George Berkeley

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George Berkeley (12 March 168514 January 1753) also known as Bishop Berkeley, was an influential Irish philosopher whose primary philosophical achievement is the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism" (later referred to as "subjective idealism" by others).


Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713)

  • I entirely agree with you, as to the ill tendency of the affected doubts of some philosophers, and fantastical conceit of others. I am even so far gone of late in this way of think, that I have quitted several of the sublime notions I had got in their schools for vulgar opinions. And I give it you on my word, since this revolt from metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature and common sense, I find my understanding strangely enlightened, so that I can now easily comprehend a great many thing which before were all mystery and riddle.
    • Said by Philonous (Berkeley) to Hylas in the opening of dialog 1 with reference to the recent surge philosophic endeavors (Locke, Newton, et al) that seemed to lead to skepticism about the existence of the world
  • That there is no such thing as what philosophers call material substance, I am seriously persuaded: but if I were made to see any thing absurd or skeptical in this, I should then have the same reason to renounce this, that I imagine I have now to reject the contrary opinion.
    • Philonous to Hylas
  • Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being perceived? or, is it something distinct from their being perceived, and that bears no relation to the mind?
    • Philonous to Hylas
  • Seeing therefore they are both [heat and pain] immediately perceived at the same time, and the fire affects you only with one simple, or uncompounded idea, it follows that this same simple idea is both the intense heat immediately perceived, and the pain;and consequently, that the intense heat immediately perceived, is nothing distinct from a particular sort of pain.
    • Philonous to Hylas
  • Since therefore, as well those degrees of heat that are not painful, as those that are, can exist in a thinking substance; may we not conclude that external bodies are absolutely incapable of any degree of heat whatsoever?
    • Philonous to Hylas. Hylas replies with, "So it seems."

About Berkeley

  • When discussing how Berkeley's philosophy appeared to be self-evidently false, but impossible to refute, Dr. Johnson kicked out at a nearby stone, exclaiming "I refute it thus!"
    • Boswell's Life


  • Westward the course of empire takes its way;
    The four first acts already past,
    A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
    Time's noblest offspring is the last.
    • On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America. Compare: "Westward the star of empire takes its way", Epigraph to Bancroft's History of the United States.
  • Our youth we can have but to-day,
    We may always find time to grow old.
    • Can Love be controlled by Advice?
  • [Tar water] is of a nature so mild and benign and proportioned to the human constitution, as to warm without heating, to cheer but not inebriate.
    • Siris, paragraph 217. Compare: "Cups / That cheer but not inebriate", William Cowper, The Task, book iv.

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