The common criticism launched against Bishop Berkeley, whether deservedly or not, is that his philosophical positions fly against the common sense of everyday experience. Of course, it all depends upon how you interpret his position.
His generally-accepted dictum of “Esse est percipi” (no, we will not try and be like the great William F. Buckley, engaging in the well-known habit of interspersing Latin phrases which no one understood but everyone acted like they did; and instead will provide in the next dependent clause the English translation so as not to appear too intellectually prudish) — “To be (i.e., to exist) is to be perceived” — engendered ridicule, confusion, complex rebuttals for justification of untenable positions, and a firestorm of fascinating linguistic gymnastics to explain contortions of philosophical positions. For, we all believe that there exists, beyond our own perceptions, an objective world separate and apart from the experiential sensations of our own bodies.
One might counter: If “existence” is defined merely by our own sensations, then we should be able to defy the objective existence of the world by numbing our perceptual apparatus. Thus, if a bus is oncoming, simply blot out our perceptual capacities and when the bus “hits” us — poof! — no bus. Similarly, when we leave a room, the existence of the room from which we just exited is assumed to still exist despite our distance from it where we no longer perceive it. In other words, we “believe” that the viability of the objective world does not depend upon our perceiving it.
Thus, the criticism of the statement itself — “To be” (i.e., exist) “is to be perceived” (i.e., that such existence depends upon our perception of it) — is thought to be nonsensical. It is akin, likewise, to our future plans. We expect future occurrences to follow upon the path of present conditions. Thus do we wake up each morning and expect the coffee to taste somewhat like the way it tasted the day before, and the day before that; that when we awaken, the ceiling above is the same color as it was the morning previous; and that the office or worksite we will approach will be there as it was before. The future depends upon the present; the present is inescapably embraced by the past; and so we walk about in this universe expecting that future plans will be undeterred by unexpected phenomena. Except, when they are.
Medical conditions do that, don’t they? They deter future plans because they disrupt what we were before; they alter the scope of who we were just yesterday, or the day before. The proverbial “room of existence” that Berkeley posited has in fact changed; it is no longer the “I” who was yesterday.
Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS is an attempt to regain the existential “I” of yesterday, in an effort to be able to focus upon one’s health instead of constantly worrying about tomorrow’s future with one’s Federal Agency or Postal Service job. Consider consulting with an Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law. It may be that existence depends more upon one’s perception than you think, and that future plans deterred may become undeterred by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire