Berkeley, George

George Berkeley David Berman BACKGROUND AND EARLY WORK George Berkeley was born on 12 March 1685 in Co. Kilkenny, where he spent his early years. His father was from England, his mother (very probably) was born in Ireland.1 After attending Kilkenny College, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, in March 1700, where he became a Scholar in 1702 and received his B.A. in 1704. In 1707 he undertook the examination for a College Fellowship. In the same year he published his minor mathematical works, Arithmetica and Miscellanea Mathematica, probably in the hope of supporting his canditature for Fellowship, to which he was admitted on 9 June 1707. He then held such College positions as Librarian, Junior Dean, and Junior Greek Lecturer. In 1710 he was ordained into the Church of Ireland. It was as a young Fellow in his early twenties that Berkeley developed his immaterialist philosophy, which he published in (what are now) three philosophical classics: An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), The Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713). Much of his philosophy’s complex development can be traced in the two philosophical notebooks he kept during this creative period, c. 1707–8. The notebooks, first printed in 1871 and now widely known as the Philosophical Commentaries, also enable us to see the influences on Berkeley’s thinking. This is especially useful in Berkeley’s case, since his three early works contain few references to the writings of other philosophers. It is clear from the Philosophical Commentaries that he was profoundly inspired by the work of John Locke and the Cartesians, particularly Nicolas Malebranche. Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690) had been put on the course at Trinity College as early as 1692 (see [5.15], 149). That Berkeley read it carefully and appreciatively is evident from numerous references in his notebooks. Berkeley admired Locke’s candour and concern for clarity. In the Essay of Vision, sect. 125, he describes Locke as ‘this celebrated author’, who has ‘distinguished himself…by the clearness and significancy of what he says’. Berkeley also uses some of Locke’s terminology, for example, when talking of ‘primary and secondary qualities’. He also derived important theories from Locke, although he almost always modifies these in crucial ways. On certain issues, most notably abstract general ideas, he could be extremely critical of Locke. The influence of Malebranche is harder to pin down. But since the publication of A.A.Luce’s Berkeley and Malebranche in 1934, Berkeley’s major debt to Malebranche’s Search after Truth (1674/5) has been generally recognized. ‘Ideas’ play as central a role in Berkeley’s Principles as they do in both Locke’s Essay and Malebranche’s Search. All three philosophers describe ideas as the immediate objects of the mind, when it experiences or thinks. But Berkeley is closer to Malebranche in characterizing ideas as having a certain substantial and independent reality. Summing up Berkeley’s intellectual debt, Luce wrote: ‘Locke taught him, but Malebranche inspired him’ ([5.18], 7). There were other philosophers, however, who exerted a powerful, although less positive influence on Berkeley. Here Luce singled out Pierre Bayle, the great sceptic who ‘alarmed and alerted’ Berkeley, making him aware of the sceptical dangers inherent in Cartesianism. But the Philosophical Commentaries show that Berkeley was also reacting to the irreligious challenge of Hobbes and Spinoza—the two philosophers then most vilified by orthodox thinkers of Berkeley’s theological sympathies. Hobbes’s materialism and Spinoza’s pantheism posed a formidable danger to theistic systems, and Berkeley felt that one great merit of his immaterialism was its effective response to this danger. As he notes in entry 824 of the Commentaries: ‘My Doctrine rightly understood all that Philosophy of Epicurus, Hobbes, Spinoza &c wch has been a declared enemy of religion comes to ye ground’.2 Of course, as this entry itself shows, Berkeley’s philosophical horizon was not confined to (then) modern writers of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He was also responding to ancient Greek writers, notably Epicurus and Lucretius, as well as drawing inspiration from Plato, Aristotle, and other classic philosophers. Nor was Berkeley influenced only by philosophers. Like most astute thinkers, he was attentive to the revolutionary scientific and mathematical developments of the time, particularly to the mechanistic corpuscularianism of Isaac Newton, whose ‘celebrated’ Principia is the only book that Berkeley discussed and mentioned by name in the body of the Principles. So far I have tried to situate Berkeley, as most histories of philosophy do, as the foremost philosopher after Locke (and before David Hume), who was responding to the irreligious, sceptical and scientific challenges in seventeenth-century thought. Yet it is also important to see the local, Irish context of Berkeley’s writings. It is probably no accident that Ireland’s greatest philosopher emerged at the centre of Ireland’s one great period of philosophical activity. This is, very briefly, the period that opens in the 1690s with William Molyneux, Robert Molesworth and John Toland; develops in the early eighteenth century with Berkeley, Francis Hutcheson, William King, Peter Browne; and culminates in the late 1750s with Edmund Burke and Robert Clay ton (see [5.15]). Neither before this sixty-year period, nor after it, has Ireland produced such continuous creative philosophy, or a philosopher of Berkeley’s stature. THE ESSAY OF VISION : LIMITED IMMATERIALISM The importance of the Irish context can be seen straightaway in Berkeley’s first major work, An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, published in Dublin in 1709. Here the main influence was Molyneux, the Dublin polymath and friend of Locke, whose celebrated problem pervades much of Berkeley’s argument in the Essay. Molyneux’s problem was whether a man blind from birth would upon gaining his sight be able to distinguish (visually) a sphere and cube that he formerly knew by touch. Berkeley adverts again and again to this problem, which was first published in the second (1694) edition of Locke’s Essay, II. ix. 8. Berkeley also made considerable use of Molyneux’s Dioprica Nova (1692)—from which, for example, his Essay’s key section 2 is drawn—as well as Molyneux’s essay on the moon illusion. Another Irish influence on Berkeley’s Essay was Archbishop King, a philosopher of European standing, whose criticisms prompted Berkeley to add an Appendix to the second edition, also published in 1709. Berkeley’s main aim in the Essay was to establish one part of his immaterialism, namely, that everything we see is mind dependent. He assumes here what he will deny in his next work, The Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), that there are tangible things independent of the mind. His strategy was to teach or convince his readers by stages. If he could show that the visual world was mind dependent, then that would be a crucial step towards the acceptance of full immaterialism: that the whole physical world— including what we touch—exists in the mind. Another of Berkeley’s objectives in his Essay was to explain how the mind judges visual distance, magnitude, and situation, and while doing this to solve three notable problems, associated with these topics, problems that seemed intractible on the (then) accepted theory of vision. One problem, concerned with the judgement of size, is why the moon looks larger on the horizon than in the zenith of the sky. According to the accepted theory, articulated in Descartes’s Dioptrics (1637), most of our judgements of size are accomplished by a natural geometry. In short, rays coming from objects project onto the eyes angles by means of which the mind judges an object to be large or small, near or far away. Yet why, Berkeley asks, do we mistakenly see a large moon on the horizon? How can geometry lead us to false judgements? The moon illusion, Berkeley concludes, ‘is a clear instance of the insufficiency of lines and angles for explaining the way wherein the mind perceives and estimates the magnitude of outward objects’ (sect. 78). Berkeley’s broader argument against the natural geometry theory is set out earlier in the Essay with reference to judgements of distance; but it can be reformulated to refer to size. In short: In asserting (1) Berkeley was not distinguishing himself significantly from the received theory. Everyone seemed to agree that what we immediately see are variable patterns of visible points that change with the movement of our or other bodies; although for the accepted theory the visible points were immediately seen on the eye, whereas for Berkeley they are in the mind. But the important difference between the two positions is that for Berkeley the judgement of size is an inference based on what we immediately see, whereas for the innategeometry theorist the judgement arises from the (unconscious) calculation of rays and angles. Estimating the size of an object is, for Berkeley, like seeing that someone is angry or embarrassed. Although some people might say that they can directly see my anger, all they really see, according to Berkeley, are signs or expressions of it: my reddish face, flashing eyes, clenched fist. And if they were not able to see such perceptible signs, or connect them with the appropriate emotions, then they would not be able to infer that I am angry. So the innate geometry theorist is like someone who claims to know that I am angry, although he admits that he has not observed any behaviour expressive of anger. (1) We do not immediately see the size of an object (cf. sect. 2). (2) What we judge size by must itself be perceived (cf. sects 10–12). (3) But we do not perceive projected lines or angles. (4) Therefore, we do not judge size by a natural geometry. Berkeley has another way of expressing this thesis which reveals his ultimate metaphysical position in the Essay: that what we see constitutes a language by means of which God tells us about the tangible world. This is the kernel of his so-called opticlanguage proof for the existence of God, a proof that Berkeley first presented in Dialogue Four of Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher (1732), to which he appended a revised (third) edition of the Essay. If his conclusion is correct—and I shall be considering his detailed argument below—then to claim that we can judge the size of an object by sight alone would be like asserting that we can be aware of what a sign or utterance signifies on first hearing it, and that there is a necessary or inner connection between, say, the English word ‘table’ and the table it signifies. This is clearly mistaken in the case of language, and Berkeley tries to show that it is equally wrong in the case of vision. For, according to him, the visual and the tangible are entirely different: it is only by correlating them over time that we learn to judge size, distance or shape by sight. It is here that we can appreciate the importance of the Molyneux problem, mentioned above. For if the newly-sighted man could see straightaway which was the sphere, then this would show that the visual and tangible sphere have shape in common, that ‘It is no more but introducing into his mind by a new inlet [sight] an idea he has been already well acquainted with [by touch]’ (sect. 133). Hence a positive answer to the Molyneux problem consistently goes with the theory that there are common ideas underlying sight and touch. But Locke—who agreed with Molyneux’s negative answer—also held that the sphere has one shape or figure, whether it is seen or touched; see, for example, Locke’s Essay II. v. Berkeley’s conclusion, then, is: ‘We must therefore allow either that visible extension and figures are specifically distinct from tangible extension and figures, or else that the solution of this problem given by those two thoughtful and ingenious men is wrong’ (sect. 133). Of course, for Berkeley their negative answer is correct; indeed, if anything, it does not go far enough. For when the newly-sighted man is asked the question—which is the sphere and cube?—he should be utterly perplexed and baffled, even by the question. He would be in a position similar to a person who was asked a question in Chinese, having never before heard that language spoken. COMPLETE IMMATERIALISM: THE PRINCIPLES The authorative statement of Berkeley’s philosophy, generally called Immaterialism, is to be found in The Principles of Human Knowledge (1710). It contains his most complete defence of his ‘immaterialist hypothesis’ and its consequences, although it is supported by his earlier Essay of Vision and his later and more popular Three Dialogues (1713). Immaterialism has, broadly speaking, a negative and a positive side. It denies that matter or corporeal substance exists; it explains all existence in terms of minds and ideas. Although the Principles and Dialogues are mainly concerned with the negative side, Berkeley’s original plan was to explicate the positive side of Immaterialism in a second part of the Principles. Thus in the Commentaries, 508, he writes: ‘The two great Principles of Morality, the Being of a God & the Freedom of Man: these to be handled in the beginning of the Second Book,’ And he had, as he informed his American friend, Samuel Johnson, on 25 November 1729, made considerable progress on Part Two, ‘but the manuscript was lost about fourteen years ago [while travelling in Italy], and I never had leisure since to do so disagreeable a thing as writing twice on the same subject’. Berkeley never did publish Part Two of the Principles, although he made important additions in its second edition (1734), which is still described on the title-page as ‘Part One’. He also probably introduced material from the projected part (or parts) in his later works, particularly Alciphron (1732) and the Analyst (1734). Thus in a letter of 1 March 1709/10, he mentions that one of the main topics of the Principles was to be the ‘reconciliation of God’s foreknowledge with the freedom of men’—a subject which is not discussed in the Principles (as we have it), but is examined at length in Alciphron VII. 16–23. The negative thrust of the Principles begins in the Introduction, where Berkeley hopes ‘to clear the first principles of knowledge, from the embarras and delusion of words’ (sect. 25). Probably the two main delusions he has in mind are the dogma that (1) all meaningful words stand for ideas, from which it seemed to follow that (2) general words, such as ‘extension’, ‘triangle’ and ‘motion’, must stand for abstract general ideas. This conclusion was also based, according to Berkeley, on the nominalistic proposition, which he accepts, that (3) only particular triangles and specific instances of motion exist in nature, rather than (as Plato thought) triangularity or motion as such. The mistake was to infer from (3) and (1) that the mind must be able to form general ideas by a process of abstraction, that is, by eliminating those features which distinguish particular triangles, say, and retaining that which all triangles have in common. For Berkeley we can only abstract or form an idea of things that can exist separately. Thus we can abstract a lion’s head from his body, but not the lion’s colour from his (visual) shape. Berkeley had previously attacked this influential theory of abstraction in the Essay of Vision, sections 122–5, as one of the sources of the (erroneous) view that there were ideas of shape, for example, in common between touch and sight. His strategy, both in the Essay and the Introduction, was to show the theory’s absurdity by criticizing its most distinguished proponent—namely, Locke. Berkeley’s ‘killing blow’ was to quote from Locke’s Essay IV. vii. 9, a now well-known passage which describes the difficulties of abstraction: For example, [writes Locke,] does it not require some pains and skill to form the general idea of a triangle, (which is yet none of the most abstract, comprehensive, and difficult) for it must be neither…equilateral, equicrural, nor scalene; but all and none of these at once. In effect, it is something imperfect, that cannot exist; an idea wherein some parts of several different and inconsistent ideas are put together…’ In arguing that no one could have such a contradictory idea, Berkeley does little more than allow Locke’s description to speak for itself. For Berkeley a word becomes general ‘by being made the sign, not of an abstract general idea but, of several particular ideas, any of which it indifferently suggests to the mind’ (sect, 11); and this, Berkeley says, is sufficient for communication as well as demonstration. Berkeley continues his attack on the dogma that every significant name stands for an idea by showing, more positively, how words can be used meaningfully which do not satisfy this semantic condition. Thus most of the time we use words like letters in algebra, or counters in a game, not thinking of their particular values or meanings, although we can do so, when—as in a card game—we encash the counters. There are also words which are used meaningfully that never inform or stand for ideas. Berkeley specifies three functions in section 20: non-cognitive words can evoke (1) emotions, (2) attitudes and (3) actions. I shall be saying more about this far-reaching thesis below, particularly when I consider its main deployment in Alciphron. Now we need to consider Berkeley’s chief claim to fame, his rejection of matter. Why, then, does Berkeley think that matter does not exist? Because, very briefly, every apparently feasible conception of it can be shown, according to him, to be either meaningless or self-contradictory. This is a very strong claim, which Berkeley tries to justify throughout the body of the Principles, but especially in sections 3–24, where he examines various theories of matter. Thus, matter is sometimes understood to be an inert, senseless substance in which subsist the so-called primary or intrinsic qualities, such as extension, solidity, shape, etc. (sect. 9). It is also defined as the substance that supports qualities, such as extension, where (unlike the previous case) the qualities are not part of the conception (sect. 16). Berkeley had many targets, because there were (and probably still are) many theories of matter. His strategy against matter differs radically from that against abstract general ideas. For it is not the case, as many histories of philosophy suppose, that his one target was Locke’s theory of matter. Berkeley does not name his specific targets, either in the Principles or in the Dialogues. He is intentionally unspecific, as in section 9, where he speaks of ‘some there are’, or in section 16 where he describes the conception of matter considered there as ‘the received opinion’. His aim was to refute all (seemingly plausible) theories of matter. As the concept of matter changes, so does Berkeley’s criticism. Thus the conception in section 16 is charged with meaninglessness, since in what sense can matter (which is supposedly different from extension) support extension? How can a non-extended thing or substance literally support anything? In section 9, on the other hand, matter is understood to be an extended substance, i.e. an inert substance in which extension, figure, etc., ‘do actually subsist’; so this criticism would be inappropriate. Instead, Berkeley says that the conception is contradictory, since it asserts that qualities like extension inhere in an inert, senseless substance. Why is this contradictory? Berkeley’s answer brings us to his fundamental positive insight, summed up in his famous axiom ‘esse is percipi’ (sect. 3), that the existence of all physical things and qualities—extension, solidity, etc.— consists in being perceived. Berkeley traces the contrary belief—that one can separate the being of a physical thing from its being perceived—to the pernicious doctrine of abstraction, castigated in the Introduction. For Berkeley the physical world is composed entirely of things perceptible, imprinted on the senses, which he calls variously sensible ideas, sensible objects, sensations, or ideas. As he expresses this in section i: By sight I have the ideas of light and colours with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive, for example, hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance… Smelling furnishes me with odours; the palate with tastes, and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. What else, after all, do we directly perceive? The widely-accepted philosophical and scientific answer was: mind-dependent sensory states, resulting from the impinging of external bodies (corpuscles) on the sense organs. Berkeley agreed with the initial part of this answer, but he rejects the sophisticated causal explanation in favour of what he calls the ‘vulgar’ or common view: that the things immediately perceived are the real things. Putting the two notions together, he says, constitutes the essence of his position, a marriage of philosophy and common sense, according to which the real physical qualities and objects are mind-dependent entities, idea-things (see [5.3], 2:262). Hence it follows that neither extension nor any physical quality can exist in a senseless or mindless substance any more than a thought or emotion can. However, materialism, as Berkeley well recognized, takes many forms—one of the most important of which he confronts in section 8. This grants that what we immediately perceive are ideas, but it none the less asserts that these ideas are ‘copies or resemblances’ of the physical qualities that exist externally in unthinking substances. This account, sometimes called the representative theory of matter, involves these components: (1) mind——(2) ideas——(3) physical objects. Prima facie, this theory seems to evade the difficulties I mentioned earlier in connection with the theories of matter in sections 9 and 16. Against this theory, Berkeley brings another of his principles: that ‘an idea can be like nothing but an idea’ (sect. 8). In short, if physical objects are like ideas, then they are mind dependent; and in that case the theory is contradictory, as was that in section 16. If, on the other hand, a physical object is not like an idea, then what is it like? Can the materialist say anything meaningful? Berkeley thinks he cannot, since everything that he can say of physical objects must be drawn from what he perceives. But then the materialist’s theory is empty, meaningless—as was that in section 9. And so Berkeley goes from target to target, arguing that every putative materialist theory is either meaningless or contradictory. As he puts it in section 24, ‘T’is on this therefore that I chiefly insist, viz. that the absolute existence of things are words without a meaning, or which include a contradiction’. Of course, in saying that the word ‘matter’ can be meaningless, Berkeley is not saying that it lacks all meaning. For while ‘matter’ has no cognitive meaning, it does have, as he suggests in section 54, an emotive meaning: it makes people act as if the cause of their sensible ideas was material rather than spiritual. It also ‘strengthened the depraved bent of the mind towards atheism’ ([5.3], 2:261). ‘Matter’ is, in short, a perniciously emotive word, masquerading as a cognitive one. Berkeley’s positive claim, that there are only two beings in the world—minds and ideas—is in the dualistic tradition of Descartes; although Berkeley’s system is more economical in that there is only one substance: mind. Apart from sensible ideas, described above, there are also ideas of memory and imagination, which are formed by ‘either compounding, dividing or barely representing’ sensible ideas (sect, 1), and are fainter and less orderly than them. But all ideas, according to Berkeley, are entirely passive or inert. It is the other sort of being, spirits or minds, that are active. They cause, will, perceive, or ‘act about ideas’; hence Berkeley’s more complete formula in Commentaries, 429: ‘Esse is percipi or percipere, or velle, i.e. agere’. To be is to be perceived or perceive or will, i.e., act. Minds and ideas are ‘entirely distinct’. As with ideas, there are two species of spirits: finite and infinite. Section 2 is devoted to finite, human spirits. God, the infinite spirit, is introduced gradually, later in the Principles. As matter is vanquished so God comes to the fore, as the being which produces sensible ideas in finite minds. GOD REPLACES MATTER AND NATURE Berkeley offers a more or less formal proof for the existence of God in sections 145–9. An even more succinct proof of the immortality of human spirits is presented in section 141. Neither proof should be regarded as an afterthought. For, as is generally accepted, Berkeley’s philosophy is directed primarily towards theological ends, particularly proving the existence of a religiously meaningful God and awakening his readers to a vivid sense of His presence. Setting out Berkeley’s proof will help us to gain a clearer understanding of the philosophical infra-structure upon which it is based. Briefly then: Berkeley’s proof may be regarded as an immaterialistic version of the (then) popular argument—used, for example, by Locke in Essay IV. x—which combined the cosmological proof with the teleological. However, Berkeley gives his proof a distinctive twist by bringing to the fore, perhaps for the first time in the history of philosophy, the problem of other minds. While Descartes had adverted to the problem in his Meditations, Berkeley accords it major importance. That is: In effect, Berkeley is placing his reader in a dilemma: he must either accept theism or solipsism. If he demands rigorous proof, then he mustbe solipsist, believing, in other 1 Physical objects are collections of inert sensible ideas. 2 Sensible ideas cannot produce or cause either themselves or other sensible ideas. 3 Physical objects must have some cause. 4 Matter cannot be that cause, since it cannot exist; and, in any case, matter is defined as an inert thing. 5 We finite spirits know that, although we can produce ideas of memory and imagination, we do not produce the world of physical bodies or collections of sensible ideas. 6 Hence, such a vast orderly world must be produced by an Infinite Spirit, God. 7 We can not directly perceive another human mind, since a mind is an active being which perceives and wills rather than something that can be perceived (sect. 27). 8 I know that there other human spirits by inferring their existence from their orderly physical motions, which are collections of sensible ideas that I recognize to be similar to my own. 9 But these physical motions, which pick out finite spirits, are very slight compared with the orderly motions of the whole physical world. 10 Hence I have greater justification for believing in the existence of the Infinite Other Mind than in any other finite mind. words, that only he and his ideas exist. However, if he does believe in other minds, then he must also accept that God exists. God is very much at the centre of Berkeley’s philosophy, replacing matter as the cause and orderer of the physical world, which is only a succession of ideas produced by God in finite minds. The orderly and regular appearance of sensible ideas displays God’s wisdom and power, not that of matter or the laws of nature. Berkeley opposed the increasingly influential view, developed by Descartes and Newton, among others, that the world was a great machine, created and started by God but then left more or less to its own devices. Whereas this mechanistic world-view tended to marginalize God and spirits, Berkeley’s idealistic world-view marginalizes the mechanistic, since for him physical objects are simply collections of inert sensible ideas. We impute activity to them in a way not dissimilar to the way that we seem to see action in a film or moving picture. Just as what we really see at the cinema are many independent, static frames or pictures; so what we really experience, according to Berkeley, are a succession of inert sensible ideas created and ordered in our minds by God. Hence it is altogether appropriate, Berkeley holds (sect. 107), to speak of purpose behind nature, since the physical world is constantly being created by a Mind, not unlike our own, in accordance with its own wise rules, generally called the laws of nature. On the other hand, it is inappropriate, according to Berkeley, to speak of an autonomous physical world, existing in space and time. Berkeley opposes Newton’s theory of absolute space, time and motion (in sects 111–17). Minds do not exist in the great containers, space and time; if anything, it is space and time that exist in minds. For space and time considered as independent beings are fictions thrown up by the pernicious tendency to reify abstractions. So time is only the succession of ideas in minds. Hence (as against Locke, but in accord with Descartes) minds always think. Berkeley outlines his philosophy of science in sections 101–32. Earlier, in sections 34–84, he had examined sixteen objections to his immaterialist philosophy as well as displaying its advantages over materialism. Thus he argues that materialism encourages scepticism, since if we accept matter, we can never be sure whether or to what extent our sensible ideas resemble the external material bodies. Although the Principles is Berkeley’s philosophical masterpiece, it was not well received. On the whole, it was either ignored or ridiculed. It was even suggested that its author was mentally unstable. As Berkeley’s friend, John Percival, reported from London on 26 August 1710: ‘A physician of my acquaintance undertook to describe your person, and argued you must needs be mad, and that you ought to take remedies’.3 The New Theory of Vision had been somewhat more positively received. Believing that the Principles had failed mainly for reasons of presentation, Berkeley reformulated his case in the more accessible and elegant Three Dialogues, where Philonous defends Berkeley’s immaterialism against the many-headed materialist enemy, represented by Hylas. The Three Dialogues was published in 1713. A year earlier Berkeley had issued his principal work on political theory, Passive Obedience, originally delivered as three sermons in the Trinity College Chapel. Here he tries to show that rebellion against the sovereign power is never morally justified, even if it exposes people to great suffering, hardship and death. Berkeley argues for this absolutist position on theological and utilitarian grounds.4 He felt obliged to publish the sermons (which he did by combining them into one discourse) because of rumours that they constituted an insidious Jacobite attack on the Glorious Revolution. VARYING PERSPECTIVES In 1713 Berkeley left Ireland for London, where, in May, he published his Three Dialogues. The year 1713 brings to a close what may be seen as the first phase of his career. Although Berkeley was to publish other notable works—for example, on philosophical theology, mathematics, and economics—his fame and place in the history of philosophy is largely based on the three classics of this period. Hence it is worth trying to gain a deeper understanding of this work. Perhaps the safest approach here is to survey some of the major views, since, as with most great philosophers, there has been considerable disagreement. Although most commentators recognize that his nonmaterialist analysis of the physical world is Berkeley’s main contribution, they differ in their interpretation and assessment of it. Thus it was held early on by Hume that Berkeley’s position was sceptical, because his arguments ‘admit of no answer and produce no conviction’, but only produce ‘momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion’.5 Of course, Hume recognized that this was not Berkeley’s own view, indeed, that he was writing against scepticism, as even his titles show. Similarly, Thomas Reid maintained that despite Berkeley’s intentions the logic of his position was to undermine not just matter, but also spirit, and hence that immaterialism represented an important phase in the disastrous movement towards Hume’s scepticism and agnosticism—although, again, Reid realized that Berkeley would have been scandalized by such an accusation (see [5.16], 2:166–7). But it was an accusation shared by later philosophers, some of whom—e.g., J.S.Mill, George Grote and A.J.Ayer— welcomed and applauded what they took to be the irreligious tendency of Berkeley’s thought, the tendency towards phenomenalism, which one commentator has neatly characterized as ‘Berkeley without God’ ([5.29]). Probably the more popular view was (and still is) that immaterialism is essentially untenable, because it undermines the objectivity of the physical world, transforming real things into mere appearances, thereby locking each of us into his or her subjective world. This reading of Berkeley as a subjective idealist, as it came to be called, was influentially supported in the eighteenth century by Kant and, in our own century, by Lenin.6 Here again it was not supposed that ‘the good Berkeley’ actually intended or accepted this ‘scandalous’ position, but that this was where his theory logically led. However, not all commentators have been so hostile, construing immaterialism as such an extreme form of idealism. Thus Berkeley’s most distinguished twentieth-century biographer and editor, A.A. Luce, has argued forcibly that there is no justification for reading Berkeley either as a sceptic or a subjective idealist. Indeed, Luce goes so far as to deny that Berkeley has any significant kinship with the idealist tradition. ‘Today [writes Luce] they even call him “the father of modern idealism.” What a remarkable accident of birth this is! Berkeley is the putative father of modern idealism, and the child does not take after its father in the slightest degree’ ([5.47], 26). Rather, according to Luce, Berkeley was a robust common sense realist, both theoretically and practically. For Luce not only defended Berkeley’s philosophy as commonsensical, but in his masterful biography ([5.13]) also defends Berkeley the man against the charge that he was a visionary or unbalanced dreamer. While Luce’s picture of Berkeley, the man, as ‘sane, shrewd, efficient’, has been almost universally accepted, this is not the case with his common sense reading of Berkeley’s philosophy; although there have been some recent sympathizers here.7 Yet even the critics, notably Geoffrey Warnock ([5.29]) and Ian Tipton ([5.49]), agree with the Luce interpretation in one respect: that Berkeley was deeply concerned to bring his philosophy into line with common sense and realism, and that this concern was perhaps as important to him as his religious aims. For Luce and Tipton common sense seems to be the main focus. For Harry Bracken, however, the best way of understanding Berkeley is to see him as an Irish Cartesian, rather than as the second figure in the triumvirate of British empiricists (see [5.22]). For C.M. Turbayne, however, it is Berkeley’s commitment to the language model and his rejection of the Cartesian-Newtonian machine model that makes most sense of Berkeley’s work ([5.57] and [5.36]). How is one to gain a fair, overall view of Berkeley’s philosophy amidst such diverse perspectives? My general approach, following Berkeley’s own suggestion, is to present his work chronologically, pointing out its design and connections, and then to criticize it. For as he writes to Johnson on 24 March 1730: ‘I could wish that all the things I have published on these philosophical subjects were read in the order wherein I published them; once, to take in the design and connexion of them, and a second time with a critical eye’. Let us continue, therefore, where we left off: with Berkeley’s publication at 28 of his Three Dialogues, which marks the end of the first and heroic phase of his career. SECOND PHASE: THE 1732–4 SYNTHESIS In London in 1713 Berkeley soon became friendly with many of the leading literary and intellectual figures, among them Addison, Steele, Swift, and Arbuthnot. For Steele’s periodical, The Guardian (1713), Berkeley wrote a number of essays, mostly attacking the freethinkers in the interest of religion and morality. He also (as we now know) collaborated with Steele on the Ladies Library, a three-volume educational anthology, published in the following year (see [5.10], 4:4–13). In October 1713, he began his Continental travels, as Chaplain to Lord Peterborough. He visited Paris—where he probably met Malebranche—as well as Lyons and Leghorn. This first continental tour lasted about nine months. A second, more adventurous tour, extending from 1716 to 1720, was spent almost exclusively in Italy. Some of his travel diaries of this tour are still extant. Returning to London in 1721, Berkeley published his De Motu, a short but searching work in the philosophy of science, in which he emphasizes the operational or pragmatic value of terms such as attraction and force. Berkeley had apparently submitted the essay to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, which had offered a prize for the best essay on motion. Although De Motu failed to win the prize, it has been commended by Sir Karl Popper and others for anticipating the views of Mach and Einstein (see [5.56] and [5.54]). By late 1721 Berkeley was again in Dublin, teaching at Trinity College. He was not, however, to remain there long, since it was at this time that he conceived his ambitious plan to establish a missionary College in Bermuda. The College, as he explained in his Proposal (1724), was to educate the American colonists and train missionaries to the native Americans, becoming ‘a fountain or reservoir of learning and religion’ that would ‘purify’ the ill-manners and irreligion of the colonies ([5.3], vii: 358). He spent most of the period 1723–9 campaigning for his projected college. He received considerable private contributions; obtained a Royal Charter and was promised £20,000 by the British government. His financial position was also helped by his appointment in 1724 asDean of Derry, one of the richest livings in Ireland. In 1729 Berkeley set sail with his newly married wife, Anne, for Rhode Island, which was to be the American base for his College. Purchasing a farm near Newport, he spent nearly three years there, waiting in vain for the promised grant. In late 1731 he returned to London, having been informed that the government grant would not be paid. During the next three years, he published a variety of works on theology and philosophy, as well as on vision and mathematics. Alciphron (1732), in seven dialogues, is the central work of this period. It is also Berkeley’s main theological work, directed at what he saw as his principal enemy—irreligious free-thinking. Dialogues Four and Seven are philosophically most important. Dialogue Four sets out a novel proof for the existence of God, which, though similar to that in the Principles, does not draw on immaterialism. Instead, it develops the position of the Theory of Vision. Having argued that we can only know other thinking persons by inferring them from their bodily effects—‘hair, skin…outward form’—Berkeley then states (through his spokesman, Euphranor) that our inference to God is no less sound. Alciphron, the atheistic free-thinker, challenges this parity of reasoning: ‘It is my hearing you talk that, in strict and philosophical truth, [says Alciphron,] is to me the best argument for your being’ (sect. 6). Euphranor then argues, utilizing the main lines of the appended Essay on Vision, that God does indeed talk to us through the language of vision. Since it is accepted that language is ‘the arbitrary use of sensible signs, which have no similitude or necessary connexion with the things signified’ (sect. 7), Berkeley must prove that visual data and tangible things are entirely heterogeneous, which he tries to do in at least four different ways: (1) He claims that it is confirmed by experimental evidence, citing, in section 15, the case of a boy made to see, ‘who had been blind from his birth’, reported in the Philosophical Transactions 402 (1728). In the Theory of Vision Vindicated, published in 1733, Berkeley quotes from this now famous case, reported by Chesselden, who performed the operation. ‘When [the boy] first saw, he was so far from making any judgement about distances that he thought all objects whatever touched his eyes (as he expressed it) as what he felt did his skin…He knew not the shape of anything’. This is quoted in section 71, where, it may be noted, Berkeley is more cautious than in his earlier claim in Alciphron IV. 15. (2) Berkeley argues for the heterogeneity thesis by conceptual argument. Thus if two things cannot be added, then they must be qualitatively different. And while one can add a line of two colours to make one continuous line; one cannot, Berkeley maintains, add a visible and a tangible line together to form a continuous line (see Essay, sect. 131). (3) Berkeley also, as we have seen above, makes use of an ad hominem argument, namely, that those who wish to return a negative answer to Molyneux’s question—as did Locke and Molyneux himself—are logically committed to the heterogeneity thesis. (4) Probably his main argument is that we can become aware that what we immediately perceive by sight are light and colours—a field of minimum visual points— entirely different from what we touch. Having established his thesis, at least to his own satisfaction, Berkeley then ingeniously points out the correspondences between vision and a language such as English or French, (a) Both languages contain a vast variety of signs that can be combined to inform us about innumerable things, (b) Both languages need to be learned, although we are less aware of learning the visual language, mainly because it is a virtually universal language, (c) As English is ordered and explained by grammar, so there are God’s laws of nature which govern the orderly appearance of visual data, (d) And violations are possible in each case. (e) One can also be deceived in both languages: an illusion is like a lie. (f) Context is important in both languages, as Berkeley shows in the case of the moon illusion, (g) Both languages usefully direct our actions, evoke attitudes and emotions, and can be entertaining, (h) In both languages we pay more attention to what the signs mean than to the signs themselves; thus we are scarcely able to hear the sounds as such in language we understand, rather than what the sounds mean. Similarly, it is hard for us to appreciate that what we see is not the same as what we may touch. Berkeley’s conclusion is that he has proven not merely a creator of the world, ‘but a provident governor actually and intimately present and attentive to our interests’. For since we know that God speaks the ‘optic language’, we can know that He has ‘knowledge, wisdom, and goodness’ (Alciphron IV sect. 14). In short, Berkeley’s New Theory of Vision enabled him to go further than the God of Deism—the distant absentee God whose main function was to create or activate the world. But this was not evident in the first two editions of the Essay, where the optic-language theory remains implicit. The crucial theological conclusion only became clear in the revised 1732 edition and, particularly, in its reformulation in Alciphron IV. Thus in the early editions of the Essay, section 147, Berkeley writes vaguely of ‘an universal language of nature’, whereas in the 1732 editions this is changed to ‘an universal language of the author of nature’; also see section 152. Berkeley probably had a strategic aim here. He thought that his readers would be more likely to accept his theories if he revealed them gradually, saving the more radical conclusions till later. We have already seen how hepresented only part of his immaterialism in the Essay, which he then followed in the next year with the full immaterialism of the Principles. And the Principles itself was written with strategic intent, as we learn from Berkeley’s revealing letter to Percival of 6 September 1710: ‘whatever doctrine contradicts vulgar and settled opinion had need be introduced with great caution into the world. For this reason I omitted all mention of the non-existence of matter in the title-page [of the Principles] dedication, preface and introduction, so that the notion might steal unawares on the reader’. By 1732, then, Berkeley was ready to reveal fully, or more fully, the significance of his New Theory of Vision. Dialogue Four also discusses the status of God’s attributes. Here Berkeley shows himself to be a tough-minded rational theologian, opposed not only to the vague Deism of free-thinkers, such as Shaftesbury, but also to the fideism and negative theology of fellow Christian philosophers, particularly his countrymen Archbishop King and Bishop Browne. In short, Berkeley attacked their position for basically the same reasons that he attacked materialistic representation (see [5.15], 162–3). His acute criticisms call into question the popular accusation, alluded to above, that he was strong-minded about the material world, but weak-minded about the spiritual world. Dialogue Seven is of considerable importance, as it contains Berkeley’s most comprehensive and searching account of language. Here he reiterates (in the 1732 editions) his critique of abstract general ideas. More innovative, however, is the deployment of his theory of emotive meaning—that words and utterances can be meaningful even though they do not stand for ideas or inform, since they can be used to evoke emotions, attitudes and actions. Although we find little application of the theory in the Principles, we know from his more elaborate (1708) draft of the Introduction that he was aware of how it could be significantly applied in the areas of religious and (probably) moral discourse (see [5.9]). His recognition that more needed to be published on this subject also comes out in his letter of 24 March 1730 (when he was, no doubt, at work on Alciphron) in which, after asking his friend Johnson ‘to examine well what I have said about abstraction, and about the true sense and significance of words’, he adds: ‘though much remains to be said on that subject’ (see [5.3], 2:293). Here again we seem to see Berkeley’s strategy of publishing his more radical theories by degrees or stages. In Alciphron he uses the emotive theory to show how words standing for Christian mysteries, such as ‘Holy Trinity’ are to be understood. Free-thinkers, like John Toland, had argued that since mysteries do not stand for ideas, they must, according to the received theory of meaning, be meaningless. Hence, Toland maintained, Christianity either contained meaningless doctrines, or it was not mysterious. By showing that the received semantic theory, championed most notably by Locke, was narrowly restrictive, Berkeley was able to argue that doctrines such as the Holy Trinity were both meaningful and mysterious. For although, as he says in Alciphron VII. 8, a man can frame no ‘distinct ideas of Trinity, substance or personality’, the doctrine can ‘make proper impressions on his mind, producing herein, love, hope, gratitude, and obedience, and thereby becomes a lively operative principle influencing his life and actions’. It is perhaps ironic (and not generally recognized) that Berkeley’s emotive account of religious utterances anticipates the similar account of religious discourse given by the Logical Posivitists in our own century. The irony is that Logical Posivitists such as A.J.Ayer—in many respects a modern Toland—used emotivism to explain away religion (see [5.58], 229). Berkeley, however, explained only religious mysteries emotively. He was entirely clear that doctrines of natural theology were to be understood cognitively and justified in a rigorous way. This point, as I noted earlier, is emphasized in the latter part of Dialogue Four, where Berkeley attacks the theological representationalism of King and Browne. In the area of natural theology, particularly concerning the proof of God’s existence and nature, Berkeley was a hard-headed rationalist. How, then, does Berkeley connect the cognitive statements of natural theology with the emotive utterances of religious mysteries? His approach is in line with the (at least then) orthodox view that natural religion forms the proper basis for revealed religion. In short, having accepted Berkeley’s proof (or proofs) that a just and wise God exists, we should also recognize that it is right to respect Him; because He is good, it is also right to love Him. And the Christian mysteries, Berkeley believes, are the best ways of evoking these desirable attitudes and feelings. Thus the mystery of the future life is an excellent way of evoking fear of God’s justice, and the symbolism of the Trinity of encouraging people to love God. The Christian mysteries are also justified, according to Berkeley, because they are to be found in the Bible, whose privileged status he defends in Dialogues Five and Six. More important philosophically is the way that Berkeley defends emotive mysteries in Dialogue Seven by trying to show that ‘there is nothing absurd or repugnant in our belief of those points’ (sect. 33). His method here is to argue by parity of reasoning that while there may appear to be difficulties, even perhaps contradictions, in mysteries such as the Trinity, there are similar difficulties in, for example, the received (Lockean) theory of personal identity, according to which personal identity consists in identity of consciousness. For suppose, Berkeley says in section 8, that we divide a person’s conscious life into three parts—A, B, and C. Suppose also that in B only half of A is remembered and in C half of B but none of A is remembered. Then it will follow according to Locke’s theory (in Essay II. xxvii) that A is the same person as B and B is the same person as C, but A and C are not the same person. Is this any more absurd, Berkeley asks, than the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity? Berkeley presses this ad hominem defence of religious mysteries most effectively in his Analyst (1734), which examines, to quote its subtitle, ‘whether the object, the principles, and inferences of the modern analysis are more distinctly conceived, or more evidently deduced, than religious mysteries and points of faith’. Berkeley’s point is that mathematicians have no justification for rejecting mysteries, since the Newtonian account of infinitesimals can be shown to be equally obscure and contradictory. As he pointedly asks towards the end of the Analyst: Whether mathematicians, who are so delicate in religious points, are strictly scrupulous in their own science? Whether they do not submit to authority, take things upon trust, and believe points inconceivable? Whether they have not their mysteries, and what is more, their repugnances and contradictions? Berkeley had criticized the theory of infinitesimals in the Principles, sections 126–32, which he alludes to in the Analyst, section 50 as the critical ‘hints’ which he is now ‘deducing’ and applying in detail against Newton. His earlier claim was that the infinite division of a finite line, for example, is an absurdity generated by false abstraction, since we cannot perceive infinitely small points. His attack now is directed particularly against the consistency and proof of Newton’s account of fluxions. The synthesis of 1732–4, which rivals that of 1709–13, is also supported by Berkeley’s Theory of Vision Vindicated (1733), which elucidates the theory of vision that underpins his optic-language demonstration and also goes some way towards bringing the 1732–4 synthesis into line with the full immaterialism of the Principles and Three Dialogues. Two other works of the period, so far not mentioned, are Berkeley’s Defence of Freethinking in Mathematics (1735) and his letter to Browne (circa 1733) on divine analogy. The first work responds to critics of the Analyst as well as continuing Berkeley’s ad hominem defence of Christian mysteries. It concludes (as did the Analyst) with a series of ‘ensnaring questions’, which look ahead stylistically to Berkeley’s next work, The Querist (1735–7), composed entirely of queries. The letter to Browne develops points in Alciphron IV against Browne’s extensive attack in his Divine Analogy (1733). Recently identified as by Berkeley—see [5.63]—it shows his unwillingness to tolerate ambiguity in theological descriptions: God is either literally wise or (disastrously) He is not. FINAL PHASE: THE GOOD BISHOP In 1733 Berkeley was appointed Bishop of Cloyne, and in the following year he travelled with his family to Cloyne, in Co. Cork, where he was to reside until 1752. His main concerns were now with the spiritual, but also with the economic and physical needs of those under his care as well as with the wider population. Thus his main work on economics, The Querist, deals with the nature of wealth, the proper role of banks, credit and fashion. Perhaps its chief theoretical interest is the way Berkeley applies his emotive theory. For in the Querist he regards money as a system of operative signs. And just as he rejected the Lockean theory that every meaningful word stands for an idea, so in the Querist he rejected the mercantilist theory (also championed by Locke), according to which money had value only if it was made of precious metal or had a necessary connection with it. For Berkeley it is the efficient recording and manipulation of economic transactions, which facilitate prosperity, that gives money its value. From social and economic matters Berkeley turned finally to medicine. In 1744 he published Siris, his last major work, in which he championed the drinking of tar-water, a medicine which he thought would cure or alleviate all physical ills. Siris is Berkeley’s most puzzling and allusive book, moving from practical medical advice to pharmacology, then to chemistry, philosophy of science, metaphysics and finally to theology and speculations on the Trinity. The clear and close reasoning of the 1709–13 works has here given way to suggestive hints and allusive appeals to ancient authorities, particularly to Plato. (In this respect, Alciphron stands in a middle position between the 1709–13 works and Siris.) Some commentators, notably A.C.Fraser ([5.2]) and John Wild ([5.28]), have suggested that in Siris Berkeley abandoned his earlier empiricism and nominalism in favour of a more Platonic and pantheistic vision. One piece of evidence Fraser adduces to show that Berkeley relented on abstract ideas is his omission in the 1752 edition of Alciphron of the three sections (VII. 5–7) arguing against such ideas. Siris’s final section (367) also suggests that Berkeley was reassessing his earlier work. Thus he uses the term ‘revise’ and concludes that ‘He that would make a real progress in knowledge must dedicate his age as well as youth, the later growth as well as first fruits, at the altar of truth’. Yet, typically, Berkeley is not specific here. The claim that Berkeley changed his mind is also vigorously opposed by Luce, who has argued at length for the unity of Berkeley’s work ([5.19]). Probably Siris’s main theoretical interest, at least for recent commentators, is its statements on the philosophy of science and corpuscularianism.8 In late 1752 Berkeley left Cloyne for Oxford, to supervise his son’s education. His two last publications appeared in this year: A Miscellany, Containing Several Tracts—nearly all previously published—and a revised edition of Alciphron. Berkeley died in Oxford on 14 January 1753. CRITICISMS Having surveyed Berkeley’s work chronologically, with the aim of seeing its ‘design and order’, we must now briefly look at his philosophy ‘with a critical eye’. In doing so, we will also be able to appreciate that his immaterialism is deeper and more complex than my account above might suggest. It is also appropriate to see its complexity within a context of criticisms, since that is how Berkeley himself proceeded. Thus his response to the sixteen self-imposed objections or difficulties—in Principles, sections 34–84—fill in essential details of his account. Probably the chief criticism of Berkeley’s system has always been that it obliterates the real, objective, public world. If all I can perceive are my ideas, then am I not locked into my own subjective world? Hence—to take the most extreme and absurd possibility—will it not follow that only I (and my ideas) exist? That Berkeley would repudiate this solipsistic position is clear, but it is not so clear that the logic of immaterialism does not draw him towards it. For Berkeley is certainly and primarily anxious to prove that what we perceive is mind-dependent. But what can mind-dependent mean apart from being subjective in the way that emotions and pains are? But if all my sensible ideas are like pains, then am I not living in a world of ‘mere illusion’, as Kant put it—vivid and orderly, but still subjective? Some of Berkeley’s best-known arguments lend weight to this subjective interpretation—for example, his assimilation of the experience of heat and pain in the first of the Three Dialogues, and his emphasis there on the relativity of our sensory experiences. His critique (mentioned above) of how matter supports qualities can also be turned against him here. For how can a sensible idea exist in a mind without being in the mind subjectively in the way that a pain is? Berkeley’s response is to deny that such ideas exist in mind in this ‘gross, literal’ sense, by way of mode or attribute, but only as they are perceived (see [5.3], 2:250). But he does not clearly spell this out, or show that such a sense would not either undermine his arguments for the minddependence of ideas, or provide the materialist with an equally vague way of explaining how matter supports its properties. Probably no interpretation is as anti-commonsensical as that of solipsism; but there are a range of less extreme positions with which Berkeley has been identified. Thus Andrew Baxter suggested as early as 1733 that Berkeley was logically committed to a world in which there was only me, my ideas and God as their cause (see [5.41] and [5.17]). Yet even if one allows Berkeley the existence of other finite minds, it does not follow that a common sense world is restored. For such a world seems to require independent, continuous, numerically-identical objects. But that is a far cry from the ‘fleeting and variable’ sensible ideas which, according to the usual reading of Berkeley, constitute physical objects. Berkeley struggles to bridge the gap, particularly in the Three Dialogues, but it is complicated, uphill work. And the more he succeeds in showing himself to side with common sense, the more he seems either to bring his immaterialist thesis into question, or to lose its vaunted advantages over materialism. Thus he is sometimes inclined to preserve the independence and permanence of real physical objects by claiming that they exist archetypally in the mind of God. Thus, to quote the well- known limerick, the tree in the quad ‘will continue to be, since observed by…God’ (see [5.6], 16). But this solution only raises other problems, most notably the spectre of scepticism. For if the real, reassuringly permanent objects in God’s mind are different from the fleeting ideas that I experience, then do I really perceive or know the real world? Is Berkeley not simply substituting one objectionable form of representationalism for another? To resist this Berkeley needs to show that God’s archetypal tree is the same as mine. But how, given esse is percipi, could God’s idea-tree be numerically the same as mine? In the Dialogues, Berkeley tries to play down this difficulty by maintaining that it is really verbal ([5.3], 2:247–8). Yet if this problem can be dismissed so easily, then why can’t the materialist dismiss esse is percipi itself as merely verbal? Surely there is something substantive at issue, as Berkeley himself appears to recognize when he advises us ‘to think with the learned and speak with the vulgar’ (Principles, sect. 51). In this mood he does seem to allow (as does his fellow Immaterialist, Arthur Collier) that there is no (numerically) identical tree, but that each mind perceives a different idea-tree. Yet he might still insist that God’s archetypal ideas are preferable to material bodies, because the former are meaningfully like human ideas. But are they? That God’s idea of fire or salty food, for example, cannot be even qualitatively like mine seems to follow from Berkeley’s argument in the Dialogues, according to which (i) experiencing the fire’s heat cannot be separated from pain, and that (2) God, as a perfect being, does not experience pain ([5.3], 2:240). Hence God cannot perceive what we take to be heat. Furthermore, can we conceive what God’s idea-tree could be like, since it must presumably contain all possible perceptions of ‘the’ tree—large, small, tube-shaped, circular-shaped, hard, soft—which makes it sound as incomprehensible as Locke’s (impossible) triangle. Berkeley’s concept of mind or spirit also raises difficulties which, if anything, are even greater than those afflicting his account of bodies. Here, prima facie, Berkeley seems to be his own worst enemy, since he constantly says that we can have no idea or experience of minds, and that they are altogether different from ideas. But if we have no idea of mind, then why believe that it exists? Is it not as indefensible as matter? Berkeley considers this objection at length in the third edition of the Dialogues, where he states that his objection to matter is not merely that it is meaningless, but that it is also contradictory. Yet, as I noted earlier, Berkeley does attack some materialist theories as simply meaningless—as, for example, “the idea of being in general, with the relative notion of its supporting accidents’ (sect. 17). Yet if our grasp of matter is no more than that of spirit, then are not the two equally plausible or implausible? Berkeley’s main way of arguing for the greater plausibility of mind is by showing that it alone can be the source of activity or causality, (1) A sensible idea cannot cause either itself or other sensible ideas, since ideas are passive. (2) Yet sensible ideas must have some cause. (3) Imaginative ideas are crucial here; for we know that by willing we can produce them. (4) In doing so, we gain some notion of activity, and hence that minds (unlike material bodies) are active. (5) Thus Berkeley concludes that just as our (weak) imaginative ideas are caused by finite minds, so it is reasonable to infer that (vivid) sensible ideas are caused by the Infinite Mind. (3) and (4) are the decisive steps in this argument, and the question we need to ask is: how does Berkeley know that he produces imaginative ideas? There are two possibilities. He knows it by (a) direct experience, or (b) indirect inference. Although Berkeley occasionally seems to accept option (a), it is hardly tenable since it conflicts with his major principle that we can only directly experience passive ideas. While option (b)—which he generally prefers—is not in conflict with his major principles, it does not go far enough in justifying (4). For if I have no direct experience, then how do I know that my imaginative ideas are produced by my mind, rather than by my brain? Here again Berkeley’s position does not seem any more intelligible or tenable than that of his materialist opponent. NOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY Editions (i) Complete and Selected Works 5.1 The Works of George Berkeley…To which is Added, An Account of His Life, and Several of his Letters…, ed. Joseph Stock, Dublin, John Exshaw, 2 vols, 1784. Repr. 1820 and 1837. 5.2 The Works of George Berkeley…Including his Posthumous Works. With Prefaces, Annotations, Appendices, and An Account of his Life, by A.C. Fraser, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 4 vols, 1901. 5.3 The Works of George Berkeley, ed. A.A.Luce and T.E.Jessop, London, Thomas Nelson, 9 vols, 1948–57; repr. 1964 and 1967; Kraus repr. 1979. 5.4 Berkeley’s Philosophical Writings, ed. D.M.Armstrong, London, Collier, 1965. 5.5 Berkeley: Philosophical Works including the Works on Vision; introd. and notes by M.R.Ayers, London, Dent, 1975; repr. 1980, 1983, 1985, and 1989 with revisions and additions. (A useful volume, containing most of Berkeley’s important works.) 5.6 Principles and Three Dialogues, ed. R.Woolhouse, London, Penguin, 1988. 1 The authoritative biography is by Luce, [5.13]; my references are to the 1992 edition, which contains a new Introduction with addenda and corrigenda’, see pp. vi, x, 22. 2 All quotations from Berkeley are from the standard edition, edited by Luce and Jessop, of his Works, [5.3]; for convenience, I refer to entry or section number or (in the case of his letters in vol. 8) date. 3 See B.Rand, Berkeley and Percival, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1914, p. 80. 4 For useful discussion of Berkeley’s moral and political views, see [5.26], Broad in [5. 31], Warnock in [5.39], and also [5.62]. 5 See Hume, Inquiry concerning Human Under standing, 1777, ed. C.W.Hendel, Indianapolis, Liberal Arts Press, 1955, p. 163 n. 6 See [5.20] and Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, 1909, Moscow, 1972), pp. 28 and 38. 7 See, for example, Pappas in [5.48] and [5.38]; also see [5.37] and [5.45]. 8 See Garber in [5.36], Wilson in [5.37], and [5.54]. I am grateful to Mr Ian Tipton for reading a draft of this chapter. (ii) Separate Works 5.7 Philosophical Commentaries, ed. G.H.Thomas, with notes by A.A.Luce, Alliance, Ohio, 1976; repr. New York, Garland, 1989. 5.8 George Berkeley Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher in Focus, ed. D.Berman, London, Routledge, 1993. (Contains Dialogues 1, 3, 4 and 7 as well as critical commentaries from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.) 5.9 George Berkeley’s Manuscript Introduction, an editio diplomatica, ed. B.Belfrage, Oxford, Doxa Press, 1987. Bibliographies and Biographies 5.10 Berman, D. (ed.), Berkeley Newsletter, Dublin, 1977–. 5.11 Jessop, T.E. A Bibliography of George Berkeley, with an inventory of Manuscript Remains by A.A.Luce, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1934; rev. edn 1973. 5.12 Keynes, G. A Bibliography of George Berkeley, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1976. 5.13 Luce, A.A. The Life of George Berkeley, Edinburgh, Nelson, 1949; repr. 1969 and 1992 (with a new introduction by D.Berman). 5.14 Turbayne, C.M. ‘A Bibliography of George Berkeley 1963–1979’, in [6.36]. Influences and Reception 5.15 Berman, D. ‘Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment in Irish Philosophy’ and ‘The Causation and Culmination of Irish Philosophy’, in Archiv für eschichte der Philosophie 2 and 3, 1982. 5.16——(ed.) George Berkeley: Eighteenth-Century Responses, New York, Garland, 2 vols, 1989. 5.17 Bracken, H.M. The Early Reception of Berkeley’s Immaterialism: 1710–1733, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1959; rev. edn 1965. 5.18 Luce, A.A. Berkeley and Malebranche, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1934; repr. 1967 and by Garland 1988. 5.19——‘The Alleged Development of Berkeley’s Philosophy’, Mind 206 (1943). 5.20 Walker, R.C.S. (ed.), The Real in the Ideal: Berkeley’s Relation to Kant, New York, Garland, 1989. 5.21 Vesey, G. Berkeley: Reason and Experience, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1982. General Surveys 5.22 Bracken, H.M.Berkeley, London, Macmillan, 1974. 5.23 Hicks, G. Berkeley, London, Ernest Benn Ltd., 1932. 5.24 Hone, J.M. and Rossi, M.M. Bishop Berkeley: His Life, Writings and Philosophy, with an introduction by W.B.Yeats, London, Faber and Faber, 1931. 5.25 Johnston, G.A. The Development of Berkeley’s Philosophy, London, Macmillan, 1923; repr. New York, Garland, 1988. 5.26 Pitcher, G. Berkeley, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. 5.27 Urmson, J.O. Berkeley, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982. 5.28 Wild, J. George Berkeley. A Study of His Life and Philosophy, 1936; repr. 1962. 5.29 Warnock, G.J. Berkeley, Harmondsworth, Pelican, 1953; repr. 1969. Collections of Critical Essays 5.30 George Berkeley Bicentenary, issue of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4, 13 (1953). 5.31 George Berkeley 1985–1953, in Rev fie Internationale de Philosophie 23–4 (1953). 5.32 George Berkeley, Lectures Delivered before the University of California, Berkeley, 1957. 5.33 Steinkraus, W.E. (ed.), New Studies in Berkeley’s Philosophy, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966. 5.34 Martin, C.B. and Armstrong, D.M. (eds), Locke and Berkeley, Garden City, Doubleday, 1967; repr. New York, Garland, 1988. 5.35 Turbayne, C.M. (ed.), Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge: Text and Critical Essays, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1970. 5.36——Berkeley: Critical and Interpretative Essays, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1982. 5.37 Foster, J. and Robinson, H. (eds) Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1985. 5.38 Berman, D. (ed.) George Berkeley: Essays and Replies, Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1986; repr. from Hermathena cxxxix (1985). 5.39 Brykman, G. (ed.) George Berkeley: 1685–1985, Special Issue: History of European Ideas 7, 6 (1986). 5.40 Creery, W. (ed.), George Berkeley: Critical Assessments, London, Routledge, 3 vols, 1991. Immaterialism 5.41 Baxter, A. An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, 3rd edn, 1745, vol. 2, sect. 2: ‘Dean Berkeley’s scheme against the existence of matter… shewn inconclusive’, repr. in [6.16]. 5.42 Bennett, J. Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971. 5.43 Broad, C.D. ‘Berkeley’s argument about Material Substance’, in [6.34]. 5.44 Dancy, J. Berkeley: An Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell, 1987. 5.45 Foster, J. A Case for Idealism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982 (ch. 2 is on Berkeley). 5.46 Grayling, A.C. Berkeley: the Central Arguments, London, Duckworth, 1986. 5.47 Luce, A.A. Berkeley’s Immaterialism: A Commentary on his ‘A Treatise…’, Edinburgh, Thomas Nelson, 1945; repr. 1967. 5.48 Pappas, G. ‘Berkeley, Perception and Commonsense’, in [6.36]. 5.49 Tipton, I.C. The Philosophy of Immaterialism, London, Methuen, 1974; repr. New York, Garland, 1988. 5.50 Winkler, K.P. Berkeley: An Interpretation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989. Vision, Science and Mathematics 5.51 Armstrong, D.M. Berkeley’s Theory of Vision, Melbourne, 1960; repr. New York , Garland, 1989. 5.52 Atherton, M. Berkeley’s Revolution in Vision, Cornell University Press, 1990. 5.53 Brook, R.J. Berkeley’s Philosophy of Science, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1973. 5.54 Moked, G. Particles and Ideas: Bishop Berkeley’s Corpuscularian Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988. 5.55 Pitcher, G. (ed.) Berkeley on Vision: A Nineteenth-Century Debate, New York, Garland, 1988. 5.56 Popper, K. ‘A Note on Berkeley as Precursor of Mach and Einstein’, in [6. 34]. 5.57 Turbayne, C.M. The Myth of Metaphor, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1962. Theology, Ethics and Language 5.58 Berman, D. ‘Cognitive Theology and Emotive Mysteries in Berkeley’s Alciphron’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1981. 5.59 Clark, S.R.L. (ed.) Money, Obedience, and Affection: Essays on Berkeley’s Moral and Political Thought, New York, Garland, 1988. 5.60 Flew, A. ‘Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein?’, in W.B.Todd (ed.) Hume and the Enlightenment, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1974. 5.61 Mabbott, J.D. ‘The Place of God in Berkeley’s Philosophy’, in [5.34]. 5.62 Olscamp, P. The Moral Philosophy of George Berkeley, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1970. 5.63 Pittion, J.-P. (with A.A.Luce and D.Berman), ‘A New Letter to Browne on Divine Analogy’, Mind (1969).

Routledge History of Philosophy. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Berkeley, George — known as Bishop Berkeley born March 12, 1685, near Dysert Castle, near Thomastown?, County Kilkenny, Ire. died Jan. 14, 1753, Oxford, Eng. Irish bishop, philosopher, and social activist. He worked principally at Trinity College, Dublin (to 1713) …   Universalium

  • Berkeley, George — (1685–1753)    Bishop and Philosopher.    A native of Ireland, Berkeley was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was appointed Dean of Derry in 1724 and, after a period as a travelling missionary in America, he was consecrated Bishop of Cloyne …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Berkeley, George — (1685–1753) Irish idealist . Born at Kilkenny in Ireland, Berkeley entered Trinity College, Dublin in 1700. In 1707 he became a Fellow of the College and two years later published An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (his Philosophical… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Berkeley, George — (1685 1753)    An empiricist philosopher, and Bishop of Cloyne from 1734 to 1752, Berkeley is now known chiefly not for his sermons and ecclesiastical works or even for his strange writings on tar water, but rather for his philosophical works, in… …   Christian Philosophy

  • Berkeley, George — ► (1685 1753) Filósofo inglés. Sostiene que lo único real son nuestras ideas y su realidad consiste en las que percibimos. Sus obras principales son los Principios del conocimiento humano (1710) y Tres diálogos entre Hylas y Filonús (1713). * * * …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BERKELEY, GEORGE —    bishop of Cloyne, born in Kilkenny; a philanthropic man, who conducted in a self sacrificing spirit practical schemes for the good of humanity, which failed, but the interest in whom has for long centred, and still centres, in his philosophic… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Berkeley, George — (1685 1753)    Philosopher, eldest s. of William B., a cadet of the noble family of Berkeley, b. at Kilcrin near Kilkenny, and ed. at the school of his native place and at Trinity Coll., Dublin, where he graduated and took a Fellowship in 1707.… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Berkeley,George — Berke·ley (bärkʹlē, bûrkʹ ), George. 1685 1753. Irish prelate and philosopher whose idealist philosophy, directed against the materialism of Thomas Hobbes, is based on the thought that to be is to perceive or to be perceived. His works include… …   Universalium

  • BERKELEY, George — (1685 1753)    Irish clergyman and philosopher. Author of A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Berkeley, George Cranfield — (1753 1818)    Entered the navy, 1766; accompanied Cook in survey of coast of Newfoundland and Gulf of St. Lawrence, 1766 1769; and was on the Victory at Ushant, 1778. In 1786 surveyor general of ordnance, 1786; and vice admiral on the Halifax… …   The makers of Canada

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