Principles of Human Knowledge & Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonius

ISBN: 0140432930
ISBN 13: 9780140432930
By: George Berkeley Roger Woolhouse

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About this book

Whether viewed as extreme skepticism or enlightened common sense, the writings of Berkeley are a major influence on modern philosophy. Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753) was one of the great British empirical philosophers. He believed that the existence of material objects depends on their being perceived and The Principles of Human Knowledge sets out this denial of non-mental material reality. At first his views were unfavorably received by the London intelligentsia, and the entertaining Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous are a clarification of the Realist argument and a response to accusations of atheism and skepticism. In the nineteenth century John Stuart Mill wrote that he considered Berkeley's work to be of "greatest philosophic genius," and it is true to say that its Immaterialism has influenced many recent philosophers.

Reader's Thoughts

Leigh Jackson

In what are probably his two most famous works, the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, George Berkeley argued for his most infamous doctrine--the idea that the objects of everyday experience are in fact ideas in the mind, not material objects that exist independently of their being perceived. Berkeley's theory--known as Idealism--seems obviously absurd (insane, frankly) but is notoriously resistant to refutation. It belongs to a long tradition in philosophy in which no idea is too crazy to put forward in an effort to achieve one's philosophical goals. In this way Berkeley's Idealism belongs in the same corner of the attic as Parmenides' monism, Plato's forms, Pyrrho's universal scepticism, and Leibniz's monads. The sorts of things you dust off and look at with great interest once in a while, but that don't really have an impact on the way you get around in the world.More here:

Palindrome Mordnilap

When Bishop Berkeley first published his theory of Immaterialism (also known as Idealism, not to be confused with idealising) he was mocked by many of the prominent thinkers of the day, including Samuel Johnson (of dictionary fame) who, when asked of his opinion kicked a rock and roared "I refute Berkeley thus!" Centuries later, and with the advent of quantum physics (particularly the Copenhagen interpretation), it would appear that Berkeley may well have been ahead of his time.In essence, his theory states that matter as we understand it is an illusion: it cannot be proven to exist and therefore, by arch-scepticism, it must be assumed not to exist at all. What we are left with is perception: the rock does not exist in and of itself, only my perception of the rock. As such, nothing exists unless it is perceived. Thus the ontological burden is placed upon the agent of perception (i.e. you and me) rather than on the object of perception itself.There are, of course, elements of Berkeley's theory that we moderns may feel inclined to reject (such as his notion that God perceives everything, hence the world doesn't just collapse when nobody's looking). However, his central tenet that the act of perception is integral to reality remains a powerful idea, and one which we are only now beginning to fully comprehend.


Alex Milledge

I believe that Berkeley has a point that all qualities of an object are sensed, but i do not necessarily we agree that we need a God as a validator of our impressions or assign that God is the cause of our impressions. That is very Cartesian, as well as very wrong. Believing in that will lead us to think that God is complete existence, and that to speak of not believing in God would be non-existence and therefore meaningless.

Ruru Ghoshal

I may not refute Berkeley thus.

Taymaz Azimi

It is important to understand that Berkeley does not actually reject the possibility of external world/ physical objects. What he does is mentioning the matter of importance. I mean, existence is an important matter of our knowledge and existence is firstly what my mind perceives. Since we cannot be sure of the material existence of things and since our mind perceives whole things without necessity of externality, this externality is totally unimportant.


Rarely have I read a text that made me want to read a previous book again, just to make sure I got it right. This one did. Throughout Berkeley attempts to refute Locke for his _An Essay Concerning Human Understanding_. However, from my reading of Locke it sounded like Berkeley argued for the same things as Locke. Perhaps he disagreed with Locke's writing style? Found it so grating that he had to write a treatise in his own voice? Maybe soon I'll have the time again to reread both.

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