by George Berkeley
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that George Berkeley was born on March 12, 1685, near Dysert Castle, County Kilkenny, Ireland, and died on January 14, 1753, at Oxford, England, and that he was an Anglo-Irish Anglican bishop, philosopher, and scientist, best known for his Empiricist philosophy which holds that everything save the spiritual exists only insofar as it is perceived by the senses.
The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers says, inter alia, that "Berkeley is a most striking, and indeed a unique, phenomenon in the history of philosophy. There have been many philosophers who have constructed bold and sweeping, and often extraordinary, metaphysical systems. There have been some also, particularly in the English tradition, employed in the clarification and defence of "common sense". There have been thinkers, again, devoted to the defence of religious faith. It is the peculiar achievement of Berkeley that, with astonishing ingenuity and skill, he contrived to present himself in all these roles at once. This achievement exactly suited his temperament, in which a taste for ambitious metaphysical doctrine was combined with strong religious beliefs and with a solid respect for ordinary good sense; but it was of course due only to his insight and intellectual power that he was able so to frame his theories as to yield him rational satisfaction also". Although the Encyclopedia goes on to say that Berkeley's "synthesis of these usually incompatible roles is doubtless unstable, and few of his readers have been able to follow him in it", I venture to suggest that careful reading of his work by unpredjudiced readers with penetrating minds of their own may find his philosophy not only more stable and satisfying than that of most Western philosophers but also entirely consonant with the work of Eastern sages.
It seems to me a pity that Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804, seems not to have been familiar with Berkeley's philosophy.
As the title suggets, this short "book" consists of three dialogues between Philonous, representing Berkeley himself, and Hylas, representing a 'sceptic'. It is offered here in its entirety so that members of the "Ardue community", who may reasonably be expected to read it with due care and attention, may judge for themselves whether Berkeley may not have been a greater philosopher than many who are currently held in higher academic esteem.
DM December, 2005.