In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section George Berkeley

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies
  • Biographies
  • Works by George Berkeley
  • On Vision
  • The Ontology of Ideas
  • Abstract Ideas
  • Language
  • Arguments for Idealism and Immaterialism
  • The Nature and Unity of Bodies
  • Immaterialism, Common Sense, and the Continuity Problem
  • The Primary-Secondary Quality Distinction
  • Philosophy of Mind and Notions
  • Philosophy of Science and Mathematics
  • Economics and Monetary Theory
  • Ethics
  • Siris
  • Organizations Devoted to Berkeley’s Work

Philosophy George Berkeley
Daniel Flage, Kenneth Pearce
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0013


George Berkeley (b. 1685–d. 1753) was an Irish philosopher best known for his defense of immaterialism, the thesis that perceived objects are only ideas and do not exist outside the minds that perceive them (in Berkeley’s famous phrase, their esse is percipi, i.e., their being is to be perceived). This thesis was defended in Berkeley’s two most famous works, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (PHK) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (DHP). While Berkeley scholars have traditionally focused on the arguments in metaphysics and epistemology contained in these two books written in Berkeley’s youth, more recent scholarship has given more attention to other texts and topics, including Berkeley’s later works and his contributions to philosophy of language; philosophy of religion; philosophy of science; and social, political, and economic philosophy.

General Overviews

Most general works on Berkeley’s philosophy focus primarily on A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (PHK) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (DHP), with excursions into Berkeley’s works on vision, science, and mathematics. Winkler 1989, Muehlmann 1992, and Roberts 2007 are concerned mainly with the metaphysics of immaterialism. Pappas 2000 focuses on epistemology. Berman 1994 and Flage 2014 are broader in coverage. Any of these works would be suitable as an introduction to the study of Berkeley’s philosophy.

  • Berman, David. George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

    In addition to an account of Berkeley’s life, Berman provides exposition of all of Berkeley’s major philosophical works.

  • Flage, Daniel E. Berkeley. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2014.

    This is an introduction to Berkeley’s works, with chapters on his life; his works on vision; the discussion of abstraction; and the principal arguments for idealism and immaterialism in the Principles and the Three Dialogues as well as in mind, morals, and economic philosophy.

  • Muehlmann, Robert G. Berkeley’s Ontology. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1992.

    Muehlmann focuses on Berkeley’s nominalism, his critique of representative realism, and his account of mind. He maintains that the Berkeleian mind is a congeries of ideas.

  • Pappas, George S. Berkeley’s Thought. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

    Pappas examines Berkeley’s work on abstraction, esse is percipi, perception, common sense, and skepticism.

  • Roberts, John Russell. A Metaphysics for the Mob. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195313932.001.0001

    Roberts provides a general account of Berkeley’s metaphysical system, drawing primarily on the well-known early works but also paying significant attention to the later works Alciphron (1732) and Siris (1744). Roberts pays particular attention to Berkeley’s views on mind, language, and religion and the role of these views in Berkeley’s metaphysics.

  • Winkler, Kenneth P. Berkeley: An Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

    DOI: 10.1093/0198235097.001.0001

    Winkler provides a careful, historically informed discussion of most issues germane to Berkeley’s immaterialism. He focuses on the role of signification and discusses abstraction. He argues that Berkeley was a phenomenalist and that the Berkeley of De Motu and Siris was an immaterialist corpuscularian.

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