Bishop George Berkeley stated that size is not a primary quality of an object, since it varies with the distance of the object from the observer. A man standing next to you may be as tall as you, but from the end of the street he is smaller than your little finger. This law of perspective affects the size of everything in the universe and appears imperceptible only in relation to one’s own body. One’s hand appears to be of a constant size, whether at the dinner table covering a saucer or from a high-flying jet plane covering a city.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, said that “man is the measure of all things.” All we know is the perception of a human mind and all knowledge is relative to the human condition. The sum total of knowledge is so vast that it is easy to forget that it was compiled entirely by human beings. It is easy to conceive of knowledge as something abstract and independent of humanity, but this is a mistake. Although some religions claim that the knowledge revealed by God came through a human being
Large is larger than human scale and small is smaller. The size variations are so large that they must be expressed as powers of ten, and even then the numbers are large. The largest thing we know, the universe, is about as many times larger than human scale as the smallest things we know, subatomic particles, are smaller. The universe and the quark are roughly equidistant from man. Is this just another example of wherever you are standing, you seem to be in the center, or is this whole phenomenon a unique feature of the human mind? Is the man in the center for a reason and a purpose?
Bishop Berkeley had another interesting idea. Since all objects are mere perceived qualities, he doubted that an object existed if no one looked at it or otherwise perceived it, and argued that its continued existence depended on the will of God: He always looked at it. ! Berkeley even presented this idea as proof of the existence of God; someone had to be watching everything all the time.
Since the time of Laplace, explanations have been sought that do not require the intervention of God, and that makes the idea of the bishop even more interesting. Man is the only known conscious being, and everything known about the universe has been observed, measured and recorded by men, so is the presence of man necessary for the existence of the universe? If the only evidence for the existence of objects is the qualities perceived by men, can the universe have any existence independent of the mind of man?
Mind and matter used to be considered separate substances; questions were asked:
What’s going on? No matter!
What is the mind? No matter!
Modern neurological research seems to suggest that mind could be an emanation of matter, but could Bishop Berkeley be right in seeing matter as an interpretation of mental perceptions? Is mind the crowning achievement of matter’s evolution: the means by which matter knows itself, or is it a consciousness that constructs the material world as a ‘visual reality’ encompassing all the senses?