In This Article George Berkeley

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies
  • Biographies
  • Works by George Berkeley
  • Notebooks/Philosophical Commentaries and the Manuscript Introduction
  • On Vision
  • Abstract Ideas and Language
  • Nature of Ideas
  • Arguments for Idealism and Immaterialism
  • The “Master Argument”
  • Realism, Phenomenalism, Idealism, and Common Sense
  • 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
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0013


George Berkeley (b. 1685–d. 1753) was an Irish philosopher best known for his contention that the physical world is nothing but a compilation of ideas. This is represented by his famous aphorism esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived). Although most scholarly work has focused on Berkeley’s idealism and immaterialism in A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (PHK, references by section) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (DHP, references to pages in Works of George Berkeley [Berkeley 1948–1957], Vol. 2), his work was not limited to metaphysics. His works on vision have influenced discussions of visual perception―including psychological discussions―from his time to the present. He wrote on ethics and natural law. He wrote on mathematics and physics. He wrote on economics and monetary theory. His final work, Siris, combines a discussion of the medicinal value of tar water with what some argued is a metaphysics that differs from that of his youth.

General Overviews

Most general works on Berkeley’s philosophy focus on PHK and DHP, with excursions into Berkeley’s works on vision, science, and mathematics. Some are principally expository; others take issue with what they claim are Berkeley’s views. Most are influenced by trends in contemporary philosophy. The Classic Works draw heavily on the work of A. A. Luce, the most influential Berkeley scholar of the 20th century. They share the following assumptions: (A1) Entries in Berkeley’s Notebooks (Philosophical Commentaries, see Works by George Berkeley) that he marked with a plus sign (+) do not reflect his mature views (they mark deletions). (A2) Berkeley championed immaterialism throughout his life. (A3) Ideas are mental images. (A4) Berkeley’s conceptual framework is taken primarily from Locke, secondarily from Malebranche, with some influence from Descartes and Bayle, but Locke is the principal object of Berkeley’s criticisms. (A5) DHP is nothing more than a popularization of PHK. The Recent Works call one or more of those assumptions into doubt and work out the implications for Berkeley’s philosophy.

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