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George Berkeley

Berkeley (1685-1753) was an Irish Bishop and Idealist who argued against abstract notions of existence, such as "matter", on the grounds that to exist is to be perceived. Everything we think we know about "external" things is merely a perception within our mind. Other people or atoms do not exist outside of us; they are ideas inside a thinking spirit. To speak of an object's "real" properties, beyond those that we know from everyday sense-experience is to speak nonsense. Berkeley's views can seem absurd and counter-intuitive on first blush, but he argues them convincingly. Being a Bishop and a stern believer, he proposed that God was the source of all our perceptions, thus making them objective.