Berkeley On The Theory Of Relativity


Berkeley at one point confesses that, really, what he has proved is not so much “that there is no extension or color in an outward object,” but that “we do not know by sense which is the TRUE extension or color of the object.”

This leads Berkeley into a discussion of the Relativity of perceptions. Just as Heat and Cold are relative concepts dependent upon the state of mind of the perceiver, so are all characteristics of bodies, including the most basic characteristics, such as Size and Shape. All things appear differently “to the same eye at different stations,” or to “eyes of a different texture at the same station.”

Consider Motion, says Berkley… “If the succession of Ideas in the mind become swifter, the motion, it is acknowledged, shall appear slower.”

“It does not appear to me that there can be any Motion other than relative,” writes Berkeley. And since any Motion of one body is only relative to some other body, “there must be at least conceived two bodies” if we are to perceive Motion at all. In other words, he declares, “if there were only one body in being, it could not possibly be moved” for “motion doth necessarily include relation.”


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