come up with the explanation that many people can perceive the same thing.
He picks out the word ‘same’ as the only problem in the technical definition. Hylas uses the
word "matter" to mean what it does not truly mean buy simply giving it a new meaning.
Language may permit this, but philosophy does not. Philonous defines words more clearly
and distinctly as an attempt to describe his thought world precisely and retraining the unruly
language. Berkeley, through the work done by Philonous, realizes that the power of words
can be interpreted as ideas. He controls the power by making one word to mean one thing
only. However, Berkeley cannot have control of his words because words may be vague and
unclear (Berkeley, 2009).
The rods and cons that are found in the people’s eyes enable them to see colors. In the rods,
color may be received as red, green, and blue. The upbringing of an individual as well as the
environment that he or she grew in alters the pattern of colors that he or she may perceive.
For instance, the people who have lived in solitary confinement will receive the colors
differently compared to the people who have lived with the rest of the population. The
genetic differences may also play an important role in determining how an individual will
perceive the colors (Berkeley, 2009).
The objective reality is the same for all the people, but the individuals see the world
differently. If this were the extent of our epistemological problems, subjectivism would be a
very boring topic. People could come up with the ideas that would enable them to construct
machines and devices that would enable them to see more clearly. However, subjectivism
refers to more than the senses of the people in the society. The thought patterns of the people
affect the way they interact with the environment. Our imperfect senses are the ones that
control the link between the perception and the world in general (Berkeley, 2000).
Knowledge about everything is incomplete. Every being that is present in the world is only
able to see a small fraction of the reality and all the heuristics, emotions, and logic are
instinctive best-guesses. The shared experiences of mankind, therefore, promote or demote
the ideas of physics and religion, and that is why there are several people that believe in
physics whereas the others believe in religion as their only way of perceiving the world.
Others can use the concepts of both religion and physics to explain the phenomena in the
world today. It is not easy to find the truth in the world even if an individual decides to
combine the efforts of the millions of people that are found in the world. There are some
cases where the whole population of human beings has been wrong with regards to major
parts of reality with some controversial questions coming up, such as the shape of the earth.
How can one ascertain the truth from his or her knowledge with regards to certain
phenomena? The truth is that getting the truth will we much more challenging (Berkeley,
Everyone’s brain is wired differently; hence, everyone perceives issues and phenomena
differently, and that is why it is not possible for people to see various things the same way. A
fact presented to two people will be understood differently and will be stored in two different
ways. It is as if there is no real world, and people will understand the world differently, which
complicates the issues even more. Logic and consensus have, therefore become the important
ways that will help the people ascertain what is real and what is not. The issues that come up
the fact that experience only provides a fuzzy and inaccurate picture of what reality is and
consensus, on the other hand, is merely a diplomatic compromise that seeks to have the
people believe in what the majority thinks is the truth. Logic and reason lead to many
problems since one may disapprove another person’s experience as being false. For instance,
a psychiatrist may think that a patient’s experience of what the government conspiracy is like
a false experience even though the person may have experienced the issue for ten years.
People experience the world differently. A given event is experienced differently by
everything that witnesses it because everyone’s brain is wired differently according to top
their genotype and phenotype as well as the environmental conditions that they have faced in
the society. Upbringing and experience are also a factor in the way people perceive
phenomena. That is why one woman may reject the marriage proposal of a given man
because she believes that he will not be a good husband to her, but another woman could
gladly take the man as her husband and be very happy. We arrive at what is real by
consensus. We can say the sun is yellow because the majority of the people in the world
perceive and believe so. All human beings put happiness and sadness on the same scale, even
though they perceive them differently. People can share what they understand with each other
meaning that although the people experience things differently, they can still communicate
the ideas with each other. We give things names, and the other people seem to agree with our
naming system and refer to the things with the names that we have allocated to them. The fact
that they see things differently does not prevent the people from having a consensus. That is
why all the people who understand English can perceive a car and refer to it so. There are
cases where people get into arguments as to what something is. The brain is, therefore, an
imperfect organic machine as opposed to being a mystical repository of truth. The senses are
also imperfect, and the point of view is limited and the reality that the people experience is
not the total picture. The human brain also has various systematic thinking errors. The
people, therefore, have to rely on the mixed guesses. No two people ever experience the same
event or thing in the same way, because the complexities and depths of their errors and
assumptions are different for every person: every event is experienced slightly differently.
Philonous reply to Hylas concern is therefore not good since there are several issues that he
was unable to justify.
Berkeley, G. (2000). Berkeley's Principles and Dialogues: background source materials.
Cambridge University Press.
Berkeley, G. (2009). Principles of human knowledge and three dialogues. Oxford University
Berkeley, G. (2016). Three dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. In Seven Masterpieces of
Philosophy (pp. 117-190). Routledge.