Can someone explain me this phrase attributed to Berkely


In Principles #3, he wrote, using a combination of Latin and English, esse is percipi, (to be is to be perceived), most often if slightly inaccurately attributed to Berkeley as the pure Latin phrase esse est percipi. The phrase appears associated with him in authoritative philosophical sources, e.g. "Berkeley holds that there are no such mind-independent things, that, in the famous phrase, esse est percipi (aut percipere) – to be is to be perceived (or to perceive)."

I have read explanations online, but I'm wondering if someone could give me an example of the phrase?

  • If a tree falls in a forest ...
    – bib
    Sep 9, 2014 at 11:36

1 Answer 1


"To be is to be perceived", meaning that reality doesn't exist outside our perception of it. Everything you think you know about the reality surrounding you is not something existing "per se", but it's rather your perception of it, an idea inside your mind. Want a great example? The movie Matrix. Since our knowledge of the outer world is nothing more than electrical signals being interpreted by our brain, the machines have found a way to enslave the human race. Humans are being harvested and used as sources of power, but they are unaware of it, since their brains are being fed a series of electrical stimuli that let them believe they are living a normal life. They cannot tell anymore what's real and what's not, because their reality is whatever their brain perceives.

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