George Berkeley


George Berkeley

Born: March 12, 1685 - Died January 14, 1753


George Berkeley, part of the Cambridge Platonist philosophical tradition, was born near Kilkenny in Ireland. Brought up at Dysert Castle he began his college education at Kilkenny College in 1696. In 1700 he transferred to Trinity College in Dublin. In 1704 he received his B.A. degree.

The early influences on his philosophical thinking included the English thinker John Locke, and the philosophical Empiricism typified in Locke's works. The Empiricist school of thought, like many other philosophical movements, waves, and trends, frequently means something different to different people. Generally, it can be said that the empiricist maintains that all knowledge is based on experience and the use of our sensory perception systems. This mind-set contrasted with the Rationalist school historically identified with the philosopher Rene Descartes. Rationalists believed in the existence of a priori ideas: thoughts that are derived without the benefit of experience. Empircists, like Berkeley, reject the possibility of this type of knowledge. All knowledge is gained from experience...that is the mantra of Berkeley and the empiricists. Berkeley was a proponent of the tabula rasa concept which believed that the human mind is a blank slate that becomes inscribed as we experience our lives.

Berkeley wrote several books on matters philosophical and theological. In 1709 he published An Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision which began a lifelong examination of the role the five senses play in our acquisition of knowledge. In 1710 he published A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge which rejected the materialist conception of abstract ideas.

When he was 42, he got married to Anne Forster, the daughter of a judge. A month later, in September 1728, he and his bride set sail for the new world across the Atlantic Ocean. Settling in the New England State of Rhode Island, Berkeley stayed for three years, wrote Alciphron; or the Minute Philosopher and then returned to London in 1732. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes this work written in Newport as "a massive defense of theism and Christianity with attacks on deists and free thinkers and discussions of visual language and analogical knowledge and of the functions of words in religious argument." Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous which continued the "immaterialist" philosophy was published in 1713. Throughout his life he continued to think and write about the very basic issues relating to epistemology (the philosophy of mind and thinking) and theology. One commentator has written the following summary of Berkeley's output: "By in large, while Berkeley's thought is complex and detailed, and his rhetorical style pleasing, his work shows little conceptual development over time. Rather, he advances a few important philosophical insights early in his thought and spends the remainder of his philosophical career defending and buttressing them. " [see this source reference]

Berkeley was very much a man of the church. In 1709 he was ordained deacon; in 1710 he was ordained priest, and in 1734 he was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in Dublin. At the time of his appointment, Berkeley and his wife had had two sons. Two more sons, and two daughters would be born in the see-house at Cloyne. In 1737, Berkeley served in the Irish House of Lords. In 1752 he retired to England with his family to be near his son George who was matriculating at Oxford.

On Sunday, January 14, 1753 Bishop Berkeley died while listening to his wife reading the Holy Bible.


YEAR  TEAM             POS    B.AVG   At Bats  Hits     HR     RBI
----  ---------------  -----  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------
1993  Ionians          of      .261      417     109       5      37
1994  Ionians          of      .280      418     117       6      38
1995  Ionians          of      .236      276      65       8      36

*Cosmic Seasons: 3             .259     1111     291      19     111

A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
Gopher site for an Online Etext Version of Berkeley's 1710 work

Essay on Berkeley's Philosophical Ideas

Lecture on Berkeley's Philosophical Ideas

Berkeley Biography and Timeline (Chronology)

Cognitive Science Web Site
Contains Berkeley information

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George Berkeley- Cosmic Baseball Player
Published: April 26, 1996
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