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Name: George Berkeley

Time Period: 1685 -- 1753

Quote: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"

Brief Description: George Berkeley was an Anglican bishop, philosopher, and writer. The foundation of his theory was that perception creates our reality. Perception, he said, was given to us by God so that we could try to understand this world. He also said that "to be to be perceived" in addition to his question that asks "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?". According to Berkeley's theory, yes, the tree would make a sound even if no one was there to hear it because God is everywhere and he would hear it. He said that what we think we know exist does not actually exist at all, everything "out there" is really just a collection of sensations, perceptions, and interpretations and God turns them into "ideas". This philosophy is know as immaterialism because its denial that material things exist.

Related English Limerick:
There was a young man who said, God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there's no one about in the Quad

(then the response from God)

Dear: your astonishment's odd
I am always about in the Quad
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully, God.

Current Relevance: The question "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?" that Berkeley asked (and answered) seems to be fairly well circulated in modern popular culture- virtually everyone has heard that question though they may not have fully understood the context of it or who had originally asked it. However, the concept that perception creates our reality is just as relevant today as it has ever been. For example, one there is an accident or a crime takes place that has multiple witnesses, each witness views it differently. The same with a restaurant; in your opinion they have have the best food. That is your perception of it. However, another person may detest their food, and that is their perception of it. For you, the restaurant is your reality of a great place to eat, whereas with the other person who does not enjoy food at the same restaurant has a different reality- they think the food is not good. You can apply this theory to almost anything.

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