George Berkeley, also Bishop Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne

George
Berkeley, also Bishop Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne
1685
1753

Anglo-Irish Philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "Immaterialism" (later referred to as "Subjective Idealism" by others)

Author Quotes

It remains, therefore, that we look for some other explication of this difficulty: and I believe it not impossible to find one, provided we examine it to the bottom, and carefully distinguish between the ideas of sight and touch; which cannot be too oft inculcated in treating of vision: but more especially throughout the consideration of this affair we ought to carry that distinction in our thoughts: for that from want of a right understanding thereof the difficulty of explaining erect vision seems chiefly to arise.

My purpose therefore is, to try if I can discover what those Principles are which have introduced all that doubtfulness and uncertainty, those absurdities and contradictions, into the several sects of philosophy; insomuch that the wisest men have thought our ignorance incurable, conceiving it to arise from the natural dullness and limitation of our faculties. And surely it is a work well deserving our pains to make a strict inquiry concerning the First Principles of Human Knowledge, to sift and examine them on all sides, especially since there may be some grounds to suspect that those lets and difficulties, which stay and embarrass the mind in its search after truth, do not spring from any darkness and intricacy in the objects, or natural defect in the understanding, so much as from false Principles which have been insisted on, and might have been avoided.

Patience will achieve more than force.

Tar water is of a nature so mild and benign and proportioned to the human constitution, as to warm without heating, to cheer but not inebriate.

The last reason I shall give for rejecting that doctrine is, that though we should grant the real existence of those optic angles, etc., and that it was possible for the mind to perceive them, yet these principles would not be found sufficient to explain the phenomena of distance, as shall be shown hereafter.

This case is much the same as if we should suppose an Englishman to meet a foreigner who used the same words with the English, but in a direct contrary signification. The Englishman would not fail to make a wrong judgment of the ideas annexed to those sounds in the mind of him that used them. Just so, in the present case the object speaks (if I may so say) with words that the eye is well acquainted with, that is, confusions of appearance; but whereas heretofore the greater confusions were always wont to signify nearer distances, they have in this case a direct, contrary signification, being connected with the greater distances. Whence it follows that the eye must unavoidably be mistaken, since it will take the confusions in the sense it has been used to, which is directly opposed to the true.

We have, I think, shown the impossibility of Abstract Ideas. We have considered what has been said for them by their ablest patrons; and endeavored to show they are of no use for those ends to which they are thought necessary. And lastly, we have traced them to the source from whence they flow, which appears evidently to be language.- It cannot be denied that words are of excellent use, in that by their means all that stock of knowledge which has been purchased by the joint labors of inquisitive men in all ages and nations may be drawn into the view and made the possession of one single person.

You can never plan the future by the past.

An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.

By matter therefore we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure and motion do actually subsist.

For example, the motion of the earth is now universally admitted by astronomers, as a truth grounded on the clearest and most convincing reasons; but on the foregoing principles there can be no such thing. For motion being only an idea, it follows that if it be not perceived, it exists not; but the motion of the earth is not perceived by sense. I answer, that tenet, if rightly understood, will be found to agree with the principles we have premised: for the question, whether the earth moves or not, amounts in reality to no more than this, namely, whether we have reason to conclude from what has been observed by astronomers, that if we were placed in such and such circumstances, and such a such position and distance, both from the earth and sun, we should perceive the former to move among the choir of the planets, and appearing in all respects like one of them: and this, by the established rules of nature, which we have no reason to mistrust, is reasonably collected from the phenomena.

I imagine that thinking is the great desideratum of the present age; and the cause of whatever is done amiss may justly be reckoned the general neglect of education in those who need it most, the people of fashion. What can be expected where those who have the most influence have the least sense, and those who are sure to be followed set the worst examples?

In this case also it is plain we are not beholding to experience: it being a certain, necessary truth that the nearer the direct rays falling on the eye approach to a parallelism, the farther off is the point of their intersection, or the visible point from whence they flow.

Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.

Nature in this acceptation is a vain chimera introduced by those heathens, who had no just notions of the omnipresence and infinite perfection of God.

People crushed by laws, have no hope but to evade power. If the laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have must to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous.

Taxing is an easy business. Any projector can contrive new compositions, any bungler can add to the old.

The most ingenious men are now agreed, that [universities] are only nurseries of prejudice, corruption, barbarism, and pedantry.

Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief.

We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature.

You will perhaps wonder that an obscure person, who has not the honor to be known to your lordship, should presume to address you in this manner. But that a man who has written something with a design to promote Useful Knowledge and Religion in the world should make choice of your lordship for his patron, will not be thought strange by any one that is not altogether unacquainted with the present state of the church and learning, and consequently ignorant how great an ornament and support you are to both. Yet, nothing could have induced me to make you this present of my poor endeavors, were I not encouraged by that candor and native goodness which is so bright a part in your lordship's character.

And first, I shall observe· that the minimum visibile is exactly equal in all beings whatsoever that are endowed with the visive faculty. No exquisite formation of the eye, no peculiar sharpness of sight, can make it less in one creature than in another; for it not being distinguishable into parts, nor in any wise a consisting of them, it must necessarily be the same to all. For suppose it otherwise, and that the minimum visibile of a mite, for instance, be less than the minimum visibile of a man: the latter therefore may by detraction of some part be made equal to the former: it doth therefore consist of parts, which is inconsistent with the notion of a minimum visibile or point.

Circumstances give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.

For my own private satisfaction, I had rather be master of my own time than wear a diadem.

I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power.

Author Picture
First Name
George
Last Name
Berkeley, also Bishop Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne
Birth Date
1685
Death Date
1753
Bio

Anglo-Irish Philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "Immaterialism" (later referred to as "Subjective Idealism" by others)