Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous

Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous

One of the greatest British philosophers, Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753) was the founder of the influential doctrine of Immaterialism - the belief that there is no reality outside the mind, and that the existence of material objects depends upon their being perceived. The Principles of Human Knowledge eloquently outlines this philosophical concept, and argues forcefully that...

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Title:Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous
Author:George Berkeley
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Edition Language:English

Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous Reviews

  • Palindrome Mordnilap

    When Bishop Berkeley first published his theory of Immaterialism (also known as Idealism, not to be confused with idealising) he was mocked by many of the prominent thinkers of the day, including Samuel Johnson (of dictionary fame) who, when asked of his opinion kicked a rock and roared "I refute Berkeley thus!" Centuries later, and with the advent of quantum physics (particularly the Copenhagen interpretation), it would appear that Berkeley may well have been ahead of his time.

    In essence, his t

    When Bishop Berkeley first published his theory of Immaterialism (also known as Idealism, not to be confused with idealising) he was mocked by many of the prominent thinkers of the day, including Samuel Johnson (of dictionary fame) who, when asked of his opinion kicked a rock and roared "I refute Berkeley thus!" Centuries later, and with the advent of quantum physics (particularly the Copenhagen interpretation), it would appear that Berkeley may well have been ahead of his time.

    In essence, his theory states that matter as we understand it is an illusion: it cannot be proven to exist and therefore, by arch-scepticism, it must be assumed not to exist at all. What we are left with is perception: the rock does not exist in and of itself, only my perception of the rock. As such, nothing exists unless it is perceived. Thus the ontological burden is placed upon the agent of perception (i.e. you and me) rather than on the object of perception itself.

    There are, of course, elements of Berkeley's theory that we moderns may feel inclined to reject (such as his notion that God perceives everything, hence the world doesn't just collapse when nobody's looking). However, his central tenet that the act of perception is integral to reality remains a powerful idea, and one which we are only now beginning to fully comprehend.

  • Sam Eccleston

    This is probably one of the most eccentric theories in all of philosophy. Initially it seems completely implausible, but Berkeley's genius is such that an idea with apparently little to recommend it becomes a live option by the end of the book. The genius of the argument is in its simplicity; it could be expressed in probably a page or two of prose at the most. Thus, much of the book is dealing with rebuttal of potential criticism. This can become somewhat repetitive, as many of the criticisms c

    This is probably one of the most eccentric theories in all of philosophy. Initially it seems completely implausible, but Berkeley's genius is such that an idea with apparently little to recommend it becomes a live option by the end of the book. The genius of the argument is in its simplicity; it could be expressed in probably a page or two of prose at the most. Thus, much of the book is dealing with rebuttal of potential criticism. This can become somewhat repetitive, as many of the criticisms can be answered in the same way, and some of it deals with issues which at the time were at the forefront of scientific thought but which are no longer entirely relevant, but despite this there are many interesting asides along the way.

    It would be fascinating to read a companion volume updating Berkeley's arguments for the post-quantum picture of the world; I am sure there is such a thing available somewhere.

  • C

    On paper, this book should be a zero star for someone like me. As people know, I'm a militant atheist, materialist, Marxist, and I wear my politics and philosophy on my sleeve - sometimes even on other peoples' sleeves. And Berkeley is basically the stark opposite of me: a Christian, immaterialists, who undoubtedly held conservative views. Nonetheless, Berkeley was unequivocally a philosophical gangster in the streets, and a freak in the bed.

    Seriously though, Berkeley gives every materialist, in

    On paper, this book should be a zero star for someone like me. As people know, I'm a militant atheist, materialist, Marxist, and I wear my politics and philosophy on my sleeve - sometimes even on other peoples' sleeves. And Berkeley is basically the stark opposite of me: a Christian, immaterialists, who undoubtedly held conservative views. Nonetheless, Berkeley was unequivocally a philosophical gangster in the streets, and a freak in the bed.

    Seriously though, Berkeley gives every materialist, in his time, hitherto, a run for their money. As the introduction essays remarks, Lenin, and Engels, recognized Berkeley's philosophy was not easy to transcend. And anyone who has read Engels's attempt to transcend it (I have not read Lenin's), knows he failed. According to my friend, Lenin failed too. For Berkeley only two things exist, minds/spirits, and ideas. Well God too, but his argument in favor of God's existence ultimately boils down to: atheist are repugnant, hallelujah.

    Despite the extreme advances made in the cognitive sciences, and philosophy overall, returning to the empiricist tradition is always a treat. The writing is clear, the philosophy is simple, and their epistemological system is completely summarizable. Berkeley is no exception. He sets out to rid the world of abstractions, and abstract ideas, especially Platonic forms. Moreover, he wants to make necessary advancements upon Locke's philosophy of primary qualities (i.e., substance, extension, etc), and secondary qualities.

    Locke believed when we perceived an object, we perceived secondary qualities, that is qualities that only exist for our mind, such as colors, sounds, tasted, etc.; and primary qualities, which existed independent of observation (e.g., extension, substance). Thus, a table tastes oaky to the human, but delicious to the termite. But to both creatures, the table is extended, and contains substance (the metaphysical glue holding the table together), or matter for the materialist. Berkeley points out that for an empiricist this is a complete contradiction. The empiricist never observes primary qualities, and it is impossible for these qualities to exist outside perception, because how could someone perceive of something existing outside perception? This is a complete contradiction.

    If things only exist when they’re being perceived, we are left flummoxed. Why is it that things always seems to be where we left them, and that there is consistency and order in the universe? Berkeley believes that there are natural laws, laws that unlike our perception have a will or volition of their own. Moreover, these objects remain consistent because there is one all eternal perceiver: GOD. In the first essay there is no serious argument for why God exist; only that atheist are repugnant beings, worthy of contempt. But isn’t Berkeley’s philosophy all the more fun when a God doesn’t exist? I mean really, the fact that things don’t exist when I don’t perceive them, and I bring things into existence by viewing them, is substantially more interesting. Moreover, despite the fact that Berkeley says we perceive God in his work, he is essentially using God as the primary quality he rejects.

    Overall, great book.

  • Taymaz Azimi

    It is important to understand that Berkeley does not actually reject the possibility of external world/ physical objects. What he does is mentioning the matter of importance. I mean, existence is an important matter of our knowledge and existence is firstly what my mind perceives. Since we cannot be sure of the material existence of things and since our mind perceives whole things without necessity of externality, this externality is totally unimportant.

  • Fatemeh Rahmani

    از مردم فقط عده قلیلی تفکر میکنند،ولی همه می خواهند عقیده ای داشته باشند،و به همین جهت عقاید آنها سطحی و مغشوش است.غرابتی نداردکه عقایدی که با یکدیگر اختلاف بسیار دارد،از طرف کسانی که درباره ی آنها تآمل کافی روا نداشته اند،مورد خلط و اشتباه قرار گیرد.

    جورج بارکلی در رساله در اصول علم انسانی تلاش میکند تا طرز تفکر و نظریه ی خویش در باب انکار جواهر اولیه و ثانویه را بیان کند و در سه گفت و شنود تلاش میکند تا با گفتگویی میان دونفر به نام های هیلاس و فیلونوس درک این مسئله را برای خوانندگان راحت تر کند

    از مردم فقط عده قلیلی تفکر میکنند،ولی همه می خواهند عقیده ای داشته باشند،و به همین جهت عقاید آنها سطحی و مغشوش است.غرابتی نداردکه عقایدی که با یکدیگر اختلاف بسیار دارد،از طرف کسانی که درباره ی آنها تآمل کافی روا نداشته اند،مورد خلط و اشتباه قرار گیرد.

    جورج بارکلی در رساله در اصول علم انسانی تلاش میکند تا طرز تفکر و نظریه ی خویش در باب انکار جواهر اولیه و ثانویه را بیان کند و در سه گفت و شنود تلاش میکند تا با گفتگویی میان دونفر به نام های هیلاس و فیلونوس درک این مسئله را برای خوانندگان راحت تر کند و به نوعی خواندن این کتاب را به عموم مردم جامعه توصیه میکند تا انسانِ از خود مطمئن را به شک انداخته و او را با این پرسش روبرو سازد که آیا دنیای خارج واقعیت دارد؟آیا تمام آن در ذهن من ساخته و پرداخته شده است؟

  • Quiver

    Berkeley's phrase "esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived) inspired my reading of this book.

    I came away only partially satisfied with my understanding of Berkeley's arguments for his particular brand of idealism. A vast simplification of his theory (as I see it) is that the inanimate objects surrounding us exist so long as they are perceived by us, the

    , in the form of

    . The spirits, on the other hand, exist not as beings that perceive each other, but as beings living within Go

    Berkeley's phrase "esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived) inspired my reading of this book.

    I came away only partially satisfied with my understanding of Berkeley's arguments for his particular brand of idealism. A vast simplification of his theory (as I see it) is that the inanimate objects surrounding us exist so long as they are perceived by us, the

    , in the form of

    . The spirits, on the other hand, exist not as beings that perceive each other, but as beings living within God's Grace. The standard objection to idealism (that is, to a world contained entirely in one's head) is based on the problem of equalising perception: I see the apple is red, but who says you don't see it as being green? Berkeley's solution is that God distributes to all spirits a mutually compatible perception of reality. Furthermore, Berkeley does not doubt the nature or motives of God; God arranges things in the best possible fashion.

    Alongside many interesting smaller considerations littered throughout the book itself (on time, music, physics), a curious point about the nature of our spacial experience is brought up in the Introduction by Howard Robinson. He makes an argument for an intuitive element that is otherwise captured neither by the relativism of comparison (this pencil is half the length of that one), nor by the abstraction and absolutism of measurements (this pencil is ten centimetres). Indeed, relative and absolute measures can be agreed upon by both mites and men (deliberate pun, but drawn from Berkeley's text, as is this whole idea), but the qualitative experience of a pencil will differ greatly for a mite and for a man. An additional point to ponder.

  • Markus

    Principles of Human Knowledge

    By George Berkeley (1685-1753)

    George Berkeley- known as Bishop Berkeley - was an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called

    Immaterialism:

    The main text of this edition called ‘Principals’ develops arguments over 100 pages in various forms that “no object, like houses, trees, mountains rivers and so on, has an existence natural or real, distinct from its being perceived by the understanding”.

    He questions the theory of U

    Principles of Human Knowledge

    By George Berkeley (1685-1753)

    George Berkeley- known as Bishop Berkeley - was an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called

    Immaterialism:

    The main text of this edition called ‘Principals’ develops arguments over 100 pages in various forms that “no object, like houses, trees, mountains rivers and so on, has an existence natural or real, distinct from its being perceived by the understanding”.

    He questions the theory of Universal Attraction:

    ” The great mechanical principle now in vogue is attraction. That a stone falls to the earth, or the sea swells to the moon, may to some appear sufficiently explained thereby.

    But how are we enlightened by being told this is done by attraction?

    “Nothing is determined of the matter or action, and it may truly be (for aught we know) be determined by impulse or protrusion as attraction.”

    …” If therefore we consider the difference there is betwixt natural philosophers and other men, we shall find it consists not of an exacter knowledge of the different causes that produce them, for that can be no other than the will of a spirit, “

    …” in some instances, the quite contrary principle seems to shew itself: as in the perpendicular growth of plants, and the elasticity of air. There is nothing necessary or essential in this case, but it depends entirely on the will of the governing spirit, who causes certain bodies to clieve together or tend towards each other, according to various laws, whilst he keeps others at a fixed distance; and to some he gives a quite contrary tendency to fly asunder, just as he sees convenient.”

    “Hitherto of natural philosophy: we come to inquire about that other great branch of speculative knowledge, to wit, Mathematics.”

    “That principles laid down by mathematicians are true and their way of deduction from these principals clear and incontestable, we do not deny. But we hold, there may be certain erroneous maxims of greater extent than the object of mathematics, and for that reason not expressly mentioned, though tacitly supposed throughout the whole progress of that science:

    and that the ill effects of those secretly unexamined errors are diffused throughout all the branches thereof. To be plain, we suspect the mathematicians are, as well as other men, concerned in the errors arising from the doctrine of abstract general ideas, and the existence of objects without the mind.”

    On Arithmetic:

    “…Another speculative branch of knowledge. It hath set a price on the most trifling numerical speculations which in practice are of no use, but serve only as amusement and hath therefore so infected the minds of some, that they have dreamt of some mighty mysteries involved in numbers, and tend the explication of natural things by them.”

    “However since there may be some, who, deluded by the specious shew of discovering abstracted verities, waste their time in arithmetical theorems and problems which have not any use.” And more of the same.

    On Geometry:

    “From numbers, we proceed to speak of extension, which considered as relative, is the object of geometry. The infinite divisibility of finite extension, though it is not laid down as an axiom or theorem in the elements of that science, yet is throughout the same everywhere.

    And as this notion is the source from whence do spring all those amusing geometrical paradoxes, which have such a direct repugnancy to the plain common sense of mankind, …”some may be persuaded, that extension in the abstract is infinitely divisible, and will in virtue thereof be brought to admit, that a line but an inch long may contain innumerable parts really existing, though too small to be observed.

    These errors are grafted as well as in the minds of geometricians, as of other men, and have like influence on their reasoning.”

    “But men not retaining a distinction in their thoughts, slide into a belief that the small particular line described on a paper contains in itself parts innumerable.

    There is no such thing as the ten-thousandth part of an inch; but there is of a mile or the diameter of the earth, which may be signified by that inch.”

    Those great men who have raised that science to so astonishing a height, have been all the while been building a castle in the air.”

    On Matter:

    “ Though it be clear from what has been said, that there cannot be such a thing as an inert, senseless, extended solid figured moveable substance, existing without the mind, such as philosophers describe matter;”…it doth not appear that matter taken in this sense may possibly exist”.

    “After all, what deserves the first place in our studies, is the consideration of God, and our duty.”…and having shewn the falseness or vanity of these barren speculations, which make the chief employment of learned men, the better dispose them to reverence and embrace the salutary truths of the Gospel, which to know and to practice is the highest perfection of human nature.”

    Berkeley’s scientific arguments and counter-arguments are generally based on excerpts from the Holy Scriptures.

    The book throughout is a denial of modern (at his time) scientific discoveries and progress.

    Though now most noted as an epistemologist, he also wrote major works on the theory of politics, property, education and religion.

    It must be from his other works that Berkeley would have risen to the level of The most famous intellectual and philosopher in the western world in the eighteenth century.

  • فؤاد

    گفت و شنود اول:

    تا قبل از باركلى تصور مى شد كه اشياء دو دسته صفات دارند:

    : صفاتى كه در حقيقت در خود اشیاء خارجی موجودند، مثل اندازه و شكل.

    : صفاتى كه فقط محصول رابطه ى ذهن و عين هستند و در حقيقت در اشياء خارجى موجود نيستند، مثل صوت و رنگ. اشیاء خارجی در حقیقت رنگ و صوت ندارند و تنها تأثیر خاصی که بر چشم و گوش ما می گذارند باعث می شود تصور رنگ و صدا در ذهن ما ایجاد شود.

    باركلى در گفت و شنود

    گفت و شنود اول:

    تا قبل از باركلى تصور مى شد كه اشياء دو دسته صفات دارند:

    : صفاتى كه در حقيقت در خود اشیاء خارجی موجودند، مثل اندازه و شكل.

    : صفاتى كه فقط محصول رابطه ى ذهن و عين هستند و در حقيقت در اشياء خارجى موجود نيستند، مثل صوت و رنگ. اشیاء خارجی در حقیقت رنگ و صوت ندارند و تنها تأثیر خاصی که بر چشم و گوش ما می گذارند باعث می شود تصور رنگ و صدا در ذهن ما ایجاد شود.

    باركلى در گفت و شنود اول نشان می دهد که ميان كيفيات اوليه و ثانويه تفاوتى نيست و امکان ندارد هیچ کدام از این صفاتی که ما ادراک می کنیم، در اشياء خارجى موجود باشند. در نتیجه، اشیاء خارجی نه رنگ و صوت دارند، و نه شکل و اندازه.

    و وقتی اشیاء خارجی هیچ صفتی نداشته باشند، وجودشان یا غیرممکن یا بیهوده است.

    گفت و شنود دوم:

    با نفی اشیاء مادّی، این تصور به وجود می آید که پس آیا این جهان سراسر خواب و خیال است؟

    بارکلی در گفت و شنود دوم به شدت جواب منفی می دهد. می گوید:

    تصوّرات مبهم و بی نظم است، اما

    در زمان بیداری، هم واضح و هم دارای نظمی فیزیکی و ریاضی هستند.

    های ما وابسته به اراده ی خودمان هستند و هر گونه بخواهیم در آن ها تصرّف می کنیم و تغییرشان می دهیم، اما

    وابسته به اراده ی ما نیستند و ما نمی توانیم هر گاه بخواهیم روز را شب کنیم، یا پادشاه را گدا کنیم.

    پس

    ، هر چند وجود خارجی ندارند، اما علّت خارجی دارند که به آن ها نظم می دهد، و آن علّت، خداوند است. خداوند است که این ادراکات را مستقیم به ذهن ما منتقل می کند، و ذهن ما تنها پذیرندۀ این ادراکات است.

    گفت و شنود سوم:

    بعد از شنیدن این دو گفت و شنود، اشکالات بسیار زیادی به ذهن خواننده می رسد. در گفت و شنود سوم، بارکلی با حوصله ی فراوان تک تک اشکالات مختلفی که ممکن است به نظریه اش وارد شود را پاسخ می دهد، و برای خواننده چاره ای نمی گذارد جز آن که بپذیرد این نظریه خدشه ناپذیر است.

    بارکلی آغازگر راهی است که بعدها توسط "هيوم" گسترش داده شد، و سپس توسط "كانت" به صورت نظام معرفت شناختى منسجمى درآمد. تا مدت ها فلسفه ى غرب بر نظام معرفت شناختى كانت مبتنى بود.

  • peiman-mir5 rezakhani

    دوستانِ گرانقدر، بارها گفته ام که یکی از بزرگترین خیانت ها و آسیب ها به فلاسفه و اندیشمندانِ تاریخ، این بوده است که برخی از نظریه پردازهایِ موهوم پرستِ مذهبی همچون نویسندهٔ این کتاب <بارکلی یا برکلی> و امثالِ او که کشیش و ملّا و درکل مبلّغِ مذهبی و دینی هستند و در اسلام نیز از آنها فراوان دیده شده است، را فیلسوف قلمداد کرده اند و به مرورِ زمان در ذهنِ مردم اینگونه جا انداخته اند... در صورتی که دین هیچ ارتباطی با دانش و فلسفهٔ انسانی و خردمندانه ندارد... دین دقیقاً نقطهٔ مقابل و ضدِ خرد و د

    ‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، بارها گفته ام که یکی از بزرگترین خیانت ها و آسیب ها به فلاسفه و اندیشمندانِ تاریخ، این بوده است که برخی از نظریه پردازهایِ موهوم پرستِ مذهبی همچون نویسندهٔ این کتاب <بارکلی یا برکلی> و امثالِ او که کشیش و ملّا و درکل مبلّغِ مذهبی و دینی هستند و در اسلام نیز از آنها فراوان دیده شده است، را فیلسوف قلمداد کرده اند و به مرورِ زمان در ذهنِ مردم اینگونه جا انداخته اند... در صورتی که دین هیچ ارتباطی با دانش و فلسفهٔ انسانی و خردمندانه ندارد... دین دقیقاً نقطهٔ مقابل و ضدِ خرد و دانش و فلسفه و منطقِ انسانی میباشد

    ‎برکلی کشیش و اسقفِ ایرلندی بود که در قرنِ هفدهم میزیست و اینگونه فکر میکرد که فلسفه و دانش خطری برایِ راه و رسم و زندگیِ مسیحی و درکل خطری برایِ دین و مذهب است.. بعد جالب است که میگویند او فیلسوف بوده است... وی خردگرایی و ماده گرایی را تهدیدی برای خداپرستان قلمداد کرده و از همین روی اصرار بر این دارد که بگوید چیزی به نامِ ماده و جسم، وجود ندارد... یعنی پاک کردنِ پاسخِ آشکار و پیدا، برای گریز از حقیقت

    ‎برکلی بطورِ جدی به موضوعِ موهومی چون "روح" اعتقاد دارد و در این باره مینویسد: تصوراتِ ما، همه علتی در ورایِ خودآگاهیِ ما دارند و این علت، مادی نیست، بلکه معنوی است!!!! او اینچنین به موهوماتش ادامه میدهد که: روحِ من، میتواند علتِ تصوراتِ من باشد، امّا علتِ تصوراتی که جهانِ مادی را ساخته است، اراده و روحِ دیگری میباشد... برکلی خزعبلاتش را بهم بافته و بافته تا برسد به موضوعِ اصلی.. موضوعِ اصلی نیز "خدا" میباشد

    ‎او اینگونه مینویسد که: میتوانیم ادعا کنیم که درکِ حسیِ ما از وجودِ خدا بسیار روشنتر است، زیرا خداوند از نزدیک در ذهنِ ما حضور دارد و انبوهِ تصورات را که پی در پی به مغزِ ما میتازد را به وجود می آورد و تمامیِ جهانِ پیرامونِ ما و تمامیِ طبیعت و حیاتِ ما، در وجودِ خداوند است.. خداوند تنها علتِ وجودِ هر چیز است. ما فقط در نفسِ خداوند وجود داریم، لذا بودن یا نبودن، تمامِ مسئله نیست.. مسئله این میباشد که ما چه کسی و یا چه چیزی میباشیم.. آیا جهان از چیزهایِ واقعی ساخته شده است؟؟ یا همه چیز ساخته و پرداختهٔ ذهنِ ما انسانها میباشد

    ‎بله عزیزانم.. این کشیشِ موهوم پرست همینطور این موهومات را ادامه میدهد تا به جایی میرسد که ما و تمام طبیعت و حیوانات و گیاهان و اجسام و مواد و چه و چه و چه را موهوم و خیالی قلمداد کرده و خدایِ خود را که به هیچ روشِ منطقی و از راهِ دانش و تجربه و درکل با کمکِ هیچ راه و روشِ خردمندانه ای، نمیتوان وجودش را اثبات کرد را حقیقی و راستین میشمارد و اینگونه چرت و پرتهایش را ادامه داده و مینویسد: ادراکِ حسیِ ما، از زمان و مکان، میتواند توهمِ ذهنِ ما باشد.. مدت زمانِ ما با مدت زمانِ خداوند متفاوت است!!!!.. یک یا دو هفتهٔ ما ضرورتاً با یک یا دو هفتهٔ خدا یکی نمیباشد.. ما نمیتوانیم که بدانیم هستیِ خارجیِ ما از امواجِ صدا و صوت ساخته شده است یا از کاغذ و نوشتار!!!!!!!!!! تنها چیزی که ما میتوانیم بدانیم، این است که ما "روح" هستیم

    ‎بله عزیزان و نورِ چشمانم.. به همین سادگی این مردِ ایرلندی، ثابت کرد که ما وجودِ خارجی نداریم و اصلاً وجود حقیقی نداریم و روح هستیم و خدایِ قادر و توانا فقط حقیقت دارد و وجود دارد و ما تصوراتِ خدا هستیم... یعنی همچون یک نوار کاست یا فیلم و سی دی هستیم که از قبل مشخص است که قرار است چه کنیم.. یعنی من که این جملات را برایِ شما خردگرایانِ گرامی مینویسم، در اصل خودم نمینویسم، این خداوند است که همهٔ اینها را تصویر سازی کرده است

    ‎ببینید این موجوداتِ پست و موهوم پرست، برایِ اثباتِ موهومات و خرافات هایِ خویش، تا به کجا میروند.. تا آنجایی پیش میروند که حتی وجودِ ما و وجودِ حقیقت را کتمان میکنند و توهمات و خزعبلات و باورهایِ اشتباه و منسوخِ دینی و مذهبیِ خود را درست و راستین میدانند

    -------------------------------------------

    ‎امیدوارم این ریویو برایِ فرزندانِ خردگرایِ سرزمینم، مفید بوده باشه

    ‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>

  • Xander

    In these two little works George Berkeley takes up his gloves and tries to resurrect our faith in the existence of reality. He does this, by offering us his own philosophy, as a remedy to the wrongdoings of Descartes, Malebranche, Locke and colleagues.

    Berkeley argues that the 17th century 'new philosophy' inevitably leads to sceptical and atheistic beliefs. These philosophical systems and their metaphysical principles are, according to Berkeley, incoherent and inconsistent. As an Anglican chris

    In these two little works George Berkeley takes up his gloves and tries to resurrect our faith in the existence of reality. He does this, by offering us his own philosophy, as a remedy to the wrongdoings of Descartes, Malebranche, Locke and colleagues.

    Berkeley argues that the 17th century 'new philosophy' inevitably leads to sceptical and atheistic beliefs. These philosophical systems and their metaphysical principles are, according to Berkeley, incoherent and inconsistent. As an Anglican christian and a philosopher, he thought it his duty to offer his contemporaries and alternative to the aforementioned ones.

    To understand the radical proposition of Berkeley, it is necessary to view in the context of his time. Descartes tried to build a new system of certain knowledge on metaphysical principles, and thought (ultimately) that we can grasp reality by rationality. Locke didn't accept these innate principles but tried to develop a system based on empiricist principles: we perceive objects via our senses, these create ideas in us and via reflection on these ideas we combine and associate these ideas into complex, new ideas. But both the rationalist Descartes as the empiricist Locke agreed that there was an objective reality to grasp, in the first place.

    The scepticism Berkeley hints at, lies in the fact that Locke has to admit that we will never be able to fully understand reality, while Descartes puts all his metaphysical faith in the hands of a good God (who wouldn't deceive us, therefore the world as we perceive is real - uhm, right...). In both systems of knowledge we may legitemately doubt every proposition and with this become sceptics ourselves. This leads to the inevitable question: does God even exist? This is what Berkeley, as a devout Anglican, sees as the threat of rationalism and empiricism - scepticism leading to atheism.

    How does Berkeley work his way around these pitfalls? Well, to begin with, he does not accept that reality objectively exists. Doing this, he can safely circumnavigate the problems of Locke. According to Berkeley we perceive ideas and this is the only thing that is certain. There are finite immaterial minds (us) and an infinite mind (God), nothing more, nothing less. (This smells like Descartes' cogito ergo sum, without the Cartesian dualism of matter and soul). These minds have ideas about perceptions, but there's no object that 'creates' these perceptions, therefore Berkeley doesn't need to prove that a material world exists. This is his famous 'Immaterialism'.

    As he himself explains: "I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new notions. My endeavors tend only to unite and place in a clearer light that truth, which was before shared between the vulgar and the philosophers: the former being of opinion, that those things they immediately perceive are the real things; and the latter, that the things immediately perceived, are ideas which exist only in the mind." (p. 207).

    Combining these two notions, we get: the only things that exist in the mind are the real things. In other words: every subject (i.e. human intellect) creates its own reality by perceiving ideas. The mountain we see is real, because we perceive this mountain; not because this mountain is part of an objective reality, for us to be perceived.

    It doesn't take a genius to see the problematic point in Berkeley's argument, and the most ironic illustration is the anecdote about Berkeley's own life. When visiting Jonathan Swift (a friend of Berkeley), Berkeley knocks on Swift's door. Swift leaves his door closed and tells Berkeley to perceive an open door so he can come in.

    This is a funny example, because it illustrates most vividly the absurdity of Berkeley's position. By trying to destroy the 'sceptical and atheistic' systems of knowledge of his precursors, he erects a system that is at its core so absurd, that it collapses in such a simple way. Is the moon there when I'm not looking? Does a bomb, that explodes in the woods with no one around to notice, make noise?

    Berkeley tries to counter this inevitable critique by positing that God, as an infinite immaterial mind, exists; that the same logic applies to God's mind (perceptions exist and are 'the reality'); and that because of the infinity of God's mind, anything exists at all times in - God's mind. Therefore, according to Berkeley, when we are not looking at the chair, the chair does exist in God's mind, so the chair exists. Period.

    Well, that doesn't sound convincing right? This is the same as Descartes positing the infinite goodness of God as an argument for the existence of objective reality. You cannot build a system of certain knowledge on principles of faith, because that is the one thing that you're trying to avoid. I think Bishop Berkeley was a bit too overzealous in his effort to do away with Cartesian dualism and the empiricist materialism of Hobbes and Locke.

    I think we should agree with David Hume that the causal chains of our perceiving objects and us forming ideas about these objects are so long and unintelligible to us, that we should just agree that we simply don't know if there's such a thing as objective reality. But like Hume, we should just continue with our lives and do as if there was such a thing as reality.

    Besides the above mentioned content of both books (i.e. Berkeley's philosophy), I want to mention that I didn't like reading both (short) works. The Dialogues were the more rewarding part, but besides Plato (and maybe Galilei) I don't know of any writer who succesfully translated philosophical or scientific topics into readable dialogue. As for ,the Principles, they are just abstract and dry material, nothing attractive about that. You also need a lot of prior knowledge about the philosophical context of Berkeley's time. So I cannot really recommend this book.

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