Samples Philosophy “To BeIs To Be Perceived” – George Berkley

“To BeIs To Be Perceived” – George Berkley

903 words 4 page(s)

To begin with, in Phenomenology of Spirt, Hegel analyses the concept of “self-consciousness” after explaining consciousness in general. Throughout the text, he explains his position on how we develop “self-consciousness”, highlighting that in order to be conscious of an object, one has to be aware of one’s own self as a subject. To put it differently, it is impossible to be aware of the external world without being conscious of one’s own inner world. He also adds that subjects can be viewed as objects to other subjects: “self-consciousness is thus the awareness of another’s awareness self” (Hegel). In this context, Berkley’s ideas that “To be is to be perceived” takes on a new significance since Hegel accentuates “the struggle for recognition” that is a necessity for the phenomenon of self-consciousness.

According to Hegel, the “Other” is absolutely necessary in our quest for self-awareness because only when the self and the other unite, self-consciousness becomes possible. Paradoxically, the moment of difference that arises between these two opposing tendencies results in the possibility of self-consciousness. By “a struggle of recognition” that is implied in the process of our establishment of our sense of self, the author means the attempt of an object to be noticed by another object so that. According to Hegel, this kind of the realization of self-consciousness is a hard work, actually a struggle since the two individuals are not equal to each other: one is a bondsman, whereas another is a servant (Hegel).

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The Master/Slave Dialectic exemplifies this “struggle” in terms of the difficulty of the recognition between the two unequal individuals. Personally, I see this dialectic applying to social relations, at a macrocosmic level, as a universal struggle between the black and white, the good and bad, the immortal and the mortal. At the same time, when applied to our intimate relationships with people we know, this dialectic can be interpreted as a constant interchange of the energies and letting each other know that we (both of us) exist.

In her story titled Strangers, Morrison is responding to this particular framework of developing our subject-hood through her focus on appropriation and/or estrangement of “strangers”. Morrison arrives at conclusion that strangers help us understand ourselves and our humanity. When the narrator sees Mother Something, she walks toward the woman and they talk about simple subjects. The narrator enjoys the communication with Mother Somethings and waits impatiently for another meeting: “I imagine a friendship, casual, effortless, delightful” (Morrison 108). When Mother Something suddenly disappears, the narrator feels utterly sad. The unexpected feeling of the loss of a person she misses so much overwhelms the narrator. The main idea here is the fact that the absence of the woman whom she spoke to just for fifteen minutes, takes away the narrator’s good opinion of herself. The narrator finds it impossible to forgive Mother Something.

According to Morrison, we use certain resources to filter our exchanges with others – being afraid of the possible actions of strangers, we are not sure what to do with these unknown people. In order to get closer to strangers, people tend to use the resources such as imagery, language, and experience (Morris 109-110). At the same time, Morrison believes that “there are no strangers” (Morrison 110). The author is convinced that those whom we call ‘strangers’ are merely our own versions. Sometimes we do not know these versions and sometimes we fail to fully grasp them. That is why Morrison thinks that we need to acknowledge the fact of multiple versions of ourselves in order to truly know ourselves.

Meta Commentary
After examination of both Hegel and Morrison’s claims in their respective texts, I found out that these authors focus their attention on the exploration of the nature of developing self-awareness and self-consciousness through our relationship with others. Hegel and Morrison highlight the importance of ‘the Other’, ‘others’, and ‘strangers’ in our pursuit to be self-identified and understood both by ourselves and others. Hegel explores the so-called “the master-slave dialectic”, a philosophical framework that used to characterize the dynamic between dominating lord and dominated bondsman. This methodology can be effectively used from a psychological perspective to better understand Toni Morrison’s essay Strangers, in which the author explores the role of others (strangers) in our self-consciousness, self-awareness, and self-knowledge. It follows that without the existence of others as well as without our conscious awareness of their existence, neither these others nor ourselves cannot exist. In this context, Berkley’s statement “to be is to be perceived” is so much better understood: without being perceived by others, we ourselves turn out to be non-existent in the dimension of this reality. In such a way, the analysis of the two aforementioned readings has to shed more light on Berkley’s quotation and explore its philosophical meaning.

Finally, I believe that the positions articulated by Berkley’ Hegel, and Morrison apply to my own understanding of how I perceive my own self in relation to my interaction with other people. In my opinion, not only those people whom I personally know have factored and still factor in my own self-perception. The point is those ‘others’, of whose existence I am simply aware factor me just because I am aware of their existence as an entity that defines me and who are defined by my awareness of them (even if they are merely an idea assumed by me).