Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Spat Among the Anti-Materialists

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of 'Christian Science', was apparently not very impressed by Berkeley:

Bishop Berkeley published a book in 1710 entitled "Treatise Concerning the Principle of Human Knowledge." Its object was to deny, on received principles of philosophy, the reality of an external material world. In later publications he declared physical substance to be "only the constant relation between phenomena connected by association and conjoined by the operations of the universal mind, nature being nothing more than conscious experience. Matter apart from conscious mind is an impossible and unreal concept." He denies the existence of matter, and argues that matter is not without the mind, but within it, and that that which is generally called matter is only an impression produced by divine power on the mind by means of invariable rules styled the laws of nature. Here he makes God the cause of all the ills of mortals and the casualties of earth.

Again, while descanting on the virtues of tar-water, he writes: "I esteem my having taken this medicine the greatest of all temporal blessings, and am convinced that under Providence I owe my life to it." Making matter more potent than Mind, when the storms of disease beat against Bishop Berkeley's metaphysics and personality he fell, and great was the fall—from divine metaphysics to tar-water!

[From Mary Baker Eddy's Message for 1901.] The context can be seen here (scroll down). Eddy, it seems, was a little sensitive about the charge that Berkeley was the inventor of Eddy's views about the world. She is certainly right that Berkeley would not have accepted the 'Christian Science' claim that death, disease, and sin were illusive errors. Berkeley deals with the question of God's relation to ills in PHK 151ff.

In any case, I knew I had to post about it when I came across the comment on Berkeley's interest in tar-water.

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