"Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind that a
man need only opens his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to
be, to wit, that all the choir of heaven and the furniture of earth, in a
word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have
not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be
George Berkeley, trained in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, continues the tradition of the Cambridge Platonists and the 4th Earl of Shaftsbury, who find the mechanical philosophy of Descartes, Gassendi, Locke, Boyle and Newton as dangerous as the complete materialism of Hobbes and Spinoza. Berkeley raises many problems for this materialist tradition. He attacks the doctrine of abstract ideas; he makes great use of the implications of the representative theory of perception; and he gives strong arguments against the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Berkeley calls his alternative to the views he criticizes immaterialism. It is the doctrine that to be is to perceive or to be perceived. The universe, thus, has only two kinds of entities in it, spirits (which perceive) and ideas (which are perceived).
|1685||March 12, Born the eldest son to William Berkeley, an officer of customs, near Kilkenny in Ireland.|
|1700||Having spent several years at Kilkenny College, the school of Congreve and Swift, enters Trinity College, Dublin.|
|1704||Graduates from Trinity College and studies privately for the next three years.|
|1707||Elected fellow at Trinity College. Publishes two short mathematical tracts.|
|1709||Ordained deacon. Publishes An Essay toward a New Theory of Vision.|
|1710||Ordained priest. Publishes A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.|
|1711||Delivers Discourse on Passive Obedience.|
|1712||Visits England. Publishes De Motu [On Motion].|
|1713||April, is presented to the English court by Jonathan Swift and he quickly becomes a court favorite. Publishes Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. November, becomes chaplain to Lord Peterborough.|
|Travels as tutor to the only son of Dr. St. George Ashe.|
|1721||Returns to Ireland as chaplain to the Duke of Grafton. Receives Doctor of Divinity. Publishes anonymously An Essay towards preventing the Ruin of Great Britain.|
|1722||Appointed Dean of Dromore.
||1723||Miss Vanhomrigh, Swift's Vanessa, dies leaving
Berkeley half her property.
||1724||Appointed Dean of Derry. Devises scheme to found a
college in the Bermudas. Is promised a grant from the government for
20,000 pounds. ||1728||August, Marries Anne Forster, the daughter of a
Judge. September, after four years of preparation for the new college,
sets sail for America and spends three years in Rhode Island awaiting the
grant. ||1732||Writes Alciphron or the Minute Philosopher
critically examining the various forms of free-thinking in the age. Upon
hearing the grant would not be forthcoming, gives the books and supplies
for the new college to Yale college and returns to England. ||1734||Appointed Bishop of Cloyne. Publishes The
Analyst, an attack on higher mathematics as leading to free-thinking.
||1735||Publishes first part of The Querist with
part two published in 1736 and part three in 1737; a work which examined
the reasons for the poor economic conditions in Ireland. ||1744||Publishes Siris a work which begins with a
discussion of the medicinal values of tar-water and goes on to expound on
the metaphysical natures of the physical and spiritual universe as well as
God. ||1751||His eldest son dies. ||1752 ||He retires to Oxford with his family for the sake of
his son George who is studying there. ||1753|| Sunday, January 14, dies suddenly while listening to
his wife reading from the Bible. Buried the next Saturday in the nave at
Christ Church, Oxford. |
There is a large literature on Berkeley. The suggestions below simply represent a few works which treat a variety of topics in Berkeley's philosophy.
You can click here for a commentary on Berkeley's First Dialogue Concerning Hylas and Philonou.