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Berkeley and God in the Quad



In a familiar limerick attributed to Ronald Knox, the narrator asks how a “tree/should continue to be/when there’s no one about in the Quad,” and is subsequently reassured that its continuous existence is guaranteed by God’s being “always about in the Quad” observing it. This is meant to capture Berkeley’s so-called ‘continuity argument’ for the existence of God, on which the claim that objects exist continuously over time is supposed to entail the existence of a Divine Mind that continuously perceives the ideas that constitute those objects. But the continuity argument is not an uncontroversial one. For one thing, we might ask what divine perception is supposed to be like – does God perceive all of the ideas that we do, and in the same way that we do? And if so, does this mean that God (like us) perceives pain – that God suffers? For another thing, we might ask whether Berkeley is entitled to the claim that objects exist continuously to begin with. In this paper, I look at some of the problems associated with the continuity argument, and then present a reading of divine perception that attempts to prevent these problems from arising at the outset.