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Humanities Libertexts

7: George Berkeley (1685–1753)

  • Page ID
    8303
    • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710)
      • Introduction, Section One
      • Introduction, Section Two
      • Introduction, Section Three
      • Introduction, Section Four
      • Introduction, Section Five
      • Introduction, Section Six
      • Introduction, Section Seven
      • Introduction, Section Eight
      • Introduction, Section Nine
      • Introduction, Section Ten
      • Introduction, Section Eleven
      • Introduction, Section Twelve
      • Introduction, Section Sixteen
      • Introduction, Section Eighteen
      • Introduction, Section Nineteen
      • Introduction, Section Twenty
      • Introduction, Section Twenty-one
      • Introduction, Section Twenty-two
      • Part One, Section One
      • Part One, Section Two
      • Part One, Section Three
      • Part One, Section Four
      • Part One, Section Five
      • Part One, Section Six
      • Part One, Section Seven
      • Part One, Section Eight
      • Part One, Section Nine
      • Part One, Section Ten
      • Part One, Section Eleven
      • Part One, Section Twelve
      • Part One, Section Thirteen
      • Part One, Section Fourteen
      • Part One, Section Fifteen
      • Part One, Section Sixteen
      • Part One, Section Seventeen
      • Part One, Section Eighteen
      • Part One, Section Nineteen
      • Part One, Section Twenty
      • Part One, Section Twenty-one
      • Part One, Section Twenty-two
      • Part One, Section Twenty-three
      • Part One, Section Twenty-four
      • Part One, Section Twenty-five
      • Part One, Section Twenty-six
      • Part One, Section Twenty-seven
      • Part One, Section Twenty-eight
      • Part One, Section Twenty-nine
      • Part One, Section Thirty
      • Part One, Section Thirty-one
      • Part One, Section Thirty-two
      • Part One, Section Thirty-three
      • Part One, Section Thirty-four
      • Part One, Section Thirty-five
      • Part One, Section Thirty-six
      • Part One, Section Thirty-eight
      • Part One, Section Thirty-nine
      • Part One, Section Forty
      • Part One, Section Forty-one
      • Part One, Section Forty-two
      • Part One, Section Forty-three
      • Part One, Section Forty-four
      • Part One, Section Forty-five
      • Part One, Section Forty-six
      • Part One, Section Forty-seven
      • Part One, Section Forty-eight
      • Part One, Section Forty-nine
      • Part One, Section Fifty
      • Part One, Section Fifty-one
      • Part One, Section Fifty-two
      • Part One, Section Fifty-three
      • Part One, Section Fifty-four
      • Part One, Section Fifty-five
      • Part One, Section Fifty-six
      • Part One, Section Fifty-seven
      • Part One, Section Fifty-eight
      • Part One, Section Fifty-nine
      • Part One, Section Sixty
      • Part One, Section Sixty-one
      • Part One, Section Sixty-two
      • Part One, Section Sixty-three
      • Part One, Section Sixty-four
      • Part One, Section Sixty-five
      • Part One, Section Sixty-six
      • Part One, Section Ninety-eight
      • Part One, Section Ninety-nine
      • Part One, Section One Hundred and Seven
      • Part One, Section One Hundred and Thirty-nine
      • Part One, Section One Hundred and Forty
      • Part One, Section One Hundred and Forty-six
      • Part One, Section One Hundred and Forty-seven
    • De Motu, Section One
    • De Motu, Section Two
    • De Motu, Section Three
    • De Motu, Section Four
    • De Motu, Section Five
    • De Motu, Section Six
    • De Motu, Section Seven
    • De Motu, Section Eight
    • De Motu, Section Eleven
    • De Motu, Section Seventeen
    • De Motu, Section Eighteen
    • De Motu, Section Twenty-eight
    • De Motu, Section Twenty-nine
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-four
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-five
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-six
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-seven
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-eight
    • De Motu, Section Thirty-nine
    • De Motu, Section Forty
    • De Motu, Section Sixty-six
    • De Motu, Section Sixty-eight

    Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, George Berkeley was appointed Bishop of Cloyne (near Cork) in 1734. In 1709, he published An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, which lays the groundwork for his attack on the belief in material substance. His Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, the main work excerpted here, appeared in 1710 and was revised in 1734. His views encountered resistance and sometimes mockery; in 1713, he restated his overall position and arguments again, this time in dialogue form, in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. In 1721, Berkeley published De Motu (On Motion), a work that presents the earliest version of instrumentalism in philosophy of science.

    The Introduction to the Principles attacks abstract ideas. As you go, it is worth wondering why Berkeley is spending so much time on this issue, given his ultimate goal of establishing a world of only spirits and ideas. Part One of that work (there is no Part Two—Berkeley claims to have lost the manuscript in Italy) forms the main part of the work. Here is an outline, by section number, of the PHK, Part One.1

    Sections 1-24: Arguments against material substance

    Sections 25-33 Statement of Berkeley’s positive view

    Sections 34-84: Objections and replies

    Sections 85-156: Attractive consequences of Berkeley’s view with regard to:

    Sections 101-117: Natural science

    Sections 118-132: Mathematics and geometry

    Sections 135-156: Spirits/Minds, incl. God