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Scholars Day 2007, Wednesday, April 11

Another Whack at Berkeley: a Critical Analysis of "Principles" Part I, 1-7

An extraordinary feature of Berkeley’s "Principles of Human Knowledge" is that three pages into Part I, Berkeley says that he has already proved his immaterialism—his view that matter does not exist. Thus the seventh paragraph begins with “from what has been said, it follows, there is not any other substance than spirit.” It is therefore worth asking, how far does Berkeley really come toward establishing immaterialism in paragraphs 1-7? This paper analyzes and assesses the arguments of these seven opening paragraphs. It argues that Berkeley provides very little support for his immaterialism in them, and that one must turn to his Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, a work that is sometimes seen as merely a popularization of the Principles, in order to find arguments that are indispensable to his position. The corollary is that if the arguments of the Dialogues are unsound, Berkeley’s case for immaterialism collapses.

Presenter: Georges Dicker (Faculty)
Topic: Philosophy
Location: 30 Hartwell
Time: 2:30 pm (Session IV)


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