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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

George Berkeley and idealism


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, John Smybert


George Berkeley (1685-1753) was an Irish philosopher best known for his contributions to idealism. Berkeley argued that material reality only exists through perception. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said,


"Berkeley was... the first to treat the subjective starting-point really seriously and to demonstrate irrefutably its absolute necessity. He is the father of idealism." (Parega and Paralipomena, 1851)


Philosopher Bertrand Russell said,


"[Berkeley] maintained that material objects only exist through being perceived. To the objection that, in that case, a tree, for instance, would cease to exist if no one was looking at it, he replied that God always perceives everything..." (A History of Western Philosophy, 1945)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Berkeley.




"The only thing we perceive are our perceptions." (


"It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding." (A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710)


"Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being perceived? Or is it something distinct from being perceived, and that bears no relation to the mind?" (Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, 1713)




"The same principles which at first view lead to skepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to common sense." (


"Abstract terms (however useful they may be in argument) should be discarded in meditation, and the mind should be fixed on the particular and the concrete, that is, on the things themselves." (De Motu, 1721)


"In the pursuit of truth we must beware of being misled by terms which we do not rightly understand, That is the chief point. Almost all philosophers utter the caution; few observe it." (De Motu, 1721)


"Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amuse philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to our selves. That we have first raised a dust, and the complain, we cannot see." (