A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

ISBN: 1419103849
ISBN 13: 9781419103841
By: George Berkeley

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Reader's Thoughts

Rlotz

George Berkeley was an English philosopher in the empiricist school. In this short treatise, he put forward many of his most influential ideas, including his critique of intellectual abstraction, and the dependence of reality on perception.Unlike many other philosophers I've come across, Berkeley is direct and terse. He does not insult the reader's intelligence by dwelling unnecessarily on one topic, but moves forward at a brisk pace. Further, his writing is clear, organized, and he actively seeks to anticipate any objections that others might have to his points. This combination serves to make the Principles of Human Knowledge an enjoyable read.I believe that this work can be read advantageously by anybody. However, those reader's who have knowledge of Descartes and Locke might get quite a bit more out of it. Much of what is contained in this little work is an elaboration, refinement, and at times a refutation of Locke's points in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In that work, Locke famously argues that the mind is a "blank slate" and that all of our thoughts are ultimately beholden to our experience. The "self" could not exist without sensation. Locke also points out that our sensations are only secondary qualities of objects. The primary qualities, or the arrangement of particles that actually make up an object, are largely unknowable. But Locke still believes they're there.This was largely a response to Descartes and the rationalist school. In his Discourse on Method and Meditations, Descartes takes a sceptic stance, and maintains that all we perceive cannot be accepted as true. After all, we perceive things in dreams, but nobody thinks that those actually happen. He then concludes that all we can be sure of to exist is ourselves, and God. All external reality is doubtful.Berkeley's position is the exact reverse. Far from saying that we should not trust our senses, Berkeley argues that nothing exists without us perceiving it. Instead of senses being an imperfect window to reality, or untrustworthy phantasms, sensations become synonymous with reality. (This goes further than Locke, as Berkeley argues that no such "primary qualities" exist, only secondary.) Descartes finds God as he meditates within himself. Berkeley finds God in everything we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. The two views could not be more dissimilar.I would suggest this little book to any who wish to learn more about philosophy, but don't want to get bogged down in a 400 page book. It's enjoyable, short, and surprisingly relevant.

pearl

Review forthcoming.

Declan O'mahony

Okay, so someone tells you the world is all is in your mind. The world is an idea, nothing exists unless it is perceived by a mind. Crazy right? Well no - it just might be the case. We know Reality as a mental construct - a product of our minds. This book makes you think - what does it mean to exist, what is it, and that is a question worth looking at. George should be on everybody's self.

AmblingBooks

First published in 1710, George Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge is a seminal contribution to Empiricist philosophy. Making the bold assertion that the physical world consists only of ideas and thus does not exist outside the mind, this work establishes Berkeley as the founder of the immaterialist school of thought. A major influence on such later philosophers as David Hume and Immanuel Kant, Berkeley's ideas have played a role in such diverse fields as mathematics and metaphysics and continue to spark debate today.Listen to A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge on your smartphone, notebook or desktop computer.

Adam

Berkeley is basically the 18th century Plato. But not in that he does or develops further some of the interesting things Plato did all those years ago. No. He's the 18th century Plato in that he proves amazingly adept at the straw man fallacy, at what amounts to name-calling, and at being a smug prick who is mostly laughably wrong about everything. But this thing is real entertaining, and Berkeley is adorable when he is complaining about language.

Ben

The brilliance of Berkeley's philosophy is that it gave David Hume something to improve on, and it opened up whole new areas to doubt and critical observation. These two contributions are staggeringly important to our advancement in my opinion (the fact that the prose is crisp and witty is simply an added bonus). Nonetheless, in the present day Berkeley's philosophy seems fairly bizarre. After all, only a seasoned obscurantist would claim that matter doesn't exist all things (perceptions) that do exist do so in the form of ideas in 2013. This isn't to say many don't try, but Berkeley didn't have cognitive science, cosmology, chemistry, set theory, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, electromagnetism, artificial intelligence, or David Hume to assist his endeavor. For what was known at the time, Berkeley's ideas were unorthodox but prescient. The exaggerated claims of knowledge by natural philosophers at the time needed to be brought down. Berkeley assisted. The subjectivity of reality hadn't been fully realized. Berkeley helped us get there. Language matters, Berkeley noticed. Maybe most importantly, Berkeley partially cleared a path of doubt for Hume to later completely doubt. Nonetheless, Berkeley's philosophy suits his own beliefs too well (infinitely as a useless/chimerical concept, consciousness being an immaterial soul, the existence of an ideal state, the architect of reality as the Catholic God) and doesn't offer the 'clear proof' of god he thinks it does. His clear proof is nullified when the reliability of the ideas inside the human mind are called into question by Hume not too long after. Berkeley gets three stars (plus a half if it were available) because the work is an enjoyable and thought-provoking classic even if the ideas are dated, and although he helped move us forward, some of his ideas are quite obscurantist in nature meaning I can't fall head over heals for it despite my admiration for many of his thoughts.

John

Entertaining and an easy read, I got a kick out of this. As a work of "philosophy" it leaves much to be desired, some of its assertions and conclusions are preposterous, but for 'laugh out loud' moments, it is hard to beat this as far as a work of 'serious' philosophy goes.

Julia

An interesting read.

Andrej Drapal

Extremely contemporary views on epistemology and ontology. He was quantum theoretician in his times.

bill clausen

berkeley's arguments for immaterialism, "to be is to be perceived," fascinating take on philosophy of science and nature as the "language of god." beautiful, brief, if demanding.

Zac

3 dialogues is better.

Jake Yaniak

A short but incredibly important work of philosophy.

Patrick

I would like a contemporary talk-walk in my garden. He would be a changed man.

Rego Hemia

Firstly, not being Christian, and secondly, not being local to the 18th Century, there are some ways in which Berkeley's writing isn't as accessible to me as a more contemporary sharing of these ideas might be. The content is amazing. Berkeley's examination of abstract ideas, and the differences between general abstractions and particulars, could be extremely useful to those in the early stages of studying philosophy, particularly metaphysics. Just one of those books I think everyone could read and get something out of, if they could just get over the language and the desperate full court press to save God.

Charlie

The body of ideas in this book are communicated quite neatly in Berkeley's introduction, which whether you agree with what he says or not is a really neat rounded little idea. For the most part of the book Berkeley goes through these ideas in much needed greater detail, but he often will repeat the same arguments over and over in a monotonous chant, which towards the end of the book gets very tiresome, as he has failed to see that the true implications of his philosophy are exactly nothing, and should make no difference to Science or our negotiation of what we perceive.

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