- Series: Dover Philosophical Classics
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications (November 17, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 048643253X
- ISBN-13: 978-0486432533
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,508,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Dover Philosophical Classics)
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In this treatise, Berkeley expounds on his theory of immaterialism. This basically states that no material thing exists outside of that which perceives it and bears no relation whatsoever to solipsism—the belief that only the self exists.
Berkeley was a deeply religious man who believed that nature and matter did not exist without being perceived in consciousness; that this perception was an idea instilled in the spirits of men through the infinite all-perceiving mind of God. Therefore, the revelation of God as the very originator of creation is available to anyone not bound by the notion of material existence outside of consciousness.
From a materialist, purely Cartesian, Newtonian perspective, his ingenious works might seem ludicrous. There were no physicists at the time to chime in with theories of quantum physics that so readily collapse the foundations of materialism. Berkeley stood his ground alone.
The prose is bloated and bombastic, but let’s not forget the text was written in 1710, and compared to other writings of his time, his was simple and straight to the point.
A TREATISE CONCERNING THE PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE is a treasure to anyone with a spiritual or religious inclination. The message is as deep as it is subtle, and can be quite transformative if you allow its transcendental logic the benefit of a truly open mind.
This book is to be strongly recommended as it provides a multitude of resources that contextualise, criticise, and clarify, the positions put forward by Berkeley in this work.
The most substantial contribution is the extensive introduction comprised of 15 punchy sections, covering Berkeley's life, his academic heritage, and analysis of his thought (both internal and external to that given in the Treatise). Dancy is fair to Berkeley in setting forth the most robust defences of his position, and marshalling critical arguments against the Berkelian stance. This is supplemented by an extremely thorough set of endnotes that are continually present in the background of the text, offering detailed guidance whenever necessary, or desired.
Additionally, the book offers a summarised concise overview of the arguments provided in the Treatise, a glossary of archaic terms(!), and a very helpful short section entitled "How to use this book" (why don't more books include this sort of thing?). There is also a manageable annotated bibliography of further reading to trail a path for academic expansion.
Overall, I found that this book provided a systematic treatment of the text and provided a solid structure of support surrounding the subject. Also included, the letters between Berkeley and Johnson, provide an unexpected bonus. This book is relatively cheap, considering its breadth and depth. In my opinion, it is an ideal text through which to study (and enjoy) Berkeley's Treatise.
Long refuted by most philosophers, Berkeley's claims are often felt to have been a form of rationalisation - Berkeley later became Bishop of Cloyne, and was a highly religious man. Treastise's suggestion that the world was made of ideas with an omnipitent force guiding was his alternative to the Lockean Empiricism popular at the time, which Berkeley felt led to skepticism. In spite of this Berkeley was a capable, respected and entertaining thinker. Some doubt exists as to whether he truly believed his conclusion that the world at large was composed of ideas; with modern thinking tending towards him indeed having thought this to be the case.