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Works of George Berkeley 

Vol. I 






Works of George Berkeley 

D.D. ; Formerty Bishop of Cloyne 
Including his Posthumous Works 

With Prefaces, Annotations, Appendices, and 
An Account of his Life, by 

Alexander Campbell Fraser 

Hon. D.C.L. Oxford 

Hon. LL.D. Glasgow and Edinburgh ; Emeritus Professor 
of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh 

In Four Volume 
Vol. I : Philosophical Wor 

At the Clarendon Press 






MORE than thirty years ago I was honoured by a 
request to prepare a complete edition of the Works 
of Bishop Berkeley, with Notes, for the Clarendon 
Press, Oxford. That edition, which contains many 
of his writings previously unpublished, appeared in 
1871. It was followed in 1874 by a volume of 
annotated Selections from his philosophical works ; 
and in 1881 I prepared a small volume on Berkeley 
for Blackwood s Philosophical Classics. 

The 1871 edition of the Works originated, I be 
lieve, in an essay on The Real World of Berke 
ley/ which I gave to Macmillans Magazine in 1862, 
followed by another in 1864, in the North British 
Review. These essays suggested advantages to 
contemporary thought which might be gained by a 
consideration of final questions about man and the 
universe, in the form in which they are presented 
by a philosopher who has suffered more from 
misunderstanding than almost any other modern 
thinker. During a part of his lifetime, he was the 
foremost metaphysician in Europe in an unmeta- 
physical generation. And in this country, after 
a revival of philosophy in the later part of the 
eighteenth century, idea, matter, substance, cause, 
and other terms which play an important part in 
his writings, had lost the meaning that he in- 


tended ; while in Germany the sceptical specula 
tions of David Hume gave rise to a reconstructive 
criticism, on the part of Kant and his successors, 
which seemed at the time to have little concern 
with the a posteriori methods and the principles of 

The success of the attempt to recall attention 
to Berkeley has far exceeded expectation. Nearly 
twenty thousand copies of the three publications 
mentioned above have found their way into the hands 
of readers in Europe and America; and the critical 
estimates of Berkeley, by eminent writers, which have 
appeared since 1871, in Britain, France, Germany, 
Denmark, Holland, Italy, America, and India, con 
firm the opinion that his Works contain a word in 
season, even for the twentieth century. Among 
others who have delivered appreciative criticisms of 
Berkeley within the last thirty years are J. S. Mill, 
Mansel, Huxley, T. H. Green, Maguire, Collyns 
Simon, the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, Mr. Leslie 
Stephen, Dr. Hutchison Stirling, Professor T. K. 
Abbott, Professor Van der Wyck, M. Penjon, Ueber- 
weg, Frederichs, Ulrici, Janitsch, Eugen Meyer, 
Spicker, Loewy, Professor Hoffding of Copenhagen, 
Dr. Lorenz, Noah Porter, and Krauth, besides essays 
in the chief British, Continental, and American re 
views. The text of those Works of Berkeley which 
were published during his lifetime, enriched with a 
biographical Introduction by Mr. A. J. Balfour, care 
fully edited by Mr. George Sampson, appeared in 
1897. In 1900 Dr. R. Richter, of the University of 
Leipsic, produced a new translation into German of 
the Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, with an 


excellent Introduction and notes. These estimates 
form a remarkable contrast to the denunciations, 
founded on misconception, by Warburton and Beattie 
in the eighteenth century. 

In 1899 I was unexpectedly again asked by the 
Delegates of the Oxford University Press to pre 
pare a New Edition of Berkeley s Works, with some 
account of his life, as the edition of 1871 was out of 
print; a circumstance which I had not expected to 
occur in my lifetime. It seemed presumptuous to 
undertake what might have been entrusted to some 
one probably more in touch with living thought ; and 
in one s eighty-second year, time and strength are 
wanting for remote research. But the recollection 
that I was attracted to philosophy largely by Berkeley, 
in the morning of life more than sixty years ago, 
combined with the pleasure derived from association 
in this way with the great University in which he 
found an academic home in his old age, moved me 
in the late evening of life to make the attempt. And 
now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, I 
offer these volumes, which still imperfectly realise my 
ideal of a final Oxford edition of the philosopher 
who spent his last days in Oxford, and whose mortal 
remains rest in its Cathedral. 

Since 1871 materials of biographical and philo 
sophical interest have been discovered, in addition 
to the invaluable collection of MSS. which Arch 
deacon Rose then placed at my disposal, and which 
were included in the supplementary volume of Life 
and Letters. Through the kindness of the late Earl 
of Egmont I had access, some years ago, to a large 


number of letters which passed between his ancestor, 
Sir John (afterwards Lord) Percival, and Berkeley, 
between 1709 and 1730. I have availed myself freely 
of this correspondence. 

Some interesting letters from and concerning 
Berkeley, addressed to his friend Dr. Samuel John 
son of Stratford in Connecticut, afterwards Presi 
dent of King s College in New York, appeared in 
1874, in Dr. Beardsley s Life of Johnson, illustrating 
Berkeley s history from 1729 till his death. For 
these and for further information I am indebted to 
Dr. Beardsley. 

In the present edition of Berkeley s Works, the 
Introductions and the annotations have been mostly 
re-written. A short account of his romantic life is 
prefixed, intended to trace its progress in the gradual 
development and application of his initial Principle ; 
and also the external incidents of his life in their 
continuity, with the help of the new material in 
the Percival MSS. and the correspondence with 
Johnson. It forms a key to the whole. This 
biography is not intended to supersede the Life 
and Letters of Berkeley that accompanied the 1871 
edition, which remains as a magazine of facts for 

The rearrangement of the Works is a feature in 
the present edition. Much of the new material that 
was included in the 1871 edition reached me when 
the book was far advanced in the press, and thus the 
chronological arrangement, strictly followed in the 
present edition, was not possible. A chronological 
Arrangement is suggested by Berkeley himself. I 


could wish that all the things I have published 
on these philosophical subjects were read in the 
order wherein I published them/ are his words 
in one of his letters to Johnson; and a second 
time with a critical eye, adding your own thought 
and observation upon every part as you went 

The first three volumes in this edition contain the 
Philosophical Works exclusively; arranged in chrono 
logical order, under the three periods of Berkeley s 
life. The First Volume includes those of his earl} 7 
life ; the Second those produced in middle life ; 
and the Third those of his later years. The Miscel- 
laneous Works are presented in like manner in the 
Fourth Volume. 

The four little treatises in which Berkeley in early 
life unfolded his new thought about the universe, 
along with his college Commonplace Book published 
in 1871, which prepared the way for them, form, along 
with the Life, the contents of the First Volume. It 
is of them that the author writes thus, in another 
of his letters to Johnson: I do not indeed wonder 
that on first reading what I have written men are not 
thoroughly convinced. On the contrary, I should 
very much wonder if prejudices which have been 
many years taking root should be extirpated in a few 
hours reading. I had no inclination to trouble the 
world with large volumes. W T hat I have done was 
rather with a view of giving hints to thinking men, 
who have leisure and curiosity to go to the bottom of 
things, and pursue them in their own minds. Two 
or three times reading these small tracts, and making 
what is read the occasion of thinking, would, I believe, 


render the whole familiar and eas}^ to the mind, and 
take off that shocking appearance which hath often 
been observed to attend speculative truths/ Except 
Johnson, none of Berkeley s eighteenth-century critics 
seem to have observed this rule. 

Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher, with its sup 
plement in the Theory of Visual Language Vindicated, 
being the philosophical works of his middle life, associ 
ated with its American enterprise, form the Second 
Volume. In them the conception of the universe 
that was unfolded in the early writings is applied, in 
vindication of religious morality and Christianity, 
against the Atheism attributed to those who called 
themselves Free - thinkers ; who were treated by 
Berkeley as, at least by implication, atheistic. 

The Third Volume contains the Analyst and Sin s, 
which belong to his later life, Siris being especially 
characteristic of its serene quiet. In both there is 
a deepened sense of the mystery of the universe, and 
in Siris especially a more comprehensive conception 
of the final problem suggested by human life. But 
the metaphysics of the one is lost in mathematical 
controversy; that of the other in medical controversy, 
and in undigested ancient and mediaeval learning. 
The metaphysical importance of Siris was long 
unrecognised, although in* it Berkeley s thought 
culminates, not in a paradox about Matter, but in the 
conception of God as the concatenating principle of 
the universe ; yet this reached through the conception 
of Matter as real only in and through living Mind. 

The Miscellaneous Works, after the two juvenile 
Latin tracts in mathematics, deal with observations 
of nature and man gathered in his travels, questions 


of social economy, and lessons in religious life. 
Several are posthumous, and were first published 
in the 1871 edition. Of these, perhaps the most 
interesting is the Joiirnal in Italy. The Discourse on 
Passive Obedience is the nearest approach to ethical 
theory which Berkeley has given to us, and as such it 
might have taken its place in the First Volume ; but 
on the whole it seemed more appropriately placed 
in the Fourth, where it is easily accessible for those 
who prefer to read it immediately after the book of 

I have introduced, in an Appendix to the Third 
Volume, some matter of philosophical interest for 
which there was no place in the editorial Prefaces 
or in the annotations. The historical significance of 
Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Edwards, as pioneers 
of American philosophy, and also advocates of the 
new conception of the material world that is asso 
ciated with Berkeley, is recognised in Appendix C. 
Illustrations of the misinterpretation of Berkeley by 
his early critics are presented in Appendix D. A 
lately discovered tractate by Berkeley forms Appen 
dix E. In the Fourth Volume, numerous queries 
contained in the first edition of the Querist, and omit 
ted in the later editions, are given in an Appendix, 
which enables the reader to reconstruct that interest 
ing tract in the form in which it originally appeared. 

The present edition is thus really a new work, 
which possesses, I hope, a certain philosophical unity, 
as well as pervading biographical interest. 

As Berkeley is the immediate successor of Locke, 
and as he was educated by collision with the Essay 


on Hitman Understanding, perhaps Locke ought to 
have had more prominence in the editorial portion 
of this book. Limitation of space partly accounts 
for the omission ; and I venture instead to refer the 
reader to the Prolegomena and notes in my edi 
tion of Locke s Essay, which was published by the 
Clarendon Press in 1894. I may add that an expan 
sion of thoughts which run through the Life and 
many of the annotations, in this edition of Berkeley, 
may be found in my Philosophy of Theism *. 

The reader need not come to Berkeley in the ex 
pectation of finding in his Works an all-comprehen 
sive speculative system like Spinoza s, or a reasoned 
articulation of the universe of reality such as Hegel 
is supposed to offer. But no one in the succession 
of great English philosophers has, I think, proposed 
in a way more apt to invite reflexion, the final alterna 
tive between Unreason, on the one hand, and Moral 
Reason expressed in Universal Divine Providence, 
on the other hand, as the root of the unbeginning 
and endless evolution in which we find ourselves 
involved ; as well as the further question, Whether 
this tremendous practical alternative can be settled 
by any means that are within the reach of man ? 
His Philosophical Works, taken collectively, may 
encourage those who see in a reasonable via media 
between Omniscience and Nescience the true path 
of progress, under man s inevitable venture of reason 
able Faith. 

One is therefore not without hope that a fresh 

1 Philosophy of Theism: The the University of Edinburgh in 
Gilford Lectures delivered before 1894-96. (^Second Edition, 1899.) 


impulse may be given to philosophy and religious 
thought by this reappearance of George Berkeley, 
under the auspices of the University of Oxford, at 
the beginning of the twentieth century. His readers 
will at any rate find themselves in the company of 
one of the most attractive personalities of English 
philosophy, who is also among the foremost of those 
thinkers who are masters in English literature- 
Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, George Berkeley 
and David Hume. 


March, 1901. 




By the Editor. 


Written in 1705-8. 
First published in 1871 . 

The Editor s Preface ... . i 


First published in 1709. 

The Editor s Preface . . . . . -95 

Dedication to Sir John Percivale 117 

Contents 121 


An Appendix to the Essay on Vision . . . 207 


KNOWLEDGE. [Part I] . . . /. . .211 
Wherein the chief causes of Error and Difficulty in 
the Sciences, with the grounds of Scepticism, Atheism, 
and Irreligion, are inquired into. 
First published in 1710. 

The Editor s Preface 213 

Dedication to the Earl of Pembroke .... 233 

The Author s Preface 235 

The Author s Introduction 237 




The Design of which is plainly to demonstrate the 
reality and perfection of Human Knowledge, the 
Incorporeal nature of the Soul, and the Immediate 
Providence of a Deity, in opposition to Sceptics and 
Atheists. Also to open a method for rendering the 
Sciences more easy, useful, and compendious. 
First published in 1713. 

The Editor s Preface 351 

Dedication to Lord Berkeley of Stratton . . . 373 

The Author s Preface 375 


DE MOTU : sive de Motus principio et natura, et de 

Causa communicationis Motuum 487 

First published in 1721. 

The Editor s Preface 489 



In Seven Dialogues. Containing an Apology for the 
Christian Religion, against those who are called 

First published in 1732. 

The Editor s Preface 3 

The Author s Advertisement 23 

Contents .......... 26 


The First Dialogue 31 

The Second Dialogue . . . . . .69 

The Third Dialogue 120 

The Fourth Dialogue 153 



The Fifth Dialogue . - 193 

The Sixth Dialogue . . ... . . 242 

The Seventh Dialogue 317 

DENCE OF A DEITY ...... 369 

First published in 1733. 

The Editor s Preface 371 


VOL. Ill 



Wherein it is examined whether the Object, Prin 
ciples, and Inferences of the Modern Analysis are 
more distinctly conceived, or more evidently deduced, 
than Religious Mysteries. 
First published in 1734. 

The Editor s Preface 3 

Contents 13 


In Answer to a Pamphlet of Philalethes Cantabrigi- 
ensis, entitled, Geometry no Friend to Infidelity, or a 
Defence of Sir Isaac Newton, and the British Mathe 
maticians. Also an Appendix concerning Mr. Walton s 
Vindication of the principles of Fluxions against the 
Objections contained in the Analyst. Wherein it is 
attempted to put this controversy in such a light as 
that every Reader may be able to judge thereof. 

First published in 1735. 






First published in 1735. 


First published in 1744. 

The Editor s Preface 117 

Contents 137 




First published in 1744-47. 

The First Letter to Thomas Prior .... 303 
The Second Letter to Thomas Prior .... 314 
The Third Letter to Thomas Prior .... 323 
The Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hales .... 334 

First published in 1752. 








Written dr. 1706. 



STRATA. Auctore * * * * Art. Bac. Trin. Col. Dub. . 3 
Written in 1705. 
First published in 1707. 

Dedication to the Archbishop of Cashel ... 4 

Praefatio 5 


Pars Prima 8 

Pars Secunda 24 

Pars Tertia 31 

MISCELLANEA MATHEMATICA : sive Cogitata nonnulla 
de Radicibus Surdis, de ^Estu Aeris, de Cono ^Equi- 
latero et Cylindro eidem Sphaerse circumscriptis, de 
Ludo Algebraico; et Paraenetica quaedam ad studium 
Matheseos, praesertim Algebra?. Autore * * * * Art. 
Bac. Trin. Col. Dub. ....... 39 

Written in 1705. 

First published in 1707. 

Dedication to Samuel Molyneux 41 


Appendix 63 


Written in 1706. 
First published in 187 1 . 

course delivered in the Chapel of Trinity College, 
Dublin, on Sunday Evening, January n, 1708 . . 84 

First published in 1871. 

PASSIVE OBEDIENCE : or, The Christian Doctrine of 
not resisting the Supreme Power, proved and vin 
dicated, upon the Principles of the Law of Nature, in 
a Discourse delivered at the Chapel of Trinity College, 

Dublin 95 

First published in 1712. 



The Editor s Preface 97 

To the Reader 101 



First published in 1713. 

First published in 1871. 

JOURNAL IN ITALY IN 1717, 1718 219 

First published in 1871. 

The Editor s Preface 221 




First published in 1721. 

A PROPOSAL for the better supplying of Churches in 
our Foreign Plantations, and for converting the savage 
Americans to Christianity, by a College to be erected 
in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of 

Bermuda 341 

First published in 1725. 

The Editor s Preface 342 


VERSES on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning 

in America 365 

NOTES OF SERMONS preached at Newport in Rhode 

Island and in the Narragansett country, in 1729-31 . 367 
First published in 1871. 

The Editor s Preface 369 


A SERMON preached before the Incorporated Society 
for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts : at 
their Anniversary Meeting in the Parish Church of 
St. Mary-le-Bow, on Friday, February 18, 1732 . . 393 
First published in 1732. 



THE QUERIST, containing several Queries, proposed 

to the consideration of the Public 415 

First published in Three Parts in 1735, 1736, 1737, 
and reduced to its present form in 1750. 

The Editor s Preface 417 

Advertisement by the Author 421 


IN AUTHORITY. Occasioned by the enormous Licence 

and Irreligion of the Times 477 

First published in 1736. 

The Editor s Preface ... . 479 



First published in 1871. 

First published in 1871. 



Written in 1741. 
First published in 1850. 

IN J 745 535 

First published in the Dublin Journal^ in 1745. 
A WORD TO THE WISE : or, An Exhortation to the 
Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland. By a Member of 

the Established Church 541 

First published in 1749. 


First published in 1750. 

APPENDIX : The First Edition of the Querist . . 567 




EARLY LIFE (1685-1721). 

TOWARDS the end of the reign of Charles the Second 
a certain William Berkeley, according to credible tradition, 
occupied a cottage attached to the ancient Castle of Dysert, 
in that part of the county of Kilkenny which is watered by 
the Nore. Little is known about this William Berkeley 
except that he was Irish by birth and English by descent. 
It is said that his father went over to Ireland soon after 
the Restoration, in the suite of his reputed kinsman, 
Lord Berkeley of Stratton, when he was Lord Lieutenant. 
William Berkeley s wife seems to have been of Irish 
blood, and in some remote way related to the family of 
Wolfe, the hero of Quebec. It was in the modest abode 
in the valley of the Nore that George, the eldest of their 
six sons, was born, on March 12, 1685. 

There is nothing in the recorded family history of these 
Dysert Berkeleys that helps to explain the singular per 
sonality and career of the eldest son. The parents have 
left no mark, and make no appearance in any extant 
records . of the family. They probably made their way 
to the valley of the Nore among families of English con 
nexion who, in the quarter of a century preceding the birth 
of George Berkeley, were finding settlements in Ireland. 
The family, as it appears, was not wealthy, but was 
recognised as of gentle blood. Robert, the fifth son, 


became rector of Middleton and vicar-general of Cloyne ; 
and another son, William, held a commission in the army. 
According to the Register of Trinity College, one of the 
sons was born near Thurles/ in 1699, and Thomas, 
the youngest, was born in Tipperary, in 1703, so that 
the family may have removed from Dysert after the birth 
of George. In what can be gleaned of the younger sons, 
one finds little appearance of sympathy with the religious 
and philosophical genius of the eldest. 

Regarding this famous eldest son in those early days, 
we have this significant autobiographical fragment in his 
Commonplace Book : I was distrustful at eight years 
old, and consequently by nature disposed for the new 
doctrines. In his twelfth year we find the boy in Kil 
kenny School. The register records his entrance there in 
the summer of 1696, when he was placed at once in the 
second class, which seems to imply precocity, for it is 
almost a solitary instance. He spent the four following 
years in Kilkenny. The School was in high repute for 
learned masters and famous pupils ; among former pupils 
were the poet Congreve and Swift, nearly twenty years 
earlier than George Berkeley; among his school-fellows 
was Thomas Prior, his life-long friend and correspondent. 
In the days of Berkeley and Prior the head master was 
Dr. Hinton, and the School was still suffering from the 
consequences of the warre in Ireland which followed 
the Revolution. 

Berkeley in Kilkenny School is hardly visible, and we 
have no means of estimating his mental state when he left 
it. Tradition says that in his school-days he was wont 
to feed his imagination with airy visions and romance, 
a tradition which perhaps originated long after in popular 
misconceptions of his idealism. Dimly discernible at 
Kilkenny, only a few years later he was a conspicuous 
figure in an island that was then beginning to share in 
the intellectual movement of the modern world, taking 


his place as a classic in English literature, and as the 
most subtle and ardent of contemporary English-speaking 

In March, 1700, at the age of fifteen, George Berkeley 
entered Trinity College, Dublin. This was his home for 
more than twenty years. He was at first a mystery to the 
ordinary undergraduate. Some, we are told, pronounced 
him the greatest dunce, others the greatest genius in the 
College. To hasty judges he seemed an idle dreamer; 
the thoughtful admired his subtle intelligence and the 
beauty of his character. In his undergraduate years, 
a mild and ingenuous youth, inexperienced in the ways 
of men, vivacious, humorous, satirical, in unexpected ways 
inquisitive, often paradoxical, through misunderstandings 
he persisted in his own way, full of simplicity and en 
thusiasm. In 1704 (the year in which Locke died) he 
passed Bachelor of Arts, and became Master in 1707, 
when he was admitted to a Fellowship, the only reward 
of learning which that kingdom had to bestow. 

In Trinity College the youth found himself on the tide 
of modern thought, for the new philosophy of Newton 
and Locke was then invading the University. Locke s 
Essay, published in 1690, was already in vogue. This 
early recognition of Locke in Dublin was chiefly due to 
William Molyneux, Locke s devoted friend, a lawyer and 
member of the Irish Parliament, much given to the 
experimental methods. Descartes, too, with his sceptical 
criticism of human beliefs, yet disposed to spiritualise 
powers commonly attributed to matter, was another ac 
cepted authority in Trinity College; and Malebranche was 
not unknown. Hobbes was the familiar representative 
of a finally materialistic conception of existence, repro 
ducing in modern forms the atomism of Democritus and 
the ethics of Epicurus. Above all, Newton was acknow 
ledged master in physics, whose Principia, issued three 


years sooner than Locke s Essay, was transforming the 
conceptions of educated men regarding their surroundings, 
like the still more comprehensive law of physical evolution 
in the nineteenth century. 

John Toland, an Irishman, one of the earliest and 
ablest of the new sect of Free-thinkers, made his appear 
ance at Dublin in 1696, as the author of Christianity not 
Mysterious. The book was condemned by College digni 
taries and dignified clergy with even more than Irish 
fervour. It was the opening of a controversy that lasted 
over half of the eighteenth century in England, in which 
Berkeley soon became prominent ; and it was resumed 
later on, with greater intellectual force and in finer literary 
form, by David Hume and Voltaire. The collision with 
Toland about the time of Berkeley s matriculation may have 
awakened his interest. Toland was supposed to teach 
that matter is eternal, and that motion is its essential 
property, into which all changes presented in the outer 
and inner experience of man may at last be resolved. 
Berkeley s life was a continual protest against these 
dogmas. The Provost of Trinity College in 1700 was 
Dr. Peter Browne, who had already entered the lists 
against Toland ; long after, when Bishop of Cork, he was 
in controversy with Berkeley about the nature of man s 
knowledge of God. The Archbishop of Dublin in the 
early years of the eighteenth century was William King, 
still remembered as a philosophical theologian, whose book 
on the Origin of Evil, published in 1702, was criticised 
by Boyle and Leibniz. 

Dublin in those years was thus a place in which a 
studious youth, who had been distrustful at eight years 
old/ might be disposed to entertain grave questions about 
the ultimate meaning of his visible environment, and of 
the self-conscious life to which he was becoming awake. 
Is the universe of existence confined to the visible world, 
and is matter the really active power in existence ? Is God 


the root and centre of all that is real, and if so, what is 
meant by God ? Can God be good if the world is a mix 
ture of good t and evil? Questions like these were ready 
to meet the inquisitive Kilkenny youth in his first years 
at Dublin. 

One of his earliest interests at College was mathematical. 
His first appearance in print was as the anonymous author 
of two Latin tracts, Ariihmetica and Miscellanea Mathe- 
matica, published in 1707. They are interesting as an 
index of his intellectual inclination when he was hardly 
twenty ; for he says they were prepared three years before 
they were given to the world. His disposition to curious 
questions in geometry and algebra is further shewn in his 
College Commonplace Book. 

This lately discovered Commonplace Book throws a flood 
of light upon Berkeley s state of mind between his twen 
tieth and twenty-fourth year. It is a wonderful revela 
tion ; a record under his own hand of his thoughts and 
feelings when he first came under the inspiration of a new 
conception of the nature and office of the material world. 
It was then struggling to find adequate expression, 
and in it the sanguine youth seemed to find a spiritual 
panacea for the errors and confusions of philosophy. It 
was able to make short work, he believed, with atheistic 
materialism, and could dispense with arguments against 
sceptics in vindication of the reality of experience. The 
mind-dependent existence of the material world, and its 
true function in the universe of concrete reality, were to 
be disclosed under the light of a new transforming self- 
evident Principle. I wonder not at my sagacity in dis 
covering the obvious and amazing truth. I rather wonder 
at my stupid inadvertency in not finding it out before 
tis no witchcraft to see. The pages of the Common 
place Book give vent to rapidly forming thoughts about 
the things of sense and the ambient space of a youth 
entering into reflective life, in company with Descartes 


and Malebranche, Bacon and Hobbes, above all, Locke and 
Newton ; who was trying to translate into reasonableness 
his faith in the reality of the material world and God. 
Under the influence of this new conception, he sees the 
world like one awakening from a confused dream. The 
revolution which he wanted to inaugurate he foresaw 
would be resisted. Men like to think and speak about 
things as they have been accustomed to do : they are 
offended when they are asked to exchange this for what 
appears to them absurdity, or at least when the change 
seems useless. But in spite of the ridicule and dislike of 
a world long accustomed to put empty words in place 
of living thoughts, he resolves to deliver himself of his 
burden, with the politic conciliation of a skilful advocate 
however ; for he characteristically reminds himself that one 
who desires to bring another over to his own opinions 
must seem to harmonize with him at first, and humour him 
in his own way of talking/ 

In 1709, when he was twenty-four years old, Berkeley 
presented himself to the world of empty verbal reasoners 
as the author of what he calls modestly An Essay towards 
a New Theory of Vision. It was dedicated to Sir John 
Percival, his correspondent afterwards for more than 
twenty years ; but I have not discovered the origin of their 
friendship. The Essay was a pioneer, meant to open the 
way for the disclosure of the Secret with which he was 
burdened, lest the world might be shocked by an abrupt 
disclosure. In this prelude he tries to make the reader 
recognise that in ordinary seeing we are always inter 
preting visual signs; so that we have daily presented to 
our eyes what is virtually an intelligible natural language ; 
so that in all our intercourse with the visible world we 
are in intercourse with all-pervading active Intelligence. 
We are reading absent data of touch and of the other 
senses in the language of their visual signs. And the 


visual signs themselves, which are the immediate objects 
of sight, are necessarily dependent on sentient and per 
cipient mind ; whatever may be the case with the tangible 
realities which the visual data signify, a fact evident 
by our experience when we make use of a looking- 
glass. The material world, so far at least as it presents 
itself visibly, is real only in being realised by living 
and seeing beings. The mind-dependent visual signs 
of which we are conscious are continually speaking to us 
of an invisible and distant world of tangible realities; 
and through the natural connexion of the visual signs 
with their tactual^ meanings, we are able in seeing practi 
cally to perceive, not only what is distant in space, but 
also to anticipate the future. The Book of Vision is in 
literal truth a Book of Prophecy. The chief lesson of the 
tentative Essay on Vision is thus summed up : 

Upon the whole, I think we may fairly conclude that 
the proper objects of Vision constitute the Universal 
Language of Nature ; whereby we are instructed how to 
regulate our actions in order to attain those things that 
are necessary to the preservation and well-being of our 
bodies, as also to avoid whatever may be hurtful and 
destructive of them. And the manner wherein they 
signify and mark out unto us the objects which are at a 
distance is the same with that of languages and signs of 
human appointment; which do not suggest the things 
signified by any likeness or identity of nature, but only 
by an habitual connexion that experience has made us 
to observe between them. Suppose one who had always 
continued blind be told by his guide that after he has 
advanced so many steps he shall come to the brink of 
a precipice, or be stopped by a wall; must not this to 
him seem very admirable and surprising? He cannot 
conceive how it is possible for mortals to frame such 
predictions as these, which to him would seem as strange 
and unaccountable as prophecy does to others. Even 


they who are blessed with the visive faculty may (though 
familiarity make it less observed) find therein sufficient 
cause of admiration. The wonderful art and contrivance 
wherewith it is adjusted to those ends and purposes for 
which it was apparently designed ; the vast extent, number, 
and variety of objects that are at once, with so much ease 
and quickness and pleasure, suggested by it all these 
afford subject for much and pleasing speculation, and 
may, if anything, give us some glimmering analogous 
prsenotion of things that are placed beyond the certain 
discovery and comprehension of our present state V 

Berkeley took orders in the year in which his Essay on 
Vision was published. On February i, 1709, he was 
ordained as deacon, in the chapel of Trinity College, by 
Dr. George Ashe, Bishop of Clogher. Origen and Augus 
tine, Anselm and Aquinas, Malebranche, Fenelon, and 
Pascal, Cudworth, Butler, Jonathan Edwards, and Schleier- 
macher, along with Berkeley, are among those who are 
illustrious at once in the history of philosophy and of the 
Christian Church. The Church, it has been said, has been 
for nearly two thousand years the great Ethical Society 
of the world, and if under its restrictions it has been less 
conspicuous on the field of philosophical criticism and free 
inquiry, these names remind us of the immense service it 
has rendered to meditative thought. 

The light of the Percival correspondence first falls on 
Berkeley s life in 1709. The earliest extant letters from 
Berkeley to Sir John Percival are in September, October, 
and December of that year, dated at Trinity College. In 
one of them he pronounces Socrates the best and most 
admirable man that the heathen world has produced. 
Another letter, in March, 1710, accompanies a copy of the 
second edition of the Essay on Vision. I have made 
some alterations and additions in the body of the treatise/ 
he says, and in the appendix have endeavoured to meet the 

1 Essay on Vision, sect. 147, 148. 


objections of the Archbishop of Dublin ; whose sermon 
he proceeds to deprecate, for denying that goodness and 
understanding are more to be affirmed of God than feet 
or hands/ although all these may, in a metaphorical sense. 
How far, or whether at all, God is knowable by man, 
was, as we shall see, matter of discussion and contro 
versy with Berkeley in later life ; but this shews that the 
subject was already in his thoughts. Returning to the 
Essay on Vision, he tells Sir John that there remains 
one objection, that with regard to the uselessness of that 
book of mine ; but in a little time I hope to make what is 
there laid down appear subservient to the ends of morality 
and religion, in a Treatise I have in the press, the design 
of which is to demonstrate the existence and attributes of 
God, the immortality of the soul, the reconciliation of 
God s foreknowledge and the freedom of man ; and by 
shewing the emptiness and falsehood of several parts of 
the speculative sciences, to induce men to the study of 
religion and things useful. How far my endeavours will 
prove successful, and whether I have been all this time in 
a dream or no, time will shew. I do not see how it is 
possible to demonstrate the being of a God on the principles 
of the Archbishop that strictly goodness and understand 
ing can no more be assumed of God than that He has feet 
or hands ; there being no argument that I know for God s 
existence which does not prove Him at the same time to 
be an understanding and benevolent being, in the strict, 
literal, and proper meaning of these words. He adds, 
I have written to Mr. Clarke to give me his thoughts on 
the subject of God s existence, but have got no answer. 

The work foreshadowed in this letter appeared in the 
summer of 1710, as the First part of a Treatise concerning 
the Principles of Human Knowledge, wherein the chief causes 
of error and difficulty in the Sciences, with the grounds of 
Scepticism, Atheism, and Ir religion, are inquired into. In 
this fragment of a larger work, never finished, Berkeley s 


spiritual conception of matter and cosmos is unfolded, 
defended, and applied. According to the Essay on Vision, 
the world, as far as it is visible, is dependent on living 
mind. According to this book of Principles the whole 
material world, as far as it can have any practical concern 
with the knowings and doings of men, is real only by being 
realised in like manner in the percipient experience of 
some living mind. The concrete world, with which alone 
we have to do, could not exist in its concrete reality 
if there were no living percipient being in existence to 
actualise it. To suppose that it could would be to submit 
to the illusion of a metaphysical abstraction. Matter 
unrealised in its necessary subordination to some one s 
percipient experience is the chief among the illusions 
which philosophers have been too ready to encourage, and 
which the mass of mankind, who accept words without 
reflecting on their legitimate meanings, are ready to accept 
blindly. But we have only to reflect in order to see the 
absurdity of a material world such as we have experience 
of existing without ever being realised or made concrete 
in any sentient life. Try to conceive an eternally dead 
universe, empty for ever of God and all finite spirits, 
and you find you cannot. Reality can be real only in a 
living form. Percipient life underlies or constitutes all 
that is real. The esse of the concrete material world 
is percipi. This was the New T Principle* with which the 
young Dublin Fellow was burdened the Secret of the 
universe which he had been longing to discharge upon 
mankind for their benefit, yet without sign of desire to 
gain fame for himself as the discoverer. It is thus that 
he unfolds it : 

Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind 
that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such 
I take this important one to be, viz. that all the choir of 
heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word, all those bodies 
which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not 


any subsistence without a Mind ; that their being is to be 
perceived or known ; that consequently so long as they are 
not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind, 
or that of any other created spirit, they must either have 
no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some 
Eternal Spirit : it being perfectly unintelligible, and in 
volving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any 
single part of them an existence independent of a Spirit 1 . 

This does not mean denial of the existence of the world 
that is daily presented to our senses and which includes 
our own bodies. On the contrary, it affirms, as intuitively 
true, the existence of the only real matter which our 
senses present to us. The only material world of which 
we have any experience consists of the appearances (mis- 
leadingly called ideas of sense by Berkeley) which are 
continually rising as real objects in a passive procession 
of interpretable signs, through means of which each finite 
person realises his own individual personality ; also the 
existence of other finite persons ; and the sense-symbolism 
that is more or less interpreted in the natural sciences ; 
all significant of God. So the material world of concrete 
experience is presented to us as mind-dependent and in 
itself powerless : the deepest and truest reality must 
always be spiritual. Yet this mind-dependent material 
world is the occasion of innumerable pleasures and pains 
to human percipients, in so far as they conform to or 
contradict its customary laws, commonly called the laws 
of nature. So the sense-symbolism in which we live is 
found to play an important part in the experience of 
percipient beings. But it makes us sceptics and atheists 
when, in its name, we put a supposed dead abstract 
matter in room of the Divine Active Reason of which all 
natural order is the continuous providential expression. 

Accordingly, God must exist, because the material 
world, in order to be a real world, needs to be continually 

1 Principles, sect. 6. 



realised and regulated by living Providence ; and we 
have all the certainty of sense and sanity that there is a 
(mind-dependent) material world, a boundless and end 
lessly evolving sense-symbolism. 

In the two years after the disclosure of his New Principle 
we see Berkeley chiefly through his correspondence with 
Percival. He was eager to hear the voice of criticism ; 
but the critics were slow to speak, and when they did 
speak they misconceived the question, and of course his 
answer to it. If when you receive my book/ he writes 
from Dublin, in July, 1710, to Sir John, who was then in 
London, you can procure me the opinion of some of your 
acquaintances who are thinking men, addicted to the study 
of natural philosophy and mathematics, I shall be extremely 
obliged to you. He also asks Percival to present the 
book of Principles to Lord Pembroke, to whom he had 
ventured to dedicate it, as Locke had done his Essay. 
The reply was discouraging. 

I did but name the subject-matter of your book of Prin 
ciples to some ingenuous friends of mine/ Percival says, and 
they immediately treated it with ridicule, at the same time 
refusing to read it ; which I have not yet got one to do. 
A physician of my acquaintance undertook to describe 
your person, and argued you must needs be mad, and 
that you ought to take remedies. A bishop pitied you, 
that a desire and vanity of starting something new should 
put you upon such an undertaking ; and when I justified 
you in that part of your character, and added other deserv 
ing qualities you have, he could not tell what to think of you. 
Another told me an ingenious man ought not to be dis 
couraged from exerting his wit, and said Erasmus was 
not worse thought of for writing in praise of folly; but 
that you are not gone as far as a gentleman in town, who 
asserts not only that there is no such thing as Matter, but 
that we ourselves have no being at all. 


It is not surprising that a book which was supposed to 
deny the existence of all that we see and touch should be 
ridiculed, and its author called a madman. What vexed 
the author was, that men who had never considered my 
book should confound me with the sceptics, who doubt the 
existence of sensible things, and are not positive of any 
one thing, not even of their own being. But whoever 
reads my book with attention will see that I question not 
the existence of anything we perceive by our senses. 
Fine spun metaphysics are what on all occasions I de 
claim against, and if any one shall shew anything of that 
sort in my Treatise I will willingly correct it. A material 
world that was real enough to yield physical science, to 
make known to us the existence of other persons and of 
God, and which signified in very practical ways happiness 
or misery to sentient beings, seemed to him sufficiently real 
for human science and all other purposes. Nevertheless, 
in the ardour of youth Berkeley had hardly fathomed the 
depths into which his New Principle led, and which he 
hoped to escape by avoiding the abstractions of fine-spun 

In December Percival writes from London that he has 
given the book to Lord Pembroke, who thought the 
author an ingenious man, and to be encouraged ; but for 
himself he cannot believe in the non-existence *of Matter ; 
and he had tried in vain to induce Samuel Clarke, the 
great English metaphysician, either to refute or to accept 
the New Principle. In February Berkeley sends an 
explanatory letter for Lord Pembroke to Percival s care. 
In a letter in June he turns to social questions, and sug 
gests that if some Irish gentlemen of good fortune and 
generous inclinations would constantly reside in England, 
there to watch for the interests of Ireland, they might 
bring far greater advantage than they could by spending 
their incomes at home. And so 1711 passes, with re 
sponses of ignorant qritics ; vain endeavours to draw 

c 2 


worthy criticism from Samuel Clarke ; the author all the 
while doing work as a Tutor in Trinity College on a modest 
income; now and then on holidays in Meath or elsewhere 
in Ireland. Three discourses on Passive Obedience in the 
College Chapel in 1712, misinterpreted, brought on him 
the reproach of Jacobitism. Yet they were designed 
to shew that society rests on a deeper foundation than 
force and calculations of utility, and is at last rooted in 
principles of an immutable morality. Locke s favourite 
opinion, that morality is a demonstrable, seems to weigh 
with him in these Discourses. 

But Berkeley was not yet done with the exposition and 
vindication of his new thought, for it seemed to him 
charged with supreme practical issues for mankind. In 
the two years which followed the publication of the Prin 
ciples he was preparing to reproduce his spiritual concep 
tion of the universe, in the dramatic form of dialogue, 
convenient for dealing popularly with plausible objections. 
The issue was the Three Dialogues between Hylas and 
Philonous, in which Philonous argues for the absurdity of 
an abstract matter that is unrealised in the experience of 
living beings, as against Hylas, who is put forward to justify 
belief in this abstract reality. The design of the Dialogues 
is to present in a familiar form such principles as, by 
an easy solution of the perplexities of philosophers, 
together with their own native evidence, may at once 
recommend themselves as genuine to the mind, and rescue 
philosophy from the endless pursuits it is engaged in ; 
which, with a plain demonstration of the Immediate Pro 
vidence of an all-seeing God, should seem the readiest 
preparation, as well as the strongest motive to the study 
and practice of virtue 1 / 

When the Dialogues were completed, at the end of 
1712, Berkeley resolved to visit London, as he told 
Percival, in order to print my new book of Dialogues, 

1 Preface to the Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. 


and to make acquaintance with men of merit. He got 
leave of absence from his College for the recovery of his 
health/ which had suffered from study, and perhaps too 
he remembered that Bacon commends travel as to the 
younger sort a part of education/ 

Berkeley made his appearance in London in January, 
1713. On the 26th of that month he writes to Percival 
that he had crossed the Channel from Dublin a few days 
before/ describes adventures on the road, and enlarges 
on the beauty of rural England, which he liked more than 
anything he had seen in London. Mr. Clarke had 
already introduced him to Lord Pembroke. He had also 
called on his countryman Richard Steele, who desired to 
be acquainted with him. Somebody had given him my 
Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge, and that 
was the ground of his inclination to my acquaintance. 
He anticipates much satisfaction in the conversation of 
Steele and his friends/ adding that there is lately 
published a bold and pernicious book, a Discourse on 
Free-thinking 1 . In February he dines often with Steele 
in his house in Bloomsbury Square/ and tells in March 
that you will soon hear of Mr. Steele under the char 
acter of the Guardian ; he designs his paper shall come 
out every day as the Spectator The night before a very 
ingenious new poem upon "Windsor Forest" had been 
given to him by the author, Mr. Pope. The gentleman is 
a Papist, but a man of excellent wit and learning, one ot 
those Mr. Steele mentions in his last paper as having writ 
some of the Spectator. A few days later he has met 
Mr. Addison, who has the same talents as Steele in 
a high degree, and is likewise a great philosopher, having 
applied himself to the speculative studies more than any 
of the wits I know. I breakfasted with him at Dr. Swift s 
lodgings. His coming in while I was there, and the good 

1 By Anthony Collins. 


temper he showed, was construed by me as a sign of the 
approaching coalition of parties. A play of Mr. Steele s, 
which was expected, he has now put off till next winter. 
But Cato, a most noble play of Mr. Addison, is to 
be acted in Easter week. Accordingly, on April 18, 
he writes that on Tuesday last Cato was acted for the 
first time. I was present with Mr. Addison and two or 
three more friends in a side box, where we had a talk 
and two or three flasks of Burgundy and Champagne, 
which the author (who is a very sober man) thought 
necessary to support his spirits, and indeed it was a 
pleasant refreshment to us all between the Acts. Some 
parts of the prologue, written by Mr. Pope, a Tory and 
even a Papist, were hissed, being thought to savour of 
Whiggism ; but the clap got much the better of the hiss. 
Lord Harley, who sat in the next box to us, was observed 
to clap as loud as any in the house all the time of the 
play. Swift and Pope have described this famous first 
night of Cato ; now for the first time we have Berkeley s 
report. He adds, This day I dined at Dr. Arbuthnot s 
lodging in the Queen s Palace. 

His countryman, Swift, was among the first to welcome 
him to London, where Swift had himself been for four 
years, lodging in Bury Street, and sending the daily 
journal to Stella, which records so many incidents of that 
memorable London life. Mrs. Vanhomrigh and her 
daughter, the unhappy Vanessa, were living in rooms in 
the same street as Swift, and there he loitered, hot and 
lazy, after his morning s work, and often dined out of 
mere listlessness. Berkeley was a frequent visitor at 
Swift s house, and this Vanhomrigh connexion with Swift 
had an influence on Berkeley s fortune long afterwards. 
On a Sunday in April we find him at Kensington, at 
the Court of Queen Anne, in the company of Swift. 
I went to Court to-day, Swift s journal records, on 
purpose to present Mr. Berkeley, one of the Fellows of 


Trinity College, to Lord Berkeley of Stratton. That 
Mr. Berkeley is a very ingenious man, and a great 
philosopher, and I have mentioned him to all the ministers, 
and have given them some of his writings, and I will 
favour him as much as I can/ In this, Swift was as good 
as his word. Dr. Swift/ he adds, is admired both by 
Steele and Addison, and I think Addison one of the best 
natured and most agreeable men in the world/ 

One day about this time, at the instance of Addison, it 
seems that a meeting was arranged between Berkeley and 
Samuel Clarke, the metaphysical rector of St. James s in 
Piccadilly, whose opinion he had in vain tried to draw 
forth two years before through Sir John Percival. Berke 
ley s personal charm was felt wherever he went, and even 
the fastidious and turbulent Atterbury, after intercourse 
with him, is reported to have said : So much understanding, 
so much knowledge, so much innocence, and such humility, 
I did not think had been the portion of any but angels till 
I saw this gentleman/ Much was expected from the 
meeting with Clarke, but Berkeley had again to complain 
that although Clarke had neither refuted his arguments 
nor disproved his premisses, he had not the candour to 
accept his conclusion. 

It was thus that Berkeley became known to men of 
merit in that brilliant society. He was also brought 
among persons on whom he would hardly have conferred 
this title. He tells Percival that he had attended several 
free-thinking clubs, in the pretended character of a learner, 
and that he there heard Anthony Collins, author of the 
bold and pernicious book on free-thinking, boast that 
he was able to demonstrate that the existence of God is 
an impossible supposition/ ,The promised demonstration 
seems to have been Collins Inquiry Concerning Human 
Liberty, which appeared two years later, according to 
which all that happens in mind and matter is the issue 
of natural necessity. Steele invited Berkeley to contribute 


to the Guardian during its short-lived existence between 
March and September, 1713. He took the Discourse of 
Collins for the subject of his first essay. Three other 
essays are concerned with man s hope of a future life, 
and are among the few passages in his writings in which 
his philosophy is a meditation upon Death. 

In May, Percival writes to him from Dublin that he 
hears the new book of Dialogues is printed, though not 
yet published, and that your opinion has gained ground 
among the learned ; that Mr. Addison has come over to 
your view ; and that what at first seemed shocking is 
become so familiar that others envy you the discovery, 
and make it their own/ In his reply in June, Berkeley 
mentions that a clergyman in Wiltshire has lately pub 
lished a treatise wherein he advances something published 
three years ago in my Principles of Human Knowledge 
The clergyman was Arthur Collier, author of the Clavis 
Universalis, or demonstration of the impossibility of an 
external world J . 

Berkeley s Three Dialogues were published in June. 
In the middle of that same month he was in Oxford, 
a most delightful place/ where he spent two months, 
witnessed the Act and grand performances at the theatre, 
and a great concourse from London and the country, 
amongst whom were several foreigners/ The Drury Lane 
Company had gone down to Oxford, and Cato was on 
the stage for several nights. The Percival correspond 
ence now first discloses this prolonged visit to Oxford in 
the summer of 1713, that ideal home from whence, forty 
years after, he departed on a more mysterious journey than 
any on this planet. In a letter from thence to Percival, he 
had claimed Arbuthnot as one of the converts to the new 
Principle/ Percival replied that Swift demurred to this, 
on which Berkeley rejoins : As to what you say of 
Dr. Arbuthnot not being of my opinion, it is true there 

1 See vol. Ill, Appendix B. 



has been some difference between us concerning some 
notions relating to the necessity of the laws of nature; 
but this does not touch the main points of the non-existence 
of what philosophers call material substance ; against 
which he acknowledges he can assert nothing. One 
would gladly have got more than this from Berkeley, 
about what touched his favourite conception of the arbi 
trariness of law in nature, as distinguished from the 
necessity which some modern physicists are ready 
vaguely to take for granted. 

The scene now changes. On October 15 Berkeley 
suddenly writes from London : I am on the eve of going 
to Sicily, as chaplain to Lord Peterborough, who is Ambas 
sador Extraordinary on the coronation of the new king. 
He had been recommended by Swift to the Ambassador, 
one of the most extraordinary characters then in Europe, 
who a few years before had astonished the world in the 
war of the Succession in Spain, and afterwards by his 
genius as a diplomatist: in Holland, nearly a quarter 
of a century before, he had formed an intimate friendship 
with John Locke. Ten months in France and Italy in 
the suite of Lord Peterborough brought the young Irish 
metaphysician, who had lately been introduced to the wits 
of London and the dons of Oxford, into a new world. 
It was to him the beginning of a career of wandering 
and social activity, which lasted, with little interruption, 
for nearly twenty years, during which metaphysics and 
authorship were in the background. On November 25 
we find him in Paris, writing letters to Percival and 
Prior. From London to Calais/ he tells Prior, I came 
in company of a Flamand, a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and 
three English servants of my Lord. The three gentlemen, 
being of three different nations, obliged me to speak the 
French language (which is now familiar), and gave me 
the opportunity of seeing much of the world in little 


compass. . . . On November i (O. S.) I embarked in the 
stage-coach, with a company that were all perfect strangers 
to me. There were two Scotch, and one English gentle 
man. One of the former happened to be the author of the 
Voyage to St. Kilda and the Account of the Western Isles 1 . 
We were good company on the road ; and that day se ennight 
came to Paris. I have since been taken up in viewing 
churches, convents, palaces, colleges, &c., which are very 
numerous and magnificent in this town. The splendour 
and riches of these things surpasses belief; but it were 
endless to descend to particulars. I was present at a dis 
putation in the Sorbonne, which indeed had much of the 
French fire in it. I saw the Irish and the English Colleges. 
In the latter I saw, enclosed in a coffin, the body of the 
late King James. . . . To-morrow I intend to visit Father 
Malebranche, and discourse him on certain points. 5 

The Abbe D Aubigne, as he informs Percival, was to 
introduce him to Malebranche, then the chief philosopher 
of France, whose Vision of the world in God had some 
affinity with Berkeley s own thought. Unfortunately we 
have no record of the intended interview with the French 
idealist, who fourteen years before had been visited by 
Addison, also on his way to Italy, when Malebranche ex 
pressed great regard for the English nation, and admiration 
for Newton ; but he shook his head when Hobbes was 
mentioned, whom he ventured to disparage as a poor 
silly creature.* Malebranche died nearly two years after 
Berkeley s proposed interview; and according to a story 
countenanced by Dugald Stewart, Berkeley was the oc 
casional cause of his death. He found the venerable 
Father, we are told, in a cell, cooking, in a pipkin, a medi 
cine for a disorder with which he was troubled. The con 
versation naturally turned on Berkeley s system, of which 

1 Murdoch Martin, a native of the Western Islands of Scotland 
Skye, author of a Voyage to St. (1703). 
Kilda (1698^, and a Description of 

IN ITALY IN 1714 xliii 

Malebranche had received some knowledge from a trans 
lation. The issue of the debate proved tragical to poor 
Malebranche. In the heat of disputation he raised his 
voice so high, and gave way so freely to the natural im 
petuosity of a man of genius and a Frenchman, that he 
brought on a violent increase of his disorder, which car 
ried him off a few days after 1 . This romantic tale is, I 
suspect, mythical. The Percival correspondence shews 
that Berkeley was living in London in October, 1715, the 
month in which Malebranche died, and I find no trace 
of a short sudden visit to Paris at that time. 

After a month spent in Paris, another fortnight carried 
Berkeley and two travelling companions to Italy through 
Savoy. They crossed Mont Cenis on New Year s Day 
in 1714 one of the most difficult and formidable parts 
of the Alps which is ever passed over by mortal man/ 
as he tells Prior in a letter from Turin. We were carried 
in open chairs by men used to scale these rocks and 
precipices, which at this season are more slippery and 
dangerous than at other times, and at the best are high, 
craggy, and steep enough to cause the heart of the most 
valiant man to melt within him. At the end of other 
six weeks we find him at Leghorn, where he spent three 
months, while my lord was in Sicily. He prefers 
England or Ireland to Italy : the only advantage is in 
point of air. From Leghorn he writes in May a com 
plimentary letter to Pope, on the occasion of the Rape of 
the Lock-. Style, painting, judgment, spirit, I had already 
admired in your other writings ; but in this I am charmed 
with the magic of your invention, with all those images, 
allusions, and inexplicable beauties which you raise so 
surprisingly, and at the same time so naturally, out of 
a trifle. ... I remember to have heard you mention some 

1 See Stewart s Works (ed. Quincey, in his quaint essay on 
Hamilton), vol. I. p. 161. There Murder considered as one of the 
is a version of this story by De Fine Arts. 


half-formed design of coming to Italy. What might we 
not expect from a muse that sings so well in the bleak 
climate of England, if she felt the same warm sun and 
breathed the same air with Virgil and Horace/ In July 
we find Berkeley in Paris on his way back to England. 
He had parted from Lord Peterborough at Genoa, where 
my lord took post for Turin, and thence designed passing 
over the Alps, and so through Savoy, on his way to 
England/ In August they are in London, where the 
aspect of English politics was changed by the death of 
the Queen in that month. He seems to have had a 
fever soon after his return. In October, Arbuthnot, in one 
of his chatty letters to Swift, writes thus : Poor philo 
sopher Berkeley has now the idea of health, which was 
very hard to produce in him, for he had an idea of a 
strange fever upon him, so strange that it was very hard 
to destroy it by introducing a contrary one/ 

Our record of the two following years is a long blank, 
first broken by a letter to Percival in July, 1715, dated 
at London. Whether he spent any time at Fulham with 
Lord Peterborough after their return from Italy does not 
appear, nor whether he visited Ireland in those years, 
which is not likely. We have no glimpses of brilliant 
London society as in the preceding year. Steele was now 
in Parliament. Swift had returned to Dublin, and Addison 
was the Irish chief secretary. But Pope was still at 
Binfield, among the glades of Windsor, and Berkeley 
congratulated him after receiving the first volume of his 
Homer. Of his own literary pursuits we hear nothing. 
Perhaps the Second Part of the Principles, which was 
lost afterwards in his travels, engaged him. In the end 
of July he wrote to Lord Percival 1 from Flaxley 2 on 
the Severn ; and in August, September, October, and 
November he wrote from London, chiefly interested in 

1 Sir John became Lord Percival in that year. 

2 A place more than once visited by Berkeley. 

IN ITALY IN 1716-20 xlv 

reports about the rebels in Scotland/ and the forces 
under Lord Mar, which no doubt will languish and dis 
perse in a little time. The Bishop of Bristol assured 
me the other day that the Court expect that the Duke 
of Orleans would, in case of need, supply them with 
forces against the Pretender. Our next glimpse of him 
is in May, 1716, when he writes to Lord Percival that he 
is like soon to go to Ireland, the Prince of Wales having 
recommended him to the Lords Justices for the living 
of St. Paul s in Dublin. This opening was soon closed, 
and the visit to Ireland was abandoned. A groundless 
suspicion of Jacobitism was not overcome by the interest 
of Caroline, Princess of Wales. In June, 1716, Charles 
Dering wrote from Dublin, that the Lords Justices have 
made a strong representation against him. He had to 
look elsewhere for the immediate future. 

We find him at Turin in November, 1716, with a fresh 
leave of absence for two years from his College. It seems 
that Ashe, Bishop of Clogher, had engaged him as travel 
ling tutor to his son, a means not then uncommon for 
enabling young authors of moderate fortune to see new 
countries and mix with society. Addison had visited Italy 
in this way sixteen years before, and Adam Smith long 
afterwards travelled with the young Duke of Buccleuch. 
With young Ashe, Berkeley crossed Mont Cenis a second 
time. They reached Rome at the beginning of 1717. 
His Journal in Italy in that year, and occasional letters 
to Percival, Pope, and Arbuthnot, shew ardent interest 
in nature and art. With the widest views, this very 
great though singular sort of man descended into a 
minute detail, and begrudged neither pains nor expense 
for the means of information. He travelled through a 
great part of Sicily on foot ; clambered over the mountains 
and crept into the caverns, to investigate its natural history 
and discover the causes of its volcanoes ; and I have known 
him sit for hours in forges and foundries to inspect their 


successive operations 1 . If the Journal had been trans 
formed by his own hand into a book, his letter to Pope 
from Inarime shews that the book might have rivalled 
Addison s Remarks on Parts of Italy in grace of style and 
large human interest. 

In the summer of 1720 we find the travellers at Florence, 
afterwards for some time at Lyons, and in London at the 
beginning of the next year. On the way home his meta 
physical inspiration was revived. The Cause of Motion 
had been proposed by the French Academy as the subject 
of a prize dissertation. The subject gave an opportunity 
for further unfolding his early thought. In the Principles 
and the Dialogues he had argued for the necessary depen 
dence of matter, for its concrete substantial reality, upon 
living percipient mind. He would now shew its powerless- 
ness as it is presented to us in sense. The material world, 
chiefly under the category of substance, inspired the Prin 
ciples. The material world, under the category of cause 
or power, inspired the De Motu. This Latin Essay sums 
up the distinctive thought of Berkeley, as it appears in 
the authorship of his early life. Moles evolvit et agitat 
mentes might be taken as the formula of the materialism 
which he sought to dissolve. Mens percipit et agitat mo/em 
signiftcantem, cujus esse est percipi expresses what Berkeley 
would substitute for the materialistic formula. 

The end of the summer of 1721 found Berkeley still in 
London. England was in the social agitation and misery 
consequent upon the failure of the South Sea Company, 
a gigantic commercial speculation connected with British 
trade in America. A new inspiration took possession of 
him. He thought he saw in this catastrophe signs of a 
decline in public morals worse than that which followed 
the Restoration. Political corruption/ decay of religion, 
growth of atheism, were descriptive words used by the 

1 Bakewell s Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, vol. II. p. 177, 


thoughtful. Berkeley s eager imagination was apt to exag 
gerate the evil. He became inspired by social idealism, 
and found vent for his fervour in An Essay towards pre 
venting the Ruin of Great Britain^ which, as well as the 
De Motu, made its appearance in 1721. This Essay is a 
significant factor in his career. It was the Cassandra wail 
of a sorrowful and indignant prophet, prepared to shake 
the dust from his feet, and to transfer his eye of hope 
to other regions, in which a nearer approach to Utopia 
might be realised. The true personality of the individual 
is unrealisable in selfish isolation. His favourite non stbi, 
sedtoti mundo was henceforward more than ever the ruling 
maxim of his life. 


MIDDLE LIFE (1722-34). 

In October, 1721, Berkeley was in Dublin. The register 
of the College shews that on November 14, 1721, Mr. 
Berkeley had the grace of the House for the Degree of 
Bachelor and Doctor of Divinity. There is no ground 
for the report that he returned to Ireland at this time as 
Chaplain to the Duke of Grafton, the Lord Lieutenant 1 . 
But preferment in the Church seemed within his reach. 
I had no sooner set foot on shore, he wrote to Percival 
in that October, than I heard that the Deanery of Dromore 
was vacant. Percival used his influence with the Lord 
Lieutenant, and in February, 1722, Berkeley s patent was 

1 A letter in Berkeley s Life and Ormond was Lord Lieutenant of 

Letters, p. 93, which led me to Ireland. The writer was probably 

a different opinion, I have now the Hon. and Rev. George Berke- 

reason to believe was not written ley, a Prebendary of Westminster 

by him, nor was it written in 1721. in 1687, who died in 1694. The 

The research of Dr. Lorenz, con- wife of the pious Robert Nelson 

firmed by internal evidence, shews was a daughter of Earl Berkeley, 

that it was written in October, 1684. and this George was her younger 

before Berkeley the philosopher brother, 
was born, and when the Duke of 


passing the Seals for the Deanery of Dromore. But the 
Bishop of Dromore claimed the patronage, and this led to 
a protracted and ineffectual lawsuit, which took Berkeley 
to London in the following winter, to see friends and 
inform himself of points of law/ and he tells that on the 
way he was nearly drowned in crossing to Holyhead V 

Berkeley s interest in church preferment was not per 
sonal. He saw in it only means to an end. In March, 
1723, he surprised Lord Percival by announcing, in a letter 
from London, a project which it seems for some time had 
occupied his thoughts. It is now about ten months/ he 
says, since I have determined to spend the residue of my 
days in Bermuda, where I trust in Providence I may be 
the mean instrument of doing great good to mankind. 
Whatever happens, go I am resolved, if I live. Half 
a dozen of the most ingenious and agreeable men in our 
College are with me in this project, and since I came 
hither I have got together about a dozen Englishmen of 
quality, who intend to retire to those islands/ He then 
explains the project, opening a vision of Christian civilisa 
tion radiating from those fair islands of the West, whose 
idyllic bliss poets had sung, diffused over the New World, 
with its magnificent possibilities in the future history of 

I find no further record of the origin of this bright 
vision. As it had become a practical determination ten 
months before March, 1723, one is carried back to the 
first months after his return to Dublin and to the Essay 
that was called forth by the South Sea catastrophe. One 
may conjecture that despair of England and the Old 
World such as Europe breeds in her decay led him 
to look westward for the hopeful future of mankind, 
moved, perhaps, by the connexion of the catastrophe with 
America. His active imagination pictured a better Re 
public than Plato s, and a grander Utopia than More s, 

1 Percival MSS. 


emanating from a College in the isles of which Waller had 

In the meantime a curious fortune unexpectedly 
favoured him. Swift s unhappy Vanessa, associated with 
Bury Street in 1713, had settled on her property at 
Marley Abbey near Dublin ; and Swift had privately 
married Stella, as she confessed to Vanessa, who there 
after revoked the bequest of her fortune to Swift, and 
left it to be divided between Berkeley and Marshal, 
afterwards an Irish judge. Vanessa died in May, 1723. 
A few days after Berkeley wrote thus to Lord Percival : 
Here is something that will surprise your lordship as 
it doth me. Mrs. Hester Vanhomrigh, a lady to whom 
I was a perfect stranger, having never in the whole 
course of my life exchanged a word with her, died on 
Sunday. Yesterday her Will was opened, by which it 
appears that I am constituted executor, the advantage 
whereof is computed by those who understand her affairs 
to be worth 3000. . . . My Bermuda scheme is now 
stronger in my mind than ever; this providential event 
having made many things easy which were otherwise 
before. Lord Percival in reply concludes that he would 
persist more than ever in that noble scheme, which may 
in some time exalt your name beyond that of St. Xavier 
and the most famous missionaries abroad. But he 
warns him that, without the protection of Government, 
he would encounter insurmountable difficulties. The 
Vanessa legacy, and the obstructions in the way of the 
Deanery of Dromore, were the subjects of a tedious corre 
spondence with his friend and business factotum, Tom 
Prior, in 1724 and the three following years. In the end, 
the debts of Vanessa absorbed most of the legacy. And as 
to the Deanery of Dromore, he tells Percival, on September 
19, 1723: I despair of seeing it end to my advantage. 
The truth is, my fixed purpose of going to Bermuda sets 
me above soliciting anything with earnestness in this part 



of the world. It can be of no use to me, but as it may 
enable me the better to prosecute that design ; and it 
must be owned that the present possession of something 
in the Church would make my application for an establish 
ment in those islands more considered. 

Nevertheless, he got a Deanery at last. In May, 1724, 
he informs Lord Percival from Trinity College : Yester 
day I received my patent for the best Deanery in the 
kingdom, that of Derry. It is said to be worth 1500 
per annum. But as I do not consider it with an eye 
to enriching myself, so I shall be perfectly contented if it 
facilitates and recommends my scheme of Bermuda, which 
I am in hopes will meet with a better reception if it comes 
from one possessed of so great a Deanery. In September 
he is on his way, not to Derry, but to London, to raise 
funds and obtain a Charter for the Bermuda College from 
George the First, fortified by a remarkable letter from 
Swift to Lord Carteret, the new Lord Lieutenant, who 
was then in Bath . As Swift predicted in this letter, Berke 
ley s conquests spread far and fast in England, where he 
organised his resources during the four following years. 
Nothing shews more signally the magic of his personality 
than the story of his life in London in those years of 
negotiation and endeavour. The proposal met with a 
response wonderful in a generation represented by 
Walpole. The subscriptions soon reached five thousand 
pounds, and Walpole was among the subscribers. The 
Scriblerus Club, meeting at Lord Bathurst s, agreed to 
rally Berkeley, who was among them, on his Bermuda 
scheme. He asked to be heard in defence, and presented 
the case with such force of enthusiasm that the company 
were struck dumb, and after a pause simultaneously 
rose and asked leave to accompany him. Bermuda 
for a time inspired London. 

1 For the letter, see Editor s College in Bermuda, vol. IV. pp. 
Preface to the Proposal for a 343-44- 

IN LONDON IN 1724-28 li 

Berkeley was not satisfied with this. He remembered 
what Lord Percival had said about failure without help 
from Government. Accordingly he obtained a Charter 
from George the First early in 1726, and after canvassing 
the House of Commons, secured a grant of 20,000, with 
only two dissentient votes, in May of that year. This was 
the beginning of his difficulties. Payment was indefin 
itely delayed, and he was kept negotiating ; besides, with 
the help of Prior, he was unravelling legal perplexities in 
which the Vanessa legacy was involved. It was in these 
years that he was seen at the receptions of Caroline at 
Leicester Fields, when she was Princess of Wales, and after 
wards at St. James s or at Kensington, when she became 
Queen in 1727; not, he says, because he loved Courts, 
but because he loved America. Clarke was still rector 
of St. James s, and Butler had not yet migrated to his 
parsonage at Stanhope ; so their society was open to him. 
The Queen liked to listen to a philosophical discussion. 
Ten years before, as Princess of Wales, she had been a 
royal go-between in the famous correspondence between 
Clarke and Leibniz. And now, Berkeley being in London, 
he too w r as asked to her weekly reunions, when she loved 
to hear Clarke arguing with Berkeley, or Berkeley 
arguing with Hoadley. Also in 1726 Voltaire made his 
lengthened visit to England, a familiar figure in the 
circle of Pope s friends, attracted to the philosophy of 
Locke and Newton; and Voltaire mentions that he met 
1 the discoverer of the true theory of vision during his 
stay in London. 

From the summer of 1727 until the spring of 1728 there 
is no extant correspondence either with Percival or Tom 
Prior to throw light on his movements. In February, 
1728, he was still in London, but he hoped to set out 
for Dublin in March, and to America in May. There is 
a mystery about this visit to Dublin. I propose to set 
out for Dublin about a month hence, he writes to dear 

d 2 


Tom, 5 but of this you must not give the least intimation 
to anybody. It is of all things my earnest desire (and for 
very good reasons) not to have it known that I am in 
Dublin. Speak not, therefore, one syllable of it to any 
mortal whatsoever. When I formerly desired you to take 
a place for me near the town, you gave out that you were 
looking for a retired lodging for a friend of yours ; upon 
which everybody surmised me to be the person. I must 
beg you not to act in the like manner now, but to take for 
me an entire house in your own name, and as for yourself; 
for, all things considered, I am determined upon a whole 
house, with no mortal in it but. a maid of your own putting, 
who is to look on herself as your servant. Let there be 
two bed-chambers : one for you, another for me ; and, 
as you like, you may ever and anon lie there. I would 
have the house, with necessary furniture, taken by the 
month (or otherwise, as you can), for I propose staying 
not beyond that time ; and yet perhaps I may. Take it 
as soon as possible. . . . Let me entreat you to say nothing 
of this to anybody, but to do the thing directly. ... I would 
of all things . . . have a proper place in a retired situation, 
where I may have access to fields and sweet air provided 
against the moment I arrive. I am inclined to think one 
may be better concealed in the outermost skirt of the 
suburbs, than in the country or within the town. ... A house 
quite detached in the country I should have no objection 
to, provided you judge that I shall not be liable to 
discovery in it. The place called Bermuda I am utterly 
against. Dear Tom, do this matter cleanly and cleverly, 
without waiting for further advice. ... To the person from 
whom you hire it (whom alone I would have you speak 
of it to) it will not seem strange you should at this time 
of the year be desirous, for your own convenience or 
health, to have a place in a free and open air. This 
mysterious letter was written in April. From April till 
September Berkeley again disappears. There is in all 


this a curious secretiveness of which one has repeated 
examples in his life. Whether he went to Dublin in that 
spring, or why he wanted to go, does not appear. 

But in September he emerges unexpectedly at Graves- 
end, newly married, and ready to sail for Rhode Island, 
in a ship of 250 tons which he had hired/ The marriage, 
according to Stock, took place on August i, whether in 
Ireland or in England I cannot tell. The lady was Anne, 
daughter of John Forster, late Chief Justice, and then 
Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. She shared 
his fortune when he was about to engage in the most 
romantic, and ideally the grandest, Christian mission of 
the eighteenth century. According to tradition she was a 
devoutly religious mystic : Fenelon and Madame Guyon 
were among her favourites. I chose her, he tells Lord 
Percival, for her qualities of mind and her unaffected 
inclination to books. She goes with great thankfulness, 
to live a plain farmer s life, and wear stuff of her own 
spinning. I have presented her with a spinning-wheel. 
A letter to Prior, dated Gravesend September 5, 1728, 
thus describes the little party on the eve of their de 
parture : To-morrow, with God s blessing, I set sail for 
Rhode Island, with my wife and a friend of hers, my 
Lady Handcock s daughter, who bears us company. 
I am married since I saw you to Miss Forster, whose 
humour and turn of mind pleases me beyond anything 
that I know in her whole sex. Mr. James 1 , Mr. Dalton, 
and Mr. Smibert 2 go with us on this voyage. We are 
now all together at Gravesend, and are engaged in one 
view. We are further told 3 that they carried stores and 
goods to a great value, and that the Dean embarked 20,000 
books, besides what the two gentlemen carried. The} 7 

1 Afterwards Sir John James. family party then at Gravesend. 

a Smibert the artist, who made 3 Historical Register, vol. XIII, 

a picture of Berkeley in 1725, p. 289 (1728,. 
and afterwards in America of the 


sailed in September for Rhode Island, where the Dean 
intends to winter, and to purchase an estate, in order to 
settle a correspondence and trade between that island and 
Bermudas/ Berkeley was in his forty-fourth year, when, 
full of glowing visions of Christian Empire in the West, 
Time s noblest offspring, he left England, on his way to 
Bermuda, with the promise of Sir Robert Walpole that 
he should receive the promised grant after he had made 
an investment. He bought land in America, but he never 
reached Bermuda. 

Towards the end of January, in 1729, the little party, in 
the hired ship of 250 tons/ made their appearance in 
Narragansett Bay, on the western side of Rhode Island. 
Blundering about the ocean, they had touched at Virginia 
on the way, whence a correspondent, sceptical of the enter 
prise, informs Lord Percival that the Dean had dined 
with the Governor, and visited our College, but thinks 
that when the Dean comes to put his visionary scheme 
into practice, he will find it no better than a religious 
frenzy, and that he is as much a Don Quixote in zeal 
as that renowned knight was in chivalry. I wish the good 
Dean may not find out at last that Waller really kidnapt 
him over to Bermuda, and that the project he has been 
drawn into may not prove in every point of it poetical. 

We have a picture of the landing at Newport, on a 
winter day early in 1729. Yesterday arrived here Dean 
Berkeley of Londonderry, in a pretty large ship. He is 
a gentleman of middle stature, of an agreeable, pleasant, 
and erect aspect. He was ushered into the town with 
a great number of gentlemen, to whom he behaved him 
self after a very complaisant manner. Tis said he proposes 
to tarry here with his family about three months 1 . New 
port was then a flourishing town, nearly a century old, 
an emporium of American commerce, in those days the 
rival of Boston and New York. He was never more 

1 New England Weekly Courier. Feb. 3, 1 729. 


agreeably surprised/ he says, than at the size of the 
town and harbour/ Around him was some of the softest 
rural and grandest ocean scenery in the world, which had 
fresh charms even for one whose boyhood was spent in 
the valley of the Nore, who had lingered in the Bay of 
Naples, and wandered in Inarime and among the mountains 
of Sicily. He was seventy miles from Boston, and about 
as far from Newhaven and Yale College. A range of 
hills crosses the centre of the island, whence meadows 
slope to the rocky shore. The Gulf Stream tempers the 
surrounding sea. The people/ he tells Percival, are 
industrious ; and though less orthodox have not less virtue, 
and I am sure they have more regularity, than those I left 
in Europe. They are indeed a strange medley of different 
persuasions/ The gentry retained the customs of the 
squires in England : tradition tells of a cheerful society : 
the fox chase, with hounds and horses, was a favourite 
recreation. The society, for so remote a region, was 
well informed. The family libraries and pictures which 
remain argue culture and refinement. Smibert, the artist 
of the missionary party, who had moved to Boston, soon 
found employment in America, and his pictures still adorn 
houses in Rhode Island 1 . 

The Dean and his young wife lived in Newport for 
some months after their arrival. Mr. Honeyman, a mis 
sionary of the English Society, had been placed there, 
in Trinity Church, in 1704. The church is still a con 
spicuous object from the harbour. Berkeley preached in 
it three days after his arrival, and occasionally afterwards. 
Notes of his sermons are included in this edition among 
his Miscellaneous Works. 

In the summer of 1729 he moved from Newport to 
a quiet valley in the interior of the island, where he 

1 For valuable information about Higginson, to whom I desire to 

Rhode Island, reproduced in make this tardy but grateful ac- 

Berkeley s Life and Correspondence knowledgement. 
and here, I am indebted to Colonel 


bought a farm, and built a house. In this island-home, 
named Whitehall, he lived for more than two years- 
years of domestic happiness, and of resumed study, much 
interrupted since he left Dublin in 1713. The house 
may still be seen, a little aside from the road that runs 
eastward from Newport, about three miles from the town. 
It is built of wood. The south-west room was probably 
the library. The ocean is seen in the distance, while 
orchards and groves offer the shade and silence which 
soothed the thinker in his recluse life. No invitations 
of the three companions of his voyage \ who had migrated 
to Boston, could allure him from this retreat, where he 
diverted his anxieties about Bermuda by the thoughts 
which found expression in the dialogues of Alciphron, 
redolent of Rhode Island and the invigorating breezes of 
its ocean shore. Tradition tells that much of Alciphron was 
the issue of meditation in the open air, at a favourite retreat, 
beneath the Hanging Rocks, which commands an extensive 
view of the beach and the ocean ; and the chair in which 
he sat in this alcove is still preserved with veneration. 

While Berkeley loved domestic quiet at Whitehall 2 and 
the still air of delightful studies/ he mixed occasionally 
in the society of Newport. He found it not uncongenial, 
and soon after he was settled at Whitehall he led the way 
in forming a club, which held occasional meetings, the 
germ of the Redwood Library, still a useful Newport 
institution. His own house was a place of meeting for 
the New England missionaries. 

Soon after his arrival in Rhode Island, Berkeley was 
visited by the Reverend Samuel Johnson, missionary at 
Stratford, an acute and independent thinker, one of the two 
contemporary representatives of philosophy in America. 

1 James, Dalton, and Smibert. Rev. Dr. E. E. Hale, and others. 

- Whitehall, having fallen into This good work was completed 

decay, has been lately restored in the summer of 1900 ; and the 

by the pious efforts of Mrs. Living- house is now as nearly as possible 

ston Mason, in concert with the in the state in which Berkeley left it. 


The other was Jonathan Edwards, at that time Congrega 
tional minister at Northampton on the Connecticut river. 
They had both adopted a conception of the meaning and 
office of the material world in the economy of existence that 
was in many respects similar to Berkeley s . It seems that 
Berkeley s book of Principles had before this fallen into 
Johnson s hands. He hastened to visit the author when he 
heard of his arrival. A succession of visits and a life-long 
correspondence followed. The non-existence of Matter/ 
interpreted as a whimsical and even insane paradox, 
was found by Johnson to mean the absence of un- 
realisable Substance behind the real material world that 
is presented to our senses, and of unrealisable Power in 
the successive sense-presented appearances of which alone 
we are percipient. He came to see the real existence 
of the things of sense in the constant order of the data 
of sense, through which we gain our knowledge of the 
existence of our fellow men, and of the omnipresent 
constant Providence of God ; whose Ideas are the true 
archetypes of the visible world. He adopted and applied 
this conception with a lucidity and force which give him 
a high place among American thinkers. 

All the while a cloud darkened the recluse life at 
Whitehall. In June, 1729, Berkeley explains to Percival 
the circumstances and secrecy of his departure from 
England : 

Before I left England I was reduced to a difficult 
situation. Had I continued there, the report would have 
obtained (which I had found beginning to spread) that 
1 had dropped the design, after it had cost me and my 
friends so much trouble and expense. On the other 
hand, if I had taken leave of my friends, even those who 
assisted and approved my undertaking would have con 
demned my coming abroad before the King s bounty was 

1 See vol. Ill, Appendix C. 


influences, he will continue to accomplish, some portion at 
least of the results which he had aimed at in the founding 
of his university. It is the old story over again ; the 
tragedy of a Providence wiser than man s foresight ; God 
giving the victory to His faithful servant even through 
the bitterness of overruling him and defeating him 1 . 
American Empire, as we now see it with its boundless 
beneficent influence, is at least an imperfect realisation 
of Berkeley s dream. 

Berkeley s head quarters were in London, in Green 
Street, for more than two years after the return to England 
in the beginning of 1732. Extant correspondence with 
Lord Percival ends in Rhode Island, and our picture of 
the two years in London is faintly formed by letters to 
Prior and Johnson. These speak of ill-health, and breathe 
a less sanguine spirit. The brilliant social life of former 
visits was less attractive now, even if old friends had 
remained. But Swift had quitted England for ever, and 
Steele had followed Addison to the grave. Gay, the 
common friend of Berkeley and Pope, died soon after the 
return from Rhode Island, and Arbuthnot was approaching 
his end at Hampstead. Samuel Clarke had passed away 
when Berkeley was at Whitehall ; but Seeker now held 
the rectory of St. James s, and Butler was in studious 
retirement on the Wear; while Pope was at Twicken 
ham, publishing his Essay on Man, receiving visits from 
Bolingbroke, or visiting Lord Bathurst at Cirencester 
Park. Queen Caroline, too, was holding her receptions at 
Kensington ; but those who imagine (as you write), he 
tells Prior in January, 1734, that I have been making my 
court here all this time, would never believe (what is most 
true) that I have not been at the Court or at the Minister s 
but once these seven years. The care of my health and 

1 Three Men of Letters, by Moses academical and other institutions 
Coit Tyler (New York, 1895). that are directly or indirectly, due 
He records some of the American to Berkeley 


the love of retirement have prevailed over whatsoever 
ambition might have come to my share. There is a hint 
of a visit to Oxford, at Commemoration in 1733, when his 
friend Seeker received the honorary degree. 

Soon after he had settled in London, the fruit of his 
studies in Rhode Island was given to the world in the 
Seven Dialogues of Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher. 
Here the philosophical inspiration of his early years is 
directed to sustain faith in Divine Moral Order, and in 
the Christian Revelation. Alciphron is the longest, and in 
literary form perhaps the most finished of his works, un 
surpassed in lively strokes of irony and satire. Yet if it 
is to be regarded as a philosophical justification of religion, 
as against modern agnosticism, one may incline to the 
judgment of Mr. Leslie Stephen, that it is the least 
admirable of all its author s admirable works. As we have 
seen, the sect of free-thinkers was early the object of Berke 
ley s ridicule and sarcasm. They claimed for themselves 
wide intellectual vision, yet they were blind to the deep 
realities of the universe ; they took exclusive credit for 
freedom of thought, although their thinking was confined 
within the narrow compass of our data in sense. The 
book of Principles, the Dialogues, and the De Motu of 
his early years, were designed to bring into clear light the 
absolute dependence of the world that is presented to our 
senses on Omnipresent Spirit ; and the necessary subjec 
tion of all changes in our surroundings to the immediate 
agency or providence of God. Boasted free-thinking was 
really a narrow atheism, so he believed, in which mean 
ingless Matter usurped the place that belonged in reason 
to God, and he employed reason to disclose Omnipotent 
Intelligence in and behind the phenomena that are pre 
sented to the senses in impotent natural sequence. 

The causes of the widespread moral corruption of the 
Old World, which had moved Berkeley so profoundly, 


seem to have been pondered anew during his recluse life 
in Rhode Island. The decline of morals was explained 
by the deification of Matter : consequent life of sensuous 
pleasure accounted for decay of religion. That vice is hurt 
ful was argued by free-thinkers like Mandeville to be a 
vulgar error, and a fallacious demonstration was offered 
of its utility. That virtue is intrinsically beautiful was 
taught by Shaftesbury ; but Berkeley judged the abstract 
beauty, with which l minute philosophers were contented, 
unfit to move ordinary human beings to self-sacrificing 
action ; for this involves devotion to a Perfect Person 
by whom goodness is finally distributed. Religion alone 
inspires the larger and higher life, in presenting distribu 
tive justice personified on the throne of the universe, 
instead of abstract virtue. 

The turning-point in Alciphron is in man s vision of 
God. This is pressed in the Fourth Dialogue. The 
free-thinker asserts that the notion of a Deity, or 
some invisible power, is of all prejudices the most un 
conquerable; the most signal example of belief without 
reason for believing. He demands proof such proof as 
every man of sense requires of a matter of fact. . . . Should 
a man ask, why I believe there is a king of Great Britain ? 
I might answer, Because I had seen him. Or a king of 
Spain ? Because I had seen those who saw him. But as 
for this King of kings, I neither saw Him myself, nor any one 
else that ever did see Him. To which Euphranor replies, 
1 What if it should appear that God really speaks to man ; 
would this content you ? What if it shall appear plainly that 
God speaks to men by the intervention and use of arbitrary, 
outward, sensible signs, having no resemblance or necessary 
connexion with the things they stand for and suggest ; if 
it shall appear that, by innumerable combinations of these 
signs, an endless variety of things is discovered and made 
known to us ; and that we are thereby instructed or 
informed in their different natures; that we are taught 


and admonished what to shun and what to pursue ; and 
are directed how to regulate our motions, and how to act 
with respect to things distant from us, as well in time as 
place : will this content you ? Euphranor accordingly 
proceeds to shew that Visible Nature is a Language, in 
which the Universal Power that is continually at work is 
speaking to us all, in a way similar to that in which 
our fellow men speak to us ; so that we have as much 
(even more) reason to believe in the existence of the 
Universal Person who is the Speaker, as we have to 
believe in the existence of persons around us; who become 
known to us, when they too employ sense-symbols, in 
the words and actions by which we discover that we 
are not alone in the universe. For men are really living 
spirits : their bodies are only the sign of their spiritual 
personality. And it is so with God, who is also revealed 
in the visible world as a Spirit. In a strict sense, 
says Euphranor, I do not see Alciphron, but only such 
visible signs and tokens as suggest and infer the being 
of that invisible thinking principle or soul. Even so, 
in the self-same manner, it seems to me that, though I 
cannot with eyes of flesh behold the invisible God, 
yet I do, in the strictest sense, behold and perceive, 
by all my senses, such signs and tokens ... as suggest, 
indicate, and demonstrate an invisible God as cer 
tainly, and with the same evidence, at least, as any 
other signs, perceived by sense, do suggest to me the 
existence of your soul, spirit, or thinking principle ; which 
I am convinced of only by a few signs or effects, and the 
motions of one small organised body ; whereas I do, at 
all times, and in all places, perceive sensible signs which 
evince the being of God. In short, God is the living 
Soul of the Universe ; as you and I are the living souls 
that keep our bodies and their organs in significant 
motion. We can interpret the character of God in the 
history of the universe, even as we can interpret the 


character of our neighbour by observing his words and 
outward actions. 

This overwhelmed Alciphron. You stare to find that 
God is not far from any one of us, and that in Him we live 
and move and have our being/ rejoins Euphranor. You 
who, in the beginning of this conference, thought it strange 
that God should leave Himself without a witness, do now 
think it strange the witness should be so full and clear. 
I must own I do/ was the reply. I never imagined it could 
be pretended that we saw God with our fleshly eyes, as 
plain as we see any human person whatsoever, and that He 
daily speaks to our senses in a manifest and clear dialect/ 

Although this reasoning satisfied Alciphron, others may 
think it inconclusive. How one is able to discover the ex 
istence of other persons, and even the meaning of finite 
personality, are themselves questions full of speculative 
difficulty. But, waiving this, the analogy between the 
relation of a human spirit to its body, and that of the 
Omnipresent and Omnipotent Spirit to the Universe of 
things and persons, fails in several respects. God is 
supposed to be continually creating the world by constant 
and continuous Providence, and His Omniscience is sup 
posed to comprehend all its concrete relations : a man s 
body is not absolutely dependent on the man s own power 
and providence ; and even his scientific knowledge of it, in 
itself and in its relations, is scanty and imperfect, as his 
power over it is limited and conditioned. Then the little 
that a man gradually learns of what is going on in the sur 
rounding universe is dependent on his senses : Omniscience 
comprehends Immensity and Eternity (so we suppose) in a 
single intuition. Our bodies, moreover, are visible things: 
the universe, this organism of God, is crowded with per 
sons, to whom there is nothing corresponding within the 
organism which reveals one man to another. 

But this is not all. After Euphranor has found that the 
Universal Power is Universal Spirit, this is still an in- 


adequate God ; for what we want to know is what sort of 
Spirit God is. Is God omnipotent or of limited power, 
regarded ethically, fair or unfair in His treatment of per 
sons ; good or evil, according to the highest yet attained 
conception of goodness ; a God of love, or a devil omni 
potent? I infer the character of my neighbour from his 
words and actions, patent to sense in the gradual outward 
evolution of his life. I am asked to infer the character 
of the Omnipresent Spirit from His words and actions, 
manifested in the universe of things and persons. But 
we must not attribute to the Cause more than it reveals 
of itself in its effects. God and men alike are known by 
the effects they produce. The Universal Power is, on this 
condition, righteous, fair, and loving to the degree in 
which those conceptions are implied in His visible em 
bodiment : to affirm more or other than this, on the basis 
of analogy alone, is either to indulge in baseless conjec 
ture, or to submit blindly to dogma and authority. 

Now the universe, as far as it comes within the range 
of human experience on this planet, is full of suffering 
and moral disorder. The religious hypothesis of a per 
fectly righteous and benevolent God is here offered to 
account for the appearances which the universe presents 
to us. But do these signify exact distributive justice ? 
Is not visible nature apparently cruel and unrelenting? 
If we infer cruelty in the character of a man, because his 
bodily actions cause undeserved suffering, must we not, 
by this analogy, infer in like manner regarding the char 
acter of the Supreme Spirit, manifested in the progressive 
evolution of the universal organism ? 

We find it impossible to determine with absolute cer 
tainty the character even of our fellow men, from their im 
perfectly interpreted words and actions, so that each man 
is more or less a mystery to his fellows. The mystery 
deepens when we try to read the character of animals, 
to interpret the motives which determine the overt acts 



of dogs or horses. And if we were able to communicate by 
visible signs with the inhabitants of other planets, with 
how much greater difficulty should we draw conclusions 
from their visible acts regarding their character? But if 
this is so when we use the data of sense for reading 
the character of finite persons, how infinite must be the 
difficulty of reading the character of the Eternal Spirit, 
in and through the gradual evolution of the universe of 
things and persons, which in this reasoning is supposed 
to be His bod}^; and the history of that universe the facts 
of His biography, in and by which He is eternally reveal 
ing Himself! For we know nothing about the unbegin- 
ning and unending. The universe of persons is assumed 
to have no end] and I know not why its evolution must 
be supposed to have had a beginning, or that there ever was 
a time in which God was unmanifested, to finite persons. 

Shall we in these circumstances turn with Euphranor, 
in the Fifth and Sixth Dialogues, to professed revelation of 
the character of the Universal Mind presented in miracu 
lous revelation, by inspired prophets and apostles, who are 
brought forward as authorities able to speak infallibly to 
the character of God ? If the whole course of nature, or 
endless evolution of events, is the Divine Spirit revealed 
in omnipresent activity, what room is there for any other less 
regular revelation ? The universe of common experience, 
it is implied by Berkeley, is essentially miraculous, and 
therefore absolutely perfect. Is it consistent with fairness, 
and benevolence, and love of goodness in all moral agents 
for its own sake, that the Christian revelation should 
have been so long delayed, and be still so incompletely 
made known ? Is not the existence of wicked persons 
on this or any other planet, wicked men or devils, a 
dark spot in the visible life of God? Does not perfect 
goodness in God mean restoration of goodness in men, 
for its own sake, apart from their merit ; and must not 
Omnipotent Goodness, infinitely opposite to all evil, either 


convert to goodness all beings in the universe who have 
made themselves bad, or else relieve the universe of their 
perpetual presence in ever-increasing wickedness ? 

Sceptical criticism of this sort has found expression 
in the searching minute philosophy of a later day than 
Berkeley s and Alciphron s ; as in David Hume and 
Voltaire, and in the agnosticism of the nineteenth century. 
Was not Euphranor too ready to yield to the demand 
for a visible God, whose character had accordingly to be 
determined by what appears in nature and man, under 
the conditions of our limited and contingent experience? Do 
we not need to look below data of sensuous experience, and 
among the presuppositions which must consciously or un 
consciously be taken for granted in all man s dealings 
with the environment in which he finds himself, for the 
root of trustworthy experience ? On merely physical 
reasoning, like that of Euphranor, the righteous love of 
God is an unwarranted inference, and it even seems to be 
contradicted by visible facts presented in the history of 
the world. But if Omnipotent Goodness must a priori be 
attributed to the Universal Mind, as an indispensable 
condition for man s having reliable intercourse of any 
sort with nature ; if this is the primary postulate necessary 
to the existence of truth of any kind then the religious 
hypothesis that God is Good, according to the highest 
conception of goodness, is no groundless fancy, but the 
fundamental faith-venture in which man has to live. It 
must stand in reason ; unless it can be demonstrated that 
the mixture of good and evil which the universe presents, 
necessarily contradicts this fundamental presupposition : 
and if so, man is lost in pessimistic Pyrrhonism, and can 
assert nothing about anything 1 . 

The religious altruism, however inadequate, which 

1 The thought implied in this in all human experience. If the 

paragraph is pursued in my Philo- Universal Mind is not ethically per- 

sophy of Theism, in which the ethical feet, the universe (including our 

perfection of the Universal Mind is spiritual constitution; is radically 

taken as the fundamental postulate untrustworthy. 

e 2 


Berkeley offered in Alciphron made some noise at the 
time of its appearance, although its theistic argument 
was too subtle to be popular. The conception of the 
visible world as Divine Visual Language was received 
with ridicule by those who make ridicule the test of 
truth/ although it has made way since. I have not seen 
Dean Berkeley/ Gay the poet writes to Swift in the 
May following the Dean s return, and very soon after 
the appearance of Alciphron, but I have been reading 
his book, and like many parts of it ; but in general think 
with you that it is too speculative. Warburton, with 
admiration for Berkeley, cannot comprehend his philo 
sophy, and Hoadley shewed a less friendly spirit. A 
Letter from a Country Clergyman, attributed to Lord 
Hervey, the Sporus of Pope, was one of several ephem 
eral attacks which the Minute Philosopher encountered in 
the year after its appearance. Three other critics, more 
worthy of consideration, are mentioned in one of Berkeley s 
letters from London to his American friend Johnson at 
Stratford : As to the Bishop of Cork s book, and the 
other book you allude to, the author of which is one 
Baxter, they are both very little considered here ; for which 
reason I have taken no public notice of them. To answer 
objections already answered, and repeat the same things, 
is a needless as well as disagreeable task. Nor should 
I have taken notice of that Letter about Vision, had it 
not been printed in a newspaper, which gave it course, 
and spread it through the kingdom. Besides, the theory 
of Vision I found was somewhat obscure to most people ; for 
which reason I was not displeased at an opportunity to 
explain it 1 . The explanation was given in The Theory 
of Visual Language Vindicated, in January, 1733, as a 
supplement to Alciphron. Its blot is a tone of polemical 
bitterness directed against Shaftesbury -. 

1 Life and Letters of Berkeley, 2 The third Earl of Shaftesbu^, 

p. 222. the pupil of Locke, and author 


Although Berkeley took no public notice of the 
Bishop of Cork s book ] it touched a great question, 
which periodically has awakened controversy, and been 
the occasion of mutual misunderstanding among the con 
troversialists in past ages. Is God knowable by man ; 
or must religion be devotion to an object that is unknow 
able? In one of his first letters to Lord Percival, as we 
saw, Berkeley animadverted on a sermon by the Arch 
bishop of Dublin, which seemed to deny that there was good 
ness, or understanding God, any more than feet or hands. 
An opinion somewhat similar had been attributed to Bishop 
Browne, in his answer to Toland, and afterwards in 1728, 
in his Procedure and Limits of Human Understanding. 

This touched to the quick Berkeley s ultimate con 
ception of the universe, as realisable only in, and there 
fore necessarily dependent on, living mind. We are 
reminded of the famous analogy of Spinoza 2 . If the omni 
present and omnipotent M ind, on which Euphranor rested, 
can be called mind only metaphorically, and can be called 
good only when the term is used without human meaning, 
it may seem to be a matter of indifference whether we have 
unknowable Matter or unknowable Mind at the root of 
things and persons. Both are empty words. The Power 
universally at work is equally unintelligible, equally unfit 
to be the object of worship in the final venture of faith, 
whether we use the term Matter or the term Mind. 

of the Characteristics. In addition by Analogy with Things Natural 

to the well-known biography by and Human, by the Author of The 

Dr. Fowler, the present eminent Procedure, Extent and Limits of the 

Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, Shaftes- Human Understanding. The Divine 

bury has been interpreted in two Analogy appeared in 1733, and 

other lately published works a the Procedure in 1728. 
Life by Benjamin Rand, Ph.D. 2 Spinoza argues that what is 

(1900), and an edition of the called understanding and will in 

Characteristics, with an Introduction God, has no more in common with 

and Notes, by John M. Robertson human understanding and will than 

(1900 . the dog-star in the heavens has 

1 The title of this book is Things with the animal we call a dog. See 

Divine and Supernatural conceived Spinoza s Ethica, I. 17, Scholium. 


The universe is neither explained nor sustained by a 
mind that is mind only metaphorically. To call this God 
is to console us with an empty abstraction. The minutest 
philosopher is ready to grant with Alciphron that there 
is a God in this indefinite sense ; since nothing can be 
inferred from such an account of God about conduct 
or religion. 

The Bishop of Cork replied to the strictures of 
Euphranor in the Minute Philosopher. He qualified and 
explained his former utterances in some two hundred 
dull pages of his Divine Analogy, which hardly touch 
the root of the matter. The question at issue is the 
one which underlies modern agnosticism. It was raised 
again in Britain in the nineteenth century, with deeper 
insight, by Sir William Hamilton; followed by Dean Mansel, 
in controversy with F. D. Maurice, at the point of view 
of Archbishop King and Bishop Browne, in philosophical 
vindication of the mysteries of Christian faith ; by Mr. 
Herbert Spencer and by Huxley in a minute philosophy 
that has been deepened by Hume s criticism of the rationale 
of theism in Berkeley 1 . 

Andrew Baxter s Inquiry into the Nature of the Human 
Soul, referred to in Berkeley s letter to Johnson, appeared in 
1 733. It has a chapter on Dean Berkeley s Scheme against 
the existence of Matter and a Material World, which 
is worthy of mention because it is the earliest elaborate 
criticism of the New Principle, although it had then been 
before the world for more than twenty years. The title 
of the chapter shews Baxter s imperfect comprehension 
of the proposition which he attempts to refute. It suggests 

1 The question of the knowable- of Hamilton s critics in this matter, 
ness of God, or Omnipotent Moral The subject is lucidly treated by 
Perfection in the concrete, enters Professor Andrew Seth (Pringle- 
largely into recent philosophical and Pattison) in his Lectures on Theism 
theological discussion in Britain. (1897) and in a supplement to Cal- 
Calderwood, in his Philosophy of derwood s Life (1900). So also 
the Infinite (1854), was one of the Huxley s David Hume, and Pro- 
earliest, and not the least acute, fessor Iverach s Is God Knowable ? 


that Berkeley argued for the non-existence of the things 
we see and touch, instead of for their necessary dependence 
on, or subordination to, realising percipient Mind, so far 
as they are concrete realities. Baxter, moreover, was 
a Scot; and his criticism is interesting as a foretaste 
of the protracted discussion of the ideal theory by Reid 
and his friends, and later on by Hamilton. But Baxter s 
book was not the first sign of Berkeley s influence in 
Scotland. We are told by Dugald Stewart, that the 
novelty of Berkeley s paradox attracted very powerfully 
the attention of a set of young men who were then 
prosecuting their studies at Edinburgh, who formed them 
selves into a Society for the express purpose of soliciting 
from him an explanation of some parts of his theory which 
seemed to them obscurely or equivocally expressed. To 
this correspondence the amiable and excellent prelate seems 
to have given every encouragement ; and I have been 
told on the best authority that he was accustomed to say 
that his reasoning had been nowhere better understood 
than by this club of young Scotsmen V Thus, and after 
wards through Hume and Reid, Berkeley is at the root 
of philosophy in Scotland. 

The two years of indifferent health and authorship in 
London sum up what may be called the American period 
of Berkeley s life. Early in 1734 letters to Prior open 
a new vista in his history. He was nominated to the 
bishopric of Cloyne in the south of Ireland, and we have 
now to follow him to the remote region which was his 
home for eighteen years. The interest of the philosophic 
Queen, and perhaps some compensation for the Bermuda 
disappointment, may explain the appearance of the meta 
physical and social idealist in the place where he shone 
as a star of the first magnitude in the Irish Church of the 
eighteenth century. 

1 Stewart s Works, vol. I. pp. 350-1. 



LATER YEARS (1734-53). 

In May, 1734, Berkeley was consecrated as Bishop of 
Cloyne, in St. Paul s Church, Dublin. Except occasional 
visits, he had been absent from Ireland for more than 
twenty years. He returned to spend eighteen years of 
almost unbroken seclusion in his remote diocese. It suited 
a growing inclination to a recluse, meditative life, which had 
been encouraged by circumstances in Rhode Island. The 
eastern and northern part in the county of Cork formed 
his diocese, bounded on the west by Cork harbour, and 
on the east by the beautiful Blackwater and the mountains 
of Waterford ; the sea, which was its southern boundary, 
approached within two miles of the episcopal residence in 
the village of Cloyne. 

As soon as he was settled, he resumed study with 
unabated attention/ but still with indifferent health. 
Travelling had become irksome to him, and at Cloyne 
he was almost as much removed as he had been in Rhode 
Island from the thinking world. Cork took the place of 
Newport ; but Cork was twenty miles from Cloyne, while 
Newport was only three miles from Whitehall. His epis 
copal neighbour at Cork was Bishop Browne, the critic of 
Alciphron. Isaac Gervais, afterwards Dean of Tuam, 
often enlivened the manse-house at Cloyne by his wit 
and intercourse with the great world. Seeker, the Bishop 
of Bristol, and Benson, the Bishop of Gloucester, now 
and then exchanged letters with him, and correspondence 
was kept up as of old with Prior at Dublin and Johnson 
at Stratford. But there is no trace of intercourse with 
Swift, who was wearing out an unhappy old age, or with 
Pope, almost the only survivor of the brilliant society of 
other years. We are told, indeed, that the beauty of Cloyne 


was so described to the bard of Twickenham, by the pen 
which in former days had described Ischia, that Pope 
was almost moved to visit it. And a letter from Seeker 
in February, I735 1 , contains this scrap: Your friend 
Mr. Pope is publishing small poems every now and then, 
full of much wit and not a little keenness V Our common 
friend, Dr. Butler/ he adds, hath almost completed a set 
of speculations upon the credibility of religion from its 
analogy to the constitution and course of nature, which 
I believe in due time you will read with pleasure. Butler s 
Analogy appeared in the following year. But I have 
found no remains of correspondence between Berkeley 
and their common friend ; the two most illustrious 
religious thinkers of the Anglican communion. 

When he left London in 1734 Berkeley was on the eve 
of what sounded like a mathematical controversy, although 
it was in his intention metaphysical, and was suggested 
by the Seventh Dialogue in Alciphron. In one of his letters 
to Prior, early in that year, he told him that though he 
could not read, owing to ill health, yet his thought was 
as distinct as ever, and that for amusement he passed his 
early hours in thinking of certain mathematical matters 
which may possibly produce something . This turned, it 
seems, upon a form of scepticism among contemporary 
mathematicians, occasioned by the presence of mysteries 
of religion. The Analyst was the issue. It was followed 

1 Berkeley MSS. possessed by Archdeacon Rose. 

2 Pope s poetic tribute to Berkeley belongs to this period 

Even in a bishop I can spy desert ; 
Seeker is decent ; Rundle has a heart : 
Manners with candour are to Benson given, 
To Berkeley every virtue under heaven. 

Epilogue to the Satires, 

Also his satirical tribute to the critics of Berkeley 

Truth s sacred fort th exploded laugh shall win ; 
And Coxcombs vanquish Berkeley with a grin. 

Essay on Satire, Part II. 

3 Berkeley s Life and Letters, p. 210. \ 


by a controversy in which some of the most eminent 
mathematicians took part. Mathematica exeunt in mysteria 
might have been the motto of the Analyst. The assump 
tions in mathematics, it is argued, are as mysterious as 
those of theologians and metaphysicians. Mathematicians 
cannot translate into perfectly intelligible thought their 
own doctrines in fluxions. If man s knowledge of God 
is rooted in mystery, so too is mathematical analysis. 
Pure science at last loses itself in propositions which 
usefully regulate action, but which cannot be compre 
hended. This is the drift of the argument in the Analyst ; 
but perhaps Berkeley s inclination to extreme conclusions, 
and to what is verbally paradoxical, led him into doubt 
ful positions in the controversy to which the Analyst gave 
rise. Instead of ultimate imperfect comprehensibility, he 
seems to attribute absolute contradiction to the Newtonian 
fluxions. Baxter, in his Inquiry, had asserted that things 
in Berkeley s book of Principles forced the author to 
suspect that even mathematics may not be very sound 
knowledge at the bottom. The metaphysical argument 
of the Analyst was obscured in a cloud of mathematics. 

The social condition of Ireland attracted Berkeley almost 
as soon as he was settled in Cloyne. He was surrounded 
by a large native Irish population and a small group of 
English colonists. The natives, long governed in the in 
terest of the stranger, had never learned to exert and govern 
themselves. The self-reliance which Berkeley preached 
fifteen years before, as a mean for preventing the ruin 
of Great Britain, was more wanting in Ireland, where the 
simplest maxims of social economy were neglected. It 
was a state of things fitted to move one who was too 
independent to permit his aspirations to be confined to the 
ordinary routine of the Irish episcopate, and who could 
not forget the favourite moral maxim of his life. 

The social chaos of Ireland was the occasion of what 


to some may be the most interesting of Berkeley s 
writings. His thoughts found vent characteristically in 
a series of penetrating practical queries. The First Part 
of the Querist appeared in 1735, anonymously, edited by 
Dr. Madden of Dublin, who along with Prior had lately 
founded a Society for promoting industrial arts in Ireland. 
The Second and Third Parts were published in the 
two following years. A Discourse to Magistrates occa 
sioned by the Enormous Licence and Irreligion of the Times, 
which appeared in 1736, was another endeavour, with 
like philanthropic intention. And the only important 
break in his secluded life at Cloyne, in eighteen years of 
residence, was when he went for some months to Dublin 
in 1737, to render social service to Ireland in the Irish 
House of Lords. 

His metaphysic, at first encountered by ridicule, was 
now beginning to receive more serious treatment. A 
Scotsman had already recognised it. In 1739 another 
and more famous Scotsman, David Hume, refers thus to 
Berkeley in one of the opening sections of his Treatise of 
Human Nature : A very material question has been 
started concerning abstract or general ideas whether they 
be general or particular in the mind s conception of them. 
A great philosopher, Dr. Berkeley, has disputed the 
received opinion in this particular, and has asserted that 
all general ideas are nothing but particular ones, annexed 
to a certain term which gives them a more extensive 
signification, and makes them recall upon occasion other 
individuals which are similar to them. I look upon this 
to be one of the greatest and most valuable discoveries 
that has been made of late years in the republic of letters. 
It does not appear that Berkeley heard of Hume. 

A curious interest began to engage him about this time. 
The years following 1739 were years of suffering in the 


Irish diocese. It was a time of famine followed by wide 
spread disease. His correspondence is full of allusions 
to this. It had consequences of lasting importance. Sur 
rounded by disease, he pondered remedies. Experience in 
Rhode Island and among American Indians suggested 
the healing properties of tar. Further experiments in tar, 
combined with meditation and much curious reading, deep 
ened and expanded his metaphysical philosophy. Tar 
seemed to grow under his experiments, and in his thoughts, 
into a Panacea for giving health to the organism on which 
living mind in man is meanwhile dependent. This natural 
dependence of health upon tar introduced thoughts of the 
interdependence of all things, and then of the imme 
diate dependence of all in nature upon Omnipresent 
and Omnipotent Mind. The living Mind that under 
lies the phenomena of the universe began to be conceived 
under a new light. Since his return to the life of thought 
in Rhode Island, he had been immersed in Platonic and 
Neoplatonic literature, and in books of mystical Divinity, 
encouraged perhaps by the mystical disposition attributed 
to his wife. An eccentric ingenuity connected the scientific 
experiments and prescriptions with the Idealism of Plato 
and Plotinus. The natural law according to which tar- 
water was universally restorative set his mind to work 
about the immanence of living Mind. He mused about 
a medicine thus universally beneficial, and the thought 
occurred that it must be naturally charged with pure 
invisible fire, the most subtle and elastic of bodies, and 
the vital element in the universe ; and water might be 
the natural cause which enables this elementary fire to 
be drawn out of tar and transferred to vegetable and 
animal organisms. But the vital fire could be only a 
natural cause ; which in truth is no efficient cause at all, 
but only a sign of divine efficiency transmitted through the 
world of sense : the true cause of this and all other natural 
effects must be the immanent Mind or Reason in which 


we all participate ; for in God we live and move and have 
our being. 

It is thus that Berkeley s thought culminates in Siris, 
that Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries con 
cerning the Virtues of Tar-water, and divers other subjects 
connected together and arising one from another, which 
appeared in 1744. This little book made more noise at 
the time of its appearance than any of his books ; but not 
because of its philosophy, which was lost in its medicinal 
promise to mankind of immunity from disease. Yet it was 
Berkeley s last attempt to express his ultimate conception 
of the universe in its human and divine relations. When 
Siris is compared with the book of Principles, the immense 
difference in tone and manner of thought shews the 
change wrought in the intervening years. The sanguine 
argumentative gladiatorship of the Principles is exchanged 
for pensive speculation, which acknowledges the weakness 
of human understanding, when it is face to face with 
the Immensities and Eternities. Compare the opening 
sections of the Introduction to the Principles with the 
closing sections of Siris. The contingent data of our experi 
ence are now felt to be insufficient, and there is a more 
or less conscious grounding of the Whole in the eternal 
and immutable Ideas of Reason. Strictly, the sense 
knows nothing. We perceive, indeed, sounds by hearing 
and characters by sight. But we are not therefore said to 
understand them. . . . Sense and experience acquaint us 
with the course and analogy of appearances and natural 
effects : thought, reason, intellect, introduce us into the 
knowledge of their causes. . . . The principles of science 
are neither objects of sense nor imagination : intellect and 
reason are alone the sure guides to truth. So the shifting 
basis of the earlier thought is found to need support in 
the intellectual and moral faith that must be involved in 
all reasonable human intercourse with the phenomena 
presented in the universe. 


The inadequate thought of God, as only a Spirit or 
Person supreme among the spirits or persons, in and 
through whom the material world is realised, a thought 
which pervades Alciphron, makes way in Sin s for the 
thought of God as the infinite omnipresent Ground, or 
final sustaining Power, immanent in Nature and Man, 
to which Berkeley had become accustomed in Neoplatonic 
and Alexandrian metaphysics. Comprehending God and 
the creatures in One general notion, we may say that all 
things together (God and the universe of Space and Time) 
make One Universe, or TO Hav. But if we should say that 
all things make One God, this would be an erroneous 
notion of God ; but would not amount to atheism, as 
long as Mind or Intellect was admitted to be TO fjyt- 
/x-oi/iKoV, or the governing part. ... It will not seem just to 
fix the imputation of atheism upon those philosophers who 
hold the doctrine of TO f Ev. It is thus that he now regards 
God. Metaphysics and theology are accordingly one. 

No attempt is made in Stris to articulate the universe 
in the light of unifying Mind or Reason. And we are still 
apt to ask what the truth and goodness at the heart of all 
really mean ; seeing that, as conceived in human minds, 
they vary in the gradual evolution of intellect and con 
science in men. Omnia exeunt in mysteria is the tone of 
Stris at the end. The universe of reality is too much 
for our articulate intellectual digestion : it must be left 
for omniscience; it transcends finite intelligence and 
the via media of human understanding. Man must be 
satisfied to pass life, in the infinitesimal interval between 
birth and death, as a faith-venture, which he may convert 
into a growing insight, as the generations roll on, but 
which can never be converted into complete knowledge. 
In this state we must be satisfied to make the best of 
those glimpses within our reach. It is Plato s remark in 
his Thecetetus, that while we sit still we are never the 
wiser ; but going into the river, and moving up and down, 


is the way to discover its depths and shallows. If we 
exercise and bestir ourselves, we may even here discover 
something. The eye by long use comes to see even in the 
darkest cavern ; and there is no subject so obscure but we 
may discern some glimpse of truth by long poring on it. 
Truth is the cry of all, but the game of a few. Certainly 
where it is the chief passion it doth not give way to vulgar 
cares and views ; nor is it contented with a little ardour in 
the early time of life : a time perhaps to pursue, but not 
so fit to weigh and revise. He that would make a real 
progress in knowledge must dedicate his age as well as 
his youth, the later growth as well as the first-fruits, at 
the altar of Truth. Such was Berkeley, and such were 
his last words in philosophy. They may suggest the 
attitude of Bacon when, at a different view-point, he 
disclaims exhaustive system : I have made a beginning 
of the work : the fortune of the human race will give 
the issue. For the matter in hand is no mere felicity 
of speculation, but the real business and fortunes of the 
human race 1 . 

While Berkeley s central thought throughout his life is 
concerned with God as the one omnipresent and omni 
potent Providential Agent in the universe, he says little 
about the other final question, of more exclusively human 
interest, which concerns the destiny of men. That men 
are born into a universe which, as the visible expres 
sion of Moral Providence, must be scientifically and 
ethically trustworthy; certain not to put man to con 
fusion intellectually or morally, seeing that it could not 
otherwise be trusted for such in our ultimate venture of 
faith this is one thing. That all persons born into it 
are certain to continue living self-consciously for ever, 
is another thing. This is not obviously implied in the 
former presupposition, whether or not it can be deduced 

1 Bacon s Novuiti Organuni. Distributio Operis. 


from it, or else discovered by other means. Although 
man s environment is essentially Divine, and wholly in 
its smallest details Providential, may not his body, in 
its living organisation from physical birth until physical 
death, be the measure of the continuance of his self-con 
scious personality? Is each man s immortal existence, like 
God s, indispensable? 

Doubt about the destiny of men after they die is, at 
the end of the nineteenth century, probably more prevalent 
than doubt about the underlying Providence of God, and 
His constant creative activity; more perhaps than it was 
in the days of Toland, and Collins, and Tindal. Future life 
had been made so familiar to the imagination by the early 
and mediaeval Church, and afterwards by the Puritans, 
as in Milton, Bunyan, and Jonathan Edwards, that it then 
seemed to the religious mind more real than anything 
that is seen and touched. The habit wholly formed by 
natural science is apt to dissipate this and to make a 
human life lived under conditions wholly strange to its 
minute philosophy appear illusory. 

A section in the book of Principles * in which the common 
argument for the natural immortality of the human soul 
is reproduced, strengthened by his new conception of 
what the reality of body means, is Berkeley s metaphysical 
contribution for determining between the awful alternatives 
of annihilation or continued self-conscious life after physical 
death. The subject is touched, in a less recondite way, 
in two of his papers in the Guardian, and in the Dis 
course delivered in Trinity College Chapel in 1708, in 
which a revelation of the immortality of men is presented 
as the special gospel of Jesus Christ. To argue, as 
Berkeley does in the Principles, that men cannot be an 
nihilated at death, because they are spiritual substances 
having powers independent of the sequences of nature, 
implies assumptions regarding finite persons which are 
1 Section 141. 


open to criticism. The justification in reason for our 
venture of faith that Omnipotent Goodness is at the 
heart of the universe is that without this presupposition 
we can have no reasonable intercourse, scientific or other 
wise, with the world of things and persons in which 
we find ourselves ; for reason and will are then alike 
paralysed by universal distrust. But it can hardly be 
maintained a priori that men, or other spiritual beings in 
the universe, are equally with God indispensable to its 
natural order; so that when they have once entered on 
conscious existence they must always continue to exist 
consciously. Is not the philosophical justification of 
man s hope of endless life ethical rather than meta 
physical ; founded on that faith in the justice and goodness 
of the Universal Mind which has to be taken for granted 
in every attempt to interpret experience, with its mixture 
of good and evil, in this evanescent embodied life ? Can 
a life such as this is be all for men, in a universe that, 
because it is essentially Divine, must operate towards the 
extinction of the wickedness which now makes it a mystery 
of Omnipotent Goodness? 

A cheerful optimism appears in Berkeley s habit of 
thought about death, as we have it in his essays in 
the Guardian : a sanguine apprehension of a present 
preponderance of good, and consequent anticipation of 
greater good after death ; unlike those whose pessimistic 
temperament induces a lurid picture of eternal moral 
disorder. But his otherwise active imagination seldom 
makes philosophy a meditation upon death. He does not 
seem to have exercised himself in the way those do who 
find in the prospect of being in the twenty-first century 
as they were in the first, what makes them appalled that 
they have ever come at all into transitory percipient life ; 
or as those others who recoil from an unbodied life after 
physical death, as infinitely more appalling than the thought 
of being transported in this body into another planet, or 



even to a material world outside our solar system. In 
one of his letters to Johnson J he does approach the 
unbodied life, and in a characteristic way : 

I see no difficulty in conceiving a change of state, such 
as is vulgarly called death, as well without as with material 
substance. It is sufficient for that purpose that we allow 
sensible bodies, i.e. such as are immediately perceived 
by sight and touch ; the existence of which I am so far 
from questioning, as philosophers are used to do, that 
I establish it, I think, upon evident principles. Now it 
seems very easy to conceive the soul to exist in a separate 
state (i.e. divested from those limits and laws of motion 
and perception with which she is embarrassed here) and 
to exercise herself on new ideas, without the inter 
vention of these tangible things we call bodies. It is 
even very possible to apprehend how the soul may have 
ideas of colour without an eye, or of sounds without 
an ear 2 . 

But while we may thus be supposed to have all our 
present sensuous experience in an unbodied state, this 
does not enable one to conceive how unbodied persons 
can communicate with one another in the absence of 
all sense signs ; whether of the sort derived from our 
present senses, or from other senses of whose data we 
can in this life have no imagination. 

Berkeley s tar-water enthusiasm lasted throughout the 
rest of his life, and found vent in letters and pamphlets 
in support of his Panacea, from 1744 till 1752. Notwith 
standing this, he was not forgetful of -other interests 
ecclesiastical, and the social ones which he included in 
his large meaning of l ecclesiastical. The Rising under 
Charles Edward in 1745 was the occasion of a Letter to 
the Roman Catholics of Cloyne, characteristically humane 

1 See Editor s Preface to Alciphron. 

2 Compare Essay II in the Guardian with this. 


and liberal. It was followed in 1749 by an Exhortation 
to the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland in a similar spirit ; 
and this unwonted courtesy of an Irish Protestant bishop 
was received by those to whom it was addressed in a corre 
sponding temper. 

It is difficult to determine Berkeley s relation to rival 
schools or parties in Church and State. His disposition 
was too singular and independent for a partisan. Some 
of his early writings, as we have seen, were suspected 
of high Tory and Jacobite leanings ; but his arguments 
in the suspected Discourse were such as ordinary Tories 
and Jacobites failed to understand, and the tenor of his 
words and actions was in the best sense liberal. In reli 
gious thought Sin s might place him among latitudina- 
rians ; perhaps in affinity with the Cambridge Platonists. 
His true place is foremost among the religious philo 
sophers of the Anglican Church ; the first to prepare the 
religious problem for the light in which we are invited 
to look at the universe by modern agnostics, and under 
the modern conception of natural evolution. He is the 
most picturesque figure in that Anglican succession which, 
in the seventeenth century, includes Hooker and Cud- 
worth ; in the eighteenth, Clarke and Butler ; and in the 
nineteenth, may we say Coleridge, in lack of a representative 
in orders; although Mansel, Maurice, Mozley, and Jowett 
are not to be forgotten, nor Isaac Taylor among laymen : 
Newman and Arnold, illustrious otherwise, are hardly 
representatives of metaphysical philosophy. 

A more pensive tone runs through the closing years at 
Cloyne. Attempts were made in vain to withdraw him 
from the remote corner to which he had been so long 
confined. His friends urged his claims for the Irish 
Primacy. I am no man s rival or competitor in this matter, 
were his words to Prior. I am not in love with feasts, 

1 Taylor, in later life, conformed to the Anglican Church. 



and crowds, and visits, and late hours, and strange faces, 
and a hurry of affairs often insignificant. For my own 
private satisfaction, I had rather be master of my time than 
wear a diadem/ Letters to his American friends, Johnson 
and Clap, shew him still moved by the inspiration which 
carried him over the Atlantic, and record his influence in the 
development of American colleges 1 . The home education 
of his three sons was another interest. We are told by 
his widow that he would not trust his sons to mercenary 
hands. Though old and sickly, he performed the con 
stant tedious task himself/ Of the fruit of this home 
education there is little to tell. The death of William, 
his favourite boy, in 1751, was thought to have struck 
too close to his father s heart/ I am a man/ so he writes, 
retired from the amusements, politics, visits, and what 
the world calls pleasure. I had a little friend, educated 
always under mine own eye, whose painting delighted me, 
whose music ravished me, and whose lively gay spirit was 
a continual feast. It has pleased God to take him hence. 
The eldest son, Henry, born in Rhode Island, did not long 
survive his father. George, the third son, was destined 
for Oxford, and this destiny was connected with a new 
project. The life academico-philosophical, which he 
sought in vain to realise in Bermuda, he now hoped to 
find for himself in the city of colleges on the Isis. The 
truth is/ he wrote to Prior as early as September 1746, 
I have a scheme of my own for this long time past, in 
which I propose more satisfaction and enjoyment to 
myself than I could in that high station 2 , which I neither 
solicited, nor so much as wished for. A greater income 
would not tempt me to remove from Cloyne, and set 
aside my Oxford scheme ; which, though delayed by the 
illness of my son r> , yet I am as intent upon it and as much 
resolved as ever. 

1 See Berkeley s Life and Letters, chap. viii. 2 The Primacy. 

3 This seems to have been his eldest son, Henry. 


The last of Berkeley s letters which we have is to Dean 
Gervais. It expresses the feeling with which in April, 
1752, he was contemplating life, on the eve of his departure 
from Cloyne. 

I submit to years and infirmities. My views in this 
world are mean and narrow ; it is a thing in which I have 
small share, and which ought to give me small concern. 
I abhor business, and especially to have to do with great 
persons and great affairs. The evening of life I choose 
to pass in a quiet retreat. Ambitious projects, intrigues 
and quarrels of statesmen, are things I have formerly been 
amused with, but they now seem to be a vain, fugitive 

Four months after this, Berkeley saw Cloyne for the 
last time. In August he quitted it for Oxford, which he 
had long pictured in imagination as the ideal home of his 
old age. When he left Cork in the vessel which carried 
his wife, his daughter, and himself to Bristol, he was 
prostrated by weakness, and had to be taken from 
Bristol to Oxford on a horse-litter. It was late in August 
when they arrived there . 

Our picture of Berkeley at Oxford is dim. According 
to tradition he occupied a house in Holywell Street, near 
the gardens of New College and not far from the cloisters 
of Magdalen. It was a changed world to him. While he 
was exchanging Ireland for England, death was removing 
old English friends. Before he left Cloyne he must have 
heard of the death of Butler in June, at Bath, where 
Benson, at the request of Seeker, affectionately watched 
the last hours of the author of the Analogy. Benson 
followed- Butler in August. 

1 His son George was already south of France for his health, 

settled at Christ Church. Henry, as one of his brother George s 

the eldest son, born in Rhode letters tells us, found among the 

Island, was then abroad in the Johnson MSS. 


We hear of study resumed in improved health in the 
home in Holy well Street. In October a Miscellany, con 
taining several Tracts on various Subjects, by the Bishop 
of Cloyne/ appeared simultaneously in London and 
Dublin. The Tracts were reprints, with the exception 
of Further Thoughts on Tar-water, which may have been 
written before he left Ireland. The third edition of 
Alciphron also appeared in this autumn. But Siris 
is the latest record of his philosophical thought. A 
comparison of the Commonplace Book and the Principles 
with the Analyst and Siris gives the measure of his 
advancement. After the sanguine beginning perhaps the 
comparison leaves a sense of disappointment, when we find 
metaphysics mixed up with mathematics in the Analyst, 
and metaphysics obscurely mixed up with medicine in 
Sin s. 

It is curious that, although in 1752 David Hume s 
Treatise of Human Nature had been before the world for 
thirteen years and his Inquiry concerning Human Under 
standing for four years, there is no allusion to Hume by 
Berkeley. He was Berkeley s immediate successor in the 
eighteenth-century evolution of European thought. The 
sceptical criticism of Hume was applied to the dogmatic reli 
gious philosophy of Berkeley, to be followed in its turn by 
the abstractly rational and the moral reconstructive criticism 
of Kant. Alciphron is, however, expressly referred to by 
Hume ; indirectly, too, throughout the religious agnosticism 
of his Inquiry, also afterwards in the Dialogues on Natural 
Religion, in a vindication of minute philosophy by pro- 
founder reasonings than those which satisfied Lysicles 
and Alciphron. Berkeley, Hume, and Kant are the three 
significant philosophical figures of their century, each 
holding the supreme place successively in its beginning, 
middle, and later years. Perhaps Reid in Scotland did 
more than any other in his generation to make Berkeley 
known ; not, however, for his true work in constructive 


religious thought, but for his supposed denial of the 
reality of the things we see and touch \ 

The ideal life in Oxford did not last long. On the 
evening of Sunday, January 14, 1753, Berkeley was 
suddenly confronted by the mystery of death. As he 
was sitting with my mother, my sister, and myself, so his 
son wrote to Johnson at Stratford, in October, suddenly, 
and without the least previous notice or pain, he was re 
moved to the enjoyment of eternal rewards ; and although 
all possible means were instantly used, no symptom of life 
ever appeared after ; nor could the physicians assign any 
cause for his death. He arrived at Oxford on August 25, 
and had received great benefit from the change of air, and 
by God s blessing on tar-water, insomuch that for some 
years he had not been in better health than he was the 
instant before he left us 2 . 

Six days later he was buried in Oxford, in the Cathedral 
of Christ Church 3 , where his tomb bears an appropriate in 
scription by Dr. Markham, afterwards Archbishop of York. 

1 See Appendix D. Reid, like stretch of credulity to believe that 
Berkeley, held that matter cannot he knew where his father was 
be the cause of anything, but this buried. It may be added that 
not as a consequence of the new Berkeley himself had provided in 
conception of the world presented his Will that my body be buried 
to the senses, through which alone in the churchyard of the parish 
Berkeley opens his way to its power- in which I die. The Will, dated 
lessness ; although Reid supposes July 31, 1752, is given in extenso 
that in his youth he followed Berke- in my Life and Letters of Berkeley, 
ley in this too. See Thomas Reid p. 345. We have also the record of 
(1898), in Famous Scots Series/ burial in the Register of Christ 
where I have enlarged on this. Church Cathedral, which shews 

2 Johnson MSS. that on January ye 2o th 1753, ye 

3 That Berkeley was buried in Right Reverend John (sic} Berkley, 
Oxford is mentioned in his son s L d Bishop of Cloyne, was buryed 
letter to Johnson, in which he there. This disposes of the state- 
says : His remains are interred in ment on p. 17 of Diprose s Account 
the Cathedral of Christ Church, of the Parish of Saint Clement 
and next week a monument to Danes (1868), that Berkeley was 
his memory will be erected with buried in that church. 

an inscription by Dr. Markham, I may add that a beautiful me- 

a Student of this College. As morial of Berkeley has lately been 

the son was present at, and super- placed in the Cathedral of Cloyne, 

intended the arrangements for his by subscriptions in this country 

father s funeral, it can be no and largely in America. 



Page 99, line ^for 149-80 read 149-60 

99, line 22 for and to be i suggested/ not signified read 
instead of being only suggested 

100, line lofor hearing read seeing 

103, note, lines 5, 6 for pp. in, 112 read p. 210 
200, note, line 14 for Adam read Robert 
364, line 8 from foot for and read which 
512, note 6, line 3 for imminent read immanent 


Page 194, note, line 3/orTyndal readTindal 
207, line i, insert 13. before Ale. 
377, line 6, for antethesis read antithesis. 


Page 285, lines 4, 5 for Thisus Alus Cujus, &c. read Ursus. Alus. 
Cuius. &c. The inscription, strictly speaking, appears on the Palace of 
the Counts Orsini, and is dated MD. 




First published in 1871 

[p. Ixxxix] 




ERKELEY S juvenile Commonplace Book is a small 
quarto volume, in his handwriting, found among the 
Berkeley manuscripts in possession of the late Arch 
deacon Rose. It was first published in 1871, in my 
edition of Berkeley s Works. It consists of occasional 
thoughts, mathematical, physical, ethical, and metaphy 
sical, set down in miscellaneous fashion, for private use, 
as they arose in the course of his studies at Trinity 
College, Dublin. They are full of the fervid enthusiasm 
that was natural to him, and of sanguine expectations of the 
issue of the prospective authorship for which they record 
preparations. On the title-page is written, G. B. Trin. Dub. 
alum./ with the date 1705, when he was twenty years of 
age. The entries are the gradual accumulation of the 
next three years, in one of which the Arithmetica and the 
Miscellanea Mathematical made their appearance. The 
New Theory of Vision, given to the world in 1709, was 
evidently much in his mind, as well as the sublime concep 
tion of the material world in its necessary subordination to 
the spiritual world, of which he delivered himself in his 
book of Principles, in 1710. 



This disclosure of Berkeley s thoughts about things, in 
the years preceding the publication of his first essays, is 
indeed a precious record of the initial struggles of ardent 
philosophical genius. It places the reader in intimate 
companionship with him when he was beginning to 
awake into intellectual and spiritual life. We hear him 
soliloquising. We see him trying to translate into reason 
ableness our crude inherited beliefs about the material 
world and the natural order of the universe, self-conscious 
personality, and the Universal Power or Providence all 
under the sway of a new determining Principle which was 
taking profound possession of his soul. He finds that he 
has only to look at the concrete things of sense in the light 
of this great discovery to see the artificially induced per 
plexities of the old philosophers disappear, along with their 
imposing abstractions, which turn out empty words. The 
thinking is throughout fresh and sincere ; sometimes impe 
tuous and one-sided ; the outcome of a mind indisposed to 
take things upon trust, resolved to inquire freely, a rebel 
against the tyranny of language, morally burdened with 
the consciousness of a new world-transforming conception, 
which duty to mankind obliged him to reveal, although his 
message was sure to offend. Men like to regard things 
as they have been wont. This new conception of the 
surrounding world the impotence of Matter, and its sub 
ordinate office in the Supreme Economy must, he foresees, 
disturb those accustomed to treat outward things as the 
only realities, and who do not care to ask what constitutes 
reality. Notwithstanding the ridicule and ill-will that his 
transformed material world was sure to meet with, amongst 
the many who accept empty words instead of genuine 
insight, he was resolved to deliver himself of his thoughts 
through the press, but with the politic conciliation of a 
persuasive Irish pleader. 

The Commonplace Book steadily recognises the adverse 
influence of one insidious foe. Its world-transforming- 


Principle has been obscured by the mist and veil of words. 
The abstractions of metaphysicians, which poison human 
language, had to be driven out of the author s mind before 
he could see the light, and must be driven out of the minds 
of others before they could be got to see it along with 
him : the concrete world as realisable only in percipient 
mind is with difficulty introduced into the vacant place. 
The chief thing I pretend to is only to remove the 
mist and veil of words. He exults in the transformed 
mental scene that then spontaneously rises before him. My 
speculations have had the same effect upon me as visiting 
foreign countries, in the end I return where I was before, 
get my heart at ease, and enjoy myself with more satisfac 
tion. The philosophers lose their abstract matter; the 
materialists lose their abstract extension ; the profane lose 
their extended deity. Pray what do the rest of mankind 
lose? This beneficent revolution seemed to be the issue 
of a simple recognition of the fact, that the true way of re 
garding the world we see and touch is to regard it as 
consisting of ideas or phenomena that are presented to 
human senses, somehow regularly ordered; and the occa 
sions of pleasure or pain to us as we conform to or rebel 
against their natural order. This is the surrounding uni 
verseat least in its relations to us, and that is all in it that 
we have to do with. I know not/ he says, what is meant 
by things considered in themselves, i. e. in abstraction. This 
is nonsense. Thing and idea are words of much about the 
same extent and meaning. Existence is not conceivable 
without perception and volition. I only declare the mean 
ing of the word existence, as far as I can comprehend it. 

In the Commonplace Book we see the youth at Trinity 
College forging the weapons which he was soon to direct 
against the materialism and scepticism of the generation 
into which he was born. Here are rough drafts, crude 
hints of intended arguments, probing of unphilosophical 
mathematicians even Newton and Descartes, memoranda 

B 2 


of facts, more or less relevant, on their way into the Essay 
on Vision and the treatise on Principles seeds of the philo 
sophy that was to be gradually unfolded in his life and 
in his books. We watch the intrepid thinker, notwith 
standing the inexperience of youth, more disposed to give 
battle to mathematicians and metaphysicians than to sub 
mit even provisionally to any human authority. It does 
not seem that his scholarship or philosophical learning 
was extensive. Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke were 
his intimates ; Hobbes and Spinoza were not unknown to 
him; Newton and some lesser lights among the mathe 
maticians are often confronted. Pie is more rarely in 
company with the ancients or the mediaevalists. No deep 
study of Aristotle appears, and there is even a disposition to 
disparage Plato. He seeks for his home in the new 
philosophy of experience ; without anticipations of Kant, 
as the critic of what is presupposed in the scientific reli 
ability of any experience, against whom his almost blind 
zeal against abstractions would have set him at this early 
stage. Pure intellect I understand not at all/ is one of his 
entries. He asks himself, What becomes of the aeternae 
veritatesf and his reply is, They vanish. When he tells 
himself that we must with the mob place certainty in the 
senses/ the words are apt to suggest that the senses are 
our only source of knowledge, but I suppose his mean 
ing is that the senses must be trustworthy, as the mob 
assume. Yet occasionally he uses language which looks 
like an anticipation of David Hume, as when he calls 
mind a congeries of perceptions. Take away percep 
tions/ he adds, and you take away mind. Put the per 
ceptions and you put the mind. The understanding 
seemeth not to differ from its perceptions and ideas/ He 
seems unconscious of the total scepticism which such 
expressions, when strictly interpreted, are found to in 
volve. But after all, the reader must not apply rigorous 
rules of interpretation to random entries or provisional 


memoranda, meant only for private use, by an enthusiastic 
student who was preparing to produce books. 

I have followed the manuscript of the Commonplace 
Book, omitting a few repetitions of thought in the same 
words. Here and there Berkeley s writing is almost 
obliterated and difficult to decipher, apparently through 
accident by water in the course of his travels, when, as 
he mentions long after in one of his letters, several of his 
manuscripts were lost and others were injured. 

The letters of the alphabet which are interpreted on 
the first page, and prefixed on the margin to some of the 
entries, may so far help to bring the apparent chaos of en 
tries under a few articulate heads. 

I have added some annotations here and there as they 
happened to occur, and these might have been multiplied 
indefinitely had space permitted. 


I. Introduction. T. = Time. 

M. = Matter. S. = Soul Spirit. 

P. Primary and Secondary G. = God. 

qualities. Mo. = Moral Philosophy. 

E. = Existence. N. ^ Natural Philosophy. 

Qu. If there be not two kinds of visible extension one 
perceiv d by a confus d view, the other by a distinct suc 
cessive direction of the optique axis to each point ? 

I. No general ideas \ The contrary a cause of mistake or 
confusion in mathematiques, &c. This to be intimated in 
y e Introduction 2 . 

The Principle may be apply d to the difficulties of 
conservation, co-operation, &C. 

N. Trifling for the [natural] philosophers to enquire the 
cause of magnetical attractions, &c. They onely search 
after co-existing ideas 3 . 

M. Quaecunque in Scriptura militant adversus Copernicum, 
p - militant pro me. 

M. All things in the Scripture w cl1 side with the vulgar 
P against the learned, side with me also. I side in all things 
with the mob. 

1 General ideas/ i. e. abstract Introduction, sect. 16. 

general ideas, distinguished, in 2 Introduction to the Principles 

Berkeley s nominalism, from con- of Human Knowledge, 

crete general ideas, or from general 3 co-existing ideas/ i. e. phe- 

names, which are signs of any one nomena presented in uniform order 

of an indefinite number of in- to the senses, 
dividual objects. Cf. Principles, 


M. I know there is a mighty sect of men will oppose me, 
but yet I may expect to be supported by those whose 
minds are not so far overgrown w th madness. These are 
far the greatest part of mankind especially Moralists, 
Divines, Politicians ; in a word, all but Mathematicians 
and Natural Philosophers. I mean only the hypothetical 
gentlemen. Experimental philosophers have nothing 
whereat to be offended in me. 

Newton begs his Principles ; I demonstrate mine \ 

E. I must be very particular in explaining w* is meant 
by things existing in houses, chambers, fields, caves, &c. 
w 11 not perceiv d as well as w n perceived ; and shew 
how the vulgar notion agrees with mine, when we 
narrowly inspect into the meaning and definition of the 
word existence^ w h is no simple idea, distinct from per 
ceiving and being perceived 2 . 

The Schoolmen have noble subjects, but handle them 
ill. The mathematicians have trifling subjects, but reason 
admirably about them. Certainly their method and argu 
ing are excellent. 

God knows how far our knowledge of intellectual beings 
may be enlarg d from the Principles. 

M. The reverse of the Principle I take to have been the 
chief source of all that scepticism and folly, all those con 
tradictions and inextricable puzzling absurdities, that have 
in all ages been a reproach to human reason, as well as of 
that idolatry, whether of images or of gold, that blinds 
the greatest part of the world, and that shamefull immor 
ality that turns us into beasts. 

E. rvn Vixit & fuit. 

ova-ta, the name for substance, used by Aristotle, the 
Fathers, &c. 

If at the same time we shall make the Mathematiques 
much more easie and much more accurate, w* can be ob 
jected to us 3 ? 

1 Newton postulates a world of 2 He attempts this in many parts 

matter and motion, governed me- of the Principles and Dialogues. He 

chanically by laws within itself: recognises the difficulty of recon- 

Berkeley finds himself charged ciling his New Principles with the 

with New Principles, demanded identity and permanence of sensible 

by reason, with which Newton s things, 

postulate is inconsistent. 3 He contemplated thus early ap- 


We need not force our imagination to conceive such very 
small lines for infinitesimals. They may every whit as 
well be imagin d big as little, since that the integer must 
be infinite. 

Evident that w ch has an infinite number of parts must be 

We cannot imagine a line or space infinitely great 
therefore absurd to talk or make propositions about it. 

We cannot imagine a line, space, c., quovis lato majus. 
Since y* what we imagine must be datum aliquod ; a thing 
can t be greater than itself. 

If you call infinite that w ch is greater than any assignable 
by another, then I say, in that sense there may be an infi 
nite square, sphere, or any other figure, w (h is absurd. 

Qu. if extension be resoluble into points it does not con 
sist of? 

No reasoning about things whereof we have no ideas ; 
therefore no reasoning about infinitesimals. 

No word to be used without an idea \ 

S. If uneasiness be necessary to set the Will at work, Qu. 
how shall we will in heaven ? 

Bayle s, Malbranch s, &c. arguments do not seem to 
prove against Space, but onely against Bodies. 
M. I agree in nothing w th the Cartesians as to y e existence 
R of Bodies & Qualities-. 

Aristotle as good a man as Euclid, but he was allowed 
to have been mistaken. 

Lines not proper for demonstration. 

M. We see the house itself, the church itself; it being an 
idea and nothing more. The house itself, the church 
itself, is an idea, i. e. an object immediate object of 
thought 3 . 

plications of his New Principles to mind. While the spiritual theism of 

Mathematics, afterwards made in Descartes is acceptable, he rejects 

his book of Principles, sect. 118-32. his mechanical conception of the 

1 What Berkeley calls ideas are material world. 

either perceptible by the senses or 3 But a house or a church 

imagined: either way they are con- includes more than visible ideas, so 

crete -.abstract ideas are empty words. that we cannot, strictly speaking, 

2 i. e. the existence of bodies and be said to see it. We see imme- 
their qualities independently of diately only visible signs of its in- 
in abstraction from all percipient visible qualities. 


Instead of injuring, our doctrine much benefits geometry. 
E. Existence is percipi, or percipere, [or velle, i.e. agere 1 ]. 

The horse is in the stable, the books are in the study as 

N. In physiques I have a vast view of things soluble hereby, 

but have not leisure. 
N. Hyps and such like unaccountable things confirm my 


Angle not well defined. See Pardies Geometry, by 

Harris, &c. This one ground of trifling. 
N. One idea not the cause of another one power not the 

cause of another. The cause of all natural things is onely 

God. Hence trifling to enquire after second causes. 

This doctrine gives a most suitable idea of the Divinity 2 . 
N. Absurd to study astronomy and other the like doctrines 

as speculative sciences. 
N. The absurd account of memory by the brain, &c. makes 

for me. 

How was light created before man ? Even so were Bodies 

created before man 3 . 
E. Impossible anything besides that w c h thinks and is 

thought on should exist 4 . 

That w ch is visible cannot be made up of invisible things. 

M. S. is that wherein there are not contain d distinguish 
able sensible parts. Now how can that w ch hath not sensi 
ble parts be divided into sensible parts ? If you say it may 
be divided into insensible parts, I say these are nothings. 

Extension abstract from sensible qualities is no sensa 
tion, I grant ; but then there is no such idea, as any one 
may try 5 . There is onely a considering the number of 
points without the sort of them, & this makes more for me, 
since it must be in a considering thing. 

1 This is added in the margin. the existence of a table while I am 

- The total impotence of Matter, only seeing it. 

and the omnipotence of Mind or 4 Existence, in short, can be 

Spirit in Nature, is thus early realised only in the form of living 

becoming the dominant thought percipient mind, 

with Berkeley. 5 Berkeley hardly distinguishes 

3 This refers to an objection to uncontingent mathematical rela- 
the New Principles that is appar- tions, to which the sensible ideas or 
ently reinforced by recent dis- phenomena in which the relations 
coveries in geology. But if these are concretely manifested must con- 
contradict the Principles, so does form. 


Mem. Before I have shewn the distinction between visi 
ble & tangible extension, I must not mention them as dis 
tinct. I must not mention M. T. & M. V., but in general 
M. S., &C. 1 

Ou. whether a M. V. be of any colour? a M. T. of any 
tangible quality? 

If visible extension be the object of geometry, tis that 
which is survey d by the optique axis. 

P. I may say the pain is in my finger, c., according to my 
doctrine 2 . 

Mem. Nicely to discuss w fc is meant when we say a line 
consists of a certain number of inches or points, c. ; a 
circle of a certain number of square inches, points, &c. 
Certainly we may think of a circle, or have its idea in our 
mind, without thinking of points or square inches, &c. ; 
whereas it should seem the idea of a circle is not made up 
of the ideas of points, square inches, &c. 

Qu. Is any more than this meant by the foregoing ex 
pressions, viz. that squares or points may be perceived in 
or made out of a circle, &c., or that squares, points, &c. are 
actually in it, i. e. are perceivable in it ? 

A line in abstract, or Distance, is the number of points 
between two points. There is also distance between a 
slave & an emperor, between a peasant & philosopher, 
between a drachm & a pound, a farthing & a crown, &c. ; in 
all which Distance signifies the number of intermediate 

Halley s doctrine about the proportion between infinitely 
great quantities vanishes. When men speak of infinite 
quantities, either they mean finite quantities, or else talk 
of [that whereof they have 3 ] no idea; both which are 

If the disputations of the Schoolmen are blam d for in 
tricacy, triflingness, & confusion, yet it must be acknow- 

1 M. T. = matter tangible ; M. regarding primary qualities seems 
V. = matter visible ; M. S. = to contradict. 

matter sensible. The distinctions 3 [That need not have been 

in question were made prominent blotted out tis good sense, if we 

in the Essay on Vision. See sect. do but determine w l we mean by 

i, 121-45. thing and ideaJ] AUTHOR, on 

2 Which the common supposition blank page of the MS. 


ledg d that in the main they treated of great & important 
subjects. If we admire the method & acuteness of the 
Mathematicians] the length, the subtilty, the exactness 
of their demonstrations we must nevertheless be forced 
to grant that they are for the most part about trifling sub 
jects, and perhaps mean nothing at all. 

Motion on 2d thoughts seems to be a simple idea. 

P. Motion distinct from y e thing moved is not conceivable. 

N. Mem. To take notice of Newton for defining it [motion] ; 
also of Locke s wisdom in leaving it undefin d l . 

Ut ordo partium temporis est immutabilis, sin etiam ordo 
partium spatii. Moveantur hse de locis suis, et movebun- 
tur (ut ita dicam) de seipsis. Truly number is immensur- 
able. That we will allow with Newton. 

I 3 . Ask a Cartesian whether he is wont to imagine his 
globules without colour. Pellucidness is a colour. The 
colour of ordinary light of the sun is white. Newton in 
the right in assigning colours to the rays of light. 

A man born blind would not imagine Space as we do. 
We give it always some dilute, or duskish, or dark colour 
in short, we imagine it as visible, or intromitted by the 
eye, w ch he would not do. 

N. Proinde vim inferunt sacris literis qui voces hasce (v. 
tempus, spatium, motus) de quantitatibus mensuratis ibi 
interpretantur. Newton, p. 10. 

N. I differ from Newton, in that I think the recession ab 
axe motus is not the effect, or index, or measure of motion, 
but of the vis impressa. It sheweth not W" is truly moved, 
but w* has the force impressed on it, or rather that w ch 
hath an impressed force. 

D and P are not proportional in all circles, d d is to 

J dp as d to - ; but d and - are not in the same proportion 

in all circles. Hence tis nonsense to seek the terms of 
one general proportion whereby to rectify all peripheries, 
or of another whereby to square all circles. 

N.B. If the circle be squar d arithmetically, tis squar d 
geometrically, arithmetic or numbers being nothing but 
lines & proportions of lines when apply d to geometry. 

1 See Locke s Essay, Bk. III. ch. 4, 8, where he criticises attempts to 
define motion, as involving a petitio. 


Mem. To remark Cheyne * & his doctrine of infinites. 

Extension, motion, time, do each of them include the 
idea of succession, & so far forth they seem to be of 
mathematical consideration. Number consisting in suc 
cession & distinct perception, w ch also consists in succes 
sion ; for things at once perceiv d are jumbled and mixt 
together in the mind. Time and motion cannot be con- 
ceiv d without succession ; and extension, qua mathemat., 
cannot be conceiv d but as consisting of parts w ch may be 
distinctly & successively perceiv d. Extension perceived 
at once & / ;/ confuso does not belong to math. 

The simple idea call d Power seems obscure, or rather 
none at all, but onely the relation twixt Cause and Effect. 
When I ask whether A can move B, if A be an intelligent 
thing, I mean no more than whether the volition of A that 
B move be attended with the motion of B ? If A be 
senseless, whether the impulse of A against B be followed 
by y e motion of B 2 ? 

Barrow s arguing against indivisibles, lect. i. p. 16, is 
a petitio principii, for the Demonstration of Archimedes 
supposeth the circumference to consist of more than 24 
points. Moreover it may perhaps be necessary to suppose 
the divisibility ad mfinitttm, in order to demonstrate that 
the radius is equal to the side of the hexagon. 

Shew me an argument against indivisibles that does not 
go on some false supposition. 

A great number of insensibles or thus, two invisibles, 
say you, put together become visible ; therefore that M. V. 
contains or is made up of invisibles. I answer, the M. V. 
does not comprise, is not composed of, invisibles. All the 
matter amounts to this, viz. whereas I had no idea awhile 
agoe, I have an idea now. It remains for you to prove 
that I came by the present idea because there were two 
invisibles added together. I say the invisibles are nothings, 
cannot exist, include a contradiction 3 . 

1 George Cheyne, the physician ~ This reminds us of Hume, and 

(known afterwards as author of the inclines towards the empirical no- 

EngKsh Malady} , published in 1705 tion of Causation, as merely con- 

awork on Fluxions, which procured stancy in sequence not even con- 

him admission to the Royal Society. tinuous metamorphosis. 

He was born in 1670. s This is Berkeley s objection to 


I am young, I am an upstart, I am a pretender, I am 
vain. Very well. I shall endeavour patiently to bear up 
under the most lessening, vilifying appellations the pride 
& rage of man can devise. But one thing I know I am not 
guilty of. I do not pin my faith on the sleeve of any great 
man. I act not out of prejudice or prepossession. I do 
not adhere to any opinion because it is an old one, 
a reviv d one, a fashionable one, or one that I have spent 
much time in the study and cultivation of. 

Sense rather than reason or demonstration ought to be 
employed about lines and figures, these being things 
sensible; for as for those you call insensible, we have 
proved them to be nonsense, nothing l . 

If in some things I differ from a philosopher I profess to 
admire, tis for that very thing on account whereof I admire 
him, namely, the love of truth. This &c. 

Whenever my reader finds me talk very positively, I 
desire he d not take it ill. I see no reason why certainty 
should be confined to the mathematicians. 

I say there are no incommensurables, no surds. I say 
the side of any square may be assign d in numbers. Say 
you assign unto me the side of the square 10. I ask w fc 10 
10 feet, inches, &c., or 10 points ? If the later, I deny 
there is any such square, tis impossible 10 points should 
compose a square. If the former, resolve y r 10 square 
inches, feet, &c. into points, & the number of points must 
necessarily be a square number whose side is easily 

A mean proportional cannot be found betwixt any two 
given lines. It can onely be found betwixt those the 
numbers of whose points multiply d together produce 
a square number. Thus betwixt a line of 2 inches & 
a line of 5 inches a mean geometrical cannot be found, 
except the number of points contained in 2 inches multiply d 
by y e number of points contained in 5 inches make a square 

If the wit and industry of the Nihilarians were employ d 

abstract, i.e. unperceived, quanti- mathematics, that is to say ; which 

ties and infinitesimals important he rejects as meaningless, in his 

in the sequel. horror of unrealisable abstrac- 

1 The lines and figures of pure tions. 


about the usefull & practical mathematiques, what advan 
tage had it brought to mankind ! 

M. You ask me whether the books are in the study now, 
E - when no one is there to see them ? I answer, Yes. You 
ask me, Are we not in the wrong for imagining things 
to exist when they are not actually perceiv d by the senses ? 
I answer, No. The existence of our ideas consists in be 
ing perceiv d, imagined, thought on. Whenever they are 
imagin d or thought on they do exist. Whenever they 
are mentioned or discours d of they are imagin d & 
thought on. Therefore you can at no time ask me whether 
they exist or no, but by reason of y i very question they 
must necessarily exist. 

E. But, say you, then a chimaera does exist? I answer, it 
doth in one sense, i. e. it is imagin d. But it must be well 
noted that existence is vulgarly restrain d to actuall per 
ception, and that I use the word existence in a larger sense 
than ordinary . 

N.B. According to my doctrine all things are cntia 
rationis, i. e. solum habent esse in intellectum. 
E [ 2 According to my doctrine all are not entia rationis. 
The distinction between ens rationis and ens reale is kept 
up by it as well as any other doctrine.] 

You ask me whether there can be an infinite idea? 
I answer, in one sense there may. Thus the visual sphere, 
tho ever so small, is infinite, i. e. has no end. But if by 
infinite you mean an extension consisting of innumerable 
points, then I ask y r pardon. Points, tho never so many, 
may be numbered. The multitude of points, or feet, 
inches, &c., hinders not their numbrableness (i. e. hinders 
not their being numerable) in the least. Many or most 
are numerable, as well as few or least. Also, if by 
infinite idea you mean an idea too great to be com 
prehended or perceiv d all at once, you must excuse me. 
I think such an infinite is no less than a contradiction :>1 . 

1 Things really exist, that is to both cases be said to exist, 

say, in degrees, e.g. in a lesser de- 2 Added on blank page of the MS. 

gree, when they are imagined than 3 In Berkeley s limitation of the 

when they are actually perceived term idea to what is presented 

by our senses ; but, in this wide objectively in sense, or represented 

meaning of existence, they may in concretely in imagination. Accord- 


M. The sillyness of the current doctrine makes much for me. 
They commonly suppose a material world figures, mo 
tions, bulks of various sizes, &c. according to their own 
confession to no purpose. All our sensations may be, and 
sometimes actually are, without them ; nor can men so 
much as conceive it possible they should concur in any 
wise to the production of them. 

M. Ask a man, I mean a philosopher, why he supposes this 
vast structure, this compages of bodies ? he shall be at 
a stand ; he ll not have one word to say. W ch sufficiently 
shews the folly of the hypothesis. 

M. Or rather why he supposes all y a Matter? For bodies 
and their qualities I do allow to exist independently of our 

S. Qu. How is the soul distinguished from its ideas ? 
Certainly if there were no sensible ideas there could be no 
soul, no perception, remembrance, love, fear, c. ; no 
faculty could be exerted l . 

S. The soul is the Will, properly speaking, and as it is 
distinct from ideas. 

S. The grand puzzling question, whether I sleep or wake, 
easily solv d. 

Qu. Whether minima or meer minima may not be 
compared by their sooner or later evanescence, as well as 
by more or less points, so that one sensible may be greater 
than another, though it exceeds it not by one point ? 

Circles on several radius s are not similar figures, they 
having neither all nor any an infinite number of sides. 
Hence in vain to enquire after 2 terms of one and y e same 
proportion that should constantly express the reason of 
the d to the p in all circles. 

Mem. To remark Wallis s harangue, that the aforesaid 
proportion can neither be expressed by rational numbers 
nor surds. 

ingly an infinite idea would be than those presented in those few 

an idea which transcends ideation senses to which man is confined, 

an express contradiction. although self-conscious activity 

1 Does the human spirit depend abstracted from a//sorts of presented 

on sensible ideas as much as they phenomena seems impossible. But 

depend on spirit ? Other orders a self-conscious spirit is not neces- 

of spiritual beings may be percipi- sarily dependent on our material 

ent of other sorts of phenomena world or our sense experience. 


We can no more have an idea of length without breadth 
or visibility, than of a general figure. 

One idea may be like another idea, tho they contain no 
common simple idea 1 . Thus the simple idea red is in 
some sense like the simple idea blue ; tis liker it than sweet 
or shrill. But then those ideas w ch are so said to be alike, 
agree both in their connexion with another simple idea, 
viz. extension, & in their being receiv d by one & the same 
sense. But, after all, nothing can be like an idea but 
an idea. 

No sharing betwixt God & Nature or second causes 
in my doctrine. 

Materialists must allow the earth to be actually mov d by 
the attractive power of every stone that falls from the air, 
with many other the like absurditys. 

Enquire concerning the pendulum clock, &c. ; whether 
those inventions of Huygens, c\:c. be attained to by my 

The "" & "" & """ &c. of time are to be cast away and 
neglected, as so many noughts or nothings* 

Mem. To make experiments concerning minimums and 
their colours, whether they have any or no, & whether they 
can be of that green w ch seems to be compounded of yellow 
and blue. 

Qu. Whether it were not better not to call the operations 
of the mind ideas confining this term to things sensible 2 ? 

Mem. diligently to set forth how that many of the ancient 
philosophers run into so great absurditys as even to deny 
the existence of motion, and of those other things they 
perceiv d actually by their senses. This sprung from their 
not knowing w* Existence was, and wherein it consisted. 
This the source of all their folly. Tis on the discovering 
of the nature and meaning and import of Existence that 
I chiefly insist. This puts a wide difference betwixt the 

1 [This I do not altogether ap- senses, or represented in sensuous 

prove of.] AUTHOR, on margin. imagination, and applying the for- 

- He afterwards guarded the mer to intellectual apprehension of 

difference, bycontrastingwoftowand operations of the mind, and of 

idea, confining the latter to pheno- relations among ideas, 
mena presented objectively to our 



sceptics &c. & me. This I think wholly new. I am sure 
this is new to me \ 

We have learn d from Mr. Locke that there may be, and 
that there are, several glib, coherent, methodical discourses, 
which nevertheless amount to just nothing. This by him 
intended with relation to the Scholemen. We may apply 
it to the Mathematicians. 

QLI. How can all words be said to stand for ideas ? The 
word blue stands for a colour without any extension, or 
abstract from extension. But we have not an idea of 
colour without extension. We cannot imagine colour with 
out extension. 

Locke seems wrongly to assign a double use of words : 
one for communicating&theotherforrecording ourthoughts. 
Tis absurd to use words for recording our thoughts to 
ourselves, or in our private meditations 2 . 

No one abstract simple idea like another. Two simple 
ideas may be connected with one & the same 3 ] simple idea, 
or be intromitted by one <Sc the same sense. But consider d 
in themselves they can have nothing common, and con 
sequently no likeness. 

Qu. How can there be any abstract ideas of colours? 
It seems not so easily as of tastes or sounds. But then all 
ideas whatsoever are particular. I can by no means 
conceive an abstract general idea. Tis one thing to 
abstract one concrete idea from another of a different 
kind, & another thing to abstract an idea from all particulars 
of the same kind 3 . 

Mem. Much to recommend and approve of experimental 

What means Cause as distinguish d from Occasion? 
Nothing but a being w ch wills, when the effect follows 
the volition. Those things that happen from without 
we are not the cause of. Therefore there is some other 
Cause of them, i. e. there is a Being that wills these 
perceptions in us 4 . 

1 See Principles, sect. 89. 3 Every general notion is ideally 

2 Is thought, then, independent realisable in one or other of its 
of language ? Can we realise possible concrete or individual ap- 
thought worthy of the name without plications. 

use of words? This is Berkeley s * This is the germ of Berkeley s 

excessive juvenile reaction against notion of the objectivity of the mate- 
verbal abstractions. rial world to individual percipients 


[S. [ l It should be said, nothing but a Will a Being which 
wills being unintelligible.] 

One square cannot be double of another. Hence the 
Pythagoric theorem is false. 

Some writers of catoptrics absurd enough to place the 
apparent place of the object in the Barrovian case behind 
the eye. 

Blew and yellow chequers still diminishing terminate in 
green. This may help to prove the composition of green. 

There is in green 2 foundations of 2 relations of likeness 
to blew & yellow. Therefore green is compounded. 

A mixt cause will produce a mixt effect. Therefore 
colours are all compounded that we see. 

Mem. To consider Newton s two sorts of green. 

N. B. My abstract & general doctrines ought not to be 
condemn d by the Royall Society. Tis w fc their meeting 
did ultimately intend. V. Sprat s History S. R. 
Mem. To premise a definition of idea". 

I. The 2 great principles of Morality the being of a God 
Mo> cSc the freedom of man. Those to be handled in the be 
ginning of the Second Book 4 . 

Subvertitur geometria ut non practica sed speculative. 

Archimedes s proposition about squaring the circle has 
nothing to do with circumferences containing less than 
96 points ; & if the circumference contain 96 points it may 
be apply d, but nothing will follow against indivisibles. 
V. Barrow. 

Those curve lines that you can rectify geometrically. 
Compare them with their equal right lines & by a micro 
scope you shall discover an inequality. Hence my squaring 
of the circle as good and exact as the best. 

M. Qu. whether the substance of body or anything else be 

and so of the rise of individual self- by idea has not been attended to by 

consciousness. his critics. 

1 Added by Berkeley on blank * What < Second Book is this? 

page of the MS. Does he refer to the Second Part 

- Cf. p. 420, note 2. Bishop of the Principles, which never ap- 

Sprat s History of the Royal Society peared ? God is the culmination of 

appeared in 1667. his philosophy, in Sins. 

3 Much need; for what he means 

C 2 


any more than the collection of concrete ideas included in 
that thing? Thus the substance of any particular body is 
extension, solidity, figure \ Of general abstract body we 
can have no idea. 

I. Mem. Most carefully to inculcate and set forth that the 
endeavouring to express abstract philosophic thoughts by 
words unavoidably runs a man into difficulties. This to be 
done in the Introduction 2 . 

Mem. To endeavour most accurately to understand what 
is meant by this axiom : Quae sibi mutuo congruunt sequalia 

Qu. what the geometers mean by equality of lines, & 
whether, according to their definition of equality, a curve 
line can possibly be equal to a right line ? 

If w th me you call those lines equal w ch contain an equal 
number of points, then there will be no difficulty. That 
curve is equal to a right line w ch contains the same points 
as the right one doth. 

M, I take not away substances. I ought not to be accused 
of discarding substance out of the reasonable world :! , 
I onely reject the philosophic sense (w ch in effect is no 
sense) of the word substance. Ask a man not tainted with 
their jargon w l he means by corporeal substance, or the 
substance of body. He shall answer, bulk, solidity, and 
such like sensible qualitys. These I retain. The philo 
sophic nee quid, nee quantum, nee quale, whereof I have 
no idea, I discard ; if a man may be said to discard that 
which never had any being, was never so much as imagin d 
or conceiv d. 

M. In short, be not angry. You lose nothing, whether real 
or chimerical. W l ever you can in any wise conceive or 
imagine, be it never so wild, so extravagant, & absurd, 
much good may it do you. You may enjoy it for me. I ll 
never deprive you of it. 

1 This is Berkeley s material and Divine, being essential to their 

substance. Individual material realisation for man. 

substances are for him, steady ag- 2 Cf. Introduction to the Prin- 

gregates of sense-given phenomena, cifiles, especially sect. 18-25. 

having the efficient and final cause 3 Stillingfleet charges Locke 

of their aggregation in eternally with discarding substance out of 

active Mind active mind, human the reasonable part of the world. 


N. B. I am more for reality than any other philosophers \ 
They make a thousand doubts, & know not certainly but 
we may be deceiv d. I assert the direct contrary. 

A line in the sense of mathematicians is not meer 
distance. This evident in that there are curve lines. 

Curves perfectly incomprehensible, inexplicable, absurd, 
except we allow points. 

I. If men look for a thing where it s not to be found, be 
they never so sagacious, it is lost labour. If a simple 
clumsy man knows where the game lies, he though a fool 
shall catch it sooner than the most fleet & dexterous that 
seek it elsewhere. Men choose to hunt for truth and know 
ledge anywhere rather than in their own understanding, 
where tis to be found. 

M. All knowledge onely about ideas. Locke, B. 4. c. i. 

S. It seems improper, & liable to difficulties, to make the 
word person stand for an idea, or to make ourselves ideas, 
or thinking things ideas. 

I. Abstract ideas cause of much trifling and mistake. 

Mathematicians seem not to speak clearly and coherently 
of equality. They nowhere define w* they mean by that 
word when apply d to lines. 

Locke says the modes of simple ideas, besides extension 
and number, are counted by degrees. I deny there are 
any modes or degrees of simple ideas. What he terms 
such are complex ideas, as I have proved. 

W fc do the mathematicians mean by considering curves 
as polygons? Either they are polygons or they are not. 
If they are, why do they give them the name of curves ? 
Why do not they constantly call them polygons, & treat 
them as such ? If they are not polygons, I think it absurd 
to use polygons in their stead. W 1 is this but to pervert 
language ? to adapt an idea to a name that belongs not to 
it but to a different idea ? 

The mathematicians should look to their axiom, Quse 

1 The philosophers supposed the the senses, the existence of which 

real things toexistbehind our ideas, needs no proof, were themselves 

in concealment : Berkeley was now the significant and interpretable 

beginningto think that the objective realities of physical science, 
ideas or phenomena presented to 


congruunt sunt aequalia. I know not what they mean by 
bidding me put one triangle on another. The under 
triangle is no triangle nothing at all, it not being per- 
ceiv d. I ask, must sight be judge of this congruentia 
or not? If it must, then all lines seen under the same 
angle are equal, w ch they will not acknowledge. Must 
the touch be judge? But we cannot touch or feel lines 
and surfaces, such as triangles, &c., according to the 
mathematicians themselves. Much less can we touch a 
line or triangle that s cover d by another line or triangle. 

Do you mean by saying one triangle is equall to an 
other, that they both take up equal spaces ? But then 
the question recurs, what mean you by equal spaces ? 
If you mean spatia congruentia, answer the above difficulty 

I can mean (for my part) nothing else by equal triangles 
than triangles containing equal numbers of points. 

I can mean nothing by equal lines but lines w ch tis 
indifferent whether of them I take, lines in w ch I observe 
by my senses no difference, & w ch therefore have the same 

Must the imagination be judge in the aforementioned 
cases ? but then imagination cannot go beyond the touch 
and sight. Say you, pure intellect must be judge. I 
reply that lines and triangles are not operations of the 

If I speak positively and with the air of a mathematician 
in things of which I am certain, tis to avoid disputes, to 
make men careful to think before they answer, to discuss 
my arguments before they go to refute them. I would by 
no means injure truth and certainty by an affected modesty 
& submission to better judgments. W fc I lay before you 
are undoubted theorems ; not plausible conjectures of my 
own, nor learned opinions of other men. I pretend not 
to prove them by figures, analogy, or authority. Let them 
stand or fall by their own evidence. 

N. When you speak of the corpuscularian essences of 
bodys, to reflect on sect. n. & 12. b. 4. c. 3. Locke. 
Motion supposes not solidity. A meer colour d extension 
may give us the idea of motion, 


P. Any subject can have of each sort of primary qualities 
but one particular at once. Lib. 4. c. 3. s. 15. Locke. 

M. Well, say you, according to this new doctrine, all is but 
meer idea there is nothing w ch is not an ens rationis. 
I answer, things are as real, and exist / ;/ rerum natura, as 
much as ever. The difference between entia rcalia & cntia 
rationis may be made as properly now as ever. Do but 
think before you speak. Endeavour rightly to comprehend 
my meaning, and you ll agree with me in this. 

N. Fruitless the distinction twixt real and nominal 

We are not acquainted with the meaning of our words. 
Real, extension, existence, power, matter, lines, infinite, 
point, and many more are frequently in our mouths, when 
little, clear, and determin d answers them in our understand 
ings. This must be well inculcated. 

M. Vain is the distinction twixt intellectual and material 
world 1 . V. Locke, lib. 4. c. 3. s. 27, where he says that is 
far more beautiful than this. 

S. Foolish in men to despise the senses. If it were not for 

Mo - them the mind could have no knowledge, no thought at 
all. All * * * of introversion, meditation, contemplation, 
and spiritual acts, as if these could be exerted before we 
had ideas from without by the senses, are manifestly 
absurd. This may be of great use in that it makes 
the happyness of the life to come more conceivable and 
agreeable to our present nature. The schoolemen & 
refiners in philosophy gave the greatest part of mankind 
no more tempting idea of heaven or the joys of the blest. 

The vast, wide-spread, universal cause of our mistakes 
is, that we do not consider our own notions. I mean 
consider them in themselves fix, settle, and determine 
them, we regarding them with relation to each other 
only. In short, we are much out in studying] the re 
lations of things before we study them absolutely and 
in themselves. Thus we study to find out the relations 
of figures to one another, the relations also of number, 
without endeavouring rightly to understand the nature 
of extension and number in themselves. This we think 

1 If the material world can be real only in and through a percipient 
intelligence, as the realising factor. 


is of no concern, of no difficulty ; but if I mistake not 
tis of the last importance. 

Mo. I allow not of the distinction there is made twixt 
profit and pleasure. 

Mo. I d never blame a man for acting upon interest. He s 
a fool that acts on any other principles. The not considering 
these things has been of ill consequence in morality. 

My positive assertions are no less modest than those 
that are introduced with It seems to me, I suppose, 
&c. ; since I declare, once for all, that all I write or think 
is entirely about things as they appear to me. It concerns 
no man else any further than his thoughts agree with mine. 
This in the Preface. 

I. Two things are apt to confound men in their reasonings 
one with another, ist. Words signifying the operations 
of the mind are taken from sensible ideas. 2ndly. Words 
as used by the vulgar are taken in some latitude, their 
signification is confused. Hence if a man use words in a 
determined, settled signification, he is at a hazard either 
of not being understood, or of speaking improperly. All 
this remedyed by studying the understanding. 

Unity no simple idea. I have no idea meerly answering 
the word one. All number consists in relations 1 . 

Entia realia et entia rationis, a foolish distinction of the 

M. We have an intuitive knowledge of the existence of other 

P. things besides ourselves & order, praecedaneous 2 . To the 
knowledge of our own existence in that we must have 
ideas or else we cannot think. 

S. We move our legs ourselves. Tis we that will their 
movement. Herein I differ from Malbranch 3 . 

Mo. Mem. Nicely to discuss Lib. 4. c. 4. Locke 4 . 

M. Mem. Again and again to mention & illustrate the 
doctrine of the reality of things, rerum natura, &c. 

M. W fc I say is demonstration perfect demonstration. 
Wherever men have fix d & determin d ideas annexed to 

1 Cf. Principles, sect. 13, 119-122, agency. 

which deny the possibility of an idea 4 In whicli Locke treats Of the 

or mental picture corresponding Reality of Knowledge/ including 

to abstract number. questions apt to lead Berkeley to 

Praecedaneous, i.e. precedent. inquire, Whethcrwe could in reason 

:! Who refunds human as well suppose reality in the absence of 

as natural causation into Divine all realising mind. 


their words they can hardly be mistaken. Stick but to my 
definition of likeness, and tis a demonstration yt colours 
are not simple ideas, all reds being like, c. So also in 
other things. This to be heartily insisted on. 

E. The abstract idea of Being or Existence is never thought 
of by the vulgar. They never use those words standing 
for abstract ideas. 

M. I must not say the words thing, substance, &c. have 
been the cause of mistakes, but the not reflecting on 
their meaning. I will be still for retaining the words. 
I only desire that men would think before they speak, 
and settle the meaning of their words. 

Mo. I approve not of that which Locke says, viz. truth 
consists in the joining and separating of signs. 

I. Locke cannot explain general truth or knowledge with 
out treating of words and propositions. This makes for 
me against abstract general ideas. Vide Locke, lib. 4. ch. 6. 

I. Men have been very industrious in travelling forward. 
They have gone a great way. But none have gone 
backward beyond the Principles. On that side there 
lies much terra incognita to be travel d over and dis 
covered by me. A vast field for invention. 

Twelve inches not the same idea with a foot. Because 
a man may perfectly conceive a foot who never thought 
of an inch. 

A foot is equal to or the same with twelve inches in this 
respect, viz. they contain both the same number of points. 

[Forasmuch as] to be used. 

Mem. To mention somewhat w ch may encourage the 
study of politiques, and testify of me y* I am well dispos d 
toward them. 

I. If men did not use words for ideas they would never 
have thought of abstract ideas. Certainly genera and 
species are not abstract general ideas. Abstract ideas 
include a contradiction in their nature. Vide Locke 1 , lib. 4. 
c. 7. s. 9. 

A various or mixt cause must necessarily produce a 
various or mixt effect. This demonstrable from the 

1 Locke s abstract idea is misconceived and caricatured by Berkeley 
in his impetuosity. 


definition of a cause ; which way of demonstrating must 
be frequently made use of in my Treatise, & to that end 
definitions often praemis d. Hence tis evident that, ac 
cording to Newton s doctrine, colours cannot be simple 

M. I am the farthest from scepticism of any man. I know 
with an intuitive knowledge the existence of other things 
as well as my own soul. This is w fc Locke nor scarce 
any other thinking philosopher will pretend to 1 . 

I. Doctrine of abstraction of very evil consequence in all 

the sciences. Mem. Barrow s remark. Entirely owing to 


Locke greatly out in reckoning the recording our ideas 

by words amongst the uses and not the abuses of language. 
I. Of great use & y e last importance to contemplate a man 

put into the world alone, with admirable abilitys, and see 

how after long experience he would know w th out words. 

Such a one would never think of genera and species or 

abstract general ideas. 
I. Wonderful in Locke that he could, w n advanced in years, 

see at all thro a mist ; it had been so long a gathering, & 

was consequently thick. This more to be admir d than y fc 

he did not see farther. 

Identity of ideas may be taken in a double sense, either 

as including or excluding identity of circumstances, such 

as time, place, &c. 
Mo. I am glad the people I converse with are not all richer, 

wiser, &c. than I. This is agreeable to reason ; is no sin. 

Tis certain that if the happyness of my acquaintance 

encreases, & mine not proportionably, mine must decrease. 

The not understanding this & the doctrine about relative 

good, discuss d with French, Madden 2 , &c., to be noticed 

as 2 causes of mistake in judging of moral matters. 

Mem. To observe (w 11 you talk of the division of ideas 

into simple and complex) that there may be another cause 

1 This and other passages refer can never escape from the circle of 

to the scepticism, that is founded subjectivity. Berkeley intended to 

on the impossibility of our com- refute this scepticism, 
paring our ideas of things with 2 Probably Samuel Madden, who 

unperceived real things; so that we afterwards edited the Querist. 


of the undefinableness of certain ideas besides that which 
Locke gives; viz. the want of names. 

Mem. To begin the First Book 1 not with mention of 
sensation and reflection, but instead of sensation to use 
perception or thought in general. 

I defy any man to imagine or conceive perception with 
out an idea, or an idea without perception. 

Locke s very supposition that matter & motion should 
exist before thought is absurd includes a manifest con 

Locke s harangue about coherent, methodical discourses 
amounting to nothing, apply d to the mathematicians. 

They talk of determining all the points of a curve by an 
equation. W* mean they by this? W fc would they signify 
by the word points? Do they stick to the definition of 
Euclid ? 

We think we know not the Soul, because we have no 
imaginable or sensible idea annex d to that sound. This 
the effect of prejudice. 

Certainly we do not know it. This will be plain if we 
examine what we mean by the word knowledge. Neither 
doth this argue any defect in our knowledge, no more than 
our not knowing a contradiction. 

The very existence of ideas constitutes the Soul 2 . 

Consciousness", perception, existence of ideas, seem to 
be all one. 

Consult, ransack y r understanding. W fc find you there 
besides several perceptions or thoughts ? W fc mean you 
by the word mind? You must mean something that you 
perceive, or y* you do not perceive. A thing not perceived 
is a contradiction. To mean (also) a thing you do not 
perceive is a contradiction. We are in all this matter 
strangely abused by words. 

Mind is a congeries of perceptions 4 . Take away per- 

1 This First Book seems to be 2 Does he mean, like Hume after- 

Part I of the projected Principles wards, that ideas or phenomena 

the only Part ever published. constitute the ego, so that I am 

Here he inclines to perception or only the transitory conscious state 

thought in general, in the language of each moment ? 

of Descartes; but in the end :! Consciousness a term rarely 

he approximates to Locke s sen- used by Berkeley or his contempo- 

sation and reflection. See Pn n- raries. 

ciples, sect, i, and notes. 4 This too, if strictly interpreted. 


ceptions and you take away the mind. Put the perceptions 
and you put the mind. 

Say you, the mind is not the perception, not that thing 
which perceives. I answer, you are abused by the words 
that a thing. These are vague and empty words with us. 
S. The having ideas is not the same thing with perception. 
A man may have ideas when he only imagines. But then 
this imagination presupposeth perception. 

M. That w ch extreamly strengthens us in prejudice is y* we 
think we see an empty space, which I shall demonstrate 
to be false in the Third Book l . 

There may be demonstrations used even in Divinity. 
I mean in revealed Theology, as contradistinguished from 
natural ; for tho* the principles may be founded in faith, 
yet this hinders not but that legitimate demonstrations 
might be built thereon ; provided still that we define the 
words we use, and never go beyond our ideas. Hence 
twere no very hard matter for those who hold episcopacy 
or monarchy to be establish edjure Divino to demonstrate 
their doctrines if they are true. But to pretend to demon 
strate or reason anything about the Trinity is absurd. 
Here an implicit faith becomes us. 

S. Qu. if there be any real difference betwixt certain ideas 
of reflection & others of sensation, e. g. betwixt perception 
and white, black, sweet, &c. ? Wherein, I pray you, does 
the perception of white differ from white men * * * 

I shall demonstrate all my doctrines. The nature of 
demonstration to be set forth and insisted on in the In 
troduction 2 . In that I must needs differ from Locke, 
forasmuch as he makes all demonstration to be about 
abstract ideas, w cn I say we have not nor can have. 

S. The understanding seemeth not to differ from its per 
ceptions or ideas. Qu. What must one think of the will 
and passions ? 

K. A good proof that Existence is nothing without or 

looks like an anticipation of flux and movement. See Hume s 

Hume s reduction of the ego into Treatise, Part IV. sect. 6. 

successive impressions nothing ] What Third Book is here 

but a bundle or collection of projected? Was a Third Part of 

different perceptions, which sue- the Principles then in embryo? 

ceed one another with inconceiv- 2 This is scarcely done in the 

able rapidity, and are in a perpetual Introduction to the Principles, 


distinct from perception, may be drawn from considering 
a man put into the world without company 1 . 

E. There was a smell, i.e. there was a smell perceiv d. 
Thus we see that common speech confirms my doctrine. 

T. No broken intervals of death or annihilation. Those 
intervals are nothing ; each person s time being measured 
to him by his own ideas. 

I. We are frequently puzzl d and at a loss in obtaining 
clear and determin d meanings of words commonly in use, 
cSc that because we imagine words stand for abstract 
general ideas which are altogether inconceivable. 

I. A stone is a stone. This a nonsensical proposition, 
and such as the solitary man l would never think on. Nor 
do I believe he would ever think on this : The whole is 
equal to its parts, &c. 

E. Let it not be said that I take away existence. I only 
declare the meaning of the word, so far as I can compre 
hend it. 

I. If you take away abstraction, how do men differ from 
beasts? I answer, by shape, by language. Rather by 
degrees of more and less. 

W* means Locke by inferences in words, consequences 
of words, as something different from consequences of 
ideas? I conceive no such thing. 

I. N. B. Much complaint about the imperfection of lan 
guage 2 . 

M. But perhaps some man may say, an inert thoughtless 
Substance may exist, though not extended, moved, &c., 
but with other properties whereof we have no idea. But 
even this I shall demonstrate to be impossible, w 11 I come 
to treat more particularly of Existence. 

Will not rightly distinguish d from Desire by Locke 
it seeming to superadd nothing to the idea of an action, 
but the uneasiness for its absence or non-existence. 
S. Mem. To enquire diligently into that strange mistery, 

1 Berkeley, as we find in the realitiesof existence, which hemust 

Commonplace Book, is fond of con- then face directly, without the use 

jecturing how a man all alone in the or abuse of verbal symbols. 
world, freed from the abstractions " This N.B. is expanded in the 

of language, would apprehend the Introduction to the Principles. 


viz. How it is that I can cast about, think of this or that 
man, place, action, w n nothing appears to introduce them 
into my thoughts, w 11 they have no perceivable connexion 
with the ideas suggested by my senses at the present ? 

I. 5 Tis not to be imagin d w* a marvellous emptiness & 
scarcity of ideas that man shall descry who will lay aside 
all use of words in his meditations. 

M. Incongruous in Locke to fancy we want a sense proper 
to see substances with. 

I. Locke owns that abstract ideas were made in order to 

M. The common errour of the opticians, that we judge of 
distance by angles 1 , strengthens men in their prejudice 
that they see things without and distant from their mind. 

E. I am persuaded, would men but examine w fc they mean 
by the word existence, they wou d agree with me. 

c. 20. s. 8. b. 4. of Locke makes for me against the 

M. The supposition that things are distinct from ideas takes 
away all real truth, & consequently brings in a universal 
scepticism ; since all our knowledge and contemplation is 
confin d barely to our own ideas 2 . 

I. Qu. whether the solitary man would not find it necessary 
to make use of words to record his ideas, if not in memory 
or meditation, yet at least in writing without which he 
could scarce retain his knowledge. 

We read in history there was a time when fears and 
jealousies, privileges of parliament, malignant party, and 
such like expressions of too unlimited and doubtful a mean 
ing, were words of much sway. Also the words Church, 
Whig, Tory, &c. ; contribute very much to faction and dis 

S. The distinguishing betwixt an idea and perception of the 
idea has been one great cause of imagining material sub 
stances 3 . 

S. That God and blessed spirits have Will is a manifest 

1 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 4. our universe is fundamentally trust- 

a What is immediately realised worthy. 

in our percipient experience must 3 But he distinguishes, in the 

be presumed or trusted in as real, Principles and elsewhere, between 

if we have any hold of reality, or an idea of sense and a percipient 

the moral right to postulate that ego. 


argument against Locke s proofs that the Will cannot be 
conceiv d, put into action, without a previous uneasiness. 

The act of the Will, or volition, is not uneasiness, for 
that uneasiness may be without volition. 

Volition is distinct from the object or idea for the same 

Also from uneasiness and idea together. 

The understanding not distinct from particular percep 
tions or ideas. 

The Will not distinct from particular volitions. 

It is not so very evident that an idea, or at least uneasi 
ness, may be without all volition or act. 

The understanding taken for a faculty is not really dis 
tinct from y e will. 

This allow d hereafter. 

To ask whether a man can will either side is an absurd 
question, for the word can presupposes volition. 

Anima mundi, substantial form, omniscient radical heat, 
plastic vertue, Hylaschic principle all these vanish ] . 

Newton proves that gravity is proportional to gravity. 
I think that s all 2 . 

Qu. whether it be the vis inertiae that makes it difficult to 
move a stone, or the vis attractivae, or both, or neither ? 

Mem. To express the doctrines as fully and copiously 
and clearly as may be. Also to be full and particular in 
answering objections 3 . 

To say y e Will is a power; [therefore] volition is an 
act. This is idem per idem. 

W* makes men despise extension, motion, <Scc., & separ 
ate them from the essence of the soul, is that they imagine 
them to be distinct from thought, and to exist in unthink 
ing substance. 

1 They reappear in Sin s. and is a mere circle as he proceeds 

2 In one of Berkeley s letters to to show. 

Johnson, a quarter of a century 3 In the Principles, sect. 1-33, he 

after the Commonplace Book, when seeks to fulfil the expository part 

he was in America, he observes of this intention ; in sect. 33-84, 

that the mechanical philosophers also in the Dialogues between Hylas 

pretend to demonstrate that matter and Philonotts, he is particular in 

is proportional to gravity. But answering objections. 
their argument concludes nothing, 


An extended may have passive modes of thinking good 

There might be idea, there might be uneasiness, there 
might be the greatest uneasiness w th out any volition, there 
fore the * * * 

M. Matter once allow d, I defy any man to prove that God 
is not Matter 1 . 

S. Man is free. There is no difficulty in this proposition, 
if we but settle the signification of the word free if we 
had an idea annext to the word free, and would but con 
template that idea. 

S. We are imposed on by the words will, determine, agent, 
free, can, &c. 

S. Uneasiness precedes not every volition. This evident 
by experience. 

S. Trace an infant in the womb. Mark the train & suc 
cession of its ideas. Observe how volition comes into the 
mind. This may perhaps acquaint you with its nature. 

S. Complacency seems rather to determine, or precede, or 
coincide w th & constitute the essence of volition, than un 

S. You tell me, according to my doctrine a man is not free. 
I answer, tell me w fc you mean by the word free, and I 
shall resolve you -. 

N. Qu. W* do men mean when they talk of one body s 
touching another ? I say you never saw one body touch, 
or (rather) I say, I never saw one body that I could say 
touch d this or that other ; for that if my optiques were 
improv d, I should see intervalls and other bodies behind 
those wh ch now seem to touch. 

Mem. Upon all occasions to use the utmost modesty to 
confute the mathematicians w th the utmost civility & respect, 
not to style them Nihilarians, &c. 

N.B. To rein in y e satyrical nature. 

Blame me not if I use my words sometimes in some 
latitude. Tis w* cannot be helpt. Tis the fault of language 

1 If Matter is arbitrarily credited a moral and responsible agent, cf 
with omnipotence. Sin s, sect. 257 and note. 

- On freedom as implied in 


that you cannot always apprehend the clear and determinate 
meaning of my words. 

Say you, there might be a thinking Substance something 
unknown w ch perceives, and supports, and ties together 
the ideas 1 . Say I, make it appear there is any need of it 
and you shall have it for me. I care not to take away 
anything I can see the least reason to think should exist. 

I affirm tis manifestly absurd no excuse in the world 
can be given why a man should use a word without an idea 2 . 
Certainly we shall find that w* ever word we make use of 
in matter of pure reasoning has, or ought to have, a com- 
pleat idea 2 annext to it, i.e. its meaning, or the sense we 
take it in, must be compleatly known. 

Tis demonstrable a man can never be brought to imag 
ine anything should exist whereof he has no idea. Who 
ever says he does, banters himself with words. 

G. We imagine a great difference & distance in respect of 
knowledge, power, &c., betwixt a man & a worm. The 
like difference betwixt man and God may be imagin d ; or 
infinitely greater 3 difference. 

G - We find in our own minds a great number of different 
ideas. We may imagine in God a greater number, i. e. 
that ours in number, or the number of ours, is inconsider 
able in respect thereof. The words difference and number, 
old and known, we apply to that w ch is unknown. But I 
am embrangled 4 in words tis scarce possible it should be 

The chief thing I do or pretend to do is onely to remove 
the mist or veil of words 5 . This has occasion d ignorance 
& confusion. This has ruined the schoolmen and mathe 
maticians, lawyers and divines. 

S. The grand cause of perplexity & darkness in treating of 
the Will, is that we imagine it to be an object of thought : 
(to speak with the vulgar), we think we may perceive, con 
template, and view it like any of our ideas ; whereas in 

1 Is not this one way of express- 3 infinitely greater Does in- 
ing the Universal Providence and finity admit of imaginable degrees? 
constant uniting agency of God * embrangled perplexed in- 
in the material world? volved in disputes. 

2 Here idea seems to be used in its r> See Principles, Introduction, 
widersignification,includingwo//ow. sect. 24. 



truth tis no idea, nor is there any idea of it. Tis toto ccelo 
different from the understanding, i. e. from all our ideas. 
If you say the Will, or rather volition, is something, I 
answer, there is an homonymy ! in the word thing, w n 
apply d to ideas and volition and understanding and will. 
All ideas are passive 2 . 

S. Thing & idea are much what words of the same extent 
and meaning. Why, therefore, do I not use the word 
thing? Ans. Because thing is of greater latitude than idea. 
Thing comprehends also volitions or actions. Now these 
are no ideas 2 . 

S. There can be perception w th out volition. Qu. whether 
there can be volition without perception ? 

E. Existence not conceivable without perception or volition 
not distinguished therefrom. 

T. N.B. Several distinct ideas can be perceived by sight 
and touch at once. Not so by the other senses. Tis this 
diversity of sensations in other senses chiefly, but some 
times in touch and sight (as also diversity of volitions, 
whereof there cannot be more than one at once, or rather, 
it seems there cannot, for of that I doubt), gives us the 
idea of time or is time itself. 

W fc would the solitary man think of number? 

S. There are innate ideas, i. e. ideas created with us \ 

S. Locke seems to be mistaken w n he says thought is not 
essential to the mind 4 . 

S. Certainly the mind always and constantly thinks : and we 
know this too. In sleep and trances the mind exists not 
there is no time, no succession of ideas 5 . 

S. To say the mind exists without thinking is a contra 
diction, nonsense, nothing. 

S. Folly to inquire w 1 determines the Will. Uneasiness, &c. 
are ideas, therefore unactive, therefore can do nothing, there 
fore cannot determine the Will fi . 

1 homonymy, i.e. equivoca- 3 Is this consistent with other 
tion. entries? 

2 Voluntary or responsible acti- 4 Essay, Bk. II. ch. i. sect. 9-19. 
vity is not an idea or datum of 5 This is one way of meeting 
sense, nor can it be realised in the difficulty of supposed inter- 
sensuous imagination. He uses ruptions of conscious or percipient 
thing in the wide meaning which activity. 

comprehends persons. This seems to imply that volun- 


S. Again, w fc mean you by determine ? 

N. For want of rightly understanding time, motion, exis- 

T. tence, &:c., men are forc d into such absurd contradictions 
as this, viz. light moves 16 diameters of earth in a second 
of time. 

S. Twas the opinion that ideas could exist unperceiv d, or 
before perception, that made men think perception } was 
somewhat different from the idea perceived, i.e. y* it was an 
idea of reflection ; whereas the thing perceiv d was an idea 
of sensation. I say, twas this made em think the under 
standing took it in, receiv d it from without ; w dl could 
never be did not they think it existed without 2 . 

M. Properly speaking, idea is the picture of the imagination s 
making. This is y e likeness of, and refer d to the real idea, 
or (if you will) thing 3 . 

S. To ask, have we an idea of Will or volition, is nonsense. 
An idea can resemble nothing but an idea. 

S. If you ask w* thing it is that wills, I answer, if you mean 
idea by the word thing, or anything like any idea, then I 
say, tis no thing at all that wills 4 . This how extravagant 
soever it may seem, yet is a certain truth. We are cheated 
by these general terms, thing, is, &c. 

S. Again, if by is you mean is perceived, or does perceive, 
I say nothing w cn is perceived or does perceive wills. 

S. The referring ideas to things w ch are not ideas, the using 
the term idea of 5 , is one great cause of mistake, as in 
other matters, so also in this. 

S. Some words there are w ch do not stand for ideas, viz. 
particles, will, &c. Particles stand for volitions and their 
concomitant ideas. 

S. There seem to be but two colours w ch are simple ideas, 
viz. those exhibited by the most and least refrangible rays ; 
[the others], being the intermediate ones, may be formed 
by composition. 

tary action is mysteriously self- as distinguished from what is 

originated. perceived in sense. 

1 perception. He does not 4 In a strict use of words, only 
include the percipient. persons exercise will not things. 

2 without, i.e. unrealised by 5 As we must do in imagination, 
any percipient. which (unlike sense) is representa- 

This would make idea the tive; for the mental images represent 

term only for what is imagined, original data of sense-perception. 

D 2 


S. I have no idea of a volition or act of the mind, neither 
has any other intelligence ; for that were a contradiction. 

N. B. Simple ideas, viz. colours, are not devoid of all 
sort of composition, tho it must be granted they are not 
made up of distinguishable ideas. Yet there is another 
sort of composition. Men are wont to call those things 
compounded in which we do not actually discover the 
component ingredients. Bodies are said to be compounded 
of chymical principles, which, nevertheless, come not into 
view till after the dissolution of the bodies w ch were not, 
could not, be discerned in the bodies whilst remaining 

I. All our knowledge is about particular ideas, according 
to Locke. All our sensations are particular ideas, as is 
evident. W* use then do we make of abstract general 
ideas, since we neither know nor perceive them ? 

S. Tis allow d that particles stand not for ideas, and yet 
they are not said to be empty useless sounds. The 
truth really is, they stand for operations of the mind, i. e. 

Mo. Locke says all our knowledge is about particulars. If 
so, pray w i is the following ratiocination but a jumble of 
words ? Omnis homo est animal ; omne animal vivit : 
ergo omnis homo vivit/ It amounts (if you annex particular 
ideas to the words animal and vivit ) to no more than 
this : Omnis homo est homo ; omnis homo est homo : 
ergo, omnis homo est homo. A mere sport and trifling 
with sounds. 

Mo. We have no ideas of vertues & vices, no ideas of moral 
actions 1 . Wherefore it may be question d whether we are 
capable of arriving at demonstration about them 2 , the 
morality consisting in the volition chiefly. 

E. Strange it is that men should be at a loss to find their 
idea of Existence ; since that (if such there be distinct from 
perception) it is brought into the mind by all the ways of 
sensation and reflection 3 , methinks it should be most 
familiar to us, and we best acquainted with it. 

1 Does he not allow that we 2 As Locke says we are. 

have meaning, if not ideas, when 3 Existence and unity are ideas 

we use the terms virtue and vice that are suggested to the under- 

and moral action ? standing by every object without 


E. This I am sure, I have no idea of Existence a , or annext 
to the word Existence. And if others have that s nothing 
to me ; they can never make me sensible of it ; simple 
ideas being incommunicable by language. 

S. Say you, the unknown substratum of volitions & ideas is 
something whereof I have no idea. I ask, Is there any 
other being which has or can have an idea of it ? If there 
be, then it must be itself an idea ; which you will think 

S. There is somewhat active in most perceptions, i. e. such 
as ensue upon our volitions, such as we can prevent and 
stop : e. g. I turn my eyes toward the sun : I open them. 
All this is active. 

S. Things are twofold active or inactive. The existence 
of active things is to act ; of inactive to be perceiv d. 

S. Distinct from or without perception there is no volition ; 

E. therefore neither is there existence without perception. 

G. God may comprehend all ideas, even the ideas w ch are 
painfull & unpleasant, without being in any degree pained 
thereby 2 . Thus we ourselves can imagine the pain of 
a burn, &c. without any misery or uneasiness at all. 

N. Truth, three sorts thereof natural, mathematical, & 

Mo - moral. 

Mo. Agreement of relation onely where numbers do obtain : 
of co-existence, in nature : of signification, by including, in 

I. Gyant who shakes the mountain that s on him must be 
acknowledged. Or rather thus : I am no more to be 
reckon d stronger than Locke than a pigmy should be 
reckon d stronger than a gyant, because he could throw off 
the molehill w ch lay upon him, and the gyant could onely 
shake or shove the mountain that oppressed him. This in 
the Preface. 

I. Promise to extend our knowledge & clear it of those 
shamefull contradictions which embarrass it. Something 
like this to begin the Introduction in a modest way 3 . 

and every idea within. When realised neither in percipient life 

ideas are in our minds, we consider nor in moral action, 

that they exist. Locke s Essay, 2 This suggests that God knows 

Bk. II. ch. 7. sect. 7. sensible things without being sen- 

1 i. e. of Existence in the abstract tient of any. 

unperceived and unperceiving 3 Cf. Piinciples^lnirod., sect. 1-5. 


I. Whoever shall pretend to censure any part, I desire he 
would read out the whole, else he may perhaps not under 
stand me. In the Preface or Introduction . 

S. Doctrine of identity best explained by taking the Will 
for volitions, the Understanding for ideas. The diffi 
culty of consciousness of w* are never acted surely solv d 

I. I must acknowledge myself beholding to the philosophers 
who have gone before me. They have given good rules, 
though certainly they do not always observe them. Sim 
ilitude of adventurers, who, tho they attained not the 
desired port, they by their wrecks have made known the 
rocks and sands, whereby the passage of aftercomers is 
made more secure & easy. Preface or Introduction. 

Mo. The opinion that men had ideas of moral actions 2 has 
render d the demonstrating ethiques very difficult to them. 
An idea being itself unactive cannot be the resemblance 
or image of an active thing. 

Excuse to be made in the Introduction for using the 
word idea, viz. because it has obtain d. But a caution 
must be added. 

Scripture and possibility are the onely proofs 3 with 
Malbranch. Add to these what he calls a great propension 
to think so : this perhaps may be questioned. Perhaps 
men, if they think before they speak, will not be found so 
thoroughly persuaded of the existence of Matter 3 . 

M - On second thoughts I am on t other extream. I am 
certain of that w ch Malbranch seems to doubt of, viz. the 
existence of bodies 4 . 

l - Mem. To bring the killing blow at the last, e.g. in the 
matter of abstraction to bring Locke s general triangle in 
the last 5 . 

They give good rules, tho perhaps they themselves do 
not always observe them. They speak much of clear and 
distinct ideas, though at the same time they talk of general 
abstract ideas, &c. I ll [instance] in Locke s opinion of 
abstraction, he being as clear a writer as I have met with. 

1 Cf. Preface to Principles ; also of Matter. 

to Dialogues. 4 bodies i. e. sensible things 

2 i. e. that ethics was a science not unrealised Matter. 

of phenomena or ideas. 5 Cf. Principles, Introduction, 

8 i.e. of the independent existence sect. 13. 


Such was the candour of this great man that I perswade 
myself, were he alive 1 , he would not be offended that 
1 differ from him : seeing that even in so doing I follow 
his advice, viz. to use my own judgement, see with my 
own eyes, & not with another s. Introduction. 

The word thing, as comprising or standing for idea & 
volition, usefull ; as standing for idea and archetype without 
the mind 2 , mischievous and useless. 

Mo. To demonstrate morality it seems one need only make 
a dictionary of words, and see which included which. At 
least, this is the greatest part and bulk of the work. 

Mo. Locke s instances of demonstration in morality are, ac 
cording to his own rule, trifling propositions. 

Qu. How comes it that some ideas are confessedly 

s * allow d by all to be onely in the mind 3 , and others as 
generally taken to be without the mind 4 , if, according to 
you, all are equally and only in the mind ? Ans. Because 
that in proportion to pleasure or pain ideas are attended 
with desire, exertion, and other actions which include voli 
tion. Now volition is by all granted to be in spirit. 

I. If men would lay aside words in thinking, tis impos 
sible they should ever mistake, save only in matters of 
fact. I mean it seems impossible they should be posi 
tive & secure that anything was true w ch in truth is not 
so. Certainly I cannot err in matter of simple perception. 
So far as we can in reasoning go without the help of signs, 
there we have certain knowledge. Indeed, in long deduc 
tions made by signs there may be slips of memory. 

Mo. From my doctrine there follows a cure for pride. We 
are only to be praised for those things which are our own, 
or of our own doing ; natural abilitys are not consequences 
of our volitions. 

M. Mem. Candidly to take notice that Locke holds some 
dangerous opinions ; such as the infinity and eternity of 
Space and the possibility of Matter s thinking 5 . 

1 Locke died in October, 1704. 4 e.g. primary qualities, in which 

2 without the mind, i.e. ab- pleasure and pain are latent, 
stracted from all active percipient 5 See Locke s Essay, Bk. II. ch. 
life. 13. 21, ch. 17. 4; also Bk. IV. 

3 e.g. secondary qualities of sen- ch. 3. 6; also his controversy 
sible things, in which pleasure and with Bishop Stillingfleet regarding 
pain are prominent. the possibility of Matter thinking. 


I. Once more I desire my reader may be upon his guard 
against the fallacy of words. Let him beware that I do 
not impose on him by plausible empty talk, that common 
dangerous way of cheating men into absurditys. Let 
him not regard my words any otherwise than as occasions 
of bringing into his mind determin d significations. So 
far as they fail of this they are gibberish, jargon, & de 
serve not the name of language. I desire & warn him 
not to expect to find truth in my book, or anywhere but 
in his own mind. WVver I see myself tis impossible 
I can paint it out in words. 

Mo. N.B. To consider well w" u is meant by that w ch Locke 
saith concerning algebra that it supplys intermediate 
ideas. Also to think of a method affording the same 
use in morals &c. that this doth in mathematiques. 

Mo. Homo is not proved to be vivens by means of any 
intermediate idea. I don t fully agree w th Locke in w fc he 
says concerning sagacity in finding out intermediate ideas 
in matter capable of demonstration & the use thereof; as 
if that were the onely means of improving and enlarging 
demonstrative knowledge. 

S. There is a difference betwixt power & volition. There 
maybe volition without power. But there can be no power 
without volition. Power implyeth volition, & at the same 
time a connotation of the effects following the volition . 

M. We have assuredly an idea of substance. Twas absurd 

s - of Locke 2 to think we had a name without a meaning. 
This might prove acceptable to the Stillingfleetians. 

M. The substance of Body we know 3 . The substance of 

s - Spirit we do not know it not being knowable, it being a 
purus actus. 

I. Words have ruin d and overrun all the sciences law, 
physique, chymistry, astrology, &c. 

I. Abstract ideas only to be had amongst the learned. 
The vulgar never think they have any such, nor truly do 
they find any want of them. Genera & species & abstract 
ideas are terms unknown to them. 

With Berkeley real space is a finite 2 Essay, Bk. I. ch. iv. 18. See 

creature, dependent for realisation also Locke s Letters to Stillingfleet. 

on living percipient Spirit. 3 It is, according to Berkeley, 

1 But what of the origination of the steady union or co-existence of 

the volition itself? a group of sense-phenomena. 


S. Locke s out 1 the case is different. We can have an 
idea of body without motion, but not of soul without 

Mo. God ought to be worshiped. This easily demonstrated 
when once we ascertain the signification of the words God, 
worship, ought. 

S. No perception, according to Locke, is active. There 
fore no perception (i. e. no idea) can be the image of, or 
like unto, that which is altogether active & not at all passive, 
i.e. the Will. 

S. I can will the calling to mind something that is past, 
tho at the same time that w ch I call to mind was not in 
my thoughts before that volition of mine, & consequently 
I could have had no uneasiness for the want of it. 

S. The Will & the Understanding may very well be thought 
two distinct beings. 

Sed quia voluntas raro agit nisi ducente desiderio. 
V. Locke, Epistles, p. 479, ad Limburgum. 

You cannot say the m. t. [minimum tangibile] is like or 
one with the m. v. [minimum visibilej, because they be 
both minima, just perceiv d, and next door to nothing. 
You may as well say the m. t. is the same with or like 
unto a sound, so small that it is scarce perceiv d. 

Extension seems to be a mode of some tangible or sen 
sible quality according as it is seen or felt. 

s - The spirit the active thing that w ch is soul, & God 

is the Will alone. The ideas are effects impotent things. 

The concrete of the will & understanding I might call 

mind ; not person, lest offence be given. Mem. Carefully 

to omit defining of person, or making much mention of it. 

S. You ask, do these volitions make one Will ? W* you 
ask is meerly about a word unity being no more 2 . 

N. B. To use utmost caution not to give the least handle 
of offence to the Church or Churchmen. 

1 Essay, Bk. II. ch. i." 10 2 In other words, the material 

where he argues for interruptions world is wholly impotent : all acti- 

of consciousness. Men think not vity in the universe is spiritual, 


I. Even to speak somewhat favourably of the Schoolmen, 
and shew that they who blame them for jargon are not 
free of it themselves. Introd. 

Locke s great oversight seems to be that he did not 
begin with his third book ; at least that he had not some 
thought of it at first. Certainly the 2 l & 4 th books don t 
agree w th w* he says in y e 3 (1 \ 

M. If Matter 2 is once allow d to exist, clippings of weeds and 
parings of nails may think, for ought that Locke can tell ; 
tho he seems positive of the contrary. 

Since I say men cannot mistake in short reasoning 
about things demonstrable, if they lay aside words, it will 
be expected this Treatise will contain nothing but w* is 
certain & evident demonstration, & in truth I hope you 
will find nothing in it but what is such. Certainly I take 
it all for such. Introd. 

I. When I say I will reject all propositions wherein I 
know not fully and adequately and clearly, so far as know- 
able, the thing meant thereby, this is not to be extended 
to propositions in the Scripture. I speak of matters of 
Reason and Philosophy not Revelation. In this I think 
an humble, implicit faith becomes us (when we cannot 
comprehend or understand the proposition), such as a 
popish peasant gives to propositions he hears at mass in 
Latin. This proud men may call blind, popish, implicit, 
irrational. For my part I think it is more irrational to 
pretend to dispute at, cavil, and ridicule holy mysteries, 
i. e. propositions about things that are altogether above 
our knowledge, out of our reach. When I shall come to 
plenary knowledge of the meaning of any fact, then I shall 
yield an explicit belief. Introd. 

Complexation of ideas twofold. Y s refers to colours 
being complex ideas. 

Considering length without breadth is considering any 
length, be the breadth w* it will. 

M. I may say earth, plants, &c. were created before man 
there being other intelligences to perceive them, before 
man was created ". 

1 On the order of its four 2 i. e. independent impercepti- 

books and the structure of Locke s ble Matter. 

Essay, see the Prolegomena in my 3 What of the earliest geological 

edition of the Essay, pp. liv-lviii. periods, asks Ueberweg? But 


M. There is a philosopher 1 who says we can get an idea 
of substance by no way of sensation or reflection, & seems 
to imagine that we want a sense proper for it. Truly if 
we had a new sense it could only give us a new idea. 
Now I suppose he will not say substance, according to 
him, is an idea. For my part, I own I have no idea can 
stand for substance in his and the Schoolmen s sense of 
that word. But take it in the common vulgar sense, & 
then we see and feel substance. 

E. N.B. That not common usage, but the Schoolmen coined 
the word Existence, supposed to stand for an abstract 
general idea. 

Writers of Optics mistaken in their principles both in 
judging of magnitudes and distances. 

I. Tis evident y* w" the solitary man should be taught to 
speak, the words would give him no other new ideas (save 
only the sounds, and complex ideas which, tho unknown 
before, may be signified by language) beside w* he had be 
fore. If he had not, could not have, an abstract idea 
before, he cannot have it after he is taught to speak. 

Mo. Homo est homo/ &c. comes at last to Petrus est Petrus, 
&c. Now, if these identical propositions are sought after in 
the mind, they will not be found. There are no identical 
mental propositions. Tis all about sounds and terms. 

Mo. Hence we see the doctrine of certainty by ideas, and 
proving by intermediate ideas, comes to nothing 2 . 

Mo. \fy~e may have certainty & knowledge without ideas, i.e. 
without other ideas than the words, and their standing for 
one idea, i.e. their being to be used indifferently. 

Mo - It seems to me that we have no certainty about ideas, 
but only about words. Tis improper to say, I am certain 
I see, I feel, &c. There are no mental propositions 

is there greater difficulty in such in- in the agreement of our ideas with 

stances than in explaining the exis- the reality of things. See Essay, 

tenceofatableor a house, while one Bk. IV. ch. 4. 18. Here the 

is merely seeing, withouttouching? sceptical difficulty arises, which 

1 Locke explains substance as Berkeley meets under his Prin- 
an uncertain supposition of we ciple. If we have no perception 
know not what. Essay, Bk. I. ch. 4. of reality, we cannot compare our 
18. ideas with it, and so cannot have 

2 Locke makes certainty consist any criterion of reality. 


form d answering to these words, & in simple perception 
tis allowed by all there is no affirmation or negation, and 
consequently no certainty 1 . 

Mo. The reason why we can demonstrate so well about signs 
is, that they are perfectly arbitrary & in our power made 
at pleasure. 

Mo. The obscure ambiguous term relation, which is said to 
be the largest field of knowledge, confounds us, deceives us. 

Mo. Let any man shew me a demonstration, not verbal, that 
does not depend on some false principle ; or at best 
on some principle of nature, which is y e effect of God s 
will, and we know not how soon it may be changed. 

I. Qu. What becomes of the ceternce veritates? Ans. They 
vanish 2 . 

I. But, say you, I find it difficult to look beneath the words 
and uncover my ideas. Say I, Use will make it easy. In 
the sequel of my Book the cause of this difficulty shall be 
more clearly made out. 

I. To view the deformity of error we need onely undress it. 

E. Cogito ergo sum. Tautology. No mental proposition 
answering thereto. 

N. Knowledge, or certainty, or perception of agreement of 

Mo - ideas as to identity and diversity, and real existence, 
vanisheth; of relation, becometh merely nominal; of 
co-existence, remaineth. Locke thought in this latter 
our knowledge was little or nothing. Whereas in this 
only real knowledge seemeth to be found 3 . 

P. We must w th the mob place certainty in the senses 4 . 

Tis a man s duty, tis the fruit of friendship, to 
speak well of his friend. Wonder not therefore that I do 
w fc I do. 

! A man of slow parts may overtake truth, c. Introd. 
Even my shortsightedness might perhaps be aiding to me 
in this matter twill make me bring the object nearer to 
my thoughts. A purblind person, c. Introd. 

1 [This seems wrong. Certainty, into contingent. 

real certainty, is of sensible ideas. 3 See Locke s Essay, Bk. IV. 
I may be certain without affirma- ch. i, 3-7, and ch. 3. 7-21. 
tion or negation. AUTHOR.] This The stress Berkeley lays on co- 
needs further explanation, existence is significant. 

~ This entry and the preceding 4 i. e. we must not doubt the real- 
tends to resolve all judgments which ity of the immediate data of sense 
are not what Kant calls analytical but accept it, as the mob do. 


S. Locke to Limborch, &c. Talk of judicium intellectus 
preceding the volition : I think judicium includes volition. 
I can by no means distinguish these judtcium, intellectus, 
indifferentia, uneasiness to many things accompanying or 
preceding every volition, as e. g. the motion of my hand. 

S. Qu. W fc mean you by my perceptions, my volitions ? 
Both all the perceptions I perceive or conceive \ <S:c. are 
mine ; all the volitions I am conscious to are mine. 

S. Homo est agens liberum. What mean they by homo 
and agens in this place ? 

E. Will any man say that brutes have ideas of Unity & 
Existence ? I believe not. Yet if they are suggested by 
all the ways of sensation, tis strange they should want 
them 2 . 

I. It is a strange thing and deserves our attention, that the 
more time and pains men have consum d in the study of 
philosophy, by so much the more they look upon them 
selves to be ignorant & weak creatures. They discover 
flaws and imperfections in their faculties w ch other men 
never spy out. They find themselves under a necessity of 
admitting many inconsistent, irreconcilable opinions for 
true. There is nothing they touch with their hand, or 
behold with their eyes, but has its dark sides much larger 
and more numerous than w^ is perceived, & at length turn 
scepticks, at least in most things. I imagine all this pro 
ceeds from, &c. Exord. Introd. 3 

I. These men with a supercilious pride disdain the common 
single information of sense. They grasp at knowledge 
by sheafs & bundles. ( Tis well if, catching at too much at 
once, they hold nothing but emptiness & air.) They in 
the depth of their understanding contemplate abstract 

It seems not improbable that the most comprehensive & 
sublime intellects see more m.v. s at once, i. e. that their 
visual systems are the largest. 

Words (by them meaning all sorts of signs) are so 
necessary that, instead of being (w n duly us d or in their 
own nature) prejudicial to the advancement of knowledge, 

1 But is imagination different also Locke s Essay, Bk. II. ch. 7. 
from actual perception only in sect. 7. 

degree of reality ? 3 Cf. Principles, Introduction, 

2 Cf. Principles, sect. 13, 120 ; sect. i. 


or an hindrance to knowledge, without them there could 
in mathematiques themselves be no demonstration. 

Mem. To be eternally banishing Metaphisics, &c., and 
recalling men to Common Sense 1 . 

S. We cannot conceive other minds besides our own but 
as so many selves. We suppose ourselves affected w th 
such & such thoughts &: such and such sensations 2 . 

S. Qu. whether composition of ideas be not that faculty 
which chiefly serves to discriminate us from brutes? I 
question whether a brute does or can imagine a blue horse 
or chimera. 

Naturalists do not distinguish betwixt cause and occa 
sion. Useful to enquire after co-existing ideas or occa 

Mo. Morality may be demonstrated as mixt mathematics. 

S. Perception is passive, but this not distinct from idea. 
Therefore there can be no idea of volition. 

Algebraic species or letters are denominations of de 
nominations. Therefore Arithmetic to be treated of before 

2 crowns are called ten shillings. Hence may appear 
the value of numbers. 

Complex ideas are the creatures of the mind. Hence 
may appear the nature of numbers. This to be deeply 
discuss d. 

I am better informed & shall know more by telling me 
there are 10,000 men, than by shewing me them all drawn 
up. I shall better be able to judge of the bargain you d 
have me make w n you tell me how much (i. e. the name of 
y c -) money lies on the table, than by offering and shewing 
it without naming. I regard not the idea, the looks, 
but the names. Hence may appear the nature of numbers. 
Children are unacquainted with numbers till they have 
made some progress in language. This could not be if 
they were ideas suggested by all the senses. 

1 Berkeley s aim evidently is to is intelligible to us is that of which 
deliver men from emptyabstractions, another person is percipient, and 
by a return to more reasonably in- which is objective to me, in a perci- 
terpreted common-sense. pient experience foreign to mine. 

2 The sort of external world that 


Numbers are nothing but names never words. 

Mem. Imaginary roots to unravel that mystery. 

Ideas of utility are annexed to numbers. 

In arithmetical problems men seek not any idea of num 
ber. They only seek a denomination. This is all can be 
of use to them. 

Take away the signs from Arithmetic and Algebra, and 
pray w fc remains ? 

These are sciences purely verbal, and entirely useless 
but for practice in societies of men. No speculative 
knowledge, no comparing of ideas in them . 

Qu. whether Geometry may not properly be reckon d 
amongst the mixt mathematics Arithmetic & Algebra 
being the only abstracted pure, i. e. entirely nominal- 
Geometry being an application of these to points 2 ? 

Mo. Locke of Trifling Propositions, [b. 4. c. 8] Mem. 

Well to observe & con over that chapter. 
E. Existence, Extension, &c. are abstract, i.e. no ideas. 

They are words, unknown and useless to the vulgar. 

Mo. Sensual pleasure is the summnm bonuni. This the great 
principle of morality. This once rightly understood, all 
the doctrines, even the severest of the Gospels, may clearly 
be demonstrated. 

Mo. Sensual pleasure, qua pleasure, is good & desirable by 
a wise man 3 . But if it be contemptible, tis not qua 
pleasure but qua pain, or cause of pain, or (which is the 
same thing) of loss of greater pleasure. 

I. W n I consider, the more objects we see at once the 
more distant they are, and that eye which beholds a great 
many things can see none of them near. 

I. By idea I mean any sensible or imaginable thing 4 . 

M. To be sure or certain of \v we do not actually perceive 5 

s - (I say perceive, not imagine), we must not be altogether 

1 Cf. Berkeley s Arithmetica and as pains or uneasinesses are of 

Miscellanea Mathemaiica, published correlative aversions. This is im- 

while he was making his entries in plied in the very nature of pleasure 

this Commonplace Book. and pain. 

- Minima sensibilia? 4 Here we have his explanation 

3 Pleasures, qua pleasures, are of idea. 

natural causes of correlative desires, 5 Absent things. 


passive ; there must be a disposition to act ; there must be 
assent, w ch is active. Nay, what do I talk ; there must be 
actual volition. 

What do we demonstrate in Geometry but that lines 
are equal or unequal ? i. e. may not be called by the same 
name l . 

I. I approve of this axiom of the Schoolmen, Nihil est in 
M - intellectu quod non prius fuit in sensu. 2 1 wish they 

had stuck to it. It had never taught them the doctrine 

of abstract ideas. 

S. Nihil dat quod non habet/ or, the effect is contained in 
G - the cause, is an axiom I do not understand or believe 

to be true. 

E. Whoever shall cast his eyes on the writings of old or 
new philosophers, and see the noise is made about formal 
and objective Being, Will, &:c. 

G. Absurd to argue the existence of God from his idea. 
We have no idea of God. Tis impossible 3 . 

M. Cause of much errour & confusion that men knew not 

E - what was meant by Reality 4 . 

I. Des Cartes, in Med. 2, says the notion of this particular 
wax is less clear than that of wax in general ; and in the 
same Med., a little before, he forbears to consider bodies 
in general, because (says he) these general conceptions are 
usually confused. 

M. Des Cartes, in Med. 3, calls himself a thinking substance, 

s - and a stone an extended substance; and adds that they 
both agree in this, that they are substances. And in the 
next paragraph he calls extension a mode of substance. 

S. Tis commonly said by the philosophers, that if the soul 
of man were self-existent it would have given itself all pos 
sible perfection. This I do not understand. 

1 Here, as elsewhere, he resolves plied assumptions even in the 
geometry, as strictly demonstra- Principles, apart from which they 
ble, into a reasoned system of ana- could not cohere ? 

lytical or verbal propositions. 3 To have an idea of God as 

2 Compare this with note 3, p. Berkeley uses idea would imply 
34 ; also with the contrast between that God is an immediately percep- 
Sense and Reason, in Sin s. Is tible, or at least an imaginable object, 
the statement consistent with im- Cf. Principles, sect. 89. 


Mo. Mem. To excite men to the pleasures of the eye & the 
ear, which surfeit not, nor bring those evils after them, 
as others. 

S. We see no variety or difference betwixt volitions, only 
between their effects. Tis one Will, one Act distin 
guished by the effects. This Will, this Act, is the Spirit, 
i.e. operative principle, soul, &c. No mention of fears and 
jealousies, nothing like a party. 

M. Locke in his 4 th Book \ and Des Cartes in Med. 6, use 
the same argument for the existence of objects, viz. that 
sometimes we see, feel, &c. against our will. 
S. While I exist or have any idea, I am eternally, con 
stantly willing ; my acquiescing in the present state is 

E. The existence of any thing imaginable is nothing differ 
ent from imagination or perception 2 . Volition or Will, 
w ch is not imaginable, regard must not be had to its exist 
ence (?) * * * First Book. 

Mo. There are four sorts of propositions : Gold is a metal ; 
Gold is yellow ; Gold is fixt ; Gold is not a stone of 
which the first, second, and third are only nominal, and 
have no mental propositions answering them. 
M. Mem. In vindication of the senses effectually to confute 
what Des Cartes saith in the last par. of the last Med., 
viz. that the senses oftener inform him falsely than truely 
that sense of pain tells me not my foot is bruised or broken, 
but I, having frequently observed these two ideas, viz. of 
that peculiar pain and bruised foot go together, do erron 
eously take them to be inseparable by a necessity of Nature 
as if Nature were anything but the ordinance of the free 
will of God 3 . 

M. Des Cartes owns we know not a substance immediately 
S. by itself, but by this alone, that it is the subject of several 

acts. Ans. to 2 d objection of Hobbs. 

S. Hobbs in some degree falls in with Locke, saying 
thought is to the mind or himself as dancing to the dancer. 
S. Hobbs in his Object. 3 ridicules those expressions of 

1 Ch. ii. 5. vourite thought of the divine arbi- 

a Why add or perception ? trariness of the constitution of Na- 

5 Here we have Berkeley s fa- ture, and of its laws of change. 



the scholastiques the will wills/ c. So does Locke. 
I am of another mind \ 

S. Des Cartes, in answer to Object. 3 of Hobbs, owns he is 
distinct from thought as a thing from its modus or manner. 

E. Opinion that existence was distinct from perception of 
S. horrible consequence. It is the foundation of Hobbs s 

doctrine, &c. 

M. Malbranch in his illustration 2 differs widely from me. 
p - He doubts of the existence of bodies. I doubt not in the 
E - least of this. 
P. I differ from Cartesians in that I make extension, colour, 

c. to exist really in bodies independent of our mind 3 . All 

y< carefully and lucidly to be set forth. 

M. Not to mention the combinations of powers, but to say the 
P. things the effects themselves do really exist, even w 11 not 

actually perceived ; but still with relation to perception 4 . 

The great use of the Indian figures above the Roman 
shews arithmetic to be about signs, not ideas or at least 
not ideas different from the characters themselves 5 . 

M. Reasoning there may be about things or ideas, or about 

N - actions ; but demonstration can be only verbal. I ques 
tion, no matter &c. 

G. Quoth Des Cartes, The idea of God is not made by me, 
for I can neither add to nor subtract from it. No more 
can he add to or take from any other idea, even of his own 

S. The not distinguishing twixt Will and ideas is a grand 
mistake with Hobbs. He takes those things for nothing 
which are not ideas 6 . 

M. Say you, At this rate all s nothing but idea mere phan 
tasm. I answer, Everything as real as ever. I hope to 
call a thing idea makes it not the less real. Truly I should 
perhaps have stuck to the word thing, and not mentioned 

1 This suggests the puzzle, that laws are independent of individual 
the cause of every volition must will, although the individual partici- 
be a preceding volition, and so on pates in perception of the ordered 
ad infinitum. changes. 

2 Recherche, I. 19. 5 Cf. the Anthmetica. 

3 i. e. of his own individual mind. 6 i.e. which are not phenomena. 

4 i.e. to a percipient mind, but This recognition of originative Will 
not necessarily to mine ; for natural even then distinguished Berkeley. 


the word idea, were it not for a reason, and I think a good 
one too, which I shall give in the Second Book l . 

I. Idea is the object of thought. Y* I think on, whatever 

S. it be, I call idea. Thought itself, or thinking, is no 
idea. Tis an act i.e. volition, i.e. as contradistinguished 
to effects the Will. 

I. Locke, in B. 4. c. 5, assigns not the right cause why 

M - mental propositions are so difficult. It is not because of 
complex but because of abstract ideas. Y e idea of a horse 
is as complex as that of fortitude. Yet in saying the 
horse is white I form a mental proposition with ease. 
But when I say fortitude is a virtue/ I shall find a mental 
proposition hard, or not at all to be come at. 

S. Pure intellect I understand not 2 . 

Locke is in y e right in those things wherein he differs 
from y e Cartesians, and they cannot but allow of his 
opinions, if they stick to their own principles or causes of 
Existence & other abstract ideas. 

G. The properties of all things are in God, i. e. there is in 

S. the Deity Understanding as well as Will. He is no blind 
agent, and in truth a blind agent is a contradiction 3 . 

G. I am certain there is a God, tho I do not perceive Him 
have no intuition of Him. This not difficult if we rightly 
understand w* is meant by certainty. 

S. It seems that the Soul, taken for the Will, is immortal, 

S. Qu. whether perception must of necessity precede voli 
tion ? 

S. Error is not in the Understanding, but in the Will. 

Mo. What I understand or perceive, that I understand. There 
can be no errour in this. 

Mo. Mem. To take notice of Locke s woman afraid of a 

N - wetting, in the Introd., to shew there may be reasoning 
about ideas or things. 

M. Say Des Cartes & Malbranch, God hath given us strong 
inclinations to think our ideas proceed from bodies, or that 

1 Is this Part II of the Principles, which he occasionally seems to 

which was lost in Italy ? rush in the Commonplace Book, 

2 The thought of articulate rela- in his repulsion from empty ab- 

tions to which real existence must stractions. 

conform, was not then at least in 3 This is the essence of Berke- 

Berkeley s mind. Hence the ley s philosophy a blind agent 

empiricism and sensationalism into is a contradiction. 

E 2 


bodies do exist. Pray w t mean they by this? Would 
they have it that the ideas of imagination are images of, 
and proceed from, the ideas of sense ? This is true, but 
cannot be their meaning ; for they speak of ideas of sense 
as themselves proceeding from, being like unto I know 
not w* ] . 

M. Cartesius per ideam vult omne id quod habet esse 

s - objectivum in intellects V. Tract, de Methodo. 

S. Qu. May there not be an Understanding without a Will ? 

S. Understanding is in some sort an action. 

S. Silly of Hobbs, &c. to speak of the Will as if it were 
motion, with which it has no likeness. 

M. Ideas of Sense are the real things or archetypes. Ideas 
of imagination, dreams, c. are copies, images, of these. 

M. My doctrines rightly understood, all that philosophy of 
Epicurus, Hobbs, Spinosa, &c., which has been a declared 
enemy of religion, comes to the ground. 

G. Hobbs & Spinosa make God extended. Locke also 
seems to do the same 2 . 

Ens, res, aliquid dicuntur termini transcendentales. 

E - Spinosa, p. 76, prop. 40, Eth. part 2, gives an odd account 
of their original. Also of the original of all universals 
Homo, Canis, &c. 

G. Spinosa (vid. Prsef. Opera Posthum.) will have God to 
be omnium rerum causa immanens/ and to countenance 
this produces that of St. Paul, in Him we live, &c. Now 
this of St. Paul may be explained by my doctrine as well 
as Spinosa s, or Locke s, or Hobbs s, or Raphson s 3 , &c. 

S. The Will is purus actus, or rather pure spirit not imag- 

1 This is the basis of Berkeley s also of De Spatio Reati, sett ente In- 
reasoning for the necessarily un- fmito: conamen mathetnatico-meta- 
rcprcsentativc character of the ideas physicutn (1697), to which Berke- 
or phenomena that are presented to ley refers in one of his letters to 
our senses. They are the originals. Johnson. See also Green s Prin- 

2 Berkeley s horror of abstract cipks of Natural Philosophy (1712). 
or unperceived space and atoms The immanence of omnipotent 
is partly explained by dogmas goodness in the material world 
in natural philosophy that are now was unconsciously Berkeley s pre- 
antiquated. supposition. In God we have our 

3 Ralph [?] Raphson, author of being. 
Demonstratio de Deo (1710), and 


inable, not sensible, not intelligible, in no wise the object 
of the understanding, no wise perceivable. 
S. Substance of a spirit is that it acts, causes, wills, 
operates, or if you please (to avoid the quibble y* may be 
made of the word it ) to act, cause, will, operate. Its 
substance is not knowable, not being an idea. 

G. Why may we not conceive it possible for God to create 
things out of nothing ? Certainly we ourselves create in 
some wise whenever we imagine. 

E. Ex nihilo nihil fit. This (saith Spinoza, Opera Posth. 

N - p. 464) and the like are called veritates cetcrnce, because 
1 nullam fidem habent extra mentem. To make this axiom 
have a positive signification, one should express it thus : 
Every idea has a cause, i. e. is produced by a Will *. 

P. The philosophers talk much of a distinction twixt 
absolute & relative things, or twixt things considered in 
their own nature & the same things considered with respect 
to us. I know not w* they mean by things considered in 
themselves. This is nonsense, jargon. 

S. It seems there can be no perception no idea without 
Will, seeing there are no ideas so indifferent but one had 
rather have them than annihilation, or annihilation than 
them. Or if there be such an equal balance, there must be 
an equal mixture of pleasure and pain to cause it ; there 
being no ideas perfectly void of all pain & uneasiness, but 
w fc are preferable to annihilation. 

Recipe in animum tuum, per cogitationem vehementem, 
rerum ipsarum, non literarum aut sonorum imagines. 
Hobbs against Wallis. 

Tis a perfection we may imagine in superior spirits, 
that they can see a great deal at once with the utmost 
clearness and distinction ; whereas we can only see a 
point 2 . 

Mem. W 11 I treat of mathematiques to enquire into the 
controversy twixt Hobbes and Wallis. 

1 Note here Berkeley s version event in the material world 

of the causal principle, which is must be the issue of acting Will, 
really the central presupposition - So Locke on an ideally perfect 

of his whole philosophy viz. every memory. Essay, Bk. II. ch. x. 9. 


G. Every sensation of mine, which happens in consequence 
of the general known laws of nature, & is from without, i. e. 
independent of my will, demonstrates the being of a God, 
i. e. of an unextended, incorporeal spirit, which is omni 
present, omnipotent, &c. 

M. I say not with J. S. [John Sergeant] that we see solids. 
I reject his solid philosophy solidity being only per 
ceived by touch \ 

S. It seems to me that will and understanding volitions and 
ideas cannot be separated, that either cannot be possibly 
without the other. 

E. Some ideas or other I must have, so long as I exist or 

S. will. But no one idea or sort of ideas being essential 2 . 

M. The distinction between idea and ideatum I cannot 
otherwise conceive than by making one the effect or 
consequence of dream, reverie, imagination the other of 
sense and the constant laws of nature. 

P. Dico quod extensio non concipitur in se et per se, contra 
quam dicit Spinoza in Epist. 2 a ad Oldenburgium. 

G. My definition of the word God I think much clearer than 
those of Des Cartes & Spinoza, viz. Ens summe perfectum 
& absolute infinitum/ or Ens constans infinitis attributis, 
quorum unumquodque est infinitum V 

Tis chiefly the connexion betwixt tangible and visible 
ideas that deceives, and not the visible ideas themselves. 

S. But the grand mistake is that we know not what we mean 
by we/ or selves/ or mind/ &c. Tis most sure & 
certain that our ideas are distinct from the mind, i. e. the 
Will, the Spirit 4 . 

S. I must not mention the understanding as a faculty or 

1 John Sergeant was the author of in controversy with Tillotson. 

Solid Philosophy asserted against the 2 Spirit and Matter are mutually 

Fancies of the Ideists (London, 1697); dependent; but Spirit is the real- 

also of The Method to Science (1696}. ising factor and real agent in the 

He was a deserter from the Church universe. 

of England to the Church of Rome, 3 See Descartes, Meditations, III ; 

and wrote several pieces in defence Spinoza, Epist. II, ad Oldenburgium. 

of Roman theology some of them * Cf. Principles, sect. 2. 


part of the mind. I must include understanding & will in 
the word Spirit by which I mean all that is active. 
I must not say that the understanding differs not from the 
particular ideas, or the will from particular volitions. 
S. The Spirit, the Mind, is neither a volition nor an idea. 
N. I say there are no causes (properly speaking) but spiritual, 
S. nothing active but Spirit. Say you, This is only verbal ; 
tis only annexing a new sort of signification to the word 
cause, & why may not others as well retain the old one, 
and call one idea the cause of another which always 
follows it? I answer, If you do so I shall drive you 
into many absurditys : you cannot avoid running into 
opinions you ll be glad to disown, if you stick firmly to that 
signification of the word Cause. 

Mo. In valuing good we reckon too much on the present & 
our own. 

Mo. There be two sorts of pleasure. The one is ordained as 
a spur or incitement to somewhat else, & has a visible 
relation and subordination thereto ; the other is not. 
Thus the pleasure of eating is of the former sort, of 
musick of the later sort. These may be used for recreation, 
those not but in order to their end. 

Mo. Three sorts of useful knowledge that of Coexistence, to 

N - be treated of in our Principles of Natural Philosophy ; that 
of Relation, in Mathematiques ; that of Definition, or in 
clusion, or words (which perhaps differs not from that of re 
lation), in Morality l . 

S. Will, understanding, desire, hatred, c., so far forth as 
they are acts or active, differ not. All their difference con 
sists in their objects, circumstances, &c. 

N. We must carefully distinguish betwixt two sorts of causes 

physical & spiritual. 
N. The physical may more properly be called occasions. Yet 

(to comply) we may call them causes but then we must 

mean causes y* do nothing. 

S. According to Locke, we must be in an eternal uneasiness 

1 Is inclusion here virtually a synonym for verbal definition ? 


so long as we live, bating the time of sleep or trance, &c. ; 
for he will have even the continuance of an action to be in 
his sense an action, & so requires a volition, & this an un 

I. I must not pretend to promise much of demonstration. 
I must cancell all passages that look like that sort of pride, 
that raising of expectation in my friend. 

I. If this be the case, surely a man had better not philoso 
phize at all : no more than a deformed person ought to 
cavil to behold himself by the reflex light of a mirrour. 

j. Or thus, like deformed persons who, having beheld 
themselves by the reflex light of a mirrour, are displeased 
with their diseases. 

M. What can an idea be like but another idea ? We can 
compare it with nothing else a sound like a sound, a col 
our like a colour. 

M. Is it not nonsense to say a smell is like a thing which 
cannot be smelt, a colour is like a thing w b cannot be seen ? 

M. Bodies exist without the mind, i. e. are not the mind, but 
S. distinct from it. This I allow, the mind being altogether 
different therefrom \ 

p. Certainly we should not see motion if there was no diver 
sity of colours. 
p. Motion is an abstract idea, i. e. there is no such idea that 

can be conceived by itself. 
I. Contradictions cannot be both true. Men are obliged to 

answer objections drawn from consequences. Introd. 
S. The Will and Volition are words not used by the vulgar. 

The learned are bantered by their meaning abstract ideas. 
Speculative Math, as if a man was all day making hard 

knots on purpose to unty them again. 

Tho it might have been otherwise, yet it is convenient 

the same thing w ch is M.V. should be also M.T., or very 

near it. 
S. I must not give the soul or mind the scholastique name 

pure act/ but rather pure spirit, or active being. 

1 See Principles, sect. 2. The uni- nomena, realised in the percipient 
verse of Berkeley consistsof Active experience of persons. All sup- 
Spirits that perceive and produce posed powers in Matter are refunded 
motion in impotent ideas or phe- into Spirit. 


S. I must not say the Will or Understanding are all one, 
but that they are both abstract ideas, i. e. none at all they 
not being even ratione different from the Spirit, qua faculties, 
or active. 

S. Dangerous to make idea cSi thing terms convertible 1 . 
That were the way to prove spirits are nothing. 

Mo. Qu. whether vcritas stands not for an abstract idea ? 

M. Tis plain the moderns must by their own principles own 
there are no bodies, i. e. no sort of bodies without the mind, 
i. e. unperceived. 

S. Qu. whether the Will can be the object of prescience or 

G. any knowledge ? 

P. If there were only one ball in the world, it could not be 
moved. There could be no variety of appearance. 

According to the doctrine of infinite divisibility, there 
must be some smell of a rose, v. g. at an infinite distance 
from it. 

M. Extension, tho it exist only in the mind, yet is no pro 
perty of the mind. The mind can exist without it, tho it 
cannot without the mind. But in Book II. I shall at large 
shew the difference there is betwixt the Soul and Body or 
extended being. 

S. Tis an absurd question w cn Locke puts, whether man be 
free to will ? 

Mem. To enquire into the reason of the rule for deter 
mining questions in Algebra. 

It has already been observed by others that names are 
nowhere of more necessary use than in numbering. 

M. I will grant you that extension, colour, cKic. may be said 

P. to be without the mind in a double respect, i. e. as inde 
pendent of our will, and as distinct from the mind. 

Mo. Certainly it is not impossible but a man may arrive at 

N - the knowledge of all real truth as well without as with 
signs, had he a memory and imagination most strong and 
capacious. Therefore reasoning & science doth not alto 
gether depend upon words or names 2 . 

1 When self-conscious agents are 2 Berkeley insists that we should 

included among things. We can individualise our thinking ipsis 

have no sensuous image, i. e. idea, of consuescere rebus, as Bacon says, 

spirit, although he maintains we to escape the dangers of artificial 

can use the word intelligently. signs. This is the drift of his 


N. I think not that things fall out of necessity. The con 
nexion of no two ideas is necessary ; tis all the result of 
freedom, i. e. tis all voluntary \ 

M. If a man with his eyes shut imagines to himself the sun 

S. & firmament, you will not say he or his mind is the sun, or 
is extended, tho neither sun or firmament be without 

S. Tis strange to find philosophers doubting & disputing 
whether they have ideas of spiritual things or no. Surely 
tis easy to know. Vid. De Vries 2 , De Ideis Innatis, p. 64. 

S. De Yries will have it that we know the mind agrees with 
things not by idea but sense or conscientia. So will Mai- 
branch. This a vain distinction. 

August 28th, 1708. The Adventure of the [Shirt ?]. 

It were to be wished that persons of the greatest birth, 
honour, & fortune, would take that care of themselves, by 
education, industry, literature, & a love of virtue, to surpass 
all other men in knowledge & all other qualifications 
necessary for great actions, as far as they do in quality 
& titles ; that princes out of them might always chose men 
fit for all employments and high trusts. Clov. B. 7. 

One eternity greater than another of the same kind. 

In what sense eternity may be limited. 
G.T. Whether succession of ideas in the Divine intellect ? 
T. Time is the train of ideas succeeding each other. 

Duration not distinguish d from existence. 

Succession explain d by before, between, after, & num 

Why time in pain longer than time in pleasure ? 

Duration infinitely divisible, time not so. 

assault on abstract ideas, and his l Nature or the phenomenal 
repulsion from what is not concrete. world in short is the revelation of 
He would even dispense with perfectly reasonable Will, 
words in his meditations in case of 2 Gerard De Vries, the Carte- 
being sophisticated by abstractions. sian. 


T. The same TO vvv not common to all intelligences. 

Time thought infinitelydivisible on account of its measure. 

Extension not infinitely divisible in one sense. 

Revolutions immediately measure train of ideas, medi 
ately duration. 
T. Time a sensation ; therefore onely in y e mind. 

Eternity is onely a train of innumerable ideas. Hence 
the immortality of y e soul easily conceiv d, or rather the 
immortality of the person, that of y e soul not being neces 
sary for ought we can see. 

Swiftness of ideas compar d with y of motions shews 
the wisdom of God. 

W fc if succession of ideas were swifter, w 1 if slower ? 
M. ffall of Adam, use of idolatry, use of Epicurism & Hob- 
bism, dispute about divisibility of matter, &c. expounded by 
material substances. 

Extension a sensation, therefore not without the mind. 
M. In the immaterial hypothesis, the wall is white, fire 
hot, &c. 

Primary ideas prov d not to exist in matter; after the 
same manner y* secondary ones are prov d not to exist 

Demonstrations of the infinite divisibility of extension 
suppose length without breadth, or invisible length, w cn is 
M. World w th out thought is nee quid, nee quantum, nee qua/e, 


M. Tis wondrous to contemplate y e World empty d of all 

Nothing properly but Persons, i. e. conscious things, do 
exist. All other things are not so much existences as 
manners of y e existence of persons 1 . 

Qu. about the soul, or rather person, whether it be not 
compleatly known ? 

Infinite divisibility of extension does suppose the external 
existence of extension ; but the later is false, ergo y e former 

Qu. Blind man made to see, would he know motion at 
r* sight ? 

Motion, figure, and extension perceivable by sight are 

1 Are the things of sense only modes in which percipient persons exist? 


different from those ideas perceived by touch w ch goe by 
the same name. 

Diagonal incommensurable w tlx y e side. Quaere how 
this can be in my doctrine ? 

N. Qu. how to reconcile Newton s 2 sorts of motion with 
my doctrine? 

Terminations of surfaces & lines not imaginable per se. 
Molyneux s blind man would not know the sphere or 
cube to be bodies or extended at first sight *. 

Extension so far from being incompatible w th , y* tis 
impossible it should exist without thought. 
M. Extension itself or anything extended cannot think 
S. these being meer ideas or sensations, whose essence we 
thoroughly know. 

No extension but surface perceivable by sight. 
M. W n we imagine 2 bowls v. g. moving in vacuo, tis only 

conceiving a person affected with these sensations. 
M. Extension to exist in a thoughtless thing [or rather in 
a thing void of perception thought seeming to imply 
action], is a contradiction. 

Qu. if visible motion be proportional to tangible motion ? 
T. In some dreams succession of ideas swifter than at other 


M - If a piece of matter have extension, that must be deter 
mined to a particular bigness & figure, but &c. 

Nothing w th out corresponds to our primary ideas but 
powers. Hence a direct & brief demonstration of an 
active powerfull Being, distinct from us, on whom we 

The name of colours actually given to tangible qualities, 
by the relation of y e story of the German Count. 

Qu. How came visible & tangible qualities by the same 
name in all languages ? 

Qu. Whether Being might not be the substance of the 
soul, or (otherwise thus) whether Being, added to y e 
faculties, compleat the real essence and adequate definition 
of the soul ? 

N - Qu. Whether, on the supposition of external bodies, 
it be possible for us to know that any body is absolutely 

1 See Locke s Essay, Bk. II. ch. 9. 8. 


at rest, since that supposing ideas much slower than at 
present, bodies now apparently moving w tl then be ap 
parently at rest ? 
M. Qu. What can be like a sensation but a sensation ? 

Qu. Did ever any man see any other things besides his 
own ideas, that he should compare them to these, and make 
these like unto them ? 

T. The age of a fly, for ought that we know, may be as long 
as y* of a man l . 

Visible distance heterogeneous from tangible distance 
demonstrated 3 several ways : 

i 4 . If a tangible inch be equal or in any other reason to 
a visible inch, thence it will follow y i unequals are equals, 
w ch is absurd : for at what distance would the visible inch 
be placed to make it equal to the tangible inch ? 

2 d . One made to see that had not yet seen his own 
limbs, or any thing he touched, upon sight of a foot length 
would know it to be a foot length, if tangible foot & visible 
foot were the same idea sed falsum id, ergo et hoc. 

3 dl > . From Molyneux s problem, w ch otherwise is falsely 
solv d by Locke and him 2 . 

M. Nothing but ideas perceivable 3 . 

A man cannot compare 2 things together without per 
ceiving them each. Ergo, he cannot say anything w ch is 
not an idea is like or unlike an idea. 

Bodies &c. do exist even w n not perceived they being 
powers in the active being 4 . 

Succession a simple idea, [succession is an abstract, i.e. 
an inconceivable idea,] Locke says 5 . 

Visible extension is [proportional to tangible extension, 
also is] encreated & diminished by parts. Hence taken for 
the same. 

1 Time being relative to the capa- therefore not real, 

city of the percipient. 4 So things have a potential objec- 

y See Locke s Essay, Bk. II. ch. tive existence in the Divine Will. 

9. 8. 5 With Berkele3 , change is time, 

" To perceive what is not an idea and time, abstracted from all 

(as Berkeley uses idea) is to per- changes, is meaningless, 
ceive what is not realised, and 


If extension be without the mind in bodies. Qu. whether 
tangible or visible, or both ? 

Mathematical propositions about extension & motion true 
in a double sense. 

Extension thought peculiarly inert, because not ac- 
company d w th pleasure & pain : hence thought to exist in 
matter; as also for that it was conceiv d common to 2 senses, 
[as also the constant perception of em]. 

Blind at i at sight could not tell how near what he saw 
was to him, nor even whether it be w th out him or in his 
eye \ Qu. Would he not think the later ? 

Blind at I st sight could not know y* w fc he saw was 
extended, until he had seen and touched some one self 
same thing not knowing how minimum tangibile would 
look in vision. 

M. Mem. That homogeneous particles be brought in to 
answer the objection of God s creating sun, plants, &c. 
before animals. 

In every bodie two infinite series of extension the one 
of tangible, the other of visible. 

All things to a blind [man] at first seen in a point. 

Ignorance of glasses made men think extension to be in 

M. Homogeneous portions of matter useful to contemplate 

Extension if in matter changes its relation w th minimum 
visibile, w ch seems to be fixt. 

Qu. whether m.v. be fix d? 
M. Each particle of matter if extended must be infinitely 

extended, or have an infinite series of extension. 
M. If the world be granted to consist of Matter, tis the mind 
gives it beauty and proportion. 

W fc I have said onely proves there is no proportion 
at all times and in all men between a visible & tangible 

Tangible and visible extension heterogeneous, because 
they have no common measure ; also because their simplest 
constituent parts or elements are specifically different, viz. 
punctum visibile & tangibile. N. B. The former seems to be 
no good reason. 

1 Could he know, by seeing only, even that he had a body ? 


M. By immateriality is solv d the cohesion of bodies, or 

N - rafcher the dispute ceases. 

Our idea we call extension neither way capable of infinity, 
i. e. neither infinitely small or great. 

Greatest possible extension seen under an angle w ch will 
be less than 180 degrees, the legs of w ch angle proceed 
from the ends of the extension. 

N. Allowing there be extended, solid, &c. substances without 
the mind, tis impossible the mind should know or perceive 
them ; the mind, even according to the materialists, per 
ceiving onely the impressions made upon its brain, or 
rather the ideas attending these impressions . 

Unity in abstracto not at all divisible, it being as it were 
a point, or with Barrow nothing at all ; in concrete not 
divisible ad infinitum, there being no one idea demon 
strable ad infmitum. 

M. Any subject can have of each sort of primary qualities 
but one particular at once. Locke, b. 4. c. 3. s. 15. 

Qu. whether we have clear ideas of large numbers them 
selves, or onely of their relations ? 

M. Of solidity see L. b. 2. c. 4. s. i, 5, 6. If any one ask 
w fc solidity is, let him put a flint between his hands and he 
will know. Extension of body is continuity of solid, &c. ; 
extension of space is continuity of unsolid, &c. 

Why may not I say visible extension is a continuity 
of visible points, tangible extension is a continuity of 
tangible points ? 

M. Mem. That I take notice that I do not fall in w fch sceptics, 
Fardella 2 , &c., in that I make bodies to exist certainly, w ch 
they doubt of. 

M. I am more certain of y e existence & reality of bodies 
than Mr. Locke ; since he pretends onely to w 11 he calls 
sensitive knowledge \ whereas I think I have demonstrative 

1 the ideas attending these the existence of the material world 
impressions, i.e. the ideas that could not be scientifically proved, 
are correlatives of the (by us unper- and could only be maintained by 
ceived) organic impressions. faith in authoritative revelation. 

2 The Italian physical and meta- See his Universe?, Philosophic? Sys- 
physical philosopher Fardella (1650 tema (1690), and especially his 
-1718) maintained, by reasonings Logica (1696). 

akin to those of Malebranche, that B Locke s Essay, Bk. IV. ch. u. 


knowledge of their existence by them meaning combina 
tions of powers in an unknown substratum 1 . 

M. Our ideas we call figure & extension, not images of the 
figure and extension of matter ; these (if such there be) 
being infinitely divisible, those not so, 

Tis impossible a material cube should exist, because 
the edges of a cube will appear broad to an acute sense. 

Men die, or are in [a] state of annihilation, oft in a day. 
S. Powers. Qu. whether more or one onely ? 

Lengths abstract from breadths are the work of the mind. 
Such do intersect in a point at all angles. After the same 
way colour is abstract from extension. 

Every position alters the line. 

Qu. whether ideas of extension are made up of other 
ideas, v.g. idea of a foot made up of general ideas of an 
inch ? 

The idea of an inch length not one determin d idea. 
Hence enquire the reason why we are out in judging of 
extension by the sight ; for which purpose tis meet also to 
consider the frequent & sudden changes of extension by 

No stated ideas of length without a minimum. 
M. Material substance banter d by Locke, b. 2. c. 13. s. 19. 
M. In my doctrine all absurdities from infinite space <S:c. 
cease 2 . 

Qu. whether if (speaking grossly) the things we see were 
all of them at all times too small to be felt, we should have 
confounded tangible & visible extension and figure ? 

T. Qu. whether if succession of ideas in the -Eternal Mind, 
a day does not seem to God a 1000 years, rather than a 
1000 years a day? 

But one only colour & its degrees. 

1 What does he mean by l un- bile, it reaches what is for us the 
known substratum ? margin of realisable existence : it 

2 He gets rid of the infinite in cannot be infinitely little and still 
quantity, because it is incapable of a phenomenon : insensible pheno 
concrete manifestation to the senses. mena of sense involve a contradic- 
When a phenomenon given in tion. And so too of the infinitely 
sense reaches the minimum sensi- large. 


Enquiry about a grand mistake in writers of dioptricks 
in assigning the cause of microscopes magnifying objects. 

Qu. whether a born-blind [man] made to see would at 
I st give the name of distance to any idea intromitted by 
sight; since he would take distance y fc that he had per 
ceived by touch to be something existing without his mind, 
but he would certainly think that nothing seen was without 
his mind l ? 

S. Space without any bodies existing in rcmm natura would 
not be extended, as not having parts in that parts are 
assigned to it w fch respect to body ; from whence also the 
notion of distance is taken. Now without either parts or 
distance or mind, how can there be Space, or anything 
beside one uniform Nothing? 

Two demonstrations that blind made to see would not 
take all things he saw to be without his mind, or not in a 
point the one from microscopic eyes, the other from not 
perceiving distance, i. e. radius of the visual sphere. 

M. The trees are in the park, i. e. whether I will or no, 
whether I imagine anything about them or no. Let me 
but go thither and open my eyes by day, & I shall not 
avoid seeing them. 

By extension blind [man] would mean either the per 
ception caused in his touch by something he calls extended, 
or else the power of raising that perception ; w cn power is 
without, in the thing termed extended. Now he could not 
know either of these to be in things visible till he had 
try d. 

Geometry seems to have for its object tangible extension, 
figures, cS: motion and not visible 2 . 

A man will say a body will seem as big as before, tho 
the visible idea it yields be less than w*- it was ; therefore 
the bigness or tangible extension of the body is different 
from the visible extension. 

Extension or space no simple idea length, breadth, & 
solidity being three several ideas. 

1 In short he would idealise the 2 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 149- 

visible world but not the tangible 59,whereheconcludesthat neither 

world. In the Principles, Berkeley abstract norvisible extension makes 

idealises both. the object of geometry. 



Depth or solidity now perceived by sight *. 

Strange impotence of men. Man without God wretch- 
eder than a stone or tree ; he having onely the power to 
be miserable by his unperformed wills, these having no 
power at all 2 . 

Length perceivable by hearing length & breadth by 
sight length, breadth, &: depth by touch. 
G. W fc affects us must be a thinking thing, for w* thinks 
not cannot subsist. 

Number not in bodies, it being the creature of the mind, 
depending entirely on its consideration, & being more or 
less as the mind pleases :! . 

Mem. Quaere whether extension be equally a sensation 
with colour ? The mob use not the word extension. Tis 
an abstract term of the Schools. 

P. Round figure a perception or sensation in the mind, but 
in the body is a power. L[ocke], b. 2. c. 8. s. 8. 

Mem. Mark well the later part of the last cited section. 

Solids, or any other tangible things, are no otherwise 
seen than colours felt by the German Count. 
M. Of and thing causes of mistake. 

The visible point of he who has microscopical eyes will 
not be greater or less than mine. 

Qu. Whether the propositions & even axioms of geometry 
do not divers of them suppose the existence of lines &c. 
without the mind ? 

T. Whether motion be the measure of duration ? Locke, 
b. 2. c. 14. s. 19 3 . 

Lines & points conceiv d as terminations different ideas 
from those conceiv d absolutely. 

Every position alters a line. 

S. Blind man at i ?t would not take colours to be without 
his mind ; but colours would seem to be in the same place 
with the coloured extension : therefore extension ,w cl not 
seem to be without the mind. 

1 By the adult, who has learned 3 A succession of ideas I take 

to interpret its visual signs. to constitute time, and not to be 

- Inasmuch as no physical con- only the sensible measure thereof, 

sequences/c//ow the volition; which as Mr. Locke and others think. 

however is still self-originated. (Berkeley s letter to Johnson.) 


All visible concentric circles whereof the eye is the 
centre are absolutely equal. 

Infinite number why absurd not rightly solv d by 
Locke 1 . 

Qu. how tis possible we should see flats or right lines? 

Qu. why the moon appears greatest in the horizon 2 ? 

Qu. why we see things erect when painted inverted 3 ? 

T. Question put by Mr. Deering touching the thief and 

M. Matter tho allowed to exist may be no greater than a 
pin s head. 

Motion is proportionable to space described in given 

Velocity not proportionable to space describ d in given 

M. No active power but the Will : therefore Matter, if it 
exists, affects us not 4 . 

Magnitude when barely taken for the ratio partium extra 
partes, or rather for co-existence & succession, without 
considering the parts co-existing & succeeding, is infinite 
ly, or rather indefinitely, or not at all perhaps, divisible, 
because it is itself infinite or indefinite. But definite, 
determined magnitudes, i.e. lines or surfaces consisting of 
points whereby (together w th distance & position) they are 
determin d, are resoluble into those points. 

Again. Magnitude taken for co-existence and succession 
is not all divisible, but is one simple idea. 

Simple ideas include no parts nor relations hardly sepa 
rated and considered in themselves nor yet rightly singled 
by any author. Instance in power, red, extension, &c. 
M. Space not imaginable by any idea received from sight- 
not imaginable without body moving. Not even then ne 
cessarily existing (I speak of infinite space) for w fc the body 
has past may be conceiv d annihilated. 

1 Cf. Essay, Bk. II. ch. 16. 3 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 88- 
sect. 8. 120. 

2 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 67- 4 This is of the essence of 
77- Berkeley s philosophy. 

F 2 


M. Qu. What can we see beside colours ? what can we feel 
beside hard, soft, cold, warm, pleasure, pain ? 

Qu. Why not taste & smell extension ? 

Qu. Why not tangible & visible extensions thought 
heterogeneous extensions, so well as gustable & olefactible 
perceptions thought heterogeneous perceptions? or at 
least why not as heterogeneous as blue & red? 

Moon w 11 horizontal does not appear bigger as to visible 
extension than at other times; hence difficulties and dis 
putes about things seen under equal angles &c. cease. 

All potentice alike indifferent. 

A. B. W* does he mean by \\ispotentta ? Is it the will, 
desire, person, or all or neither, or sometimes one, some 
times t other ? 

No agent can be conceiv d indifferent as to pain or 

We do not, properly speaking, in a strict philosophical 
sense, make objects more or less pleasant ; but the laws of 
nature do that. 

Mo. A finite intelligence might have foreseen 4 thousand 
s - years agoe the place and circumstances, even the most 
minute & trivial, of my present existence. This true on 
supposition that uneasiness determines the will. 
S. Doctrines of liberty, prescience, &c. explained by billiard 

W t judgement would he make of uppermost and lower 
most who had always seen through an inverting glass ? 

All lines subtending the same optic angle congruent (as 
is evident by an easy experiment) ; therefore they are equal. 

We have not pure simple ideas of blue, red, or any other 
colour (except perhaps black) because all bodies reflect 
heterogeneal light. 

Qu. Whether this be true as to sounds (& other sensa 
tions), there being, perhaps, rays of air w ch will onely 
exhibit one particular sound, as rays of light one particular 

Colours not definable, not because they are pure unmixt 
thoughts, but because we cannot easily distinguish & 
separate the thoughts they include, or because we want 
names for their component ideas. 


S. By Soul is meant onely a complex idea, made up of 
existence, willing, & perception in a large sense. There 
fore it is known and it may be defined. 

We cannot possibly conceive any active power but the 

S. In moral matters men think ( tis true) that they are free; 
but this freedom is only the freedom of doing as they 
please ; w ch freedom is consecutive to the Will, respecting 
only the operative faculties a . 

Men impute their actions to themselves because they 
will d them, and that not out of ignorance, but whereas 
they have the consequences of them, whether good or bad. 

This does not prove men to be indifferent in respect of 

If anything is meant by the potcntia of A. B. it must be 
desire ; but I appeal to any man if his desire be indifferent, 
or (to speak more to the purpose) whether he himself be 
indifferent in respect of w* he desires till after he has 
desired it ; for as for desire itself, or the faculty of desiring, 
that is indifferent, as all other faculties are. 

Actions leading to heaven are in my power if I will 
them : therefore I will will them. 

Qu. concerning the procession of Wills in infinitum. 

Herein mathematiques have the advantage over meta- 
physiques and morality. Their definitions, being of words 
not yet known to y 3 learner, are not disputed ; but words in 
metaphysiques & morality, being mostly known to all, the 
definitions of them may chance to be contraverted. 
M. The short jejune way in mathematiques will not do in 
metaphysiques & ethiques : for y* about mathematical 
propositions men have no prejudices, no anticipated 
opinions to be encounter d ; they not having yet thought on 
such matters. Tis not so in the other 2 mentioned 
sciences. A man must [there] not onely demonstrate the 
truth, he must also vindicate it against scruples and estab 
lished opinions which contradict it. In short, the dry, 
strigose 2 , rigid way will not suffice. He must be more 
ample & copious, else his demonstration, tho never so 
exact, will not go down with most. 

1 But in moral freedom originates found only in their consequences, 
in the agent, instead of being con- - Strigose strigosus) meagre, 

secutive to his voluntary acts or 


Extension seems to consist in variety of homogeneal 
thoughts co-existing without mixture. 

Or rather visible extension seems to be the co-existence 
of colour in the mind. 

S. Enquiring and judging are actions which depend on the 
Mo. operative faculties, w ch depend on the Will, w ch is de- 
termin d by some uneasiness ; ergo &c. Suppose an agent 
w ch is finite perfectly indifferent, and as to desiring not 
determin d by any prospect or consideration of good, I say, 
this agent cannot do an action morally good. Hence tis 
evident the suppositions of A. B. are insignificant. 

Extension, motion, time, number are no simple ideas, 
but include succession to them, which seems to be a simple 

Mem. To enquire into the angle of contact, & into 
fluxions, &c. 

The sphere of vision is equal whether I look onely in 
my hand or on the open firmament, for I st , in both cases 
the retina is full ; 2 d , the radius s of both spheres are 
equall or rather nothing at all to the sight; 3 lll - v , equal 
numbers of points in one & t other. 

In the Barrovian case purblind would judge aright. 

Why the horizontal moon greater ? 

Why objects seen erect ? 

N. To what purpose certain figure and texture connected 
w th other perceptions ? 

Men estimate magnitudes both by angles and distance. 
Blind at I st could not know distance ; or by pure sight, 
abstracting from experience of connexion of sight and 
tangible ideas, we can t perceive distance. Therefore by 
pure sight we cannot perceive or judge of extension. 

Qu. Whether it be possible to enlarge our sight or make 
us see at once more, or more points, than we do, by dimin 
ishing the punctum visibile below 30" ? 

I. Speech metaphorical more than we imagine ; insensible 
S. things, & their modes, circumstances, &c. being exprest for 

the most part by words borrow d from things sensible. 

Hence manyfold mistakes. 
S. The grand mistake is that we think we have ideas of the 


operations of our minds 1 . Certainly this metaphorical 
dress is an argument we have not. 

Qu. How can our idea of God be complex & com 
pounded, when his essence is simple & uncompounded ? 
V. Locke, b. 2. c. 23. s. 35 2 . 

G. The impossibility of defining or discoursing clearly of 
such things proceeds from the fault & scantiness of 
language, as much perhaps -as from obscurity & confusion 
of thought. Hence I may clearly and fully understand my 
own soul, extension, c., and not be able to define them ;i . 

M. The substance wood a collection of simple ideas. See 
Locke, b. 2. c. 26. s. i. 

Mem. concerning strait lines seen to look at them 
through an orbicular lattice. 

Qu. Whether possible that those visible ideas w ch are 
now connected with greater tangible extensions could 
have been connected with lesser tangible extensions, 
there seeming to be no necessary connexion between those 
thoughts ? 

Speculums seem to diminish or enlarge objects not by 
altering the optique angle, but by altering the apparent 

Hence Qu. if blind would think things diminish d by 
convexes, or enlarg d by concaves ? 

P.N. Motion not one idea. It cannot be perceived at once. 
M. Mem. To allow existence to colours in the dark, persons 
P. not thinking, cScc. but not an actual existence. Tis prudent 
to correct men s mistakes without altering their language. 
This makes truth glide into their souls insensibly 4 . 
M. Colours in y e dark do exist really, i. e. were there light ; 
P. or as soon as light comes, we shall see them, provided we 
open our eyes ; and that whether we will or no. 
How the retina is fill d by a looking-glass? 
Convex speculums have the same effect w ih concave 

1 As he afterwards expresses it, means Le Clerc &c. by this? Log. 
we have intelligible notions, but I. ch. 8.] AUTHOR, on margin, 
not ideas sensuous pictures of Si non rogas intelligo. 

the states or acts of our minds. * This way of winning others to 

2 [ Omnes reales rerum propri- his own opinions is very character- 
etates continentur in Deo. What isticofEerkeley. Seep.92andnote. 


Qu. Whether concave speculums have the same effect 
w th convex glasses ? 

The reason why convex speculums diminish & concave 
magnify not yet fully assign d by any writer I know. 

Qu. Why not objects seen confus d when that they seem 
inverted through a convex lens ? 

Qu. How to make a glass or speculum which shall 
magnify or diminish by altering the distance without 
altering the angle? 

No identity (other than perfect likeness) in any indi 
viduals besides persons 1 . 

As well make tastes, smells, fear, shame, wit, virtue, vice, 
& all thoughts move w th local motion as immaterial spirit. 

On account of my doctrine, the identity of finite sub 
stances must consist in something else than continued 
existence, or relation to determined time & place of begin 
ning to exist the existence of our thoughts (which being 
combined make all substances) being frequently interrupted, 
& they having divers beginnings & endings l . 

On. W T hether identity of person consists not in the 
Will ? 

No necessary connexion between great or little optique 
angles and great or little extension. 

Distance is not perceived : optique angles are not per 
ceived. How then is extension perceiv d by sight? 

Apparent magnitude of a line is not simply as the optique 
angle, but directly as the optique angle, & reciprocally as 
the confusion, &c. (i.e. the other sensations, or want of sen 
sation, that attend near vision). Hence great mistakes in 
assigning the magnifying power of glasses. Vid. Moly- 
[neux], p. 182. 

Glasses or speculums may perhaps magnify or lessen 
without altering the optique angle, but to no purpose. 

Qu. Whether purblind would think objects so much 
diminished by a convex speculum as another ? 

Qu. Wherein consists identity of person : ? Not in 
actual consciousness; for then I m not the same person 
I was this day twelvemonth but while I think of w* I then 

1 See Third Dialogue, on same- persons, which it puzzles him to 
ness in things and sameness in reconcile with his New Principles. 


did. Not in potential ; for then all persons may be the 
same, for ought we know. 

Mem. Story of Mr. Deering s aunt. 

Two sorts of potential consciousness natural & praeter- 
natural. In the last but one, I mean the latter. 

If by magnitude be meant the proportion anything bears 
to a determined tangible extension, as inch, foot, &c., this, 
tis plain, cannot be properly & per se perceived by sight ; 
& as for determin d visible inches, feet, &c., there can be 
no such thing obtain d by the meer act of seeing abstract 
ed from experience, &c. 

The greatness />r se perceivable by the sight is onely the 
proportion any visible appearance bears to the others seen 
at the same time ; or (which is the same thing) the propor 
tion of any particular part of the visual orb to the whole. 
But mark that we perceive not it is an orb, any more than 
a plain, but by reasoning. 

This is all the greatness the pictures have per se. 

Hereby meere seeing cannot at all judge of the extension 
of any object, it not availing to know the object makes such 
a part of a sphaerical surface except we also know the 
greatness of the sphaerical surface ; for a point may subtend 
the same angle w th a mile, & so create as great an image in 
the retina, i.e. take up as much of the orb. 

Men judge of magnitude by faintness and vigorousness, 
by distinctness and confusion, with some other circumstan 
ces, by great & little angles. 

Hence tis plain the ideas of sight which are now connec 
ted with greatness might have been connected w th small- 
ness, and vice versa : there being no necessary reason why 
great angles, faintness, and distinctness without straining, 
should stand for great extension, any more than a great 
angle, vigorousness, and confusion l . 

My end is not to deliver metaphysiques altogether in a 
general scholastic way, but in some measure to accommo 
date them to the sciences, and shew how they may be 
useful in optiques, geometry, &c. 2 

Qu. Whether per se proportion of visible magnitudes be 
perceivable by sight ? This is put on account of distinct 
ness and confusedness, the act of perception seeming to be 

1 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 52-61. ~ Cf. Principles, sect. 101-134. 


as great in viewing any point of the visual orb distinctly, 
as in viewing the whole confusedly. 

Mem. To correct my language & make it as philoso 
phically nice as possible to avoid giving handle. 

If men could without straining alter the convexity of 
their crystallines, they might magnify or diminish the 
apparent diameters of objects, the same optic angle remain 

The bigness in one sense of the pictures in the fund is 
not determin d ; for the nearer a man views them, the 
images of them (as well as other objects) will take up the 
greater room in the fund of his eye. 

Mem. Introduction to contain the design of the whole, 
the nature and manner of demonstrating, &c. 

Two sorts of bigness accurately to be distinguished, they 
beingperfectlyand toto ccelo different the one the proportion 
that any one appearance has to the sum of appearances per 
ceived at the same time w th it, w ch is proportional to angles, 
or, if a surface, to segments of sphaerical surfaces ; the 
other is tangible bigness. 

Qu. w fc would happen if the sphaerse of the retina were 
enlarged or diminished ? 

We think by the meer act of vision we perceive distance 
from us, yet we do not ; also that we perceive solids, yet 
we do not ; also the inequality of things seen under the 
same angle, yet we do not. 

Why may I not add, We think we see extension by meer 
vision ? Yet we do not. 

Extension seems to be perceived by the eye, as thought 
by the ear. 

As long as the same angle determines the minimum 
visibile to two persons, no different conformation of the eye 
can make a different appearance of magnitude in the same 
thing. But, it being possible to try the angle, we may cer 
tainly know whether the same thing appears differently 
big to two persons on account of their eyes. 

If a man could see " objects would appear larger to him 
than to another; hence there is another sort of purely 
visible magnitude beside the proportion any appearance 
bears to the visual sphere, viz. its proportion to the M. V. 

Were there but one and the same language in the world, 
and did children speak it naturally as soon as born, and 


were it not in the power of men to conceal their thoughts 
or deceive others, but that there were an inseparable 
connexion between words & thoughts, so y* posito uno, 
ponitur alterum by the laws of nature ; Qu. would not men 
think they heard thoughts as much as that they see exten 
sion T ? 

All our ideas are adaequate : our knowledge of the laws 
of nature is not perfect & adaequate 2 . 

M. Men are in the right in judging their simple ideas to be 
P. in the things themselves. Certainly heat & colour is as 
much without the mind as figure, motion, time, &c. 

We know many things w ch we want words to express. 
Great things discoverable upon this principle. For want of 
considering w ch divers men have run into sundry mistakes, 
endeavouring to set forth their knowledge by sounds ; w cl1 
foundering them, they thought the defect was in their 
knowledge, while in truth it was in their language. 

Qu. Whether the sensations of sight arising from a 
man s head be liker the sensations of touch proceeding 
from thence or from his legs ? 

Or, Is it onely the constant & long association of ideas 
entirely different that makes me judge them the same? 

W fc I see is onely variety of colours & light. W fc I feel 
is hard or soft, hot or cold, rough or smooth, &c. W fc 
resemblance have these thoughts with those ? 

A picture painted w th great variety of colours affects the 
touch in one uniform manner. I cannot therefore conclude 
that because I see 2, I shall feel 2 ; because I see angles or 
inequalities, I shall feel angles or inequalities. How there 
fore can I before experience teaches me know that the 
visible leggs are (because 2) connected w th the tangible 
ones, or the visible head (because one) connected w th the 
tangible head 3 ? 

1 distance on opposite page phenomena ; indirect or scientific 
in the MS. Cf. Essay on Vision, perception is inadequate, leaving 
sect. 140. room for faith and trust. 

2 Direct perception of pheno- 3 Cf.Essayon Vision^ sect. 107-8. 
mena is adequate to the perceived 


M. All things by us conceivable are 

ist, thoughts ; 

2ndly, powers to receive thoughts ; 

Srdly, powers to cause thoughts ; 

neither of all w ch can possibly exist in an inert, senseless 

An object w th out a glass may be seen under as great an 
angle as w th a glass. A glass therefore does not magnify 
the appearance by the angle. 

S. Absurd that men should know the soul by idea ideas 
being inert, thoughtless. Hence Malbranch confuted 1 . 

I saw gladness in his looks. I saw shame in his face. 
So I see figure or distance. 

Qu. Why things seen confusedly thro a convex glass are 
not magnify d ? 

Tho we should judge the horizontal moon to be more 

distant, why should we therefore judge her to be greater ? 

What connexion betwixt the same angle, further distant, 

and greaterness ? 

N. My doctrine affects the essences of the Corpuscularians. 

Perfect circles, &c. exist not without (for none can so 
exist, whether perfect or no), but in the mind. 

Lines thought divisible ad infinitum, because they are 
suppos d to exist without. Also because they are thought 
the same when view d by the naked eye, & w n view d thro 
magnifying glasses. 

They who knew not glasses had not so fair a pretence 
for the divisibility ad infinitum. 

No idea of circle, &c. in abstract. 

Metaphysiques as capable of certainty as ethiques, but 
not so capable to be demonstrated in a geometrical way ; 
because men see clearer & have not so many prejudices in 

Visible ideas come into the mind very distinct. So do 
tangible ideas. Hence extension seen & felt. Sounds, 
tastes, c. are more blended. 

Qu. Why not extension intromitted by the taste in con 
junction with the smell seeing tastes : smells are very 
distinct ideas? 

1 The Divine Ideas of Malebrancheand the sensuous ideas of Berkeley 


Blew and yellow particles mixt, while they exhibit an 
uniform green, their extension is not perceiv d ; but as 
soon as they exhibit distinct sensations of blew and yellow, 
then their extension is perceiv d. 

Distinct perception of visible ideas not so perfect as of 
tangible tangible ideas being many at once equally vivid. 
Hence heterogeneous extension. 

Object. Why a mist increases not the apparent magni 
tude of an object, in proportion to the faintness 1 ? 

Mem. To enquire touching the squaring of the circle, &c. 

That w cn seems smooth & round to the touch may to 
sight seem quite otherwise. Hence no necessary con 
nexion betwixt visible ideas and tangible ones. 

In geometry it is not prov d that an inch is divisible ad 

Geometry not conversant about our compleat determined 
ideas of figures, for these are not divisible ad infmitiun. 

Particular circles may be squar d, for the circumference 
being given a diameter may be found betwixt w cn & the 
true there is not any perceivable difference. Therefore 
there is no difference extension being a perception ; & a 
perception not perceiv d is contradiction, nonsense, nothing. 
In vain to alledge the difference may be seen by magnify- 
ing-glasses, for in y* case there is ( tis true) a difference 
perceiv d, but not between the same ideas, but others much 
greater, entirely different therefrom 2 . 

Any visible circle possibly perceivable of any man may 
be squar d, by the common way, most accurately; or even 
perceivable by any other being, see he never so acute, i. e. 
never so small an arch of a circle ; this being w* makes 
the distinction between acute & dull sight, and not the 
m. v., as men are perhaps apt to think. 

The same is true of any tangible circle. Therefore 
further enquiry of accuracy in squaring or other curves is 
perfectly needless, & time thrown away. 

Mem. To press w fc last precedes more homely, & so 
think on t again. 

A meer line or distance is not made up of points, does 

1 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 71. chapters seem to have been in 

2 Cf. Malebranche, Recherche, Berkeley s mind. 
Bk. I. c. 6. That and the following 


not exist, cannot be imagin d, or have an idea framed 
thereof, no more than meer colour without extension l . 

Mem. A great difference between considering length 
w th out breadth, & having an idea of, or imagining, length 
without breadth 2 . 

Malbranch out touching the crystallines diminishing, 
L. i.e. 6. 

Tis possible (& perhaps not very improbable, that is, is 
sometimes so) we may have the greatest pictures from the 
least objects. Therefore no necessary connexion betwixt 
visible & tangible ideas. These ideas, viz. great relation 
to sphcera visualis, or to the m. v. (w ch is all that I would 
have meant by having a greater picture) & faintness, might 
possibly have stood for or signify d small tangible exten 
sions. Certainly the greater relation to s. v. and m. v. 
does frequently, in that men view little objects near the 

Malbranch out in asserting we cannot possibly know 
whether there are 2 men in the world that see a thing of 
the same bigness. V. L. i. c. 6. 

Diagonal of particular square commensurable w th its 
side, they both containing a certain number of m. v. 

I do not think that surfaces consist of lines, i. e. meer 
distances. Hence perhaps may be solid that sophism w cl1 
would prove the oblique line equal to the perpendicular 
between 2 parallels. 

Suppose an inch represent a mile, yoiio f an mc h is 
nothing, but TTy l air of y e mile represented is something : 
therefore j^y of an inch, tho nothing, is not to be 
neglected, because it represents something, i. e. T oVo of 
a mile. 

Particular determin d lines are not divisible ad infinitum, 
but lines as us d by geometers are so, they not being deter- 
min d to any particular finite number of points. Yet a 
geometer (he knows not why) will very readily say he can 
demonstrate an inch line is divisible ad infinitum. 

A body moving in the optique axis not perceiv d to move 
by sight merely, and without experience. There is ( tis 

1 He here assumes that extension keley s use of idea/ and what he 
(visible) is implied in the visible intends when he argues against 
idea we call colour. l abstract ideas. 

2 This strikingly illustrates Ber- 


true) a successive change of ideas, it seems less and less. 
But, besides this, there is no visible change of place. 

Mem. To enquire most diligently concerning the incom 
mensurability of diagonale & side whether it does not go 
on the supposition of units being divisible ad infinitum, i. e. 
of the extended thing spoken of being divisible ad infinitum 
(unit being nothing; also v. Barrow, Lect. Geom.), & so 
the infinite indivisibility deduced therefrom is a pctitio 

The diagonal is commensurable with the side. 
M. From Malbranch, Locke, & my first arguings it can t be 
p - prov d that extension is not in matter. From Locke s 
arguings it can t be proved that colours are not in bodies. 

Mem. That I was distrustful at 8 years old ; and conse 
quently by nature disposed for these new doctrines . 

Qu. How can a line consisting of an unequal number of 
points be divisible [ad infinitum} in two equals ? 

Mem. To discuss copiously how & why we do not see 
the pictures. 

M. Allowing extensions to exist in matter, we cannot know 
p - even their proportions contrary to Malbranch. 

M. I wonder how men cannot see a truth so obvious, as 
that extension cannot exist without a thinking substance. 

M. Species of all sensible things made by the mind. This 
prov d either by turning men s eyes into magnifyers or 

Y r m. v. is, suppose, less than mine. Let a 3 rd person 
have perfect ideas of both our m. v s . His idea of my m. v. 
contains his idea of yours, & somewhat more. Therefore 
tis made up of parts : therefore his idea of my m. v. is not 
perfect or just, which diverts the hypothesis. 

Qu. Whether a m. v. or t. be extended ? 

Mem. The strange errours men run into about the pic 
tures. We think them small because should a man be 
suppos d to see them their pictures would take up but little 
room in the fund of his eye. 

1 An interesting autobiographical fact. From childhood he was indis 
posed to take things on trust. 


It seems all lines can t be bisected in 2 equall parts. 
Mem. To examine how the geometers prove the contrary. 

Tis impossible there should be a m. v. less than mine. 
If there be, mine may become equal to it (because they are 
homogeneous) by detraction of some part or parts. But it 
consists not of parts, ergo &c. 

Suppose inverting perspectives bound to y e eyes of a 
child, & continu d to the years of manhood when he looks 
up, or turns up his head, he shall behold w* we call under. 
Qu. What would he think of up and down 1 ? 

M. I wonder not at my sagacity in discovering the obvious 
tho amazing truth. I rather wonder at my stupid inadver 
tency in not finding it out before tis no witchcraft to see. 

M. Our simple ideas are so many simple thoughts or per 
ceptions ; a perception cannot exist without a thing to 
perceive it, or any longer than it is perceiv d ; a thought 
cannot be in an unthinking thing ; one uniform simple 
thought can be like to nothing but another uniform simple 
thought. Complex thoughts or ideas are onely an assem 
blage of simple ideas, and can be the image of nothing, or 
like unto nothing, but another assemblage of simple ideas, &c. 

M. The Cartesian opinion of light & colours &c. is orthodox 
enough even in their eyes who think the Scripture ex 
pression may favour the common opinion. Why may not 
mine also ? But there is nothing in Scripture that can 
possibly be wrested to make against me, but, perhaps, 
many things for me. 

M. Bodies &c. do exist whether we think of em or no, they 
being taken in a twofold sense 

1. Collections of thoughts. 

2. Collections of powers to cause those thoughts. 

These later exist ; tho perhaps a parte rei it may be one 
simple perfect power. 

Qu. whether the extension of a plain, look d at straight 
and slantingly, survey d minutely & distinctly, or in the bulk 
and confusedly at once, be the same? N.B. The plain is 
suppos d to keep the same distance. 

1 Essay on Vision, sect. 88-119. 


The ideas we have by a successive, curious inspection of 
y e minute parts of a plain do not seem to make up the ex 
tension of that plain view d & consider d all together. 

Ignorance in some sort requisite in y e person that should 
disown the Principle. 

Thoughts do most properly signify, or are mostly taken 
for the interior operations of the mind, wherein the mind 
is active. Those y* obey not the acts of volition, and in 
w ch the mind is passive, are more properly call d sensations 
or perceptions. But y* is all a case of words. 

Extension being the collection or distinct co-existence of 
minimums, i.e. of perceptions intromitted by sight or touch, 
it cannot be conceiv d without a perceiving substance. 

P. Malbranch does not prove that the figures & extensions 
exist not when they are not perceiv d. Consequently he 
does not prove, nor can it be prov d on his principles, that 
the sorts are the work of the mind, and onely in the mind. 

M. The great argument to prove that extension cannot be in 

P. an unthinking substance is, that it cannot be conceiv d 
distinct from or without all tangible or visible quality. 

M. Tho matter be extended w th an indefinite extension, yet 
the mind makes the sorts. They were not before the mind 
perceiving them, & even now they are not without the 
mind. Houses, trees, &c v tho indefinitely extended matter 
do exist, are not without the mind. 

M. The great danger of making extension exist without the 
mind is, that if it does it must be acknowledg d infinite, 
immutable, eternal, &c. ; w ch will be to make either God 
extended (w ch I think dangerous), or an eternal, immutable, 
infinite, increate Being beside God. 

I. Finiteness of our minds no excuse for the geometers. 

M. The Principle easily proved by plenty of arguments ad 

The twofold signification of Bodies, viz. 

1. Combinations of thoughts ] ; 

2. Combinations of powers to raise thoughts 1 . 

[ thoughts/ i.e. ideas of sense? 


These, I say, in conjunction with homogeneous particles, 
may solve much better the objections from the creation 
than the supposition that Matter does exist. Upon w oh 
supposition I think they cannot be solv d. 

Bodies taken for powers do exist w n not perceiv d ; but 
this existence is not actual \ W 11 I say a power exists, no 
more is meant than that if in the light I open my eyes, and 
look that way, I shall see it, i.e. the body, &c. 

Qu. whether blind before sight may not have an idea of 
light and colours & visible extension, after the same man 
ner as we perceive them w th eyes shut, or in the dark not 
imagining, but seeing after a sort ? 

Visible extension cannot be conceiv d added to tangible 
extension. Visible and tangible points can t make one sum. 
Therefore these extensions are heterogeneous. 

A probable method propos d whereby one may judge 
whether in near vision there is a greater distance between 
the crystalline & fund than usual, or whether the crystalline 
be onely render d more convex. If the former, then the 
v. s. is enlarg d, & the m. v. corresponds to less than 30", or 
w ever it us d to correspond to. 

Stated measures, inches, feet, &c., are tangible not 
visible extensions. 

M. Locke, More, Raphson, &c. seem to make God extended. 
Tis nevertheless of great use to religion to take extension 
out of our idea of God, & put a power in its place. It 
seems dangerous to suppose extension, w ch is manifestly 
inert, in God. 

M. But, say you, The thought or perception 1 call extension 
is not itself in an unthinking thing or Matter but it is like 
something w ch is in Matter. Well, say I, Do you appre 
hend or conceive w fc you say extension is like unto, or do 
you not? If the later, how know you they are alike? 
How can you compare any things besides your own ideas ? 
If the former, it must be an idea, i.e. perception, thought, 

1 This, in a crude way, is the speaks of the ideas or phenomena 

distinction of Swapis and tvtpyfia. that appear in the sense experience 

It helps to explain Berkeley s of different persons as if they were 

meaning, when he occasionally absolutely independent entities. 


or sensation w ch to be in an unperceiving thing is a con 
tradiction *. 

I. I abstain from all flourish & powers of words & figures ; 
using a great plainness & simplicity of simile, having oft 
found it difficult to understand those that use the lofty & 
Platonic, or subtil & scholastique strain 2 . 

M. Whatsoever has any of our ideas in it must perceive ; it 
being that very having, that passive recognition of ideas, 
that denominates the mind perceiving that being the very 
essence of perception, or that wherein perception consists. 

The faintness w ch alters the appearance of the horizontal 
moon, rather proceeds from the quantity or grossness of 
the intermediate atmosphere, than from any change of 
distance, w ch is perhaps not considerable enough to be a 
total cause, but may be a partial of the phenomenon. N.B. 
The visual angle is less in cause the horizon. 

We judge of the distance of bodies, as by other things, 
so also by the situation of their pictures in the eye, or (w clx 
is the same thing) according as they appear higher or lower. 
Those w ch seem higher are farther off. 

Qu. why we see objects greater in y e dark? whether 
this can be solv d by any but my Principles ? 

M. The reverse of y e Principle introduced scepticism. 
M. N.B. On my Principles there is a reality: there are 
things : there is a rerum nattira. 

Mem. The surds, doubling the cube, &c. 

We think that if just made to see we should judge of the 
distance & magnitude of things as we do now ; but this is 
false. So also w* we think so positively of the situation of 

Hays s, KeilPs 3 , c. method of proving the infinitesimals 
of the 3 d order absurd, & perfectly contradictions. 

1 To be in an unperceiving is not in the tone of Sin s. 
thing, i.e. to be real, yet unper- 3 John Keill (1671-1721), an em- 
ceived. Whatever is perceived is, inent mathematician, educated at 
because realised only through a the University of Edinburgh ; in 
percipient act, an idea in Berke- 1710 Savilian Professor of Astro- 
ley s use of the word. nomy at Oxford, and the first to 

" This as to the Platonic strain teach the Newtonian philosophy in 

C 2 


Angles of contact, & verily all angles comprehended by 
a right line & a curve, cannot be measur d, the arches 
intercepted not being similar. 

The danger of expounding the H. Trinity by extension. 

M. Qu. Why should the magnitude seen at a near distance 
P. be deem d the true one rather than that seen at a farther 
distance ? Why should the sun be thought many 1000 
miles rather than one foot in diameter both being equally 
apparent diameters? Certainly men judg d of the sun not 
in himself, but w th relation to themselves. 

M. 4 Principles whereby to answer objections, viz. 

1. Bodies do really exist, tho not perceiv d by us. 

2. There is a law or course of nature. 

3. Language & knowledge are all about ideas ; words 

stand for nothing else. 

4. Nothing can be a proof against one side of a con 

tradiction that bears equally hard upon the other l . 

What shall I say? Dare I pronounce the admired 
aKpifitia mathematica, that darling of the age, a trifle ? 

Most certainly no finite extension divisible ad mfinitum. 
M. Difficulties about concentric circles. 

N. Mem. To examine & accurately discuss the scholium of 
the 8 th definition of Mr. Newton s 2 Principia. 

Ridiculous in the mathematicians to despise Sense. 

Qu. Is it not impossible there should be abstract general 
ideas ? 

All ideas come from without. They are all particular. 
The mind, tis true, can consider one thing w th out another ; 
but then, considered asunder, they make not 2 ideas. 
Both together can make but one, as for instance colour & 
visible extension 3 . 

that University. In 1708 he was for Hamilton s law of the con- 
engaged in a controversy in sup- ditioned. 

port of Newton s claims to the a Newton became Sir Isaac on 

discovery of the method of flux- April 16, 1705. Was this written 

ions. before that date ? 

1 This suggests a negative argu- 3 These may be considered separ- 

ment for Kant s antinomies, and ately, but not pictured as such. 


The end of a mathematical line is nothing. Locke s 
argument that the end of his pen is black or white concludes 
nothing here. 

Mem. Take care how you pretend to define extension, 
for fear of the geometers. 

Qu. Why difficult to imagine a minimum ? Ans. Because 
we are not used to take notice of em singly ; they not 
being able singly to pleasure or hurt us, thereby to deserve 
our regard. 

Mem. To prove against Keill y* the infinite divisibility of 
matter makes the half have an equal number of equal parts 
with the whole. 

Mem. To examine how far the not comprehending 
infinites may be admitted as a plea. 

Qu. Why may not the mathematicians reject all the 
extensions below the M. as well as the dd 4 , &c., w ch are 
allowed to be something, & consequently may be magnify d 
by glasses into inches, feet, &c., as well as the quantities 
next below the M. ? 

Big, little, and number are the works of the mind. How 
therefore can y e extension you suppose in Matter be big or 
little ? How can it consist of any number of points ? 
P. Mem. Strictly to remark Lfocke], b. 2. c. 8. s. 8. 

Schoolmen compar d with the mathematicians. 

Extension is blended w th tangible or visible ideas, & by 
the mind praescinded therefrom. 

Mathematiques made easy the scale does almost all. 
The scale can tell us the subtangent in y e parabola is 
double the abscisse. 

W fc need of the utmost accuracy w n the mathematicians 
own in rerum natura they cannot find anything corre 
sponding w th their nice ideas. 

One should endeavour to find a progression by trying 
w th the scale. 

Newton s fluxions needless. Anything below an M 
might serve for Leibnitz s Differential Calculus. 

How can they hang together so well, since there are in 
them (I mean the mathematiques) so many contradictorice 
argutice. V. Barrow, Lect. 

A man may read a book of Conies with ease, knowing 
how to try if they are right. He may take em on the 
credit of the author. 


Where s the need of certainty in such trifles? The 
thing that makes it so much esteem d in them is that we 
are thought not capable of getting it elsewhere. But we 
may in ethiques and metaphysiques. 

The not leading men into mistakes no argument for 
the truth of the infinitesimals. They being nothings may 
perhaps do neither good nor harm, except w n they are 
taken for something, & then the contradiction begets 
a contradiction. 

a + 500 nothings = a + 50 nothings an innocent silly truth. 

M. My doctrine excellently corresponds w th the creation. 
I suppose no matter, no stars, sun, &c. to have existed 
before . 

It seems all circles are not similar figures, there not 
being the same proportion betwixt all circumferences & 
their diameters. 

When a small line upon paper represents a mile, the 
mathematicians do not calculate theum^ of the paper line, 
they calculate the T o<jo(7 f the mile. Tis to this they 
have regard, tis of this they think ; if they think or have 
any idea at all. The inch perhaps might represent to their 
imaginations the mile, but y e T <ymro- of the i n h cannot be 
made to represent anything, it not being imaginable. 

But the louzro of a niile being somewhat, they think the 
T -oiop- of tne inch is somewhat : w 11 they think of y* they 
imagine they think on this. 

3 faults occur in the arguments of the mathematicians for 
divisibility ad infinitum 

1. They suppose extension to exist without the mind, 

or not perceived. 

2. They suppose that we have an idea of length 

without breadth 2 , or that length without breadth 
does exist. 

3. That unity is divisible ad infinitum. 

To suppose a M. S. divisible is to say there are distin 
guishable ideas where there are no distinguishable ideas. 

1 In as far as they have not 2 [Or rather that invisible lengt 

been sensibly realised in finite per- does exist.] AUTHOR, on margin, 
cipient mind. 


The M. S. is not near so inconceivable as the signnm in 
magnitudine individmun. 

Mem. To examine the math, about their point what it 
is something or nothing; and how it differs from the 
M. S. 

All might be demonstrated by a new method of indi 
visibles, easier perhaps and juster than that of Cavalierius \ 

p Unperceivable perception a contradiction. 
G*. Proprietates reales rerum omnium in Deo, tarn corporum 
quum spirituum continentur. Clerici, Log. cap. 8. 

Let my adversaries answer any one of mine, I ll yield. 
If 1 don t answer every one of theirs, I ll yield. 

The loss of the excuse 2 may hurt Transubstantiation, 
but not the Trinity. 

We need not strain our imaginations to conceive such 
little things. Bigger may do as well for infinitesimals, 
since the integer must be an infinite. 

Evident y* w ch has an infinite number of parts must be 

Qu. Whether extension be resoluble into points it does 
not consist of? 

Nor can it be objected that we reason about numbers, 
w ch are only words & not ideas 3 ; for these infinitesimals 
are words of no use, if not supposed to stand for ideas. 

Axiom. No reasoning about things whereof we have no 
idea. Therefore no reasoning about infinitesimals. 

Much less infinitesimals of infinitesimals, &c. 

Axiom. No word to be used without an idea. 

M. Our eyes and senses inform us not of the existence of 
p - matter or ideas existing without the mind 4 . They are not 
to be blam d for the mistake. 

Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598- with meanings not realisable in 

1647), the Italian mathematician. imagination, i.e. in the form of 

His Geometry of Indivisibles (1635) idea, may discharge a useful office, 

prepared the way for the Calculus. See Principles, Introduction, sect. 

2 [By the excuse is meant the 20. 

finiteness of our mind making it 4 We do not perceive unperceived 

possible for contradictions to appear matter, but only matter realised in 

true to us.] AUTHOR, on margin. living perception the percipient 

:! He allows elsewhere that words act being the factor of its reality. 


I defy any man to assign a right line equal to a paraboloid, 
but w 11 look d at thro a microscope they may appear unequall. 

M. Newton s harangue amounts to no more than that gravity 
is proportional to gravity. 

One can t imagine an extended thing without colour. 
V. Barrow, L. G. 

P. Men allow colours, sounds, (Sec. 1 not to exist without the 
mind, tho they have no demonstration they do not. Why 
may they not allow my Principle with a demonstration ? 

M. Qu. Whether I had not better allow colours to exist 

P. without the mind ; taking the mind for the active thing w ch 
1 call I, myself y fc seems to be distinct from the under 
standing 2 ? 

p. The taking extension to be distinct from all other tangible 
& visible qualities, & to make an idea by itself, has made 
men take it to be without the mind. 

I see no wit in any of them but Newton. The rest are 
meer triflers, mere Nihilarians. 

The folly of the mathematicians in not judging of sensa 
tions by their senses. Reason was given us for nobler uses. 
M. KeilPs filling the world with a mite 3 . This follows from 
the divisibility of extension ad infinitum. 

Extension, or length without breadth, seems to be 
nothing save the number of points that lie betwixt any 2, 
points 4 . It seems to consist in meer proportion meer 
reference of the mind. 

To what purpose is it to determine the forms of glasses 
geometrically ? 

Sir Isaac 5 owns his book could have been demonstrated 
on the supposition of indivisibles. 
M. Innumerable vessels of matter. V. Cheyne. 

I ll not admire the mathematicians. Tis w* any one of 

1 The secondary qualities of Earl of Pembroke. 

things. 4 [Extension without breadth 

2 Because, while dependent on i. c. insensible, intangible length 
percipient sense, they are inde- is not conceivable. Tis a mistake 
pendent of my personal will, being we are led into by the doctrine of 
determined to appear under natural abstraction.] AUTHOR, on margin 
law, by Divine agency. of MS. 

3 Keill s Introdudio ad verani 5 Here Sir Isaac. Hence 
Physicam (Oxon. 1702) Lectio 5 written after April, 1705. 

a curious work, dedicated to the 


common sense might attain to by repeated acts. I prove 
it by experience. I am but one of human sense, and I Stc. 

Mathematicians have some of them good parts the more 
is the pity. Had they not been mathematicians they had 
been good for nothing. They were such fools they knew 
not how to employ their parts. 

The mathematicians could not so much as tell wherein 
truth & certainty consisted, till Locke told em . I see the 
best of em talk of light and colours as if w th out the mind. 

By thing I either mean ideas or that w ch has ideas 2 . 

Nullum pneclarum ingenium unquam fuit magnus mathe- 
maticus. Scaliger 3 . 

A great genius cannot stoop to such trifles & minutenesses 
as they consider. 

1. 4 All significant words stand for ideas 5 . 

2. All knowledge about our ideas. 

3. All ideas come from without or from within. 

4. If from without it must be by the senses, & they are 
call d sensations 6 . 

5. If from within they are the operations of the mind, & 
are called thoughts. 

6. No sensation can be in a senseless thing. 

7. No thought can be in a thoughtless thing. 

8. All our ideas are either sensations or thoughts 7 , by 3, 

4; 5- 

9. None of our ideas can be in a thing w ch is both 
thoughtless & senseless 8 , by 6, 7, 8. 

10. The bare passive recognition or having of ideas is 
called perception. 

11. Whatever has in it an idea, tho it be never so 
passive, tho it exert no manner of act about it, yet it must 
perceive. 10. 

1 Essay, Bk. IV. ch. iv. sect. 18 ; 5 Idea here used in its wider 
ch. v. sect. 3, &c. meaning for operations of mind, 

2 He applies thing to self-con- as well as for sense presented pheno- 
scious persons as well as to passive mena that are independent of indi- 
objects of sense. vidual will. Cf. Principles, sect. r. 

3 Scaligerana Seciinda, p. 270. c sensations, i. e. objective 

4 [These arguments must be phenomena presented in sense, 
proposed shorter and more sepa- 7 Se e Principles, sect. i. 
rate in the Treatise.] AUTHOR, on 8 See Principles, sect. 2. 


12. All ideas either are simple ideas, or made up of simple 

13. That thing w ch is like unto another thing must agree 
w fc k it in one or more simple ideas. 

14. Whatever is like a simple idea must either be another 
simple idea of the same sort, or contain a simple idea of 
the same sort. 13. 

15. Nothing like an idea can be in an unperceiving thing. 
11, 14. Another demonstration of the same thing. 

16. Two things cannot be said to be alike or unlike till 
they have been compar d. 

17. Comparing is the viewing two ideas together, & 
marking w t they agree in and w* they disagree in. 

18. The mind can compare nothing but its own ideas. 17. 

19. Nothing like an idea can be in an unperceiving thing, 
n, 16, 1 8. 

N.B. Other arguments innumerable, both a priori & 
a posteriori, drawn from all the sciences, from the clearest, 
plainest, most obvious truths, whereby to demonstrate the 
Principle, i. e. that neither our ideas, nor anything like our 
ideas, can possibly be in an unperceiving thing \ 

N.B. Not one argument of any kind whoever, certain or 
probable, a priori or a posteriori, from any art or science, 
from either sense or reason, against it. 

Mathematicians have no right idea of angles. Hence 
angles of contact wrongly apply d to prove extension 
divisible ad infinitum. 

We have got the Algebra of pure intelligences. 

We can prove Newton s propositions more accurately, 
more easily, &: upon truer principles than himself 2 . 

Barrow owns the downfall of geometry. However I ll 
endeavour to rescue it so far as it is useful, or real, or 
imaginable, or intelligible. But for the nothings, I ll leave 
them to their admirers. 

1 An unperceiving thing can- solutions of problems, themselves 

not be the factor of material reality. must own to fall infinitely short of 

- [To the utmost accuracy, want- perfection.] AUTHOR, on margin, 
ing nothing of perfection. Their 


I ll teach any one the whole course of mathematiques in 
ilu part the time that another will. 

Much banter got from the prefaces of the mathematicians. 
P. Newton says colour is in the subtil matter. Hence 
Malbranch proves nothing, or is mistaken, in asserting there 
is onely figure & motion. 

I can square the circle, &c. ; they cannot. W ch goes on 
the best principles ? 

The Billys use a finite visible line for an . 


T. Marsilius Ficinus his appearing the moment he died 

solv d by my idea of time 2 . 

M. The philosophers lose their abstract or unperceived Mat 
ter. The mathematicians lose their insensible sensations. 
The profane [lose] their extended Deity. Pray w fc do the 
rest of mankind lose ? As for bodies, c., we have them 
still 3 . 

N.B. The future nat. philosoph. & mathem. get vastly by 
the bargain 4 . 

P. There are men who say there are insensible extensions. 
There are others who say the wall is not white, the fire is 
not hot, &c. We Irishmen cannot attain to these truths. 

The mathematicians think there are insensible lines. 
About these they harangue : these cut in a point at all 
angles : these are divisible ad infinitwm. We Irishmen 
can conceive no such lines. 

The mathematicians talk of w* they call a point. This, 
they say, is not altogether nothing, nor is it downright 
something. Now we Irishmen are apt to think something" 
& nothing are next neighbours. 

Engagements to P. G on account of y e Treatise that grew 
up under his eye ; on account also of his approving my 

1 Jean de Billy and Rene de Billy, * So far as we are factors of their 
French mathematicians the former reality, in sense and in science, or 
author of Nova Geotnetrice Claris and can be any practical way concerned 
other mathematical works. with them. 

2 According to Baronius, in the * Cf. Principles, sect. 101-34. 
fifth volume of his Annals/ Ficinus 5 something/ i. e. abstract some- 
appeared after death to Michael thing. 

Mercatus agreeably to a promise 6 Lord Pembroke (?) to whom 

he made when he was alive to the Principles were dedicated, and 

assure him of the life of the human to whom Locke dedicated his Essay. 
spirit after the death of the body. 


harangue. Glorious for P. to be the protector of usefull 
tho newly discover d truths. 

How could I venture thoughts into the world before I 
knew they would be of use to the world ? and how could I 
know that till I had try d how they suited other men s ideas ? 

I publish not this so much for anything else as to know 
whether other men have the same ideas as we Irishmen. 
This is my end, & not to be inform d as to my own parti 

My speculations have the same effect as visiting foreign 
countries : in the end I return where I was before, but my 
heart at ease, and enjoying life with new satisfaction. 

Passing through all the sciences, though false for the 
most part, yet it gives us the better insight and greater 
knowledge of the truth. 

He that would bring another over to his opinion, must 
seem to harmonize with him at first, and humour him in 
his own way of talking ] . 

From my childhood I had an unaccountable turn of 
thought that way *. 

It doth not argue a dwarf to have greater strength than 
a giant, because he can throw off the molehill which is 
upon him, while the other struggles beneath a mountain. 

The whole directed to practise and morality as ap 
pears i sfc , from making manifest the nearness and omni 
presence of God ; 2d\y, from cutting off the useless labour 
of sciences, and so forth. 

1 This is an interesting example in the Essay on Vision, and so 

of a feature that is conspicuous prepares to unfold and defend them 

in Berkeley the art of humour- in the book of Principles and the 

ing an opponent in his own way three Dialogues straininglanguage 

of thinking, which it seems was to reconcile them, with ordinary 

an early habit. It is thus that modes of speech, 
he insinuates his New Principles 




First published in 1 709 




BERKELEY S Essay towards a New Theory of Vision was 
meant to prepare the way for the exposition and defence 
of the new theory of the material world, its natural 
order, and its relation to Spirit, that is contained in 
his book of Principles and in the relative Dialogues, 
which speedily followed. The Essay was the firstfruits 
of his early philosophical studies at Dublin. It was also 
the first attempt to show that our apparently immediate 
Vision of Space and of bodies extended in three-dimen 
sioned space, is either tacit or conscious inference, 
occasioned by constant association of the phenomena of 
which alone we are visually percipient with assumed 
realities of our tactual and locomotive experience. 

The first edition of the Essay appeared early in 1709, 
when its author was about twenty-four years of age. A 
second edition, with a few verbal changes and an Appendix, 
followed before the end of that year. Both were issued 
in Dublin, printed by Aaron Rhames, at the back of 


Dick s Coffeehouse, for Jeremy Pepyat, bookseller in 
Skinner Row/ In March, 1732, a third edition, without 
the Appendix, was annexed to Alciphron, on account of 
its relation to the Fourth Dialogue in that book. This 
was the author s last revision. 

In the present edition the text of this last edition is 
adopted, after collation with those preceding. The Appen 
dix has been restored, and also the Dedication to Sir John 
Percival, which appeared only in the first edition. 

A due appreciation of Berkeley s theory of seeing, and 
his conception of the visible world, involves a study, not 
merely of this tentative juvenile Essay, but also of its 
fuller development and application in his more matured 
works. This has been commonly forgotten by his critics. 

Various circumstances contribute to perplex and even 
repel the reader of the Essay, making it less fit to be an 
easy avenue of approach to Berkeley s Principles. 

Its occasion and design, and its connexion with his 
spiritual conception of the material world, are suggested 
in Sections 43 and 44 of the Principles. Those sections 
are a key to the Essay. They inform us that in the 
Essay the author intentionally uses language which 
seems to attribute a reality independent of all percipient 
spirit to the ideas or phenomena presented in Touch ; 
it being beside his purpose, he says, to examine and 
refute that vulgar error in a work on Vision. This 
studied reticence of a verbally paradoxical conception of 
Matter, in reasonings about vision which are fully in 
telligible only under that conception, is one cause of 
a want of philosophical lucidity in the Essay. 

Another circumstance adds to the embarrassment of 
those who approach the Principles and the three Dialogues 
through the Essay on Vision. The Essay offers no 
exception to the lax employment of equivocal words 
familiar in the early literature of English philosophy, 


but which is particularly inconvenient in the subtle 
discussions to which we are here introduced. At the 
present day we are perhaps accustomed to more precision 
and uniformity in the philosophical use of language ; 
at any rate we connect other meanings than those 
here intended with some of the leading words. It is 
enough to refer to such terms as idea, notion, sensation, 
perception, touch, externality, distance, and their conjugates. 
It is difficult for the modern reader to revive and re 
member the meanings which Berkeley intends by idea and 
notion so significant in his vocabulary; and touch with 
him connotes muscular and locomotive experience as well 
as the pure sense of contact. Interchange of the terms 
outward, outness, externality, without the mind, and without 
the eye is confusing, if we forget that Berkeley implies 
that percipient mind is virtually coextensive with our 
bodily organism, so that being without or at a distance 
from our bodies is being at a distance from the percipient 
mind. I have tried in the annotations to relieve some of 
these ambiguities, of which Berkeley himself warns us 
(cf. sect. 120). 

The Essay moreover abounds in repetitions, and inter 
polations of antiquated optics and physiology, so that its 
logical structure and even its supreme generalisation are 
not easily apprehended. I will try to disentangle them. 

The reader must remember that this Essay on Vision 
is professedly an introspective appeal to human conscious 
ness. It is an analysis of what human beings are conscious 
of when they see, the results being here and there applied, 
partly by way of verification, to solve some famous optical 
or physiological puzzle. The aim is to present the facts, 
the whole facts, and nothing but the facts of our internal 
visual experience, as distinguished from supposed facts 
and empty abstractions, which an irregular exercise of 
imagination, or abuse of words, had put in their place. 



The investigation, moreover, is not concerned with Space 
in its metaphysical infinity, but with finite sections of Space 
and their relations, which concern the sciences, physical 
and mathematical, and with real or tangible Distance, 
Magnitude, and Place, in their relation to seeing. 

From the second section onwards the Essay naturally 
falls into six Parts, devoted successively to the proof of 
the six following theses regarding the relation of Sight 
to finite spaces and to things extended : 

I. (Sect. 2-51.) Distance, or outness from the eye in 
the line of vision, is not seen : it is only suggested to the 
mind by visible phenomena and by sensations felt in 
the eye, all which are somehow its arbitrarily constituted 
and non-resembling Signs. 

II. (Sect. 52-87.) Magnitude, or the amount of space 
that objects of sense occupy, is really invisible : we only 
see a greater or less quantity of colour, and colour depends 
upon percipient mind : our supposed visual perceptions 
of real magnitude are only our own interpretations of the 
tactual meaning of the colours we see, and of sensations 
felt in the eye, which are its Signs. 

III. (Sect. 88-120.) Situation of objects of sense, or 
their real relation to one another in ambient space, is 
invisible : what we see is variety in the relations of colours 
to one another : our supposed vision of real tangible 
locality is only our interpretation of its visual non-re 
sembling Signs. 

IV. (Sect. 121-46.) There is no object that is pre 
sented in common to Sight and Touch : space or exten 
sion, which has the best claim to be their common object, 
is specifically as well as numerically different in Sight 
and in Touch. 

V. (Sect. 147-48.) The explanation of the tactual sig 
nificance of the visible and visual Signs, upon which human 
experience proceeds, is offered in the Theory that all 
visible phenomena are arbitrary signs in what is virtually 


the Language of Nature, addressed by God to the senses 
and intelligence of Man. 

VI. (Sect. 149-60.) The true object studied in Geometry 
is the kind of Extension given in Touch, not that given 
in Sight : real Extension in all its phases is tangible, 
not visible : colour is the only immediate object of Sight, 
and colour being mind-dependent sensation, cannot be 
realised without percipient mind. These concluding 
sections are supplementary to the main argument. 

The fact that distance or outness is invisible is some 
times regarded as Berkeley s contribution to the theory 
of seeing. It is rather the assumption on which the 
Essay proceeds (sect. 2). The Essay does not prove 
this invisibility, but seeks to shew how, notwithstanding, 
we learn to find outness through seeing. That the rela 
tion between the visual signs of outness, on the one hand, 
and the real distance which they signify, on the other, is 
in all cases arbitrary, and discovered through experience, is 
the burden of sect. 2-40. The previously recognised 
signs of considerably remote distances, are mentioned 
(sect. 3). But near distance was supposed to be inferred 
by a visual geometry and to be suggested, not signified 
by arbitrary signs. The determination of the visual signs 
which suggest outness, near and remote, is Berkeley s 
professed discovery regarding vision. 

An induction of the visual signs which suggest 
distance, is followed (sect. 43) by an assertion of the 
wholly sensuous reality of co/our, which is acknowledged 
to be the only immediate object of sight. Hence visible 
extension, consisting in colour, must be dependent 
for its realisation upon sentient or percipient mind. It 
is then argued (sect. 44) that this mind-dependent visible 
outness has no resemblance to the tangible reality (sect. 
45). This is the first passage in the Essay in which Touch 
and its data are formally brought into view. Tactual or 

H 2 


locomotive experience, it is implied, is needed to infuse 
true reality into our conceptions of distance or outness. 
This cannot be got from seeing any more than from 
hearing, or tasting, or smelling. It is as impossible to 
see and touch the same object as it is to hear and 
touch the same object. Visible objects and ocular sen 
sations can only be ideal signs of real things. 

The sections in which Touch is thus introduced are 
among the most important in the Essay. They represent 
the outness given in hearing as wholly sensuous, ideal, or 
mind-dependent : they recognise as more truly real that 
got by contact and locomotion. But if this is all that 
man can see, it follows that his visible world, at any 
rate, becomes real only in and through percipient mind. 
The problem of an Essay on Vision is thus, to explain 
how the visible world of extended colour can inform us of 
tangible realities, which it does not in the least resemble, 
and with which it has no necessary connexion. That 
visible phenomena, or else certain organic sensations 
involved in seeing (sect. 3, 16, 21, 27), gradually suggest 
the real or tangible outness with which they are con 
nected in the divinely constituted system of nature, is the 
explanation which now begins to dawn upon us. 

Here an ambiguity in the Essay appears. It concludes 
that the visible world cannot be real without percipient 
realising mind, i.e. not otherwise than ideally: yet the 
argument seems to take for granted that we are percipient 
of a tangible world that is independent of percipient realising 
mind. The reader is apt to say that the tangible world 
must be as dependent on percipient mind for its reality 
as the visible world is concluded to be, and for the same 
reason. This difficulty was soon afterwards encountered 
in the book of Principles, where the worlds of sight and 
touch are put on the same level; and the possibility of 
unperceived reality in both cases is denied ; on the ground 
that a material world cannot be realised in the total 


absence of Spirit human and divine. The term ex 
ternal may still be applied to tactual and locomotive 
phenomena alone, if men choose ; but this not because 
of the ideal character of what is seen, and the unideal 
reality of what is touched, but only because tactual per 
ceptions are found to be more firm and steady than 
visual. Berkeley preferred in this way to insinuate his 
new conception of the material world by degrees, at the 
risk of exposing this juvenile and tentative Essay on 
Vision to a charge of incoherence. 

The way in which visual ideas or phenomena suggest 
the outness or distance of things from the organ of sight 
having been thus explained, in what I call the First Part 
of the Essay, the Second and Third Parts (sect. 52-120) 
argue for the invisibility of real extension in two other 
relations, viz. magnitude and locality or situation. An 
induction of the visual signs of tangible size and situation 
is given in those sections. The result is applied to solve 
two problems then notable in optics, viz. (i) the reason 
for the greater visible size of the horizontal moon than 
of the moon in its meridian (sect. 67-87); and (2) the 
fact that objects are placed erect in vision only on con 
dition that their images on the retina are inverted (sect. 
88-120). Here the antithesis between the ideal world 
of coloured extension, and the real world of resistant 
extension is pressed with vigour. The high and Mow 
of the visible world is not the high and low of the 
tangible world (sect. 91-106). There is no resemblance 
and no necessary relation, between those two so-called 
extensions ; not even when the number of visible objects 
happen to coincide with the number of tangible objects 
of which they are the visual signs, e.g. the visible and 
tangible fingers on the hand : for the born-blind, on first 
receiving sight, could not parcel out the visible phenomena 
in correspondence with the tangible. 


The next Part of the Essay (sect. 121-45) argues for 
a specific as well as a numerical difference between the 
original data of sight and the data of touch and locomotion. 
Sight and touch perceive nothing in common. Extension 
in its various relations differs in sight from extension in 
touch. Coloured extension, which alone is visible, is 
found to be different in kind from resistant extension, 
which alone is tangible. And if actually perceived or 
concrete extensions differ thus, the question is deter 
mined. For all extension with which man can be con 
cerned must be concrete (sect. 23). Extension in the 
abstract is meaningless (sect. 124-25). What remains 
is to marshal the scattered evidence, and to guard the 
foregoing conclusions against objections. This is attempted 
in sections 128-46. 

The enunciation of the summary generalisation, which 
forms the New Theory of Vision (sect. 147-8), may 
be taken as the Fifth and culminating Part of the Essay. 

The closing sections (149-60), as I have said, are 
supplementary, and profess to determine the sort of ex 
tension visible or tangible with which Geometry is 
concerned. In concluding that it is tangible, he tries 
to picture the mental state of Idominians, or unbodied 
spirits, endowed with visual perceptions only, and asks 
what their conception of outness and solid extension 
must be. Here further refinements in the interpretation 
of visual perception, and its organic conditions, which have 
not escaped the attention of latter psychologists and 
biologists, are hinted at. 

Whether the data of sight consist of non-resembling 
arbitrary Signs of the tactual distances, sizes, and situa 
tions of things, is a question which some might prefer 
to deal with experimentally by trial of the experience 
of persons in circumstances fitted to supply an answer. 


Of this sort would be the experience of the born-blind, 
immediately after their sight has been restored ; the 
conception of extension and its relations found in persons 
who continue from birth unable to see ; the experience 
(if it could be got) of persons always destitute of all 
tactual and locomotive perceptions, but familiar with 
vision; and the facts of seeing observed in infants of 
the human species, and in the lower animals. 

Berkeley did not try to verify his conclusions in this 
way. Here and there (sect. 41, 42, 79, 92-99, 103, 106, 
no, 128, 132-37), he conjectures what the first visual 
experience of those rescued from born-blindness is likely 
to be ; he also speculates, as we have seen, about the 
experience of unbodied spirits supposed to be able to 
see, but unable to touch or move (sect. 153-59) ; and 
in the Appendix he refers, in confirmation of his New 
Theory, to a reported case of one born blind who had 
obtained sight. But he forms his Theory independently 
of those delicate and difficult investigations. His testing 
facts were sought irrespectively. Indeed those physio 
logists and mental philosophers who have since tried 
to determine what vision in its purity is, by cases either 
of communicated sight or of continued born-blindness, 
have illustrated the truth of Diderot s remark preparer 
et interroger un aveugle-ne n eut point ete une occupation 
indigne des talens reunis de Newton, Des Cartes, Locke, 
et Leibniz V 

Berkeley s New Theory has been quoted as a signal 
example of discovery in metaphysics. The subtle analysis 
which distinguishes seeing strictly so called, from judg 
ments about extended things, suggested by what we see, 

1 In Diderot s Lett re sur les 112 ; and Theory of Vision Vindi- 

aveugles, a I usage de cenx qui catcd, sect. 71, with the note, in 

voient, where Berkeley, Molyneux, which some recorded experiments 

Condillac, and others are men- are alluded to. 
tioned. Cf. also Appendix, pp. in, 


appears to have been imperfectly known to the ancient 
philosophers. Aristotle, indeed, speaks of colour as the 
only proper object of sight ; but, in passages of the 
De Aninia l where he names properties peculiar to par 
ticular senses, he enumerates others, such as motion, figure, 
and magnitude, which belong to all the senses in com 
mon. His distinction of Proper and Common Sensibles 
appears at first to contradict Berkeley s doctrine of the 
heterogeneity of the ideal visible and the real tangible 
worlds. Aristotle, however, seems to question the imme 
diate perceptibility of Common Sensibles, and to regard 
them as realised through the activity of intelligence 2 . 

Some writers in Optics, in mediaeval times, and in early 
modern philosophy, advanced beyond Aristotle, in explain 
ing the relation of our matured notion of distance to what 
we originally perceive in seeing, and in the fifteenth cen 
tury it was discovered by Maurolyco that the rays of light 
from the object converge to a focus in the eye ; but I have 
not been able to trace even the germ of the New Theory in 
these speculations. 

Excepting some hints by Descartes, Malebranche was 
among the first dimly to anticipate Berkeley, in resolving 
our supposed power of seeing outness into an interpretation 

1 De Aninia, II. 6, III. i, &c. and the mind each contribute an 
Aristotle assigns a pre-eminent element to every knowledge. Aris- 
intellectual value to the sense of totle s doctrine of KOIVTJ aiaOr^ois 
sight. See, for instance, his would go far, if carried out, to 
Metaphysics, I. i. modify his doctrine of the simple 

2 Sir A. Grant (Ethics of A n stot/c, and innate character of the senses, 
vol. II. p. 172) remarks, as to the e. g. sight (cf. Eth. II. i, 4), and 
doctrine that the Common Sensibles would prevent .its collision with 
are apprehended concomitantly by Berkeley s Theory of Vision See 
the senses, that: this is surely the also Sir W. Hamilton, Reid s 
true view; we see in the apprehen- Works, pp. 828-830. 

sion of number, figure, and the like, Dugald Stewart (Collected Works, 

not an operation of sense, but the vol. I. p. 341, note) quotes Aris- 

mind putting its own forms andcate- totle s Ethics, II. i, as evidence that 

gories, i.e. itself, on the external Berkeley s doctrine, with respect 

object. It would follow then that to the acquired perceptions of 

the senses cannot really be sepa- sight, was quite unknown to the 

rated from the mind; the senses best metaphysicians of antiquity. 


of visual signs which we learn by experience to understand. 
The most important part of Malebranche s account of 
seeing is contained in the Recherche de la Ve ritc (Liv. I. 
ch. 9), in one of those chapters in which he discusses the 
frequent fallaciousness of the senses, and in particular of 
our visual perceptions of extension. He accounts for 
their inevitable uncertainty by assigning them not to sense 
but to misinterpretation of what is seen. He also enu 
merates various visual signs of distance. 

That the Recherche of Malebranche, published more 
than thirty years before the Essay, \vas familiar to Berke 
ley before the publication of his New Theory, is proved by 
internal evidence, and by his juvenile Commonplace Book. 
I am not able to discover signs of a similar connexion 
between the New Theory and the chapter on the mystery 
of sensation in Glanvill s Scepsis Scicntifica (ch. 5), pub 
lished some years before the Recherche of Malebranche, 
where Glanvill refers to a secret deduction/ through 
which from motions, &c., of which we are immediately 
percipient we spell out figures, distances, magnitudes, 
and colours, which have no resemblance to them. 

An approach to the New Theory is found in a passage 
which first appeared in the second edition of Locke s 
Essay, published in 1694, to which Berkeley refers in his 
own Essay (sect. 132-35), and which, on account of its 
relative importance, I shall here transcribe at length : 

1 We are further to consider concerning Perception that 
the ideas we receive by sensation are often, in grown peo 
ple, altered by the judgment, without our taking notice of 
it. When we set before our eyes a round globe of any uni 
form colour, e.g. gold, alabaster, or jet, it is certain that the 
idea thereby imprinted in our mind is of a flat circle, var 
iously shadowed, with several degrees of light and bright 
ness coming to our eyes. But, we having by use been 
accustomed to perceive what kind of appearance convex 
bodies are wont to make in us, what alterations are made 


in the reflection of light by the difference in the sensible 
figures of bodies the judgment presently, by an habitual 
custom, alters the appearances into their causes ; so that, 
from that which is truly variety of shadow or colour, col 
lecting the figure, it makes it pass for a mark of figure, and 
frames to itself the perception of a convex figure and an 
uniform colour, when the idea we receive from them is 
only a plane variously coloured, as is evident in painting. 

To which purpose I shall here insert a problem of that 
very ingenious and studious promoter of real knowledge, 
the learned and worthy Mr. Molyneux, which he was 
pleased to send me in a letter some months since, and it is 
this : Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and 
taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a 
sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, 
so as to tell, when he felt the one and the other, which is 
the cube and which the sphere. Suppose then the cube 
and the sphere placed on a table, and the blind man be 
made to see : quere, whether, by his sight, before he 
touched them, he could not distinguish and tell, which is 
the globe and which the cube ? To which the acute and 
judicious proposer answers: "Not." For, though he has 
obtained the experience of how a globe, how a cube affects 
his touch ; yet he has not obtained the experience that 
what affects his touch so and so, must affect his sight so 
and so ; so that a protuberant angle in the cube, that 
pressed his hand unequally, shall appear to his eye as it 
does in the cube. I agree with this thinking gentleman, 
whom I am proud to call my friend, in his answer to this 
his problem, and am of opinion that the blind man, at 
first sight, would not be able to say with certainty which 
was the globe and which the cube, whilst he only saw 
them ; though he would unerringly name them by his 
touch, and certainly distinguish them by the difference in 
their figures felt. 

This I have set down, and leave with my reader, as an 


occasion for him to consider how much he may be be 
holden to experience, improvement, and acquired notions, 
where he thinks he had not the least use of, or help from 
them : and the rather because this observing gentleman 
further adds that, having, upon the occasion of my book, 
proposed this problem to divers very ingenious men, he 
hardly ever met with one that at first gave the answer to 
it which he thinks true, till by hearing his reasons they 
were convinced. 

But this is not I think usual in any of our ideas but 
those received by sight : because sight, the most compre 
hensive of the senses, conveying to our minds the ideas of 
light and colours, which are peculiar only to that sense ; 
and also the far different ideas of space, figure, and motion, 
the several varieties of which change the appearance of its 
proper object, i.e. light and colours; we bring ourselves 
by use to judge of the one by the other. This, in many 
cases, by a settled habit, in things whereof we have fre 
quent experience, is performed so constantly and so quick, 
that we take that for the perception of our sensation, which 
is an idea formed by our judgment; so that one, i.e. that 
of sensation, serves only to excite the other, and is scarce- 
taken notice of itself; as a man who reads or hears with 
attention and understanding takes little notice of the 
character or sounds, but of the ideas that are excited in 
him by them. 

Nor need we wonder that this is done with so little 
notice, if we consider how very quick the actions of the 
mind are performed ; for, as itself is thought to take up no 
space, to have no extension, so its actions seem to require 
no time, but many of them seem to be crowded into an 
instant. I speak this in comparison of the actions of the 
body. . . . Secondly, we shall not be much surprised that 
this is done with us in so little notice, if we consider how 
the facility we get of doing things, by a custom of doing, 
makes them often pass in us without notice. Habits, 


especially such as are begun very early, come at last to 
produce actions in us which often escape our observation. 
. . . And therefore it is not so strange that our mind 
should often change the idea of its sensation into that of 
its judgment, and make the one serve only to excite the 
other, without our taking notice of it. (Essay concerning 
Human Understanding, Book II. ch. 9. 8.) 

This remarkable passage anticipates by implication the 
view of an interpretation of materials originally given in 
the visual sense, which, under the name of suggestion/ is 
the ruling factor in the New Theory of Vision. 

The following sentences relative to the invisibility of dis 
tances, contained in the Treatise of Dioptrics (published 
in 1690) of Locke s friend and correspondent William 
Molyneux, whose son was Berkeley s pupil, illustrate 
Locke s statements, and may be compared with the opening 
sections of the Essay on Vision : 

1 In plain vision the estimate we make of the distance of 
objects (especially when so far removed that the interval 
between our two eyes bears no sensible proportion thereto, 
or when looked upon with one eye only) is rather the act 
of our judgment than of sense ; and acquired by exercise, 
and a faculty of comparing, rather than natural. For, dis 
tance of itself is not to be perceived ; for, tis a line (or a 
length) presented to our eye with its end toward us, which 
must therefore be only a point, and that is invisible. Where 
fore distance is chiefly perceived by means of interjacent 
bodies, as by the earth, mountains, hills, fields, trees, houses, 
&c. Or by the estimate we make of the comparative magni 
tude of bodies, or of their faint colours, c. These I say 
are the chief means of apprehending the distance of objects 
that are considerably remote. But as to nigh objects to 
whose distance the interval of the eyes bears a sensible 
proportion their distance is perceived by the turn of the 
eyes, or by the angle of the optic axes (Grcgorii Opt. Pro- 
mot, prop. 28). This was the opinion of the ancients, 


Alhazen, Vitellio, &c. And though the ingenious Jesuit 
Tacquet (Opt. Lib. I. prop. 2) disapprove thereof, and objects 
against it a new notion of Gassendus (of a man s seeing 
only with one eye at a time one and the same object), yet 
this notion of Gassendus being absolutely false (as I could 
demonstrate were it not beside my present purpose), it 
makes nothing against this opinion. 

Wherefore, distance being only a line and not of itself 
perceivable, if an object were conveyed to the eye by one 
single ray only, there were no other means of judging of 
its distance but by some of those hinted before. Therefore 
when we estimate the distance of nigh objects, either we 
take the help of both eyes, or else we consider the pupil of 
one eye as having breadth, and receiving a parcel of rays 
from each radiating point. And, according to the various 
inclinations of the rays from one point on the various parts 
of the pupil, we make our estimate of the distance of the 
object. And therefore (as is said before), by one single eye 
we can only judge of the distance of such objects to whose 
distance the breadth of the pupil has a sensible proportion. 
. . . For, it is observed before (prop. 29, sec. 2, see also 
Gregorii Opt. Promot. prop. 29) that for viewing objects 
remote and nigh, there are requisite various conformations 
of the eye the rays from nigh objects that fall on the eye 
diverging more than those from more remote objects/ 
(Treatise of Dioptrics, Part I. prop. 31.) 

All this helps to shew the state of science regarding 
vision about the time Berkeley s Essay appeared, especially 
among those with whose works he was familiar \ I shall 
next refer to illustrations of the change which the Essay 

The New Theory has occasioned some interesting criti- 

1 A work resembling Berkeley s Essay the Nova Visionis Theoria 
in its title, but in little else, appeared of Dr. Briggs, published in 1685. 
more than twenty years before the 


cism since its appearance in 1709. At first it drew little 
attention. For twenty years after its publication the allu 
sions to it were few. The account of Cheselden s experi 
ment upon one born blind, published in 1728, in the 
Philosophical Transactions, which seemed to bring the 
Theory to the test of scientific experiment, recalled attention 
to Berkeley s reasonings. The state of religious thought 
about the same time confirmed the tendency to discuss 
a doctrine which represented human vision as interpreta 
tion of a natural yet divine language, thus suggesting 
Omnipresent Mind. 

Occasional discussions of the New Theory may be found 
in the Gentleman s Magazine, from 1732 till Berkeley s 
death in 1753. Some criticisms may also be found in 
Smith s Optics, published in 1738. 

Essential parts of^ Berkeley s analysis are explained 
by Voltaire, in his Ele mens de la Philosophic de Newton. 
The following from that work is here given on its own 
account, and also as a prominent recognition of the new 
-doctrine in France, within thirty years from its first 
promulgation : 

II faut absolument conclure de tout ceci, que les distances, 
les grandeurs, les situations, ne sont pas, aproprementparler, 
des choses visibles, c est-a-dire, ne sont pas les objets propres 
et immediats de la vue. L objet propre et immediat de la vue 
n est autre chose que lalumiere coloree : tout lereste, nous ne 
le sentons qu ala longue et par experience. Nous apprenons 
a voir precisement comme nous apprenons a parler et a 
lire. La difference est, que 1 art de voir est plus facile, et 
que la nature est egalement a tous notre maitre. 

Les jugements soudains, presque uniformes, que toutes 
nos ames, a un certain age, portent des distances, des 
grandeurs, des situations, nous font penser qu il n y a qu a 
ouvrir les yeux pour voir la maniere dont nous voyons. 
On se trompe; il y faut le secours des autres sens. Si 
les hommes n avaient que le sens de la vue, ils n auraient 


aucun moyen pour connaitre 1 etendue en longueur, largeur 
et profondeur ; et un pur esprit ne la connaitrait pas peut- 
etre, a moinsque Dieu ne la lui revelat. II est tres difficile 
de separer dans notre entendement 1 extension d un objet 
d avec les couleurs de cet objet. Nous ne voyons jamais 
rien que d etendu, et de la nous sommes tous portes 
a croire que nous voyons en effet 1 etendue. (Ele mens de 
la Philos. de Newton, Seconde Partie, ch. 7.) 

Condillac, in his Essais sur VOrigine des Connaissanccs 
Humaines (Part I. sect. 6), published in 1746, combats 
Berkeley s New Theory, and maintains that an extension 
exterior to the eye is immediately discernible by sight ; the 
eye being naturally capable of judging at once of figures, 
magnitudes, situations, and distances. His reasonings in 
support of this prejudice/ as he afterwards allowed it to 
be, may be found in the section entitled De quelques 
jugemens qu on a attribues a 1 ame sans fondement, ou 
solution d un probleme de metaphysique. Here Locke, 
Molyneux, Berkeley, and Voltaire are criticised, and 
Cheselden s experiment is referred to. Condillac s subse 
quent recantation is contained in his Traite des Sensations, 
published in 1754, and in his L? Art de Penscr. In the 
Traite des Sensations (Troisieme Partie, ch. 3, 4, 5, -6, 7, 8, 
&c.) the whole question is discussed at length, and Condillac 
vindicates what he allows must appear a marvellous para 
dox to the uninitiated that we only gradually learn to see, 
hear, smell, taste, and touch. He argues in particular that 
the eye cannot originally perceive an extension that is be 
yond itself, and that perception of trinal space is due to 
what we experience in touch. 

Voltaire and Condillac gave currency to the New Theory 
in France, and it soon became a commonplace with 
D Alembert, Diderot, Buffon,and other French philosophers. 
In Germany we have allusions to it in the Berlin Memoirs 
and elsewhere ; but, although known by name, if not in its 
distinctive principle and latent idealism, it has not obtained 


the consideration which its author s developed theory of 
the material as well as the visible world has received. The 
Kantian a priori criticism of our cognition of Space, and 
of our mathematical notions, subsequently indisposed the 
German mind to the a posteriori reasoning of Berkeley s 

Its influence is apparent in British philosophy. The 
following passages in Hartley s Observations on Man, pub 
lished in 1749, illustrate the extent to which some of the 
distinctive parts of the new doctrine were at that time 
received by an eminent English psychologist : 

Distance is judged of by the quantity of motion, and 
figure by the relative quantity of distance. . . . And, as the 
sense of sight is much more extensive and expedite than 
feeling, we judge of tangible qualities chiefly by sight, which 
therefore may be considered, agreeably to Bishop Berkeley s 
remark, as a philosophical language for the ideas of feeling ; 
being, for the most part, an adequate representative of 
them, and a language common to all mankind, and in which 
they all agree very nearly, after a moderate degree of 

However, if the informations from touch and sight dis 
agree at any time, we are always to depend upon touch, as 
that which, according to the usual ways of speaking upon 
these subjects, is the true representation of the essential 
properties, i. e. as the earnest and presage of what other 
tangible impressions the body under consideration will 
make upon our feeling in other circumstances ; also what 
changes it will produce in other bodies ; of which again we 
are to determine by our feeling, if the visual language 
should not happen to correspond to it exactly. And it is 
from this difference that we call the touch the reality, light 
the representative also that a person born blind may fore 
tell with certainty, from his present tangible impressions, 
what others would follow upon varying the circumstances ; 
whereas, if we could suppose a person to be born without 


feeling, and to arrive at man s estate, he could not, from his 
present visible impressions, judge what others would follow 
upon varying the circumstances. Thus the picture of a 
knife, drawn so well as to deceive his eye, would not, when 
applied to another body, produce the same change of visible 
impressions as a real knife does, when it separates the 
parts of the body through which it passes. But the touch 
is not liable to these deceptions. As it is therefore the fun 
damental source of information in respect of the essential 
properties of matter, it may be considered as our first and 
principal key to the knowledge of the external world. 
(Prop. 30.) 

In other parts of Hartley s book (c. g. Prop. 58) the 
relation of our visual judgments of magnitude, figure, 
motion, distance, and position to the laws of associa 
tion is explained, and the associating circumstances by 
which these judgments are formed are enumerated in 

Dr. Porterfield of Edinburgh, in his Treatise on the Eye, 
or the Manner and Phenomena of Vision (Edinburgh, 1759), 
is an exception to the consent which the doctrine had 
then widely secured. He maintains, in opposition to 
Berkeley, that the judgments we form of the situation 
and distance of visible objects, depend not on custom 
and experience, but on original instinct, to which mind 
is subject in our embodied state V 

Berkeley s Theory of Vision, in so far as it resolves 
our visual perceptions of distance into interpretation of 
arbitrary signs, received the qualified approbation of Reid, 
in his Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of 
Common Sense (1764). He criticises it in the Inquiry, 
where the doctrine of visual signs, of which Berkeley s 
whole philosophy is a development, is accepted, and to 
some extent applied. With Reid it is divorced, however, 
from the Berkeleian conception of the material world, 

1 See Treatise on the Eye, vol. II. pp. 299, &c. 



although the Theory of Vision was the seminal principle 
of Berkeley s Theory of Matter J . 

This Theory of Matter was imperfectly conceived and then 
rejected by Reid and his followers, while the New Theory 
of Vision obtained the general consent of the Scottish 
metaphysicians. Adam Smith refers to it in his Essays 
(published in 1795) as one of the finest examples of philo 
sophical analysis that is to be found either in our own 
or in any other language. Dugald Stewart characterises 
it in his Elements as one of the most beautiful, and at 
the same time one of the most important theories of 
modern philosophy/ The solid additions/ he afterwards 
remarks in his Dissertation, made by Berkeley to the 
stock of human knowledge, were important and bril 
liant. Among these the first place is unquestionably 
due to his New Theory of Vision, a work abounding 
with ideas so different from those commonly received, 
and at the same time so profound and refined, that it 
was regarded by all but a few accustomed to deep meta 
physical reflection, rather in the light of a philosophical 
romance than of a sober inquiry after truth. Such, 
however, has since been the progress and diffusion of 
this sort of knowledge, that the leading and most ab 
stracted doctrines contained in it form now an essential 
part of every elementary treatise on optics, and are 
adopted by the most superficial smatterers in science 
as fundamental articles of their faith. The New Theory 
is accepted by Thomas Brown, who proposes (Lectures, 
29) to extend the scope of its reasonings. With regard 
to perceptions of sight, Young, in his Lectures on In 
tellectual Philosophy (p. 102), says that it has been uni 
versally admitted, at least since the days of Berkeley, 
that many of those which appear to us at present to 
be instantaneous and primitive, can yet be shewn to be 

1 See Reid s Inquiry, ch. v. on the Intellectual Powers, II. ch. 
3> 5> 6, 7 ; ch. vi. 24, and Essays 10 and 19. 


acquired ; that most of the adult perceptions of sight 
are founded on the previous information of touch ; that 
colour can give us no conception originally of those 
qualities of bodies which produce it in us ; and that 
primary vision gives us no notion of distance, and , as I 
believe, no notion of magnitude/ Sir James Mackintosh, 
in his Dissertation, characterises the New Theory of Vision 
as a great discovery in Mental Philosophy. Nothing 
in the compass of inductive reasoning, remarks Sir 
William Hamilton (Reid s Works, p. 182, note), appears 
more satisfactory than Berkeley s demonstration of the 
necessity and manner of our learning, by a slow process 
of observation and comparison alone, the connexion 
between the perceptions of vision and touch, and, in 
general, all that relates to the distance and magnitude 
of external things V 

The New Theory of Vision has in short been generally 
accepted, so far as it was understood, alike by the follow 
ers of Hartley and by the associates and successors 
of Reid. Among British psychologists, it has recom 
mended itself to rationalists and sensationalists, to the 
advocates of innate principles, and to those who would 
explain by accidental association what their opponents 
attribute to reason originally latent in man. But this 
wide conscious assent is I think chiefly confined to the 
proposition that distance is invisible, and hardly reaches 
the deeper implicates of the theory, on its extension to 
all the senses, leading to a perception of the final unity 

1 While Sir W. Hamilton (Lee- visual instinct of distances ; and 

lures on Metaphysics, Ixxviii) ac- elsewhere (Reid s Works, p. 137, 

knowledges the scientific validity note) he seems to hesitate about 

of Berkeley s conclusions, as to Locke s Solution of Molyneux s 

the way we judge of distances, he Problem, at least in its application 

complains, in the same lecture, that to Cheselden s case. Cf. Leibniz, 

the whole question is thrown into Nouvcatix Essais, Liv. II. ch. 9, in 

doubt by the analogy of the lower connexion with this last, 
animals/ i. e. by their probable 

I 2 


of the natural and the supernatural, and the ultimate 
spirituality of the universe 1 . 

1 An almost solitary exception 
in Britain to this unusual unifor 
mity on a subtle question in 
psychology is found in Samuel 
Bailey s Review of Berkeley 1 s Theory 
of Vision, designed to show the un- 
soundness of that celebrated Specula 
tion, which appeared in 1842. It 
was the subject of two interesting 
rejoinders a well-weighed criti 
cism, in the Westminster Review, 
by J S. Mill, since republished in 
his Discussions ; and an ingenious 
Essay by Professor Ferrier, in 

Black wood s Magazine, republished 
in his Philosophical Remains. The 
controversy ended on that occasion 
with Bailey s Letter to a Philosopher 
in reply to some recent attempts to 
vindicate Berkeley s Theory of Vision , 
and in further elucidation of its un- 
soundncss, and a reply to it by 
each of his critics. It was revived 
in 1864 by Mr. Abbott of Trinity 
College, Dublin, whose essay on 
Sight and 7 ouch is an attempt to 
disprove the received (or Berke- 
leian) Theory of Vision. 





I COULD not, without doing violence to myself, forbear 
upon this occasion to give some public testimony of the 
great and well-grounded esteem I have conceived for you, 
ever since I had the honour and happiness of your ac 
quaintance. The outward advantages of fortune, and the 
early honours with which you are adorned, together with 
the reputation you are known to have amongst the best and 
most considerable men, may well imprint veneration and 
esteem on the minds of those who behold you from a dis 
tance. But these are not the chief motives that inspire me 
with the respect I bear you. A nearer approach has given 
me the view of something in your person infinitely beyond 
the external ornaments of honour and estate. I mean, an 
intrinsic stock of virtue and good sense, a true concern for 
religion, and disinterested love of your country. Add to 
these an uncommon proficiency in the best and most use 
ful parts of knowledge ; together with (what in my mind is 

1 Afterwards (in 1733^ Earl of ise the province of Georgia in North 

Egmont. Born about 1683, he America. His name appears in 

succeeded to the baronetcy in the list of subscribers to Berkeley s 

1691, and, after sitting for a few Bermuda Scheme in 1726. He 

years in the Irish House of Com- died in 1748. He corresponded 

mons, was in 1715 created Baron frequently with Berkeley from 

Percival, in the Irish peerage. In 1709 onwards. 
1732 he obtained a charter to colon- 


a perfection of the first rank) a surpassing goodness of 
nature. All which I have collected, not from the uncertain 
reports of fame, but from my own experience. Within 
these few months that I have the honour to be known unto 
you, the many delightful hours I have passed in your 
agreeable and improving conversation have afforded me 
the opportunity of discovering in you many excellent qual 
ities, which at once fill me with admiration and esteem. 
That one at those years, and in those circumstances of 
wealth and greatness, should continue proof against the 
charms of luxury and those criminal pleasures so fashion 
able and predominant in the age we live in ; that he should 
preserve a sweet and modest behaviour, free from that 
insolent and assuming air so familiar to those who are 
placed above the ordinary rank of men ; that he should 
manage a great fortune with that prudence and inspection, 
and at the same time expend it with that generosity and 
nobleness of mind, as to shew himself equally remote from 
a sordid parsimony and a lavish inconsiderate profusion of 
the good things he is intrusted with this, surely, were ad 
mirable and praiseworthy. But, that he should, moreover, 
by an impartial exercise of his reason, and constant perusal 
of the sacred Scriptures, endeavour to attain a right notion 
of the principles of natural and revealed religion ; that he 
should with the concern of a true patriot have the interest 
of the public at heart, and omit no means of informing 
himself what may be prejudicial or advantageous to his 
country, in order to prevent the one and promote the 
other ; in fine, that, by a constant application to the most 
severe and useful studies, by a strict observation of the 
rules of honour and virtue, by frequent and serious reflec 
tions on the mistaken measures of the world, and the true 
end and happiness of mankind, he should in all respects 
qualify himself bravely to run the race that is set before 
him, to deserve the character of great and good in this life, 
and be ever happy hereafter this were amazing and al 
most incredible. Yet all this, and more than this, SIR, 
might I justly say of you, did either your modesty permit, 
or your character stand in need of it. I know it might 
deservedly be thought a vanity in me to imagine that any 
thing coming from so obscure a hand as mine could add a 
lustre to your reputation. But, I am withal sensible how 


far I advance the interest of my own, by laying hold on 
this opportunity to make it known that I am admitted into 
some degree of intimacy with a person of your exquisite 
judgment. And, with that view, I have ventured to make 
you an address of this nature, which the goodness I have 
ever experienced in you inclines me to hope will meet with 
a favourable reception at your hands. Though I must own 
I have your pardon to ask, for touching on what may pos 
sibly be offensive to a virtue you are possessed of in a very 
distinguishing degree. Excuse me, SIR, if it was out of 
my power to mention the name of SIR JOHN PERCIVALE 
without paying some tribute to that extraordinary and sur 
prising merit whereof I have so clear and affecting an idea, 
and which, I am sure, cannot be exposed in too full a light 
for the imitation of others. 

Of late I have been agreeably employed in considering 
the most noble, pleasant, and comprehensive of all the 
senses \ The fruit of that (labour shall I call it or) diver 
sion is what I now present you with, in hopes it may give 
some entertainment to one who, in the midst of business 
and vulgar enjoyments, preserves a relish for the more re 
fined pleasures of thought and reflexion. My thoughts 
concerning Vision have led me into some notions so far 
out of the common road - that it had been improper to 
address them to one of a narrow and contracted genius. 
But, you, SIR, being master of a large and free understand- 
ing, raised above the power of those prejudices that enslave 
the far greater part of mankind, may deservedly be thought 
a proper patron for an attempt of this kind. Add to this, 
that you are no less disposed to forgive than qualified, to 
discern whatever faults may occur in it. Nor do I think 

1 Similar terms are applied to le premier, le plus noble, et le 

the sense of seeing by writers with plus etendu de tous les sens. The 

whom Berkeley was familiar. Thus high place assigned to this sense 

Locke (Essay, II. ix. 9) refers to by Aristotle has been already 

sight as the most comprehensive alluded to. Its office, as the chief 

of all our senses. Descartes opens organ through which a concep- 

his Dioptrique by designating it as tion of the material universe as 

le plus universal et le plus noble placed in ambient space is given to 

de nos sens; and he alludes to it us, is recognised by a multitude of 

elsewhere (Princip. IV. 195) as le psychologists and metaphysicians, 

plus subtil de tous les sens. Male- 2 On Berkeley s originality in 

branche begins his analysis of sight his Theory of Vision see the Editor s 

(Recherche, I. 6) by describing it as Preface. 


you defective in any one point necessary to form an exact 
judgment on the most abstract and difficult things, so 
much as in a just confidence of your own abilities. And, 
in this one instance, give me leave to say, you shew a 
manifest weakness of judgment. With relation to the 
following Essay, I shall only add that I beg your par 
don for laying a trifle of that nature in your way, at a 
time when you are engaged in the important affairs of the 
nation, and desire you to think that I am, with all sincerity 
and respect, 


Your most faithful and most humble servant, 


r. Design. 

2. Distance of itself invisible. 

3. Remote Distance perceived rather by experience than by sense. 

4. Near distance thought to be perceiv d by the angle of the optic axes. 

5. Difference between this and the former manner of perceiving distance. 

6. Also by diverging rays. 

7. This depends not on experience. 

8. These the common accounts, but not satisfactory. 

9. Some ideas perceived by the mediation of others. 

10. No idea which is not itself perceived can be the means of perceiving 

IT. Distance perceived by means of some other idea. 

12. Those lines and angles mentioned in optics are not themselves per 


13. Hence the mind does not perceive distance by lines and angles. 

14. Also because they have no real existence. 

15. And because they are insufficient to explain the phenomena. 

16. The ideas that suggest Distance arc First, the sensation arising from 

the turn of the eyes. 

17. Betwixt which and distance there is no necessary connexion. 

18. Scarce room for mistake in this matter. 

19. No regard had to the angle of the optic axes. 

20. Judgment of distance made with both eyes, the result of experience. 

21. Secondly, confusedness of appearance. 

22. This the occasion of those judgments attributed to diverging rays. 

23. Objection answered. 

24. What deceives the writers of optics in this matter. 

25. The cause why one idea may suggest another. 

26. This applied to confusion and distance. 

27. Thirdly, the straining of the eye. 

28. The occasions which suggest distance have in their own nature no 

relation to it. 

29. A difficult case proposed by Dr. Barrow as repugnant to all the 

known theories. 

30. This case contradicts a received principle in catoptrics. 

31. It is shewn to agree with the principles we have laid down. 

32. This phenomenon illustrated. 


33. It confirms the truth of the principle whereby it is explained. 

34. Vision, when distinct and when confused. 

35. The different effects of parallel, diverging, and converging rays. 

36. How converging and diverging rays come to suggest the same 


37. A person extremely purblind would judge aright in the foremen- 

tioned case. 

38. Lines and angles why useful in optics. 

39. The not understanding this a cause of mistake. 

40. A query, proposed by Mr. Molyneux in his Dioptrics, considered. 

41. One born blind would not at first have any idea of distance by sight. 
43. This not agreeable to the common principles. 

43. The proper objects of sight not without the mind ; nor the images of 

anything without the mind. 

44. This more fully explained. 

45. In what sense we must be understood to see distance and external 


46. Distance, and things placed at a distance, not otherwise perceived 

by the eye than by the ear. 

47. The ideas of sight more apt to be confounded with the ideas of touch 

than those of hearing are. 

48. How this comes to pass. 

49. Strictly speaking, we never see and feel the same thing. 

50. Objects of sight twofold mediate and immediate. 

51. These hard to separate in our thoughts. 

52. The received accounts of our perceiving Magnitude by sight, false. 

53. Magnitude perceived as immediately as distance. 

54. Two kinds of sensible extension, neither of which is infinitely 


55. The tangible magnitude of an object steady, the visible not. 

56. By what means tangible magnitude is perceived by sight. 

57. This farther enlarged on. 

58. No necessary connexion between confusion or faintness of appear 

ance and small or great magnitude. 

59. The tangible magnitude of an object more heeded than the visible, 

and why. 

60. An instance of this. 

6r. Men do not measure by visible feet or inches. 

62. No necessary connexion between visible and tangible extension. 

63. Greater visible magnitude might signify lesser tangible magnitude. 

64. The judgments we make of magnitude depend altogether on ex 


65. Distance and magnitude seen as shame or anger. 

66. But we are prone to think otherwise, and why. 

67. The moon seems greater in the horizon than in the meridian. 

68. The cause of this phenomenon assigned. 

69. The horizontal moon, why greater at one time than another. 

70. The account we have given proved to be true. 

71. And confirmed by the moon s appearing greater in a mist. 


72. Objection answered. 

73. The way wherein faintness suggests greater magnitude illustrated. 

74. Appearance of the horizontal moon, why thought difficult to explain. 

75. Attempts towards the solution of it made by several, but in vain. 

76. The opinion of Dr. Wallis. 

77. It is shewn to be unsatisfactory. 

78. How lines and angles may be of use in computing apparent mag 


79. One born blind, being made to see, what judgment he would make 

of magnitude. 

80. The minimum visibile the same to all creatures. 

81. Objection answered. 

82. The eye at all times perceives the same number of visible points. 

83. Two imperfections in the visive faculty. 

84. Answering to which, we may conceive two perfections. 

85. In neither of these two ways do microscopes improve the sight. 

86. The case of microscopical eyes considered. 

87. The sight admirably adapted to the ends of seeing. 

88. Difficulty concerning Erect Vision. 

89. The common way of explaining it. 

90. The same shewn to be false. 

91. Not distinguishing between ideas of sight and touch cause of mistake 

in this matter. 

92. The case of one born blind proper to be considered. 

93. Such a one might by touch attain to have ideas of upper and lower. 

94. Which modes of Situation he would attribute only to things tangible. 

95. He would not at first sight think anything he saw, high or low, erect 

or inverted. 

96. This illustrated by an example. 

97. By what means he would come to denominate visible objects, high 

or low, &c. 

98. Why he should think those objects highest which are painted on the 

lowest part of his eye, and vice versa. 

99. How he would perceive by sight the situation of external objects. 

100. Our propension to think the contrary no argument against what 

hath been said, 
lor. Objection. 

102. Answer. 

103. An object could not be known at first sight by the colour. 

104. Nor by the magnitude thereof. 

105. Nor by the figure. 

106. In the first act of vision, no tangible thing would be suggested by 


107. Difficulty proposed concerning number. 

108. Number of things visible would not, at first sight, suggest the like 

number of things tangible. 

109. Number, the creature of the mind. 

no. One born blind would not, at first sight, number visible things as 

others do. 
i ir. The situation of any object determined with respect only to objects 

of the same sense. 


112. No distance, great or small, between a visible and tangible thing. 

113. The not observing this, cause of difficulty in erect vision. 

114. Which otherwise includes nothing unaccountable. 

115. What is meant by the pictures being inverted. 

116. Cause of mistake in this matter. 

117. Images in the eye not pictures of external objects. 

118. In what sense they are pictures. 

119. In this affair we must carefully distinguish between ideas of Sight 

and Touch. 
T2o. Difficult to explain by words the true theory of vision. 

121. The question, whether there is any idea common to sight and touch, 


122. Abstract extension inquired into. 

123. It is incomprehensible. 

124. Abstract extension not the object of geometry. 

125. The general idea of a triangle considered. 

126. Vacuum, or pure space, not common to sight and touch. 

127. There is no idea, or kind of idea, common to both senses. 

128. First argument in proof hereof. 

129. Second argument. 

130. Visible figure and extension not distinct ideas from colour. 

131. Third argument. 

132. Confirmation drawn from Mr. Molyneux s problem of a sphere and 

a cube, published by Mr. Locke. 
T 33- Which is falsely solved, if the common supposition be true. 

134. More might be said in proof of our tenet, but this suffices. 

135. Farther reflection on the foregoing problem. 

136. The same thing doth not affect both sight and touch. 

137. The same idea of motion not common to sight and touch. 

138. The way wherein we apprehend motion by sight easily collected 

from what hath been said. 

139. Qttes. How visible and tangible ideas came to have the same name, 

if not of the same kind ? 

140. This accounted for without supposing them of the same kind. 

141. Obj. That a tangible square is liker to a visible square than to a 

visible circle. 

142. Ans. That a visible square is fitter than a visible circle to represent 

a tangible square. 

143. But it doth not hence follow that a visible square is like a tangible 


144. Why we are more apt to confound visible with tangible ideas, than 

other signs with the things signified. 

145. Several other reasons hereof assigned. 

146. Reluctancy in rejecting any opinion no argument of its truth. 

147. Proper objects of Vision the Language of Nature. 

148. In it there is much admirable and deserving our attention. 

149. Question proposed concerning the object of geometry. 

150. At first view we are apt to think visible extension the object of 



151. Visible extension shewn not to be the object of geometry. 

152. Words may as well be thought the object of geometry as visible 


153. It is proposed to inquire, what progress an intelligence that could 

see, but not feel, might make in geometry. 

154. He cannot understand those parts which relate to solids, and their 

surfaces, and lines generated by their section. 

155. Nor even the elements of plane geometry. 

156. The proper objects of sight incapable of being managed as geo 

metrical figures. 

157. The opinion of those who hold plane figures to be the immediate 

objects of sight considered. 

158. Planes no more the immediate objects of sight than solids. 

159. Difficult to enter precisely into the thoughts of the above-mentioned 


160. The object of geometry, its not being sufficiently understood, cause 

of difficulty and useless labour in that science. 




1. MY design is to shew the manner wherein we per 
ceive by Sight the Distance, Magnitude, and Situation 
of objects : also to consider the difference there is betwixt 
the ideas of Sight and Touch, and whether there be any 
idea common to both senses *. 

2. It is, I think, agreed by all that Distance, of itself and 
immediately, cannot be seen 2 . For, distance ;i being a line 
directed endwise to the eye, it projects only one point in 
the fund of the eye, which point remains invariably the 
same, whether the distance be longer or shorter 4 . 

1 In the first edition alone this Philonous Alciphron, IV. 8 
sentence followed : In treating Theory of Vision Vindicated and 
of all which, it seems to me, the Explained, sect. 62-69. 

writers of Optics have proceeded 3 i. e. outness, ordistanceoutward 

on wrong principles. from thepoint of vision distance in 

2 Sect. 2-51 explain the way in the line of sight the third dimen- 
which we learn in seeing to judge sion of space. Visible distance is 
of Distance or Outness, and of visible space or interval between 
objects as existing remote from our two points (see sect. H2 X . We 
organism, viz. by their association can be sensibly percipient of it 
with what we see, and with certain only when both points are seen, 
muscular and other sensations in 4 This section is adduced by 
the eye which accompany vision. some of Berkeley s critics as if it 
Sect. 2 assumes, as granted, the were the evidence discovered by 
invisibility of distance in the line him for his Theory, instead of being, 
of sight. Cf. sect, n and 88 as it is, a passing reference to the 
First Dialogue between Hylas and scientific ground of the already 


3. 1 find it also acknowledged that the estimate we make 
of the distance of objects considerably remote is rather an 
act of judgment grounded on experience than of sense. 
For example, when I perceive a great number of inter 
mediate objects, such as houses, fields, rivers, and the like, 
which I have experienced to take up a considerable space, 
I thence form a judgment or conclusion, that the object 
I see beyond them is at a great distance. Again, when 
an object appears faint and small which at a near distance 
I have experienced to make a vigorous and large appear 
ance, I instantly conclude it to be far off 1 . And this, it is 
evident, is the result of experience ; without which, from 
the faintness and littleness, I should not have inferred 
anything concerning the distance of objects. 

4. But, when an object is placed at so near a distance as 
that the interval between the eyes bears any sensible pro 
portion to it 2 , the opinion of speculative men is, that the 
two optic axes (the fancy that we see only with one eye at 
once being exploded), concurring at the object, do there 
make an angle, by means of which, according as it is 
greater or lesser, the object is perceived to be nearer or 
farther off 3 . 

5. Betwixt which and the foregoing manner of estimating 
distance there is this remarkable difference : that, whereas 
there was no apparent necessary connexion between small 
distance and a large and strong appearance, or between 
great distance and a little and faint appearance, there 

acknowledged invisibility of out- remote distances. But the question, 

ness, or distance in the line of in this and the thirty-six following 

sight. See, for example, Bailey s sections, concerns the visibility of 

Revieiv of Berkeley s Theory of near distances only a few yards 

Vision, pp. 38-43, also his Theory in front of us. It was agreed by 

of Reasoning, p. 179 and pp. 200-7 all that beyond this limit distances 

Mill s Discussions, vol. II. p. 95 are suggested by our experience of 

Abbott s Sight and Touch, p. 10, their signs. 

where this sentence is presented 2 Cf. this and the four following 

as the sole positive argument sections with the quotations in the 

advanced by Berkeley/ The in- Editor s Preface, from Molyneux s 

visibility of outness is not Berke- Treatise of Dioptrics. 

ley s discovery, but the way we 3 In the author s last edition we 

learn to interpret its visual signs, have this annotation : See what 

and what these are. Des Cartes and others have written 

1 i. e. aerial and linear perspec- upon the subject. 
tive are acknowledged signs of 


appears a very necessary connexion between an obtuse 
angle and near distance, and an acute angle and farther 
distance. It does not in the least depend upon experience, 
but may be evidently known by any one before he had 
experienced it, that the nearer the concurrence of the optic 
axes the greater the angle, and the remoter their concur 
rence is, the lesser will be the angle comprehended by 

6. There is another way, mentioned by optic writers, 
whereby they will have us judge of those distances in 
respect of which the breadth of the pupil hath any sensible 
bigness. And that is the greater or lesser divergency of 
the rays which, issuing from the visible point, do fall on 
the pupil that point being judged nearest which is seen 
by most diverging rays, and that remoter which is seen by 
less diverging rays, and so on ; the apparent distance still 
increasing, as the divergency of the rays decreases, till at 
length it becomes infinite, when the rays that fall on the 
pupil are to sense parallel. And after this manner it is 
said we perceive distance when we look only with one eye. 

7. In this case also it is plain we are not beholden 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. 

8. * Now, though the accounts here given of perceiving 
near distance by sight are received for true, and accord 
ingly made use of in determining the apparent places of 
objects, they do nevertheless seem to me very unsatisfac 
tory, and that for these following reasons : 

9. \ First*,] It is evident that, when the mind perceives 
any idea not immediately and of itself, it must be by 
the means of some other idea. Thus, for instance, the 
passions which are in the mind of another are of them* 
selves to me invisible. I may nevertheless perceive them 

1 In the first edition this sec- ceived for true by mathematicians^ 

tion opens thus: I have here set andaccordinglymadeuse ofbythem 

down the common current accounts in determining the apparent places 

that are given of our perceiving of objects, do nevertheless, &c. 

near distances by sight, which, ~ Omitted in the author s last 

though they are unquestionably re- edition. 



by sight ; though not immediately, yet by means of the 
colours they produce in the countenance. We often see 
shame or fear in the looks of a man, by perceiving the 
changes of his countenance to red or pale. 

10. Moreover, it is evident that no idea which is not 
itself perceived can be to me the means of perceiving any 
other idea. If I do not perceive the redness or paleness 
of a man s face themselves, it is impossible I should per 
ceive by them the passions which are in his mind. 

11. Now, from sect, ii., it is plain that distance is in its 
own nature imperceptible, and yet it is perceived by sight . 
It remains, therefore, that it be brought into view by means 
of some other idea, that is itself immediately perceived in 
the act of vision. 

12. But those lines and angles, by means whereof some 
men 2 pretend to explain the perception 3 of distance, are 
themselves not at all perceived ; nor are they in truth ever 
thought of by those unskilful in optics. I appeal to any 
one s experience, whether, upon sight of an object, he 
computes its distance by the bigness of the angle made by 
the meeting of the two optic axes ? or whether he ever 
thinks of the greater or lesser divergency of the rays which 
arrive from any point to his pupil ? nay, whether it be not 
perfectly impossible for him to perceive by sense the 
various angles wherewith the rays, according to their greater 
or lesser divergence, do fall on the eye? Every one is 
himself the best judge of what he perceives, and what not. 
In vain shall any man 4 tell me, that I perceive certain 
lines and angles, which introduce into my mind the various 
ideas of distance, so long as I myself am conscious of no 
such thing. 

13. Since therefore those angles and lines are not them- 

1 i.e. although immediately in- perceived instead of to the per- 

visible, it is mediately seen. cipient act ; and sometimes to im- 

Mark, here and elsewhere, the agination, and the higher acts of 

ambiguity of the term perception, intelligence. 

which now signifies the act of 2 Some men mathematicians, 

being conscious of sensuous phe- in first edition, 

iiomena, and again the act of in- 3 i. e. the mediate perception, 

ferring phenomena of which we * any man all the mathema- 

are at the time insentient; while ticians in the world/ in first edition, 
it is also applied to the object 


selves perceived by sight, it follows, from sect, x., that the 
mind does not by them judge of the distance of objects. 

14. [Secondly x ,] The truth of this assertion will be yet 
farther evident to any one that considers those lines and 
angles have no real existence in nature, being only an 
hypothesis framed by the mathematicians, and by them 
introduced into optics, that they might treat of that science 
in a geometrical way. 

15. The [third and 2 ] last reason I shall give for reject 
ing that doctrine is, that though we should grant the real 
existence of those optic angles, &c., 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 shewn hereafter. 

16. Now it being already shewn 3 that distance is sug 
gested^ to the mind, by the mediation of some other idea 
which is itself perceived in the act of seeing, it remains 
that we inquire, what ideas or sensations there be that 
attend vision, unto which we may suppose the ideas of dis 
tance are connected, and by which they are introduced into 
the mind. 

And, first, it is certain by experience, that when we look 
at a near object with both eyes, according as it approaches 
or recedes from us, we alter the disposition of our eyes, by 
lessening or widening the interval between the pupils. 
This disposition or turn of the eyes is attended with a 
sensation 5 , which seems to me to be that which in this case 
brings the idea of greater or lesser distance into the 

1 Omitted in the author s last by Hobbes and Locke. There are 
edition. three ways in which the objects 

2 Omitted in the author s last we have an immediate perception 
edition. of in sight maybe supposed to con- 

;! Sect. 3, 9. duct us to what we do not im- 

4 Observe the first introduction mediately perceive: (i) Instinct, 

by Berkeley of the term suggestion, or what Reid calls original sugges- 

used by him to express a leading tion (Inquiry, ch. VI. sect. 20-24); 

factor in his account of the visible (2) Custom ; (3) Reasoning from 

world, and again in his more accepted premisses. Berkeley s 

comprehensive account of our suggestion corresponds to the 

knowledge of the material universe second. (Cf. Theory of Vision 

in the Principles. It had been em- Vindicated, sect. 42.) 

ployed occasionally, among others, 5 In the Theory of Vision Vindi- 

K 2 


17. Not that there is any natural or necessary 1 connexion 
between the sensation we perceive by the turn of the eyes 
and greater or lesser distance. But because the mind 
has, by constant experience, found the different sensations 
corresponding to the different dispositions of the eyes to 
be attended each with a different degree of distance in the 
object there has grown an habitual or customary con 
nexion between those two sorts of ideas : so that the mind 
no sooner perceives the sensation arising from the different 
turn it gives the eyes, in order to bring the pupils nearer 
or farther asunder, but it withal perceives the different 
idea of distance which was wont to be connected with that 
sensation. Just as, upon hearing a certain sound, the idea 
is immediately suggested to the understanding which cus 
tom had united with it a . 

18. Nor do I see how I can easily be mistaken in this 
matter. I know evidently that distance is not perceived of 
itself 3 ; that, by consequence, it must be perceived by 
means of some other idea, which is immediately perceived, 
and varies with the different degrees of distance. I know 
also that the sensation arising from the turn of the eyes is 
of itself immediately perceived ; and various degrees there 
of are connected with different distances, which never fail 
to accompany them into my mind, when I view an object 
distinctly with both eyes whose distance is so small that 
in respect of it the interval between the eyes has any con 
siderable magnitude. 

19. I know it is a received opinion that, by altering the 
disposition of the eyes, the mind perceives whether the 
angle of the optic axes, or the lateral angles comprehended 
between the interval of the eyes or the optic axes, are made 
greater or lesser; and that, accordingly, by a kind of 
natural geometry, it judges the point of their intersection 
to be nearer or farther off. But that this is not true I am 

cated, sect. 66, it is added that this ness and of objects as thus external, is 

sensation belongs properly to duetomediawhichhaveacontingent 

the sense of touch. Cf. also sect. or arbitrary, instead of a necessary, 

145 of this Essay. connexion with the distances which 

1 Here natural necessary : they enable us to see, or of which 

elsewhere = divinely arbitrary con- they are the signs, is a cardinal 

nexion. part of his argument. 

* That our mediate vision of out- 3 Sect. 2. 


convinced by my own experience; since I am not conscious 
that I make any such use of the perception I have by the 
turn of my eyes. And for me to make those judgments, 
and draw those conclusions from it, without knowing that 
I do so, seems altogether incomprehensible 1 . 

20. From all which it follows, that the judgment we 
make of the distance of an object viewed with both eyes is 
entirely the result of experience. If we had not constantly 
found certain sensations, arising from the various disposi 
tion of the eyes, attended with certain degrees of distance, 
we should never make those sudden judgments from them 
concerning the distance of objects ; no more than we would 
pretend to judge of a man s thoughts by his pronouncing 
words we had never heard before. 

2T. Secondly, an object placed at a certain distance from 
the eye, to which the breadth of the pupil bears a consider 
able proportion, being made to approach, is seen more 
confusedly 2 . And the nearer it is brought the more 
confused appearance it makes. And this being found 
constantly to be so, there arises in the mind an habitual 
connexion between the several degrees of confusion and 
distance ; the greater confusion still implying the lesser 
distance, and the lesser confusion the greater distance of 
the object. 

22. This confused appearance of the object doth therefore 
seem to be the medium whereby the mind judges of distance, 
in those cases wherein the most approved writers of optics 
will have it judge by the different divergency with which 
the rays flowing from the radiating point fall on the pupil 3 . 
No man, I believe, will pretend to see or feel those imag 
inary angles that the rays are supposed to form, according 
to their various inclinations on his eye. But he cannot 
choose seeing whether the object appear more or less 
confused. It is therefore a manifest consequence from 
what has been demonstrated that, instead of the greater or 
lesser divergency of the rays, the mind makes use of the 

1 Here, as generally in Ihe Essay, between confused and faint vision, 

the appeal is to our inward experi- Cf. sect. 32-38 with this section. 

ence, not to phenomena observed Also Theory of Vision Vindicated, 

by our senses in the organism. sect. 68. 

- See sect. 35 for the difference 3 See sect. 6. 


greater or lesser confusedness of the appearance, thereby 
to determine the apparent place of an object. 

23. Nor doth it avail to say there is not any necessary 
connexion between confused vision and distance great or 
small. For I ask any man what necessary connexion he 
sees between the redness of a blush and shame ? And yet 
no sooner shall he behold that colour to arise in the face 
of another but it brings into his mind the idea of that pas 
sion which hath been observed to accompany it. 

24. What seems to have misled the writers of optics in 
this matter is, that they imagine men judge of distance as 
they do of a conclusion in mathematics; betwixt which and 
the premises it is indeed absolutely requisite there be an 
apparent necessary connexion. But it is far otherwise in 
the sudden judgments men make of distance. We are 
not to think that brutes and children, or even grown rea 
sonable men, whenever they perceive an object to approach 
or depart from them, do it by virtue of geometry and 

25. That one idea may suggest another to the mind, it 
will suffice that they have been observed to go together, 
without any demonstration of the necessity of their coexist 
ence, or without so much as knowing what it is that makes 
them so to coexist. Of this there are innumerable instances, 
of which no one can be ignorant 1 . 

26. Thus, greater confusion having been constantly 
attended with nearer distance, no sooner is the former 
idea perceived but it suggests the latter to our thoughts. 
And, if it had been the ordinary course of nature that the 
farther off an object were placed the more confused it 
should appear, it is certain the very same perception that 
now makes us think an object approaches would then have 
made us to imagine it went farther off; that perception, 
abstracting from custom and experience, being equally 
fitted to produce the idea of great distance, or small dis 
tance, or no distance at all. 

27. Thirdly, an object being placed at the distance above 
specified, and brought nearer to the eye, we may never 
theless prevent, at least for some time, the appearance s 

1 These sections presuppose previous contiguity as an associative 
law of mental phenomena. 


growing more confused, by straining the eye 1 . In which 
case that sensation supplies the place of confused vision, 
in aiding the mind to judge of the distance of the object ; 
it being esteemed so much the nearer by how much the 
effort or straining of the eye in order to distinct vision is 

28. I have here 2 set down those sensations or ideas" 
that seem to be the constant and general occasions of in 
troducing into the mind the different ideas of near distance. 
It is true, in most cases, that divers other circumstances 
contribute to frame our idea of distance, viz. the particular 
number, size, kind, &c. of the things seen. Concerning 
which, as well as all other the forementioned occasions 
which suggest distance, I shall only observe, they have 
none of them, in their own nature, any relation or connexion 
with it : nor is it possible they should ever signify the 
various degrees thereof, otherwise than as by experience 
they have been found to be connected with them. 

29. I shall proceed upon these principles to account for 
a phenomenon which has hitherto strangely puzzled the 
writers of optics, and is so far from being accounted for by 
any of their theories of vision, that it is, by their own con 
fession, plainly repugnant to them; and of consequence, if 
nothing else could be objected, were alone sufficient to 
bring their credit in question. The whole difficulty I shall 
lay before you in the words of the learned Doctor Barrow, 
with which he concludes his Optic Lectures* : 

1 Haec sunt, quae circa partem opticse praecipue mathe- 
maticam dicenda mihi suggessit meditatio. Circa reliquas 
(quae ^t o-i/coWepat sunt, adeoque saepiuscule pro certis 
principiis plausibiles conjecturas venditare necessum 
habent) nihil fere quicquam admodum verisimile succurrit, 

1 See Reid s Inquiry, ch. vi. near and remote, are either (a) 

sect. 22. invisible states of the visual organ, 

- Sect. 16 27. For the signs of or fb] visible appearances, 

remote distances, see sect. 3. 4 In Motyneux s Treatise of Diop- 

3 These are muscular sensations tries, Ft. I. prop. 31, sect. 9, 

felt in the organ, and degrees of Barrow s difficulty is stated. Cf, 

confusion in a visible idea. Berke- sect. 40 below, 
ley s arbitrary signs of distance. 

1 3 6 


a pervulgatis (ab iis ; inquam, quae Keplerus, Scheinerus l , 
Cartesius, et post illos alii tradiderunt) alienum aut diver- 
sum. Atqui tacere malo, quam toties oblatam cramben 
reponere. Proinde receptui cano ; nee ita tamen ut pror- 
sus discedam, anteaquam improbam quandam difficultatem 
(pro sinceritate quam et vobis et veritati debeo minime 
dissimulandam) in medium protulero, quae doctrinae nos- 
trae, hactenus inculcatae, se objicit adversam, ab ea saltern 
nullam admittit solutionem. Ilia, breviter, talis est. Lenti 
vel speculo cavo EBF exponatur punc- 
tum visibile A, ita distans, ut radii ex 
A manantes ex inflectione versus axem 
AB cogantur. Sitque radiationis limes 
(seu puncti A imago, qualem supra 
passim statuimus) punctum Z. Inter 
hoc autem et inflectentis verticem B 
uspiam positus concipiatur oculus. 
Quseri jam potest, ubi loci debeat 
punctum A apparere? Retrorsum ad 
punctum Z videri non fert natura (cum 
omnis impressio sensum afficiens pro- 
veniat a partibus A) ac experientia 
reclamat. Nostris autem e placitis 
consequi videtur, ipsum ad partes anti- 
cas apparens, ab intervallo longissime 
dissito (quod et maximum sensibile 
quodvis intervallum quodammodo ex- 
superet), apparere. Cum enim quo 
radiis minus divergentibus attingitur 
objectum, eo (seclusis utique praeno- 
tionibus et praejudiciis) longius abesse 
sentiatur ; et quod parallelos ad oculum 
radios projicit, remotissime positum aestimetur : exigere 
ratio ^ddetur, ut quod convergentibus radiis apprehenditur, 
adhuc magis, si fieri posset, quoad apparentiam elongetur. 
Quin et circa casum hunc generatim inquiri possit, quidnam 
omnino sit, quod apparentem puncti A locum determine!, 
faciatque quod constant! ratione nunc propius, nunc re- 
motius appareat ? Cui itidem dubio nihil quicquam ex 
hactenus dictorum analogia responded posse videtur, nisi 

1 Christopher Scheiner, a Ger- the Copernican system, born 1575, 
man astronomer, and opponent of died 1650. 


debere punctum A perpetuo longissime semotum videri. 
Verum experientia secus attestatur, illud pro diversa oculi 
inter puncta B, Z, positione varie distans, nunquam fere (si 
unquam) longinquius ipso A libere spectato, subinde vero 
multo propinquius adparere ; quinimo, quo oculum appel- 
lentes radii magis convergunt, eo speciem objecti propius 
accedere. Nempe, si puncto B admoveatur oculus, suo 
(ad lentem) fere native in loco conspicitur punctum A (vel 
aeque distans, ad speculum); ad O reductus oculus ejusce 
speciem appropinquantem cernit ; ad P adhuc vicinius 
ipsum existimat ; ac ita sensim, donee alicubi tandem, velut 
ad Q, constitute oculo, objectum summe propinquum appa- 
rens in meram confusionem incipiat evanescere. Quae 
sane cuncta rationibus atque decretis nostris repugnare 
videntur, aut cum iis saltern parum amice conspirant. 
Neque nostram tantum sententiam pulsat hoc experimen- 
tum ; at ex aequo caeteras quas norim omnes : veterem 
imprimis ac vulgatam, nostrae prae reliquis affinem, ita 
convellere videtur, ut ejus vi coactus doctissimus A. 
Tacquetus isti principio (cui pene soli totam inaedificaverat 
Catoptricam suam) ceu infido ac inconstant! renunciarit, 
adeoque suam ipse doctrinam labefactarit ? id tamen, opi- 
nor, minime facturus, si rem totam inspexissit penitius, 
atque difficultatis fundum attigissit. Apud me vero non ita 
pollet haec, nee eousque praepollebit ulla difficultas, ut ab 
iis quae manifeste rationi consentanea video, discedam ; 
praesertim quum, ut hie accidit, ejusmodi difficultas in 
singularis cujuspiam casus disparitate fundetur. Nimirum 
in praesente casu peculiare quiddam, naturae subtilitati 
involutum, delitescit, aegre fortassis, nisi perfectius explor- 
ato videndi modo, detegendum. Circa quod nil, fateor, 
hactenus excogitare potui, quod adblandiretur animo meo, 
nedum plane satisfaceret. Vobis itaque nodum hunc, 
utinam feliciore conatu, resolvendum committo. 

In English as follows : 

4 1 have here delivered what my thoughts have suggested 
to me concerning that part of optics which is more properly 
mathematical. As for the other parts of that science 
(which, being rather physical, do consequently abound 
with plausible conjectures instead of certain principles), 
there has in them scarce anything occurred to my observa- 

I 3 8 


tion different from what has been already said by Kepler, 
Scheinerus, Des Cartes, &c. And methinks I had better 
say nothing at all than repeat that which has been so often 
said by others. I think it therefore high time to take my 
leave of this subject. But, before I quit it for good and all, 
the fair and ingenuous dealing that I owe both to you and 
to truth obliges me to acquaint you with a certain untoward 
difficulty, which seems directly opposite to the doctrine 
I have been hitherto inculcating, at least admits of no 
solution from it. In short it is this. Before the double 
convex glass or concave speculum 
EBF, let the point A be placed at 
such a distance that the rays proceed 
ing from A, after refraction or reflec 
tion, be brought to unite somewhere 
in the axis AB. And suppose the 
point of union (/ . e. the image of the 
point A, as hath been already set 
forth) to be Z; between which and 
B, the vertex of the glass or speculum, 
conceive the eye to be anywhere placed. 
The question now is, where the point 
A ought to appear. Experience shews 
that it doth not appear behind at the 
point Z ; and it were contrary to nature 
that it should ; since all the impres 
sion which affects the sense comes 
from towards^. But, from our tenets 
it should seem to follow that it would 
appear before the eye at a vast distance 
off, so great as should in some sort sur 
pass all sensible distance. For since, 
if we exclude all anticipations and pre 
judices, every object appears by so much the farther off by 
how much the rays it sends to the eye are less diverging ; 
and that object is thought to be most remote from which 
parallel rays proceed unto the eye ; reason would make 
one think that object should appear at yet a greater dis 
tance which is seen by converging rays. Moreover, it may 
in general be asked concerning this case, what it is that 
determines the apparent place of the point A, and maketh 
it to appear after a constant manner, sometimes nearer, at 


other times farther off? To which doubt I see nothing 
that can be answered agreeable to the principles we have 
laid down, except only that the point A ought always to 
appear extremely remote. But, on the contrary, we are 
assured by experience, that the point A appears variously 
distant, according to the different situations of the eye 
between the points B and Z. And that it doth almost 
never (if at all) seem farther off than it would if it were 
beheld by the naked eye ; but, on the contrary, it doth 
sometimes appear much nearer. Nay, it is even certain 
that by how much the rays falling on the eye do more 
converge, by so much the nearer does the object seem to 
approach. For, the eye being placed close to the point B, 
the object A appears nearly in its own natural place, if the 
point B is taken in the glass, or at the same distance, if in 
the speculum. The eye being brought back to O, the 
object seems to draw near ; and, being come to P, it beholds 
it still nearer : and so on by little and little, till at length the 
eye being- placed somewhere, suppose at O, the object ap 
pearing extremely near begins to vanish into mere con 
fusion. All which doth seem repugnant to our principles ; 
at least, not rightly to agree with them. Nor is our tenet 
alone struck at by this experiment, but likewise all others 
that ever came to my knowledge are every whit as much 
endangered by it. The ancient one especially (which is 
most commonly received, and comes nearest to mine) seems 
to be so effectually overthrown thereby that the most 
learned Tacquet has been forced to reject that principle, 
as false and uncertain, on which alone he had built almost 
his whole Catoptrics, and consequently, by taking away the 
foundation, hath himself pulled down the superstructure 
he had raised on it. Which, nevertheless, I do not believe 
he would have done, had he but considered the whole 
matter more thoroughly, and examined the difficulty to the 
bottom. But as for me, neither this nor any other difficulty 
shall have so great an influence on me, as to make me 
renounce that which I know to be manifestly agreeable to 
reason. Especially when, as it here falls out, the difficulty 
is founded in the peculiar nature of a certain odd and 
particular case. For, in the present case something 
peculiar lies hid, which, being involved in the subtilty 
of nature, will perhaps hardly be discovered till such time 


as the manner of vision is more perfectly made known. 
Concerning which, I must own I have hitherto been able 
to find out nothing that has the least show of probability, 
not to mention certainty. I shall therefore leave this knot 
to be untied by you, wishing you may have better success 
in it than I have had. 

30. The ancient and received principle, which Dr. Bar 
row here mentions as the main foundation of Tacquet s l 
Catoptrics, is, that every visible point seen by reflection 
from a speculum shall appear placed at the intersection 
of the reflected ray and the perpendicular of incidence. 
Which intersection in the present case happening to be 
behind the eye, it greatly shakes the authority of that 
principle whereon the aforementioned author proceeds 
throughout his whole Catoptrics, in determining the 
apparent place of objects seen by reflection from any kind 
of speculum. 

31. Let us now see how this phenomenon agrees with 
our tenets 2 . The eye, the nearer it is placed to the 
point B in the above figures, the more distinct is the ap 
pearance of the object : but, as it recedes to O, the 
appearance grows more confused ; and at P it sees the 
object yet more confused; and so on, till the eye, being 
brought back to Z, sees the object in the greatest con 
fusion of all. Wherefore, by sect. 21, the object should 
seem to approach the eye gradually, as it recedes from 
the point B ; that is, at O it should (in consequence of 
the principle I have laid down in the aforesaid section) 
seem nearer than it did at B, and at P nearer than at 
O, and at Q nearer than at P, and so on, till it quite 
vanishes at Z. Which is the very matter of fact, as 
any one that pleases may easily satisfy himself by ex 

32. This case is much the same as if we should sup 
pose an Englishman to meet a foreigner who used the 
same words with the English, but in a direct contrary 

1 Andrea Tacquet, a mathemati- in a collected form, at Antwerp 

cian, born at Antwerp in 1611, and in 1669. 

referred to by Molyneux as the - In what follows Berkeley tries 

ingenious Jesuit. He published a to explain by his visual theory 

number of scientific treatises, most seeming contradictions which 

of which appeared after his death, puzzled the mathematicians. 


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 
greatest confusions were always wont to signify nearer 
distances, they have in this case a direct contrary sig 
nification, 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. 

33. This phenomenon, as it entirely subverts the opin 
ion of those who will have us judge of distance by lines 
and angles, on which supposition it is altogether inexplic 
able, so it seems to me no small confirmation of the truth 
of that principle whereby it is explained . But, in order 
to a more full explication of this point, and to shew how 
far the hypothesis of the mind s judging by the various 
divergency of rays may be of use in determining the 
apparent place of an object, it will be necessary to 
premise some few things, which are already well known 
to those who have any skill in Dioptrics. 

34. First, Any radiating point is then distinctly seen 
when the rays proceeding from it are, by the refractive 
power of the crystalline, accurately reunited in the retina 
or fund of the eye. But if they are reunited either 
before they arrive at the retina, or after they have passed 
it, then there is confused vision. 

35. Secondly, Suppose, in the adjacent figures, NP 
represent an eye duly framed, and retaining its natural 
figure. In fig. i the rays falling nearly parallel on the 
eye, are, by the crystalline AB, refracted, so as their 
focus, or point of union F, falls exactly on the retina. 
But, if the rays fall sensibly diverging on the eye, as 
in fig. 2, then their focus falls beyond the retina ; or, if 
the rays are made to converge by the lens QS, before 
they come at the eye, as in fig. 3, their focus F will 
fall before the retina. In which two last cases it is 

1 This is offered as a verification order of nature, by non-resembling 
of the theory that near distances visual signs, contingently connected 
are suggested, according to the with real distance. 



evident, from the foregoing section, that the appearance 
of the point Z is confused. And, by how much the 
greater is the convergency or divergency of the rays 
falling on the pupil, by so much the farther will the 
point of their reunion be from the retina, either before 
or behind it, and consequently the point Z will appear 
by so much the more confused. And this, by the bye, 
may shew us the difference between confused and faint 

vision. Confused vision is, when the rays proceeding 
from each distinct point of the object are not accurately 
re-collected in one corresponding point on the retina, 
but take up some space thereon so that rays from 
different points become mixed and confused together. 
This is opposed to a distinct vision, and attends near 
objects. Faint vision is when, by reason of the dis 
tance of the object, or grossness of the interjacent 
medium, few rays arrive from the object to the eye. 


This is opposed to vigorous or clear vision, and attends 
remote objects. But to return. 

36. The eye, or (to speak truly) the mind, perceiving 
only the confusion itself, without ever considering the 
cause from which it proceeds, doth constantly annex 
the same degree of distance to the same degree of 
confusion. Whether that confusion be occasioned by 
converging or by diverging rays it matters not. Whence 
it follows that the eye, viewing the object Z through 
the glass QS (which by refraction causeth the rays ZO, 
ZS, Scc. to converge), should judge it to be at such 
a nearness, at which, if it were placed, it would radiate 
on the eye, with rays diverging to that degree as would 
produce the same confusion which is now produced by 
converging rays, i.e. would cover a portion of the retina 
equal to DC. (Vid. fig. 3, sup.} But then this must 
be understood (to use Dr. Barrow s phrase) seclusis 
praenotionibus et prsejudiciis/ in case we abstract from 
all other circumstances of vision, such as the figure, size, 
faintness, &c. of the visible objects all which do ordin 
arily concur to form our idea of distance, the mind having, 
by frequent experience, observed their several sorts or 
degrees to be connected with various distances. 

37. It plainly follows from what has been said, that a 
person perfectly purblind (i.e. that could not see an 
object distinctly but when placed close to his eye) would 
not make the same wrong judgment that others do in 
the forementioned case. For, to him, greater confusions 
constantly suggesting greater distances, he must, as he 
recedes from the glass, and the object grows more con 
fused, judge it to be at a farther distance ; contrary to 
what they do who have had the perception of the 
objects growing more confused connected with the idea 
of approach. 

38. Hence also it doth appear, there may be good use 
of computation, by lines and angles, in optics 1 ; not that 
the mind judges of distance immediately by them, but 
because it judges by somewhat which is connected with 
them, and to the determination whereof they may be 
subservient. Thus, the mind judging of the distance 

1 Cf. sect. 78 ; also New Theory of Vision Vindicated, sect. 31. 


of an object by the confusedness of its appearance, and 
this confusedness being greater or lesser to the naked 
eye, according as the object is seen by rays more or 
less diverging, it follows that a man may make use of the 
divergency of the rays, in computing the apparent dis 
tance, though not for its own sake, yet on account of the 
confusion with which it is connected. But so it is, the 
confusion itself is entirely neglected by mathematicians, 
as having no necessary relation with distance, such as 
the greater or lesser angles of divergency are conceived 
to have. And these (especially for that they fall under 
mathematical computation) are alone regarded, in de 
termining the apparent places of objects, as though they 
were the sole and immediate cause of the judgments 
the mind makes of distance. Whereas, in truth, they 
should not at all be regarded in themselves, or any 
otherwise than as they are supposed to be the cause of 
confused vision. 

39. The not considering of this has been a fundamental 
and perplexing oversight. For proof whereof, we need 
go no farther than the case before us. It having been 
observed that the most diverging rays brought into the 
mind the idea of nearest distance, and that still as the 
divergency decreased the distance increased, and it being 
thought the connexion between the various degrees of 
divergency and distance was immediate this naturally 
leads one to conclude, from an ill-grounded analogy, 
that converging rays shall make an object appear at an 
immense distance, and that, as the convergency increases, 
the distance (if it were possible) should do so likewise. 
That this was the cause of Dr. Barrow s mistake is 
evident from his own words which we have quoted. 
Whereas had the learned Doctor observed that diverg 
ing and converging rays, how opposite soever they 
may seem, do nevertheless agree in producing the same 
effect, to wit, confusedness of vision, greater degrees 
whereof are produced indifferently, either as the diver 
gency or convergency of the rays increaseth ; and that 
it is by this effect, which is the same in both, that either 
the divergency or convergency is perceived by the eye 
I say, had he but considered this, it is certain he would 
have made a quite contrary judgment, and rightly concluded 


that those rays which fall on the eye with greater degrees 
of convergency should make the object from whence 
they proceed appear by so much the nearer. But it is 
plain it was impossible for any man to attain to a right 
notion of this matter so long as he had regard only to 
lines and angles, and did not apprehend the true nature of 
vision, and how far it was of mathematical consideration. 

40. Before we dismiss this subject, it is fit we take 
notice of a query relating thereto, proposed by the inge 
nious Mr. Molyneux, in his Treatise of Dioptrics (par. i. 
prop. 31. sect. 9), where, speaking of the difficulty we have 
been explaining, he has these words : And so he (i. e. Dr. 
Barrow) leaves this difficulty to the solution of others, 
which I (after so great an example) shall do likewise ; but 
with the resolution of the same admirable author, of not 
quitting the evident doctrine which we have before laid 
down, for determining the locus objccti, on account of being- 
pressed by one difficulty, which seems inexplicable till 
a more intimate knowledge of the visive faculty be obtained 
by mortals. In the meantime I propose it to the con 
sideration of the ingenious, whether the locus apparcns of 
an object placed as in this ninth section be not as much 
before the eye as the distinct base is behind the eye ? To 
which query we may venture to answer in the negative. 
For, in the present case, the rule for determining the dis 
tance of the distinct base, or respective focus from the 
glass is this : As the difference between the distance of the 
object and focus is to the focus or focal length, so the distance 
of the object from the glass is to the distance of the respective 
focus or distinct base from the glass. (Molyneux, Dioptr., 
par. i. prop. 5.) Let us now suppose the object to be 
placed at the distance of the focal length, and one-half of 
the focal length from the glass, and the eye close to the 
glass. Hence it will follow, by the rule, that the distance 
of the distinct base behind the eye is double the true 
distance of the object before the eye. If, therefore, 
Mr. Molyneux s conjecture held good, it would follow 
that the eye should see the object twice as far off as it 
really is ; and in other cases at three or four times its due 
distance, or more. But this manifestly contradicts experi 
ence, the object never appearing, at farthest, beyond its 
due distance. Whatever, therefore, is built on this suppo- 



sition (vid. corol. i. prop. 57. ibid.) comes to the ground 
along with it. 

41. From what hath been premised, it is a manifest 
consequence, that a man born blind, being made to see, 
would at first have no idea of distance by sight : the sun 
and stars, the remotest objects as well as the nearer, would 
all seem to be in his eye, or rather in his mind. The 
objects intromitted by sight would seem to him (as in truth 
they are) no other than a new set of thoughts or sensations, 
each whereof is as near to him as the perceptions of pain 
or pleasure, or the most inward passions of his soul. For, 
our judging objects perceived by sight to be at any dis 
tance, or without the mind, is (vid. sect, xxviii.) entirely 
the effect of experience ; which one in those circumstances 
could not yet have attained to \ 

42. It is indeed otherwise upon the common supposition 
that men judge of distance by the angle of the optic axes, 

just as one in the dark, or a blind man by the angle com 
prehended by two sticks, one whereof he held in each 
hand 2 . For, if this were true, it would follow that one 
blind from his birth, being made to see, should stand in 
need of no new experience, in order to perceive distance 
by sight. But that this is false has, I think, been suffi 
ciently demonstrated. 

43. And perhaps, upon a strict inquiry, we shall not 
find that even those who from their birth have grown up 
in a continued habit of seeing are irrecoverably prejudiced 
on the other side, to wit, in thinking what they see to be at 
a distance from them. For, at this time it seems agreed 
on all hands, by those who have had any thoughts of that 
matter, that colours, which are the proper and immediate 
object of sight, are not without the mind. But then, it will 
be said, by sight we have also the ideas of extension, and 
figure, and motion ; all which may well be thought without 
and at some distance from the mind, though colour should 

1 Berkeley here passes from his Hamilton s Reid, p. 177, on the 

proof of visual suggestion of all distinction between perception of 

outward distances i.e. intervals the external world and perception 

between extremes in the line of of distance through the eye. 
sight by means of arbitrary signs, - See Descartes, Dioptrique, VI 

and considers the nature of Malebranche, Recherche, Liv. I. 

visible externality. See note in ch. 9, 3 Reid s Inquiry, VI. n. 


not. In answer to this, I appeal to any man s experience, 
whether the visible extension of any object do not appear 
as near to him as the colour of that object ; nay, whether 
they do not both seem to be in the very same place. Is 
not the extension we see coloured, and is it possible for us, 
so much as in thought, to separate and abstract colour from 
extension ? Now, where the extension is, there surely is 
the figure, and there the motion too. I speak of those 
which are perceived by sight 1 . 

44. But for a fuller explication of this point, and to shew 
that the immediate objects of sight are not so much as the 
ideas or resemblances of things placed at a distance, it is 
requisite that we look nearer into the matter, and carefully 
observe what is meant in common discourse when one 
says, that which he sees is at a distance from him. Sup 
pose, for example, that looking at the moon I should say it 
were fifty or sixty semidiameters of the earth distant from 
me. Let us see what moon this is spoken of. It is plain 
it cannot be the visible moon, or anything like the visible 
moon, or that which I see which is only a round luminous 
plain, of about thirty visible points in diameter. For, in 
case I am carried from the place where I stand directly 
towards the moon, it is manifest the object varies still as 
I go on ; and, by the time that I am advanced fifty or sixty 
semidiameters of the earth, I shall be so far from being 
near a small, round, luminous flat that I shall perceive 
nothing like it this object having long since disappeared, 
and, if I would recover it, it must be by going back to the 
earth from whence I set out 2 . Again, suppose I perceive 
by sight the faint and obscure idea of something, which 
I doubt whether it be a man, or a tree, or a tower, but 

1 Berkeley here begins to found, dent on the sensation of colour, 
on the experienced connexion be- 3 In connexion with this and the 

tween extension and colour, and next illustration, Berkeley seems 

between visible and tangible ex- to argue that we are not only unable 

tension, a proof that outness is to see distance in the line of sight, 

invisible. From Aristotle onwards but also that we do not see a dis- 

it has been assumed that colour is tant object in its real visible magni- 

the only phenomenon of which we tude. But elsewhere he affirms 

are immediately percipient in see- that only tangible magnitude is 

ing. Visible extension, visible entitled to be called real. Cf. 

figure, and visible motion are sect. 55. 59 6r. 
accordingly taken to be depen- 

L 2, 


judge it to be at the distance of about a mile. It is plain 
I cannot mean that what I see is a mile off, or that it is 
the image or likeness of anything which is a mile off; 
since that every step I take towards it the appearance 
alters, and from being obscure, small, and faint, grows 
clear, large, and vigorous. And when I come to the 
mile s end, that which I saw first is quite lost, neither 
do I find anything in the likeness of it 1 . 

45. In these and the like instances, the truth of the mat 
ter, I find, stands thus : Having of a long time experienced 
certain ideas perceivable by touch 2 as distance, tangible 
figure, and solidity to have been connected with certain 
ideas of sight, I do, upon perceiving these ideas of sight, 
forthwith conclude what tangible ideas are, by the wonted 
ordinary course of nature, like to follow. Looking at an 
object, I perceive a certain visible figure and colour, with 
some degree of faintness and other circumstances, which, 
from what I have formerly observed, determine me to think 
that if I advance forward so many paces, miles, &c., I shall 
be affected with such and such ideas of touch. So that, in 
truth and strictness of speech, I neither see distance itself, 
nor anything that I take to be at a distance. I say, neither 
distance nor things placed at a distance are themselves, 
or their ideas, truly perceived by sight. This I am per 
suaded of, as to what concerns myself. And I believe 
whoever will look narrowly into his own thoughts, and 
examine what he means by saying he sees this or that 
thing at a distance, will agree with me, that what he sees 

1 The sceptical objections to the troduces touch a term which 

trustworthiness of the senses, pro- with him includes, not merely or- 

posed by the Eleatics and others, ganic sense of contact, but also 

referred to by Descartes in his muscular and locomotive sense- 

Meditations, and by Malebranche experience. After this he begins 

in the First Book cf his Recherche, to unfold the antithesis of visual 

may have suggested the illustra- and tactual phenomena, whose sub- 

tions in this section. Cf. also sequent synthesis it is the aim of 

Hume s Essay On the Academical the New Theory to explain. Cf. 

or Sceptical Philosophy. The seep- Principles of Human Knowledge, 

tical difficulty is founded on the sect. 43 Theory of Vision Vindi- 

assumption that the object seen cated, sect. 22 and 25. Note here 

at different distances is the same Berkeley s reticence of his ideal- 

visible object: it is really different, ization of Matter tangible as well 

and so the difficulty vanishes. as visible. Cf. Principles, sect. 44. 

: Here Berkeley expressly in- 


only suggests to his understanding that, after having passed 
a certain distance, to be measured by the motion of his 
body, which is perceivable by touch , he shall come to 
perceive such and such tangible ideas, which have been 
usually connected with such and such visible ideas. But, 
that one might be deceived by these suggestions of sense, 
and that there is no necessary connexion between visible 
and tangible ideas suggested by them, we need go no 
farther than the next looking-glass or picture to be con 
vinced. Note that, when I speak of tangible ideas, I take 
the word idea for any the immediate object of sense, or 
understanding in which large signification it is commonly 
used by the moderns - . 

46. From what we have shewn, it is a manifest conse 
quence that the ideas of space, outness :! , and things placed 
at a distance are not, strictly speaking, the object of sight 4 ; 
they are not otherwise perceived by the eye than by the ear. 
Sitting in my study I hear a coach drive along the street ; 
I look through the casement and see it ; I walk out and 
enter into it. Thus, common speech would incline one to 
think I heard, saw, and touched the same thing, to wit, the 
coach. It is nevertheless certain the ideas intromitted by 
each sense are widely different, and distinct from each 
other ; but, having been observed constantly to go together, 
they are spoken of as one and the same thing. By the 
variation of the noise, I perceive the different distances of 
the coach, and know that it approaches before I look out. 
Thus, by the ear I perceive distance just after the same 
manner as I do by the eye. 

47. I do not nevertheless say I hear distance, in like 

1 This connexion of our know- the material universe a riddle to 
ledge of distance with our locomo- many, of which afterwards. 

tive experience points to a theory 3 The expressive term outness, 

which ultimately resolves space favoured by Berkeley, is here first 

into experience of unimpeded loco- used, 

motion. 4 We get the idea of Space/ 

2 Locke (Essay, Introduction, says Locke, both by our sight and 
8) takes idea vaguely as the touch (Essay, II. 13. 2). Locke 
term which serves best to stand did not contemplate Berkeley s anti- 
for whatsoever is the object of the thesis of visible and tangible exten- 
understanding when a man thinks. sion, and the consequent ambiguity 
Oversight of what Berkeley intends of the term extension ; which some- 
by the term idea has made his times signifies coloured, and at 
whole conception of nature and others resistant experience in sense. 


manner as I say that I see it the ideas perceived by 
hearing not being so apt to be confounded with the ideas 
of touch as those of sight are. So likewise a man is easily 
convinced that bodies and external things are not properly 
the object of hearing, but only sounds, by the mediation 
whereof the idea of this or that body, or distance, is sug 
gested to his thoughts. But then one is with more difficulty 
brought to discern the difference there is betwixt the ideas 
of sight and touch 1 . though it be certain, a man no more 
sees and feels the same thing, than he hears and feels the 
same thing. 

48. One reason of which seems to be this. It is thought 
a great absurdity to imagine that one and the same thing 
should have any more than one extension and one figure. 
But, the extension and figure of a body being let into the 
mind two ways, and that indifferently, either by sight or 
touch, it seems to follow that we see the same extension and 
the same figure which we feel. 

49. But, if we take a close and accurate view of the 
matter, it must be acknowledged that we never see and feel 
one and the same object -. That which is seen is one thing, 
and that which is felt is another. If the visible figure and 
extension be not the same with the tangible figure and 
extension, we are not to infer that one and the same thing 
has divers extensions. The true consequence is that the 
objects of sight and touch are two distinct things 3 . It may 
perhaps require some thought rightly to conceive this dis 
tinction. And the difficulty seems not a little increased, 
because the combination of visible ideas hath constantly 
the same name as the combination of tangible ideas where 
with it is connected which doth of necessity arise from 
the use and end of language 4 . 

50. In order, therefore, to treat accurately and uncon- 
fusedly of vision, we must bear in mind that there are two 
sorts of objects apprehended by the eye the one primarily 
and immediately, the other secondarily and by intervention 
of the former. Those of the first sort neither are nor 
appear to be without the mind, or at any distance off " . 

1 For an explanation of this dif- 3 This is the issue of the ana- 
ficulty, see sect. 144. lytical portion of the Essay. 

2 object thing, in the earlier 4 Cf. sect. 139-40. 

editions. 5 Here the question of externality, 


They may, indeed, grow greater or smaller, more confused, 
or more clear, or more faint. But they do not, cannot 
approach, [or even seem to approach l ] or recede from us. 
Whenever we say an object is at a distance, whenever we 
say it draws near, or goes farther off, we must always mean 
it of the latter sort, which properly belong to the touch 2 , 
and are not so truly perceived as suggested by the eye, in 
like manner as thoughts by the ear. 

51. No sooner do we hear the words of a familiar 
language pronounced in our ears but the ideas corre 
sponding thereto present themselves to our minds : in the 
very same instant the sound and the meaning enter the 
understanding : so closely are they united that it is not in 
our power to keep out the one except we exclude the other 
also. We even act in all respects as if we heard the very 
thoughts themselves. So likewise the secondary objects, 
or those which are only suggested by sight, do often more 
strongly affect us, and are more regarded, than the proper 
objects of that sense ; along with which they enter into the 
mind, and with which they have a far more strict connexion 
than ideas have with words 3 . Hence it is we find it so 
difficult to discriminate between the immediate and mediate 
objects of sight, and are so prone to attribute to the former 
what belongs only to the latter. They are, as it were, 
most closely twisted, blended, and incorporated together. 
And the prejudice is confirmed and riveted in our 
thoughts by a long tract of time, by the use of language, and 
want of reflection. However, I doubt not but anyone that 
shall attentively consider what we have already said, and 
shall say upon this subject before we have done (especially 
if he pursue it in his own thoughts), may be able to deliver 
himself from that prejudice. Sure I am, it is worth some 

signifying independence of all per- is the problem of the Principles 

cipient life, is again mixed up with of Human Knowledge. 

that of the invisibility of distance :> In this section the conception 

outwards in the line of sight. of a natural Visual Language, 

1 Omitted in author s last edition. makes its appearance, with its 

2 i. e. including muscular and implication that Nature is (for us) 
locomotive experience as well as virtually Spirit. Cf. sect. 140, 147 
sense of contact. But what are Principles, sect. 44 Dialogues of 
the tangibilia themselves? Are Hylas and Philonous Alciphron, 
they also significant, like visibilia, IV. 8, n and Theory of Vision 
of a still ulterior reality? This Vindicated, passim. 


attention to whoever would understand the true nature of 

52. I have now done with Distance, and proceed to shew 
how it is that we perceive by sight the Magnitude of objects . 
It is the opinion of some that we do it by angles, or by 
angles in conjunction with distance. But, neither angles 
nor distance being perceivable by sight 2 , and the things 
we see being in truth at no distance from us 3 , it follows 
that, as we have shewn lines and angles not to be the 
medium the mind makes use of in apprehending the 
apparent place, so neither are they the medium whereby it 
apprehends the apparent magnitude of objects. 

53. It is well known that the same extension at a near 
distance shall subtend a greater angle, and at a farther dis 
tance a lesser angle. And by this principle (we are told) 
the mind estimates the magnitude of an object 4 , comparing 
the angle under which it is seen with its distance, and 
thence inferring the magnitude thereof. What inclines 
men to this mistake (beside the humour of making one sec 
by geometry) is, that the same perceptions or ideas which 
suggest distance do also suggest magnitude. But, if we 
examine it, we shall find they suggest the latter as im 
mediately as the former. I say, they do not first suggest 
distance and then leave it to the judgment to use that as a 
medium whereby to collect the magnitude ; but they have 
as close and immediate a connexion with the magnitude as 
with the distance ; and suggest magnitude as indepen 
dently of distance, as they do distance independently of 
magnitude. All which will be evident to whoever considers 
what has been already said and what follows. 

54. It has been shewn there are two sorts of objects 
apprehended by sight, each whereof has its distinct magni 
tude, or extension the one, properly tangible, i.e. to be 
perceived and measured by touch, and not immediately 
falling under the sense of seeing ; the other, properly and 
immediately visible, by mediation of which the former is 
brought in view. Each of these magnitudes are greater or 

1 Sect. 52-87 treat of the invisi- 2 Sect. 8-15. 

bility of real, i.e. tactual, Magni- 3 Sect. 41, &c. 

tude. Cf. Theory of Vision Vindi- 4 See Molyneux s Treatise on 

catcd, sect. 54-61. Dioptrics, B. I. prop. 28. 


lesser, according as they contain in them more or fewer 
points, they being made up of points or minimums. For, 
whatever may be said of extension in abstract 1 , it is 
certain sensible extension is not infinitely divisible 2 . 
There is a minimum tangibilc, and a minimum visibilc, 
beyond which sense cannot perceive. This every one s 
experience will inform him. 

55. The magnitude of the object which exists without 
the mind, and is at a distance, continues always invariably 
the same : but, the visible object still changing as you 
approach to or recede from the tangible object, it hath no 
fixed and determinate greatness. Whenever therefore we 
speak of the magnitude of any thing, for instance a tree or 
a house, we must mean the tangible magnitude ; otherwise 
there can be nothing steady and free from ambiguity spoken 
of it 3 . Now, though the tangible and visible magnitude 
do in truth belong to two distinct objects 4 , I shall never 
theless (especially since those objects are called bv the 
same name, and are observed to coexist 5 ), to avoid tedious- 
ness and singularity of speech, sometimes speak of them as 
belonging to one and the same thing. 

56. Now, in order to discover by what means the mag 
nitude of tangible objects is perceived by sight, I need only 
reflect on what passes in my own mind, and observe what 
those things be which introduce the ideas of greater or 
lesser into my thoughts when I look on any object. And 
these I find to be, first, the magnitude or extension of the 
visible object, which, being immediately perceived by sight, 
is connected with that other which is tangible and placed 
at a distance : secondly, the confusion or distinctness : and 
thirdly, the vigorousness or faintness of the aforesaid 

1 See sect. 122-126. in the case of visible extension, and 

2 In short there is a point at which, as an idea touched, in the case 
with our limited sense, we cease of tangible extension, is yet no 
to be percipient of colour, in seeing ; property of mind. Mind can exist 
and of resistance, in locomotion. without being percipient of exten- 
Though Berkeley regards all visible sion, although extension cannot be 
extensions as sensible, and there- realised without mind. 

fore dependent for their reality on 3 But this is true, though less 

being realised by sentient mind, obviously, of tangible as well as of 

he does not mean that mind or visible objects. 

consciousness is extended. With 4 Sect. 49. 

him, extension, though it exists 5 Cf. sect. 139, 140, &c. 

only in mind, i.e. as an idea seen, 


visible appearance. Cceteris paribus, by how much the 
greater or lesser the visible object is, by so much the 
greater or lesser do I conclude the tangible object to be. 
But, be the idea immediately perceived by sight never so 
large, yet, if it be withal confused, I judge the magnitude 
of the thing to be but small. If it be distinct and clear, I 
judge it greater. And, if it be faint, I apprehend it to be 
yet greater. What is here meant by confusion and faint- 
ness has been explained in sect. 35. 

57. Moreover, the judgments we make of greatness do, 
in like manner as those of distance, depend on the dispo 
sition of the eye ; also on the figure, number, and situation * 
of intermediate objects, and other circumstances that have 
been observed to attend great or small tangible magnitudes. 
Thus, for instance, the very same quantity of visible exten 
sion which in the figure of a tower doth suggest the idea 
of great magnitude shall in the figure of a man suggest 
the idea of much smaller magnitude. That this is owing 
to the experience we have had of the usual bigness of 
a tower and a man, no one, I suppose, need be told. 

58. It is also evident that confusion or faintness have no 
more a necessary connexion with little or great magnitude 
than they have with little or great distance. As they sug 
gest the latter, so the}- suggest the former to our minds. 
And, by consequence, if it were not for experience, we 
should no more judge a faint or confused appearance to be 
connected with great or little magnitude than we should 
that it was connected with great or little distance. 

59. Nor will it be found that great or small visible mag 
nitude hath any necessary relation to great or small 
tangible magnitude so that the one may certainly and 
infallibly be inferred from the other. But, before we 
come to the proof of this, it is fit we consider the difference 
there is betwixt the extension and figure which is the pro 
per object of touch, and that other which is termed visible ; 
and how the former is principally, though not immediately, 
taken notice of when we look at any object. This has been 
before mentioned 2 , but we shall here inquire into the cause 
thereof. We regard the objects that environ us in propor 
tion as they are adapted to benefit or injure our own 

1 situation not in the earlier editions. 


bodies, and thereby produce in our minds the sensations 
of pleasure or pain. Now, bodies operating on our organs 
by an immediate application, and the hurt and advantage 
arising therefrom depending altogether on the tangible, 
and not at all on the visible, qualities of any object-- this 
is a plain reason why those should be regarded by us much 
more than these. And for this end [chiefly 1 ] the visive 
sense seems to have been bestowed on animals, to wit, 
that, by the perception of visible ideas (which in themselves 
are not capable of affecting or anywise altering the frame 
of their bodies), they may be able to foresee 2 (from the 
experience they have had what tangible ideas are connect 
ed with such and such visible ideas) the damage or benefit 
which is like to ensue upon the application of their own 
bodies to this or that body which is at a distance. Which 
foresight, how necessary it is to the preservation of an 
animal, every one s experience can inform him. Hence it 
is that, when we look at an object, the tangible figure and 
extension thereof are principally attended to ; whilst there 
is small heed taken of the visible figure and magnitude, 
which, though more immediately perceived, do less sensibly 
affect us, and are not fitted to produce any alteration in our 

60. That the matter of fact is true will be evident to any 
one who considers that a man placed at ten foot distance is 
thought as great as if he were placed at the distance only 
of five foot ; which is true, not with relation to the visible, 
but tangible greatness of the object: the visible magnitude 
being far greater at one station than it is at the other. 

61. Inches, feet, <S:c. are settled, stated lengths, whereby 
we measure objects and estimate their magnitude. We 
say, for example, an object appears to be six inches, or six 
foot long. Now, that this cannot be meant of visible 
inches, &c. is evident, because a visible inch is itself no 
constant determinate magnitude", and cannot therefore 
serve to mark out and determine the magnitude of any 

1 Omitted in the author s last needs of embodied life, not 

edition. to immediately convey scientific 

3 Ordinary sight is virtually knowledge, Recherche, Liv. I. ch. 5, 

foresight. Cf. sect. 85. See also 6, 9, &c. 

Malebranche on the external senses, 3 Sect. 44. See also sect. 55, 

as given primarily for the urgent and note. 


other thing. Take an inch marked upon a ruler ; view it 
successively, at the distance of half a foot, a foot, 
a foot and a half, &c. from the eye : at each of 
which, and at all the intermediate distances, the inch shall 
have a different visible extension, i.e. there shall be more 
or fewer points discerned in it. Now, I ask which of all 
these various extensions is that stated determinate one that 
is agreed on for a common measure of other magnitudes ? 
No reason can be assigned why we should pitch on one 
more than another. And, except there be some invariable 
determinate extension fixed on to be marked by the word 
inch, it is plain it can be used to little purpose; and to say 
a thing contains this or that number of inches shall imply 
no more than that it is extended, without bringing any 
particular idea of that extension into the mind. Farther, 
an inch and a foot, from different distances, shall both 
exhibit the same visible magnitude, and yet at the same 
time you shall say that one seems several times greater 
than the other. From all which it is manifest, that the 
judgments we make of the magnitude of objects by sight 
are altogether in reference to their tangible extension. 
Whenever we say an object is great or small, of this 
or that determinate measure, I say, it must be meant 
of the tangible and not the visible extension J , which, 
though immediately perceived, is nevertheless little taken 
notice of. 

62. Now, that there is no necessary connexion between 
these two distinct extensions is evident from hence because 
our eyes might have been framed in such a manner as to 
be able to see nothing but what were less than the minimum 
tangibilc. In which case it is not impossible we might have 
perceived all the immediate objects of sight the very same 
that we do now; but unto those visible appearances there 
would not be connected those different tangible magnitudes 
that are now. Which shews the judgments we make of 
the magnitude of things placed at a distance, from the 
various greatness of the immediate objects of sight, do not 

1 This supposes settled tangi- felt as larger or smaller according 

bt h a, but not settled visibilia. to the state of the organism, and the 

Yet the sensible extension given other conditions of our embodied 

in touch and locomotive experience perception, 
is also relative an object being 


arise from any essential or necessary, but only a customary, 
tie which has been observed betwixt them. 

63. Moreover, it is not only certain that any idea of sight 
might not have been connected with this or that idea of 
touch we now observe to accompany it, but also that the great 
er visible magnitudes might have been connected with and 
introduced into our minds lesser tangible magnitudes, and 
the lesser visible magnitudes greater tangible magnitudes. 
Nay, that it actually is so, we have daily experience that 
object which makes a strong and large appearance not 
seeming near so great as another the visible magnitude 
whereof is much less, but more faint, l and the appearance 
upper, or which is the same thing, painted lower on the 
retina, which faintness and situation suggest both greater 
magnitude and greater distance. 

64. From which, and from sect. 57 and 58, it is manifest 
that, as we do not perceive the magnitude of objects im 
mediately by sight, so neither do we perceive them by the 
mediation of anything which has a necessary connexion 
with them. Those ideas that now suggest unto us the 
various magnitudes of external objects before we touch 
them might possibly have suggested no such thing ; or 
they might have signified them in a direct contrary manner, 
so that the very same ideas on the perception whereof we 
judge an object to be small might as well have served to 
make us conclude it great ; those ideas being in their own 
nature equally fitted to bring into our minds the idea of 
small or great, or no size at all, of outward objects 2 , just 
as the words of any language are in their own nature 
indifferent to signify this or that thing, or nothing at all. 

65. As we see distance so we see magnitude. And we 
see both in the same way that we see shame or anger in the 
looks of a man. Those passions are themselves invisible ; 
they are nevertheless let in by the eye along with colours 
and alterations of countenance which are the immediate 
object of vision, and which signify them for no other 
reason than barely because they have been observed to 
accompany them. Without which experience we should 

1 What follows, to end of sect. 63, tactual experience, taken in this 
added in the author s last edition. Essay provisionally as the real ex- 

2 outward objects, i. e. objects ternal objects. See Principles, 
of which we are percipient in sect. 44. 


no more have taken blushing for a sign of shame than 
of gladness. 

66. We are nevertheless exceedingly prone to imagine 
those things which are perceived only by the mediation 
of others to be themselves the immediate objects of sight, 
or at least to have in their own nature a fitness to be 
suggested by them before ever they had been experienced 
to coexist with them. From which prejudice every one 
perhaps will not find it easy to emancipate himself, by 
any the clearest convictions of reason. And there are 
some grounds to think that, if there was one only invari 
able and universal language in the world, and that men 
were born with the faculty of speaking it, it would be the 
opinion of some, that the ideas in other men s minds were 
properly perceived by the ear, or had at least a necessary 
and inseparable tie with the sounds that were affixed to 
them. All which seems to arise from want of a due appli 
cation of our discerning faculty, thereby to discriminate 
between the ideas that are in our understandings, and con 
sider them apart from each other ; which would preserve 
us from confounding those that are different, and make us 
see what ideas do, and what do not, include or imply this 
or that other idea ! . 

67. There is a celebrated phenomenon 2 the solution 
whereof I shall attempt to give, by the principles that have 
been laid down, in reference to the manner wherein we 
apprehend by sight the magnitude of objects. The appa 
rent magnitude of the moon, when placed in the horizon, is 
much greater than when it is in the meridian, though the 
angle under which the diameter of the moon is seen be not 
observed greater in the former case than in the latter ; and 

1 Cf sect. 144. Note, in this between words and their accepted 

and the three preceding sections, meanings. 

the stress laid on the arbitrariness 2 In sect. 67-78, Berkeley at- 

of the connexion between the signs tempts to verify the foregoing 

which suggest magnitudes, or other account of the natural signs of 

modesof extension, and theirsignifi- Size, by applying it to solve a 

cates. This is the foundation of the phenomenon, the cause of which 

New Theory ; which thus resolves had been long debated among men 

physical causality into a relation of science the visible magnitude 

of signs to what they signify and of heavenly bodies when seen in 

predict analogous to the relation the horizon. 


the horizontal moon doth not constantly appear of the same 
bigness, but at some times seemeth far greater than at 

68. Now, in order to explain the reason of the moon s 
appearing greater than ordinary in the horizon, it must be 
observed that the particles which compose our atmosphere 
do intercept the rays of light proceeding from any object to 
the eye ; and, by how much the greater is the portion of 
atmosphere interjacent between the object and the eye, by 
so much the more are the rays intercepted, and, by conse 
quence, the appearance of the object rendered more faint 
every object appearing more vigorous or more faint in pro 
portion as it sendeth more or fewer rays into the eye. 
Now, between the eye and the moon when situated in the 
horizon there lies a far greater quantity of atmosphere than 
there does when the moon is in the meridian. Whence it 
comes to pass, that the appearance of the horizontal moon 
is fainter, and therefore, by sect. 56, it should be thought 
bigger in that situation than in the meridian, or in any 
other elevation above the horizon. 

69. Farther, the air being variously impregnated, some 
times more and sometimes less, with vapours and exhala 
tions fitted to retund and intercept the rays of light, it 
follows that the appearance of the horizontal moon hath 
not always an equal faintness, and, by consequence, that 
luminary, though in the very same situation, is at one 
time judged greater than at another. 

70. That we have here given the true account of the 
phenomena of the horizontal moon, will, I suppose, be 
farther evident to any one from the following considera 
tions : First, it is plain, that which in this case suggests 
the idea of greater magnitude, must be something which is 
itself perceived ; for, that which is unperceived cannot sug 
gest to our perception any other thing 1 . Secondly, it must 
be something that does not constantly remain the same, 
but is subject to some change or variation ; since the ap 
pearance of the horizontal moon varies, being at one time 
greater than at another. {Thirdly, it must not lie in the 
circumjacent or intermediate objects, such as mountains, 
houses, fields, &c. ; because that when all those objects are 

1 Cf. sect. 10. 


excluded from sight the appearance is as great as ever 1 . ] 
And yet, thirdly 2 , it cannot be the visible figure or magni 
tude ; since that remains the same, or is rather lesser, by 
how much the moon is nearer to the horizon. It remains 
therefore, that the true cause is that affection or alteration 
of the visible appearance, which proceeds from the greater 
paucity of rays arriving at the eye, and which I term faint- 
ness : since this answers all the forementioned conditions, 
and I am not conscious of any other perception that does. 

71. Add to this that in misty weather it is a common 
observation, that the appearance of the horizontal moon is 
far larger than usual, which greatly conspires with and 
strengthens our opinion. Neither would it prove in the 
least irreconcilable with what we have said, if the horizon 
tal moon should chance sometimes to seem enlarged beyond 
its usual extent, even in more serene weather. For, we 
must not only have regard to the mist which happens to be 
in the place where we stand ; we ought also to take into 
our thoughts the whole sum of vapours and exhalations 
which lie betwixt the eye and the moon : all which co-oper 
ating to render the appearance of the moon more faint, and 
thereby increase its magnitude, it may chance to appear 
greater than it usually does even in the horizontal position, 
at a time when, though there be no extraordinary fog or 
haziness just in the place where we stand, yet the air be 
tween the eye and the moon, taken altogether, may be 
loaded with a greater quantity of interspersed vapours and 
exhalations than at other times :! . 

72. It may be objected that, in consequence of our prin 
ciples, the interposition of a body in some degree opaque, 
which may intercept a great part of the rays of light, should 
render the appearance of the moon in the meridian as 
large as when it is viewed in the horizon. To which 
I answer, it is not faintness anyhow applied that suggests 

1 Omitted in the author s last sect. 74. WhyMesser ? 
edition. Cf. sect. 76, 77. The 3 When Berkeley, some years 
explanation in question is attributed afterwards, visited Italy, he re- 
to Alhazen, and by Bacon to Pto- marked that distant objects ap- 
lemy, while it is sanctioned by peared to him much nearer than 
eminent scientific names before they really were a phenomenon 
and since Berkeley. which he attributed to the com- 

2 Fourthly in the second parative purity of the southern 
edition. Cf. what follows with air. 


greater magnitude ; there being no necessary, but only an ex 
perimental, connexion between those two things. It follows 
that the faintness which enlarges the appearance must 
be applied in such sort, and with such circumstances, as 
have been observed to attend the vision of great magnitudes. 
When from a distance we behold great objects, the particles 
of the intermediate air and vapours, which are themselves 
unperceivable, do interrupt the rays of light, and thereby 
render the appearance less strong and vivid. Now, faint- 
ness of appearance, caused in this sort, hath been experi 
enced to co-exist with great magnitude. But when it is 
caused by the interposition of an opaque sensible body, 
this circumstance alters the case ; so that a faint appearance 
this way caused does not suggest greater magnitude, be 
cause it hath not been experienced to co-exist with it. 

73. Faintness, as well as all other ideas or perceptions 
which suggest magnitude or distance, does it in the same 
way that words suggest the notions to which they are 
annexed. Now, it is known a word pronounced with 
certain circumstances, or in a certain context with other 
words, hath not always the same import and signification 
that it hath when pronounced in some other circumstances, 
or different context of words. The very same visible ap 
pearance, as to faintness and all other respects, if placed 
on high, shall not suggest the same magnitude that it 
would if it were seen at an equal distance on a level with 
the eye. The reason whereof is, that we are rarely accus 
tomed to view objects at a great height ; our concerns lie 
among things situated rather before than above us ; and 
accordingly our eyes are not placed on the top of our 
heads, but in such a position as is most convenient for 
us to see distant objects standing in our way. And, this 
situation of them being a circumstance which usually at 
tends the vision of distant objects, we may from hence 
account for (what is commonly observed) an object s ap 
pearing of different magnitude, even with respect to its 
horizontal extension, on the top of a steeple, e.g. a hun 
dred feet high, to one standing below, from what it would 
if placed at a hundred feet distance, on a level with his eye. 
For, it hath been shewn that the judgment we make on 
the magnitude of a thing depends not on the visible ap 
pearance only, but also on divers other circumstances, any 



one of which being omitted or varied may suffice to make 
some alteration in our judgment. Hence, the circum 
stance of viewing a distant object in such a situation as 
is usual and suits with the ordinary posture of the head 
and eyes, being omitted, and instead thereof a different 
situation of the object, which requires a different posture 
of the head, taking place it is not to be wondered at if 
the magnitude be judged different. But it will be de 
manded, why a high object should constantly appear less 
than an equidistant low object of the same dimensions ; for 
so it is observed to be. It may indeed be granted that the 
variation of some circumstances may vary the judgment 
made on the magnitude of high objects, which we are less 
used to look at ; but it does not hence appear why they 
should be judged less rather than greater? I answer, that 
in case the magnitude of distant objects was suggested by 
the extent of their visible appearance alone, and thought 
proportional thereto, it is certain they would then be judged 
much less than now they seem to be. (Vid. sect. 79.) 
But, several circumstances concurring to form the judg 
ment we make on the magnitude of distant objects, by 
means of which they appear far larger than others whose 
visible appearance hath an equal or even greater exten 
sion, it follows that upon the change or omission of any 
of those circumstances which are wont to attend the vision 
of distant objects, and so come to influence the judgments 
made on their magnitude, they shall proportionally appear 
less than otherwise they would. For, any of those things 
that caused an object to be thought greater than in 
proportion to its visible extension being either omitted, 
or applied without the usual circumstances, the judgment 
depends more entirely on the visible extension ; and con 
sequently the object must be judged less. Thus, in the 
present case the situation of the thing seen being different 
from what it usually is in those objects we have occasion 
to view, and whose magnitude we observe, it follows that 
the very same object being a hundred feet high, should 
seem less than if it was a hundred feet off, on (or nearly 
on) a level with the eye. What has been here set forth 
seems to me to have no small share in contributing to 
magnify the appearance of the horizontal moon, and de 
serves not to be passed over in the explication of it. 


74. If we attentively consider the phenomenon before 
us, we shall find the not discerning between the mediate 
and immediate objects of sight to be the chief cause of 
the difficulty that occurs in the explication of it. The 
magnitude of the visible moon, or that which is the pro 
per and immediate object of vision 1 , is no greater when 
the moon is in the horizon than when it is in the meridian. 
How comes it, therefore, to seem greater in one situation 
than the other ? What is it can put this cheat on the 
understanding ? It has no other perception of the moon 
than what it gets by sight. And that which is seen is 
of the same extent I say, the visible appearance hath 
the very same, or rather a less, magnitude, when the 
moon is viewed in the horizontal than when in the 
meridional position. And yet it is esteemed greater in 
the former than in the latter. Herein consists the diffi 
culty ; which doth vanish and admit of the most easy 
solution, if we consider that as the visible moon is not 
greater in the horizon than in the meridian, so neither 
is it thought to be so. It hath been already shewn 
that, in any act of vision, the visible object absolutely, 
or in itself, is little taken notice of the mind still car 
rying its view from that to some tangible ideas, which 
have been observed to be connected with it, and by that 
means come to be suggested by it. So that when a thing 
is said to appear great or small, or whatever estimate 
be made of the magnitude of any thing, this is meant 
not of the visible but of the tangible object. This duly 
considered, it will be no hard matter to reconcile the 
seeming contradiction there is, that the moon should 
appear of a different bigness, the visible magnitude thereof 
remaining still the same. For, by sect. 56, the very 
same visible extension, with a different faintness, shall 
suggest a different tangible extension. When therefore 
the horizontal moon is said to appear greater than the 
meridional moon, this must be understood, not of a greater 
visible extension, but of a greater tangible extension, 
which, by reason of the more than ordinary faintness 
of the visible appearance, is suggested to the mind along 
with it. 

1 i. e. the original perception, of suggestion and inferential 
apart from any synthetic operation thought, founded on visual signs. 

M 2 


75. Many attempts have been made by learned men 
to account for this appearance \ Gassendus -, Des Cartes :; , 
Hobbes 4 , and several others have employed their thoughts 
on that subject ; but how fruitless and unsatisfactory their 
endeavours have been is sufficiently shewn in the Philo 
sophical Transactions* (Numb. 187, p. 314), where you 
may see their several opinions at large set forth and 
confuted, not without some surprise at the gross blunders 
that ingenious men have been forced into by endeavouring 
to reconcile this appearance with the ordinary principles 
of optics" . Since the writing of which there hath been 
published in the Transactions (Numb. 187, p. 323) another 
paper relating to the same affair, by the celebrated Dr. 
Wallis, wherein he attempts to account for that phe 
nomenon ; which, though it seems not to contain anything 
new, or different from what had been said before by 
others, I shall nevertheless consider in this place. 

76. His opinion, in short, is this : We judge not of 
the magnitude of an object by the optic angle alone, 
but by the optic angle in conjunction with the distance. 
Hence, though the angle remain the same, or even become 
less, yet, if withal the distance seem to have been increased, 
the object shall appear greater. Now, one way whereby 
we estimate the distance of anything is by the number 
and extent of the intermediate objects. When there 
fore the moon is seen in the horizon, the variety of 

1 In Riccioli s Almagest, II. and Remarks, pp. 48, &c. At p. 55 

lib. X. sect. 6. quest. 14, we have Berkeley s New Theory is referred 

an account of many hypotheses to, and pronounced to be at variance 

then current, in explanation of the with experience. Smith concludes 

apparent magnitude of the hori- by saying, that in the second 

zontal moon. edition of Berkeley s Essay, and 

>J Gassendi s Epistolae quatuor also in a Vindication and Explana- 

de apparente magnitudine solis tion of it (called the Visual Lan- 

humilis et sublimis. Opera, torn. g* ta g e ), very lately published, the 

III. pp. 420-477. Cf. Appendix to author has made some additions to 

this Essay, p. no. hissolutionof the said phenomenon; 

3 See Dioptrique, VI. but seeing it still involves and de- 

4 Opera Latina, vol. I. p. 376, pends on the principle of faintness, 
vol. II. pp. 26-62; English Works, I may leave the rest of it to the 
vol. I. p. 462. (Molesworth s reader s consideration. This, which 
Edition.) appeared in 1738, is one of the very 

5 The paper in the Transactions few early references to Berkeley s 
is by Molyneux. Neiv Theory of Vision Vindicated. 

See Smith s Optics, pp. 64-67, 


fields, houses, &c. together with the large prospect of 
the wide extended land or sea that lies between the eye 
and the utmost limb of the horizon, suggest unto the 
mind the idea of greater distance, and consequently 
magnify the appearance. And this, according to Dr. 
Wallis, is the true account of the extraordinary large 
ness attributed by the mind to the horizontal moon, at 
a time when the angle subtended by its diameter is not 
one jot greater than it used to be. 

77. With reference to this opinion, not to repeat what 
has been already said concerning distance , I shall only 
observe, first, that if the prospect of interjacent objects 
be that which suggests the idea of farther distance, and this 
idea of farther distance be the cause that brings into the mind 
the idea of greater magnitude, it should hence follow that 
if one looked at the horizontal moon from behind a wall, 
it would appear no bigger than ordinary. For, in that case, 
the wall interposing cuts off all that prospect of sea and 
land, &c. which might otherwise increase the apparent dis 
tance, and thereby the apparent magnitude of the moon. 
Nor will it suffice to say, the memory doth even then 
suggest all that extent of land, <S:c. which lies within 
the horizon, which suggestion occasions a sudden judg 
ment of sense, that the moon is farther off and larger 
than usual. For, ask any man who from such a station 
beholding the horizontal moon shall think her greater 
than usual, whether he hath at that time in his mind 
any idea of the intermediate objects, or long tract of 
land that lies between his eye and the extreme edge 
of the horizon ? and whether it be that idea which is 
the cause of his making the aforementioned judgment ? 
He will, without doubt, reply in the negative, and declare 
the horizontal moon shall appear greater than the meri- 
dional, though he never thinks of all or any of those 
things that lie between him and it. [And as for the 
absurdity of any idea s introducing into the mind an 
other, whilst itself is not perceived, this has already 
fallen under our observation, and is too evident to need 
any farther enlargement on it 2 .] Secondly, it seems im 
possible, by this hypothesis, to account for the moon s 

1 Sect. 2-51. - This sentence is omitted in the author s last edition. 


appearing, in the very same situation, at one time greater 
than at another ; which, nevertheless, has been shewn 
to be very agreeable to the principles we have laid 
down, and receives a most easy and natural explication 
from them. I 1 For the further clearing up of this point, 
it is to be observed, that what we immediately and 
properly see are only lights and colours in sundry situ 
ations and shades, and degrees of faintness and clearness, 
confusion and distinctness. All which visible objects are 
only in the mind; nor do they suggest aught external 2 , 
whether distance or magnitude, otherwise than by ha 
bitual connexion, as words do things. We are also to 
remark, that beside the straining of the eyes, and beside 
the vivid and faint, the distinct and confused appearances 
(which, bearing some proportion to lines and angles, 
have been substituted instead of them in the foregoing 
part of this Treatise), there are other means which 
suggest both distance and magnitude particularly the 
situation of visible points or objects, as upper or lower ; 
the former suggesting a farther distance and greater 
magnitude, the latter a nearer distance and lesser magni 
tudeall which is an effect only of custom and experience, 
there being really nothing intermediate in the line of 
distance between the uppermost and the lowermost, which 
are both equidistant, or rather at no distance from the 
eye ; as there is also nothing in upper or lower which 
by necessary connexion should suggest greater or lesser 
magnitude. Now, as these customary experimental means 
of suggesting distance do likewise suggest magnitude, 
so they suggest the one as immediately as the other. 
I say, they do not (vide sect. 53) first suggest distance, 
and then leave the mind from thence to infer or compute 
magnitude, but suggest magnitude as immediately and 
directly as they suggest distance.] 

78. This phenomenon of the horizontal moon is a clear 
instance of the insufficiency of lines and angles for explain 
ing the way wherein the mind perceives and estimates the 
magnitude of outward objects. There is, nevertheless, a 
use of computation by them 3 in order to determine the 

1 What follows to the end of this 2 i. e. tangible. 

section is not contained in the first 3 Cf. sect. 38 ; and Theory of 

edition. Vision Vindicated, sect. 31. 


apparent magnitude of things, so far as they have a con 
nexion with and are proportional to those other ideas or 
perceptions which are the true and immediate occasions 
that suggest to the mind the apparent magnitude of things. 
But this in general may, I think, be observed concerning 
mathematical computation in optics that it can never 1 be 
very precise and exact 2 , since the judgments we make of 
the magnitude of external things do often depend on several 
circumstances which are not proportional to or capable of 
being defined by lines and angles. 

79. From what has been said, we may safely deduce this 
consequence, to wit, that a man born blind, and made to 
see, would, at first opening of his eyes, make a very dif 
ferent judgment of the magnitude of objects intromitted 
by them from what others do. He would not consider the 
ideas of sight with reference to, or as having any connexion 
with, the ideas of touch. His view of them being entirely 
terminated within themselves, he can no otherwise judge 
them great or small than as they contain a greater or lesser 
number of visible points. Now, it being certain that any 
visible point can cover or exclude from view only one 
other visible point, it follows that whatever object intercepts 
the view of another hath an equal number of visible points 
with it; and, consequently, they shall both be thought by 
him to have the same magnitude. Hence, it is evident one 
in those circumstances would judge his thumb, with which 
he might hide a tower, or hinder its being seen, equal to 
that tower ; or his hand, the interposition whereof might 
conceal the firmament from his view, equal to the firma 
ment : how great an inequality soever there may, in our 
apprehensions, seem to be betwixt those two things, be 
cause of the customary and close connexion that has grown 
up in our minds between the objects of sight and touch, 
whereby the very different and distinct ideas of those two 
senses are so blended and confounded together as to be 
mistaken for one and the same thing out of which pre 
judice we cannot easily extricate ourselves. 

1 Never hardly, in first it to be considered, whether the 

edition. said phenomenon is not as clear 

- Cf. Appendix, p. 208. See an instance of the insufficiency of 

Smith s Optics, B. I. ch. v, and faintness as of mathematical com- 

Remarks, p. 56, in which he leaves putation. 


80. For the better explaining the nature of vision, and 
setting the manner wherein we perceive magnitudes in a 
due light, I shall proceed to make some observations con 
cerning matters relating thereto, whereof the want of 
reflection, and duly separating between tangible and visible 
ideas, is apt to create in us mistaken and confused notions. 
And, first, I shall observe, that the minimum visibilc is 
exactly equal in all beings whatsoever that are endowed 
with the visive faculty 1 . 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 anywise consisting of them, it must 
necessarily be the same to all. For, suppose it otherwise, 
arid that the minimum visibilc of a mite, for instance, be 
less than the minimum visibilc of a man ; the latter there 
fore 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 visibilc or point. 

81. It will, perhaps, be objected, that the minimum visi 
bilc of a man doth really and in itself contain parts whereby 
it surpasses that of a mite, though they are not perceivable 
by the man. To which I answer, the minimum visibile 
having (in like manner as all other the proper and imme 
diate objects of sight) been shewn not to have any existence 
without the mind of him who sees it, it follows there cannot 
be any part of it that is not actually perceived and therefore 
visible. Now, for any object to contain several distinct 

1 A favourite doctrine with help of a microscope; consequently 

Berkeley, according to whose there are animals whose whole 

theory of visibles there can be no bodies are far less than the minimum 

absolute visible magnitude, the visibile of a man. Doubtless these 

minimum being the least that is "animals have eyes, and, if their 

perceivable by each seeing subject, minimum visibile were equal to that 

and thus relative to his visual of a man, it would follow that they 

capacity. This section is thus cannot perceive anything but what 

criticised, in January, 1752, in a is much larger than their whole 

letter signed Anti-Berkeley/ in body ; and therefore their own 

the Gent. Mag, (vol. XXII. p. 12) : bodies must be invisible to them, 

Upon what his lordship asserts because we know they are so to 

with respect to the minimum visi- men, whose minimum visibile is 

bile, I would observe that it is asserted by his lordship to be equal 

certain that there are infinite num- to theirs. There is some miscon- 

bers of animals which are imper- ception in this. Cf. Appendix to 

ceptible to the naked eye, and Essay, p. 209 
cannot be perceived but by the 


visible parts, and at the same time to be a minimum visibilc, 
is a manifest contradiction. 

82. Of these visible points we see at all times an equal 
number. It is every whit as great when our view is 
contracted and bounded by near objects as when it is 
extended to larger and remoter ones. For, it being im 
possible that one minimum visibile should obscure or keep 
out of sight more than one other, it is a plain consequence 
that, when my view is on all sides bounded by the walls 
of my study, I see just as many visible points as I could in 
case that, by the removal of the study-walls and all other 
obstructions, I had a full prospect of the circumjacent 
fields, mountains, sea, and open firmament. For, so long 
as I am shut up within the walls, by their interposition 
every point of the external objects is covered from my 
view. But, each point that is seen being able to cover or 
exclude from sight one only other corresponding point, it 
follows that, whilst my sight is confined to those narrow 
walls, I see as many points, or minima visibilia, as I should 
were those walls away, by looking on all the external 
objects whose prospect is intercepted by them. Whenever, 
therefore, we are said to have a greater prospect at one 
time than another, this must be understood with relation, 
not to the proper and immediate, but the secondary and 
mediate objects of vision which, as hath been shewn, do 
properly belong to the touch. 

83. The visive faculty, considered with reference to its 
immediate objects, may be found to labour of two defects. 
First, in respect of the extent or number of visible points 
that are at once perceivable by it, which is narrow and 
limited to a certain degree. It can take in at one view but 
a certain determinate number of minima visibilia, beyond 
which it cannot extend its prospect. Secondly, our sight 
is defective in that its view is not only narrow, but also for 
the most part confused. Of those things that we take in 
at one prospect, we can see but a few at once clearly and 
unconfusedly ; and the more we fix our sight on any one 
object, by so much the darker and more indistinct shall 
the rest appear. 

84. Corresponding to these two defects of sight, we may 
imagine as many perfections, to wit, ist. That of compre 
hending in one view a greater number of visible points; 


2dly. of being able to view them all equally and at once, 
with the utmost clearness and distinction. That those 
perfections are not actually in some intelligences of a 
different order and capacity from ours, it is impossible for 
us to know . 

85. In neither of those two ways do microscopes con 
tribute to the improvement of sight. For, when we look 
through a microscope, we neither see more visible points, 
nor are the collateral points more distinct, than when we 
look with the naked eye at objects placed at a due distance. 
A microscope brings us, as it were, into a new world. It 
presents us with a new scene of visible objects, quite 
different from what we behold with the naked eye. But 
herein consists the most remarkable difference, to wit, that 
whereas the objects perceived by the eye alone have a 
certain connexion with tangible objects, whereby we are 
taught to foresee what will ensue upon the approach or 
application of distant objects to the parts of our own body 
which much conduceth to its preservation 2 there is not 
the like connexion between things tangible and those visible 
objects that are perceived by help of a fine microscope. 

86. Hence, it is evident that, were our eyes turned into 
the nature of microscopes, we should not be much bene- 
fitted by the change. We should be deprived of the fore- 
mentioned advantage we at present receive by the visive 
faculty, and have left us only the empty amusement of 
seeing, without any other benefit arising from it. But, in 
that case, it will perhaps be said, our sight would be endued 
with a far greater sharpness and penetration than it now 
hath. But I would fain know wherein consists that sharp 
ness which is esteemed so great an excellency of sight. It 
is certain, from what we have already shewn 3 , that the 
minimum visibile is never greater or lesser, but in all cases 
constantly the same. And in the case of microscopical 
eyes, I see only this difference, to wit, that upon the ceasing 
of a certain observable connexion betwixt the divers per 
ceptions of sight and touch, which before enabled us to 

1 Those two defects belong to needful to assist finite intuition, 

human consciousness. See Locke s Reasoning is the sign at once of 

Essay, II. 10, on the defects of our dignity and our weakness, 

human memory. It is this imper- <J Sect. 59. 

fection which makes reasoning y Sect. 80-82. 


regulate our actions by the eye, it would now be rendered 
utterly unserviceable to that purpose. 

87. Upon the whole, it seems that if we consider the use 
and end of sight, together with the present state and 
circumstances of our being, we shall not find any great 
cause to complain of any defect or imperfection in it, or 
easily conceive how it could be mended. With such ad 
mirable wisdom is that faculty contrived, both for the 
pleasure and convenience of life. 

88. Having finished what I intended to say concerning 
the Distance and Magnitude of objects, I come now to treat 
of the manner wherein the mind perceives by sight their 
Situation . Among the discoveries of the last age, it is 
reputed none of the least, that the manner of vision has been 
more clearly explained than ever it had been before. 
There is, at this day, no one ignorant that the pictures of 
external objects are painted on the retina or fund of the 
eye ; that we can see nothing which is not so painted ; and 
that, according as the picture is more distinct or confused, 
so also is the perception we have of the object 2 . But then, 
in this explication of vision, there occurs one mighty diffi 
culty, viz. the objects are painted in an inverted order on the 
bottom of the eye : the upper part of any object being 
painted on the lower part of the eye, and the lower part of the 
object on the upper part of the eye; and so also as to right 
and left. Since therefore the pictures are thus inverted, it 
is demanded, how it comes to pass that we see the objects 
erect and in their natural posture ? 

89. In answer to this difficulty, we are told that the mind, 
perceiving an impulse of a ray of light on the upper part of 
the eye, considers this ray as coming in a direct line from 
the lower part of the object ; and, in like manner, tracing 
the ray that strikes on the lower part of the eye, it is 
directed to the upper part of the object. Thus, in the adjacent 
figure, C, the lower point of the object ABC, is projected on 
c the upper part of the eye. So likewise, the highest point A 
is projected on a the lowest part of the eye ; which makes the 
representation cba inverted. But the mind considering 

1 Sect.SS-iiQrelatetothenature, of tangible things. Cf. Theory of 
invisibility, and arbitrary visual Vision Vindicated, sect. 44-53. 
ngns of Situation, orof the localities - Cf. sect. 2, 114, 116, 118. 



the stroke that is made on c as coming in the straight line 
Cc from the lower end of the object; and the stroke or 
impulse on a, as coming in the line Aa from the upper end 
of the object is directed to make a right judgment of the 
situation of the object ABC, notwithstanding the picture 
of it be inverted. Moreover, this is illustrated by con 
ceiving a blind man, who, holding in his hands two sticks 
that cross each other, doth with them touch the extremities 
of an object, placed in a perpendicular situation l . It is cer 
tain this man will judge that to be the upper part of the 
object which he touches with the stick held in the under 
most hand, and that to be the lower part of the object 

which he touches with the stick in his uppermost hand. 
This is the common explication of the erect appearance of 
objects, which is generally received and acquiesced in, 
being (as Mr. Molyneux tells us, Diopt. part ii. ch. vii. p. 289) 
allowed by all men as satisfactory. 

90. But this account to me does not seem in any degree 
true. Did I perceive those impulses, decussations, and 
directions of the rays of light, in like manner as hath been 
set forth, then, indeed, it would not at first view be alto 
gether void of probability. And there might be some pre 
tence for the comparison of the blind man and his cross 
sticks. But the case is far otherwise. I know very well 
that I perceive no such thing. And, of consequence, I 
cannot thereby make an estimate of the situation of objects. 
Moreover, I appeal to any one s experience, whether he be 
conscious to himself that he thinks on the intersection made 
by the radius pencils, or pursues the impulses they give in 
right lines, whenever he perceives by sight the position of 

1 This illustration is taken from Descartes. See Appendix. 


any object ? To me it seems evident that crossing and 
tracing of the rays, &c. is never thought on by children, 
idiots, or, in truth, by any other, save only those who have 
applied themselves to the study of optics. And for the 
mind to judge of the situation of objects by those things 
without perceiving them, or to perceive them without 
knowing it , take which you please, it is perfectly beyond 
my comprehension. Add to this, that the explaining the 
manner of vision by the example of cross sticks, and 
hunting for the object along the axes of the radius pencils, 
doth suppose the proper objects of sight to be perceived at 
a distance from us, contrary to what hath been demonstrated 2 . 
[We may therefore venture to pronounce this opinion, con 
cerning the way wherein the mind perceives the erect 
appearance of objects, to be of a piece with those other 
tenets of writers in optics, which in the foregoing parts of 
this treatise we have had occasion to examine and refute 3 .] 

91. It remains, therefore, that we look for some other 
explication of this difficulty. And I believe it not im 
possible 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 4 . 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. 

92. In order to disentangle our minds from whatever 
prejudices we may entertain with relation to the subject in 
hand, nothing seems more apposite than the taking into our 
thoughts the case of one born blind, and afterwards, when 
grown up, made to see. And though perhaps it may not 
be a task altogether easy and familiar to us, to divest our 
selves entirely of the experiences received from sight, so 
as to be able to put our thoughts exactly in the posture of 
such a one s we must, nevertheless, as far as possible, en 
deavour to frame true conceptions of what might reason 
ably be supposed to pass in his mind r> . 

1 Sect. 10 and 19. solvent of the psychological difficul- 

- Sect. 2-51. ties involved in visual-perception. 

3 Omitted in author s last edition. Cf. sect. 103, 106, no, 128, &c. 

4 This is Berkeley s universal 


93. It is certain that a man actually blind, and who had 
continued so from his birth, would, by the sense of feeling, 
attain to have ideas of upper and lower. By the motion 
of his hand, he might discern the situation of any tangible 
object placed within his reach. That part on which he 
felt himself supported, or towards which he perceived his 
body to gravitate, he would term lower, and the contrary 
to this upper] and accordingly denominate whatsoever 
objects he touched. 

94. But then, whatever judgments he makes concerning 
the situation of objects are confined to those only that are 
perceivable by touch. All those things that are intangible, 
and of a spiritual nature his thoughts and desires, his 
passions, and in general all the modifications of his soul 
to these he would never apply the terms upper and lower, 
except only in a metaphorical sense. He may perhaps, by 
way of allusion, speak of high or low thoughts : but those 
terms, in their proper signification, would never be applied 
to anything that was not conceived to exist without the 
mind. For, a man born blind, and remaining in the same 
state, could mean nothing else by the words higher and 
lower than a greater or lesser distance from the earth ; 
which distance he would measure by the motion or appli 
cation of his hand, or some other part of his body. It is, 
therefore, evident that all those things which, in respect 
of each other, would by him be thought higher or lower, 
must be such as were conceived to exist without his mind, 
in the ambient space 1 . 

95. Whence it plainly follows, that such a one, if we 
suppose him made to see, would not at first sight think 
that anything he saw was high or low, erect or inverted. 
For, it hath been already demonstrated, in sect, 41, that he 
would not think the things he perceived by sight to be at 
any distance from him, or without his mind. The objects 
to which he had hitherto been used to apply the terms up 
and down, high and low, were such only as affected, or 
were some way perceived by his touch. But the proper 

Berkeley treats this case hypotheti- ever the Appendix, and Theory 

cally in the Essay, in defect of of Vision Vindicated, sect. 71. 

actual experiments upon the born- 1 i. e. tangible things. Cf. Prin- 

blind, since accumulated from c/ples, sect. 44. 
Cheselden downwards. See how- 


objects of vision make a new set of ideas, perfectly distinct 
and different from the former, and which can in no sort 
make themselves perceived by touch. There is, therefore, 
nothing at all that could induce him to think those terms 
applicable to them. Nor would he ever think it, till such 
time as he had observed their connexion with tangible 
objects, and the same prejudice 1 began to insinuate itself 
into his understanding, which, from their infancy, had 
grown up in the understandings of other men. 

96. To set this matter in a clearer light, I shall make 
use of an example. Suppose the above-mentioned blind 
person, by his touch, perceives a man to stand erect. Let 
us inquire into the manner of this. By the application of 
his hand to the several parts of a human body, he had 
perceived different tangible ideas ; which being collected 
into sundry complex ones - have distinct names annexed to 
them. Thus, one combination of a certain tangible figure, 
bulk, and consistency of parts is called the head ; another 
the hand ; a third the foot, and so of the rest all which 
complex ideas could, in his understanding, be made up 
only of ideas perceivable by touch. He had also, by his 
touch, obtained an idea of earth or ground, towards which 
he perceives the parts of his body to have a natural 
tendency. Now by erect nothing more being meant 
than that perpendicular position of a man wherein his feet 
are nearest to the earth if the blind person, by moving 
his hand over the parts of the man who stands before him, 
do perceive the tangible ideas that compose the head to be 
farthest from, and those that compose the feet to be near 
est to, that other combination of tangible ideas which he 
calls earth, he will denominate that man erect. But, if we 
suppose him on a sudden to receive his sight, and that he 
behold a man standing before him, it is evident, in that 
case, he would neither judge the man he sees to be erect 
nor inverted ; for he, never having known those terms 
applied to any other save tangible things, or which existed 
in the space without him, and what he sees neither being 
tangible, nor perceived as existing without, he could not 

1 The prejudice, to wit, which 2 Thus forming individual con- 
Berkeley would dissolve by his crete things out of what is per- 
introspective analysis of vision. Cf. ceived separately through different 
Theory of Vision Vindicated, sect. 35. senses. 


know that, in propriety of language, they were applicable 
to it. 

97. Afterwards, when, upon turning his head or eyes up 
and down to the right and left, he shall observe the visible 
objects to change, and shall also attain to know that they 
are called by the same names, and connected with the 
objects perceived by touch ; then, indeed, he will come to 
speak of them and their situation in the same terms that 
he has been used to apply to tangible things : and those 
that he perceives by turning up his eyes he will call upper, 
and those that by turning down his eyes he will call lower. 

98. And this seems to me the true reason why he should 
think those objects uppermost that are painted on the 
lower part of his eye. For, by turning the eye up they 
shall be distinctly seen ; as likewise they that are painted 
on the highest part of the eye shall be distinctly seen by 
turning the eye down, and are for that reason esteemed 
lowest. For we have shewn that to the immediate objects 
of sight, considered in themselves, he would not attribute 
the terms high and low. It must therefore be on account 
of some circumstances which are observed to attend them. 
And these, it is plain, are the actions of turning the eye up 
and down, which suggest a very obvious reason why the 
mind should denominate the objects of sight accordingly 
high or low. And, without this motion of the eye this 
turning it up and down in order to discern different 
objects doubtless erect, inverse, and other the like terms 
relating to the position of tangible objects, would never 
have been transferred, or in any degree apprehended 
to belong to the ideas of sight, the mere act of seeing 
including nothing in it to that purpose; whereas the dif 
ferent situations of the eye naturally direct the mind to 
make a suitable judgment of the situation of objects intro- 
mitted by it ] . 

99. Farther, when he has by experience learned the 
connexion there is between the several ideas of sight and 
touch, he will be able, by the perception he has of the 
situation of visible things in respect of one another, to 
make a sudden and true estimate of the situation of out 
ward, tangible things corresponding to them. And thus 

1 This briefly is Berkeley s solu- images, which long puzzled men 
tion of the knot about inverted of science. 


it is he shall perceive ! by sight the situation of external 2 
objects, which do not properly fall under that sense. 

100. I know we are very prone to think that, if just made 
to see, we should judge of the situation of visible things as 
we do now. But, we are also as prone to think that, at 
first sight, we should in the same way apprehend the 
distance and magnitude of objects, as we do now; which 
hath been shewn to be a false and groundless persuasion. 
And, for the like reasons, the same censure may be passed 
on the positive assurance that most men, before they have 
thought sufficiently of the matter, might have of their being 
able to determine by the eye, at first view, whether objects 
were erect or inverse. 

101. It will perhaps be objected to our opinion, that a 
man, for instance, being thought erect when his feet are 
next the earth, and inverted when his head is next the 
earth, it doth hence follow that, by the mere act of vision, 
without any experience or altering the situation of the eye, 
we should have determined whether he were erect or in 
verted. For both the earth itself, and the limbs of the 
man who stands thereon, being equally perceived by sight, 
one cannot choose seeing what pare of the man is nearest 
the earth, and what part farthest from it, i.e. whether he 
be erect or inverted. 

102. To which I answer, the ideas which constitute the 
tangible earth and man are entirely different from those 
which constitute the visible earth and man. Nor was it 
possible, by virtue of the visive faculty alone, without 
superadding any experience of touch, or altering the 
position of the eye, ever to have known, or so much as 
suspected, there had been any relation or connexion be 
tween them. Hence, a man at first view would not 
denominate anything he saw, eartli, or licad, or foot] 
and consequently, he could not tell, by the mere act of 
vision, whether the head or feet were nearest the earth. 
Nor, indeed, would we have thereby any thought of earth 
or man, erect or inverse, at all which will be made yet 

1 i. c. perceive mediately visible Mow, great and inverted, in 

objects, per se, having no tactual the real or tactual meaning of those 

situation. Purevision,hewouldsay, terms, 
has nothing to do with high and 2 i. c. tangible. 



more evident, if we nicely observe, and make a particular 
comparison between, the ideas of both senses. 

103. That which I see is only variety of light and 
colours. That which I feel is hard or soft, hot or cold, 
rough or smooth. What similitude, what connexion, have 
those ideas with these? Or, how is it possible that any 
one should see reason to give one and the same name to 
combinations of ideas so very different, before he had 
experienced their co-existence ? We do not find there is 
any necessary connexion betwixt this or that tangible 
quality, and any colour whatsoever. And we may some 
times perceive colours, where there is nothing to be felt. 
All which doth make it manifest that no man, at first 
receiving of his sight 2 , would know there was any agree 
ment between this or that particular object of his sight and 
any object of touch he had been already acquainted with. 
The colours therefore of the head would to him no more 
suggest the idea of head 3 than they would the idea of feet. 

104. Farther, we have at large shewn (vid. sect. 63 and 
64) there is no discoverable necessary connexion between 
any given visible magnitude and any one particular tangible 
magnitude ; but that it is entirely the result of custom and 
experience, and depends on foreign and accidental circum 
stances, that we can, by the perception of visible extension, 
inform ourselves what may be the extension of any tangible 
object connected with it. Hence, it is certain, that neither 
the visible magnitude of head or foot would bring along 
with them into the mind, at first opening of the eyes, the 
respective tangible magnitudes of those parts. 

105. By the foregoing section, it is plain the visible figure 
of any part of the body hath no necessary connexion with 
the tangible figure thereof, so as at first sight to suggest it 
to the mind. For, figure is the termination of magnitude. 
Whence it follows that no visible magnitude having in its 
own nature an aptness to suggest any one particular tangible 
magnitude, so neither can any visible figure be inseparably 
connected with its corresponding tangible figure, so as of 
itself, and in a way prior to experience, it might suggest it 

1 e. g. extension, which, ac- tciMgibilia. Cf. sect. 139, 140. 

cording to Berkeley, is an equi- - Cf. sect. 93, 106, no, 128. 

vocal term, common (in its dif- 3 i. e. real or tangible head, 
ferent meanings) to visibilia and 


to the understanding. This will be farther evident, if we 
consider that what seems smooth and round to the touch 
may to sight, if viewed through a microscope, seem quite 

106. From all which, laid together and duly considered, 
we may clearly deduce this inference : In the first act 
of vision, no idea entering by the eye would have a perceiv 
able connexion with the ideas to which the names earth, 
man, head, foot, &c. were annexed in the understanding of 
a person blind from his birth ; so as in any sort to intro 
duce them into his mind, or make themselves be called by 
the same names, and reputed the same things with them, 
as afterwards they come to be. 

107. There doth, nevertheless, remain one difficulty, 
which to some may seem to press hard on our opinion, and 
deserve not to be passed over. For, though it be granted 
that neither the colour, size, nor figure of the visible feet 
have any necessary connexion with the ideas that compose 
the tangible feet, so as to bring them at first sight into 
my mind, or make me in danger of confounding them, be 
fore I had been used to and for some time experienced 
their connexion ; yet thus much seems undeniable, namely, 
that the number of the visible feet being the same with that 
of the tangible feet, I may from hence, without any 
experience of sight, reasonably conclude that they repre 
sent or are connected with the feet rather than the head. 
I say, it seems the idea of two visible feet will sooner suggest 
to the mind the idea of two tangible feet than of one head 
so that the blind man, upon first reception of the visive 
faculty, might know which were the feet or two, and which 
the head or one. 

108. In order to get clear of this seeming difficulty, we 
need only observe that diversity of visible objects does not 
necessarily infer diversity of tangible objects corresponding 
to them. A picture painted with great variety of colours 
affects the touch in one uniform manner ; it is therefore 
evident that I do not, by any necessary consecution, inde 
pendent of experience, judge of the number of things tan 
gible from the number of things visible. I should not there 
fore at first opening my eyes conclude that because I see 
two I shall feel two. How, therefore, can I, before ex 
perience teaches me, know that the visible legs, because 

N 2 


two, are connected with the tangible legs ; or the visible head, 
because one, is connected with the tangible head ? The 
truth is, the things I see are so very different and heteroge 
neous from the things I feel that the perception of the one 
would never have suggested the other to my thoughts, or 
enabled me to pass the least judgment thereon, until I had 
experienced their connexion \ 

109. But, for a fuller illustration of this matter, it ought 
to be considered, that number (however some may reckon 
it amongst the primary qualities 2 ) is nothing fixed and 
settled, really existing in things themselves. It is entirely 
the creature of the mind, considering either a simple idea 
by itself, or any combination of simple ideas to which it 
gives one name, and so makes it pass for a unit. Accord 
ing as the mind variously combines its ideas, the unit 
varies ; and as the unit, so the number, which is only a 
collection of units, doth also vary. We call a window one, 
a chimney one; and yet a house, in which there are many 
windows and many chimneys, has an equal right to be 
called one ; and many houses go to the making of one city. 
In these and the like instances, it is evident the unit con 
stantly relates to the particular draughts the mind makes 
of its ideas, to which it affixes names, and wherein it 

1 Cf. sect. 140, 143. In the Gent. affected his sight differently from 

Mag. (vol. XXII. p. 12), Anti- the rest of the fingers; upon moving 

Berkeley thus argues the case of his fingers he would see the joints, 

one born blind. This man, he Though therefore, by means of this 

adds, would, by being accustomed lately acquired sense of seeing, the 

to feel one hand with the other, object affected his mind in a new 

have perceived that the extremity and different manner from what it 

of the hand was divided into fingers did before, yet, as by touch he had 

that the extremities of these acquired the knowledge of these 

fingers were distinguished by cer- several divisions, marks, and dis- 

tain hard, smooth surfaces, of a tinctions of the hand, and, as the 

different texture from the rest of new object of sight appeared to be 

the fingers and that each finger divided, marked, and distinguished 

had certain joints or flexures. Now, in a similar manner, I think he 

if this man was restored to sight, would certainly conclude, before he 

and immediately viewed his hand touched his hand, that the thing 

before he touched it again, it is which he now saw was the same 

manifest that the divisions of the which he had felt before and called 

extremity of the hand into fingers his hand. 

would be visibly perceived. He 2 Locke, Essay, II. 8, 16. Aris- 

would note too the small spaces at totle regards number as a Common 

the extremity of each finger, which Sensible. De Anima, II. 6, III. i. 


includes more or less, as best suits its own ends and pur 
poses. Whatever therefore the mind considers as one, 
that is an unit. Every combination of ideas is considered as 
one thing by the mind, and in token thereof is marked by 
one name. Now, this naming and combining together of 
ideas is perfectly arbitrary, and done by the mind in such 
sort as experience shews it to be most convenient without 
which our ideas had never been collected into such sundry 
distinct combinations as they now are. 

no. Hence, it follows that a man born blind, and after 
wards, when grown up, made to see, would not, in the first act 
of vision, parcel out the ideas of sight into the same distinct 
collections that others do who have experienced which do 
regularly co-exist and are proper to be bundled up together 
under one name. He would not, for example, make into 
one complex idea, and thereby esteem and unite all those 
particular ideas which constitute the visible head or foot. 
For, there can be no reason assigned why he should do so, 
barely upon his seeing a man stand upright before him. 
There crowd into his mind the ideas which compose the 
visible man, in company with all the other ideas of sight 
perceived at the same time. But, all these ideas offered 
at once to his view he would not distribute into sundry 
distinct combinations, till such time as, by observing the 
motion of the parts of the man and other experiences, he 
comes to know which are to be separated and which to be col 
lected together . 

in. From what hath been premised, it is plain the 
objects of sight and touch make, if I may so say, two sets 
of ideas, which are widely different from each other. To 
objects of either kind we indifferently attribute the terms 
high and low, right and left, and such like, denoting the 
position or situation of things ; but then we must well 
observe that the position of any object is determined with 
respect only to objects of the same sense. We say any 
object of touch is high or low, according as it is more or 
less distant from the tangible earth : and in like manner we 

1 If the visible appearance of and readily have signified the unity 

two shillings had been found con- of the (tangible) object as it now 

nected from the beginning with signifies its duplicity. Reid, />/- 

the tangible idea of one shilling, quiry,Vl. n. 
that appearance would as naturally 


denominate any object of sight high or low, in proportion 
as it is more or less distant from the visible earth. But, 
to define the situation of visible things with relation to the 
distance they bear from any tangible thing, or vice versa, 
this were absurd and perfectly unintelligible. For all 
visible things are equally in the mind, and take up no part 
of the external space ; and consequently are equidistant 
from any tangible thing which exists without the mind l . 

112. Or rather, to speak truly, the proper objects of sight 
are at no distance, neither near nor far from any tangible 
thing. For, if we inquire narrowly into the matter, we 
shall find that those things only are compared together in 
respect of distance which exist after the same manner, or 
appertain unto the same sense. For, by the distance be 
tween any two points, nothing more is meant than the 
number of intermediate points. If the given points are 
visible, the distance between them is marked out by the 
number of the interjacent visible points ; if they are tangible, 
the distance between them is a line consisting of tangible 
points; but, if they are one tangible and the other visible, 
the distance between them doth neither consist of points 
perceivable by sight nor by touch, i.e. it is utterly inconceiv 
able 2 . This, perhaps, will not find an easy admission into 
all men s understanding. However, I should gladly be 
informed whether it be not true, by any one who will be 
at the pains to reflect a little, and apply it home to his 

113. The not observing what has been delivered in the 
two last sections, seems to have occasioned no small part 
of the difficulty that occurs in the business of direct ap 
pearances. The head, which is painted nearest the earth, 
seems to be farthest from it ; and on the other hand, the 
feet, which are painted farthest from the earth, are thought 
nearest to it. Herein lies the difficulty, which vanishes if 
we express the thing more clearly and free from ambiguity, 
thus : How comes it that, to the eye, the visible head, 
which is nearest the tangible earth, seems farthest from the 

1 Here again note Berkeley s be real without mind. Cf. Prin- 

inconvenient reticence of his full ciples, sect. 43, 44. Without the 

theory of matter, as dependent on mind in contrast to sensuous 

percipient life for its reality. Tan- phenomenon only, 

gible things are meantime granted to 2 Cf. sect. 131. 


earth ; and the visible feet, which are farthest from the 
tangible earth, seem nearest the earth? The question 
being thus proposed, who sees not the difficulty is founded 
on a supposition that the eye or visive faculty, or rather 
the soul by means thereof, should judge of the situation of 
visible objects with reference to their distance from the 
tangible earth ? Whereas, it is evident the tangible earth 
is not perceived by sight. And it hath been shewn, in the 
two last preceding sections, that the location of visible 
objects is determined only by the distance they bear from 
one another, and that it is nonsense to talk of distance, far 
or near, between a visible and tangible thing. 

114. If we confine our thoughts to the proper objects of 
sight, the whole is plain and easy. The head is painted 
farthest from, and the feet nearest to, the visible earth ; 
and so they appear to be. What is there strange or un 
accountable in this ? Let us suppose the pictures in the 
fund of the eye to be the immediate objects of sight \ The 
consequence is that things should appear in the same 
posture they are painted in ; and is it not so ? The head 
which is seen seems farthest from the earth which is seen ; 
and the feet which are seen seem nearest to the earth 
which is seen. And just so they are painted. 

115. But, say you, the picture of the man is inverted, 
and yet the appearance is erect. I ask, what mean you by 
the picture of the man, or, which is the same thing, the 
visible man s being inverted ? You tell me it is inverted, 
because the heels are uppermost and the head undermost ? 
Explain me this. You say that by the head s being under 
most, you mean that it is nearest to the earth ; and, by the 
heels being uppermost, that they are farthest from the 
earth. I ask again, what earth you mean ? You cannot 
mean the earth that is painted on the eye or the visible 
earth for the picture of the head is farthest from the 
picture of the earth, and the picture of the feet nearest to 
the picture of the earth ; and accordingly the visible head 
is farthest from the visible earth, and the visible feet 
nearest to it. It remains, therefore, that you mean the 
tangible earth ; and so determine the situation of visible 
things with respect to tangible things contrary to what 
hath been demonstrated in sect, in and 112. The two 

1 Sect. 2,88, 116, 118. 


distinct provinces of sight and touch should be considered 
apart, and as though their objects had no intercourse, no 
manner of relation to one another, in point of distance or 
position \ 

116. Farther, what greatly contributes to make us 
mistake in this matter is that, when we think of the pictures 
in the fund of the eye, we imagine ourselves looking on the 
fund of another s eye, or another looking on the fund of 
our own eye, and beholding the pictures painted thereon. 
Suppose two eyes, A and B. A from some distance 
looking on the pictures in B sees them inverted, and for 
that reason concludes they are inverted in B. But this is 
wrong. There are projected in little on the bottom of A 
the images of the pictures of, suppose, man, earth, &c., 
which are painted on B. And, besides these, the eye B 
itself, and the objects which environ it, together with 
another earth, are projected in a larger size on A. Now, 
by the eye A these larger images are deemed the true 
objects, and the lesser only pictures in miniature. And it 
is with respect to those greater images that it determines 
the situation of the smaller images ; so that, comparing the 
little man with the great earth, A judges him inverted, or 
that the feet are farthest from and the head nearest to the 
great earth. Whereas, if A compare the little man with 
the little earth, then he will appear erect, / . e. his head 
shall seem farthest from and his feet nearest to the little 
earth. But we must consider that B does not see two 
earths as A does. It sees only what is represented by 
.the little pictures in A, and consequently shall judge the 
man erect. For, in truth, the man in B is not inverted, 
for there the feet are next the earth ; but it is the repre 
sentation of it in A which is inverted, for there the head of 
the representation of the picture of the man in B is next 
the earth, and the feet farthest from the earth meaning 
the earth which is without the representation of the pictures 
in B. For, if you take the little images of the pictures in 
B, and consider them by themselves, and with respect 
only to one another, they are all erect and in their natural 

1 In short, we see only quantities down, right and left, &c., being 
of colour the real or tactual dis- gradually associated with the various 
tance ; size, shape, locality, up and visible modifications of colour. 


117. Farther, there lies a mistake in our imagining that 
the pictures of external l objects are painted on the bottom 
of the eye. It has been shewn there is no resemblance 
between the ideas of sight and things tangible. It hath 
likewise been demonstrated 2 , that the proper objects of sight 
do not exist without the mind. Whence it clearly follows 
that the pictures painted on the bottom of the eye are not 
the pictures of external 1 objects. Let any one consult his 
own thoughts, and then tell me, what affinity, what likeness, 
there is between that certain variety and disposition of 
colours which constitute the visible man, or picture of 
a man, and that other combination of far different ideas, 
sensible by touch, which compose the tangible man. But, 
if this be the case, how come they to be accounted pictures 
or images, since that supposes them to copy or represent 
some originals or other? 

118. To which I answer In the forementioned instance, 
the eye A takes the little images, included within the 
representation of the other eye B, to be pictures or copies, 
whereof the archetypes are not things existing without", 
but the larger pictures 4 projected on its own fund; and 
which by A are not thought pictures, but the originals or 
true things themselves. Though if we suppose a third eye 
C, from a due distance, to behold the fund of A, then 
indeed the things projected thereon shall, to C, seem 
pictures or images, in the same sense that those projected 
on B do to A. 

119. Rightly to conceive the business in hand, we must 
carefully distinguish between the ideas of sight and touch, 
between the visible and tangible eye ; for certainly on the 
tangible eye nothing either is or seems to be painted. 
Again, the visible eye, as well as all other visible objects, 
hath been shewn to exist only in the mind ; which, 
perceiving its own ideas, and comparing them together, 
does call some pictures in respect to others. What hath 
been said, being rightly comprehended and laid together, 
does, I think, afford a full and genuine explication of the 
erect appearance of objects which phenomenon, I must 

1 i.e. tangible. r Cf. sect. 41-44. The eyes 

2 Sect. 41-44. visible and tangible are them- 

3 i.e. tangible things. selves objects of sense. 

4 i.e. visible. 


confess, I do not see how it can be explained by any 
theories of vision hitherto made public. 

120. In treating of these things, the use of language is 
apt to occasion some obscurity and confusion, and create 
in us wrong ideas. For, language being accommodated to 
the common notions and prejudices of men, it is scarce 
possible to deliver the naked and precise truth, without 
great circumlocution, impropriety, and (to an unwary 
reader) seeming contradictions. I do, therefore, once for 
all, desire whoever shall think it worth his while to under 
stand what I have written concerning vision, that he would 
not stick in this or that phrase or manner of expression, 
but candidly collect my meaning from the whole sum and 
tenor of my discourse, and, laying aside the words l as 
much as possible, consider the bare notions themselves, 
and then judge whether they are agreeable to truth and his 
own experience or no. 

121. We have shewn the way wherein the mind, by 
mediation of visible ideas 2 , doth perceive or apprehend the 
distance, magnitude, and situation of tangible objects 3 . 
I come now to inquire more particularly concerning the 
difference between the ideas of sight and touch which are 
called by the same names, and see whether there be any 
idea common to both senses 4 . From what we have at large 
set forth and demonstrated in the foregoing parts of this 
treatise, it is plain there is no one self-same numerical 
extension, perceived both by sight and touch ; but that the 
particular figures and extensions perceived by sight, how 
ever they may be called by the same names, and reputed 
the same things with those perceived by touch, are never 
theless different, and have an existence very distinct and 

1 Cf. Principles, Introduction, sibles ; and, in particular, whether 

sect. 21-25. an extension of the same kind at 

" Visible ideas including sen- least, if not numerically the same, 

sations muscular and locomotive, is presented in each. The Kantian 

felt in the organ of vision. Sect. theory of an a priori intuition of 

16, 27, 57. space, the common condition of 

:! i.e. objects which, in this tenta- tactual and visual experience, be- 

tive Essay, are granted, for argu- cause implied in sense-experience 

ment s sake, to be external, or inde- as such, is not conceived by Berke- 

pendent of percipient mind. ley. Cf. Theory of Vision Vindi- 

4 i.e. to inquire whether there cated, sect. 15. 
are, in this instance, Common Sen- 


separate from them. So that the question is not now 
concerning the same numerical ideas, but whether there be 
any one and the same sort or species of ideas equally 
perceivable to both senses? or, in other words, whether 
extension, figure, and motion perceived by sight, are not 
specifically distinct from extension, figure, and motion 
perceived by touch ? 

122. But, before I come more particularly to discuss 
this matter, I find it proper to take into my thoughts exten 
sion in abstract 1 . For of this there is much talk; and 
I am apt to think that when men speak of extension as 
being an idea common to two senses, it is with a secret 
supposition that we can single out extension from all other 
tangible and visible qualities, and form thereof an abstract 
idea, which idea they will have common both to sight and 
touch. We are therefore to understand by extension in 
abstract, an idea 2 of extension for instance, a line or 
surface entirely stripped of all other sensible qualities and 
circumstances that might determine it to any particular 
existence; it is neither black, nor white, nor red, nor 
hath it any colour at all, or any tangible quality whatso 
ever, and consequently it is of no finite determinate mag 
nitude 1 5 ; for that which bounds or distinguishes one ex 
tension from another is some quality or circumstance 
wherein they disagree. 

123. Now, I do not find that I can perceive, imagine, 
or anywise frame in my mind such an abstract idea as is 
here spoken of. A line or surface which is neither black, 
nor white, nor blue, nor yellow, &c. ; nor long, nor short, 
nor rough, nor smooth, nor square, nor round, &c. is 
perfectly incomprehensible. This I am sure of as to 
myself; how far the faculties of other men may reach 
they best can tell. 

124. It is commonly said that the object of geometry is 

In the following reasoning phron, VII. 5-8. Defence of Free 

against abstract, as distinguished Thinkingin M atlic mafics, sect. 45-48. 

from concrete or sense presented 2 Berkeley s ideas are concrete or 

(visible or tangible) extension, Ber- particular immediate data of sense 

keley urges some of his favourite or imagination, 

objections to abstract ideas/ fully " i. e. it cannot be individualized, 

unfolded in his Principles, Intro- either as a perceived oran imagined 

duction, sect. 6-20. See also A lei- object. 


abstract extension. But geometry contemplates figures : 
now, figure is the termination of magnitude l ; but we 
have shewn that extension in abstract hath no finite 
determinate magnitude ; whence it clearly follows that 
it can have no figure, and consequently is not the object 
of geometry. It is indeed a tenet, as well of the modern 
as the ancient philosophers, that all general truths are 
concerning universal abstract ideas; without which, we 
are told, there could be no science, no demonstration of 
any general proposition in geometry. But it were no 
hard matter, did I think it necessary to my present pur 
pose, to shew that propositions and demonstrations in 
geometry might be universal, though they who make 
them never think of abstract general ideas of triangles 
or circles. 

125. After reiterated efforts and pangs of thought 2 to 
apprehend the general idea of a triangle 3 , I have found 
it altogether incomprehensible. And surely, if any one 
were able to let that idea into my mind, it must be 
the author 4 of the Essay concerning Human Un 
derstanding: he, who has so far distinguished himself 
from the generality of writers, by the clearness and sig- 
nificancy of what he says. Let us therefore see how 
this celebrated author" 1 describes the general or [which 
is the same thing, the 6 ] abstract idea of a triangle. It 
must be, says he, neither oblique nor rectangle, neither 
equilateral, equicrural, nor scalenum ; but all and none of 
these at once. In effect it is somewhat imperfect that can 
not exist ; an idea, wherein some parts of several different 
and inconsistent ideas are put together. (Essay on Human 
Understanding, B. iv. ch. 7. s. 9.) This is the idea which 
he thinks needful for the enlargement of knowledge, which 
is the subject of mathematical demonstration, and without 
which we could never come to know any general proposi- 

1 Sect. 105. " this celebrated author, that 

- Endeavours in first edition. great man in second edition. In 

3 i. e. a mental image of an ab- assailing Locke s abstract idea, he 
straction, an impossible image, discharges the meaning which 
in which the extension and com- Locke intended by the term, and 
prehension of the notion must be then demolishes his own fig- 
adequately pictured. ment. 

4 deservedly admired author, in 6 Omitted in the author s last 
the first edition. edition. 


tion concerning triangles. [Sure I am, if this be the case, 
it is impossible for me to attain to know even the first 
elements of geometry : since I have not the faculty to 
frame in my mind such an idea as is here described 1 .) 
That author acknowledges it doth require some pains 
and skill to form this general idea of a triangle. (Ibid.} 
But, had he called to mind what he says in another place, to 
wit, that ideas of mixed modes wherein any inconsistent 
ideas are put together, cannot so much as exist in the 
mind, i.e. be conceived/ (vid. B. iii. ch. 10. s. 33, ibid.} 
I say, had this occurred to his thoughts, it is not im 
probable he would have owned it above all the pains and 
skill he was master of, to form the above-mentioned idea 
of a triangle, which is made up of manifest staring contra 
dictions. That a man [of such a clear understanding 2 J, 
who thought so much and so well, and laid so great 
a stress on clear and determinate ideas, should neverthe 
less talk at this rate, seems very surprising. But the 
wonder will lessen, if it be considered that the source 
whence this opinion [of abstract figures and extension 3 ] 
flows is the prolific womb which has brought forth in 
numerable errors and difficulties, in all parts of philosophy, 
and in all the sciences. But this matter, taken in its full 
extent, were a subject too vast and comprehensive to be 
insisted on in this place 4 . [I shall only observe that 
your metaphysicians and men of speculation seem to 
have faculties distinct from those of ordinary men, when 
they talk of general or abstracted triangles and circles, &c., 
and so peremptorily declare them to be the subject of 
all the eternal, immutable, universal truths in geometry 5 .] 
And so much for extension in abstract. 

126. Some, perhaps, may think pure space, vacuum, or 
trine dimension, to be equally the object of sight and 
touch 6 . But, though we have a very great propension 
to think the ideas of outness and space to be the im 
mediate object of sight, yet, if I mistake not, in the 
foregoing parts of this Essay, that hath been clearly de- 

1 Omitted in last edition. Omitted in author s last edition. 

Omitted in last edition. " He probably has Locke in his 

3 Omitted in last edition. eye. 

4 See Principles, passim. 


monstrated to be a mere delusion, arising from the quick 
and sudden suggestion of fancy, which so closely connects 
the idea of distance with those of sight, that we are apt 
to think it is itself a proper and immediate object of that 
sense, till reason corrects the mistake \ 

127. It having been shewn that there are no abstract 
ideas of figure, and that it is impossible for us, by any 
precision of thought, to frame an idea of extension separate 
from all other visible and tangible qualities, which shall be 
common both to sight and touch the question now re 
maining is 2 , whether the particular extensions, figures, 
and motions perceived by sight, be of the same kind with 
the particular extensions, figures, and motions perceived 
by touch? In answer to which I shall venture to lay 
down the following proposition : The extension, figures, 
and motions perceived by sight are specifically distinct from 
the ideas of touch, called by me same names ; nor is there any 
such thing as one idea, or kind of idea, common 3 to both 
senses. This proposition may, without much difficulty, 
be collected from what hath been said in several places 
of this Essay. But, because it seems so remote from, 
and contrary to the received notions and settled opinion 
of mankind, I shall attempt to demonstrate it more par 
ticularly and at large by the following arguments : 

128. [First*,] When, upon perception of an idea, I range 
it under this or that sort, it is because it is perceived after 
the same manner, or because it has a likeness or confor 
mity with, or affects me in the same way as the ideas 
of the sort I rank it under. In short, it must not be 
entirely new, but have something in it old and already 
perceived by me. It must, I say, have so much, at least, 

1 On Berkeley s theory, space concrete space. 

without relation to bodies (i.e. 2 Sect. 121. Cf. Neiv Theory of 
insensible or abstract space) would Vision Vindicated, sect. 15. 
not be extended, as not having 3 i.e. there are no Common Sen- 
parts ; inasmuch as parts can be sibles : from which it follows that 
assigned to it only with relation to we can reason from the one sense 
bodies. Berkeley does not distin- to the other only by founding on 
guish space from sensible extension. the constant connexion of their 
Cf. Reid s Works, p. 126, note in respective phenomena, under a natu- 
which Sir W. Hamilton suggests ral yet (for us) contingent law. Cf. 
that one may have an a priori con- New Theory of Vision Vindicated, 
ception of pure space, and also an sect. 27, 28. 
a posteriori perception of finite, 4 Omitted in last edition. 


in common with the ideas I have before known and 
named, as to make me give it the same name with them. 
But, it has been, if I mistake not, clearly made out 1 that 
a man born blind would not, at first reception of his sight, 
think the things he saw were of the same nature with 
the objects of touch, or had anything in common with 
them ; but that they were a new set of ideas, perceived 
in a new manner, and entirely different from all he had 
ever perceived before. So that he would not call them 
by the same name, nor repute them to be of the same sort, 
with anything he had hitherto known. [And surely the 
judgment of such an unprejudiced person is more to 
be relied on in this case than the sentiments of the gene 
rality of men ; who, in this as in almost everything else, 
suffer themselves to be guided by custom, and the erro 
neous suggestions of prejudice, rather than reason and 
sedate reflection 2 .~] 

129. Secondly, Light and colours are allowed by all to 
constitute a sort or species entirely different from the ideas 
of touch ; nor will any man, I presume, say they can make 
themselves perceived by that sense. But there is no other 
immediate object of sight besides light and colours". It is 
therefore a direct consequence, that there is no idea com 
mon to both senses. 

130. It is a prevailing opinion, even amongst those who 
have thought and writ most accurately concerning our 
ideas, and the ways whereby they enter into the under 
standing, that something more is perceived by sight than 
barely light and colours with their variations. [The excel 
lent 4 ] Mr. Locke termeth sight the most comprehensive 
of all our senses, conveying to our minds the ideas of light 
and colours, which are peculiar only to that sense ; and 
also the far different ideas of space, figure, and motion. 
(Essay on Human Understanding, B. iii. ch. 9. s. 9.) 
Space or distance " , we have shewn, is no otherwise the 

1 Cf. sect. 93, 103, 1 06, no. tual extension. Whether we can 

" Omitted in last edition. perceive visible extension without 

3 Cf. sect. 43, 103, &c. A plural- 

ity of co-existent minima of colour- least in the eye, he does not here say. 

ed points constitutes Berkeley s * Omitted in last edition. 

visible extension ; while a plurality 5 Real distancebelongsoriginally, 

of successively experienced minima according to the Essay, to our 

of resistant points constitutes his tac- tactual experience only in the 


object of sight than of hearing. (Vid. sect. 46.) And, as 
for figure and extension, I leave it to any one that shall 
calmly attend to his own clear and distinct ideas to decide 
whether he has any idea intromitted immediately and pro 
perly by sight save only light and colours : or, whether it 
be possible for him to frame in his mind a distinct abstract 
idea of visible extension, or figure, exclusive of all colour ; 
and, on the other hand, whether he can conceive colour 
without visible extension? For my own part, I must 
confess, I am not able to attain so great a nicety of abstrac 
tion. I know very well that, in a strict sense, I see nothing 
but light and colours, with their several shades and varia 
tions. He who beside these doth also perceive by sight 
ideas far different and distinct from them, hath that faculty 
in a degree more perfect and comprehensive than I can 
pretend to. It must be owned, indeed, that, by the media 
tion of light and colours, other far different ideas are sug 
gested to my mind. But so they are by hearing 1 . But 
then, upon this score, I see no reason why the sight should 
be thought more comprehensive than the hearing, which, 
beside sounds which are peculiar to that sense, doth, by 
their mediation, suggest not only space, figure, and motion, but 
alsoall other ideas whatsoever that can be signified bywords. 
131. Thirdly, It is, I think, an axiom universally received, 
that quantities of the same kind may be added together 
and make one entire sum. Mathematicians add lines 
together ; but they do not add a line to a solid, or con 
ceive it as making one sum with a surface. These three 
kinds of quantity being thought incapable of any such mu 
tual addition, and consequently of being compared together 
in the several ways of proportion, are by them for that 
reason esteemed entirely disparate and heterogeneous. 
Now let any one try in his thoughts to add a visible line or 
surface to a tangible line or surface, so as to conceive them 
making one continued sum or whole. He that can do this 
may think them homogeneous ; but he that cannot must, 
by the foregoing axiom, think them heterogeneous. [I 
acknowledge myself to be of the latter sort 2 .] A blue and 
a red line I can conceive added together into one sum and 

wide meaning of touch, which perception of contact, 
includes muscular and locomotive Added in second edition, 

perceptions, as well as the simple 2 Omitted in last edition. 


making one continued line ; but, to make, in my thoughts, 
one continued line of a visible and tangible line added 
together, is, I find, a task far more difficult, and even 
insurmountable and I leave it to the reflection and expe 
rience of every particular person to determine for himself. 

132. A farther confirmation of our tenet may be drawn 
from the solution of Mr. Molyneux s problem, published 
by Mr. Locke in his Essay jl : which I shall set down as it 
there lies, together with Mr. Locke s opinion of it : Sup 
pose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his 
touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the 
same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell 
when he felt one and the other, which is the cube, and 
which the sphere. Suppose then the cube and sphere 
placed on a table, and the blind man made to see : Quaere, 
Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could 
now distinguish, and tell, which is the globe, which the 
cube. To which the acute and judicious proposer an 
swers : Not. For, though he has obtained the experience 
of how a globe, how a cube affects his touch ; yet he has 
not yet attained the experience, that what affects his touch 
so or so must affect his sight so or so : or that a protuber 
ant angle in the cube, that pressed his hand unequally, 
shall appear to his eye as it doth in the cube. I agree 
with this thinking gentleman, whom I am proud to call 
my friend, in his answer to this his problem ; and am of 
opinion that the blind man, at first sight, would not 
be able with certainty to say, which was the globe, which 
the cube, whilst he only saw them. (Essay on Human 
Understanding, B. ii. ch. 9. s. 8.) 

133. Now, if a square surface perceived by touch be of 
the same sort with a square surface perceived by sight, it 
is certain the blind man here mentioned might know a 
square surface as soon as he saw it. It is no more but 
introducing into his mind, by a new inlet, an idea he has 
been already well acquainted with. Since therefore he is 
supposed to have known by his touch that a cube is a body 

1 See also Locke s Correspon- putes the heterogeneity. Smith s 

dence with Molyneux, in Locke s Optics. Remarks, 161-170. 

Works, vol. IX. p. 34. Leibniz, Hamilton s Reid, p. 137, note, and 

Nouveanx Essais, Liv. II. ch. 9, Lect. Metaph, II. p. 176. 
who, so far granting the fact, dis- 



terminated by square surfaces ; and that a sphere is not 
terminated by square surfaces upon the supposition that 
a visible and tangible square differ only in numero, it 
follows that he might know, by the unerring mark of the 
square surfaces, which was the cube, and which not, while 
he only saw them. We must therefore allow, either that 
visible extension and figures are specifically distinct from 
tangible extension and figures, or else, that the solution of 
this problem, given by those two [very 1 ] thoughtful and 
ingenious men, is wrong. 

134. Much more might be laid together in proof of the 
proposition I have advanced. But, what has been said is, 
if I mistake not, sufficient to convince any one that shall 
yield a reasonable attention. And, as for those that will 
not be at the pains of a little thought, no multiplication of 
words will ever suffice to make them understand the truth, 
or rightly conceive my meaning 2 . 

135. I cannot let go the above-mentioned problem with 
out some reflection on it. It hath been made evident that 
a man blind from his birth would not, at first sight, denom 
inate anything he saw, by the names he had been used to 
appropriate to ideas of touch. (Vid. sect. 106.) Cube, 
sphere, table are words he has known applied to things 
perceivable by touch, but to things perfectly intangible he 
never knew them applied. Those words, in their wonted 
application, always marked out to his mind bodies or solid 
things which were perceived by the resistance they gave. 
But there is no solidity, no resistance or protrusion, 
perceived by sight. In short, the ideas of sight are all 
new perceptions, to which there be no names annexed in 
his mind ; he cannot therefore understand what is said to 
him concerning them. And, to ask of the two bodies he 
saw placed on the table, which was the sphere, which the 
cube, were to him a question downright bantering and 
unintelligible ; nothing he sees being able to suggest to his 
thoughts the idea of body, distance, or, in general, of 
anything he had already known. 

136. It is a mistake to think the same 3 thing affects both 
sight and touch. If the same angle or square which is the 

1 Omitted in last edition. 3 Cf. sect. 49, 146, &c. Here 

- Cf. Theory of Vision Vindicated, i same includes similar. 
sect. 70. 


object of touch be also the object of vision, what should 
hinder the blind man ; at first sight, from knowing it ? 
For, though the manner wherein it affects the sight be 
different from that wherein it affected his touch, yet, there 
being, beside this manner or circumstance, which is new 
and unknown, the angle or figure, which is old and known, 
he cannot choose but discern it. 

137. Visible figure and extension having been demon 
strated to be of a nature entirely different and heterogene 
ous from tangible figure and extension, it remains that we 
inquire concerning motion. Now, that visible motion is 
not of the same sort with tangible motion seems to need no 
farther proof; it being an evident corollary from what we 
have shewn concerning the difference there is betwixt 
visible and tangible extension. But, for a more full and 
express proof hereof, we need only observe that one who 
had not yet experienced vision would not at first sight 
know motion . Whence it clearly follows that motion per 
ceivable by sight is of a sort distinct from motion perceiv 
able by touch. The antecedent I prove thus By touch he 
could not perceive any motion but what was up or down, to 
the right or left, nearer or farther from him ; besides these, 
and their several varieties or complications, it is impossible 
he should have any idea of motion. He would not 
therefore think anything to be motion, or give the name 
motion to any idea, which he could not range under some 
or other of those particular kinds thereof. But, from sect. 
95, it is plain that, by the mere act of vision, he could not 
know motion upwards or downwards, to the right or left, 
or in any other possible direction. From which I conclude, 
he would not know motion at all at first sight. As for the 
idea of motion in abstract, I shall not waste paper about it, 
but leave it to my reader to make the best he can of it. 
To me it is perfectly unintelligible 2 . 

138. The consideration of motion may furnish a new 
field for inquiry :! . But, since the manner wherein the 

1 i.e. visible and tangible motions 2 Cf. sect. 122-125. 

beingabsolutely heterogeneous, and 3 Cf. Principles, sect. 111-116; 

the former, at man s point of view, also Analyst, query 12. On Berke- 

only contingent signs of the latter, ley s system space in its three di- 

we should not, at first sight, be mensions is unrealisable without 

able to interpret the visual signs of experience of motion, 
tactual phenomena. 

O 2 


mind apprehends by sight the motion of tangible objects, 
with the various degrees thereof, may be easily collected 
from what has been said concerning the manner wherein 
that sense doth suggest their various distances, magni 
tudes, and situations, I shall not enlarge any farther on 
this subject, but proceed to inquire what may be alleged, 
with greatest appearance of reason, against the propo 
sition we have demonstrated to be true ; for, where there 
is so much prejudice to be encountered, a bare and naked 
demonstration of the truth will scarce suffice. We must 
also satisfy the scruples that men may start in favour of 
their preconceived notions, shew whence the mistake 
arises, how it came to spread, and carefully disclose 
and root out those false persuasions that an early preju 
dice might have implanted in the mind. 

139. First, therefore, it will be demanded how visible 
extension and figures come to be called by the same name 
with tangible extension and figures, if they are not of the 
same kind with them ? It must be something more than 
humour or accident that could occasion a custom so con 
stant and universal as this, which has obtained in all ages 
and nations of the world, and amongst all ranks of men, 
the learned as well as the illiterate. 

140. To which I answer, we can no more argue a visible 
and tangible square to be of the same species, from their 
being called by the same name, than we can that a tangible 
square, and the monosyllable consisting of six letters 
whereby it is marked, are of the same species, because 
they are both called by the same name. It is customary 
to call written words, and the things they signify, by the 
same name : for, words not being regarded in their own 
nature, or otherwise than as they are marks of things, it 
had been superfluous, and beside the design of language, 
to have given them names distinct from those of the things 
marked by them. The same reason holds here also. 
Visible figures are the marks of tangible figures ; and, from 
sect. 59, it is plain that in themselves they are little re 
garded, or upon any other score than for their connexion 
with tangible figures, which by nature they are ordained 
to signify. And, because this language of nature : does 

1 Here the term language of applicable to the ideas or visual 
nature makes its appearance, as signs of tactual realities. 


not vary in different ages or nations, hence it is that in 
all times and places visible figures are called by the same 
names as the respective tangible figures suggested by 
them ; and riot because they are alike, or of the same 
sort with them. 

141. But, say you, surely a tangible square is liker to 
a visible square than to a visible circle : it has four angles, 
and as many sides ; so also has the visible square but the 
visible circle has no such thing, being bounded by one 
uniform curve, without right lines or angles, which makes 
it unfit to represent the tangible square, but very fit to re 
present the tangible circle. Whence it clearly follows, 
that visible figures are patterns of, or of the same species 
with, the respective tangible figures represented by them ; 
that they are like unto them, and of their own nature fitted 
to represent them, as being of the same sort ; and that 
they are in no respect arbitrary signs, as words. 

142. I answer, it must be acknowledged the visible 
square is fitter than the visible circle to represent the 
tangible square, but then it is not because it is liker, or 
more of a species with it ; but, because the visible square 
contains in it several distinct parts, whereby to mark the 
several distinct corresponding parts of a tangible square, 
whereas the visible circle doth not. The square per 
ceived by touch hath four distinct equal sides, so also 
hath it four distinct equal angles. It is therefore neces 
sary that the visible figure which shall be most proper 
to mark it contain four distinct equal parts, correspond 
ing to the four sides of the tangible square ; as likewise 
four other distinct and equal parts, whereby to denote the 
four equal angles of the tangible square. And accordingly 
we see the visible figures contain in them distinct visible 
parts, answering to the distinct tangible parts of the figures 
signified or suggested by them. 

143. But, it will not hence follow that any visible figure 
is like unto or of the same species with its corresponding 
tangible figure unless it be also shewn that not only the 
number, but also the kind of the parts be the same in both. 
To illustrate this, I observe that visible figures represent 
tangible figures much after the same manner that written 
words do sounds. Now, in this respect, words are not 
arbitrary ; it not being indifferent what written word stands 


for any sound. But, it is requisite that each word contain 
in it as many distinct characters as there are variations in 
the sound it stands for. Thus, the single letter a is proper 
to mark one simple uniform sound ; and the word adultery 
is accommodated to represent the sound annexed to it in 
the formation whereof there being eight different collisions 
or modifications of the air by the organs of speech, each of 
which produces a difference of sound, it was fit the word 
representing it should consist of as many distinct charac 
ters, thereby to mark each particular difference or part of 
the whole sound. And yet nobody, I presume, will say the 
single letter a, or the word adultery, are alike unto or of 
the same species with the respective sounds by them re 
presented. It is indeed arbitrary that, in general, letters 
of any language represent sounds at all ; but, when that is 
once agreed, it is not arbitrary what combination of letters 
shall represent this or that particular sound. I leave this 
with the reader to pursue, and apply it in his own thoughts. 

144. It must be confessed that we are not so apt to con 
found other signs with the things signified, or to think 
them of the same species, as we are visible and tangible 
ideas. But, a little consideration will shew us how this 
may well be, without our supposing them of a like nature. 
These signs are constant and universal ; their connexion 
with tangible ideas has been learnt at our first entrance 
into the w r orld ; and ever since, almost every moment of 
our lives, it has been occurring to our thoughts, and fasten 
ing and striking deeper on our minds. When we observe 
that signs are variable, and of human institution ; when we 
remember there was a time they were not connected in our 
minds with those things they now so readily suggest, but 
that their signification was learned by the slow steps of 
experience : this preserves us from confounding them. 
But, when we find the same signs suggest the same things 
all over the w r orld ; when we know they are not of human 
institution, and cannot remember that we ever learned 
their signification, but think that at first sight they would 
have suggested to us the same things they do now : all this 
persuades us they are of the same species as the things 
respectively represented by them, and that it is by a 
natural resemblance they suggest them to our minds. 

145. Add to this that whenever we make a nice survey 


of any object, successively directing the optic axis to each 
point thereof, there are certain lines and figures, described 
by the motion of the head or eye, which, being in truth per 
ceived by feeling 1 , do nevertheless so mix themselves, as 
it were, with the ideas of sight that we can scarce think 
but they appertain to that sense. Again, the ideas of sight 
enter into the mind several at once, more distinct and un- 
mingled than is usual in the other senses beside the touch. 
Sounds, for example, perceived at the same instant, are 
apt to coalesce, if I may so say, into one sound : but we 
can perceive, at the same time, great variety of visible 
objects, very separate and distinct from each other. Now, 
tangible 2 extension being made up of several distinct co 
existent parts, we may hence gather another reason that 
may dispose us to imagine a likeness or analogy between 
the immediate objects of sight and touch. But nothing, 
certainly, does more contribute to blend and confound them 
together, than the strict and close connexion 3 they have 
with each other. We cannot open our eyes but the ideas 
of distance, bodies, and tangible figures are suggested by 
them. So swift, and sudden, and unperceived is the tran 
sit from visible to tangible ideas that we can scarce forbear 
thinking them equally the immediate object of vision. 

146. The prejudice 4 which is grounded on these, and 
whatever other causes may be assigned thereof, sticks so 
fast on our understandings, that it is impossible, without 
obstinate striving and labour of the mind, to get entirely 
clear of it. But then the reluctancy we find in rejecting 
any opinion can be no argument of its truth, to whoever 
considers what has been already shewn with regard to the 
prejudices we entertain concerning the distance, magni 
tude, and situation of objects ; prejudices so familiar to 
our minds, so confirmed and inveterate, as they will hardly 
give way to the clearest demonstration. 

147. Upon the whole, I think we may fairly conclude 5 

1 Cf. sect. 16, 27, 97. 4 Cf. Neiv Theory of Vision Vindi- 

- Is tangible here used in its cated, sect. 35. 

narrow meaning excluding mus- 5 Berkeley, in this section, enun- 

cular and locomotive experience ? ciates the principal conclusion in 

3 i.e. as natural signs, divinely the -Essay, which conclusion indeed 

associated with their thus implied forms his new theory of Vision, 


that the proper objects of Vision constitute the Universal 
Language of Nature ; whereby we are instructed how 
to regulate our actions, in order to attain those things 
that are necessary to the preservation and well-being 
of our bodies, as also to avoid whatever may be hurtful 
and destructive of them. It is by their information that 
we are principally guided in all the transactions and 
concerns of life, And the manner wherein they signify 
and mark out unto us the objects which are at a distance 
is the same with that of languages and signs of human 
appointment ; which do not suggest the things signified 
by any likeness or identity of nature, but only by an 
habitual connexion that experience has made us to observe 
between them l . 

148. Suppose one who had always continued blind be 
told by his guide that after he has advanced so many 
steps he shall come to the brink of a precipice, or be 
stopped by a wall ; must not this to him seem very ad 
mirable and surprising ? He cannot conceive how it 
is possible for mortals to frame such predictions as these, 
which to him would seem as strange and unaccountable 
as prophecy does to others. Even they who are blessed 
with the visive faculty may (though familiarity make it 
less observed) find therein sufficient cause of admiration. 
The wonderful art and contrivance wherewith it is adjusted 
to those ends and purposes for which it was apparently 

1 A suggestion thus due to na- sociated with them. So that if, on 

tural laws of association. The this account, we are to suppose, 

explanation of the fact that we with a late ingenious writer, that 

apprehend, by those ideas or phe- the ideas of sight constitute a Visual 

nomena which are objects of Language, because they readily 

sight, certain other ideas, which suggest the corresponding ideas of 

neither resemble them, nor efficient- touch as the terms of a language 

ly cause them, nor are so caused by excite the ideas answering to them 

them, nor have any necessary con- I see not but we may, for the same 

nexion with them, comprehends, reason, allow of a tangible, audible, 

according to Berkeley, the whole gustatory, and olefactory language; 

Theory of Vision. The imagina- though doubtless the Visual Lan- 

tion of every thinking person/ re- guage will be abundantly more 

marksAdamSmith/will supply him copious than the rest. Smith s 

with instances toprove that the ideas Optics. Remarks, p. 29. And into 

received by any one of the senses this conception of a universal sense 

do readily excite such other ideas, symbolism, Berkeley s theory of 

either of the same sense or of any Vision ultimately rises, 
other, as have habitually been as- 


designed ; the vast extent, number, and variety of objects 
that are at once, with so much ease, and quickness, and 
pleasure, suggested by it all these afford subject for much 
and pleasing speculation,, and may, if anything, give us 
some glimmering analogous prsenotion of things, that are 
placed beyond the certain discovery and comprehension 
of our present state l . 

149. I do not design to trouble myself much with 
drawing corollaries from the doctrine I have hitherto 
laid down. If it bears the test, others may, so far as they 
shall think convenient, employ their thoughts in extending 
it farther, and applying it to whatever purposes it may 
be subservient to. Only, I cannot forbear making some 
inquiry concerning the object of geometry, which the 
subject we have been upon does naturally lead one to. 
We have shewn there is no such idea as that of exten 
sion in abstract 2 ; and that there are two kinds of sensible 
extension and figures, which are entirely distinct and 
heterogeneous from each other :! . Now, it is natural to 
inquire which of these is the object of geometry 4 . 

150. Some things there are which, at first sight, incline 
one to think geometry conversant about visible extension. 
The constant use of the eyes, both in the practical and 
speculative parts of that science, doth very much induce 
us thereto. It would, without doubt, seem odd to a 
mathematician to go about to convince him the diagrams 
he saw upon paper were not the figures, or even the 
likeness of the figures, which make the subject of the 
demonstration the contrary being held an unquestion 
able truth, not only by mathematicians, but also by those 
who apply themselves more particularly to the study of 
logic; I mean who consider the nature of science, certainty, 
and demonstration ; it being by them assigned as one 

1 Cf. Akiphron, Dialogue IV. sion ; and others that space is a 
sect. 11-15. necessary implicate of sense-experi- 

2 Sect. 122-125. ence, rather than, per se, an object 

3 Sect. 127-138. of any single sense. Cf. Kant s 

4 Some modern metaphysicians explanation of the origin of our 
would say, that neither tangible mathematical knowledge, Kritik 
nor visible extension is the object der reinen Vernunft. Elementar- 
of geometry, but abstract exten- lehre, I. 


reason of the extraordinary clearness and evidence of 
geometry, that in that science the reasonings are free 
from those inconveniences which attend the use of arbi 
trary signs, the very ideas themselves being copied out, 
and exposed to view upon paper. But, by the bye, how 
well this agrees with what they likewise assert of abstract 
ideas being the object of geometrical demonstration I 
leave to be considered. 

151. To come to a resolution in this point, we need 
only observe what has been said in sect. 59, 60, 61, where 
it is shewn that visible extensions in themselves are little 
regarded, and have no settled determinate greatness, 
and that men measure altogether by the application of 
tangible extension to tangible extension. All which makes 
it evident that visible extension and figures are not the 
object of geometry. 

152. It is therefore plain that visible figures are of 
the same use in geometry that words are. And the one 
may as well be accounted the object of that science as 
the other; neither of them being any otherwise concerned 
therein than as they represent or suggest to the mind 
the particular tangible figures connected with them. 
There is, indeed, this difference betwixt the signification 
of tangible figures by visible figures, and of ideas by words 
--that whereas the latter is variable and uncertain, depend 
ing altogether on the arbitrary appointment of men, the 
former is fixed, and immutably the same in all times 
and places. A visible square, for instance, suggests to 
the mind the same tangible figure in Europe that it doth 
in America. Hence it is, that the voice of nature, which 
speaks to our eyes, is not liable to that misinterpretation 
and ambiguity that languages of human contrivance are 
unavoidably subject to l . From which may, in some 
measure, be derived that peculiar evidence and clearness 
of geometrical demonstrations. 

153. Though what has been said may suffice to shew 
what ought to be determined with relation to the object 
of geometry, I shall, nevertheless, for the fuller illustration 
thereof, take into my thoughts the case of an intelligence 
or unbodied spirit, which is supposed to see perfectly 

1 Cf. sect. 51-66, 144. 


well, t. e. to have a clear perception of the proper and 
immediate objects of sight, but to have no sense of touch . 
Whether there be any such being in nature or no, is be 
side my purpose to inquire ; it suffices, that the supposition 
contains no contradiction in it. Let us now examine 
what proficiency such a one may be able to make in 
geometry. Which speculation will lead us more clearly 
to see whether the ideas of sight can possibly be the 
object of that science. 

154. First, then, it is certain the aforesaid intelligence 
could have no idea of a solid or quantity of three dimen 
sions, which follows from its not having any idea of 
distance. We, indeed, are prone to think that we have 
by sight the ideas of space and solids ; which arises from 
our imagining that we do, strictly speaking, see distance, 
and some parts of an object at a greater distance than 
others ; which has been demonstrated to be the effect of 
the experience we have had what ideas of touch are con 
nected with such and such ideas attending vision. But 
the intelligence here spoken of is supposed to have no 
experience of touch. He would not, therefore, judge as 
we do, nor have any idea of distance, outness, or pro 
fundity, nor consequently of space or body, either imme 
diately or by suggestion. W 7 hence it is plain he can have 
no notion of those parts of geometry which relate to the 
mensuration of solids, and their convex or concave surfaces, 
and contemplate the properties of lines generated by the 
section of a solid. The conceiving of any part whereof 
is beyond the reach of his faculties. 

155. Farther, he cannot comprehend the manner where 
in geometers describe a right line or circle ; the rule and 
compass, with their use, being things of which it is impos 
sible he should have any notion. Nor is it an easier 
matter for him to conceive the placing of one plane or 
angle on another, in order to prove their equality; since 
that supposes some idea of distance, or external space. 

1 This is a conjecture, not as to Geometry of Visibles, and the 

the probable ideasof one born blind, mental experience of Idomenians, 

but as to the ideas of an unbodied or imaginary beings supposed to 

intelligence, whose only sense have no ideas of the material world 

was that of seeing. See Reid s except those got by seeing, 
speculation (Inquiry, VI. 9) on the 


All which makes it evident our pure intelligence could 
never attain to know so much as the first elements of plain 
geometry. And perhaps, upon a nice inquiry, it will be 
found he cannot even have an idea of plain figures any 
more than he can of solids ; since some idea of distance 
is necessary to form the idea of a geometrical plane, as will 
appear to whoever shall reflect a little on it. 

156. All that is properly perceived by the visive faculty 
amounts to no more than colours with their variations, and 
different proportions of light and shade but the perpetual 
mutability and fleetingness of those immediate objects of 
sight render them incapable of being managed after the man 
ner of geometrical figures ; nor is it in any degree useful that 
they should. It is true there be divers of them perceived 
at once ; and more of some, and less of others : but accur 
ately to compute their magnitude, and assign precise deter 
minate proportions between things so variable and incon 
stant, if we suppose it possible to be done, must yet be a 
very trifling and insignificant labour. 

157. I must confess, it seems to be the opinion of some 
very ingenious men that flat or plane figures are immediate 
objects of sight, though they acknowledge solids are not. 
And this opinion of theirs is grounded on what is observed 
in painting, wherein (say they) the ideas immediately im 
printed in the mind are only of planes variously coloured, 
which, by a sudden act of the judgment, are changed into 
solids : but, with a little attention, we shall find the planes 
here mentioned as the immediate objects of sight are not 
visible but tangible planes. For, when we say that pictures 
are planes, we mean thereby that they appear to the touch 
smooth and uniform. But then this smoothness and uni 
formity, or, in other words, this planeness of the picture is 
not perceived immediately by vision ; for it appeareth to 
the eye various and multiform. 

158. From all which we may conclude that planes are no 
more the immediate object of sight than solids. What we 
strictly see are not solids, nor yet planes variously coloured 
they are only diversity of colours. And some of these 
suggest to the mind solids, and others plane figures; just 
as they have been experienced to be connected with the 
one or the other : so that we see plains in the same way 
that we see solids both being equally suggested by the 


immediate objects of sight, which accordingly are themselves 
denominated planes and solids. But, though they are 
called by the same names with the things marked by them, 
they are, nevertheless, of a nature entirely different, as hath 
been demonstrated 1 . 

159. What has been said is, if I mistake not, sufficient to 
decide the question we proposed to examine, concerning 
the ability of a pure spirit, such as we have described, to 
know geometry. It is, indeed, no easy matter for us to 
enter precisely into the thoughts of such an intelligence ; 
because we cannot, without great pains, cleverly separate 
and disentangle in our thoughts the proper objects of sight 
from those of touch which are connected with them. This, 
indeed, in a complete degree seems scarce possible to be 
performed; which will not seem strange to us, if we con 
sider how hard it is for any one to hear the words of his 
native language, which is familiar to him, pronounced in 
his ears without understanding them. Though he endea 
vour to disunite the meaning from the sound, it will never 
theless intrude into his thoughts, and he shall find it 
extreme difficult, if not impossible, to put himself exactly 
in the posture of a foreigner that never learnt the language, 
so as to be affected barely with the sounds themselves, and 
not perceive the signification annexed to them. 

160. By this time, I suppose, it is clear that neither 
abstract nor visible extension makes the object of geometry ; 
the not discerning of which may, perhaps, have created 
some difficulty and useless labour in mathematics. [ 2 Sure 
I am that somewhat relating thereto has occurred to my 
thoughts; which, though after the most anxious and repeated 
examination I am forced to think it true, doth, nevertheless, 
seem so far out of the common road of geometry, that I 
know not whether it may not be thought presumption if 

1 Cf. sect. 130, and New Theory caped more recent British psycho- 

of Vision Vindicated, sect. 57. Does legists, including Stewart, Brown, 

Berkeley, in this and the two pre- Mill, and Bain, who seem to hold 

ceding sections, mean to hint that that unextended colour is perceiv- 

the only proper object of sight is able and imaginable. 
unextended colour ; and that, apart 2 The bracketed sentence is not 

from muscular movement in the eye retained in the author s last edition, 

or other locomotion, visibilia re- in which the first sentence of sect, 

solve into unextended mathematical 160 is the concluding one of sect, 

points? This question has not es- 159, and of the Essay. 


I should make it public, in an age wherein that science hath 
received such mighty improvements by new methods ; 
great part whereof, as well as of the ancient discoveries, 
may perhaps lose their reputation, and much of that ardour 
with which men study the abstruse and fine geometry be 
abated, if what to me, and those few to whom I have 
imparted it, seems evidently true, should really prove to 
be so. I 



[This Appendix is contained only in the second edition .] 

THE censures which, I am informed, have been made 
on the foregoing Essay inclined me to think I had not been 
clear and express enough in some points ; and, to prevent 
being misunderstood for the future, I was willing to make 
any necessary alterations or additions in what I had written. 
But that was impracticable, the present edition having been 
almost finished before I received this information. Where 
fore, I think it proper to consider in this place the principal 
objections that are come to my notice. 

In \\\e first place, it is objected, that in the beginning of 
the Essay I argue either against all use of lines and angles 
in optics, and then what I say is false ; or against those 
writers only who will have it that we can perceive by sense 
the optic axes, angles, &c., and then it is insignificant, this 
being an absurdity which no one ever held. To which 
I answer that I argue only against those who are of opinion 
that we perceive the distance of objects by lines and angles, 
or, as they term it, by a kind of innate geometry. And, to 
shew that this is not fighting with my own shadow, I shall 
here set down a passage from the celebrated Des Cartes : 

Distantiam praeterea discimus, per mutuam quandam 
conspirationem oculorum. Ut enim caecus noster duo ba- 
cilla tenens, A E et C E, de quorum longitudine incertus, 
solumque intervallum manuum A et C t cum magnitudine 

1 This passage is contained in the Dioptrices of Descartes, VI. 13 ; see 
also VI. it. 



angulorum A C E, et C A E exploratum habens, inde, ut 
ex Geometria quadam omnibus innata, scire potest ubi 
sit punctum E. Sic quum nostri 
oculi RST et rst ambo, vertuntur 
ad X, magnitude lineae Ss, et an 
gulorum X S s et X s S, certos nos 
reddunt ubi sit punctum X. Et 
idem opera alterutrius possumus 
indagare, loco ilium movendo, ut si 
versus X ilium semper dirigentes, 
primo sistamus in puncto S, et statim 
post in puncto 5, hoc sufficiet ut mag 
nitude lineae S s, et duorum angu 
lorum X S s et X s S nostrae imagi 
nation! simul occurrant, et distantiam puncti ^Tnos edoceant: 
idque per actionem mentis, quae licet simplex judicium esse 

videatur, ratiocinationem 
tamen quandam involu- 
tam habet, similem illi, qua 
Geometrae per duas sta- 
tiones diversas, loca inac- 
cessa dimetiuntur. 

I might amass together 
citations from several au- 
thors to the same purpose, 
but, this being so clear in 
the point, and from an 
author of so great note, 
I shall not trouble the 
reader with any more. What I have said on this head 
was not for the sake of finding fault with other men ; but, 
because I judged it necessary to demonstrate in the first 
place that we neither see distance immediately, nor yet 
perceive it by the mediation of anything that hath (as lines 
and angles) a necessary connexion with it. For on the 
demonstration of this point the whole theory depends \ 

Secondly, it is objected, that the explication I give of 
the appearance of the horizontal moon (which may also be 

1 The arbitrariness or contin 
gency as far as our knowledge 
carries us of |,the connexion 
between the visual phenomena; as 

signs, on the one hand, and actual 
distance, as perceived through this 
means, on the other. 


applied to the sun) is the same that Gassendus had given 
before. I answer, there is indeed mention made of the 
grossness of the atmosphere in both ; but then the methods 
wherein it is applied to solve the phenomenon are widely 
different, as will be evident to whoever shall compare what 
I have said on this subject with the following words of 
Gassendus : 

Heine dici posse videtur : solem humilem oculo specta- 
tum ideo apparere majorem, quam dum altius egreditur, 
quia dum vicinus est horizonti prolixa est series vaporum, 
atque adeo corpusculorum quae solis radios ita retundunt, 
ut oculus minus conniveat, et pupilla quasi umbrefacta 
longe magis amplificetur, quam dum sole multum elato 
rari vapores intercipiuntur, solque ipse ita splendescit, ut 
pupilla in ipsum spectans contractissima efficiatur. Nempe 
ex hoc esse videtur, cur visibilis species ex sole procedens, 
et per pupillam amplificatam intromissa in retinam, am- 
pliorem in ilia sedem occupet, majoremque proinde creet 
solis apparentiam, quam dum per contractam pupillam 
eodem intromissa contendit. Vid. Epist. i. DC Apparente 
Magnitudine Solis Humilis et Sublimis, p. 6. This solu 
tion of Gassendus proceeds on a false principle, to wit, that 
the pupil s being enlarged augments the species or image 
on the fund of the eye. 

Thirdly, against what is said in Sect. 80, it is objected, 
that the same thing which is so small as scarce to be dis 
cerned by a man, may appear like a mountain to some 
small insect ; from which it follows that the minimum visibile 
is not equal in respect of all creatures . I answer, if this 
objection be sounded to the bottom, it will be found to 
mean no more than that the same particle of matter which 
is marked to a man by one minimum visibile, exhibits to an 
insect a great number of minima visibilia. But this does 
not prove that one minimum visibile of the insect is not 
equal to one minimum visibile of the man. The not distin 
guishing between the mediate and immediate objects of 
sight is, I suspect, a cause of misapprehension in this 

Some other misinterpretations and difficulties have been 

1 Cf. sect. 80-83. 



made, but, in the points they refer to, I have endeavoured 
to be so very plain that I know not how to express my 
self more clearly. All I shall add is, that if they who 
are pleased to criticise on my Essay would but read the 
whole over with some attention, they might be the better 
able to comprehend my meaning, and consequently to 
judge of my mistakes. 



I am informed that, soon after the first edition of 
this treatise, a man somewhere near London was made 
to see, who had been born blind, and continued so for 
about twenty years \ Such a one may be supposed a 
proper judge to decide how far some tenets laid down in 
several places of the foregoing Essay are agreeable to 
truth ; and if any curious person hath the opportunity 
of making proper interrogatories to him thereon, I should 
gladly see my notions either amended or confirmed by 
experience 2 . 

1 The reference here seems to be account of a miraculous cure of a 

to the case described in the Tatler Young Man in Neivington, who was 

(No. 55) of August 16, 1709, in born blind, and was in five minutes 

which William Jones, born blind, brought to perfect sight, by Mr. Roger 

had received sight after a surgical Grant, oculist. London, 1709. 

operation, at the age of twenty, 2 Cf. New Theory of Vision Vindi- 

on the agth of June preceding. cafed, sect. 71, with the relative 

A medical narrative of this case note, 
appeared, entitled A full and true 






First Published in 1710 

1 Omitted on the title-page in the second edition, but retained in the body 
of the work. 

P 2 




THIS book of Principles contains the most systematic and 
reasoned exposition of Berkeley s philosophy, in its early 
stage, which we possess. Like the Essay on Vision, 
its tentative pioneer, it was prepared at Trinity College, 
Dublin. Its author had hardly completed his twenty-fifth 
year when it was published. The first edition of this 
First Part of the projected Treatise, printed by Aaron 
Rhames, for Jeremy Pepyat, bookseller in Skinner Row, 
Dublin, appeared early in 1710. A second edition, with 
minor changes, and in which Part I was withdrawn from 
the title-page, was published in London in 1734, printed 
for Jacob Tonson on the eve of Berkeley s settlement at 
Cloyne. It was the last in the author s lifetime. The 
projected Second Part of the Principles was never given 
to the world, and we can hardly conjecture its design. 
In a letter in 1729 to his American friend, Samuel 
Johnson, Berkeley mentions that he had made consider 
able progress on the Second Part/ but the manuscript/ 
he adds, was lost about fourteen years ago, during my 
travels in Italy ; and I never had leisure since to do so 


disagreeable a thing as writing twice on the same sub 
ject 1 . 

An edition of the Principles appeared in London in 1776, 
twenty-three years after Berkeley s death, with a running 
commentary of Remarks by the anonymous editor, on the 
pages opposite the text, in which, according to the editor, 
Berkeley s doctrines are carefully examined, and shewn to 
be repugnant to fact, and his principles to be incompatible 
with the constitution of human nature and the reason and 
fitness of things. In this volume the Dialogues between 
Hylas and Philonous are appended to the Principles, and a 
Philosophical Discourse concerning the nature of Human 
Being is prefixed to the whole, being a defence of Mr. 
Locke s principles, and some remarks on Dr. Beattie s 
Essay on Truth* by the author of the Remarks on 
Berkeley s Principles. The acuteness of the Remarks is 
not in proportion to their bulk and diffuseness : many 
popular misconceptions of Berkeley are served up, without 
appreciation of the impotence of matter, and of natural 
causation as only passive sense-symbolism, which is at 
the root of the theory of the material world against which 
the Remarks are directed. 

The Kantian and post-Kantian Idealism that is charac 
teristic of the nineteenth century has recalled attention 
to Berkeley, who had produced his spiritual philosophy 
under the prevailing conditions of English thought in the 
preceding age, when Idealism in any form was uncongenial. 
In 1869 the book of Principles was translated into German, 
with annotations, by Ueberweg, professor of philosophy at 
Konigsberg, the university of Kant. The Clarendon Press 
edition of the Collected Works of Berkeley followed in 
1871. In 1874 an edition of the Principles, \>y Dr. Kranth, 
Professor of Philosophy in the university of Pennsylvania, 
appeared in America, with annotations drawn largely from 

1 Beardsley s Life and Correspon- First President of King s College, 
dence of Samuel Johnson, D.D., New York, p, 72 (1874). 


the Clarendon Press edition and Ueberweg. In 1878 Dr. 
Collyns Simon republished the Principles, with discussions 
based upon the text, followed by an appendix of remarks 
on Kant and Hume in their relation to Berkeley. 

The book of Principles, as we have it, must be taken as 
a systematic fragment of an incompletely developed philo 
sophy. Many years after its appearance, the author thus 
describes the conditions : It was published when I was 
very young, and without doubt hath many defects. For 
though the notions should be true (as I verily think they 
are), yet it is difficult to express them clearly and con 
sistently, language being framed for common use and 
received prejudices. I do not therefore pretend that my 
books can teach truth. All I hope for is that they may 
be an occasion to inquisitive men of discovering truth V 
Again: I had no inclination to trouble the world with 
large volumes. What I have done was rather with the 
view of giving hints to thinking men, who have leisure and 
curiosity to go to the bottom of things, and pursue them 
in their own minds. Two or three times reading these 
small tracts (Essay on Vision, Principles, Dialogues, De 
Motif], and making what is read the occasion of thinking, 
would, I believe, render the whole familiar and easy to the 
mind, and take off that shocking appearance which hath 
often been observed to attend speculative truths - . The 
incitements to further and deeper thought thus proposed 
have met with a more sympathetic response in this genera 
tion than in the lifetime of Berkeley. 

There is internal evidence in the book of Principles 
that its author had been a diligent and critical student of 
Locke s Essay. Like the Essay, it is dedicated to the 
Earl of Pembroke. The word idea is not less character- 

1 Beardsley s Life of Johnson, ~ Chandler s Life of Johnson, 

pp. 71, 72. Appendix, p. 161. 


istic of the Principles than of the Essay, although Berkeley 
generally uses it with a narrower application than Locke, 
confining it to phenomena presented objectively to our 
senses, and their subjective reproductions in imagination. 
With both Berkeley and Locke objective phenomena 
(under the name of ideas) are the materials supplied to 
man for conversion into natural science. Locke s reduc 
tion of ideas into simple and complex, as well as some 
of his subdivisions, reappear with modifications in the 
Principles. Berkeley s account of Substance and Power, 
Space and Time, while different from Locke s, still bears 
marks of the Essay. Concrete Substance, which in its 
ultimate meaning much perplexes Locke, is identified with 
the personal pronouns I and you by Berkeley, and 
is thus spiritualised. Cause proper, or Power, he finds 
only in the voluntary activity of persons. Space is pre 
sented to us in our sensuous experience of resistance 
to organic movements ; while it is symbolised in terms of 
phenomena presented to sight, as already explained in 
the Essay on Vision. Time is revealed in our actual 
experience of change in the ideas or phenomena of 
which we are percipient in sense; length of time being 
calculated by the changes in the adopted measure of 
duration. Infinite space and infinite time, being neces 
sarily incapable of finite ideation, are dismissed as 
abstractions that for man must always be empty of 
realisable meaning. Indeed, the Commonplace Book 
shews that Locke influenced Berkeley as much by an 
tagonism as otherwise. Such was the candour of that 
great man that I persuade myself, were he alive, he would 
not be offended that I differed from him, seeing that in so 
doing I follow his advice to use my own judgment, see with 
my own eyes and not with another s. So he argues against 
Locke s opinions about the infinity and eternity of space, 
and the possibility of matter endowed with power to think, 
and urges his inconsistency in treating some qualities 


of matter as wholly material, while he insists that others, 
under the name of secondary/ are necessarily dependent 
on sentient intelligence. Above all he assails Locke s 
abstract ideas as germs of scepticism interpreting 
Locke s meaning paradoxically. 

Next to Locke, Descartes and Malebranche are prominent 
in the Principles. Recognition of the ultimate supremacy 
of Spirit, or the spiritual character of active power and 
the constant agency of God in nature, suggested by 
Descartes, was congenial to Berkeley, but he was op 
posed to the mechanical conception of the universe found 
in the Cartesian physical treatises. That thought is synony 
mous with existence is a formula with which the French 
philosopher might make him familiar, as well as with 
the assumption that ideas only are immediate objects of 
human perception; an assumption in which Descartes 
was followed by Locke, and philosophical thinkers in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but under differing 
interpretations of the term idea. 

Malebranche appears less in the Principles than Locke 
and Descartes. In early life, at any rate, Berkeley 
would be less at home in the divine vision of Male 
branche than among the ideas of Locke-. The mysti 
cism of the Recherche de la Ve rite is unlike the transparent 
lucidity of Berkeley s juvenile thought. But the subor 
dinate place and office of the material world in Male- 
branche s system, and his conception of power as wholly 
spiritual, approached the New Principles of Berkeley. 

Plato and Aristotle hardly appear, either by name or as 
characteristic influence, in the book of Principles, which 
in this respect contrasts with the abundant references to 
ancient and mediaeval thinkers in Sin s, and to a less 
extent in the De Motn and Alciphron. 

The Introduction to the Principles is a proclamation of 
war against abstract ideas, which is renewed in the body 


of the work, and again more than once in the writings of 
Berkeley s early and middle life, but is significantly with 
drawn in his old age. In the ardour of youth, his prime 
remedy for anarchy in philosophy, and for the sceptical dis 
position which philosophy had been apt to generate, was sup 
pression of abstract ideas as impossible ideas empty names 
heedlessly accepted as ideas an evil to be counteracted by 
steady adherence to the concrete experience found in our 
senses and inner consciousness. Never to lose our hold 
of positive facts, and always to individualise general con 
ceptions, are regulative maxims by which Berkeley would 
make us govern our investigation of ultimate problems. 
He takes up his position in the actual universe of ap 
plied reason ; not in the empty void of abstract reason, 
remote from particulars and succession of change, in 
which no real existence is found. All realisable ideas 
must be either concrete data of sense, or concrete data 
of inward consciousness. It is relations embodied in 
particular facts, not pretended abstract ideas, that give 
fruitful meaning to common terms. Abstract matter, 
abstract substance, abstract power, abstract space, abstract 
time unindividualisable in sense or in imagination 
must all be void of meaning ; the issue of unlawful 
analysis, which pretends to find what is real without 
the concrete ideas that make the real, because per 
cipient spirit is the indispensable factor of all reality. 
The only lawful abstraction is nominal the applica 
tion, that is to say, of a name in common to an 
indefinite number of things which resemble one another. 
This is Berkeley s Nominalism. 

Berkeley takes Locke as the representative advocate 
of the abstract ideas against which he wages war in 
the Introduction to the Principles. Under cover of an 
ambiguity in the term idea, he is unconsciously fighting 
against a man of straw. He supposes that Locke means 
by idea only a concrete datum of sense, or of imagina- 


tion ; and he argues that we cannot without contradic 
tion abstract from all such data, and yet retain idea. 
But Locke includes among his ideas intellectual rela 
tionswhat Berkeley himself afterwards distinguished 
as notions, in contrast with ideas. This polemic against 
Locke is therefore one of verbal confusion. In later 
life he probably saw this, as he saw deeper into the whole 
question involved. This is suggested by the omission 
of the argument against abstract ideas, given in earlier 
editions of Alciphron, from the edition published a year 
before he died. In his juvenile attack on abstractions, 
his characteristic impetuosity seems to carry him to the 
extreme of rejecting rational relations that are involved 
in the objectivity of sensible things and natural order, thus 
resting experience at last only on phenomena particular 
and contingent. 

A preparatory draft of the Introduction to the Principles, 
which I found in the manuscript department of the library 
of Trinity College, Dublin, is printed in the appendix to 
this edition of Berkeley s Philosophical Works. The 
variations are of some interest, biographical and philo 
sophical. It seems to have been written in the autumn 
of 1708, and it may with advantage be compared 
with the text of the finished Introduction, as well as 
with numerous relative entries in the Commonplace 

After this Introduction, the New Principles themselves 
are evolved, in a corresponding spirit of hostility to empty 
abstractions. The sections may be thus divided : 

i. Rationale of the Principles (sect. 1-33). 

ii. Supposed Objections to the Principles answered 
(sect. 34-84). 

iii. Consequences and Applications of the Principles 
(sect. 85-156). 



The reader may remember that one of the entries 
in the Commonplace Book runs as follows : l To begin 
the First Book, not with mention of sensation and 
reflexion, but, instead of sensation, to use perception, or 
thought in general. Berkeley seems there to be oscillat 
ing between Locke and Descartes. He now adopts 
Locke s account of the materials of which our concrete 
experience consists (sect. i). The data of human know 
ledge of existence are accordingly found in the ideas, 
phenomena, or appearances (a) of which we are percipient in 
the senses, and (b) of which we are conscious when we 
attend to our inward passions and operations all which 
make up the original contents of human experience, 
to be reproduced in new forms and arrangements, (c) in 
memory and (d) imagination and (e) expectation. Those 
materials are called ideas because living mind or spirit 
is the indispensable realising factor : they all pre 
suppose living mind, spirit, self, or ego to realise and 
elaborate them (sect. 2). This is implied in our use of 
personal pronouns, which signify, not ideas of any of 
the preceding kinds, but that which is entirely distinct 
from them, wherein they exist, or, which is the same 
thing, by which they are perceived. In this fundamental 
presupposition Descartes is more apparent than Locke, and 
there is even an unconscious forecast of Kant and Hegel. 

Berkeley next faces a New Question which his New 
Principles are intended to answer. How is the concrete 
world that is presented to our senses related to Mind or 
Spirit? Is all or any of its reality independent of percipient 
experience? Is it true that the phenomena of which 
we are percipient in sense are ultimately independent of 
all percipient and conscious life, and are even the ultimate 
basis of all that is real? Must we recognise in the phe 
nomena of Matter the substance of what we call Mind? 


For do we not find, when we examine Body and 
Spirit mutually related in our personality, that the latter 
is more dependent on the former, and on the physical 
cosmos of which the former is a part, than our body 
and its bodily surroundings are dependent on Spirit ? In 
short, is not the universe of existence, in its final form, 
only lifeless Matter? 

The claim of Matter to be supreme is what Berkeley 
produces his Principles in order to reduce. Concrete 
reality is self-evidently unreal, he argues, in the total 
absence of percipient Spirit, for Spirit is the one realis 
ing factor. Try to imagine the material world unper- 
ceived and you are trying to picture empty abstraction. 
Wholly material matter is self-evidently an inconceiv 
able absurdity ; a universe emptied of all percipient 
life is an impossible universe. The material world 
becomes real in being perceived : it depends for its reality 
upon the spiritual realisation. As colours in a dark room 
become real with the introduction of light, so the material 
world becomes real in the life and agency of Spirit. It 
must exist in terms of sentient life and percipient 
intelligence, in order to rise into any degree of reality 
that human beings at least can be at all concerned 
with, either speculatively or practically. Matter totally 
abstracted from percipient spirit must go the way of 
all abstract ideas. It is an illusion, concealed by confused 
thought and abuse of words; yet from obvious causes 
strong enough to stifle faith in this latent but self-evident 
Principle that the universe of sense-presented pheno 
mena can have concrete existence only in and by 
sentient intelligence. It is the reverse of this Prin 
ciple that Berkeley takes to have been the chief source 
of all that scepticism and folly, all those contradictions 
and inexplicable puzzling absurdities, that have in all 
ages been a reproach to human reason 1 . And indeed, 

1 Commonplace Book. 


when it is fully understood, it is seen in its own 
light to be the chief of those truths which are so near 
and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open 
his eyes to see them. For such I take this important one 
to be that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the 
Earth, in a word, all those bodies which compose the mighty 
frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a 
Mind (sect. 6). Living Mind or Spirit is the indispen 
sable factor of all realities that are presented to our senses, 
including, of course, our own bodies. 

Yet this Principle, notwithstanding its intuitive cer 
tainty, needs to be evoked by reflection from the latency 
in which it lies concealed, in the confused thought of 
the unreflecting. It is only gradually, and with the help of 
reasoning, that the world presented to the senses is dis 
tinctly recognised in this its deepest and truest reality. 
And even when we see that the phenomena immediately 
presented to our senses need to be realised in percipient 
experience, in order to be concretely real, we are ready to 
ask whether there may not be substances like the things so 
presented, which can exist without mind/ or in a wholly 
material way (sect. 8). Nay, are there not some of the 
phenomena immediately presented to our senses which do 
not need living mind to make them real ? It is allowed by 
Locke and others that all those qualities of matter which are 
called secondary cannot be wholly material, and that 
living mind is indispensable for their realisation in nature ; 
but Locke and the rest argue, that this is not so with the 
qualities which they call primary, and which they regard as 
of the essence of matter. Colours, sounds, tastes, smells are 
all allowed to be not wholly material ; but are not the size, 
shape, situation, solidity, and motion of bodies qualities 
that are real without need for the realising agency of any 
Mind or Spirit in the universe, and which would continue 
to be what they are now if all Spirit, divine or human, 
ceased to exist? 


The supposition that some of the phenomena of what 
is called Matter can be real, and yet wholly material, is 
discussed in sections 9-15, in which it is argued that the 
things of sense cannot exist really, in any of their 
manifestations, unless they are brought into reality in 
some percipient life and experience. It is held impossible 
that any quality of matter can have the reality which 
we all attribute to it, unless it is spiritually realised 
(sect. 15). 

But may Matter not be real apart from all its so-called 
qualities, these being allowed to be not wholly material, 
because real only within percipient spirit ? May not 
this wholly material Matter be Something that, as it were, 
exists behind the ideas, phenomena, or qualities that 
make their appearance to human beings ? This question, 
Berkeley would say, is a meaningless and wholly unpractical 
one. Material substance that makes and can make no real 
appearance unphenomenal or unideal stripped of all its 
qualities is only anothername for abstract Being, and the 
abstract idea of Being appeareth to me the most incom 
prehensible of all other. When I consider the two parts 
or branches which make up the words material substance, 
I am convinced there is no distinct meaning annexed to 
them (sect. 17). Neither Sense nor Reason inform us of 
the existence of real material substances that exist abstractly, 
or out of all relation to the secondary and primary 
qualities of which we are percipient when we exercise our 
senses. By our senses we cannot perceive more than ideas 
or phenomena, aggregated as individual things that are pre 
sented to us : we cannot perceive substances that make 
no appearance in sense. Then as for reason, unrealised 
substances, abstracted from living Spirit, human or divine, 
being altogether meaningless, can in no way explain 
the concrete realisations of human experience. In 
short, if there are wholly unphenomenal material sub 
stances, it is impossible that we should ever discover 


them, or have any concern with them, speculative 
or practical ; and if there are not, we should have the 
same reason to assert that there are which we have 
now (sect. 20). It is impossible to put any meaning 
into wholly abstract reality. ( To me the words 
mean either a direct contradiction, or nothing at all 
(sect. 24). 

The Principle that the esse of matter necessarily involves 
percipi, and its correlative Principle that there is not any 
other substance than Spirit, which is thus the indispen 
sable factor of all reality, both lead on to the more 
obviously practical Principle that the material world, 
per se, is wholly powerless, and that all changes in Nature 
are the immediate issue of the agency of Spirit (sect. 25- 
27). Concrete power, like concrete substance, is essentially 
spiritual. To be satisfied that the whole natural world is 
only the passive instrument and expression of Spiritual 
Power we are asked to analyse the sensuous data of 
experience. We can find no reason for attributing inherent 
power to any of the phenomena and phenomenal things 
that are presented to our senses, or for supposing that 
they can be active causes, either of the changes that 
are continuously in progress among themselves, or of the 
feelings, perceptions, and volitions of which spiritual beings 
are conscious. We find the ideas or phenomena that pass 
in procession before our senses related to one another as 
signs to their meanings, in a cosmical order that virtu 
ally makes the material world a language and a prophecy : 
but this cosmical procession is not found to originate in the 
ideas or phenomena themselves, and there is reason for 
supposing it to be maintained by ever-living Spirit, which 
thus not only substantiates the things of sense, but explains 
their laws of motion and their movements. 

Yet the universe of reality is not exclusively One 
Spirit. Experience contradicts the supposition. I find 


on trial that my personal power to produce changes in the 
ideas or phenomena which my senses present to me 
is a limited power (sect. 28-33). I can niake and un 
make my own fancies, but I cannot with like freedom 
make and unmake presentations of sense. When in day 
light I open my eyes, it is not in my power to determine 
whether I shall see or not ; nor is it in my power to determine 
what objects I shall see. The cosmical order of sense- 
phenomena is independent of my will. When I employ 
my senses, I find myself always confronted by sensible 
signs of perfect Reason and omnipresent Will. But I 
also awake in the faith that I am an individual person. 
And the sense-symbolism of which the material world con 
sists, while it keeps me in constant and immediate relation 
to the Universal Spirit, whose language it is, keeps me 
likewise in intercourse with other persons, akin to myself, 
who are signified to me by their overt actions and articulate 
words, which enter into my sensuous experience. Sense- 
given phenomena thus, among their other instrumental 
offices, are the medium of communication between human 
beings, who by this means can find companions, and make 
signs to them. So while, at our highest point of view, 
Nature is Spirit, experience shews that there is room in 
the universe for a plurality of persons, individual, and in 
a measure free or morally responsible. If Berkeley does 
not say all this, his New Principles tend thus. 

At any rate, in his reasoned exposition of his Principles 
he is anxious to distinguish those phenomena that are 
presented to the senses of all mankind from the private 
ideas or fancies of individual men (sect. 28-33). The 
former constitute the world which sentient beings realise 
in common. He calls them ideas because they are un- 
realisable without percipient mind; but still on the under 
standing that they are not to be confounded with the 
chimeras of imagination. They are more deeply and truly 
real than chimeras. The groups in which they are found 



to coexist are the individual things of sense, whose fixed 
order of succession exemplifies what we call natural law, or 
natural causation : the correlation of their changes to our 
pleasures and pains, desires and aversions, makes scientific 
knowledge of their laws practically important to the life of 
man, in his embodied state. 

Moreover, the real ideas presented to our senses, unlike 
those of imagination, Berkeley would imply, cannot be 
either representative or misrepresentative. Our imagina 
tion may mislead us : the original data of sense cannot : 
although we may, and often do, misinterpret their relations 
to one another, and to our pleasures and pains and higher 
faculties. The divine meaning with which they are charged, 
of which science is a partial expression, they may perhaps 
be said to represent. Otherwise representative sense- 
perception is absurdity : the ideas of sense cannot be 
representative in the way those of imagination are ; for 
fancies are faint representations of data of sense. The 
appearances that sentient intelligence realises are the things 
of sense, and we cannot go deeper. If we prefer accordingly 
to call the material world a dream or a chimera, we must 
understand that it is the reasonable dream in which all 
sentient intelligence participates, and by which the em 
bodied life of man must be regulated. 

Has Berkeley, in his juvenile ardour, and with the 
impetuosity natural to him, while seeking to demonstrate 
the impotence of matter, and the omnipresent supremacy of 
Spirit, so spiritualised the material world as to make it unfit 
for the symbolical office in the universe of reality which he 
supposes it to discharge? Is its potential existence in God, 
and its percipient realisation by me, and presumably by 
innumerable other sentient beings, an adequate account 
of the real material world existing in place and time ? Can 
this universal orderly dream experienced in sense involve 
the objectivity implied in its being the reliable medium of 


social intercourse? Does such a material world provide 
me with a means of escape from absolute solitude ? Nay, 
if Matter cannot rise into reality without percipient spirit 
as realising factor, can my individual percipient spirit realise 
myself without independent Matter? Without intelligent 
life Matter is pronounced unreal. But is it not also true 
that without Matter, and the special material organism we 
call our body, percipient spirit is unreal ? Does not Nature 
seem as indispensable to Spirit as Spirit is to Nature ? Must 
we not assume at least their unbeginning and unending 
coexistence, even if we recognise in Spirit the deeper and 
truer reality? Do the New Principles explain the final 
ground of trust and certainty about the universe of change 
into which I entered as a stranger when I was born ? 
If they make all that I have believed in as outward to be in 
its reality inward, do they not disturb the balance that is 
necessary to all human certainties, and leave me without 
any realities at all ? 

That Berkeley at the age of twenty-five, and educated 
chiefly by Locke, had fathomed or even entertained all 
these questions was hardly to be looked for. How far he 
had gone may be gathered by a study of the sequel of his 
book of Principles. 

(sect. 34-84). 

The supposed Objections, with Berkeley s answers, may 
be thus interpreted : 

First objection. (Sect. 34-40.) The preceding Principles 
banish all substantial realities, and substitute a universe 
of chimeras. 

Answer. This objection is a play upon the popular 
meaning of the word idea/ That name is appropriate 
to the phenomena presented in sense, because they be 
come concrete realities only in the experience of living 



Spirit ; and so it is not confined to the chimeras of in 
dividual fancy, which may misrepresent the real ideas of 
sense that are presented in the natural system indepen 
dently of our will. 

Second objection. (Sect. 41.) The preceding Principles 
abolish the distinction between Perception and Imagina 
tion between imagining one s self burnt and actually 
being burnt. 

Answer. Real fire differs from fancied fire : as real pain 
does from fancied pain ; yet no one supposes that real pain 
any more than imaginary pain can exist unfelt by a sen 
tient intelligence. 

Third objection. (Sect. 42-44.) We actually see sensible 
things existing at a distance from our bodies. Now, 
whatever is seen existing at a distance must be seen as 
existing external to us in our bodies, which contradicts 
the foregoing Principles. 

Answer. Distance, or outness, is not visible. It is 
a conception which is suggested gradually, by our experi 
ence of the connexion between visible colours and certain 
visual sensations that accompany seeing, on the one hand, 
and our tactual experience, on the other- -as was proved 
in the Essay on Vision, in which the ideality of the visible 
world is demonstrated 1 . 

Fourth objection. (Sect. 45-48.) It follows from the New 
Principles, that the material world must be undergoing 
continuous annihilation and recreation in the innumer 
able sentient experiences in which it becomes real. 

Answer. According to the New Principles a thing 
may be realised in the sense-experience of other minds, 
during intervals of its perception by my mind ; for the 
Principles do not affirm dependence only on this or that 

1 Moreover, even if the outness unperceived. On the contrary, 

or distance of things were visible, it Berkeley implies that they are 

would not follow that either they perceived visually. 
or their distances could be real if 


mind, but on a living Mind. If this implies a con 
stant creation of the material world, the conception of 
the universe as in a state of constant creation is not new, 
and it signally displays Divine Providence. 

Fifth objection. (Sect. 49.) If extension and extended 
Matter can exist only in mind, it follows that extension is 
an attribute of mind that mind is extended. 

Answer. Extension and other sensible qualities exist in 
mind, not as modes of mind, which is unintelligible, but as 
ideas of which Mind is percipient; and this is absolutely 
inconsistent with the supposition that Mind is itself ex 
tended . 

Sixth objection. (Sect. 50.) Natural philosophy proceeds 
on the assumption that Matter is independent of percipient 
mind, and it thus contradicts the New Principles. 

Answer. On the contrary, Matter if it means what 
exists abstractly, or in independence of all percipient 
Mind is useless in natural philosophy, which is con 
versant exclusively with the ideas or phenomena that 
compose concrete things, not with empty abstractions. 

Seventh objection. (Sect. 51.) To refer all change to 
spiritual agents alone, and to regard the things of sense 
as wholly impotent, thus discharging natural causes as 
the New Principles do, is at variance with human language 
and with good sense. 

Answer. While we may speak as the multitude do, we 
should learn to think with the few who reflect. We may 
still speak of natural causes/ even when, as philosophers, 
we recognise that all true efficiency must be spiritual, and 
that the material world is only a system of sensible symbols, 

1 It is also to be remembered are mine, because their existence 

that sensible things exist in depends on my consciousness of 

mind, without being exclusively them ; and even sensible things 

mine, as creatures of my will. In are so far mine, because, though 

one sense, that only is mine in present in many minds in common, 

which my will exerts itself. But, they are, for me, dependent on 

in another view, my involuntary my percipient mind, 
states of feeling and imagination 


regulated by Divine Will and revealing Omnipresent 

Eighth objection. (Sect. 54, 55.) The natural belief of men 
seems inconsistent with the world being mind-dependent. 

Answer. Not so when we consider that men seldom 
comprehend the deep meaning of their practical assump 
tions ; and when we recollect the prejudices, once dignified 
as good sense, which have successively surrendered to 

Ninth objection. (Sect. 56, 57.) Any Principle that is 
inconsistent with our common faith in the existence of 
the material world must be rejected. 

Answer. The fact that we are conscious of not being 
ourselves the cause of changes perpetually going on in 
our sense-ideas, some of which we gradually learn by 
experience to foresee, sufficiently accounts for the common 
belief in the independence of those ideas, and is what men 
truly mean by this. 

Tenth objection. (Sect. 58, 59.) The foregoing Principles 
concerning Matter and Spirit are inconsistent with the 
laws of motion, and with other truths in mathematics and 
natural philosophy. 

Answer. The laws of motion, and those other truths, 
may be all conceived and expressed in consistency with 
the absence of independent substance and causation in 

Eleventh objection. (Sect. 60-66.) If, according to the 
foregoing Principles, the material world is merely phe 
nomena presented by a Power not-ourselves to our senses, 
the elaborate contrivances which we find in Nature are 
useless ; for we might have had all experiences that are 
needful without them, by the direct agency of God. 

Answer. Elaborate contrivances in Nature are relatively 
necessary as signs : they express to its the occasional pre 
sence and some of the experience of other men, also the 
constant presence and power of the Universal Spirit, while 


the scientific interpretation of elaborately constituted Nature 
is a beneficial moral and intellectual exercise. 

Twelfth objection. (Sect. 67-79.) Although the impossi 
bility of active Matter may be demonstrable, this does not 
prove the impossibility of inactive Matter, neither solid 
nor extended, which may be the occasion of our having 

Answer. This supposition in unintelligible : the words 
in which it is expressed convey no meaning. 

Thirteenth objection. (Sect. 80, 81.) Matter may be an 
unknowable Somewhat , neither substance nor accident, cause 
nor effect, spirit nor idea : all the reasonings against 
Matter, conceived as something positive, fail, when this 
wholly negative notion is maintained. 

Answer. This is to use the word Matter as people 
use the word nothing : Unknowable Somewhat cannot be 
distinguished from nothing. 

Fourteenth objection. (Sect. 82-84.) Although we cannot, 
in opposition to the New Principles, infer scientifically the 
existence of Matter, in abstraction from all realising perci 
pient life, or form any conception, positive or negative, of 
what Matter is ; yet Holy Scripture demands the faith of 
every Christian in the independent reality of the material 

Answer. The independent reality of the material world 
is nowhere affirmed in Scripture. 

PRINCIPLES (sect. 85-156). 

In this portion of the Treatise, the New Principles, already 
guarded against objections, are applied to enlighten and 
invigorate final faith, often suffering from the paralysis of 
the scepticism produced by materialism ; also to improve 
the sciences, including those which relate to Mind, in 
man and in God. They are applied ; 


1. To the refutation of Scepticism as to the reality 

of the world (sect. 85-91) and God (sect. 92-96) ; 

2. To the liberation of thought from the bondage of 

unmeaning abstractions (sect. 97-100) ; 

3. To the purification of Natural Philosophy, by 

making it an interpretation of ideas of sense, 
simply in their relations of coexistence and se 
quence, according to which they constitute the 
Divine Language of Nature (sect. 101-116); 

4. To simplify Mathematics, by eliminating infinites 

and other empty abstractions (sect. 117-134); 

5. To explain and sustain faith in the Immortality 

of men (sect. 135-144) ; 

6. To explain the belief which each man has in the 

existence of other men ; as signified to him in and 
through sense-symbolism (sect. 145) ; 

7. To vindicate faith in God, who is signified in and 

through the sense-symbolism of universal nature 
(sect. 146-156). 

It was only by degrees that Berkeley s New Principles 
attracted attention. A new mode of conceiving the world 
we live in, by a young and unknown author, published at a 
distance from the centre of English intellectual life, was apt 
to be overlooked. In connexion with the Essay on Vision, 
however, it drew enough of regard to make Berkeley an 
object of interest to the literary world on his first visit to 
London, three years after its publication. 





You will perhaps wonder that an obscure person, who 
has not the honour 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 unac 
quainted 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 endeavours, were 

1 Thomas Herbert, eighth Earl Oxford, in 1672 ; succeeded to his 

of Pembroke and fifth Earl of Mont- titles in 1683; was sworn of the 

gomery, was the correspondent Privy Council in 1689 ; and made 

and friend of Locke who dedicated a Knight of the Garter in 1700. 

his famous Essay to him, as a work He filled some of the highest 

having some little correspondence offices in the state, in the reigns 

with some parts of that nobler of William and Mary, and of Anne, 

and vast system of the sciences He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 

your lordship has made so new, in 1707, having previously been 

exact, and instructive a draft of. one of the Commissioners by whom 

He represents a family renowned the union between England and 

in English political and literary Scotland was negotiated. He died 

history. He was born in 1656; in January 1733. 
was a nobleman of Christ Church, 


I not encouraged by that candour and native goodness 
which is so bright a part in your lordship s character. 
I might add, my lord, that the extraordinary favour and 
bounty you have been pleased to shew towards our 
Society l gave me hopes you would not be unwilling to 
countenance the studies of one of its members. These 
considerations determined me to lay this treatise at your 
lordship s feet, and the rather because I was ambitious to 
have it known that I am with the truest and most profound 
respect, on account of that learning and virtue which the 
world so justly admires in your lordship, 

My Lord, 

Your lordship s most humble 

and most devoted servant, 


1 Trinity College, Dublin. 


WHAT I here make public has, after a long and scrupu 
lous inquiry 1 , seemed to me evidently true and not un- 
useful to be known ; particularly to those who are tainted 
with Scepticism, or want a demonstration of the existence 
and immateriality of God, or the natural immortality of 
the Soul. Whether it be so or no I am content the reader 
should impartially examine ; since I do not think myself 
any farther concerned for the success of what I have written 
than as it is agreeable to truth. But, to the end this may 
not suffer, I make it my request that the reader suspend 
his judgment till he has once at least read the whole 
through, with that degree of attention and thought which 
the subject-matter shall seem to deserve. For, as there 
are some passages that, taken by themselves, are very 
liable (nor could it be remedied) to gross misinterpretation, 
and to be charged with most absurd consequences, which, 
nevertheless, upon an entire perusal will appear not to 
follow from them ; so likewise, though the whole should 
be read over, yet, if this be done transiently, it is very 
probable my sense may be mistaken : but to a thinking 
reader, I flatter myself it will be throughout clear and 

As for the characters of novelty and singularity 2 which 

1 In his Commonplace Book 2 Cf. Locke, in the Epistle 

Berkeley seems to refer his specu- Dedicatory of his Essay. Not- 

lations to his boyhood. The con- withstanding the novelty of the 

ception of the material world pro- New Principles, viz. negation of 

pounded in the following Treatise abstract or unperceived Matter, 

was in his view before the publica- Space, Time,Substance, and Power; 

tion of the New Tlicory of Vision, and affirmation of Mind, as the 

which was intended to prepare the Synthesis, Substance, and Cause 

way for it. of all much in best preceding 


some of the following notions may seem to bear, it is, I 
hope, needless to make any apology on that account. He 
must surely be either very weak, or very little acquainted 
with the sciences, who shall reject a truth that is capable of 
demonstration l , for no other reason but because it is newly 
known, and contrary to the prejudices of mankind. 

Thus much I thought fit to premise, in order to prevent, 
if possible, the hasty censures of a sort of men who are 
too apt to condemn an opinion before they rightly compre 
hend it 2 . 

philosophy, ancient and modern, to understand his meaning, and 

was a dim anticipation of it. especially to avoid confounding the 

1 Cf. sect. 6, 22, 24, &c., in illus- ordered ideas or phenomena, ob- 
tration of the demonstrative claim jectively presented to our senses, 
of Berkeley s initial doctrine. with capricious chimeras of ima- 

2 Berkeley entreats his reader, gination. 
here and throughout, to take pains 


i. PHILOSOPHY being nothingelse but the study of Wisdom 
and Truth \ it may with reason be expected that those who 
have spent most time and pains in it should enjoy a greater 
calm and serenity of mind, a greater clearness and 
evidence of knowledge, and be less disturbed with doubts 
and difficulties than other men. Yet, so it is, we see the 
illiterate bulk of mankind, that walk the high-road of plain 
common sense, and are governed by the dictates of nature, 
for the most part easy and undisturbed. To them nothing 
that is familiar appears unaccountable or difficult to com 
prehend. They complain not of any want of evidence 
in their senses, and are out of all danger of becoming 
Sceptics. But no sooner do we depart from sense and 
instinct to follow the light of a superior principle to reason, 
meditate, and reflect on the nature of things, but a thousand 
scruples spring up in our minds, concerning those things 
which before we seemed fully to comprehend. Prejudices 
and errors of sense do from all parts discover themselves 
to our view ; and, endeavouring to correct these by reason, 
we are insensibly drawn into uncouth paradoxes, difficulties, 
and inconsistencies, which multiply and grow upon us as 
we advance in speculation ; till at length, having wandered 
through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves just 
where we were, or, which is worse, sit down in a forlorn 
Scepticism 2 . 

1 Philosophy is nothing but the to make latent common sense, or 
true knowledge of things. Locke. common reason, reveal itself in its 

2 The purpose of those early genuine integrity. Cf. the closing 
essays of Berkeley was to re- sentences in the Third Dialogue bc- 
concile philosophy with common tiveen Hylas and Philonous. 
sense, by employing reflection 


2. The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of 
things, or the natural weakness and imperfection of our 
understandings. It is said the faculties we have are few, 
and those designed by nature for the support and pleasure 
of life, and not to penetrate into the inward essence and 
constitution of things : besides, the mind of man being 
finite, when it treats of things which partake of Infinity, it 
is not to be wondered at if it run into absurdities and contra 
dictions, out of which it is impossible it should ever extricate 
itself; it being of the nature of Infinite not to be compre 
hended by that which is finite \ 

3. But, perhaps, we may be too partial to ourselves in 
placing the fault originally in our faculties, and not rather 
in the wrong use we make of them. It is a hard thing to 
suppose that right deductions from true principles should 
ever end in consequences which cannot be maintained or 
made consistent. We should believe that God has dealt 
more bountifully with the sons of men than to give them a 
strong desire for that knowledge which he had placed quite 
out of their reach. This were not agreeable to the wonted 
indulgent methods of Providence, which, whatever appe 
tites it may have implanted in the creatures, doth usually 
furnish them with such means as, if rightly made use of, 
will not fail to satisfy them. Upon the whole, I am inclined 
to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those 
difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and 
blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to 
ourselves. We have first raised a dust, and then complain 
we cannot see. 

4. My purpose therefore is, to try if I can discover what 
those Principles are which have introduced all that doubt 
fulness and uncertainty, those absurdities and contradictions, 
into the several sects of philosophy ; insomuch that the 
wisest men have thought our ignorance incurable, con 
ceiving it to arise from the natural dulness and limitation 
of our faculties. And surely it is a work well deserving 
our pains to make a strict inquiry concerning the First 

1 Cf. Locke s Essay, Introduction, row faculties, which are meant to 

sect. 4-7 ; Bk. II. ch. 23, 12, &c. regulate our lives, not to remove 

Locke (who is probably here in all mysteries. See also Descartes, 

Berkeley s eye) attributes the per- Principia, I. 26, 27, &c. ; Male- 

plexities of philosophy to our nar- branche, Recheir/ie, III. 2. 


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. 

5. How difficult and discouraging soever this attempt 
may seem, when I consider what a number of very great 
and extraordinary men have gone before me in the like 
designs , yet I am not without some hopes ; upon the 
consideration that the largest views are not always the 
clearest, and that he who is short-sighted will be obliged 
to draw the object nearer, and may, perhaps, by a close 
and narrow survey, discern that which had escaped far 
better eyes. 

6. In order to prepare the mind of the reader for the 
easier conceiving what follows, it is proper to premise 
somewhat, by way of Introduction, concerning the nature 
and abuse of Language. But the unravelling this matter 
leads me in some measure to anticipate my design, by 
taking notice of what seems to have had a chief part in 
rendering speculation intricate and perplexed, and to 
have occasioned innumerable errors and difficulties in 
almost all parts of knowledge. And that is the opinion 
that the mind hath a power of framing abstract ideas or 
notions of things 2 . He who is not a perfect stranger to 
the writings and disputes of philosophers must needs 

1 His most significant forerun- niatics, sect. 45-48. Also Sin s, 
ners were Descartes in his Prin- sect. 323, 335, &c., where he 
cipia, and Locke in his Essay. distinguishes Idea in a higher 

2 Here idea and notion meaning from his sensuous ideas, 
seem to be used convertibly. See As mentioned in my Preface, 
sect. 142. Cf. with the argument the third edition of Alciphron, 
against abstract ideas, unfolded in published in 1752, the year before 
the remainder of the Introduction, Berkeley died, omits the three 
Principles, sect. 97-100, 118-132, sections of the Seventh Dialogue 
143 ; New Theory of Vision, sect. which repeat the following argu- 
122-125; Alciphi-on, Dial. vii. 5-7; ment against abstract ideas. 
Defence of Free Thinking in Mathe- 


acknowledge that no small part of them are spent about ab 
stract ideas. These are in a more especial manner thought 
to be the object of those sciences which go by the name 
of logic and metaphysics, and of all that which passes 
under the notion of the most abstracted and sublime 
learning ; in all which one shall scarce find any question 
handled in such a manner as does not suppose their exist 
ence in the mind, and that it is well acquainted with them. 

7. It is agreed on all hands that the qualities or modes 
of things do never really exist each of them apart by 
itself, and separated from all others, but are mixed, as 
it were, and blended together, several in the same object. 
But, we are told, the mind, being able to consider each 
quality singly, or abstracted from those other qualities with 
which it is united, does by that means frame to itself 
abstract ideas. For example, there is conceived by sight an 
object extended, coloured, and moved : this mixed or com 
pound idea the mind resolving into its simple, constituent 
parts, and viewing each by itself, exclusive of the rest, does 
frame the abstract ideas of extension, colour, and motion. 
Not that it is possible for colour or motion to exist without 
extension ; but only that the mind can frame to itself by 
abstraction the idea of colour exclusive of extension, and 
of motion exclusive of both colour and extension. 

8. Again, the mind having observed that in the particular 
extensions perceived by sense there is something common 
and alike in all, and some other things peculiar, as this or 
that figure or magnitude, which distinguish them one from 
another, it considers apart, or singles out by itself, that 
which is common ; making thereof a most abstract idea of 
extension ; which is neither line, surface, nor solid, nor has 
any figure or magnitude, but is an idea entirely prescinded 
from all these. So likewise the mind, by leaving out of the 
particular colours perceived by sense that which distin 
guishes them one from another, and retaining that only 
which is common to all, makes an idea of colour in abstract ; 
which is neither red, nor blue, nor white, nor any other 
determinate colour. And, in like manner, by considering 
motion abstractedly, not only from the body moved, but 
likewise from the figure it describes, and all particular 
directions and velocities, the abstract idea of motion is 


framed ; which equally corresponds to all particular motions 
whatsoever that may be perceived by sense. 

9. And as the mind frames to itself abstract ideas of 
qualities or modes, so does it, by the same precision, or 
mental separation, attain abstract ideas of the more com 
pounded beings which include several coexistent qualities. 
For example, the mind having observed that Peter, James, 
and John resemble each other in certain common agree 
ments of shape and other qualities, leaves out of the 
complex or compound idea it has of Peter, James, and any 
other particular man, that which is peculiar to each, 
retaining only what is common to all, and so makes an 
abstract idea, wherein all the particulars equally partake ; 
abstracting entirely from and cutting off all those circum 
stances and differences which might determine it to any 
particular existence. And after this manner it is said we 
come by the abstract idea of man, or, if you please, human 
ity, or human nature ; wherein it is true there is included 
colour, because there is no man but has some colour, but 
then it can be neither white, nor black, nor any particular 
colour, because there is no one particular colour wherein 
all men partake. So likewise there is included stature, 
but then it is neither tall stature, nor low stature, nor yet 
middle stature, but something abstracted from all these. 
And so of the rest. Moreover, there being a great variety 
of other creatures that partake in some parts, but not all, of 
the complex idea of man, the mind, leaving out those parts 
which are peculiar to men, and retaining those only which 
are common to all the living creatures, frames the idea of 
animal ; which abstracts not only from all particular men, 
but also all birds, beasts, fishes, and insects. The consti 
tuent parts of the abstract idea of animal are body, life, 
sense, and spontaneous motion. By body is meant body 
without any particular shape or figure, there being no one 
shape or figure common to all animals ; without covering, 
either of hair, or feathers, or scales, &c., nor yet naked : 
hair, feathers, scales, and nakedness being the distinguish 
ing properties of particular animals, and for that reason 
left out of the abstract idea. Upon the same account, the 
spontaneous motion must be neither walking, nor flying, 
nor creeping ; it is nevertheless a motion/ but what that 
motion is it is not easy to conceive. 



10. Whether others have this wonderful faculty of 
abstracting their ideas, they best can tell \ For myself, [ 2 1 
dare be confident I have it not.] I find indeed I have 
a faculty of imagining, or representing to myself, the ideas 
of those particular things I have perceived, and of variously 
compounding and dividing them. I can imagine a man 
with two heads ; or the upper parts of a man joined to the 
body of a horse. I can consider the hand, the eye, the 
nose, each by itself abstracted or separated from the rest of 
the body. But then whatever hand or eye I imagine 3 , it 
must have some particular shape and colour 1 . Likewise 
the idea of man that I frame to myself must be either of 
a white, or a black, or a tawny, a straight, or a crooked, 
a tall, or a low, or a middle-sized man. I cannot by any 
effort of thought conceive the abstract idea above described. 
And it is equally impossible for me to form the abstract 
idea of motion distinct from the body moving, and which 
is neither swift nor slow, curvilinear nor rectilinear; and 
the like may be said of all other abstract general ideas 
whatsoever. To be plain, I own myself able to abstract in 
one sense, as when I consider some particular parts or 
qualities separated from others, with which, though they 
are united in some object, yet it is possible they may really 
exist without them. But I deny that I can abstract from 
one another, or conceive separately, those qualities which 
it is impossible should exist so separated ; or that I can 
frame a general notion, by abstracting from particulars in the 
manner aforesaid which last are the two proper accepta 
tions of abstraction. And there is ground to think most 
men will acknowledge themselves to be in my case. The 
generality of men which are simple and illiterate never 
pretend to abstract notions 4 . It is said they are difficult, 
and not to be attained without pains and study. We may 

1 As in Derodon s Logica, Pt. II. ous imagination ; and his argu- 

c.6, 7 ; Philosophia Contracta, I. i. ment is that none of these can be 

7-11 ; and Gassendi, Leg. Instit., an abstraction. We can neither 

I. 8 ; also Cudworth, Eternal and perceive nor imagine what is not 

Immutable Morality, Bk. IV. concrete and part of a succession. 

2 Omitted in second edition. 4 abstract notions here used 

3 We must remember that what convertibly with abstract ideas. 

Berkeley intends by an idea is either Cf. Principles, sect. 89 and 142. on 

a percept of sense, or a sensu- the special meaning of notion. 


therefore reasonably conclude that, if such there be, they 
are confined only to the learned. 

ii. I proceed to examine what can be alleged in defence 
of the doctrine of abstraction *, and try if I can discover 
what it is that inclines the men of speculation to embrace 
an opinion so remote from common sense as that seems to 
be. There has been a late [ 2 excellent and] deservedly 
esteemed philosopher 3 who, no doubt, has given it very 
much countenance, by seeming to think the having abstract 
general ideas is what puts the widest difference in point of 
understanding betwixt man and beast. The having of 
general ideas/ saith he, is that which puts a perfect dis 
tinction betwixt man and brutes, and is an excellency which 
the faculties of brutes do by no means attain unto. For 
it is evident we observe no foot-steps in them of making 
use of general signs for universal ideas ; from which we 
have reason to imagine that they have not the faculty of 
abstracting, or making general ideas, since they have no 
use of words, or any other general signs. And a little 
after : Therefore, I think, we may suppose, that it is in 
this that the species of brutes are discriminated from man : 
and it is that proper difference wherein they are wholly 
separated, and which at last widens to so wide a distance. 
For if they have any ideas at all, and are not bare machines 
(as some would have them 4 ), we cannot deny them to have 
some reason. It seems as evident to me that they do, 
some of them, in certain instances, reason, as that they 
have sense ; but it is only in particular ideas, just as they 
receive them from their senses. They are the best of them 
tied up within those narrow bounds, and have not (as I 
think) the faculty to enlarge them by any kind of abstraction. 
Essay on Human Understanding, B. II. ch. n. 10 and 
ii. I readily agree with this learned author, that the facul 
ties of brutes can by no means attain to abstraction. But 
then if this be made the distinguishing property of that sort 

1 Supposed by Berkeley to mean, the phenomena in which it is 

that we can imagine, in abstraction realised in sense, 

from all phenomena presented in 2 Omitted in second edition, 

concrete experience, e. g. imagine :i Locke. 

existence, in abstraction from all 4 Descartes, who regarded brutes 

phenomena in which it manifests it- as (sentient?) machines, 
self to us ; or matter, stripped of all 

R 2 


of animals, I fear a great many of those that pass for men 
must be reckoned into their number. The reason that is 
here assigned, why we have no grounds to think brutes 
have abstract general ideas, is, that we observe in them no 
use of words, or any other general signs ; which is built on 
this supposition, to wit, that the making use of words implies 
having general ideas. From which it follows that men who 
use language are able to abstract or generalize their ideas. 
That this is the sense and arguing of the author will 
further appear by his answering the question he in another 
place puts : Since all things that exist are only particulars, 
how come we by general terms ? His answer is : Words 
become general by being made the signs of general ideas. 
Essay on Human Understanding, B. III. ch. 3. 6. But 
it seems that a word becomes general by being made the 
sign, not of an abstract general idea, but of several particu 
lar ideas, any one of which it indifferently suggests to the 
mind. For example, when it is said the change of motion 
is proportional to the impressed force/ or that whatever 
has extension is divisible/ these propositions are to be 
understood of motion and extension in general ; and 
nevertheless it will not follow that they suggest to my 
thoughts an idea 2 of motion without a body moved, or any 
determinate direction and velocity ; or that I must conceive 
an abstract general idea of extension, which is neither line, 
surface, nor solid, neither great nor small, black, white, 
nor red, nor of any other determinate colour. It is only 
implied that whatever particular motion I consider, whether 
it be swift or slow, perpendicular, horizontal, or oblique, 
or in whatever object, the axiom concerning it holds 
equally true. As does the other of every particular exten 
sion ; it matters not whether line, surface, or solid, whether 
of this or that magnitude or figure 3 . 

1 To this I cannot assent, being which that particular idea exernpli- 

of opinion that a word/ &c. in fies, and which, as he shews, 

first edition. may be signified by a correspond- 

~ an idea/ i.e. a concrete men- ing word. All ideas (in Berkeley s 

tal picture. confined meaning of idea ) are 

3 So that generality in an idea particular. We rise above particu- 

is, our consideration of a particu- lar ideas by an intellectual appre- 

lar idea (e. g. a particular motion hension of their relations ; not b} 

or a particular extension ) not per forming abstract pictures, which are 

se, but under general relations, contradictory absurdities. 


12. By observing how ideas become general, we may 
the better judge how words are made so. And here it is 
to be noted that I do not deny absolutely there are general 
ideas, but only that there are any abstract general ideas. For, 
in the passages we have quoted wherein there is mention 
of general ideas, it is always supposed that they are formed 
by abstraction, after the manner set forth in sections 8 and 
9 . Now, if we will annex a meaning to our words, and 
speak only of what we can conceive, I believe we shall 
acknowledge that an idea, which considered in itself is 
particular, becomes general, by being made to represent or 
stand for all other particular ideas of the same sort 2 . To 
make this plain by an example. Suppose a geometrician 
is demonstrating the method of cutting a line in two equal 
parts. He draws, for instance, a black line of an inch in 
length : this, which in itself is a particular line, is never 
theless with regard to its signification general ; since, as it 
is there used, it represents all particular lines whatsoever ; 
so that what is demonstrated of it is demonstrated of all 
lines, or, in other words, of a line in general 3 . And, as 
that particular line becomes general by being made a sign, 
so the name line, which taken absolutely is particular, by 
being a sign, is made general. And as the former owes its 
generality, not to its being the sign of an abstract or 
general line, but of all particular right lines that may 
possibly exist, so the latter must be thought to derive its 
generality from the same cause, namely, the various par 
ticular lines which it indifferently denotes. 

13. To give the reader a yet clearer view of the nature 
of abstract ideas, and the uses they are thought necessary 
to, I shall add one more passage out of the Essay on 
Human Understanding, which is as follows : Abstract 
ideas are not so obvious or easy to children, or the yet 
unexercised mind, as particular ones. If they seem so to 
grown men, it is only because by constant and familiar use 

1 Locke is surely misconceived. this, although he expresses his 
He does not say, as Berkeley seems meaning in ambiguous words ? 
to suppose that in forming ab- 3 It is a particular idea, but con- 
stract ideaL, we are forming ab- sidercd relatively a significant 
stract mental images pictures in particular idea, in other words, 
the mind that are not individual We realise our notions in ex- 
pictures, amples, and these must be con- 

- Does Locke intend more than crete. 


they are made so. For, when we nicely reflect upon 
them, we shall find that general ideas are fictions and 
contrivances of the mind, that carry difficulty with them, 
and do not so easily offer themselves as we are apt to 
imagine. For example, does it not require some pains and 
skill to form the general idea of a triangle (which is yet 
none of the most abstract, comprehensive, and difficult); 
for it must be neither oblique nor rectangle, neither 
equilateral, equicrural, nor scalenon ; but all and none of 
these at once? In effect, it is something imperfect, that 
cannot exist ; an idea wherein some parts of several 
different and inconsistent ideas are put together. It is 
true the mind, in this imperfect state, has need of such 
ideas, and makes all the haste to them it can, for the 
conveniency of communication and enlargement of know 
ledge ; to both which it is naturally very much inclined. 
But yet one has reason to suspect such ideas l are marks of 
our imperfection. At least this is enough to shew that 
the most abstract and general ideas are not those that the 
mind is first and most easily acquainted with, nor such 
as its earliest knowledge is conversant about. B. iv. ch. 7. 
9. If any man has the faculty of framing in his mind such 
an idea of a triangle as is here described, it is in vain to 
pretend to dispute him out of it, nor would I go about it. 
All I desire is that the reader would fully and certainly 
inform himself w r hether he has such an idea or no. And 
this, methinks, can be no hard task for any one to perform. 
What more easy than for any one to look a little into his 
own thoughts, and there try whether he has, or can attain 
to have, an idea that shall correspond with the description 
that is here given of the general idea of a triangle which 
is neither oblique nor rectangle, equilateral, equicrural nor 
scalenon, but all and none of these at once ? 

14. Much is here said of the difficulty that abstract ideas 
carry with them, and the pains and skill requisite to the 
forming them. And it is on all hands agreed that there is 

1 i.e. ideas in Locke s mean- intellectually, when Locke calls 
ing of idea, under which he com- them abstract, general, or uni- 
prehends, not only the particular versal. Omniscience in its all- 
ideas of sense and imagination comprehensive intuition may not 
Berkeley s ideas but these con- require, or even admit, such general 
sidered relatively, and so seen ideas. 


need of great toil and labour of the mind, to emancipate 
our thoughts from particular objects, and raise them to 
those sublime speculations that are conversant about 
abstract ideas. From all which the natural consequence 
should seem to be, that so difficult a thing as the forming 
abstract ideas was not necessary for communication, which 
is so easy and familiar to all sorts of men. But, we are 
told, if they seem obvious and easy to grown men, it is 
only because by constant and familiar use they are made 
so. Now, I would fain know at what time it is men are 
employed in surmounting that difficulty, and furnishing 
themselves with those necessary helps for discourse. It 
cannot be when they are grown up ; for then it seems they 
are not conscious of any such painstaking. It remains 
therefore to be the business of their childhood. And 
surely the great and multiplied labour of framing abstract 
notions 1 will be found a hard task for that tender age. Is 
it not a hard thing to imagine that a couple of children 
cannot prate together of their sugar-plums and rattles and 
the rest of their little trinkets, till they have first tacked 
together numberless inconsistencies, and so framed in their 
minds abstract general ideas, and annexed them to every 
common name they make use of? 

15. Nor do I think them a whit more needful for the 
enlargement of knowledge than for communication. It is, I 
know, a point much insisted on, that all knowledge and 
demonstration are about universal notions, to which I fully 
agree. But then it does not appear to me that those notions 
are formed by abstraction in the manner premised uni 
versality, so far as I can comprehend, not consisting in the 
absolute, positive nature or conception of anything, but in 
the relation it bears to the particulars signified or repre 
sented by it ; by virtue whereof it is that things, names, or 
notions 2 , being in their own nature particular, are rendered 
universal. Thus, when I demonstrate any proposition 
concerning triangles, it is supposed that I have in view the 

1 Here and in what follows, attached to the term, when he con- 

abstract notion universal notion, trasted it with idea, 

instead of abstract idea. Notion 2 notions, again synonymous 

seems to be here a synonym for with ideas, which are all particular 

idea, and not taken in the special or concrete, in his meaning of idea, 

meaning which he afterwards when he uses it strictly. 


universal idea of a triangle : which ought not to be 
understood as if I could frame an idea l of a triangle which 
was neither equilateral, nor scalenon, nor equicrural ; but 
only that the particular triangle I consider, whether of this 
or that sort it matters not, doth equally stand for and re 
present all rectilinear triangles whatsoever, and is in that 
sense universal. All which seems very plain and not to 
include any difficulty in it 2 . 

16. But here it will be demanded, how we can know any 
proposition to be true of all particular triangles, except we 
have first seen it demonstrated of the abstract idea of 
a triangle which equally agrees to all ? For, because 
a property may be demonstrated to agree to some one 
particular triangle, it will not thence follow that it equally 
belongs to any other triangle which in all respects is not 
the same with it. For example, having demonstrated that 
the three angles of an isosceles rectangular triangle are 
equal to two right ones, I cannot therefore conclude this 
affection agrees to all other triangles which have neither a 
right angle nor two equal sides. It seems therefore that, 
to be certain this proposition is universally true, we must 
either make a particular demonstration for every particular 
triangle, which is impossible ; or once for all demonstrate 
it of the abstract idea of a triangle, in which all the 
particulars do indifferently partake, and by which they are 
all equally represented. To which I answer, that, though the 
idea I have in view" whilst I make the demonstration be, 
for instance, that of an isosceles rectangular triangle whose 
sides are of a determinate length, I may nevertheless be 
certain it extends to all other rectilinear triangles, of what 
sort or bigness soever. And that because neither the right 
angle, nor the equality, nor determinate length of the sides 
are at all concerned in the demonstration. It is true the 
diagram I have in view :! includes all these particulars; but 
then there is not the least mention made of them in the 
proof of the proposition. It is not said the three angles are 
equal to two right ones, because one of them is a right 

1 idea, i.e. individual mental pic- ledge, and without which experi- 

ture. ence could not cohere. 

In all this he takes no account 3 have in view, i.e. actually 

of the intellectual relations neces- realise in imagination, 
sarily embodied in concrete know- 


angle, or because the sides comprehending it are of the 
same length. Which sufficiently shews that the right angle 
might have been oblique, and the sides unequal, and for all 
that the demonstration have held good. And for this 
reason it is that I conclude that to be true of any obliquan- 
gular or scalenon which I had demonstrated of a parti 
cular right-angled equicrural triangle, and not because 
I demonstrated the proposition of the abstract idea of a 
triangle. f l And here it must be acknowledged that a man 
may consider a figure merely as triangular ; without 
attending to the particular qualities of the angles, or rela 
tions of the sides. So far lie may abstract. But this will 
never prove that he can frame an abstract, general, 
inconsistent idea of a triangle. In like manner we may 
consider Peter so far forth as man, or so far forth as 
animal, without framing the forementioned abstract idea, 
either of man or of animal ; inasmuch as all that is 
perceived is not considered.) 

17. It were an endless as well as an useless thing to 
trace the Schoolmen, those great masters of abstraction, 
through all the manifold inextricable labyrinths of error 
and dispute which their doctrine of abstract natures and 
notions seems to have led them into. What bickerings 
and controversies, and what a learned dust have been 
raised about those matters, and what mighty advantage has 
been from thence derived to mankind, are things at this 
day too clearly known to need being insisted on. And it 
had been well if the ill effects of that doctrine were confined 
to those only who make the most avowed profession of it. 
When men consider the great pains, industry, and parts 
that have for so many ages been laid out on the cultivation 
and advancement of the sciences, and that notwithstanding 
all this the far greater part of them remain full of darkness 
and uncertainty, and disputes that are like never to have 
an end ; and even those that are thought to be supported 
by the most clear and cogent demonstrations contain in 
them paradoxes which are perfectly irreconcilable to the 
understandings of men; and that, taking all together, 
a very small portion of them does supply any real benefit 
to mankind, otherwise than by being an innocent diversion 

What follows, to the end of this section, was added in the second or 
1734 edition. 


and amusement 1 I say, the consideration of all this is apt 
to throw them into a despondency and perfect contempt of 
all study. But this may perhaps cease upon a view of the 
false Principles that have obtained in the world ; amongst 
all which there is none, methinks, hath a more wide 
influence 2 over the thoughts of speculative men than this 
of abstract general ideas. 

18. I come now to consider the source of this prevailing 
notion, and that seems to me to be language. And surely 
nothing of less extent than reason itself could have been 
the source of an opinion so universally received. The 
truth of this appears as from other reasons so also from 
the plain confession of the ablest patrons of abstract 
ideas, who acknowledge that they are made in order to 
naming ; from which it is clear consequence that if there 
had been no such thing as speech or universal signs, 
there never had been any thought of abstraction. See 
B. iii. ch. 6. 39, and elsewhere of the Essay on Human 

Let us examine the manner wherein Words have con 
tributed to the origin of that mistake. First then, it is 
thought that every name has, or ought to have, one only 
precise and settled signification ; which inclines men to think 
there are certain abstract determinate ideas that constitute 
the true and only immediate signification of each general 
name; and that it is by the mediation of these abstract ideas 
that a general name comes to signify any particular thing. 
Whereas, in truth, there is no such thing as one precise 
and definite signification annexed to any general name, 
they all signifying indifferently a great number of particular 
ideas. All which does evidently follow from what has 
been already said, and will clearly appear to any one by a 
little reflexion. To this it will be objected that every name 
that has a definition is thereby restrained to one certain 
signification. For example, a triangle is defined to be a 
plain surface comprehended by three right lines ; by which 
that name is limited to denote one certain idea and no 
other. To which I answer, that in the definition it is not 

1 So Bacon in many passages of - wide influence, wide and 

his De Augnicntis Scicntianii-n and extended sway in first edition. 
Novtttn Oi ganiim. 


said whether the surface be great or small, black or white, 
nor whether the sides are long or short, equal or unequal, 
nor with what angles they are inclined to each other ; in 
all which there may be great variety, and consequently 
there is no one settled idea which limits the signification 
of the word triangle. It is one thing for to keep a name 
constantly to the same definition, and another to make it 
stand everywhere for the same idea : the one is necessary, 
the other useless and impracticable. 

19. But, to give a farther account how words came to 
produce the doctrine of abstract ideas, it must be observed 
that it is a received opinion that language has no other end 
but the communicating ideas, and that every significant 
name stands for an idea. This being so, and it being withal 
certain that names which yet are not thought altogether 
insignificant do not always mark out particular conceivable 
ideas, it is straightway concluded that they stand for abstract 
notions. That there are many names in use amongst specu 
lative men which do not always suggest to others deter 
minate, particular ideas, or in truth anything at all, is what 
nobody will deny. And a little attention will discover that 
it is not necessary (even in the strictest reasonings) that 
significant names which stand for ideas should, every time 
they are used, excite in the understanding the ideas they 
are made to stand for : in reading and discoursing, names 
being for the most part used as letters are in Algebra, in 
which, though a particular quantity be marked by each 
letter, yet to proceed right it is not requisite that in every 
step each letter suggest to your thoughts that particular 
quantity it was appointed to stand for 2 . 

20. Besides, the communicating of ideas marked by words 
is not the chief and only end of language, as is commonly 
supposed. There are other ends, as the raising of some 
passion, the exciting to or deterring from an action, the 
putting the mind in some particular disposition ; to which 
the former is in many cases barely subservient, and some 
times entirely omitted, when these can be obtained with- 

1 idea, i.e. individual datum in his Elements, vol. I. ch. 4, i, 

of sense or of imagination. on our habit of using language 

" See Leibniz on Symbolical without realising, in individual 

Knowledge (Opera Philosophica, examples or ideas, the meanings of 

pp. 79, 80, Erdmann). and Stewart the common terms used. 


out it, as I think doth ! not unfrequently happen in the 
familiar use of language. I entreat the reader to reflect 
with himself, and see if it doth not often happen, either in 
hearing or reading a discourse, that the passions of fear, 
love, hatred, admiration, and disdain, and the like, arise 
immediately in his mind upon the perception of certain 
words, without any ideas - coming between. At first, 
indeed, the words might have occasioned ideas 2 that were 
fitting to produce those emotions ; but, if I mistake not, it 
will be found that, when language is once grown familiar, 
the hearing of the sounds or sight of the characters is oft 
immediately attended with those passions which at first 
were wont to be produced by the intervention of ideas 2 
that are now quite omitted. May we not, for example, be 
affected with the promise of a good thing, though we have 
not an idea of what it is? Or is not the being threatened 
with danger sufficient to excite a dread, though we think 
not of any particular evil likely to befal us, nor yet frame 
to ourselves an idea of danger in abstract ? If any one 
shall join ever so little reflection of his own to what has 
been said, I believe that it will evidently appear to him that 
general names are often used in the propriety of language 
without the speakers designing them for marks of ideas 2 in 
his own, which he would have them raise in the mind of 
the hearer. Even proper names themselves do not seem 
always spoken with a design to bring into our view the 
ideas 2 of those individuals that are supposed to be marked 
by them. For example, when a schoolman tells me 
Aristotle hath said it, all I conceive he means by it is to 
dispose me to embrace his opinion with the deference and 
submission which custom has annexed to that name. And 
this effect may be so instantly produced in the minds of 
those who are accustomed to resign their judgment to 
authority of that philosopher, as it is impossible any idea 
either of his person, writings, or reputation should go before. 
[ 3 So close and immediate a connexion may custom establish 

1 doth does, here and else- sight of a verbal sign may do duty 
where in first edition. for the concrete idea in which 

2 ideas, i. e. representations in the notion signified by the word 
imagination of any of the indi- might be exemplified. 

vidual objects to which the names 3 This sentence is omitted in the 

arc applicable. The sound or second edition. 


betwixt the very word Aristotle 1 and the motions of assent 
and reverence in the minds of some men.] Innumerable 
examples of this kind maybe given, but why should I insist 
on those things which every one s experience will, I doubt 
not, plentifully suggest unto him ? 

21. We have, I think, shewn the impossibility of Abstract 
Ideas. We have considered what has been said for them 
by their ablest patrons ; and endeavoured to shew they are 
of no use for those ends to which they are thought neces 
sary. And lastly, we have traced them to the source 
from whence they flow, which appears evidently to be 

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 labours of inquisitive 
men in all ages and nations may be drawn into the view 
and made the possession of one single person. But [ 2 at the 
same time it must be owned that] most parts of knowledge 
have been [ 3 so] strangely perplexed and darkened by the 
abuse of words, and general ways of speech wherein they 
are delivered, :! that it may almost be made a question 
whether language has contributed more to the hindrance 
or advancement of the sciences]. Since therefore words 
are so apt to impose on the understanding, [ 3 I am resolved 
in my inquiries to make as little use of them as possibly I 
can : j whatever ideas I consider, I shall endeavour to take 
them bare and naked into my view ; keeping out of my 
thoughts, so far as I am able, those names which long 
and constant use hath so strictly united with them. From 
which I may expect to derive the following advantages : 

22. First, I shall be sure to get clear of all controversies 
purely verbal, the springing up of which weeds in almost all 
the sciences has been a main hindrance to the growth of 
true and sound knowledge. Secondly, this seems to be a 
sure way to extricate myself out of that fine and subtle net 

1 Elsewhere he mentions Aris- notions of the utmost universality ; 

totle as certainly a great admirer for they are the most remote from 

and promoter of the doctrine of sense. Metaph., Bk. I. ch. 2. 

abstraction, and quotes his state- - Added in second edition, 

ment that there is hardly anything : Omitted in second edition, 
so incomprehensible to men as 


of abstract ideas, which has so miserably perplexed and 
entangled the minds of men ; and that with this peculiar 
circumstance, that by how much the finer and more curious 
was the wit of any man, by so much the deeper was he 
likely to be ensnared and faster held therein. Thirdly, so 
long as I confine my thoughts to my own ideas T , divested 
of words, I do not see how I can easily be mistaken. The 
objects I consider, I clearly and adequately know. I can 
not be deceived in thinking I have an idea which I have 
not. It is not possible for me to imagine that any of my own 
ideas are alike or unlike that are not truly so. To discern the 
agreements or disagreements there are between my ideas, 
to see what ideas are included in any compound idea and 
what not, there is nothing more requisite than an atten 
tive perception of what passes in my own understanding. 

23. But the attainment of all these advantages does pre 
suppose an entire deliverance from the deception of words ; 
which I dare hardly promise myself, so difficult a thing it is 
to dissolve an union so early begun, and confirmed by so 
long a habit as that betwixt words and ideas. Which diffi 
culty seems to have been very much increased by the 
doctrine of abstraction. For, so long as men thought 
abstract ideas were annexed to their words, it does not 
seem strange that they should use words for ideas ; it being 
found an impracticable thing to lay aside the word, and retain 
the abstract idea in the mind ; which in itself was perfectly 
inconceivable. This seems to me the principal cause why 
those who have so emphatically recommended to others the 
laying aside all use of words in their meditations, and con 
templating their bare ideas, have yet failed to perform it 
themselves. Of late many have been very sensible of the 
absurd opinions and insignificant disputes which grow out 
of the abuse of words. And, in order to remedy these evils, 
they advise well 2 , that we attend to the ideas signified, and 
draw off our attention from the words which signify them 3 . 

1 my own ideas/ i. e. the con- hinder the due tracing of our ideas, 
crete phenomena which I can and finding out their relations, and 
realise as perceptions of sense, agreements or disagreements one 
or in imagination. with another, has been, I suppose, 

2 He probably refers to Locke. the ill use of words. It is im- 

3 According to Locke, that possible that men should ever 
which has most contributed to truly seek, or certainly discover, 


But, how good soever this advice may be they have given 
others, it is plain they could not have a due regard to it 
themselves, so long as they thought the only immediate use 
of words was to signify ideas, and that the immediate sig 
nification of every general name was a determinate abstract 

24. But these being known to be mistakes, a man mav 
with greater ease prevent his being imposed on by words. 
He that knows he has no other than particular ideas, will 
not puzzle himself in vain to find out and conceive the 
abstract idea annexed to any name. And he that knows 
names do not always stand for ideas * will spare himself the 
labour of looking for ideas where there are none to be had. 
It were, therefore, to be wished that every one would use 
his utmost endeavours to obtain a clear view of the ideas he 
would consider ; separating from them all that dress and 
incumbrance of words which so much contribute to blind 
the judgment and divide the attention. In vain do we 
extend our view into the heavens and pry into the entrails 
of the earth, in vain do we consult the writings of learned 
men and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity. We need 
only draw the curtain of words, to behold the fairest tree 
of knowledge, whose fruit is excellent, and within the reach 
of our hand. 

25. Unless we take care to clear the First Principles of 
Knowledge from the embarras and delusion of Words, we 
may make infinite reasonings upon them to no purpose ; 
we may draw consequences from consequences, and be 
never the wiser. The farther we go, we shall only lose 
ourselves the more irrecoverably, and be the deeper en 
tangled in difficulties and mistakes. Whoever therefore 
designs to read the following sheets, I entreat him that he 

the agreement or disagreement of avoided thereby a great part of 

ideas themselves, whilst their that perplexity, puddering, and 

thoughts flutter about, or stick confusion which has so much 

only in sounds of doubtful and hindered men s progress in other 

uncertain significations. Mathema- parts of knowledge. Essay, Bk. IV 7 . 

ticians, abstracting their thoughts ch. 3, 30. See also Bk. III. ch. 

from names, and accustoming 10, IT. 

themselves to set before their General names involve in their 

minds the ideas themselves that signification intellectual relations 

they would consider, and not among ideas or phenomena; but the 

sounds instead of them, have relations, per te, are unimaginable. 


would make my words the occasion of his own thinking, and 
endeavour to attain the same train of thoughts in reading 
that I had in writing them. By this means it will be easy 
for him to discover the truth or falsity of what I say. He 
will be out of all danger of being deceived by my words. 
And I do not see how he can be led into an error by con 
sidering his own naked, undisguised ideas 1 . 

1 The rough draft of the Intro 
duction, prepared two years before 
the publication of the Principles 
(see Appendix, vol. Ill), should 
be compared with the published 
version. He there tells that i there 
was a time when, being bantered 
and abused by words/ he did 
not in the least doubt that he 
was able to abstract his ideas ; 
adding that after a strict survey 
of my abilities, I not only dis 
covered my own deficiency on 
this point, but also cannot con 
ceive it possible that such a power 
should be even in the most perfect 
and exalted understanding. What 
he thus pronounces impossible. is 
a sensuous perception or imagina 

tion of an intellectual relation, as to 
which most thinkers would agree 
with him. But in so arguing, he 
seems apt to discard the intellectual 
relations themselves that are neces 
sarily embodied in experience. 

David Hume refers thus to Berke 
ley s doctrine about abstract 
ideas : A great philosopher has 
asserted that all general ideas are 
nothing but particularones annexed 
to a certain term, which gives them 
a more extensive signification. I 
look upon this to be one of the 
greatest and most valuable dis 
coveries that has been made of 
late years in the republic of letters. 
; Treatise of H. N. Pt. I, sect. 7.) 






i. IT is evident to any one who takes a survey of the 
objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas 
actually imprinted on the senses ; or else such as are 
perceived by attending to the passions and operations of 
the mind ; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and 
imagination either compounding, dividing, or barely re 
presenting those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. 
By sight I have the ideas of light and colours, with their 
several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard 
and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance ; and of all 
these more and less either as to quantity or degree. 
Smelling furnishes me with odours ; the palate with tastes ; 
and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety 
of tone and composition \ 

1 This resembles Locke s account in this external and internal ex- 

of the ideas with which human pcrience are, with the help of 

knowledge is concerned. They memory and imagination, elabor- 

are all originally presented to the ated by the human understanding 

senses, or got by reflexion upon in ways innumerable, true and false, 

the passions and acts of the mind ; See Locke s Essay, Bk. II, ch. i, 

and the materials contributed 1-5; ch. 10, n, 12. 



And as several of these are observed to accompany each 
other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be 
reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain colour, 
taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed 
to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified 
by the name apple ; other collections of ideas constitute a 
stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things ; which 
as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of 
love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth \ 

2. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or 
objects of knowledge, there is likewise Something which 
knows or perceives them ; and exercises divers operations, 
as willing, imagining, remembering, about them. This 
perceiving, active being is what I call mind, spirit, soul, 
or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my 
ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein 
they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are 
perceived ; for the existence of an idea consists in being 
perceived 2 . 

3. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas 
formed by the imagination, exist without the mind is 
what everybody will allow. And to me it seems no less 
evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on 
the Sense, however blended or combined together (that is, 
whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise 
than in a mind perceiving them 3 . I think an intuitive 
knowledge may be obtained of this, by any one that shall 
attend to what is meant by the term exist when applied to 

1 The ideas or phenomena of from ideas or perceptions, in which 

which we are percipient in our they exist and are perceived, and 

five senses make their appear- on which they ultimately depend, 

ance, not isolated, but in individual Spirit, intelligent and active, pre- 

masses, constituting the things, that supposed with its implicates in 

occupy their respective places in ideas, thus becomes the basis of 

perceived ambient space. It is as Berkeley s philosophy. Is this 

qualities of things that the ideas subjective idealism only ? Locke 

or phenomena of sense arise in appears in sect, i, Descartes, if not 

human experience. Kant by anticipation, in sect. 2. 

- This is an advance upon the 3 This sentence expresses Berke- 

language of the Commonplace Book, ley s New Principle, which filled 

in which mind is spoken of as only his thoughts in the Commonplace 

a congeries of perceptions. Here Book. Note in a mind, not 

it is something entirely distinct necessarily in my mind. 


sensible things *. The table I write on I say exists ; that 
is, I see and feel it : and if I were out of my study I should 
say it existed ; meaning thereby that if I was in my study 
I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does 
perceive it. There was an odour, that is, it was smelt ; 
there was a sound, that is, it was heard ; a colour or figure, 
and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I 
can understand by these and the like expressions -. For 
as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking 
things, without any relation to their being perceived, that is 
to me perfectly unintelligible. Their cssc is pcrcipi; nor is 
it possible they should have any existence out of the minds 
or thinking things which perceive them ! . 

4. It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst 
men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all 
sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real 4 , 
distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. 
But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever 
this Principle may be entertained in the world, yet who 
ever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I 
mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. 
For, what are the forementioned objects but the things we 
perceive by sense ? and what do we perceive besides our 
own " ideas or sensations ? and is it not plainly repugnant 
that any one of these, or any combination of them, should 
exist unperceived ? 

5. If we throughly examine this tenet 6 it will, perhaps, 

1 That is to say, one has only to or self-evident. 

put concrete meaning into the terms 4 Mark that it is the natural or 

existence and reality, in order to have real existence of the material world, 

an intuitive knowledge that mat- in the absertce of alJ realising Spirit, 

ter depends for its real existence that Berkeley insists is impossible 

on percipient spirit. meaningless. 

- In other words, the things of " our own yet not exclusively 

sense become real, only in the con- mine. They depend for their reality 

crete experience of living mind, upon a percipient, not on my per- 

which gives them the only reality ception. 

we can conceive or have any sort 6 this tenet, i. c. that the con- 

of concern with. Extinguish Spirit crete material world could still be a 

and the material world necessarily reality after the annihilation of all 

ceases to be real. realising spiritual life in the universe 

" That esse is percipi is Berkeley s divine or other, 
initial Principle, called intuitive 

S 2 


be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of abstract 
ideas. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than 
to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their 
being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unper- 
ceived l ? Light and colours, heat and cold, extension and 
figures in a word the things we see and feel what are 
they but so many sensations, notions 2 , ideas, or impres 
sions on the sense ? and is it possible to separate, even in 
thought, any of these from perception ? For my part, I 
might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, 
divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, 
those things which perhaps I never perceived by sense 
so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body 
without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without 
thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can 
abstract ; if that may properly be called abstraction which 
extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as 
it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived 
asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not 
extend beyond the possibility of real existence or percep 
tion. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel 
anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is 
it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any 
sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or percep 
tion of it. [ a In truth, the object and the sensation are the 
same thing, and cannot therefore be abstracted from each 

6. Some truths there are so near and obvious to the 
mind that a man need only open his eyes to see them. 
Such I take this important one to be, viz. that all the choir 
of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those 
bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, 
have not any subsistence without a mind ; that their being is 
to be perceived or known ; that consequently so long as they 
are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my 
mind, or that of any other created spirit, they must either 

1 existing unperceived, i. e. ex- (see sect. 27, 89, 142) restricted, 
isting without being realised in any is here applied to the immediate 
living percipient experience ex- data of the senses the ideas of 
isting in a totally abstract existence, sense. 

whatever that can mean. 3 This sentence is omitted in the 

2 notions a term elsewhere second edition. 


have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of 
some Eternal Spirit : it being perfectly unintelligible, and 
involving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to 
any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. 
[ l To be convinced of which, the reader need only reflect, 
and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of 
a sensible thing from its being perceived.] 

7. From what has been said it is evident there is not 
any other Substance than Spirit, or that which perceives 2 . 
But, for the fuller proof 3 of this point, let it be considered 
the sensible qualities are colour, figure, motion, smell, taste, 
and such like, that is, the ideas perceived by sense. Now, 
for an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing is a manifest 
contradiction ; for to have an idea is all one as to perceive: 
that therefore wherein colour, figure, and the like qualities 
exist must perceive them. Hence it is clear there can be 
no unthinking substance or substratum of those ideas. 

8. But, say you, though the ideas themselves 4 do not 
exist without the mind, yet there may be things like them, 
wherof they are copies or resemblances; which things exist 
without the mind, in an unthinking substance 5 . I answer, 
an idea can be like nothing but an idea; a colour or figure 
can be like nothing but another colour or figure. If we 
look but never so little into our thoughts, we shall find it 
impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only 
between our ideas. Again, I ask whether those supposed 
originals, or external things, of which our ideas are the 
pictures or representations, be themselves perceivable or 

1 In the first edition, instead of intelligible trustworthy experience, 
this sentence, we have the follow- 3 proof demonstration in 
ing: To make this appear with firsteditionjyethecallsit intuitive. 
all the light and evidence of an * the ideas themselves, i. e. the 
Axiom, it seems sufficient if I can phenomena immediately presented 
but awaken the reflexion of the in sense, and that are thus realised 
reader, that he may take an im- in and through the percipient ex- 
partial view of his own meaning, perience of living mind, as their 
and turn his thoughts upon the factor. 

subject itself ; free and disengaged 5 As those say who assume that 
from all embarras of words and perception is ultimately only re- 
prepossession in favour of received presentative of the material reality, 
mistakes. the very things themselves not 

2 In other words, active per- making their appearance to us 
cipient Spirit is at the root of all at all. 


no? If they are, then they are ideas, and we have gained 
our point : but if you say they are not, I appeal to any one 
whether it be sense to assert a colour is like something 
which is invisible ; hard or soft, like something which is 
intangible; and so of the rest. 

9. Some there are who make a distinction betwixt 
primary and secondary qualities . By the former they 
mean extension, figure, motion, rest, solidity or impenetra 
bility, and number; by the latter they denote all other 
sensible qualities, as colours, sounds, tastes, and so forth. 
The ideas we have of these last they acknowledge not to 
be the resemblances of anything existing without the mind, 
or unperceived ; but they will have our ideas of the 
primary qualities to be patterns or images of things which 
exist without the mind, in an unthinking substance 
which they call Matter. By Matter, therefore, we are to 
understand an inert 2 , senseless substance, in which exten 
sion, figure, and motion do actually subsist. But it is 
evident, from what we have already shewn, that extension, 
figure, and motion are only ideas existing in the mind 3 , 
and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea; and 
that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can 
exist in an unperceiving substance. Hence, it is plain that 
the very notion of what is called Matter or corporeal 
substance, involves a contradiction in it. [ 4 Insomuch that 
I should not think it necessary to spend more time in 
exposing its absurdity. But, because the tenet of the ex 
istence of Matter 5 seems to have taken so deep a root in 
the minds of philosophers, and draws after it so many ill 
consequences, I choose rather to be thought prolix and 
tedious than omit anything that might conduce to the full 
discovery and extirpation of that prejudice.] 

10. They who assert that figure, motion, and the rest of 

1 He refers especially to Locke, * What follows to the end of the 

whose account of Matter is accord- section is omitted in the second 

ingly charged with being incoherent. edition . 

inert. See the De Motu. the existence of Matter, i. e. 

3 ideas existing in the mind/ i. e. the existence of the material world, 

phenomena of which some mind is regarded as a something that does 

percipient ; which are realised in not need to be perceived in order 

the sentient experience of a living to be real, 
spirit, human or other. 


the primary or original qualities 1 do exist without the 
mind, in unthinking substances, do at the same time 
acknowledge that colours, sounds, heat, cold, and suchlike 
secondary qualities, do not ; which they tell us are sensa 
tions, existing in the mind alone, that depend on and are 
occasioned by the different size, texture, and motion of the 
minute particles of matter 2 . This they take for an un 
doubted truth, which they can demonstrate beyond all 
exception. Now, if it be certain that those original 
qualities are inseparably united with the other sensible 
qualities, and not, even in thought, capable of being abstract 
ed from them, it plainly follows that they exist only in the 
mind. But I desire an} one to reflect, and try whether he 
can, by any abstraction of thought, conceive the extension 
and motion of a body without all other sensible qualities. 
For my own part, I see evidently that it is not in my power 
to frame an idea of a body extended and moving, but 
I must withal give it some colour or other sensible quality, 
which is acknowledged to exist only in the mind. In short, 
extension, figure, and motion, abstracted from all other 
qualities, are inconceivable. Where therefore the other 
sensible qualities are,there must these be also, to wit, in the 
mind and nowhere else 3 . 

ii. Again, great and small, swift and slow, are allowed 
to exist nowhere without the mind 4 ; being entirely relative, 
and changing as the frame or position of the organs of 
sense varies. The extension therefore which exists with 
out the mind is neither great nor small, the motion neither 
swift nor slow ; that is, they are nothing at all. But, say 
you, they are extension in general, and motion in general. 
Thus we see how much the tenet of extended moveable 
substances existing without the mind 4 depends on that 
strange doctrine of abstract ideas. And here I cannot but 
remark how nearly the vague and indeterminate descrip- 

1 Sometimes called objective quali- and the primary qualities of matter 
ties, because they are supposed only hypothetically. 

to be realised in an abstract ob- 3 in the mind, and nowhere 

jectivity, which Berkeley insists is else, i. e. perceived or conceived, 

meaningless. but in no other manner can they 

2 See Locke s Essay, Ek. II, ch.8, be real or concrete. 

*3> J 8; ch. 23, ii ; Bk. IV, 4 without the mind/ i. e. inde- 

ch. 3, 24-26. Locke suggests pendently of all percipient experi- 
this relation between the secondary ence. 


tion of Matter, or corporeal substance, which the modern 
philosophers are run into by their own principles, resem 
bles that antiquated and so much ridiculed notion of materia 
prima, to be met with in Aristotle and his followers. 
Without extension solidity cannot be conceived : since 
therefore it has been shewn that extension exists not in an 
unthinking substance, the same must also be true of 
solidity 1 . 

12. That number is entirely the creature of the mind 2 , 
even though the other qualities be allowed to exist without, 
will be evident to whoever considers that the same thing 
bears a different denomination of number as the mind 
views it with different respects. Thus, the same extension 
is one, or three, or thirty-six, according as the mind 
considers it with reference to a yard, a foot, or an inch. 
Number is so visibly relative, and dependent on men s 
understanding, that it is strange to think how any one 
should give it an absolute existence without the mind. 
We say one book, one page, one line, &c. ; all these are 
equally units, though some contain several of the others. 
And in each instance, it is plain, the unit relates to some 
particular combination of ideas arbitrarily put together by 
the mind n . 

13. Unity I know some 4 will have to be a simple or 
uncompounded idea, accompanying all other ideas into the 
mind. That I have any such idea answering the word 
unity I do not find ; and if I had, methinks I could not 
miss finding it ; on the contrary, it should be the most 
familiar to my understanding, since it is said to accompany 
all other ideas, and to be perceived by all the ways of 

1 Extension is thus the dis- trated by their dependence on the 

tinguishing characteristic of the organisation of the percipient. In 

material world. Geometrical and this, the preceding, and the follow- 

physical solidity, as well as motion, ing sections, Berkeley argues the 

imply extension. inconsistency of the abstract reality 

a number is the creature of the attributed to the primary qualities 

mind, i. e. is dependent on being with their acknowledged depen- 

realised in percipient experience. dence on the necessary conditions 

This dependence is here illustrated of sense perception, 

by the relation of concrete number Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect, 

to the point of view of each 109. 

mind; as the dependence of the * e.g. Locke, Essay, Bk. II, ch. 7, 

other primary qualities was illus- 7 ; ch. 16, i. 


sensation and reflexion. To say no more, it is an abstract 

14. I shall farther add, that, after the same manner as 
modern philosophers prove certain sensible qualities to 
have no existence in Matter, or without the mind, the same 
thing may be likewise proved of all other sensible qualities 
whatsoever. Thus, for instance, it is said that heat and 
cold are affections only of the mind, and not at all patterns 
of real beings, existing in the corporeal substances which 
excite them ; for that the same body which appears cold to 
one hand seems warm to another. Now, why may we not 
as well argue that figure and extension are not patterns 
or resemblances of qualities existing in Matter ; because 
to the same eye at different stations, or eyes of a dif 
ferent texture at the same station, they appear various, and 
cannot therefore be the images of anything settled and 
determinate without the mind ? Again, it is proved that 
sweetness is not really in the sapid thing ; because the 
thing remaining unaltered the sweetness is changed into 
bitter, as in case of a fever or otherwise vitiated palate. Is 
it not as reasonable to say that motion is not without the 
mind; since if the succession of ideas in the mind become 
swifter, the motion, it is acknowledged, shall appear slower, 
without any alteration in any external object ? 

15. In short, let any one consider those arguments 
which are thought manifestly to prove that colours and 
tastes exist only in the mind, and he shall find they may 
with equal force be brought to prove the same thing of 
extension, figure, and motion. Though it must be con 
fessed this method of arguing does not so much prove that 
there is no extension or colour in an outward object, as 
that we do not know by sense which is the true extension 
or colour of the object. But the arguments foregoing 2 
plainly shew it to be impossible that any colour or extension 
at all, or other sensible quality whatsoever, should exist 
in an unthinking subject without the mind, or in truth that 
there should be any such thing as an outward object ! . 

1 without any alteration in any the qualities of matter, are expanded 
external object without any ex- in the First Dialogue between Hylas 
ternal alteration in first edition. and Pliilonous. 

2 These arguments, founded on 3 an outward object, i.e. an object 
the mind-dependent nature of all wholly abstract from living Mind. 


16. But let us examine a little the received opinion. It 
is said extension is a mode or accident of Matter, and that 
Matter is the substratum that supports it. Now I desire 
that you would explain to me what is meant by Matter s 
supporting extension. Say you, I have no idea of Matter; 
and therefore cannot explain it. I answer, though you have 
no positive, yet, if you have any meaning at all, you must 
at least have a relative idea of Matter; though you 
know not what it is, yet you must be supposed to know 
what relation it bears to accidents, and what is meant by 
its supporting them. It is evident support cannot here be 
taken in its usual or literal sense, as when we say that 
pillars support a building. In what sense therefore must 
it be taken ? [ J For my part, I am not able to discover any 
sense at all that can be applicable to it.J 

17. If we inquire into what the most accurate philoso 
phers declare themselves to mean by material substance, 
we shall find them acknowledge they have no other mean 
ing annexed to those sounds but the idea of Being in 
general, together with the relative notion of its supporting 
accidents. The general idea of Being appeareth to me the 
most abstract and incomprehensible of all other ; and as 
for its supporting accidents, this, as we have just now 
observed, cannot be understood in the common sense of 
those words : it must therefore be taken in some other 
sense, but what that is they do not explain. So that when 
I consider the two parts or branches which make the 
signification of the words material substance, I am con 
vinced there is no distinct meaning annexed to them. 
But why should we trouble ourselves any farther, in 
discussing this material substratum or support of figure and 
motion and other sensible qualities? Does it not suppose 
they have an existence without the mind ? And is not this 
a direct repugnancy, and altogether inconceivable ? 

18. But, though it were possible that solid, figured, 
moveable substances may exist without the mind, corre 
sponding to the ideas we have of bodies, yet how is it 
possible for us to know this ? Either we must know it by 
Sense or by Reason 2 . As for our senses, by them we 

1 This sentence is omitted in the argued, in this and the next section, 

second edition. that a reality unrealised in perci- 

- * reason/ i. e. reasoning. It is pient experience cannot be proved, 


have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or 
those things that are immediately perceived by sense, call 
them what you will : but they do not inform us that things 
exist without the mind, or unperceived, like to those which 
are perceived. This the materialists themselves acknow 
ledge. It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge 
at all of external things, it must be by reason inferring 
their existence from what is immediately perceived by 
sense. But ( l I do not see) what reason can induce us to 
believe the existence of bodies without the mind, from what 
we perceive, since the very patrons of Matter themselves 
do not pretend there is any necessary connexion betwixt 
them and our ideas ? I say it is granted on all hands (and 
what happens in dreams, frensies, and the like, puts it 
beyond dispute) that it is possible we might be affected 
with all the ideas we have now, though no bodies existed 
without resembling them 2 . Hence it is evident the sup 
position of external bodies" is not necessary for the pro 
ducing our ideas ; since it is granted they are produced 
sometimes, and might possibly be produced always, in 
the same order we see them in at present, without their 

19. But, though we might possibly have all our sensa 
tions without them, yet perhaps it may be thought easier 
to conceive and explain the manner of their production, 
by supposing external bodies in their likeness rather than 
otherwise ; and so it might be at least probable there are 
such things as bodies that excite their ideas in our minds. 
But neither can this be said. For, though we give the 
materialists their external bodies, they by their own con 
fession are never the nearer knowing how our ideas are 
produced ; since they own themselves unable to compre 
hend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or how it is 
possible it should imprint any idea in the mind 4 . Hence 

either by our senses or by reason- characteristics from the external 

ing. ideas of which we are percipient 

1 Omitted in the second edition, in sense. Cf. sect. 29 33. 
and the sentence converted into :! i external bodies, i.e. bodies 

a question. supposed to be real independently 

a But the ideas of which we are of all percipients in the universe, 
cognizant in waking dreams, and 4 i. e. they cannot shew how 

dreams of sleep, differ in important their unintelligible hypothesis of 


it is evident the production of ideas or sensations in our 
minds 1 , can be no reason why we should suppose Matter 
or corporeal substances 2 ; since that is acknowledged to 
remain equally inexplicable with or without this sup 
position. If therefore it were possible for bodies to exist 
without the mind, yet to hold they do so must needs be 
a very precarious opinion ; since it is to suppose, without 
any reason at all, that God has created innumerable beings 
that are entirely useless, and serve to no manner of 

20. In short, if there were external bodies 3 , it is im 
possible we should ever come to know it ; and if there 
were not, we might have the very same reasons to think there 
were that we have now. Suppose what no one can deny 
possible an intelligence, without the help of external 
bodies 3 , to be affected with the same train of sensations or 
ideas that you are, imprinted in the same order and with 
like vividness in his mind. I ask whether that intelli 
gence hath not all the reason to believe the existence of 
Corporeal Substances, represented by his ideas, and ex 
citing them in his mind, that you can possibly have for 
believing the same thing ? Of this there can be no ques 
tion. Which one consideration were enough to make any 
reasonable person suspect the strength of whatever argu 
ments he may think himself to have, for the existence of 
bodies without the mind. 

21. Were it necessary to add any farther proof against 
the existence of Matter 4 , after what has been said, I could 
instance several of those errors and difficulties (not to 
mention impieties) which have sprung from that tenet. It 
has occasioned numberless controversies and disputes in 
philosophy, and not a few of far greater moment in religion. 
But I shall not enter into the detail of them in this place, 
as well because I think arguments a posteriori are unneces 
sary for confirming what has been, if I mistake not, 

Matter accounts for the experience - Mind-dependent Matter he not 

we have, or expect to have ; or only allows to exist, but maintains 

which we believe other persons its reality to be intuitively evident, 

have, or to be about to have. 3 i. e. bodies existing in abstrac- 

1 the production/ &c., i. e. the tion from living percipient spirit, 

fact that we and others have per- 4 Matter, i. e. abstract Matter, 

cipient experience. unrealised in sentient intelligence. 


sufficiently demonstrated a priori, as because I shall here 
after find occasion to speak somewhat of them. 

22. I am afraid I have given cause to think I am need 
lessly prolix in handling this subject. For, to what 
purpose is it to dilate on that which may be demonstrated 
with the utmost evidence in a line or two, to any one that 
is capable of the least reflexion? It is but looking into 
your own thoughts, and so trying whether you can conceive 
it possible for a sound, or figure, or motion, or colour to 
exist without the mind or unperceived. This easy trial 1 may 
perhaps make you see that what you contend for is a 
downright contradiction. Insomuch that I am content to 
put the whole upon this issue : If you can but conceive it 
possible for one extended moveable substance, or in general 
for any one idea, or anything like an idea, to exist other 
wise than in a mind perceiving it , I shall readily give up 
the cause. And, as for all that compages of external 
bodies you contend for, I shall grant you its existence, 
though you cannot either give me any reason why you 
believe it exists, or assign any use to it when it is supposed 
to exist. I say, the bare possibility of your opinions being 
true shall pass for an argument that it is so. 

23. But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for 
me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books exist 
ing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, 
you may so, there is no difficulty in it. But what is all this, 
I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain 
ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time 
omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive 
them ? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them 
all the while ? This therefore is nothing to the purpose : 
it only shews you have the power of imagining, or forming 
ideas in your mind ; but it does not shew that you can 
conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist 
without the mind ;! . To make out this, it is necessary that 

1 The appeal here and elsewhere 3 This implies that the material 

is to consciousness directly in world may be realised in imagina- 

each person s experience, and in- tion as well as in sensuous per- 

directly in that of others, ception, but in a less degree of 

- i. e. otherwise than in the form reality ; for reality, he assumes. 

of an idea or actual appearance admits of degrees, 
presented to our senses. 


you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of; 
which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our utmost 
to conceive the existence of external bodies \ we are all the 
while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind, 
taking no .notice of itself, is deluded to think it can and 
does conceive bodies existing unthought of, or without the 
mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by, or 
exist in, itself. A little attention will discover to any one 
the truth and evidence of what is here said, and make it 
unnecessary to insist on any other proofs against the exist 
ence of material substance. 

24. [ - Could men but forbear to amuse themselves with 
words, we should, I believe, soon come to an agreement in 
this point. It is very obvious, upon the least inquiry into 
our own thoughts, to know whether it be possible for us to 
understand what is meant by the absolute existence of sensi 
ble objects in themselves, or without the mind*. To me it is 
evident those words mark out either a direct contradiction, 
or else nothing at all. And to convince others of this, I 
know no readier or fairer way than to entreat they would 
calmly attend to their own thoughts ; and if by this atten 
tion the emptiness or repugnancy of those expressions 
does appear, surely nothing more is requisite for their con 
viction. It is on this therefore that I insist, to wit, that 
the absolute existence of unthinking things are words with 
out a meaning, or which include a contradiction. This 
is \vhat I repeat and inculcate, and earnestly recommend 
to the attentive thoughts of the reader. 

25. All our ideas, sensations, notions 4 , or the things which 
we perceive, by whatsoever names they may be distinguish 
ed, are visibly inactive : there is nothing of power or agency 

to conceive the existence of spiritual life and perception, is what 

external bodies/ i. e. to conceive Berkeley argues against, as tnean- 

bodies that are not conceived ingless, if not contradictory ; not the 

that are not ideas at all, but which existence of a material world, 

exist in abstraction. To suppose when this means the realised order 

what we conceive to be uncon- of nature, regulated independently 

ceived, is to suppose a contra- of individual will, and to which our 

diction. actions must conform if we are to 

2 This sentence is omitted in the avoid physical pain, 

second edition. 4 Here again notion is undis- 

:5 ; The existence of things with- tinguished from idea. 
out mind, or in the absence of all 


included in them. So that one idea or object of thought 
cannot produce or make any alteration in another \ To be 
satisfied of the truth of this, there is nothing else requisite 
but a bare observation of our ideas. For, since they and 
every part of them exist only in the mind, it follows that 
there is nothing in them but what is perceived : but whoever 
shall attend to his ideas, whether of sense or reflexion, will not 
perceive in them any power or activity; there is, therefore, 
no such thing contained in them. A little attention will 
discover to us that the very being of an idea implies pas- 
siveness and inertness in it ; insomuch that it is impossible 
for an idea to do anything, or, strictly speaking, to be the 
cause of anything : neither can it be the resemblance or 
pattern of any active being, as is evident from sect. 8. 
Whence it plainly follows that extension, figure, and motion 
cannot be the cause of our sensations. To say, therefore, 
that these are the effects of powers resulting from the con 
figuration, number, motion, and size of corpuscles 2 , must 
certainly be false. 

26. We perceive a continual succession of ideas ; some 
are anew excited, others are changed or totally disappear. 
There is therefore some cause of these ideas, whereon they 
depend, and which produces and changes them 3 . That this 
cause cannot be any quality or idea or combination of ideas, 
is clear from the preceding section. It must therefore be 
a substance ; but it has been shewn that there is no corporeal 
or material substance : it remains therefore that the cause 
of ideas is an incorporeal active substance or Spirit 4 . 

1 This and the three following of Causality, or the ultimate need 

sections argue for the essential for an efficient cause of every 

impotence of matter, and that, as far change. To determine the sort of 

as we are concerned, so-called Causation that constitutes and per- 

; natural causes are only signs vades the universe is the aim of 

which foretell the appearance of his philosophy, 

their so-called effects. The material 4 In other words, the material 

world is presented to our senses as world is not only real in and 

a procession of orderly, and there- through percipient spirit, but the 

fore interpretable, yet in themselves changing forms which its pheno- 

powerless, ideas or phenomena : mena assume, in the natural evolu- 

motion is always an effect, never tion, are the issue of the perpetual 

an originating active cause. activity of in-dwelling Spirit. The 

As Locke suggests. argument in this section requires 

: This tacitly presupposes the a deeper criticism of its premisses, 
necessity in reason of the Principle 


27. A Spirit is one simple, undivided, active being as it 
perceives ideas it is called the understanding, and as it pro 
duces or otherwise operates about them it is called the will. 
Hence there can be no idea formed of a soul or spirit ; for 
all ideas whatever, being passive and inert (vid. sect. 25), 
they cannot represent unto us, by way of image or likeness, 
that which acts. A little attention will make it plain to any 
one, that to have an idea which shall be like that active Princi 
ple of motion and change of ideas is absolutely impossible. 
Such is the nature of Spirit, or that which acts, that it 
cannot be of itself perceived, but only by the effects which 
it produceth ] . If any man shall doubt of the truth of what 
is here delivered, let him but reflect and try if he can frame 
the idea of any power or active being ; and whether he has 
ideas of two principal powers, marked by the names will 
and understanding, distinct from each other, as well as from a 
third idea of Substance or Being in general, with a relative 
notion of its supporting or being the subject of the aforesaid 
powers which is signified by the name soul or spirit. 
This is what some hold ; but, so far as I can see, the words 
will, [ understanding, mind, ] soul, spirit, do not stand for 
different ideas, or, in truth, for any idea at all, but for some 
thing which is very different from ideas, and which, being 
an agent, cannot be like unto, or represented by, any idea 
whatsoever. [ 3 Though it must be owned at the same time 
that we have some notion of soul, spirit, and the operations 
of the mind, such as willing, loving, hating inasmuch 
as we know or understand the meaning of these words.] 

28. I find I can excite ideas 4 in my mind at pleasure, 
and vary and shift the scene as oft as I think fit. It is no 
more than willing, and straightway this or that idea arises 
in my fancy ; and by the same power it is obliterated and 

1 In other words, an agent can- as in the words soul, active power, 
not, as such, be perceived or ima- &c. Here he says that i the opera- 
gined, though its effects can. The tions of the mind belong to 
spiritual term agent is not mean- notions, while, insect, i, he speaks 
ingless ; yet we have no sensuous of ideas perceived by attending to 
idea of its meaning. the operations " of the mind. 

2 Omitted in second edition. 4 ideas, i. e. fancies of imagi- 

3 This sentence is not contained nation ; as distinguished from the 
in the first edition. It is remark- more real ideas or phenomena that 
able for first introducing the term present themselves objectively to 
notion, to signify idealess meaning, our senses. 


makes way for another. This making and unmaking of 
ideas doth very properly denominate the mind active. 
Thus much is certain and grounded on experience : but 
when we talk of unthinking agents, or of exciting ideas 
exclusive of volition, we only amuse ourselves with 
words . 

29. But, whatever power I may have over my own 
thoughts, I find the ideas actually perceived by Sense have 
not a like dependence on my will. When in broad day 
light I open my eyes, it is not in my power to choose 
whether I shall see or no, or to determine what particular 
objects shall present themselves to my view : and so like 
wise as to the hearing and other senses ; the ideas imprinted 
on them are not creatures of my will -. There is therefore 
some other Will or Spirit that produces them. 

30. The ideas of Sense are more strong, lively, and dis 
tinct than those of the Imagination 3 ; they have likewise a 
steadiness, order, and coherence, and are not excited at 
random, as those which are the effects of human wills often 
are, but in a regular train or series the admirable con 
nexion whereof sufficiently testifies the wisdom and bene 
volence of its Author. Now the set rules, or established 
methods, wherein the Mind we depend on excites in us 
the ideas of Sense, are called the laws of nature] and 
these we learn by experience, which teaches us that such 
and such ideas are attended with such and such other ideas, 
in the ordinary course of things. 

31. This gives us a sort of foresight, which enables us to 
regulate our actions for the benefit of life. And without 
this we should be eternally at a loss : we could not know 

1 With Berkeley the world of senses may be distinguished from 

external ideas is distinguished all other ideas, in consequence of 

from Spirit by its essential passi- which they may be termed ex- 

vity. Active power is with him ternal, while those of feeling and 

the essence of Mind, distinguishing imagination are wholly subjective 

me from the changing ideas of or individual. 

which I am percipient. We must 3 This mark the superior 

not attribute free agency to phe- strength and liveliness of the 

nomena presented to our senses. ideas or phenomena that are pre- 

In this and the four following sented to the senses was after- 
sections, Berkeley mentions marks wards noted by Hume. See 
by which the ideas or phenomena Inquiry concerning Human Under- 
that present themselves to the standing, sect. II. 



how to act anything that might procure us the least pleasure, 
or remove the least pain of sense. That food nourishes, 
sleep refreshes, and fire warms us ; that to sow in the seed 
time is the way to reap in the harvest ; and in general 
that to obtain such or such ends, such or such means 
are conducive all this we know, not by discovering any 
necessary connexion between our ideas, but only by the 
observation of the settled laws of nature ; without which 
we should be all in uncertainty and confusion, and a 
grown man no more know how to manage himself in the 
affairs of life than an infant just born 1 . 

32. And yet this consistent uniform working, which so 
evidently displays the Goodness and Wisdom of that Gov 
erning Spirit whose Will constitutes the laws of nature, 
is so far from leading our thoughts to Him, that it rather 
sends them wandering after second causes 2 . For, when we 
perceive certain ideas of Sense constantly followed by other 
ideas, and we know this is not of our own doing, we forthwith 
attribute power and agency to the ideas themselves, and 
make one the cause of another, than which nothing can be 
more absurd and unintelligible. Thus, for example, having 
observed that when we perceive by sight a certain round 
luminous figure, we at the same time perceive by touch the 
idea or sensation called heat, we do from thence con 
clude the sun to be the cause of heat. And in like manner 
perceiving the motion and collision of bodies to be attended 
with sound, we are inclined to think the latter the effect of 
the former :! . 

33. The ideas imprinted on the Senses by the Author of 
nature are called real things: and those excited in the 
imagination, being less regular, vivid, and constant, are 
more properly termed ideas or images of things, which 

1 Berkeley here and always in- universe, second causes are 
sists on the arbitrary character of divinely established signs of im- 
the settled laws of change in the pending changes, and are only 
world, as contrasted with neces- metaphorically called causes. 
sary connexions discovered in 3 So Schiller, in Don Carlos, 
mathematics. The material world Act III, where he represents scep- 
is thus virtually an interpretable tics as failing to see the God who 
natural language, constituted in veils Himself in everlasting laws, 
what, at our point of view, is But in truth God is eternal law 
arbitrariness or contingency. or order vitalised and moralised. 

2 Under this conception of the 


they copy and represent. But then our sensations, be 
they never so vivid and distinct, are nevertheless ideas : 
that is, they exist in the mind, or are perceived by it, as 
truly as the ideas of its own framing. The ideas of Sense 
are allowed to have more reality- in them, that is, to be 
more strong, orderly, and coherent than the creatures 
of the mind ; but this is no argument that they exist 
without the mind. They are also less dependent on the 
spirit or thinking substance which perceives them, in that 
they are excited by the will of another and more powerful 
Spirit: yet still they are ideas: and certainly no idea, 
whether faint or strong, can exist otherwise than in a mind 
perceiving it 3 . 

34. Before we proceed any farther it is necessary we 
spend some time in answering Objections 4 which may 
probably be made against the Principles we have hitherto 
laid down. In doing of which, if I seem too prolix to those 
of quick apprehensions, I desire I may be excused, since 
all men do not equally apprehend things of this nature ; 
and I am willing to be understood by every one. 

First, then, it will be objected that by the foregoing 
principles all that is real and substantial in nature is 
banished out of the world, and instead thereof a chimerical 
scheme of ideas takes place. All things that exist exist 
only in the mind ; that is, they are purely notional. What 
therefore becomes of the sun, moon, and stars ? What 
must we think of houses, rivers, mountains, trees, stones ; 
nay, even of our own bodies? Are all these but so many 

1 sensations} with Berkeley, are Berkeley s two leading Principles, 
not mere feelings, but in a sense The first conducts to and vindicates 
external appearances. the second inadequately, how- 

2 more reality. This implies ever, apart from explication of their 
that reality admits of degrees, and root in moral reason. The former 
that the difference between the gives a relation sui generis. The 
phenomena presented to the senses latter gives our only example of 
and those which are only imagined active causality the natural order 
is a difference in degree of reality. of phenomena being the outcome of 

3 In the preceding sections, two the causal energy of intending Will, 
relations should be carefully dis 
tinguished that of the material * Sect. 34-84 contain Berkeley s 
world to percipient mind, in answers to supposed objections to 
which it becomes real; and that the foregoing Principles concern- 
between changes in the world ing Matter and Spirit in their 
and spiritual agency. These are mutual relations. 

T 2 


chimeras and illusions on the fancy? To all which, and 
whatever else of the same sort may be objected, I answer, 
that by the Principles premised we are not deprived of any 
one thing in nature. Whatever we see, feel, hear, or any 
wise conceive or understand, remains as secure as ever, and 
is as real as ever. There is a rerum natura, and the dis 
tinction between realities and chimeras retains its full force. 
This is evident from sect. 29, 30, and 33, where we have 
shewn what is meant by real things, in opposition to chim 
eras or ideas of our own framing ; but then they both equally 
exist in the mind, and in that sense are alike ideas. 

35. I do not argue against the existence of any one thing 
that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That 
the things I see with my eyes and touch with my hands do 
exist, really exist, I make not the least question. The only 
thing whose existence we deny is that which philosophers 
call Matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this 
there is no damage done to the rest of mankind, who, I 
dare say, will never miss it. The Atheist indeed will want 
the colour of an empty name to support his impiety; and 
the Philosophers may possibly find they have lost a great 
handle for trifling and disputation. \~ But that is all the 
harm that I can see done.] 

36. If any man thinks this detracts from the existence 
or reality of things, he is very far from understanding 
what hath been premised in the plainest terms I could 
think of. Take here an abstract of what has been said : 
There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, 
which will or excite ideas 3 in themselves at pleasure; but 
these are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others 
they perceive by sense : which, being impressed upon them 
according to certain rules or laws of nature, speak them 
selves the effects of a Mind more powerful and wise than 
human spirits 4 . These latter are said to have more reality 5 

1 To be an idea is, with Berke- mena, naturally presented to sense, 

ley, to be the imaginable object of yet ottt of all relation to living 

a percipient spirit. But he does mind. 

not define precisely the relation 2 Omitted in second edition, 

of ideas to mind. Existence :1 i. e. of imagination. Cf. sect, 

in mind is existence in this 28-30. 

relation. His question (which he * Cf. sect. 29. 

determines in the negative) is, " more reality. This again im- 

the possibility of concrete pheno- plies that reality admits of degrees. 


in them than the former ; by which is meant that they are 
more affecting, orderly, and distinct, and that they are not 
fictions of the mind perceiving them \ And in this sense the 
sun that I see by day is the real sun, and that which I 
imagine by night is the idea of the former. In the sense 
here given of reality, it is evident that every vegetable, star, 
mineral, and in general each part of the mundane system, 
is as much a real being by our principles as by any other. 
Whether others mean anything by the term reality different 
from what I do, I entreat them to look into their own 
thoughts and see. 

37. It will be urged that thus much at least is true, to wit, 
that we take away all corporeal substances. To this my an 
swer is, that if the word substance be taken in the vulgar sense, 
for a combination of sensible qualities, such as extension, 
solidity, weight, and the like this we cannot be accused of 
taking away: but if it be taken in a philosophic sense, for 
the support of accidents or qualities without the mind 
then indeed I acknowledge that we take it away, if one may 
be said to take away that which never had any existence, 
not even in the imagination ~. 

38. But after all, say you, it sounds very harsh to say we 
eat and drink ideas, and are clothed with ideas. I acknow 
ledge it does so the word idea not being used in common 
discourse to signify the several combinations of sensible 
qualities which are called things ; and it is certain that any 
expression which varies from the familiar use of language 
will seem harsh and ridiculous. But this doth not concern 
the truth of the proposition, which in other words is no more; 
than to say, we are fed and clothed with those things which we 
perceive immediately by our senses 3 . The hardness or soft 
ness, the colour, taste, warmth, figure, and suchlike qualities, 
which combined together 4 constitute the several sorts of 

What is perceived in sense is substance proper, or (6) an aggre- 
more real than what is imagined, gate of sense-phenomena, called a 
and eternal realities are more sensible thing substance con- 
deeply real than the transitory ventionally and superficially, 
things of sense. 3 And which, because realised 

1 Cf. sect. 33. Not fictions/ in living perception, are called 

i. e. they are presentative, and ideas to remind us that reality is 

therefore cannot misrepresent. attained in and through percipient 

" With Berkeley substance is mind, 

cither (a active reason, i.e. spirit 4 combined together, i.e. in the 


victualsand apparel, have been shewn to exist only in the mind 
that perceives them : and this is all that is meant by calling 
them ideas ; which word, if it was as ordinarily used as 
thing, would sound no harsher nor more ridiculous than it. 
I am not for disputing about the propriety, but the truth of 
the expression. If therefore you agree With me that we 
eat and drink and are clad with the immediate objects of 
sense, which cannot exist unperceived or without the mind, 
I shall readily grant it is more proper or conformable 
to custom that they should be called things rather than 

39. If it be demanded why I make use of the word idea, 
and do not rather in compliance with custom call them 
things ; I answer, I do it for two reasons : First, because 
the term thing, in contradistinction to idea, is generally 
supposed to denote somewhat existing without the mind : 
Secondly, because thing hath a more comprehensive signi 
fication than idea, including spirits, or thinking things ] , as 
well as ideas. Since therefore the objects of sense exist 
only in the mind, and are withal thoughtless and inactive, 
I chose to mark them by the word idea ; which implies 
those properties 2 . 

40. But, say what we can, some one perhaps may be apt 
to reply, he will still believe his senses, and never suffer 
any arguments, how plausible soever, to prevail over the 
certainty of them. Be it so ; assert the evidence of sense 
as high as you please, we are willing to do the same. 
That what I see, hear, and feel doth exist, that is to say, is 
perceived by me, I no more doubt than I do of my own 
being. But I do not see how the testimony of sense can be 
alleged as a proof for the existence of anything which is not 
perceived by sense. We are not for having any man turn 
sceptic and disbelieve his senses ; on the contrary, we give 
them all the stress and assurance imaginable ; nor are there 

form of ( sensible things/ according sense-percipient mind; but he 

to natural laws. Cf. sect. 33. does not, as popularly supposed, 

1 thinking things more ap- regard sensible things as created 
propriately called persons. and regulated by the activity of his 

2 Berkeley uses the word idea own individual mind. They are 
to mark the fact, that sensible perceived, but are neither created 
things are real only as they nor regulated, by the individual 
manifest themselves in the form percipient, and are thus practi- 
of passive objects, presented to cally external to each person. 


any principles more opposite to Scepticism than those we 
have laid down, as shall be hereafter clearly shewn \ 

41. Secondly, it will be objected that there is a great dif 
ference betwixt real fire for instance, and the idea of fire, 
betwixt dreaming or imagining oneself burnt, and actu 
ally being so. [ a If you suspect it to be only the idea of 
fire which you see, do but put your hand into it and you 
will be convinced with a witness.] This and the like 
may be urged in opposition to our tenets. To all which 
the answer is evident from what hath been already said 3 ; 
and I shall only add in this place, that if real fire be very 
different from the idea of fire, so also is the real pain that 
it occasions very different from the idea of the same pain, 
and yet nobody will pretend that real pain either is, or can 
possibly be, in an unperceiving thing, or without the mind, 
any more than its idea 4 . 

42. Thirdly, it will be objected that we see things actually 
without or at a distance from us, and which consequently 
do not exist in the mind ; it being absurd that those things 
which are seen at the distance of several miles should be 
as near to us as our own thoughts 5 . In answer to this, I 
desire it may be considered that in a dream we do oft per 
ceive things as existing at a great distance off, and yet for 
all that, those things are acknowledged to have their exist 
ence only in the mind. 

43. But, for the fuller clearing of this point, it may be 
worth while to consider how it is that we perceive distance, 
and things placed at a distance, by sight. For, that we 
should in truth see external space, and bodies actually ex 
isting in it, some nearer, others farther off, seems to carry 

1 Cf. sect. 87-91, against the pain are spoken of, without qualifi- 

scepticism which originates in al- cation, as in like relation to living 

leged fallacy of sense. mind as sensible things or ideas are. 

- Omitted in second edition. 5 That the ideas of sense should 

3 It is always to be remembered be seen at a distance of several 

that with Berkeley ideas or phe- miles seems not inconsistent with 

nomena presented to sense are their being dependent on a perci- 

themselves the real things, whilst pient, if ambient space is itself (as 

ideas of imagination are representa- Berkeley asserts) dependent on 

tive (or misrepresentative). percipient experience. Cf. sect. 67. 

1 Here feelings of pleasure or 


with it some opposition to what hath been said of their 
existing nowhere without the mind. The consideration of 
this difficulty it was that gave birth to my Essay towards a 
New Theory of Vision, which was published not long since 1 . 
Wherein it is shewn that distance or outness is neither 
immediately of itself perceived by sight 2 , nor yet apprehen 
ded or judged of by lines and angles, or anything that hath 
a necessary connexion with it 3 ; but that it is only suggested 
to our thoughts by certain visible ideas, and sensations 
attending vision, which in their own nature have no manner 
of similitude or relation either with distance or things 
placed at a distance 4 ; but, by a connexion taught us by 
experience, they come to signify and suggest them to us, 
after the same manner that words of any language suggest 
the ideas they are made to stand for 5 . Insomuch that 
a man born blind, and afterwards made to see, would not, 
at first sight, think the things he saw to be without his 
mind, or at any distance from him. See sect. 41 of the 
forementioned treatise. 

44. The ideas of sight and touch make two species en 
tirely distinct and heterogeneous r> . The former are marks 
and prognostics of the latter. That the proper objects of 
sight neither exist without the mind, nor are the images 
of external things, was shewn even in that treatise 7 . 
Though throughout the same the contrary be supposed 
true Q{ tangible objects] not that to suppose that vulgar error 
was necessary for establishing the notion therein laid down, 
but because it was beside my purpose to examine and refute 
it, in a discourse concerning Vision. So that in strict truth 
the ideas of sight s , when we apprehend by them distance, 
and things placed at a distance, do not suggest or mark 
out to us things actually existing at a distance, but only 
admonish us what ideas of touch 1J will be imprinted in our 
minds at such and such distances of time, and in conse 
quence of such or such actions. It is, I say, evident, from 

1 In the preceding year. percipient of in seeing. 

- Essay, sect. 2. 9 Touch is here and elsewhere 

3 Ibid. sect. 11-15. taken in its wide meaning, and in- 

4 Ibid. sect. 16-28. eludes our muscular and locomotive 

5 Ibid. sect. 51. experience, all which Berkeley in- 
Ibid. sect. 47-49, 121-141. eluded in the tactual meaning of 
7 Ibid. sect. 43. distance. 

>s i. e. what we are immediately 


what has been said in the foregoing parts of this Treatise, 
and in sect. 147 and elsewhere of the Essay concerning 
Vision, that visible ideas are the Language whereby the 
Governing Spirit on whom we depend informs us what 
tangible ideas he is about to imprint upon us, in case 
we excite this or that motion in our own bodies. But for 
a fuller information in this point I refer to the Essay itself. 

45. Fourthly, it will be objected that from the foregoing 
principles it follows things are every moment annihilated 
and created anew. The objects of sense exist only when 
they are perceived : the trees therefore are in the garden, 
or the chairs in the parlour, no longer than while there 
is somebody by to perceive them. Upon shutting my 
eyes all the furniture in the room is reduced to nothing, 
and barely upon opening them it is again created . In 
answer to all which, I refer the reader to what has been 
said in sect. 3, 4, &c. ; and desire he will consider whether 
he means anything by the actual existence of an idea 
distinct from its being perceived. For my part, after 
the nicest inquiry I could make, I am not able to dis 
cover that anything else is meant by those words ; and 
I once more entreat the reader to sound his own thoughts, 
and not suffer himself to be imposed on by words. If 
he can conceive it possible either for his ideas or their 
archetypes to exist without being perceived, then I give 
up the cause. But if he cannot, he will acknowledge it 
is unreasonable for him to stand up in defence of he 
knows not what, and pretend to charge on me as an ab 
surdity, the not assenting to those propositions which at 
bottom have no meaning in them - . 

1 To explain the condition of or the other individual percipient, 

sensible things during the intervals Moreover they always exist really 

of our perception of them, consistently in the Divine Idea, and potentially, 

with the belief of all sane persons in relation to finite minds, in the 

regarding the material world, is Divine Will. 

a challenge which has been often 2 Berkeley allows to bodies un- 

addressed to the advocates of ideal perceived by me potential, but (for 

Realism. According to Berkeley, me) not real existence. When I say 

there are no intervals in the exist- a body exists thus conditionally, 

ence of sensible things. They are I mean that if, in the light, I open 

permanently perceivable, under my eyes, I shall see it, and that 

the laws of nature, though not if I move my hand, I must feel it. 
always perceived by this, that 


4.6. It will not be amiss to observe how far the received 
principles of philosophy are themselves chargeable with 
those pretended absurdities. It is thought strangely absurd 
that upon closing my eyelids all the visible objects 
around me should be reduced to nothing ; and yet is 
not this what philosophers commonly acknowledge, when 
they agree on all hands that light and colours, which 
alone are the proper and immediate objects of sight, are 
mere sensations that exist no longer than they are per 
ceived ? Again, it may to some perhaps seem very incred 
ible that things should be every moment creating ; yet 
this very notion is commonly taught in the schools. For 
the Schoolmen, though they acknowledge the existence 
of Matter l , and that the whole mundane fabric is framed 
out of it, are nevertheless of opinion that it cannot sub 
sist without the divine conservation ; which by them is 
expounded to be a continual creation 2 . 

47. Farther, a little thought will discover to us that, 
though we allow the existence of Matter or corporeal 
substance, yet it will unavoidably follow, from the princi 
ples which are now generally admitted, that the particular 
bodies, of what kind soever, do none of them exist whilst 
they are not perceived. For, it is evident, from sect, n 
and the following sections, that the Matter philosophers 
contend for is an incomprehensible Somewhat, which hath 

1 i.e. unperceived material sub- was therein particular, and had few 

stance. followers. The very poets teach 

a Berkeley remarks, in a letter to a doctrine not unlike the Schools 

the American Samuel Johnson, that mens agitat moleni (Virgil, ^Eneid, 

those who have contended for a VI). The Stoics and Platonists 

material world have yet acknow- are everywhere full of the same 

ledged that natura naturans (to notion. I am not therefore singular 

use the language of the Schoolmen) in this point itself, so much as in 

is God ; and that the Divine con- my way of proving it. Cf. Aid- 

servation of things is equipollent phron, Dial. IV. sect. 14 ; Vindi- 

to, and in fact the same thing with, cation of New Theory of Vision, 

a continued repeated creation; sect. 8, 17, &c. ; Sin s, passim, 

in a word, that conservation and but especially in the latter part, 

creation differ only as the terminus See also Correspondence between 

a quo. These are the common Clarke and Leibniz (1717^. Is it 

opinions of Schoolmen ; and Du- not possible that the universe of 

randus, who held the world to be things and persons is in continuous 

a machine, like a clock made up natural creation, unbeginning and 

and put in motion by God, but unending? 
afterwards continued to go of itself, 


none of those particular qualities whereby the bodies 
falling under our senses are distinguished one from an 
other. But, to make this more plain, it must be remarked 
that the infinite divisibility of Matter is now universally 
allowed, at least by the most approved and considerable 
philosophers, who on the received principles demonstrate 
it beyond all exception. Hence, it follows there is an 
infinite number of parts in each particle of Matter which 
are not perceived by sense \ The reason therefore that 
any particular body seems to be of a finite magnitude, 
or exhibits only a finite number of parts to sense, is, not 
because it contains no more, since in itself it contains an 
infinite number of parts, but because the sense is not acute 
enough to discern them. In proportion therefore as the 
sense is rendered more acute, it perceives a greater 
number of parts in the object, that is, the object appears 
greater ; and its figure varies, those parts in its extremities 
which were before unperceivable appearing now to bound 
it in very different lines and angles from those perceived 
by an obtuser sense. And at length, after various changes 
of size and shape, when the sense becomes infinitely 
acute, the body shall seem infinite. During all which 
there is no alteration in the body, but only in the sense. 
Each body therefore, considered in itself, is infinitely 
extended, and consequently void of all shape and figure. 
From which it follows that, though we should grant the 
existence of Matter to be never so certain, yet it is withal 
as certain, the materialists themselves are by their own 
principles forced to acknowledge, that neither the particu 
lar bodies perceived by sense, nor anything like them, 
exists without the mind. Matter, I say, and each particle 
thereof, is according to them infinite and shapeless; and 
it is the mind that frames all that variety of bodies which 
compose the visible world, any one whereof does not exist 
longer than it is perceived. 

48. But, after all, if we consider it, the objection pro 
posed in sect. 45 will not be found reasonably charged on 
the Principles we have premised, so as in truth to make 
any objection at all against our notions. For, though we 
hold indeed the objects of sense to be nothing else but 

1 Cf. sect. 123-132. 


ideas which cannot exist unperceived, yet we may not 
hence conclude they have no existence except only while 
they are perceived by its , since there may be some other 
spirit that perceives them though we do not. Wherever 
bodies are said to have no existence without the mind, 
I would not be understood to mean this or that particular 
mind, but all minds whatsoever. It does not therefore 
follow from the foregoing Principles that bodies are annihil 
ated and created every moment, or exist not at all during 
the intervals between our perception of them. 

49. Fiftiily, it may perhaps be objected that if extension 
and figure exist only in the mind, it follows that the mind 
is extended and figured ; since extension is a mode or 
attribute which (to speak with the Schools) is predicated of 
the subject in which it exists. I answer, those qualities 
are in the mind only as they are perceived by it ; that is, not 
by way of mode or attribute t but only by way of idea\ 
And it no more follows the soul or mind is extended, 
because extension exists in it alone, than it does that it is 
red or blue, because those colours are on all hands acknow 
ledged to exist in it, and nowhere else. As to what 
philosophers say of subject and mode, that seems very 
groundless and unintelligible. For instance, in this 
proposition a die is hard, extended, and square, they 
will have it that the word die denotes a subject or sub 
stance, distinct from the hardness, extension, and figure 
which are predicated of it, and in which they exist. This 
I cannot comprehend : to me a die seems to be nothing 
distinct from those things which are termed its modes 
or accidents. And, to say a die is hard, extended, and 

1 He distinguishes idea from of which philosophers speak; 
mode or attribute. With Berke- nor (b] as one idea or phenome- 
ley, the substance of matter (if the non is related to another idea or 
term is still to be applied to sensible phenomenon, in the natural aggre- 
things) is the naturally constituted gation of sense-phenomena which 
aggregate of phenomena of which constitute, with him, the substance 
each particular thing consists. of a material thing. Mind and its 
Now extension, and the other ideas are, on the contrary, related 
qualities of sensible things, are as percipient to perceived in what 
not, Berkeley argues, l in mind ever otherness that altogether 
either (a) according to the abstract sui generis relation implies, 
relation of substance and attribute 


square is not to attribute those qualities to a subject 
distinct from and supporting them, but only an explication 
of the meaning of the word die. 

50. Sixthly, you will say there have been a great many 
things explained by matter and motion ; take away these 
and you destroy the whole corpuscular philosophy, and 
undermine those mechanical principles which have been 
applied with so much success to account for the phe 
nomena. In short, whatever advances have been made, 
either by ancient or modern philosophers, in the study of 
nature do all proceed on the supposition that corporeal 
substance or Matter doth really exist. To this I answer 
that there is not any one phenomenon explained on that 
supposition which may not as well be explained without it, 
as might easily be made appear by an induction of par 
ticulars. To explain the phenomena, is all one as to shew 
why, upon such and such occasions, we are affected with 
such and such ideas. But how Matter J should operate on 
a Spirit, or produce any idea in it, is what no philoso 
pher will pretend to explain ; it is therefore evident there 
can be no use of Matter 1 in natural philosophy. Besides, 
they who attempt to account for ihings do it, not by 
corporeal substance, but by figure, motion, and other 
qualities ; which are in truth no more than mere ideas, 
and therefore cannot be the cause of anything, as hath 
been already shewn. See sect. 25. 

51. Seventhly, it will upon this be demanded whether it 
does not seem absurd to take away natural causes 2 , and 
ascribe everything to the immediate operation of spirits? 
We must no longer say upon these principles that fire 
heats, or water cools, but that a spirit heats, and so forth. 
Would not a man be deservedly laughed at, who should 
talk after this manner? I answer, he would so: in such 
things we ought to think with the learned, and speak with the 
vulgar. They who to demonstration are convinced of the 

1 Matter/ i. e. abstract material empty the material world of all 

Substance, as distinguished from originative power, and refer the 

the concrete things that are realised supposed powers of bodies to the 

in living perceptions. constant and omnipresent agency 

take away natural causes, i.e. of God. 


truth of the Copernican system do nevertheless say the 
sun rises/ the sun sets/ or comes to the meridian ; 
and if they affected a contrary style in common talk it 
would without doubt appear very ridiculous. A little 
reflection on what is here said will make it manifest that 
the common use of language would receive no manner 
of alteration or disturbance from the admission of our 
tenets . 

52. In the ordinary affairs of life, any phrases may be 
retained, so long as they excite in us proper sentiments, or 
dispositions to act in such a manner as is necessary for 
our well-being, how false soever they may be if taken 
in a strict and speculative sense. Nay, this is unavoid 
able, since, propriety being regulated by custom, language 
is suited to the received opinions, which are not always 
the truest. Hence it is impossible even in the most 
rigid, philosophic reasonings so far to alter the bent 
and genius of the tongue we speak as never to give 
a handle for cavillers to pretend difficulties and inconsis 
tencies. But, a fair and ingenuous reader will collect 
the sense from the scope and tenor and connexion of 
a discourse, making allowances for those inaccurate modes 
of speech which use has made inevitable. 

53. As to the opinion that there are no corporeal 
causes, this has been heretofore maintained by some 
of the Schoolmen, as it is of late by others among the 
modern philosophers; who though they allow Matter to 
exist, yet will have God alone to be the immediate 
efficient cause of all things 2 . These men saw that 
amongst all the objects of sense there was none which 
had any power or activity included in it; and that by 
consequence this was likewise true of whatever bodies 

1 Some philosophers have treated sni generis. 

the relation of Matter to Mind in 2 He refers to Descartes, and 

perception as one of cause and effect. perhaps Geulinx and Malebranche, 

This, according to Berkeley, is an who, while they argued for material 

illegitimate analysis, which creates substance, denied the causal effi- 

a fictitious duality. On his New ciency of sensible things. Berke- 

Principles, philosophy is based on ley s new Principles are pre- 

a recognition of the fact, that per- sented as the foundation in reason 

ception is neither the cause nor for this denial, and for the essen- 

the effect of its object, but in tial spirituality of all active power 

a relation to it that is altogether in the universe. 


they supposed to exist without the mind, like unto the 
immediate objects of sense. But then, that they should 
suppose an innumerable multitude of created beings, 
which they acknowledge are not capable of producing 
any one effect in nature, and which therefore are made 
to no manner of purpose, since God might have done 
everything as well without them this I say, though we 
should allow it possible, must yet be a very unaccountable 
and extravagant supposition J . 

54. In the eighth place, the universal concurrent assent 
of mankind may be thought by some an invincible 
argument in behalf of Matter, or the existence of external 
things 2 . Must we suppose the whole world to be mis 
taken ? And if so, what cause can be assigned of so 
widespread and predominant an error? I answer, first, 
that, upon a narrow inquiry, it will not perhaps be found 
so many as is imagined do really believe the existence 
of Matter or things without the mind :i . Strictly speaking, 
to believe that which involves a contradiction, or has no 
meaning in it \ is impossible ; and whether the foregoing 
expressions are not of that sort, I refer it to the impartial 
examination of the reader. In one sense, indeed, men 
may be said to believe that Matter exists; that is, they 
act as if the immediate cause of their sensations, which 
affects them every moment, and is so nearly present to 
them, were some senseless unthinking being. But, that 
they should clearly apprehend any meaning marked by 
those words, and form thereof a settled speculative opinion, 
is what I am not able to conceive. This is not the only 
instance wherein men impose upon themselves, by imagin 
ing they believe those propositions which they have 
often heard, though at bottom they have no meaning in 

1 On the principle, Entia non matter is not wonderful. It is 

sunt multiplicanda praeter necessi- the office of philosophy to improve 

tatem. their conception, making it deeper 

2 external things/ i. e. things and truer, and this was Berkeley s 

in the abstract. preliminary task ; as a mean for 

3 That the unreflecting part of shewing the impotenceof the things 

mankind should have a confused of sense, and conclusive evidence 

conception of what should be of omnipresent spiritual activity, 

meant by the external reality of 4 Cf. sect. 4, 9, 15, 17, 22, 24. 


55. But secondly, though we should grant a notion to be 
never so universally and stedfastly adhered to, yet this 
is but a weak argument of its truth to whoever considers 
what a vast number of prejudices and false opinions are 
everywhere embraced with the utmost tenaciousness, by 
the unreflecting (which are the far greater) part of man 
kind. There was a time when the antipodes and motion 
of the earth were looked upon as monstrous absurdities 
even by men of learning : and if it be considered what 
a small proportion they bear to the rest of mankind, 
we shall find that at this day those notions have gained 
but a very inconsiderable footing in the world. 

56. But it is demanded that we assign a cause of this 
prejudice, and account for its obtaining in the world. To 
this I answer, that men knowing they perceived several 
ideas, whereof they themselves were not the authors ] , 
as not being excited from within, nor depending on the 
operation of their wills, this made them maintain those 
ideas or objects of perception, had an existence indepen 
dent of and without the mind, without ever dreaming that 
a contradiction was involved in those words. But, philo 
sophers having plainly seen that the immediate objects 
of perception do not exist without the mind, they in some 
degree corrected the mistake of the vulgar 2 ; but at the 
same time run into another, which seems no less absurd, 
to wit, that there are certain objects really existing with 
out the mind, or having a subsistence distinct from being 
perceived, of which our ideas are only images or resem 
blances, imprinted by those objects on the mind 3 . And 
this notion of the philosophers owes its origin to the same 
cause with the former, namely, their being conscious that 
they were not the authors of their own sensations ; which 

1 i. e. their sense-ideas. Though or that it is immediately known 
sense-ideas, i. e. the appearances by us only as sensuous appearance, 
presented to the senses, are inde- 3 i.e. imprinted by unper- 
pendentof the will of the individual ceived Matter, which, on this 
percipient, it does not follow that dogma of a representative sense- 
they are independent of all percep- perception, was assumed to exist 
tioHj so that they can be real in the behind the perceived ideas, and to 
absence of realising percipient ex- be the cause of their appearance, 
perience. Cf. sect. 29-33. Cf. Third Dialogue between Hylas 

2 By shewing that what we are and Philonous. 
percipient of in sense must be idea, 


they evidently knew were imprinted from without, and 
which therefore must have some cause, distinct from the 
minds on which they are imprinted. 

57. But why they should suppose the ideas of sense 
to be excited in us by things in their likeness, and not 
rather have recourse to Spirit, which alone can act, may 
be accounted for. First, because they were not aware 
of the repugnancy there is, as well in supposing things 
like unto our ideas existing without, as in attributing to 
them power or activity. Secondly, because the Supreme 
Spirit which excites those ideas in our minds, is not 
marked out and limited to our view by any particular 
finite collection of sensible ideas, as human agents are 
by their size, complexion, limbs, and motions. And 
thirdly, because His operations are regular and uniform. 
Whenever the course of nature is interrupted by a miracle, 
men are ready to own the presence of a Superior Agent. 
But, when we see things go on in the ordinary course, 
they do not excite in us any reflexion ; their order and 
concatenation, though it be an argument of the greatest 
wisdom, power, and goodness in their Creator, is yet so 
constant and familiar to us, that we do not think them 
the immediate effects of a Free Spirit; especially since 
inconsistency and mutability in acting, though it be an 
imperfection, is looked on as a mark of freedom \ 

58. Tcnthly, it will be objected that the notions we 
advance are inconsistent with several sound truths in 
philosophy and mathematics. 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 

1 Hence the difficulty men have express Divine Will in nature, 

in recognising that Divine Reason instead of narrowing, extends our 

and Will, and Law in Nature, are knowledge of God. And divine or 

coincident. Buttheadvanceof scien- absolutely reasonable l arbitrariness 

tific discovery of the laws which is not caprice. 



whether the earth moves or no amounts in reality to no 
more than this, to wit, whether we have reason to con 
clude, from what has been observed by astronomers, 
that if we were placed in such and such circumstances, 
and such or such a 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. 

59. We may, from the experience we have had of the 
train and succession of ideas 1 in our minds, often make, 
I will not say uncertain conjectures, but sure and well- 
grounded predictions concerning the ideas 1 we shall be 
affected with pursuant to a great train of actions ; and 
be enabled to pass a right judgment of what would 
have appeared to us, in case we were placed in circum 
stances very different from those we are in at present. 
Herein consists the knowledge of nature, which may 
preserve its use and certainty very consistently with what 
hath been said. It will be easy to apply this to whatever 
objections of the like sort may be drawn from the mag 
nitude of the stars, or any other discoveries in astronomy 
or nature. 

60. In the eleventh place, it will be demanded to what 
purpose serves that curious organization of plants, and 
the animal mechanism in the parts of animals. Might 
not vegetables grow, and shoot forth leaves and blossoms, 
and animals perform all their motions, as well without 
as with all that variety of internal parts so elegantly 
contrived and put together ; which, being ideas, have 
nothing powerful or operative in them, nor have any 
necessary connexion with the effects ascribed to them ? 
If it be a Spirit that immediately produces every effect 
by a fiat, or act of his will 2 , we must think all that is fine 
and artificial in the works, whether of man or nature, 

1 ideas, i. e. ideas of sense. This sages in Berkeley s writings in 
experience implies an association which he insists upon the arbitra- 
of sensuous ideas, according to the riness divine or reasonable of 
divine or reasonable order of nature. the natural laws, and sense-sym- 

2 Cf. sect. 25-33, an d other pas- bolism. 


to be made in vain. By this doctrine, though an artist 
hath made the spring and wheels, and every movement 
of a watch, and adjusted them in such a manner as he 
knew would produce the motions he designed ; yet he 
must think all this done to no purpose, and that it is an 
Intelligence which directs the index, and points to the 
hour of the day. If so, why may not the Intelligence do 
it, without his being at the pains of making the movements 
and putting them together? Why does not an empty 
case serve as well as another? And how comes it to pass, 
that whenever there is any fault in the going of a watch, 
there is some corresponding disorder to be found in the 
movements, which being mended by a skilful hand all is 
right again ? The like may be said of all the Clockwork 
of Nature, great part whereof is so wonderfully fine and 
subtle as scarce to be discerned by the best microscope. 
In short, it will be asked, how, upon our Principles, any 
tolerable account can be given, or any final cause assigned 
of an innumerable multitude of bodies and machines, 
framed with the most exquisite art, which in the com 
mon philosophy have very apposite uses assigned them, 
and serve to explain abundance of phenomena? 

61. To all which I answer, first, that though there 
were some difficulties relating to the administration of 
Providence, and the uses by it assigned to the several 
parts of nature, which I could not solve by the forego 
ing Principles, yet this objection could be of small weight 
against the truth and certainty of those things which 
may be proved a priori, with the utmost evidence and 
rigour of demonstration . Secondly, but neither are the 
received principles free from the like difficulties ; for, 
it may still be demanded to what end God should take 
those roundabout methods of effecting things by instru 
ments and machines, which no one can deny might have 
been effected by the mere command of His will, without 
all that apparatus. Nay, if we narrowly consider it, we 
shall find the objection may be retorted with greater force 
on those who hold the existence of those machines without 
the mind ; for it has been made evident that solidity, bulk, 

1 Cf. sect. 3, 4, 6, 22-24, 2 ^j in Principles, concerning Reality and 
which he proceeds upon the in- Causation. 
tuitive certainty of his two leading 

U 2 


figure, motion, and the like have no activity or efficacy 
in them, so as to be capable of producing any one effect 
in nature. See sect. 25. Whoever therefore supposes 
them to exist (allowing the supposition possible) when 
they are not perceived does it manifestly to no purpose ; 
since the only use that is assigned to them, as they 
exist unperceived, is that they produce those perceivable 
effects which in truth cannot be ascribed to anything but 

62. But, to come nigher the difficulty, it must be ob 
served that though the fabrication of all those parts and 
organs be not absolutely necessary to the producing any 
effect, yet it is necessary to the producing of things in a 
constant regular way, according to the laws of nature. 
There are certain general laws that run through the 
whole chain of natural effects : these are learned by the 
observation and study of nature, and are by men applied, 
as well to the framing artificial things for the use and 
ornament of life as to the explaining the various phe 
nomena. Which explication consists only in shewing the 
conformity any particular phenomenon hath to the general 
laws of nature, or, which is the same thing, in discovering 
the uniformity there is in the production of natural 
effects ; as will be evident to whoever shall attend to 
the several instances wherein philosophers pretend to 
account for appearances. That there is a great and 
conspicuous use in these regular constant methods of 
working observed by the Supreme Agent hath been shewn 
in sect. 31. And it is no less visible that a particular 
size, figure, motion, and disposition of parts are neces 
sary, though not absolutely to the producing any effect, 
yet to the producing it according to the standing- 
mechanical laws of nature. Thus, for instance, it cannot 
be denied that God, or the Intelligence that sustains 
and rules the ordinary course of things, might if He 
were minded to produce a miracle, cause all the motions 
on the dial-plate of a watch, though nobody had ever made 
the movements and put them in it. But yet, if He will act 
agreeably to the rules of mechanism, by Him for wise ends 
established and maintained in the creation, it is necessary 
that those actions of the watchmaker, whereby he makes 
the movements and rightly adjusts them, precede the 


production of the aforesaid motions ; as also that any 
disorder in them be attended with the perception of some 
corresponding disorder in the movements, which being 
once corrected all is right again l . 

63. It may indeed on some occasions be necessary 
that the Author of nature display His overruling power 
in producing some appearance out of the ordinary series 
of things. Such exceptions from the general rules of 
nature are proper to surprise and awe men into an 
acknowledgment of the Divine Being ; but then they are 
to be used but seldom, otherwise there is a plain reason 
why they should fail of that effect. Besides, God seems 
to choose the convincing our reason of His attributes 
by the works of nature, which discover so much har 
mony and contrivance in their make, and are such plain 
indications of wisdom and beneficence in their Author, 
rather than to astonish us into a belief of His Being by 
anomalous and surprising events 2 . 

64. To set this matter in a yet clearer light, I shall 
observe that what has been objected in sect. 60 amounts 
in reality to no more than this: ideas 3 are not anyhow 
and at random produced, there being a certain order 
and connexion between them, like to that of cause and 
effect : there are also several combinations of them, made 
in a very regular and artificial manner, which seem like 
so many instruments in the hand of nature that, being 
hid as it were behind the scenes, have a secret operation 
in producing those appearances which are seen on the 
theatre of the world, being themselves discernible only to 
the curious eye of the philosopher. But, since one idea 
cannot be the cause of another, to what purpose is that 
connexion ? And since those instruments, being barely 
inefficacious perceptions in the mind, are not subservient 

1 In short, what is virtually the tion to the divine, or perfectly 
language of universal natural order reasonable, order of the universe, 
is the divine way of revealing Relatively to a finite knowledge 
omnipresent Intelligence ; nor can of nature, they seem anomalous 
we conceive how this revelation exceptions from general rules, 
could be made through a capricious which nevertheless express, im- 
or chaotic succession of changes. mediately and constantly, perfect 

2 He here touches on moral active Reason. 

purpose in miraculous phenomena, :! ideas, i. e. the phenomena 

but without discussing their rela- presented to the senses. 


to the production of natural effects, it is demanded why 
they are made ; or, in other words, what reason can be 
assigned why God should make us, upon a close inspec 
tion into His works, behold so great variety of ideas, 
so artfully laid together, and so much according to rule ; 
it not being f 1 credible] that He would be at the expense 
(if one may so speak) of all that art and regularity to no 
purpose ? 

65. To all which my answer is, first, that the connexion 
of ideas 2 does not imply the relation of cause and effect, 
but only of a mark or sign with the thing ^ signified. The 
fire which I see is not the cause of the pain I suffer upon 
my approaching it, but the mark that forewarns me of 
it. In like manner the noise that I hear is not the effect 
of this or that motion or collision of the ambient bodies, 
but the sign thereof 11 . Secondly, the reason why ideas 
are formed into machines, that is, artificial and regular 
combinations, is the same with that for combining letters 
into words. That a few original ideas may be made 
to signify a great number of effects and actions, it is 
necessary they be variously combined together. And to 
the end their use be permanent and universal, these 
combinations must be made by rule, and with wise con 
trivance. By this means abundance of information is 
conveyed unto us, concerning what we are to expect 
from such and such actions, and what methods are proper 
to be taken for the exciting such and such ideas 4 . Which 
in effect is all that I conceive to be distinctly meant when 
it is said r> that, by discerning the figure, texture, and 
mechanism of the inward parts of bodies, whether natural 
or artificial, we may attain to know the several uses 

1 imaginable in first edition. forms of their existence, as it were. 

2 the connexion of ideas, i. e. 4 Berkele} , in meeting this ob- 
the presence of law or reasonable jection, thus implies Universal 
uniformity in the coexistence and Natural Symbolism as the essential 
succession of the phenomena of character of the sensible world, in 
sense; which makes them interpre- its relation to man. 

table signs. " See Locke s ssay,Bk. IV, ch.3, 

2 According to Berkeley, it is 25-28, &c., in which he suggests 

by an abuse of language that the that the secondary qualities of 

term power is applied to those bodies may be the natural issue 

ideas which are invariable ante- of the different relations and modi- 

cedents of other ideas the prior fications of their primary qualities. 


and properties depending thereon, or the nature of the 

66. Hence, it is evident that those things which, under 
the notion of a cause co-operating or concurring to the 
production of effects, are altogether inexplicable and run 
us into great absurdities, may be very naturally explained, 
and have a proper and obvious use assigned to them, 
when they are considered only as marks or signs for 
our information. And it is the searching after and en 
deavouring to understand this Language (if I may so 
call it) of the Author of Nature, that ought to be the 
employment of the natural philosopher ; and not the 
pretending to explain things by corporeal causes, which 
doctrine seems to have too much estranged the minds 
of men from that Active Principle, that supreme and 
wise Spirit in whom we live, move, and have our being. 

67. In the twelfth place, it may perhaps be objected 
that though it be clear from what has been said that 
there can be no such thing as an inert, senseless, extended, 
solid, figured, moveable Substance, existing without the 
mind, such as philosophers describe Matter; yet, if any 
man shall leave out of his idea of Matter the positive ideas 
of extension, figure, solidity and motion, and say that he 
means only by that word an inert, senseless substance, 
that exists without the mind, or unperceived, which is the 
occasion of our ideas, or at the presence whereof God is 
pleased to excite ideas in us it doth not appear but that 
Matter taken in this sense may possibly exist. In answer 
to which I say, first, that it seems no less absurd to 
suppose a substance without accidents, than it is to sup 
pose accidents without a substance ] . But secondly, 
though we should grant this unknown substance may 
possibly exist, yet where can it be supposed to be ? That 
it exists not in the mind 2 is agreed ; and that it exists not 
in place is no less certain, since all place or extension 

1 With Berkeley, material sub- Active Reason, is the constantly 

stance is merely the natural com- sustaining cause of this combina- 

bination of sense-presented pheno- tion or substantiation, 
mena, which, under a diinne or a i. e. that it is not realised in 

reasonable 1 arbitrariness, constitute a living percipient experience, 
u concrete thing. Divine Will, or 


exists only in the mind \ as hath been already proved. It 
remains therefore that it exists nowhere at all. 

68. Let us examine a little the description that is here 
given us of Matter. It neither acts, nor perceives, nor is 
perceived : for this is all that is meant by saying it is an 
inert, senseless, unknown substance ; which is a definition 
entirely made up of negatives, excepting only the relative 
notion of its standing under or supporting. But then it 
must be observed that it supports nothing at all, and how 
nearly this comes to the description of a nonentity I desire 
may be considered. But, say you, it is the unknown 
occasion-, at the presence of which ideas are excited in us 
by the will of God. Now, I would fain know how any 
thing can be present to us, which is neither perceivable by 
sense nor reflexion, nor capable of producing any idea in 
our minds, nor is at all extended, nor hath any form, nor 
exists in any place. The words to be present, when 
thus applied, must needs be taken in some abstract and 
strange meaning, and which I am not able to comprehend. 

69. Again, let us examine what is meant by occasion. 
So far as I can gather from the common use of language, 
that word signifies either the agent which produces any 
effect, or else something that is observed to accompany or 
go before it, in the ordinary course of things. But, when 
it is applied to Matter, as above described, it can be taken 
in neither of those senses ; for Matter is said to be passive 
and inert, and so cannot be an agent or efficient cause. It 
is also unperceivable, as being devoid of all sensible 
qualities, and so cannot be the occasion of our perceptions 
in the latter sense ; as when the burning my finger is said 
to be the occasion of the pain that attends it. What 
therefore can be meant by calling matter an occasion! 
This term is either used in no sense at all, or else in some 
very distant from its received signification. 

70. You will perhaps say that Matter, though it be not 
perceived by us, is nevertheless perceived by God, to 
whom it is the occasion of exciting ideas in our minds :! . 

1 For place is realised only as crete locality. 

perceived percipient experience - So in the Cartesian theory of 

being its concreteexistence. Living occasional causes, 

perception is, with Berkeley, the 3 So Geulinx and Malebranche. 
condition of the possibility of con- 


For, say you, since we observe our sensations to be 
imprinted in an orderly and constant manner, it is but 
reasonable to suppose there are certain constant and 
regular occasions of their being produced. That is to say, 
that there are certain permanent and distinct parcels of 
Matter, corresponding to our ideas, which, though they do 
not excite them in our minds, or anywise immediately 
affect us, as being altogether passive, and unperceivable to 
us, they are nevertheless to God, by whom they are 
perceived ] , as it were so many occasions to remind Him 
when and what ideas to imprint on our minds : that so 
things may go on in a constant uniform manner. 

71. In answer to this, I observe that, as the notion of 
Matter is here stated, the question is no longer concerning 
the existence of a thing distinct from Spirit and idea, from 
perceiving and being perceived ; but whether there are not 
certain Ideas (of I know not what sort) in the mind of God, 
which are so many marks or notes that direct Him how to 
produce sensations in our minds in a constant and regular 
method : much after the same manner as a musician is 
directed by the notes of music to produce that harmonious 
train and composition of sound which is called a tune ; 
though they who hear the music do not perceive the notes, 
and may be entirely ignorant of them. But this notion of 
Matter (which after all is the only intelligible one that I 
can pick from what is said of unknown occasions) seems 
too extravagant to deserve a confutation. Besides, it is in 
effect no objection against what we have advanced, viz. 
that there is no senseless unperceived substance. 

72. If we follow the light of reason, we shall, from the 
constant uniform method of our sensations, collect the 
goodness and wisdom of the Spirit who excites them in 
our minds ; but this is all that I can see reasonably 
concluded from thence. To me, I say, it is evident that 
the being of a Spirit infinitely wise, good, and powerful 
is abundantly sufficient to explain all the appearances of 
nature 2 . But, as for inert, senseless Matter, nothing that 

1 As known in Divine in- Ideas of God are symbolised to our 

telligence, they are accordingly senses, and then interpreted (or 

Divine Ideas. And, if this means misinterpreted) by human minds, 

that the sensible system is the this allies itself with Platonic 

expression of Divine Ideas, which Idealism, 

are its ultimate archetype that the - It seems to me/ Hume says, 


I perceive has any the least connexion with it, or leads 
to the thoughts of it. And I would fain see any one 
explain any the meanest phenomenon in nature by it, or 
shew any manner of reason, though in the lowest rank of 
probability, that he can have for its existence ; or even 
make any tolerable sense or meaning of that supposition. 
For, as to its being an occasion, we have, I think, 
evidently shewn that with regard to us it is no occasion. 
It remains therefore that it must be, if at all, the occasion 
to God of exciting ideas in us ; and what this amounts to 
we have just now seen. 

73. It is worth while to reflect a little on the motives 
which induced men to suppose the existence of material 
substance. ; that so having observed the gradual ceasing 
and expiration of those motives or reasons, we may 
proportionably withdraw the assent that was grounded 
on them. First, therefore, it was thought that colour, 
figure, motion, and the rest of the sensible qualities or 
accidents, did really exist without the mind ; and for this 
reason it seemed needful to suppose some unthinking 
substratum or substance wherein they did exist, since 
they could not be conceived to exist by themselves 1 . 
Afterwards, in process of time, men 2 being convinced that 
colours, sounds, and the rest of the sensible, secondary 
qualities had no existence without the mind, they stripped 
this substratum or material substance of those qualities, 
leaving only the primary ones, figure, motion, and such 
like ; which they still conceived to exist without the mind, 
and consequently to stand in need of a material support. 
But, it having been shewn that none even of these can 
possibly exist otherwise than in a Spirit or Mind which 
perceives them, it follows that we have no longer any 
reason to suppose the being of Matter 3 , nay, that it is 

that this theory of the univer- perience of the universe ? 

sal energy and operation of the Accordingly we are led to ask, 

Supreme Being is too bold ever what the deepest support of their 

to carry conviction with it to a mind reality must be. Is it found in 

sufficiently apprised of the weak- living Spirit, i e. Active Reason, or 

ness of human reason, and the in blind Matter? 

narrow limits to which it is con- a e. g. Descartes, Malebranche, 

fined in all its operations. But is it Locke, &c. 

not virtually presupposed in the 3 In short, if we mean by Matter, 

assumed trustworthiness of our ex- something unrealised in percipient 


utterly impossible there should be any such thing; so 
long as that word is taken to denote an unthinking sub 
stratum of qualities or accidents, wherein they exist with 
out the mind 1 . 

74. But though it be allowed by the materialists 
themselves that Matter was thought of only for the sake 
of supporting accidents, and, the reason entirely ceasing, 
one might expect the mind should naturally, and without 
any reluctance at all, quit the belief of what was solely 
grounded thereon : yet the prejudice is riveted so deeply 
in our thoughts that we can scarce tell how to part with it, 
and are therefore inclined, since the tiling itself is indefen 
sible, at least to retain the name ; which we apply to I 
know not what abstracted and indefinite notions of being, 
or occasion, though without any shew of reason, at least 
so far as I can see. For, what is there on our part, or 
what do we perceive, amongst all the ideas, sensations, 
notions which are imprinted on our minds, either by sense 
or reflexion, from whence may be inferred the existence 
of an inert, thoughtless, unperceived occasion ? and, on 
the other hand, on the part of an All-sufficient Spirit, what 
can there be that should make us believe or even suspect 
He is directed by an inert occasion to excite ideas in our 
minds ? 

75. It is a very extraordinary instance of the force of 
prejudice, and much to be lamented, that the mind of man 
retains so great a fondness, against all the evidence of 
reason, for a stupid thoughtless Somewhat, by the inter 
position whereof it would as it were screen itself from 
the Providence of God, and remove it farther off from the 
affairs of the world. But, though we do the utmost we 
can to secure the belief of Matter; though, when reason 
forsakes us, we endeavour to support our opinion on the 
bare possibility of the thing, and though we indulge 
ourselves in the full scope of an imagination not regulated 
by reason to make out that poor possibility ; yet the upshot 
of all is that there are certain unknown Ideas in the mind 
of God ; for this, if anything, is all that I conceive to be 
meant by occasion with regard to God. And this at the 

experience of sense, what is called sufficiently externalised, when re- 
its reality is something unintelligible. garded as regulated by Divine 
1 And if sensible phenomena are Reason. 


bottom is no longer contending for the thing, but for the 
name 1 . 

76. Whether therefore there are such Ideas in the mind 
of God, and whether they may be called by the name 
Matter, I shall not dispute 2 . But, if you stick to the 
notion of an unthinking substance or support of extension, 
motion, and other sensible qualities, then to me it is most 
evidently impossible there should be any such thing ; since 
it is a plain repugnancy that those qualities should exist in, 
or be supported by, an unperceiving substance : . 

77. But, say you, though it be granted that there is no 
thoughtless support of extension, and the other qualities or 
accidents which we perceive, yet there may perhaps be 
some inert, unperceiving substance or substratum of some 
other qualities, as incomprehensible to us as colours are to 
a man born blind, because we have not a sense adapted to 
them. But, if we had a new sense, we should possibly no 
more doubt of their existence than a blind man made to see 
does of the existence of light and colours. I answer, first, 
if what you mean by the word Matter be only the unknown 
support of unknown qualities, it is no matter whether 
there is such a thing or no, since it no way concerns us. 
And I do not see the advantage there is in disputing about 
what we know not wliat, and we know not why. 

78. But, secondly, if we had a new sense, it could only 
furnish us with new ideas or sensations ; and then we 
should have the same reason against their existing in an 
unperceiving substance that has been already offered with 

1 Twenty years after the pubii- 2 Berkeley s philosophy is not 

cation of the Principles, in a letter inconsistent with Divine Ideas 

to his American friend Johnson, which receive expression in the 

Berkeley says : 1 have no objec- laws of nature, and of which 

tion against calling the Ideas in the human science is the imperfect 

mind of God archetypes of ours. interpretation. In this view, 

But I object against those arche- assertion of the existence of 

types by philosophers supposed to Matter is simply an expression 

be real things, and so to have of faith that the phenomenal 

an absolute rational existence dis- universe into which we are born 

tinct from their being perceived by is a reasonable and interpretable 

any mind whatsoever ; it being the universe ; and that it would be 

opinion of all materialists that an fully interpreted, if our notions 

ideal existence in the Divine Mind could be fully harmonised with the 

is one thing, and the real existence Divine Ideas which it expresses, 
of material things another, 3 Cf, sect. 3-24. 


relation to figure, motion, colour, and the like. Qualities, 
as hath been shewn, are nothing else but sensations or 
ideas, which exist only in a mind perceiving them ; and 
this is true not only of the ideas we are acquainted with 
at present, but likewise of all possible ideas whatsoever \ 

79. But you will insist, What if I have no reason to 
believe the existence of Matter? what if I cannot assign 
any use to it, or explain anything by it, or even conceive 
what is meant by that word ? yet still it is no contradiction 
to say that Matter exists, and that this Matter is in general 
a substance, or occasion of ideas ; though indeed to go 
about to unfold the meaning, or adhere to any particular 
explication of those words may be attended with great 
difficulties. I answer, when words are used without a 
meaning, you may put them together as you please, without 
danger of running into a contradiction. You may say, for 
example, that twice two is equal to seven ; so long as you 
declare you do not take the words of that proposition in 
their usual acceptation, but for marks of you know not 
what. And, by the same reason, you may say there is an 
inert thoughtless substance without accidents, which is the 
occasion of our ideas. And we shall understand just as 
much by one proposition as the other. 

80. In the last place, you will say, What if we give up 
the cause of material Substance, and stand to it that 
Matter is an unknown Somewhat neither substance nor 
accident, spirit nor idea inert, thoughtless, indivisible, 
immoveable, unextended, existing in no place ? For, say 
you, whatever may be urged against substance or occasion, 
or any other positive or relative notion of Matter, hath no 
place at all, so long as this negative definition of Matter is 
adhered to. I answer, You may, if so it shall seem good, 
use the word matter in the same sense as other men use 
nothing, and so make those terms convertible in your 
style. For, after all, this is what appears to me to be 
the result of that definition ; the parts whereof, when I 

1 So that superhuman persons, Matter than man is, with his few 
endowed with a million senses, senses, 
would be no nearer this abstract 


consider with attention, either collectively or separate from 
each other, I do not find that there is any kind of effect or 
impression made on my mind, different from what is 
excited by the term nothing. 

81. You will reply, perhaps, that in the foresaid 
definition is included what doth sufficiently distinguish 
it from nothing the positive abstract idea of quiddity, 
entity, or existence. I own, indeed, that those who pretend 
to the faculty of framing abstract general ideas do talk as 
if they had such an idea, which is, say they, the most 
abstract and general notion of all : that is to me the most 
incomprehensible of all others. That there are a great 
variety of spirits of different orders and capacities, whose 
faculties, both in number and extent, are far exceeding 
those the Author of my being has bestowed on me, I see 
no reason to deny. And for me to pretend to determine, 
by my own few, stinted, narrow inlets of perception, what 
ideas the inexhaustible power of the Supreme Spirit may 
imprint upon them, were certainly the utmost folly and 
presumption. Since there may be, for aught that I know, 
innumerable sorts of ideas or sensations, as different 
from one another, and from all that I have perceived, 
as colours are from sounds 1 . But, how ready soever 
I may be to acknowledge the scantiness of my compre 
hension, with regard to the endless variety of spirits and 
ideas that may possibly exist, yet for any one to pretend to 
a notion of Entity or Existence, abstracted from spirit and 
idea, from perceived and being perceived, is, I suspect, 
a downright repugnancy and trifling with words. 

It remains that we consider the objections which may 
possibly be made on the part of Religion. 

82. Some there are who think that, though the argu 
ments for the real existence of bodies which are drawn 
from Reason be allowed not to amount to demonstration, 
yet the Holy Scriptures are so clear in the point, as will 

1 Matter and physical science is course inconceivable by man. Or, 

relative, so far that we may sup- we may suppose an intelligence 

pose in other percipients than men, destitute of all our senses, and so in 

an indefinite number of additional a material world wholly different 

senses, affording corresponding in its appearances from ours. 
varieties of qualities in things, of 


sufficiently convince every good Christian, that bodies 
do really exist, and are something more than mere ideas ; 
there being in Holy Writ innumerable facts related which 
evidently suppose the reality of timber and stone, moun 
tains and rivers, and cities, and human bodies l To 
which I answer that no sort of writings whatever, sacred or 
profane, which use those and the like words in the vulgar 
acceptation, or so as to have a meaning in them, are in dan 
ger of having their truth called in question by our doctrine. 
That all those things do really exist ; that there are bodies, 
even corporeal substances, when taken in the vulgar 
sense, has been shewn to be agreeable to our principles : 
and the difference betwixt things and ideas, realities and 
chimeras, has been distinctly explained. See sect. 29, 30, 
33, 36, cvic. And I do not think that either what philosophers 
call Matter, or the existence of objects without the mind*, 
is anywhere mentioned in Scripture. 

83. Again, whether there be or be not external things ", 
it is agreed on all hands that the proper use of words 
is the marking our conceptions, or things only as they 
are known and perceived by us : whence it plainly follows, 
that in the tenets we have laid down there is nothing 
inconsistent with the right use and significancy of language, 
and that discourse, of what kind soever, so far as it is 
intelligible, remains undisturbed. But all this seems so 
very manifest, from what has been largely set forth in the 
premises, that it is needless to insist any farther on it. 

84. But, it will be urged that miracles do, at least, lose 
much of their stress and import by our principles. 
What must we think of Moses rod? was it not really 
turned into a serpent ? or was there only a change of ideas 
in the minds of the spectators ? And, can it be supposed 
that our Saviour did no more at the marriage-feast in 
Cana than impose on the sight, and smell, and taste of 

1 The authority of Holy Scrip- should mean when we affirm its 
ture, added to our natural tendency reality, and the basis of its explica 
te believe in external reality, are bility in science, 
grounds on which Malebranchc a i. e. existing unrealised in any 
and Norris infer a material world. intelligence human or Divine. 
Berkeley s material world claims a ; external things, i. e. things 
no logical proof of its reality. His existing really, yet out of all rela- 
aim is not to prove the reality of tion to active living spirit. 
the world, but to shew what we 


the guests, so as to create in them the appearance or idea 
only of wine? The same may be said of all other 
miracles : which, in consequence of the foregoing principles, 
must be looked upon only as so many cheats, or illusions of 
fancy. To this I reply, that the rod was changed into 
a real serpent, and the water into real wine. That this does 
not in the least contradict what I have elsewhere said will 
be evident from sect. 34 and 35. But this business of 
real and imaginary has been already so plainly and fully 
explained, and so often referred to, and the difficulties 
about it are so easily answered from what has gone before, 
that it were an affront to the reader s understanding to 
resume the explication of it in this place. I shall only 
observe that if at table all who were present should see, 
and smell, and taste, and drink wine, and find the effects 
of it, with me there could be no doubt of its reality ] . So 
that at bottom the scruple concerning real miracles has 
no place at all on ours, but only on the received principles, 
and consequently makes rather for than against what has 
been said. 

85. Having done with the Objections, which I endeav 
oured to propose in the clearest light, and gave them 
all the force and weight I could, we proceed in the 
next place to take a view of our tenets in their Conse 
quences 2 . Some of these appear at first sight as that 
several difficult and obscure questions, on which abun 
dance of speculation has been thrown away, are entirely 
banished from philosophy. Whether corporeal substance 
can think ? Whether Matter be infinitely divisible ? And 
how it operates on spirit? these and the like inquiries 
have given infinite amusement to philosophers in all ages. 

1 Simultaneous perception of order, otherwise than as all natural 

the same (similar?) ss-ideas, evolution is divinely providen- 

l>y different persons, as distin- tial. 
guished from purely individual con 
sciousness of feelings and fancies, 2 Some of the Consequences of 

is here taken as a test of the virtu- adoption of the New Principles, in 

ally external reality of the former. their application to the physical 

Berkeley does not ask whether sciences and mathematics, and then 

the change of the rod into a ser- to psychology and theology, are 

pent, or of the water into wine, is unfolded in the remaining sections 

the issue of divine agency and of the Principles. 


But, depending on the existence of Matter, they have 
no longer any place on our Principles. Many other 
advantages there are, as well with regard to religion as 
the sciences, which it is easy for any one to deduce from 
what has been premised. But this will appear more 
plainly in the sequel. 

86. From the Principles we have laid down it follows 
human knowledge may naturally be reduced to two heads 
that of ideas and that of Spirits. Of each of these 
I shall treat in order. 

And First as to ideas, or unthinking things. Our know 
ledge of these has been very much obscured and con 
founded, and we have been led into very dangerous errors, 
by supposing a two-fold existence of sense the one 
intelligible or in the mind, the other real and without 
the mind . Whereby unthinking things are thought to 
have a natural subsistence of their own, distinct from 
being perceived by spirits. This, which, if I mistake not, 
hath been shewn to be a most groundless and absurd 
notion, is the very root of Scepticism ; for, so long as 
men thought that real things subsisted without the mind, 
and that their knowledge was only so far forth real as it 
was conformable to real things, it follows they could not 
be certain that they had any real knowledge at all. For 
how can it be known that the things which are perceived 
are conformable to those which are not perceived, or 
exist without the mind 2 ? 

87. Colour, figure, motion, extension, and the like, 
considered only as so many sensations in the mind, are 
perfectly known ; there being nothing in them which 
is not perceived. But, if they are looked on as notes or 
images, referred to things or archetypes existing without the 
mind, then are we involved all in scepticism. We see 
only the appearances, and not the real qualities of things. 

1 Berkeley disclaims the sup- tative sense-perception, with its 

posed representative character of the double object, the germ of total 

ideas given in sensuous perception, scepticism. Berkeley claims that, 

and recognises as the real object under his interpretation of what 

only what is ideally presented in the reality of the material world 

consciousness. means, immediate knowledge of 

- So Hume, Reid, and Hamilton, mind-dependent matter is given in 

who all see in a wholly represen- sense. 



What may be the extension, figure, or motion of anything 
really and absolutely, or in itself, it is impossible for us 
to know, but only the proportion or relation they bear to our 
senses. Things remaining the same, our ideas vary ; and 
which of them, or even whether any of them at all, 
represent the true quality really existing in the thing, 
it is out of our reach to determine. So that, for aught 
we know, all we see, hear, and feel, may be only phantom 
and vain chimera, and not at all agree with the real things 
existing in reruni natura, All this scepticism 1 follows 
from our supposing a difference between things and ideas, 
and that the former have a subsistence without the mind, or 
unperceived. It were easy to dilate on this subject, and 
shew how the arguments urged by sceptics in all ages 
depend on the supposition of external objects. |_ 2 But this 
is too obvious to need being insisted on.] 

88. So long as we attribute a real existence to unthink 
ing things, distinct from their being perceived, it is not 
only impossible for us to know with evidence the nature of 
any real unthinking being, but even that it exists. Hence 
it is that we see philosophers distrust their senses, and 
doubt of the existence of heaven and earth, of everything 
they see or feel, even of their own bodies. And after all 
their labouring and struggle of thought, they are forced to 
own we cannot attain to any self-evident or demonstrative 
knowledge of the existence of sensible things n . But, all 
this doubtfulness, which so bewilders and confounds the 
mind and makes philosophy ridiculous in the eyes of the 
world, vanishes if we annex a meaning to our words, 
and do not amuse ourselves with the terms absolute, 
external, exist, and such like, signifying we know not what. 
I can as well doubt of my own being as of the being of 
those things which I actually perceive by sense : it being 
a manifest contradiction that any sensible object should 
be immediately perceived by sight or touch, and at the 
same time have no existence in nature ; since the very 

1 scepticism sceptical cant so far resembles that afterwards 
in the first edition. employed by Reid and Hamilton. 

2 This sentence is omitted in the They differ as regards the depen- 
second edition. dence of the sensible object upon 

:! Berkeley s argument against percipient spirit lor its reality, 
a finally representative perception 


existence of an unthinking being consists in being per 

89. Nothing seems of more importance towards erecting 
a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be 
proof against the assaults of Scepticism, than to lay the 
beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by 
thing, reality, existence ; for in vain shall we dispute con 
cerning the real existence of things, or pretend to any 
knowledge thereof, so long as we have not fixed the 
meaning of those words. Thing or being is the most 
general name of all : it comprehends under it two kinds, 
entirely distinct and heterogeneous, and which have 
nothing common but the name, viz. spirits and ideas. The 
former are active, indivisible, f 1 incorruptible] substances : 
the latter are inert, fleeting, [^perishable passions,] or 
dependent beings; which subsist not by themselves 2 , but 
are supported by, or exist in, minds or spiritual substances. 

[ 3 We comprehend our own existence by inward feeling 
or reflection, and that of other spirits by reason 4 . We 
may be said to have some knowledge or notion* of our 
own minds, of spirits and active beings ; whereof in a strict 
sense we have not ideas. In like manner, we know and 
have a notion of relations between things or ideas ; 
which relations are distinct from the ideas or things 
related, inasmuch as the latter may be perceived by us 
without our perceiving the former. To me it seems that 
ideas, spirits, and relations are all in their respective kinds 
the object of human knowledge and subject of discourse ; 
and that the term idea would be improperly extended to 
signify everything we know or have any notion of .] 

90. Ideas imprinted on the senses are real things, or do 
really exist 7 : this we do not deny ; but we deny they can 

1 Omitted in second edition. to apprehension of the Ego, and 

2 But whilst unthinking things intelligence of relations. The term 
depend on being perceived, do not notion/ in this contrast with 
our spirits depend on ideas of his idea/ becomes important in 
some sort for their percipient life ? his vocabulary, although he some- 

3 The important passage within times uses it vaguely. 

brackets was added in the second 6 Locke uses idea in this wider 

edition. signification. 

4 reason, i. e. reasoning. 7 Inasmuch as they are real 
" Notion, in its stricter mean- in and through living percipient 

ing, is thus confined by Berkeley mind. 

X 2 


subsist without the minds which perceive them, or that they 
are resemblances of any archetypes existing without the 
mind l ; since the very being of a sensation or idea con 
sists in being perceived, and an idea can be like nothing 
but an idea. Again, the things perceived by sense may be 
termed external, with regard to their origin ; in that they 
are not generated from within by the mind itself, but 
imprinted by a Spirit distinct from that which perceives 
them. Sensible objects may likewise be said to be with 
out the mind in another sense, namely when they exist 
in some other mind. Thus, when I shut my eyes, the 
things I saw may still exist ; but it must be in another 
mind 2 . 

91. It were a mistake to think that what is here said 
derogates in the least from the reality of things. It is 
acknowledged, on the received principles, that extension, 
motion, and in a word all sensible qualities, have need 
of a support, as not being able to subsist by themselves. 
But the objects perceived by sense are allowed to be 
nothing but combinations of those qualities, and conse 
quently cannot subsist by themselves 3 . Thus far it is 
agreed on all hands. So that in denying the things 
perceived by sense an existence independent of a sub 
stance or support wherein they may exist, we detract 
nothing from the received opinion of their reality, and 
are guilty of no innovation in that respect. All the 
difference is that, according to us, the unthinking beings 
perceived by sense have no existence distinct from 
being perceived, and cannot therefore exist in any other 
substance than those unextended indivisible substances, 
or spirits, which act, and think and perceive them. 
Whereas philosophers vulgarly hold that the sensible 
qualities do exist in an inert, extended, unperceiving 
Substance, which they call Matter, to which they attribute 
a natural subsistence, exterior to all thinking beings, or 
distinct from being perceived by any mind whatsoever, 

1 i. e. unthinking archetypes. nal. It is the business of the 

2 In this section Berkeley explains philosopher to explicate its true 
what he means by externality. Men meaning. 

cannot act, cannot live, without 3 i. e. they are not substances in 

assuming an external world in the truest or deepest meaning of 
some meaning of the term c exter- the word. 


even the Eternal Mind of the Creator; wherein they 
suppose only Ideas of the corporeal substances l created 
by Him : if indeed they allow them to be at all created 21 . 

92. For, as we have shewn the doctrine of Matter 
or Corporeal Substance to have been the main pillar 
and support of Scepticism, so likewise upon the same 
foundation have been raised all the impious schemes 
of Atheism and Irreligion. Nay, so great a difficulty 
has it been thought to conceive Matter produced out of 
nothing, that the most celebrated among the ancient 
philosophers, even of those who maintained the being 
of a God, have thought Matter to be uncreated and co- 
eternal with Him 3 . How great a friend material substance 
has been to Atheists in all ages were needless to relate. 
All their monstrous systems have so visible and neces 
sary a dependence on it, that when this corner-stone 
is once removed, the whole fabric cannot choose but 
fall to the ground ; insomuch that it is no longer worth 
while to bestow a particular consideration on the absurd 
ities of every wretched sect of Atheists 4 . 

93. That impious and profane persons should readily 
fall in with those systems which favour their inclinations, 
by deriding immaterial substance, and supposing the soul 
to be divisible, and subject to corruption as the body ; 
which exclude all freedom, intelligence, and design from 
the formation of things, and instead thereof make a self- 
existent, stupid, unthinking substance the root and origin 
of all beings; that they should hearken to those who 
deny a Providence, or inspection of a Superior Mind 

1 Ideas of the corporeal sub- Matter must be distinguished 
stances. Berkeley might perhaps from an unbeginning and end- 
say Divine Ideas which are them- less creation of sensible ideas or 
selves our world of sensible things phenomena, in percipient spirits, 
in its ultimate form. according to divine natural law 

- On thescheme of ideal Realism, and order, with implied imma- 

creation of matter is presenting nence of God. 

to finite minds sense-ideas or * Because the question at 

phenomena, which are, as it were, issue with Atheism is, whether 

letters of the alphabet, in that the universe of things and per- 

language of natural order which sons is finally substantiated and 

God employs for the expression evolved in unthinking Matter or in 

of His Ideas to us. the perfect Reason of God. 

J The independent eternity of 


over the affairs of the world, attributing the whole series 
of events either to blind chance or fatal necessity, aris 
ing from the impulse of one body on another all 
this is very natural. And, on the other hand, when 
men of better principles observe the enemies of religion 
lay so great a stress on unthinking Matter, and all of 
them use so much industry and artifice to reduce every 
thing to it ; methinks they should rejoice to see them 
deprived of their grand support, and driven from that 
only fortress, without which your Epicureans, Hobbists, 
and the like, have not even the shadow of a pretence, but 
become the most cheap and easy triumph in the world. 

94. The existence of Matter, or bodies unperceived, 
has not only been the main support of Atheists and Fatal 
ists, but on the same principle doth Idolatry likewise 
in all its various forms depend. Did men but consider 
that the sun, moon, and stars, and every other object 
of the senses, are only so many sensations in their minds, 
which have no other existence but barely being perceived, 
doubtless they would never fall down and worship their 
own ideas ; but rather address their homage to that Eter 
nal Invisible Mind which produces and sustains all things. 

95. The same absurd principle, by mingling itself with 
the articles of our faith, hath occasioned no small diffi 
culties to Christians. For example, about the Resur 
rection, how many scruples and objections have been 
raised by Socinians and others ? But do not the most 
plausible of them depend on the supposition that a body 
is denominated the same, with regard not to the form, 
or that which is perceived by sense J , but the material 
substance, which remains the same under several forms ? 
Take away this material substance about the identity 
whereof all the dispute is and mean by body what 
every plain ordinary person means by that word, to wit, 
that which is immediately seen and felt, which is only 
a combination of sensible qualities or ideas : and then 
their most unanswerable objections come to nothing. 

96. Matter 2 being once expelled out of nature drags 

1 Of which Berkeley does not 2 matter, i. e. matter abstracted 

predicate a numerical identity. Cf. from all percipient lifeand voluntary 

Third Dialogue bctiveen Hylas and activit} T . 


with it so many sceptical and impious notions, such an 
incredible number of disputes and puzzling questions, 
which have been thorns in the sides of divines as well 
as philosophers, and made so much fruitless work for 
mankind, that if the arguments we have produced against 
it are not found equal to demonstration (as to me they 
evidently seem), yet I am sure all friends to knowledge, 
peace, and religion have reason to wish they were. 

97. Beside the external 1 existence of the objects of 
perception, another great source of errors and difficulties 
with regard to ideal knowledge is the doctrine of abstract 
ideas, such as it hath been set forth in the Introduction. 
The plainest things in the world, those we are most 
intimately acquainted with and perfectly know, when 
they are considered in an abstract way, appear strangely 
difficult and incomprehensible. Time, place, and motion, 
taken in particular or concrete, are what everybody knows ; 
but, having passed through the hands of a metaphysi 
cian, they become too abstract and fine to be apprehended 
by men of ordinary sense. Bid your servant meet you 
at such a time, in such a place, and he shall never stay 
to deliberate on the meaning of those words. In con 
ceiving that particular time and place, or the motion by 
which he is to get thither, he finds not the least difficulty. 
But \itinic be taken exclusive of all those particular actions 
and ideas that diversify the day, merely for the continua 
tion of existence or duration in abstract, then it will 
perhaps gravel even a philosopher to comprehend it. 

98. For my own part, whenever I attempt to frame 
a simple idea of time, abstracted from the succession 
of ideas in my mind, which flows uniformly, and is par 
ticipated by all beings, I am lost and embrangled in 
inextricable difficulties. I have no notion of it at all : 
only I hear others say it is infinitely divisible, and speak 
of it in such a manner as leads me to harbour odd 
thoughts of my existence : since that doctrine lays one 
under an absolute necessity of thinking, either that he 
passes away innumerable ages without a thought, or else 
that he is annihilated every moment of his life : both 

1 external not in Berkeley s meaning of externality. Cf. sect. 90. 
note 2. 


which seem equally absurd ! . Time therefore being no 
thing, abstracted from the succession of ideas in our minds, 
it follows that the duration of any finite spirit must be 
estimated by the number of ideas or actions succeeding 
each other in that same spirit or mind. Hence, it is 
a plain consequence that the soul always thinks. And 
in truth whoever shall go about to divide in his thoughts 
or abstract the existence of a spirit from its cogitation, 
will, I believe, find it no easy task 2 . 

99. So likewise when we attempt to abstract exten 
sion and motion from all other qualities, and consider 
them by themselves, we presently lose sight of them, 
and run into great extravagances. [ 3 Hence spring those 
odd paradoxes, that the fire is not hot, nor the wall 
white ; or that heat and colour are in the objects no 
thing but figure and motion.] All which depend on a 
twofold abstraction : first, it is supposed that extension, 
for example, may be abstracted from all other sensible 
qualities ; and, secondly, that the entity of extension 
may be abstracted from its being perceived. But, who 
ever shall reflect, and take care to understand what 
he says, will, if I mistake not, acknowledge that all sen 
sible qualities are alike sensations, and alike real] that 
where the extension is, there is the colour too, to wit, in 
his mind 4 , and that their archetypes can exist only in 

1 Si non rogas, intelligo. Berke- is to be measured by succession of 
le}^ writes long after this to John- ideas in another mind : not con- 
son thus: A succession of ideas sidering the true use of words, 
(phenomena) I take to constitute which as often terminate in 
time, and not to be only the sen- the will as in the understanding, 
sible measure thereof, as Mr. Locke being employed to excite and 
and others think. But in these direct action rather than to pro- 
matters every man is to think for duce clear and distinct ideas. 
himself, and speak as he finds. Cf. Introduction, sect. 20. 
One of my earliest inquiries was - As the esse of unthinking things 
about time\ which led me into is percipi, according to Berkeley, so 
several paradoxes that I did not the^ss^of persons is percipere. The 
think it fit or necessary to publish, real existence of individual Mind 
particularly into the notion that thus depends on having ideas of 
the resurrection follows the next some sort : the real existence of 
moment after death. We are matter depends on a percipient, 
confounded and perplexed about 3 This sentence is omitted in the 
time supposing a succession in second edition. 
God; that we have an abstract 4 
idea of time ; that time in one mind 


some other mind: and that the objects of sense 1 are 
nothing but those sensations, combined, blended, or 
(if one may so speak) concreted together ; none of all 
which can be supposed to exist unperceived. [ 2 And 
that consequently the wall is as truly white as it is ex 
tended, and in the same sense.] 

100. What it is for a man to be happy, or an object 
good, every one may think he knows. But to frame 
an abstract idea of happiness, prescinded from all par 
ticular pleasure, or of goodness from everything that 
is good, this is what few can pretend to. So likewise 
a man may be just and virtuous without having precise 
ideas of justice and virtue. The opinion that those 
and the like words stand for general notions, abstracted 
from all particular persons and actions, seems to have 
rendered morality difficult, and the study thereof of less 
use to mankind. [ 2 And in effect one may make a great 
progress in school ethics without ever being the wiser 
or better man for it, or knowing how to behave him 
self in the affairs of life more to the advantage of himself 
or his neighbours than he did before.] And in effect 
the doctrine of abstraction has not a little contributed 
towards spoiling the most useful parts of knowledge. 

101. The two great provinces of speculative science 
conversant about ideas received from sense and their 
relations, are Natural Philosophy and Mathematics. With 
regard to each of these I shall make some observations. 

And first I shall say somewhat of Natural Philosophy. 
On this subject it is that the sceptics triumph. All that 
stock of arguments they produce to depreciate our facul 
ties and make mankind appear ignorant and low, are drawn 
principally from this head, namely, that we are under an in 
vincible blindness as to the true and real nature of things. 
This they exaggerate, and love to enlarge on. We are 
miserably bantered, say they, by our senses, and amused 
only with the outside and shew of things. The real 

1 objects of sense, i. e. sensible tinguishable ideas or phenomena 

things, practically external to each that are naturally aggregated in the 

person. Cf. sect, i, on the meaning form of concrete things, 

of tiling, as distinct from the dis- - Omitted in second edition. 


essence, the internal qualities and constitution of every 
the meanest object, is hid from our view : something 
there is in every drop of water, every grain of sand, 
which it is beyond the power of human understanding 
to fathom or comprehend \ But, it is evident from 
what has been shewn that all this complaint is groundless, 
and that we are influenced by false principles to that 
degree as to mistrust our senses, and think we know 
nothing of those things which we perfectly comprehend. 

102. One great inducement to our pronouncing ourselves 
ignorant of the nature of things is, the current opinion 
that every thing includes within itself the cause of its 
properties : or that there is in each object an inward 
essence, which is the source whence its discernible quali 
ties flow, and whereon they depend. Some have pre 
tended to account for appearances by occult qualities ; 
but of late they are mostly resolved into mechanical 
causes, to wit, the figure, motion, weight, and suchlike 
qualities, of insensible particles 2 : whereas, in truth, there 
is no other agent or efficient cause than spirit, it being 
evident that motion, as well as all other ideas, is perfectly 
inert. See sect. 25. Hence, to endeavour to explain 
the production of colours or sounds, by figure, motion, 
magnitude, and .the like, must needs be labour in vain. 
And accordingly we see the attempts of that kind are not 
at all satisfactory. Which may be said in general of 
those instances wherein one idea or quality is assigned 
for the cause of another. I need not say how many hypo 
theses and speculations are left out, and how much 
the study of nature is abridged by this doctrine 8 . 

103. The great mechanical principle now in vogue 
is attraction. That a stone falls to the earth, or the sea 
swells towards the moon, may to some appear sufficiently 
explained thereby. But how are we enlightened by being 
told this is done by attraction ? Is it that that word 
signifies the manner of the tendency, and that it is by the 

1 Cf. Introduction, sect. 1-3. With ism, which eliminates effective 
Berkeley, the real essence of sensi- causation from the material world, 
ble things is given in perception concentrates it in Mind, and in 
so far as our perceptions carry us. physical research seeks among data 

2 e. g. Locke s Essay, of sense for their divinely main- 

3 Berkeley advocates a Real- tained natural laws. 


mutual drawing of bodies instead of their being impelled 
or protruded towards each other? But nothing is de 
termined of the manner or action, and it may as truly 
(for aught we know) be termed impulse, or protrusion, 
as attraction. Again, the parts of steel we see cohere 
firmly together, and this also is accounted for by attrac 
tion ; but, in this, as in the other instances, I do not perceive 
that anything is signified besides the effect itself; for as 
to the manner of the action whereby it is produced, or the 
cause which produces it, these are not so much as aimed at. 

104. Indeed, if we take a view of the several phe 
nomena, and compare them together, we may observe 
some likeness and conformity between them. For ex 
ample, in the falling of a stone to the ground, in the rising 
of the sea towards the moon, in cohesion and crystallization, 
there is something alike ; namely, an union or mutual 
approach of bodies. So that any one of these or the like 
phenomena may not seem strange or surprising to a man 
who has nicely observed and compared the effects of 
nature. For that only is thought so which is uncommon, 
or a thing by itself, and out of the ordinary course of our 
observation. That bodies should tend towards the centre 
of the earth is not thought strange, because it is what we 
perceive every moment of our lives. But that they should 
have a like gravitation towards the centre of the moon 
may seem odd and unaccountable to most men, because it 
is discerned only in the tides. But a philosopher, whose 
thoughts take in a larger compass of nature, having 
observed a certain similitude of appearances, as well in 
the heavens as the earth, that argue innumerable bodies 
to have a mutual tendency towards each other, which he 
denotes by the general name attraction, whatever can be 
reduced to that, he thinks justly accounted for. Thus he 
explains the tides by the attraction of the terraqueous 
globe towards the moon ; which to him doth not appear 
odd or anomalous, but only a particular example of a 
general rule or law of nature. 

105. If therefore we consider the difference there is 
betwixt natural philosophers and other men, with regard 
to their knowledge of the phenomena, we shall find it 
consists, not in an exacter knowledge of the efficient cause 
that produces them for that can be no other than the will 


of a spirit but only in a greater largeness of comprehen 
sion, whereby analogies, harmonies, and agreements are 
discovered in the works of nature, and the particular 
effects explained, that is, reduced to general rules, see 
sect. 62 : which rules, grounded on the analogy and 
uniformness observed in the production of natural effects, 
are most agreeable and sought after by the mind ; for that 
they extend our prospect beyond what is present and near 
to us, and enable us to make very probable conjectures 
touching things that may have happened at very great 
distances of time and place, as well as to predict things to 
come : which sort of endeavour towards Omniscience is 
much affected by the mind. 

106. But we should proceed warily in such things : for 
we are apt to lay too great a stress on analogies, and, to 
the prejudice of truth, humour that eagerness of the mind, 
whereby it is carried to extend its knowledge into general 
theorems. For example, gravitation or mutual attraction, 
because it appears in many instances, some are straight 
way for pronouncing universal ; and that to attract and be 
attracted by every other body is an essential quality 
inherent in all bodies whatsoever. Whereas it is evident 
the fixed stars have no such tendency towards each other ; 
and, so far is that gravitation from being essential to bodies 
that in some instances a quite contrary principle seems to 
shew itself; as in the perpendicular growth of plants, and 
the elasticity of the air. There is nothing necessary or 
essential in the case l ; but it depends entirely on the will 
of the Governing Spirit 2 , who causes certain bodies to 
cleave together or tend towards each other according to 
various laws, whilst He keeps others at a fixed distance ; 
and to some He gives a quite contrary tendency to fly 
asunder, just as He sees convenient. 

107. After what has been premised, I think we may lay 
down the following conclusions. First, it is plain philoso- 

1 In interpreting the data of parisons of experience, 
sense, we are obliged to assume ~ The preceding forms of new 

that every new phenomenon must phenomena, being finally deter- 

have previously existed in some mined by Will, are, in that sense, 

equivalent form but not neces- arbitrary ; but not capricious, for 

sarily in this or that particular the Will is perfect Reason. God 

form, for a knowledge of which is the immanent cause of the 

we are indebted to inductive com- natural order. 


phers amuse themselves in vain, when they enquire for 
any natural efficient cause, distinct from a mind or spirit. 
Secondly, considering the whole creation is the workman 
ship of a wise and good Agent, it should seem to become 
philosophers to employ their thoughts (contrary to what 
some hold l ) about the final causes of things. [~ 2 For, besides 
that this would prove a very pleasing entertainment to the 
mind, it might be of great advantage, in that it not only 
discovers to us the attributes of the Creator, but may also 
direct us in several instances to the proper uses and 
applications of things.] And I must confess I see no 
reason why pointing out the various ends to which natural 
things are adapted, and for which they were originally 
with unspeakable wisdom contrived, should not be thought 
one good way of accounting for them, and altogether 
worthy a philosopher. Thirdly, from what has been pre 
mised, no reason can be drawn why the history of nature 
should not still be studied, and observations and experi 
ments made ; which, that they are of use to mankind, and 
enable us to draw any general conclusions, is not the 
result of any immutable habitudes or relations between 
things themselves, but only of God s goodness and kind 
ness to men in the administration of the world. See sects. 
30 and 31. Fourthly, by a diligent observation of the 

Ehenomena within our view, we may discover the general 
iws of nature, and from them deduce other phenomena. 
I do not say demonstrate ; for all deductions of that kind 
depend on a supposition that the Author of Nature 
always operates uniformly, and in a constant observance 
of those rules we take for principles, which we cannot 
evidently know 3 . 

108. [ 2 It appears from sect. 66, &c. that the steady consis 
tent methods of nature may not unfitly be styled the 
Language of its Author, whereby He discovers His 
attributes to our view and directs us how to act for the 
convenience and felicity of life. Those men who frame 4 
general rules from the phenomena, and afterwards derive 5 

1 He probably refers to Bacon. only. Nature in its deepest mean- 

2 Omitted in second edition. ing explains itself in the Divine 
a What we are able to discover Omniscience. 

in the all-comprehensive order 4 i. e. inductively. 

may be subordinate and provisional 5 i. e. deductively. 


the phenomena from those rules, seem to consider signs l 
rather than causes. 2 A man may well understand natural 
signs without knowing their analogy, or being able to say 
by what rule a thing is so or so. And, as it is very 
possible to write improperly, through too strict an obser 
vance of general grammar-rules ; so, in arguing from 
general laws of nature, it is not impossible we may ex 
tend 3 the analogy too far, and by that means run into 

109. [ 4 To carry on the resemblance.] As in reading 
other books a wise man will choose to fix his thoughts on 
the sense and apply it to use, rather than lay them out in 
grammatical remarks on the language ; so, in perusing the 
volume of nature, methinks it is beneath the dignity of the 
mind to affect an exactness in reducing each particular 
phenomenon to general rules, or shewing how it follows 
from them. We should propose to ourselves nobler 
views, such as to recreate and exalt the mind with a 
prospect of the beauty, order, extent, and variety of natural 
things : hence, by proper inferences, to enlarge our notions 
of the grandeur, wisdom, and beneficence of the Creator : 
and lastly, to make the several parts of the creation, so far 
as in us lies, subservient to the ends they were designed 
for God s glory, and the sustentation and comfort of 
ourselves and fellow-creatures. 

no. [ r> The best key for the aforesaid analogy, or natural 
Science, will be easily acknowledged to be a certain 
celebrated Treatise of Mechanics^] In the entrance of 

1 seem to consider signs/ i.e. ed and applied to Nature, by a philo- 
to be grammarians rather than sopher of a neighbouring nation, 
philosophers: physical sciences whom all the world admire. I shall 
deal with the grammar of the divine not take upon me to make re- 
language of nature. marks on the performance of that 

2 A man may be well read in the extraordinary person : only some 
language of nature without under- things he has advanced so directly 
standing the grammar of it, or being opposite to the doctrine we have 
able to say/ &c. in first edition. hitherto laid down, that we should 

3 extend stretch in first be wanting in the regard due to 
edition. the authority of so great a man did 

4 Omitted in second edition. we not take some notice of them. 

5 In the first edition, the section He refers, of course, to Newton, 
commences thus: 4 The best gram- The first edition of Berkeley s/Vm- 
mar of the kind we are speaking of ciples was published in Ireland 
will be easily acknowledged to be hence neighbouringnation. New- 
a treatise of Mechanics, demonstrat- ton s Principia appeared in 1687. 


which justly admired treatise, Time, Space, and Motion 
are distinguished into absolute and relative, true and appar 
ent, mathematical and vulgar: which distinction, as it is at 
large explained by the author, does suppose those quanti 
ties to have an existence without the mind : and that they 
are ordinarily conceived with relation to sensible things, to 
which nevertheless in their own nature they bear no 
relation at all. 

in. As for Time, as it is there taken in an absolute or 
abstracted sense, for the duration or perseverance of the 
existence of things, I have nothing more to add concern 
ing it after what has been already said on that subject. 
Sects. 97 and 98. For the rest, this celebrated author 
holds there is an absolute Space, which, being unperceiv- 
able to sense, remains in itself similar and immoveable ; 
and relative space to be the measure thereof, which, being 
moveable and defined by its situation in respect of 
sensible bodies, is vulgarly taken for immoveable space. 
Place he defines to be that part of space which is occupied 
by any body : and according as the space is absolute or 
relative so also is the place. Absolute Motion is said to be 
the translation of a body from absolute place to absolute 
place, as relative motion is from one relative place to 
another. And because the parts of absolute space do not 
fall under our senses, instead of them we are obliged to 
use their sensible measures ; and so define both place and 
motion with respect to bodies which we regard as immove 
able. But it is said, in philosophical matters we must 
abstract from our senses; since it may be that none of 
those bodies which seem to be quiescent are truly so ; 
and the same thing which is moved relatively may be 
really at rest. As likewise one and the same body may be 
in relative rest and motion, or even moved with contrary 
relative motions at the same time, according as its place is 
variously defined. All which ambiguity is to be found in 
the apparent motions ; but not at all in the true or absolute, 
which should therefore be alone regarded in philosophy. 
And the true we are told are distinguished from apparent 
or relative motions by the following properties. First, in 
true or absolute motion, all parts which preserve the same 
position with respect of the whole, partake of the motions 
of the whole. Secondly, the place being moved, that 


which is placed therein is also moved : so that a body 
moving in a place which is in motion doth participate 
the motion of its place. Thirdly, true motion is never 
generated or changed otherwise than by force impressed 
on the body itself. Fourthly, true motion is always 
changed by force impressed on the body moved. Fifthly, 
in circular motion, barely relative, there is no centrifugal 
force, which nevertheless, in that which is true or absolute, 
is proportional to the quantity of motion. 

112. But, notwithstanding what hath been said, I must 
confess it does not appear to me that there can be any 
motion other than relative 1 : so that to conceive motion 
there must be conceived at least two bodies; where 
of the distance or position in regard to each other is 
varied. Hence, if there was one only body in being it 
could not possibly be moved. This seems evident, in 
that the idea I have of motion doth necessarily include 
relation. f 2 Whether others can conceive it otherwise, a 
little attention may satisfy them.] 

113. But, though in every motion it be necessary to 
conceive more bodies than one, yet it may be that one only 
is moved, namely, that on which the force causing the 
change in the distance or situation of the bodies is im 
pressed. For, however some may define relative motion, 
so as to term that body moved which changes its distance 
from some other body, whether the force [ 3 or action] 
causing that change were impressed on it or no, yet, as 
relative motion is that which is perceived by sense, and 
regarded in the ordinary affairs of life, it follows that every 
man of common sense knows what it is as well as the best 
philosopher. Now, I ask any one whether, in his sense of 
motion as he walks along the streets, the stones he passes 
over may be said to move, because they change distance 
with his feet? To me it appears that though motion 
includes a relation of one thing to another, yet it is not 
necessary that each term of the relation be denominated 
from it. As a man may think of somewhat which does 

1 Motion, in various aspects, impeded locomotion. Cf. sect, 

is treated specially in the De Motu. 116. 

An imagination of trinal space - Omitted in second edition, 

presupposes locomotive experience " Added in second edition. 
unimpeded, in contrast with 


not think, so a body may be moved to or from another 
body which is not therefore itself in motion, [ I mean 
relative motion, for other I am not able to conceive.] 

114. As the place happens to be variously defined, the 
motion which is related to it varies 2 . A man in a ship 
may be said to be quiescent with relation to the sides of 
the vessel, and yet move with relation to the land. Or he 
may move eastward in respect of the one, and westward in 
respect of the other. In the common affairs of life, men 
never go beyond the Earth to define the place of any 
body; and what is quiescent in respect of that is accounted 
absolutely to be so. But philosophers, who have a greater 
extent of thought, and juster notions of the system of 
things, discover even the Earth itself to be moved. In 
order therefore to fix their notions, they seem to conceive 
the Corporeal World as finite, and the utmost unmoved 
walls or shell thereof to be the place whereby they esti 
mate true motions. If we sound our own conceptions, I 
believe we may find all the absolute motion we can frame 
an idea of to be at bottom no other than relative motion 
thus defined. For, as has been already observed, absolute 
motion, exclusive of all external relation, is incomprehensi 
ble : and to this kind of relative motion all the above- 
mentioned properties, causes, and effects ascribed to 
absolute motion will, if I mistake not, be found to agree. 
As to what is said of the centrifugal force, that it does not 
at all belong to circular relative motion, I do not see how 
this follows from the experiment which is brought to prove 
it. See Newton s PhilosopJiiac Naturalis Principia Mathe- 
matica, in ScJioL Dcf. VIII. For the water in the vessel, 
at that time wherein it is said to have the greatest relative 
circular motion, hath, I think, no motion at all : as is plain 
from the foregoing section. 

115. For, to denominate a body moved, it is requisite, 
first, that it change its distance or situation with regard 
to some other body : and secondly, that the force occa 
sioning that change be applied to 3 it. If either of these 
be wanting, I do not think that, agreeably to the 
sense of mankind, or the propriety of language, a body 

1 Omitted in second edition. " applied to impressed on 

2 See Locke s Essay, Bk. II. ch. in first edition. 
I3> 1~ 10 - 



can be said to be in motion. I grant indeed that it 
is possible for us to think a body, which we see change 
its distance from some other, to be moved, though it have 
no force applied to l it (in which sense there may be 
apparent motion) ; but then it is because the force causing 
the change 2 of distance is imagined by us to be [ 3 applied 
or] impressed on that body thought to move. Which 
indeed shews we are capable of mistaking a thing to be 
in motion which is not, and that is all. [ 4 But it does not 
prove that, in the common acceptation of motion, a body 
is moved merely because it changes distance from an 
other; since as soon as we are undeceived, and find that 
the moving force was not communicated to it, we no 
longer hold it to be moved. So, on the other hand, when 
one only body (the parts whereof preserve a given position 
between themselves) is imagined to exist, some there 
are who think that it can be moved all manner of ways, 
though without any change of distance or situation to any 
other bodies ; which we should not deny, if they meant 
only that it might have an impressed force, which, upon 
the bare creation of other bodies, would produce a motion 
of some certain quantity and determination. But that 
an actual motion (distinct from the impressed force, or 
power, productive of change of place in case there were 
bodies present whereby to define it) can exist in such a 
single body, I must confess I am not able to comprehend.] 
116. From what has been said, it follows that the 
philosophic consideration of motion doth not imply the 
being of an absolute Space, distinct from that which is 
perceived by sense, and related to bodies : which that 
it cannot exist without the mind is clear upon the same 
principles that demonstrate the like of all other objects 
of sense. And perhaps, if we inquire narrowly, we shall 
find we cannot even frame an idea of pure Space exclusive 
of all body. This I must confess seems impossible 5 , as 

1 applied to impressed on their consequent events, not effi- 

in first edition. cient causes of change. 

a the force causing the change 3 Added in second edition. 

which force/ according to Berke- 4 What follows to the end of this 

ley, can only be attributed meta- section is omitted in the second 

phorically to the so-called impelling edition. 

body; inasmuch as bodies, or the 5 seems impossible is above 

data of sense, can only be signs of my capacity in first edition. 


being a most abstract idea. When I excite a motion in 
some part of my body, if it be free or without resistance, 
I say there is Space. But if I find a resistance, then I say 
there is Body: and in proportion as the resistance to 
motion is lesser or greater, I say the space is more or less 
pure. So that when I speak of pure or empty space, 
it is not to be supposed that the word space stands for 
an idea distinct from, or conceivable without, body and 
motion. Though indeed we are apt to think every noun 
substantive stands for a distinct idea that may be separ 
ated from all others; which hath occasioned infinite 
mistakes. When, therefore, supposing all the world to be 
annihilated besides my own body, I say there still remains 
pure Space; thereby nothing else is meant but only that 
I conceive it possible for the limbs of my body to be 
moved on all sides without the least resistance : but if that 
too were annihilated then there could be no motion, and 
consequently no Space *. Some, perhaps, may think the 
sense of seeing doth furnish them with the idea of pure 
space ; but it is plain from what we have elsewhere 
shewn, that the ideas of space and distance are not obtained 
by that sense. See the Essay concerning Vision. 

ii 7. What is here laid down seems to put an end to 
all those disputes and difficulties that have sprung up 
amongst the learned concerning the nature of pure Space. 
But the chief advantage arising from it is that we are 
freed from that dangerous dilemma, to which several 
who have employed their thoughts on that subject ima 
gine themselves reduced, viz. of thinking either that Real 
Space is God, or else that there is something beside God 
which is eternal, uncreated, infinite, indivisible, immutable. 
Both which may justly be thought pernicious and absurd 
notions. It is certain that not a few divines, as well as 
philosophers of great note, have, from the difficulty they 
found in conceiving either limits or annihilation of space, 
concluded it must be divine. And some of late have set 
themselves particularly to shew that the incommunicable 
attributes of God agree to it. Which doctrine, how un 
worthy soever it may seem of the Divine Nature, yet 

1 In short, empty Space is the of Vision. He minimises Space, 
sensuous idea of unresisted motion. treating it as a datum of sense. 
This is implied in the New Theory 

Y 2 


I must confess I do not see how we can get clear of it, so 
long as we adhere to the received opinions \ 

118. Hitherto of Natural Philosophy. We come now 
to make some inquiry concerning that other great branch 
of speculative knowledge, to wit, Mathematics -. These, 
how celebrated soever they may be for their clearness 
and certainty of demonstration, which is hardly any 
where else to be found, cannot nevertheless be supposed 
altogether free from mistakes, if in their principles 
there lurks some secret error which is common to the 
professors of those sciences with the rest of mankind. 
Mathematicians, though they deduce their theorems from 
a great height of evidence, yet their first principles are 
limited by the consideration of Quantity. And they do 
not ascend into any inquiry concerning those transcenden 
tal maxims which influence all the particular sciences; 
each part whereof, Mathematics not excepted, doth con 
sequently participate of the errors involved in them. That 
the principles laid down by mathematicians are true, and 
their way of deduction from those principles clear and 
incontestible, we do not deny. But we hold there may 
be certain erroneous maxims of greater extent than the 
object of Mathematics, and for that reason not expressly 
mentioned, though tacitly supposed, throughout the whole 
progress of that science ; and that the ill effects of those 
secret unexamined errors are diffused through all the 
branches thereof. To be plain, we suspect the mathe 
maticians are no less deeply concerned than other men 
in the errors arising from the doctrine of abstract general 
ideas, and the existence of objects without the mind. 

119. Arithmetic hath been thought to have for its object 
abstract ideas of number. Of which to understand the 
properties and mutual habitudes, is supposed no mean 
part of speculative knowledge. The opinion of the pure and 
intellectual nature of numbers in abstract has made them 

1 He probably refers to Samuel concerned with the New Principles 
Clarke s Demonstration of the Being in their application to Mathematics. 
and Attributes of God, \vhich appear- The foundation of the mathema- 
ed in 1706, and a treatise De Spatio tical sciences engaged much of 
Reali, published in the same year. Berkeley s thought in early life and 

2 Sect. 118-132 are accordingly in his later years. See \i\$Analyst. 


in esteem with those philosophers who seem to have 
affected an uncommon fineness and elevation of thought. 
It hath set a price on the most trifling numerical specu 
lations, which in practice are of no use, but serve only 
for amusement ; and hath heretofore so far infected the 
minds of some, that they have dreamed of mighty mysteries 
involved in numbers, and attempted the explication of 
natural things by them. But, if we narrowly inquire into 
our own thoughts, and consider what has been premised, 
we may perhaps entertain a low opinion of those high 
flights and abstractions, and look on all inquiries about 
numbers only as so many difficiles nugac, so far as they are 
not subservient to practice, and promote the benefit of life. 

120. Unity in abstract we have before considered in 
sect. 13; from which, and what has been said in the Intro 
duction, it plainly follows there is not any such idea. 
But, number being defined a collection of units, we may 
conclude that, if there be no such thing as unity, or unit 
in abstract, there are no ideas of number in abstract, 
denoted by the numeral names and figures. The theories 
therefore in Arithmetic, if they are abstracted from the 
names and figures, as likewise from all use and practice, as 
well as from the particular things numbered, can be 
supposed to have nothing at all for their object. Hence 
we may see how entirely the science of numbers is subor 
dinate to practice, and how jejune and trilling it becomes 
when considered as a matter of mere speculation 1 . 

121. However, since there may be some who, deluded 
by the specious show of discovering abstracted verities, 
waste their time in arithmetical theorems and problems 
which have not any use, it will not be amiss if we more 
fully consider and expose the vanity of that pretence. 
And this will plainly appear by taking a view of Arith 
metic in its infancy, and observing what it was that origin 
ally put men on the study of that science, and to what 
scope they directed it. It is natural to think that at first, 
men, for ease of memory and help of computation, made 
use of counters, or in writing of single strokes, points, 
or the like, each whereof was made to signify an unit, i. e. 
some one thing of whatever kind they had occasion to 

1 Numerical relations are realised only in concrete experience. 


reckon. Afterwards they found out the more compendious 
ways of making one character stand in place of several 
strokes or points. And, lastly, the notation of the 
Arabians or Indians came into use ; wherein, by the re 
petition of a few characters or figures, and varying the 
signification of each figure according to the place it obtains, 
all numbers may be most aptly expressed. Which seems 
to have been done in imitation of language, so that an 
exact analogy is observed betwixt the notation by figures 
and names, the nine simple figures answering the nine 
first numeral names and places in the former, corre 
sponding to denominations in the latter. And agreeably 
to those conditions of the simple and local value of figures, 
were contrived methods of finding, from the given figures 
or marks of the parts, what figures and how placed are 
proper to denote the whole, or vice versa. And having 
found the sought figures, the same rule or analogy being 
observed throughout, it is easy to read them into words ; 
and so the number becomes perfectly known. For then 
the number of any particular things is said to be known, 
when we know the name or figures (with their due 
arrangement) that according to the standing analogy 
belong to them. For, these signs being known, we can by 
the operations of arithmetic know the signs of any part of 
the particular sums signified by them; and thus computing 
in signs, (because of the connexion established betwixt 
them and the distinct multitudes of things, whereof one 
is taken for an unit), we may be able rightly to sum up, 
divide, and proportion the things themselves that we 
intend to number. 

122. In Arithmetic, therefore, we regard not the things 
but the signs ; which nevertheless are not regarded for 
their own sake, but because they direct us how to act 
with relation to things, and dispose rightly of them. Now, 
agreeably to what we have before observed of Words 
in general (sect. 19, Introd.), it happens here likewise, 
that abstract ideas are thought to be signified by numeral 
names or characters, while they do not suggest ideas of 
particular things to our minds. I shall not at present 
enter into a more particular dissertation on this subject; 
but only observe that it is evident from what has been 
said, those things which pass for abstract truths and 


theorems concerning numbers, are in reality conversant 
about no object distinct from particular numerable things ; 
except only names and characters, which originally came 
to be considered on no other account but their being 
signs, or capable to represent aptly whatever particular 
things men had need to compute. Whence it follows 
that to study them for their own sake would be just as 
wise, and to as good purpose, as if a man, neglecting 
the true use or original intention and subserviency of lan 
guage, should spend his time in impertinent criticisms upon 
words, or reasonings and controversies purely verbal \ 

123. From numbers we proceed to speak of extension 2 , 
which, considered as relative, is the object of Geometry. 
The infinite divisibility of finite extension, though it is not 
expressly laid down either as an axiom or theorem in 
the elements of that science, yet is throughout the same 
everywhere supposed, and thought to have so inseparable 
and essential a connexion with the principles and demon 
strations in Geometry that mathematicians never admit 
it into doubt, or make the least question of it. And as 
this notion is the source from whence do spring all those 
amusing geometrical paradoxes which have such a direct 
repugnancy to the plain common sense of mankind, and 
are admitted with so much reluctance into a mind not yet 
debauched by learning ; so is it the principal occasion 
of all that nice and extreme subtilty, which renders the 
study of Mathematics so very difficult and tedious. 
Hence, if we can make it appear that no finite extension 
contains innumerable parts, or is infinitely divisible, it 
follows that we shall at once clear the science of Geometry 
from a great number of difficulties and contradictions 
which have ever been esteemed a reproach to human 
reason, and withal make the attainment thereof a business 
of much less time and pains than it hitherto hath been. 

124. Every particular finite extension which may possi 
bly be the object of our thought is an idea existing only 
in the mind ; and consequently each part thereof must be 
perceived. If, therefore, I cannot perceive innumerable 
parts in any finite extension that I consider, it is certain 
they are not contained in it. But it is evident that 

1 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 107, &c. 
a Ibid. sect. 122-125, 149-160. 


I cannot distinguish innumerable parts in any particular 
line, surface, or solid, which I either perceive by sense, 
or figure to myself in my mind. Wherefore I conclude 
they are not contained in it. Nothing can be plainer 
to me than that the extensions I have in view are no 
other than my own ideas ; and it is no less plain that 
I cannot resolve any one of my ideas into an infinite 
number of other ideas ; that is, that they are not infinitely 
divisible \ If by finite extension be meant something 
distinct from a finite idea, I declare I do not know what 
that is, and so cannot affirm or deny anything of it. 
But if the terms extension, parts, and the like, are taken 
in any sense conceivable that is, for ideas, then to say 
a finite quantity or extension consists of parts infinite 
in number is so manifest and glaring a contradiction, 
that every one at first sight acknowledges it to be so. 
And it is impossible it should ever gain the assent of any 
reasonable creature who is not brought to it by gentle 
and slow degrees, as a converted Gentile 2 to the belief 
of transubstantiation. Ancient and rooted prejudices 
do often pass into principles. And those propositions 
which once obtain the force and credit of a principle, are 
not only themselves, but likewise whatever is deducible 
from them, thought privileged from all examination. 
And there is no absurdity so gross, which, by this means, 
the mind of man may not be prepared to swallow 3 . 

125. He whose understanding is prepossessed with 
the doctrine of abstract general ideas may be persuaded 
that (whatever be thought of the ideas of sense) extension 
in abstract is infinitely divisible. And one who thinks 
the objects of sense exist without the mind will perhaps, 
in virtue thereof, be brought to admit 4 that a line but an 
inch long may contain innumerable parts really existing, 
though too small to be discerned. These errors are 

1 An infinitely divided extension, ceasing to be perceived or real, 
being unperceived, must be un- 2 converted Gentile pagan 

real if its existence is made real convert in first edition, 
only in and through actual per- 3 Cf. Locke s Essay, Bk. I, ch. 

ception, or at least imagination. 3, 25. 

The only possible extension is, 4 will perhaps in virtue thereof 

accordingly, sensible extension, be brought to admit/ &c. will 

which could not be infinitely not stick to affirm/ &c. in first 

divided without the supposed parts edition. 


grafted as well in the minds of geometricians as of other 
men, and have a like influence on their reasonings ; and 
it were no difficult thing to shew how the arguments 
from Geometry made use of to support the infinite divisi 
bility of extension are bottomed on them. [ 1 But this, if 
it be thought necessary, we may hereafter find a proper 
place to treat of in a particular manner.] At present 
we shall only observe in general whence it is the mathe 
maticians are all so fond and tenacious of that doc 

126. It has been observed in another place that the 
theorems and demonstrations in Geometry are conver 
sant about universal ideas (sect. 15, Introd.) : where it is 
explained in what sense this ought to be understood, 
to wit, the particular lines and figures included in the 
diagram are supposed to stand for innumerable others of 
different sizes ; or, in other words, the geometer con 
siders them abstracting from their magnitude : which doth 
not imply that he forms an abstract idea, but only that 
he cares not what the particular magnitude is, whether 
great or small, but looks on that as a thing indifferent 
to the demonstration. Hence it follows that a line in 
the scheme but an inch long must be spoken of as though 
it contained ten thousand parts, since it is regarded not 
in itself, but as it is universal ; and it is universal only 
in its signification, whereby it represents innumerable 
lines greater than itself, in which may be distinguished 
ten thousand parts or more, though there may not be 
above an inch in it. After this manner, the properties 
of the lines signified are (by a very usual figure) trans 
ferred to the sign ; and thence, through mistake, thought 
to appertain to it considered in its own nature. 

127. Because there is no number of parts so great 
but it is possible there may be a line containing more, 
the inch-line is said to contain parts more than any 
assignable number ; which is true, not of the inch taken 
absolutely, but only for the things signified by it. But 
men, not retaining that distinction in their thoughts, 
slide into a belief that the small particular line described 
on paper contains in itself parts innumerable. There 

1 Omitted in second edition. See the Analyst. 


is no such thing as the ten thousandth part of an inch ; but 
there is of a mile or diameter of the earth, which may 
be signified by that inch. When therefore I delineate 
a triangle on paper, and take one side, not above an 
inch for example in length, to be the radius, this I 
consider as divided into 10,000 or 100,000 parts, or 
more. For, though the ten thousandth part of that line 
considered in itself, is nothing at all, and consequently 
may be neglected without any error or inconveniency, 
yet these described lines, being only marks standing 
for greater quantities, whereof it may be the ten thou 
sandth part is very considerable, it follows that, to prevent 
notable errors in practice, the radius must be taken of 
10,000 parts, or more. 

128. From what has been said the reason is plain why, 
to the end any theorem may become universal in its use, 
it is necessary we speak of the lines described on paper 
as though they contained parts which really they do not. 
In doing of which, if we examine the matter throughly, 
we shall perhaps discover that we cannot conceive an 
inch itself as consisting of, or being divisible into, a 
thousand parts, but only some other line which is far 
greater than an inch, and represented by it ; and that 
when we say a line is infinitely divisible, we must mean * 
a line which is infinitely great. What we have here ob 
served seems to be the chief cause, why to suppose 
the infinite divisibility of finite extension has been thought 
necessary in geometry. 

129. The several absurdities and contradictions which 
flowed from this false principle might, one would think, 
have been esteemed so many demonstrations against 
it. But, by I know not what logic, it is held that proofs 
a posteriori are not to be admitted against propositions 
relating to Infinity. As though it were not impossible 
even for an Infinite Mind to reconcile contradictions ; 
or as if anything absurd and repugnant could have a 
necessary connexion with truth, or flow from it. But 
whoever considers the weakness of this pretence, will 
think it was contrived on purpose to humour the lazi 
ness of the mind, which had rather acquiesce in an 

1 we must mean we mean (if we mean anything) in first 


indolent scepticism than be at the pains to go through 
with a severe examination of those principles it has ever 
embraced for true. 

130. Of late the speculations about Infinites have run 
so high, and grown to such strange notions, as have 
occasioned no small scruples and disputes among the 
geometers of the present age. Some there are of great 
note who, not content with holding that finite lines may 
be divided into an infinite number of parts, do yet 
farther maintain, that each of those Infinitesimals is itself 
subdivisible into an infinity of other parts, or Infinitesi 
mals of a second order, and so on ad infinituin. These, 
I say, assert there are Infinitesimals of Infinitesimals of 
Infinitesimals, without ever coming to an end. So that 
according to them an inch does not barely contain an infinite 
number of parts, but an infinity of an infinity of an in 
finity ad infinitum of parts. Others there be who hold all 
orders of Infinitesimals below the first to be nothing at 
all ; thinking it with good reason absurd to imagine there 
is any positive quantity or part of extension which, though 
multiplied infinitely, can ever equal the smallest given 
extension. And yet on the other hand it seems no less 
absurd to think the square, cube, or other power of a 
positive real root, should itself be nothing at all ; which 
they who hold Infinitesimals of the first order, denying 
all of the subsequent orders, are obliged to maintain. 

131. Have we not therefore reason to conclude they 
are both in the wrong, and that there is in effect no 
such thing as parts infinitely small, or an infinite number of 
parts contained in any finite quantity ? But you will say 
that if this doctrine obtains it will follow the very founda 
tions of Geometry are destroyed, and those great men 
who have raised that science to so astonishing a height, 
have been all the while building a castle in the air. To 
this it may be replied, that whatever is useful in geome 
try, and promotes the benefit of human life, does still 
remain firm and unshaken on our Principles ; that science 
considered as practical will rather receive advantage than 
any prejudice from what has been said. But to set this 
in a due light, [ and shew how lines and figures may be 

1 Omitted in the second edition. 


measured, and their properties investigated, without sup 
posing finite extension to be infinitely divisible,] may 
be the proper business of another place \ For the rest, 
though it should follow that some of the more intricate 
and subtle parts of Speculative Mathematics may be 
pared off without any prejudice to truth, yet I do not 
see what damage will be thence derived to mankind. 
On the contrary, I think it were highly to be wished 
that men of great abilities and obstinate application " 
would draw off their thoughts from those amusements, 
and employ them in the study of such things as lie 
nearer the concerns of life, or have a more direct influ 
ence on the manners. 

132. If it be said that several theorems, undoubtedly 
true, are discovered by methods in which Infinitesimals 
are made use of, which could never have been if their 
existence included a contradiction in it: I answer, that 
upon a thorough examination it will not be found that 
in any instance it is necessary to make use of or con 
ceive infinitesimal parts of finite lines, or even quantities 
less than the minimum sensibile : nay, it will be evident 
this is never done, it being impossible. [ 3 And whatever 
mathematicians may think of Fluxions, or the Differential 
Calculus, and the like, a little reflexion will shew them 
that, in working by those methods, they do not conceive 
or imagine lines or surfaces less than what are perceiv 
able to sense. They may indeed call those little and 
almost insensible quantities Infinitesimals, or Infinitesi 
mals of Infinitesimals, if they please. But at bottom this 
is all, they being in truth finite ; nor does the solution of 
problems require the supposing any other. But this 
will be more clearly made out hereafter .] 

I 33- By what we have hitherto said, it is plain that 
very numerous and important errors have taken their 
rise from those false Principles which were impugned 
in the foregoing parts of this Treatise ; and the opposites 

1 Does this refer to the intended obstinate application/ &c. in first 
* Part II of the Principles ? edition. 

2 f men of great abilities and ob- 3 What follows to the end of 
stinate application/ &c. ; men of this section is omitted in the second 
the greatest abilities and most edition. 


of those erroneous tenets at the same time appear to be 
most fruitful Principles, from whence do flow innumerable 
consequences, highly advantageous to true philosophy 
as well as to religion. Particularly Matter, or the absolute l 
existence of corporeal objects, hath been shewn to be that 
wherein the most avowed and pernicious enemies of 
all knowledge, whether human or divine, have ever 
placed their chief strength and confidence. And surely 
if by distinguishing the real existence of unthinking 
things from their being perceived, and allowing them 
a subsistence of their own, out of the minds of spirits, 
no one thing is explained in nature, but on the contrary 
a great many inexplicable difficulties arise ; if the sup 
position of Matter- is barely precarious, as not being 
grounded on so much as one single reason ; if its con 
sequences cannot endure the light of examination and 
free inquiry, but screen themselves under the dark and 
general pretence of infinites being incomprehensible , if 
withal the removal of this Matter 2 be not attended with 
the least evil consequence ; if it be not even missed in 
the world, but everything as well, nay much easier con 
ceived without it ; if, lastly, both Sceptics and Atheists 
are for ever silenced upon supposing only spirits and 
ideas, and this scheme of things is perfectly agreeable 
both to Reason and Religion : methinks we may expect 
it should be admitted and firmly embraced, though it 
were proposed only as an hypothesis, and the existence 
of Matter 2 had been allowed possible; which yet I 
think we have evidently demonstrated that it is not. 

134. True it is that, in consequence of the foregoing 
Principles, several disputes and speculations which are 
esteemed no mean parts of learning are rejected as use 
less [ 3 and in effect conversant about nothing at all]. 
But how great a prejudice soever against our notions 
this may give to those who have already been deeply 
engaged, and made large advances in studies of that 
nature, yet by others we hope it will not be thought 

1 absolute, i. e. abstract, in- 2 Matter unrealised in percep- 

dependent, irrelative existence tion not the material world that 

as something of which there can is realised in percipient experi- 

be no sensuous perception or con- ence of sense, 

ception. 3 Omitted jn second edition. 


any just ground of dislike to the principles and tenets 
herein laid down, that they abridge the labour of study, 
and make human sciences more clear, compendious, and 
attainable than they were before. 

135. Having despatched what we intended to say con 
cerning the knowledge of ideas, the method we proposed 
leads us in the next place to treat of spirits l : with regard 
to which, perhaps, human knowledge is not so deficient 
as is vulgarly imagined. The great reason that is assigned 
for our being thought ignorant of the nature of Spirits 
is our not having an idea of it. But, surely it ought not 
to be looked on as a defect in a human understanding 
that it does not perceive the idea of Spirit, if it is mani 
festly impossible there should be any such idea. And 
this if I mistake not has been demonstrated in section 
27. To which I shall here add that a Spirit has been 
shewn to be the only substance or support wherein un 
thinking beings or ideas can exist : but that this substance 
which supports or perceives ideas should itself be an 
idea, or like an idea, is evidently absurd. 

136. It will perhaps be said that we want a sense 
(as some have imagined 2 ) proper to know substances 
withal ; which, if we had, we might know our own soul 
as we do a triangle. To this I answer, that in case 
we had a new sense bestowed upon us, we could only 
receive thereby some new sensations or ideas of sense. 
But I believe nobody will say that what he means by 
the terms soul and substance is only some particular sort 
of idea or sensation. We may therefore infer that, all 
things duly considered, it is not more reasonable to 
think our faculties defective, in that they do not furnish 
us with an idea of Spirit, or active thinking substance, 
than it would be if we should blame them for not being 
able to comprehend a round square 3 . 

1 Sect. 135-156 treat of con- mind, with Berkeley, needs data 
sequences of the New Prin- of sense in order to its realisation 
ciples, in their application to in consciousness ; while it is de- 
sciences concerned with our no- pendent on God, in a relation 
tions of Spirit or Mind ; as distin- which he does not define distinctly, 
guished from sciences of ideas 2 e. g. Locke suggests this, 
in external Nature, and their 3 Is this analogy applicable ? 
mathematical relations. Individual 


137. From the opinion that Spirits are to be known 
after the manner of an idea or sensation have risen many 
absurd and heterodox tenets, and much scepticism about 
the nature of the soul. It is even probable that this 
opinion may have produced a doubt in some whether 
they had any soul at all distinct from their body ; since 
upon inquiry they could not find they had an idea of it. 
That an idea, which is inactive, and the existence whereof 
consists in being perceived, should be the image or 
likeness of an agent subsisting by itself, seems to need 
no other refutation than barely attending to what is 
meant by those words. But perhaps you will say that 
though an idea cannot resemble a Spirit in its thinking, 
acting, or subsisting by itself, yet it may in some other 
respects ; and it is not necessary that an idea or image be 
in all respects like the original. 

138. I answer, If it does not in those mentioned, it is 
impossible it should represent it in any other thing. 
Do but leave out the power of willing, thinking, and 
perceiving ideas, and there remains nothing else wherein 
the idea can be like a spirit. For, by the word spirit 
we mean only that which thinks, wills, and perceives ; 
this, and this alone, constitutes the signification of that 
term. If therefore it is impossible that any degree of 
those powers should be represented in an idea [ l or 
notion |, it is evident there can be no idea [* or notion] of 
a Spirit. 

139. But it will be objected that, if there is no idea 
signified by the terms sou/, spirit, and substance, they 
are wholly insignificant, or have no meaning in them. 
I answer, those words do mean or signify a real thing ; 
which is neither an idea nor like an idea, but that which 
perceives ideas, and wills, and reasons about them. 
What I am myself, that which I denote by the term /, is 
the same with what is meant by soul, or spiritual substance. 
[ 2 But if I should say that / was nothing, or that / was 
an idea or notion, nothing could be more evidently absurd 
than either of these propositions.] If it be said that 

1 Omitted in second edition, as 2 Ibid. In the omitted passage 

he had previously learned to dis- it will be seen that he makes idea 

tinguish notion from idea. Cf. sect. and notion synonymous. 
89, 142. 


this is only quarrelling at a word, and that, since the 
immediate significations of other names are by common 
consent called ideas, no reason can be assigned why 
that which is signified by the name spirit or soul may not 
partake in the same appellation. I answer, all the un 
thinking objects of the mind agree in that they are 
entirely passive, and their existence consists only in 
being perceived : whereas a soul or spirit is an active 
being, whose existence consists, not in being perceived, 
but in perceiving ideas and thinking . It is therefore 
necessary, in order to prevent equivocation and confound 
ing natures perfectly disagreeing and unlike, that we 
distinguish between spirit and idea. See sect. 27. 

140. In a large sense indeed, we may be said to have 
an idea [ 2 or rather a notion] of spirit. That is, we 
understand the meaning of the word, otherwise we 
could not affirm or deny anything of it. Moreover, as 
we conceive the ideas that are in the minds of other spirits 
by means of our own, which we suppose to be resem 
blances of them, so we know other spirits by means of 
our own soul : which in that sense is the image or idea 
of them ; it having a like respect to other spirits that 
blueness or heat by me perceived has to those ideas 
perceived by another ". 

141. [ 4 The natural immortality of the soul is a neces 
sary consequence of the foregoing doctrine. But before 
we attempt to prove this, it is fit that we explain the 
meaning of that tenet.] It must not be supposed that 
they who assert the natural immortality of the soul r> are 
of opinion that it is absolutely incapable of annihilation 
even by the infinite power of the Creator who first gave 
it being, but only that it is not liable to be broken or 

1 Is the reality of mind as de- is a mediate knowledge that we 
pendent on having ideas (of some have of other persons. The ques- 
sort) as ideas are on mind ; although tion about the individuality of finite 
mind is more deeply and truly egos, as distinguished from God, 
real than its ideas are ? Berkeley has not touched. 

2 Introduced in second edition. * These sentences are omitted 

3 We know other finite persons in the second edition. 

through sense-presented pheno- 5 the soul, i. e. the individual 

mena, but not as themselves Ego. 
phenomena. Cf. sect. 145. It 


dissolved by the ordinary laws of nature or motion. 
They indeed who hold the soul of man to be only a thin 
vital flame, or system of animal spirits, make it perishing 
and corruptible as the body ; since there is nothing 
more easily dissipated than such a being, which it is 
naturally impossible should survive the ruin of the taber 
nacle wherein it is inclosed. And this notion hath been 
greedily embraced and cherished by the worst part of 
mankind, as the most effectual antidote against all im 
pressions of virtue and religion. But it hath been made 
evident that bodies, of what frame or texture soever, 
are barely passive ideas in the mind, which is more 
distant and heterogeneous from them than light is from 
darkness 1 . We have shewn that the soul is indivisible, 
incorporeal, unextended ; and it is consequently incorrup 
tible. Nothing can be plainer than that the motions, 
changes, decays, and dissolutions which we hourly see 
befal natural bodies (and which is what we mean by the 
course of nature) cannot possibly affeet an active, simple, 
uncompounded substance : such a being therefore is indis 
soluble by the force of nature ; that is to say, the soul oj 
man is naturally immortal 1 . 

142. After what has been said, it is, I suppose, plain 
that our souls are not to be known in the same manner 
as senseless, inactive objects, or by way of idea. Spirits 
and ideas are things so wholly different, that when we 
say they exist/ they are known/ or the like, these words 

1 Cf. sect. 2 ; 25-27. ourselves, than any other matter 

2 This is Berkeley s application around us. This train of thought 
of his new conception of the reality is foreign to us at the present 
of matter, to the final human ques- day, when men of science remind 
tion of the self-conscious exis- us that self-conscious life is found 
tence of the individual human only in correlation with corpo- 
Ego, after physical death. Phi- real organisation, whatever may 
losophers and theologians were be the abstract possibility. Hope 
accustomed in his generation to of continued life after physical 
ground their argument for a future death seems to depend on ethical 
life on the metaphysical assumption considerations more than on meta- 
of the physical indivisibility of our physical arguments, and on what 
self-conscious spirit, and on our con- is suggested by faith in the final 
tingent connexion with the body. outcome of personal life, in a divinely 
Our bodies/ says Bishop Butler, constituted universe. 

are no more ourselves i or part of 



must not be thought to signify anything common to both 
natures . There is nothing alike or common in them ; and 
to expect that by any multiplication or enlargement of our 
faculties, we may be enabled to know a spirit as we do a 
triangle, seems as absurd as if we should hope to see 
a sound. This is inculcated because I imagine it may be 
of moment towards clearing several important questions, 
and preventing some very dangerous errors concerning 
the nature of the soul. 

[ 2 We may not, I think, strictly be said to have an idea 
of an active being, or of an action ; although we may be 
said to have a notion of them. I have some knowledge 
or notion of my mind, and its acts about ideas ; inasmuch 
as I know or understand what is meant by these words. 
What I know, that I have some notion of. I will not 
say that the terms idea and notion may not be used 
convertibly, if the world will have it so. But yet it con- 
duceth to clearness and propriety, that we distinguish 
things very different by different names. It is also to 
be remarked that, all relations including an act of the mind :: , 
we cannot so properly be said to have an idea, but 
rather a notion, of the relations and habitudes between 
things. But if, in the modern way 4 , the word idea is 
extended to spirits, and relations, and acts, this is, after all, 
an affair of verbal concern.] 

143. It will not be amiss to add, that the doctrine of 
abstract ideas has had no small share in rendering those 
sciences intricate and obscure which are particularly 
conversant about spiritual things. Men have imagined 
they could frame abstract notions of the powers and acts 
of the mind, and consider them prescinded as well from 
the mind or spirit itself, as from their respective objects 
and effects. Hence a great number of dark and am- 

1 Mind and the ideas presented But Berkeley has not analysed 
to the senses are at opposite poles that activity of mind which consti- 
of existence. But he does not say tutes relation, nor systematically 
that, thus opposed, they are each unfolded the relations involved in 
independent of the other. the rational constitution of ex- 

2 What follows was introduced perience. There is more disposition 
in the second edition, in which to this in Sin s. 

notion is contrasted with idea. 4 As with Locke, for example. 

3 Here is a germ of Kantism. 


biguous terms, presumed to stand for abstract notions, 
have been introduced into metaphysics and morality ; 
and from these have grown infinite distractions and 
disputes amongst the learned \ 

144. But, nothing seems more to have contributed 
towards engaging men in controversies and mistakes 
with regard to the nature and operations of the mind, 
than the being used to speak of those things in terms 
borrowed from sensible ideas. For example, the will 
is termed the motion of the soul : this infuses a belief 
that the mind of man is as a ball in motion, impelled 
and determined by the objects of sense, as necessarily 
as that is by the stroke of a racket. Hence arise end 
less scruples and errors of dangerous consequence in 
morality. All which, I doubt not, may be cleared, and truth 
appear plain, uniform, and consistent, could but philoso 
phers be prevailed on to [ 2 depart from some received 
prejudices and modes of speech, and] retire into them 
selves, and attentively consider their own meaning. [- But 
the difficulties arising on this head demand a more particular 
disquisition than suits with the design of this treatise.] 

145. From what hath been said, it is plain that we 
cannot know the existence of other spirits otherwise than 
by their operations, or the ideas by them, excited in us. 
I perceive several motions, changes, and combinations 
of ideas, that inform me there are certain particular 
agents, like myself, which accompany them, and concur 
in their production. Hence, the knowledge I have of 
other spirits is not immediate, as is the knowledge of 
my ideas ; but depending on the intervention of ideas, by 
me referred to agents or spirits distinct from myself, as 
effects or concomitant signs 3 . 

Note this condemnation of the ley s rejection of Panegoism or 

tendency to substantiate ; powers Solipsism. Is this consistent with 

of mind. his conception of the reality of 

- Omitted in second edition. the material world ? It is objected 

Berkeley was after all reluctant (e. g. by Reid) that ideal realism 

to i depart from received modes dissolves our faith in the existence 

of speech, notwithstanding their of other persons. The difficulty 

often misleading associations. is to shew how appearances pre 

;! This is one of the notable sented to my senses, which are 

sections in the Principles, as it sensuous and subjective, can be 

suggests the rationale of Berke- media of communication between 

Z 2 


146. But, though there be some things which convince 
us human agents are concerned in producing them, 
yet it is evident to every one that those things which 
are called the Works of Nature, that is, the far greater 
part of the ideas or sensations perceived by us, are not 
produced by, or dependent on, the wills of men. There 
is therefore some other Spirit that causes them ; since 
it is repugnant l that they should subsist by themselves. 
See sect. 29. But, if we attentively consider the constant 
regularity, order, and concatenation of natural things, 
the surprising magnificence, beauty and perfection of the 
larger, and the exquisite contrivance of the smaller parts 
of the creation, together with the exact harmony and 
correspondence of the whole, but above all the never- 
enough-admired laws of pain and pleasure, and the 
instincts or natural inclinations, appetites, and passions of 
animals ; I say if we consider all these things, and at the 
same time attend to the meaning and import of the attri 
butes One, Eternal, Infinitely Wise, Good, and Perfect, we 
shall clearly perceive that they belong to the aforesaid Spirit, 
1 who works all in all and by whom all things consist. 

147. Hence, it is evident that God is known as certainly 
and immediately as any other mind or spirit whatsoever, 
distinct from ourselves. We may even assert that the 
existence of God is far more evidently perceived than 
the existence of men ; because the effects of Nature are 
infinitely more numerous and considerable than those 
ascribed to human agents. There is not any one mark 
that denotes a man, or effect produced by him, which 
does not more strongly evince the being of that Spirit 
who is the Author of Nature 2 . For it is evident that, in 
affecting other persons, the will of man hath no other 
object than barely the motion of the limbs of his body ; 
but that such a motion should be attended by, or excite 

persons. The question carries us of Vision Vindicated, and Siris. 
back to the theistic presupposition repugnant for it would in- 
involved in the trustworthiness volve thought in incoherence, 
of experience which is adapted by paralysis of its indispensable 
to deceive if I am the only person causal presupposition, 
existing. With Berkeley a chief 2 Is not God the indispensable 
function of ideas of sense is to sig- presupposition of trustworthy ex- 
nify other persons to each person. perience, rather than an empirical 
See Alciphron, Dial, IV ; New Theory inference ? 


any idea in the mind of another, depends wholly on the 
will of the Creator. He alone it is who, upholding all 
things by the word of His power/ maintains that inter 
course between spirits whereby they are able to perceive 
the existence of each other 1 . And yet this pure and 
clear Light which enlightens everyone is itself invisible [ 2 to 
the greatest part of mankind]. 

148. It seems to be a general pretence of the unthinking 
herd that they cannot see God. Could we but see Him, 
say they, as we see a man, we should believe that He is, 
and believing obey His commands. But alas, we need 
only open our eyes to see the Sovereign Lord of all 
things, with a more full and clear view than we do any one 
of our fellow-creatures. Not that I imagine we see God 
(as some will have it) by a direct and immediate view ; or 
see corporeal things, not by themselves, but by seeing that 
which represents them in the essence of God ; which 
doctrine is, I must confess, to me incomprehensible". 
But I shall explain my meaning. A human spirit or 
person is not perceived by sense, as not being an idea. 
When therefore we see the colour, size, figure, and motions 
of a man, we perceive only certain sensations or ideas 
excited in our own minds ; and these being exhibited to 
our view in sundry distinct collections, serve to mark out 
unto us the existence of finite and created spirits like 
ourselves. Hence it is plain we do not see a man, if by 
man is meant, that which lives, moves, perceives, and 
thinks as we do : but only such a certain collection of 
ideas, as directs us to think there is a distinct principle of 
thought and motion, like to ourselves, accompanying and 
represented by it. And after the same manner we see 

1 This suggests an explanation the Power universally at work is 

of the objective reality and sig- morally trustworthy. Unless our 

nificance of ideas of sense ; through God-given experience is deceiv- 

which they become media of social ing, Solipsism is not a necessary 

intercourse in the fundamentally result of the fact that no one but 

divine universe. God so regulates myself can be percipient of m}" 

the sense-given ideas of which sensuous experience, 

human beings are individually per- 2 Omitted in second edition, 

cipient, as that, while numerically 3 Malebranche, as understood by 

different, as in each mind, those Berkeley. See Recherche, Liv. III. 

ideas are nevertheless a sufficient p. ii. ch. 6, &c. 
medium for social intercourse, if 


God : all the difference is that, whereas some one finite 
and narrow assemblage of ideas denotes a particular 
human mind, whithersoever we direct our view we do at 
all times and in all places perceive manifest tokens of the 
Divinity : everything we see, hear, feel, or anywise per 
ceive by sense, being a sign or effect of the power of God ; 
as is our perception of those very motions which are 
produced by men 1 . 

149. It is therefore plain that nothing can be more 
evident to any one that is capable of the least reflexion 
than the existence of God, or a Spirit who is intimately 
present to our minds, producing in them all that variety of 
ideas or sensations which continually affect us, on whom 
we have an absolute and entire dependence, in short in 
whom we live, and move, and have our being. That the 
discovery of this great truth, which lies so near and 
obvious to the mind, should be attained to by the reason 
of so very few, is a sad instance of the stupidity and 
inattention of men, who, though they are surrounded with 
such clear manifestations of the Deity, are yet so little 
affected by them that they seem, as it were, blinded with 
excess of light ~. 

150. But you will say Hath Nature no share in the 
production of natural things, and must they be all ascribed 
to the immediate and sole operation of God ? I answer, 
If by Nature is meant only the visible series of effects or 
sensations imprinted on our minds according to certain 
fixed and general laws, then it is plain that Nature, taken 
in this sense, cannot produce anything at all 3 . But if by 
Nature is meant some being distinct from God, as well as 
from the laws of nature and things perceived by sense, I 
must confess that word is to me an empty sound, without 
any intelligible meaning annexed to it. Nature, in this 
acceptation, is a vain chimera, introduced by those 
heathens who had not just notions of the omnipresence 

1 For all finite persons somehow experience is rooted remaining 
live, and move, and have their latent, or being unintelligent, 
being in God. The existence of y Cf. sect. 25-28, 51-53, 60-66. 
eternal living Mind, and the present His conception of Divine causation 
existence of other men, are both in Nature, as the constant omni- 
infcrences, resting on the same present agency in all natural law, 
foundation, according to Berkeley. is the deepestpartof his philosophy. 

2 The theistic trust in which our It is pursued in the De Motu. 


and infinite perfection of God. But it is more unaccount 
able that it should be received among Christians, professing 
belief in the Holy Scriptures, which constantly ascribe 
those effects to the immediate hand of God that heathen 
philosophers are wont to impute to Nature. The Lord, 
He causeth the vapours to ascend ; He maketh lightnings 
with rain ; He bringeth forth the wind out of His trea 
sures. Jerem. x. 13. He turneth the shadow of death 
into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night/ 
Amos v. 8. He visiteth the earth, and maketh it soft 
with showers : He blesseth the springing thereof, and 
crowneth the year with His goodness ; so that the pastures 
are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered over 
with corn. See Psal. Ixv. But, notwithstanding that this 
is the constant language of Scripture, yet we have I know 
not what aversion from believing that God concerns 
Himself so nearly in our affairs. Fain would we suppose 
Him at a great distance off, and substitute some blind 
unthinking deputy in His stead; though (if we may believe 
Saint Paul) He be not far from every one of us. 

151. It will, I doubt not, be objected that the slow, 
gradual, and roundabout methods observed in the pro 
duction of natural things do not seem to have for their 
cause the immediate hand of an Almighty Agent : besides, 
monsters, untimely births, fruits blasted in the blossom, 
rains falling in desert places, miseries incident to human 
life, and the like, are so many arguments that the whole 
frame of nature is not immediately actuated and superin 
tended by a Spirit of infinite wisdom and goodness. But 
the answer to this objection is in a good measure plain 
from sect. 62 ; it being visible that the aforesaid methods 
of nature are absolutely necessary in order to working by 
the most simple and general rules, and after a steady and 
consistent manner ; which argues both the wisdom and 
goodness of God 1 . [ 2 For, it doth hence follow that the 
finger of God is not so conspicuous to the resolved and 
careless sinner ; which gives him an opportunity to harden 
in his impiety and grow ripe for vengeance. (Vid. sect. 
57.)] Such is the artificial contrivance of this mighty 

1 Is not the unbeginning and or Active Reason at the heart of 
unending natural evolution, an arti- the whole ? 
culate revelation of Eternal Spirit 2 Omitted in second edition. 


machine of Nature that, whilst its motions and various 
phenomena strike on our senses, the Hand which actuates 
the whole is itself unperceivable to men of flesh and blood. 
Verily (saith the prophet) thou art a God that hidest 
thyself. Isaiah xlv. 15. But, though the Lord conceal 
Himself from the eyes of the sensual and lazy, who will 
not be at the least expense of thought \ yet to an un 
biassed and attentive mind, nothing can be more plainly 
legible than the intimate presence of an All-wise Spirit, 
who fashions, regulates, and sustains the whole system 
of Being. It is clear, from what we have elsewhere ob 
served, that the operating according to general and stated 
laws is so necessary for our guidance in the affairs of life, 
and letting us into the secret of nature, that without it all 
reach and compass of thought, all human sagacity and de 
sign, could serve to no manner of purpose. It were even 
impossible there should be any such faculties or powers in 
the mind. See sect. 31. Which one consideration abund 
antly outbalances whatever particular inconveniences may 
thence arise 2 . 

152. We should further consider, that the very blem 
ishes and defects of nature are not without their use, 
in that they make an agreeable sort of variety, and aug 
ment the beauty of the rest of the creation, as shades 
in a picture serve to set off the brighter and more 
enlightened parts. We would likewise do well to exa 
mine, whether our taxing the waste of seeds and embryos, 
and accidental destruction of plants and animals before 
they come to full maturity, as an imprudence in the 
Author of nature, be not the effect of prejudice con 
tracted by our familiarity with impotent and saving mortals. 
In man indeed a thrifty management of those things 
which he cannot procure without much pains and indus 
try may be esteemed wisdom. But we must not imagine 
that the inexplicably fine machine of an animal or vege 
table costs the great Creator any more pains or trouble 
in its production than a pebble does ; nothing being 
more evident than that an Omnipotent Spirit can indif- 

1 So Pascal in the Pensees. otherwise the changing universe 

- Divine reason ever active in in which we live would be unfit 

Nature is the necessary correlate to be reasoned about or a.cted in. 

to reason in man ; inasmuch as 


ferently produce everything by a mere fiat or act of his 
will. Hence it is plain that the splendid profusion of 
natural things should not be interpreted weakness or 
prodigality in the Agent who produces them, but rather 
be looked on as an argument of the riches of His power. 

153. As for the mixture of pain or uneasiness which 
is in the world, pursuant to the general laws of Nature, 
and the actions of finite, imperfect Spirits, this, in the 
state we are in at present, is indispensably necessary 
to our well-being. But our prospects are too narrow. 
We take, for instance, the idea of some one particular 
pain into our thoughts, and account it evil. Whereas, 
if we enlarge our view, so as to comprehend the various 
ends, connexions, and dependencies of things, on what 
occasions and in what proportions we are affected with 
pain and pleasure, the nature of human freedom, and 
the design with which we are put into the world ; we 
shall be forced to acknowledge that those particular 
things which, considered in themselves, appear to be 
evil, have the nature of good, when considered as linked 
with the whole system of beings \ 

154. From what hath been said, it will be manifest to 
any considering person, that it is merely for want of 
attention and comprehensiveness of mind that there are 
any favourers of Atheism or the Manichean Heresy to be 
found. Little and unreflecting souls may indeed bur 
lesque the works of Providence ; the beauty and order 
whereof they have not capacity, or will not be at the 
pains, to comprehend -. But those who are masters of 
any justness and extent of thought, and are withal used 
to reflect, can never sufficiently admire the divine traces 

1 The existence of moral evil, goodness is thus not an inference, 

or what ought not to exist, is the but the implied basis of all real in- 

difficulty which besets faith in the ferences. I have expanded this 

fundamental divinity or goodness thought in my Philosophy of Theism. 

of the universe. Yet that faith is We cannot prove God, for we must 

presupposed in interpretation of assume God, as the basis of all proof, 

nature, which proceeds on the Faith even in the uniformity of 

postulate of universal order ; and nature is virtually faith in omni- 

this implies the moral trustworthi- potent goodness immanent in the 

ness of the world which we begin universe. 

to realise when we begin to be 2 So Leibniz in his Theodicee, which 

conscious. That we are living and was published in the same year as 

having our being in omnipotent Berkeley s Principles. 


of Wisdom and Goodness that shine throughout the 
economy of Nature. But what truth is there which 
glares so strongly on the mind that, by an aversion of 
thought, a wilful shutting of the eyes, we may not escape 
seeing it ? Is it therefore to be wondered at, if the gene 
rality of men, who are ever intent on business or 
pleasure, and little used to fix or open the eye of their 
mind, should not have all that conviction and evidence 
of the Being of God which might be expected in reason 
able creatures J ? 

155. We should rather wonder that men can be found 
so stupid as to neglect, than that neglecting they should 
be unconvinced of such an evident and momentous truth 2 . 
And yet it is to be feared that too many of parts and 
leisure, who live in Christian countries, are, merely 
through a supine and dreadful negligence, sunk into 
a sort of Atheism. [ 3 They cannot say there is not a 
God, but neither are they convinced that there is. For 
what else can it be but some lurking infidelity, some 
secret misgivings of mind with regard to the existence 
and attributes of God, which permits sinners to grow 
and harden in impiety ?] Since it is downright impossi 
ble that a soul pierced and enlightened with a thorough 
sense of the omnipresence, holiness, and justice of that 
Almighty Spirit should persist in a remorseless viola 
tion of His laws. We ought, therefore, earnestly to 
meditate and dwell on those important points ; that so 
we may attain conviction without all scruple that the 
eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil 
and the good ; that He is with us and keepeth us in 
all places whither we go, and giveth us bread to eat 
and raiment to put on ; that He is present and con- 

1 The divine presupposition, la- 2 Our necessarily incomplete 

tent in all human reasoning and knowledge of the Universe in 

experience, is hid from the unre- which we find ourselves is apt 

fleeting, in whom the higher life to disturb the fundamental faith, 

is dormant, and the ideal in the uni- that the phenomena presented to 

verse is accordingly undiscerned. us are significant of God. Yet 

Unless the universe is assumed to we tacitly assume that they are 

be physically and morally trust- thus significant when we interpret 

worthy, i.e. unless God is presup- real experience, physical or moral, 

posed, even natural science has no a Omitted in second edition, 
adequate foundation. 


scious to our innermost thoughts ; and, that we have 
a most absolute and immediate dependence on Him. A 
clear view of which great truths cannot choose but fill 
our hearts with an awful circumspection and holy fear, which 
is the strongest incentive to Virtue, and the best guard 
against Vice. 

156. For, after all, what deserves the first place in 
our studies is, the consideration of GOD and our DUTY ; 
which to promote, as it was the main drift and design 
of my labours, so shall I esteem them altogether useless 
and ineffectual if, by what I have said, I cannot inspire 
my readers with a pious sense of the Presence of God ; 
and, having shewn the falseness or vanity of those barren 
speculations which make the chief employment of learned 
men, the better dispose them to reverence and embrace 
the salutary truths of the Gospel ; which to know and to 
practise is the highest perfection of human nature. 












First published in 1713 




THIS work is the gem of British metaphysical literature. 
Berkeley s claim to be the great modern master of Socratic 
dialogue rests, perhaps, upon Alciphron, which surpasses 
the conversations between Hylas and Philonous in expres 
sion of individual character, and in dramatic effect. Here 
conversation is adopted as a convenient way of treating 
objections to the conception of the reality of Matter which 
had been unfolded systematically in the book of Principles. 
But the lucid thought, the colouring of fancy, the glow of 
human sympathy, and the earnestness that pervade the 
subtle reasonings pursued through these dialogues, are 
unique in English metaphysical literature. Except perhaps 
Hume and Ferrier, none approach Berkeley in the art 
of uniting metaphysical thought with easy, graceful, 
and transparent style. Our surprise and admiration are 
increased when we recollect that this charming production 
of reason and imagination came from Ireland, at a time 
when that country was scarcely known in the world of 
letters and philosophy. 

The immediate impression produced by the publication 


of the Principles, is shewn in Berkeley s correspondence 
with Sir John Percival. Berkeley was eager to hear what 
people had to say for or against what looked like a paradox 
apt to shock the reader; but in those days he was not 
immediately informed by professional critics. If when 
you receive my book he wrote from Dublin in July, 
1710, to Sir John Percival 1 , then in London, you can 
procure me the opinion of some of your acquaintances 
who are thinking men, addicted to the study of natural 
philosophy and mathematics, I shall be extremely obliged 
to you. In the following month he was informed by 
Sir John that it was incredible what prejudice can work in 
the best geniuses, even in the lovers of novelty. For I did 
but name the subject matter of your book of Principles 
to some ingenious friends of mine and they immediately 
treated it with ridicule, at the same time refusing to read 
it, which I have not yet got one to do. A physician of my 
acquaintance undertook to discover your person, and 
argued you must needs be mad, and that you ought to 
take remedies. A bishop pitied you, that a desire of 
starting something new should put you upon such an 
undertaking. Another told me that you are not gone so 
far as a gentleman in town, who asserts not only that there 
is no such thing as Matter, but that we ourselves have no 
being at all. 

Berkeley s reply is interesting. I am not surprised, 
he says, that I should be ridiculed by those who won t take 
the pains to understand me. If the raillery and scorn of 
those who criticise what they will not be at the pains to 
understand had been sufficient to deter men from making 
any attempts towards curing the ignorance and errors of 
mankind, we should not have been troubled with some 
very fair improvements in knowledge. The common 

1 For the following extracts from Percival, I am indebted to the kind- 
previously unpublished correspon- nessof hisdescendant, the late Lord 
dence of Berkeley and Sir John Egmont. 


cry s being against any opinion seems to me, so far from 
proving false, that it may with as good reason pass for an 
argument of its truth. However, I imagine that whatever 
doctrine contradicts vulgar and settled opinion had need 
be introduced with great caution into the world. For this 
reason it was that I omitted all mention of the non- 
existence of Matter in the title-page, dedication, preface and 
introduction to the Treatise on the Principles of Human 
Knowledge ; that so the notion might steal unawares upon 
the reader, who probably might never have meddled with 
the book if he had known that it contained such 

With characteristic fervour he disclaims variety and 
love of paradox as motives of the book of Principles, 
and professes faith in the unreality of abstract unperceived 
Matter, a faith which he has held for some years, the 
conceit being at first warm in my imagination, but since 
carefully examined, both by my own judgment and that 
of ingenious friends. What he especially complained 
of was that men who have never considered my book 
should confound me with the sceptics, who doubt the 
existence of sensible things, and are not positive as to 
any one truth, no, not so much as their own being which 
I find by your letter is the case of some wild visionist 
now in London. But whoever reads my book with 
attention will see that there is a direct opposition 
between the principles that are contained in it and 
those of the sceptics, and that I question not the existence 
of anything we perceive by our senses. I do not deny 
the existence of the sensible things which Moses says 
were created by God. They existed from all eternity, in 
the Divine Intellect ; and they became perceptible (i. e. were 
created) in the same manner and order as is described 
in Genesis. For I take creation to belong to things only 
as they respect finite spirits ; there being nothing new to 
God. Hence it follows that the act of creation consists in 



God s willing that those things should become perceptible 
to other spirits which before were known only to Himself. 
Now both reason and scripture assure us that there are 
other spirits besides men, who, tis possible, might have 
perceived this visible world as it was successively exhib 
ited to their view before man s creation. Besides, for to 
agree with the Mosaic account of the creation, it s sufficient 
if we suppose that a man, in case he was existing at the 
time of the chaos of sensible things, might have perceived 
all things formed out of it, in the very order set down in 
scripture; all which is in no way repugnant to my 

Sir John in his next letter, written from London in 
October, 1716, reports that the book of Principles had 
fallen into the hands of the highest living English authority 
in metaphysical theology, Samuel Clarke, who had pro 
duced his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God 
four years before. The book had also been read by 
Whiston, Newton s successor at Cambridge. I can only 
report at second-hand, he says, that they think you a 
fair arguer, and a clear writer; but they say your first 
principles you lay down are false. They look upon you 
as an extraordinary genius, ranking you with Father 
Malebranche, Norris, and another whose name I forget, 
all of whom they think extraordinary men, but of a parti 
cular turn of mind, and their labours of little use to 
mankind, on account of their abstruseness. This may 
arise from these gentlemen not caring to think after 
a new manner, which would oblige them to begin 
their studies anew; or else it may be the strength of 

Berkeley was vexed by this treatment on the part of 
Clarke and Whiston. He sent under Sir John s care a 
letter to each of them, hoping through him to discover 
their reasons against his notions, as truth is his sole aim. 
As to what is said of ranking me with Father Male- 


branche and Mr. Norris, whose writings are thought to be 
too fine-spun to be of any great use to mankind, I have 
this answer, that I think the notions I embrace are not in 
the least agreeing with theirs, but indeed plainly incon 
sistent with them in the main points, inasmuch as I know 
few writers I take myself at bottom to differ more from 
than from them. Fine-spun metaphysics are what on all 
occasions I declare against, and if any one shall shew 
anything of that sort in my Treatise I will willingly 
correct it/ Sir John delivered the letters to two friends of 
Clarke and Whiston, and reported that Dr. Clarke told 
his friend in reply, that he did not care to write you his 
thoughts, because he was afraid it might draw him into a 
dispute upon a matter which was already clear to him. 
He thought your first principles you go on are false; but 
he was a modest man, his friend said, and uninclined to 
shock any one whose opinions on things of this nature 
differed from his own/ This was a disappointment to the 
ardent Berkeley. Dr. Clarke s conduct seems a little 
surprising, he replies. That an ingenious and candid 
person (as I take him to be) should refuse to shew me 
where my error lies is something unaccountable. I never 
expected that a gentleman otherwise so well employed as 
Dr. Clarke should think it worth his while to enter into 
a dispute with me concerning any notions of mine. But, 
seeing it was clear to him I went upon false principles, 
I hoped he would vouchsafe, in a line or two, to point 
them out to me, that so I may more closely review and 
examine them. If he but once did me this favour, he 
need not apprehend I should give him any further trouble. 
I should be glad if you have opportunity that you 
would let his friend know this. There is nothing that 
I more desire than to know thoroughly all that can 
be said against what I take for truth/ Clarke, however, 
was not to be drawn. The incident is thus referred to by 
Whiston, in his Memoirs of Clarke. Mr. Berkeley, he 

A a 2 


says, published in 1710, at Dublin, the metaphysical 
notion, that matter was not a real thing ; nay, that the 
common opinion of its reality was groundless, if not 
ridiculous. He was pleased to send Mr. Clarke and 
myself each of us a book. After we had perused it, 
I went to Mr. Clarke to discourse with him about it, 
to this effect, that I, being not a metaphysician, was not 
able to answer Mr. Berkeley s subtle premises, though 
I did not believe his absurd conclusions. I therefore 
desired that he, who was deep in such subtleties, but did 
not appear to believe Mr. Berkeley s conclusion, would 
answer him. Which task he declined. 

What Clarke s criticism of Berkeley might have been is 
suggested by the following sentences in his Remarks on 
Human Liberty, published seven years after this corre 
spondence : The case as to the proof of our free agency 
is exactly the same as in that notable question, whether 
the [material] world exists or no? There is no demon 
stration of it from experience. There always remains a bare 
possibility that the Supreme Being may have so framed 
my mind, that I shall always be necessarily deceived a in 
every one of my perceptions as in a dream though 
possibly there be no material world, nor any other 
creature existing besides myself. And yet no man in 
his senses argues from thence, that experience is no proof 
to us of the existence of things. The bare physical 
possibility too of our being so framed by the Author of 
Nature as to be unavoidably deceived in this matter by 
every experience of every action we perform, is no more 
any ground to doubt the truth of our liberty, than the 
bare natural possibility of our being all our lifetime in a 
dream, deceived in our [natural] belief of the existence of 

1 What Berkeley seeks to shew or explicable expression of ever 

is, not that the world of the senses active Intelligence, more or less 

is unreal, but in what its reality interpreted in natural science ? 
consists. Is it inexplicable chaos, 


the material world, is any just ground to doubt the reality 
of its existence/ Berkeley would hardly have accepted 
this analogy. Does the conception of a material world 
being dependent on percipient mind for its reality imply 
deception on the part of the Supreme Being ? Dreams/ 
in ordinary language, may signify illusory fancies during 
sleep, and so understood the term is misapplied to a uni 
versally mind-dependent universe with its steady natural 
order. Berkeley disclaims emphatically any doubt of 
the reality of the sensible world, and professes only to 
shew in what its reality consists, or its dependence upon 
percipient life as the indispensable realising factor. To 
suppose that we can be necessarily deceived in every one 
of our perceptions is to interpret the universe atheistically, 
and virtually obliges us in final nescience to acknowledge 
that it is wholly uninterpretable ; so that experience is 
impossible, because throughout unintelligible. The moral 
trustworthiness or perfect goodness of the Universal Power 
is I suppose the fundamental postulate of science and 
human life. If all our temporal experience can be called 
a dream it must at any rate be a dream of the sort sup 
posed by Leibniz. Nullo argument absolute demon- 
strari potest, dari corpora ; nee quidquam prohibet somm a 
qucedain bate ordinata menti nostrae objecta esse, quae 
a nobis vera judicentur, et ob consensum inter se quoad 
usum veris equivalent V 

The three Dialogues discuss what Berkeley regarded 
as the most plausible Objections, popular and philoso 
phical, to his account of living Mind or Spirit, as the 
indispensable factor and final cause of the reality of the 
material world. 

The principal aim of the First Dialogue is to illustrate 

1 Leibniz : DC modo disiinguendi Phenomena Rcalia ab Imaginariis 


the contradictory or unmeaning character and sceptical 
tendency of the common philosophical opinion that we 
perceive in sense a material world which is real only 
in as far as it can exist in absolute independence of per 
ceiving mind. The impossibility of any of the qualities 
in which Matter is manifested to man the primary 
qualities not less than the secondary having real ex 
istence in a mindless or unspiritual universe is argued 
and illustrated in detail. Abstract Matter, unrealised 
in terms of percipient life, is meaningless, and the ma 
terial world becomes real only in and through living 
perception. And Matter, as an abstract substance with 
out qualities, cannot, without a contradiction, it is also 
argued, be presented or represented, in sense. What 
is called matter is thus melted in a spiritual solution, 
from which it issues the flexible and intelligible medium 
of intercourse for spiritual beings such as men are ; 
whose faculties moreover are educated in interpreting 
the cosmical order of the phenomena presented to their 

The Second Dialogue is in the first place directed against 
modifications of the scholastic account of Matter, which 
attributes our knowledge of it to inference, founded on 
sense-ideas assumed to be representative, or not pre- 
sentative of the reality. The advocates of Matter in 
dependent and supreme, are here assailed in their various 
conjectures that this Matter may be the active Cause, 
or the Instrument, or the Occasion of our sense-ex 
perience ; or that it is an Unknowable Something some 
how connected with that experience. It is argued in 
this and in the preceding Dialogue, by Philonous (who 
personates Berkeley), that unrealised Matter intending 
by that term either a qualified substance, or a Something 
of which we cannot affirm anything is not merely un 
proved, but a proved impossibility : it must mean nothing, 


or it must mean a contradiction, which comes to the 
same thing. It is not perceived ; nor can it be suggested 
by what we perceive ; nor demonstrated by reasoning ; 
nor believed in as an article in the fundamental faith of 
intuitive reason. The only consistent theory of the uni 
verse accordingly implies that concrete realities must all 
be either (a) phenomena presented to the senses, or 
else (b) active spirits percipient of presented pheno 
mena. And neither of these two sorts of concrete 
realities is strictly speaking independent of the other ; 
although the latter, identical amid the variations of 
the sensuous phenomena, are deeper and more real than 
the mere data of the senses. The Second Dialogue 
ends by substituting, as concrete and intelligible Realism, 
the universal and constant dependence of the material 
world upon active living Spirit, in place of the ab 
stract hypothetical and unintelligible Realism, which 
defends Matter unrealised in percipient life, as the type 
of reality. 

In the Third Dialogue plausible objections to this con 
ception of what the reality of the material world means 
are discussed. 

Is it said that the new conception is sceptical, .and 
Berkeley another Protagoras, on account of it? His 
answer is, that the reality of sensible things, as far as 
man can in any way be concerned with them, does 
not consist in what cannot be perceived, suggested, 
demonstrated, or even conceived, but in phenomena 
actually seen and touched, and in the working faith 
that future sense-experience may be anticipated by the 
analogies of present sense-experience. 

But is not this negation of the Matter that is assumed 
to be real and independent of Spirit, an unproved con 
jecture ? It is answered, that the affirmation of this 
abstract matter is itself a mere conjecture, and one self- 


convicted by its implied contradictions, while its negation 
is only a simple falling back on the facts of experience, 
without any attempt to explain them. 

Again, is it objected that the reality of sensible things 
involves their continued reality during intervals of our 
perception of them? It is answered, that sensible 
things are indeed permanently dependent on Mind, 
but not on this, that, or the other finite embodied 

Is it further alleged that the reality of Spirit or 
Mind is open to all the objections against independent 
Matter; and that, if we deny this Matter, we must in 
consistency allow that Spirit can be only a succession 
of isolated feelings? The answer is, that there is no 
parity between self-conscious Spirit, and Matter out of 
all relation to any Spirit. We find, in memory, our own 
personality and identity; that we are not our ideas, but 
somewhat else a thinking, active principle, that per 
ceives, knows, wills, and operates about ideas, and that 
is revealed as continuously real. Each person is con 
scious of himself; and may reasonably infer the existence 
of other self-conscious persons, more or less like what 
he is conscious of in himself. A universe of self-con 
scious persons, with their common sensuous experiences 
all under cosmical order, is not open to the contradictions 
involved in a pretended universe of Matter, independent 
of percipient realising Spirit. 

Is it still said that sane people cannot help dis 
tinguishing between the real existence of a thing and 
its being perceived! It is answered, that all they are 
entitled to mean is, to distinguish between being 
perceived exclusively by me, and being independent 
of the perception of all sentient or conscious beings. 

Does an objector complain that this ideal realism dis 
solves the distinction between facts and fancies? He 
is reminded of the meaning of the word idea. That term 


is not limited by Berkeley to chimeras of fancy: it is 
applied also to the objective phenomena of our sense- 

Is the supposition that Spirit is the only real Cause 
of all changes in nature declaimed against as baseless ? 
It is answered, that the supposition of unthinking Power 
at the heart of the cosmos of sensible phenomena is 

Is the negation of Abstract Matter repugnant to the 
common belief of mankind ? It is argued in reply, that 
this unrealised Matter is foreign to common belief, which 
is incapable of even entertaining the conception ; and 
which only requires to reflect upon what it does enter 
tain to be satisfied with a relative or ideal reality for 
sensible things. 

But, if sensible things are the real things, the real 
moon, for instance, it is alleged, can be only a foot 
in diameter. It is maintained, in opposition to this, that 
the term real moon is applied only to what is an in 
ference from the moon, one foot in diameter, which 
we immediately perceive ; and that the former is a 
part of our previsive or mediate inference, due to what 
is perceived. 

The dispute, after all, is merely verbal, it is next 
objected ; and, since all parties refer the data of the 
senses and the things which they compose to a Power 
external to each finite percipient, why not call that 
Power, whatever it may be, Matter, and not Spirit ? The 
reply is, that this would be an absurd misapplication 
of language. 

But may we not, it is next suggested, assume the possi 
bility of a third nature neither idea nor Spirit? Not, 
replies Philonous, if we are to keep to the rule of having 
meaning in the words we use. We know what is meant 
by a spirit, for each of us has immediate experience of 
one ; and we know what is meant by sense-ideas and 


sensible things, for we have immediate and mediate 
experience of them. But we have no immediate, and 
therefore can have no mediate, experience of what is 
neither perceived by our senses, nor realised in inward 
consciousness : moreover, entia non sunt multiplicanda 
praeter necessitatem/ 

Again, this conception of the realities implies, it is said, 
imperfection, because sentient experience, in God. This 
objection, it is answered, implies a confusion between 
being actually sentient and merely conceiving sensations, 
and employing them, as God does, as signs for expressing 
His conceptions to our minds. 

Further, the negation of independent powerful Matter 
seems to annihilate the explanations of physical phenomena 
given by natural philosophers. But, to be assured that 
it does not, we have only to recollect what physical ex 
planation means that it is the reference of an apparently 
irregular phenomenon to some acknowledged general rule 
of co-existence or succession among sense-ideas. It is 
interpretation of sense-signs. 

Is the proposed ideal Realism summarily condemned 
as a novelty? It can be answered, that all discoveries 
are novelties at first ; and moreover that this one is 
not so much a novelty as a deeper interpretation of the 
common faith. 

Yet it seems, at any rate, it is said, to change real 
things into mere ideas. Here consider on the contrary 
what we mean when we speak of sensible things as 
real. The changing appearances of which we are per 
cipient in sense, united objectively in their cosmical 
order, are what is truly meant by the realities of sense. 

But this reality is inconsistent with the continued identity 
of material things, it is complained, and also with the 
fact that different persons can be percipient of the same 
thing. Not so, Berkeley explains, when we attend to 
the true meaning of the word same, and dismiss from 


our thoughts a supposed abstract idea of identity which 
is nonsensical. 

But some may exclaim against the supposition that 
the material world exists in mind, regarding this as an 
implied assertion that mind is extended, and therefore 
material. This proceeds, it is replied, on forgetfulness 
of what existence in mind* means. It is intended 
to express the fact that matter is real in being an 
objective appearance of which a living mind is sensible. 

Lastly, is not the Mosaic account of the creation of 
Matter inconsistent with the perpetual dependence of 
Matter for its reality upon percipient Spirit? It is 
answered that the conception of creation being depen 
dent on the existence of finite minds is in perfect 
harmony with the Mosaic account : it is what is 
seen and felt, not what is unseen and unfelt, that is 

The Third Dialogue closes with a representation of 
the new principle regarding Matter being the harmony of 
two apparently discordant propositions the one-sided 
proposition of ordinary common sense ; and the one 
sided proposition of the philosophers. It agrees with 
the mass of mankind in holding that the material world 
is actually presented to our senses, and with the 
philosophers in holding that this same material world is 
realised only in and through the percipient experience of 
living Spirit. 

Most of the objections to Berkeley s conception of 
Matter which have been urged in the last century and 
a half, by its British, French, and German critics, are 
discussed by anticipation in these Dialogues. The history 
of objections is very much a history of misconceptions. 
Conceived or misconceived, it has tacitly simplified and 


purified the methods of physical science, especially in 
Britain and France. 

The first elaborate criticism of Berkeley by a British 
author is found in Andrew Baxter s Inquiry into the 
Nature of the Human Soul, published in 1735, in the 
section entitled Dean Berkeley s Scheme against the 
existence of Matter examined, and shewn to be incon 
clusive. Baxter alleges that the new doctrine tends to 
encourage scepticism. To deny Matter, for the reasons 
given, involves, according to this critic, denial of mind, 
and so a universal doubt. Accordingly, a few years 
later, Hume sought, in his Treatise of Human Nature, to 
work out Berkeley s negation of abstract Matter into scep 
tical phenomenalism against which Berkeley sought to 
guard by anticipation, in a remarkable passage introduced 
in his last edition of these Dialogues. 

In Scotland the writings of Reid, Beattie, Oswald, 
Dugald Stewart, Thomas Brown, and Sir W. Hamilton 
form a magazine of objections. Reid who curiously 
seeks to refute Berkeley by refuting, not more clearly 
than Berkeley had done before him, the hypothesis of a 
wholly representative sense-perception urges the sponta 
neous belief or common sense of mankind, which obliges 
us all to recognise a direct presentation of the exter 
nal material world to our senses. He overlooks what 
with Berkeley is the only question in debate, namely, 
the meaning of the term external] for, Reid and Berke 
ley are agreed in holding to the reality of a world regu 
lated independently of the will of finite percipients, and 
is sufficiently objective to be a medium of social inter 
course. With Berkeley, as with Reid, this is practically 
self-evident. The same objection, more scientifically de 
finedthat we have a natural belief in the existence of 
Matter, and in our own immediate perception of its 
qualities is Sir W. Hamilton s assumption against Ber 
keley ; but Hamilton does not explain the reality thus 


claimed for it. Men naturally believe/ he says, that 
they themselves exist because they are conscious of 
a Self or Ego ; they believe that something different 
from themselves exists because they believe that they 
are conscious of this Not-self or Non-ego. (Dis 
cussions, p. 193.) Now, the existence of a Power 
that is independent of each finite Ego is at the root 
of Berkeley s principles. According to Berkeley and 
Hamilton alike, we are immediately percipient of solid 
and extended phenomena ; but with Berkeley the pheno 
mena are dependent on, at the same time that they are 
entirely distinct from, the percipient. The Divine 
and finite spirits, signified by the phenomena that 
are presented to our senses in cosmical order, form 
Berkeley s external world. 

That Berkeley sows the seeds of Universal Scepti 
cism ; that his conception of Matter involves the Pan- 
egoism or Solipsism which leaves me in absolute soli 
tude ; that his is virtually a system of Pantheism, 
inconsistent with personal individuality and moral respon 
sibility these are probably the three most comprehensive 
objections that have been alleged against it. They are 
in a measure due to Berkeley s imperfect criticism of 
first principles, in his dread of a departure from the 
concrete data of experience in quest of empty ab 

In England and France, Berkeley s criticism of Matter, 
taken however only on its negative side, received a 
countenance denied to it in Germany. Hartley and 
Priestley shew signs of affinity with Berkeley. Also 
an anonymous Essay on the Nature and Existence of 
the Material World, dedicated to Dr. Priestley and Dr. 
Price, which appeared in 1781, is an argument, on em 
pirical grounds, which virtually makes the data of the 
senses at last a chaos of isolated sensations. The 
author of the Essay is said to have been a certain 


- Russell, who died in the West Indies in the end of 
the eighteenth century. A tendency towards Berkeley s 
negations, but apart from his synthetic principles, appears 
in James Mill and J. S. Mill. So too with Voltaire and 
the Encyclopedists. 

The Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous were pub 
lished in London in 1713, printed by G. James, for 
Henry Clements, at the Half-Moon, in St. Paul s church 
yard/ unlike the Essay on Vision and the Principles, which 
first appeared in Dublin. The second edition, which is 
simply a reprint, issued in 1725, printed for William 
and John Innys, at the West End of St. Paul s. A 
third, the last in the author s lifetime, printed by Jacob 
Tonson, which contains some important additions, 
was published in 1734, conjointly with a new edition of 
the Principles. The Dialogues were reprinted in 1776, in 
the same volume with the edition of the Principles, with 

The Dialogues have been translated into French and 
German. The French version appeared at Amsterdam 
in 1750. The translator s name is not given, but it is 
attributed to the Abbe Jean Paul de Gua de Malves \ 
by Barbier, in his Dictionnaire des Ouvragcs anonymes 
ct pscudonymes, torn. i. p. 283. It contains a Prefatory 
Note by the translator, with three curious vignettes 
(given in the note below) meant to symbolise the 
leading thought in each Dialogue 2 . A German trans- 

1 For some information relative qualites secondaires et premieres, 
to Gua de Malves, see Querard s la nature et 1 existence des corps ; 
La France Litteraire, torn. iii. p. 494. et il pretend prouver en meme terns 

2 The following is the translator s 1 insuffisance de 1 un et de 1 autre. 
Prefatory Note, on the objects of La Vignette qu on voit a la tete du 
the Dialogues, and in explanation Dialogue, fait allusion a cet objet. 
of the three illustrative vignettes : Elle represente un Philosophe dans 

L Auteur expose dans le premier son cabinet, lequel est distrait de 
Dialogue le sentiment du Vulgaire son travail par un enfant qu il ap- 
et celui des Philosophes, sur les percoit se voyant lui-meme dans 


lation, by John Christopher Eschenbach, Professor of 
Philosophy in Rostock, was published at Rostock in 
1756. It forms the larger part of a volume entitled 
Sammlung der vornehmsten Schriftsteller die die Wirklichkeit 
ihres eignen Korpers und der ganzen Korperwelt Idugnen. 
This professed Collection of the most eminent authors 

un miroir, en tendant les mains 
pour embrasser sa propre image. 
Le Philosophe rit de 1 erreur ou il 

Quid rides 
Fabula narralur. 

croit que tombe 1 enfant ; tandis 
qu on lui applique a lui-meme ces 
mots tires d Horace : 

. . , . de tc 

Le second Dialogue est employe 
a exposer le sentiment de 1 Auteur 
sur le meme sujet, Sfavoir, que 
les choses corporelles ont une 
existence reelle dans les esprits 
qui les apperfoivent ; maisqu elles 
ne Sfauroient exister hors de tous 
les esprits a la fois, meme de 1 - 
esprit infini de Dieu ; et que par 
consequent la Matiere, prise suivant 
1 acception ordinaire du mot, non 
seulement n existe point, mais seroit 
meme absolument impossible. On 
a tache de representer aux yeux 
ce sentiment dans la Vignette du 
Dialogue. Le mot grec loot s qui 
signifie ame, designe Tame : les 
rayons qui en partent marquent 

1 attention que 1 ame donne a des 
idees ou objets ; les tableaux qu on 
a places aux seuls endroits oil les 
rayons aboutissent, et dont les 
sujetssont tires de la description des 
beautes de la nature, qui se trouve 
dans le livre, representent les idees 
ou objets que 1 ame considere, pas 
le secours des facultes qu elle a 
refues de Dieu ; et 1 action de 
1 Etre supreme sur 1 ame est figuree 
par un trait, qui, partant d un tri 
angle, symbole de la Divinite, et 
pedant les nuages dont le triangle 
est environne. s etend jusqu a 1 ame 
pour la vivifier ; enfin, on a fait 
en sorte de rendre le meme senti 
ment par ces mots : 

Quce noscere ciitnqtte Deus det, 
Esse pnta. 

3 68 


who are supposed to deny the reality of their own bodies 
and of the whole material world, consists of Berkeley s 
Dialogues, and Arthur Collier s Clavis Universalis, or 
Demonstration of the Non-existence or Impossibility of an 

1 L objet du troisieme Dialogue 
est de repondre aux difficultes aux- 
quelles le sentiment qu on a etabli 
dans les Dialogues precedens, peut 
etre sujet, de 1 eclaircir en cette 
sorte de plus, d en developper toutes 
les heureuses consequences, enfin 
de fairevoir. qu etantbien entendu, 
il revieut aux notions les plus com 
munes. EtcommerAuteurexprime 
a la fin dulivre cette derniere pensee, 
en comparant ce qu il vient de dire, 
a 1 eau que les deux Interloctiteurs 
sont supposes voir jaillir d un jet, 

Urget aquas vis sursunt^ 

et qu il remarque que la meme force 
de la gravite fait clever jusqu a une 
certainehauteur et retomberensuite 
dans le bassin d ou elle etoit d abord 
partie ; on a pris cet embleme pour 
le sujet de la Vignette de ce Dia 
logue ; on a represente en conse 
quence danscette derniere Vignette 
les deux Interlocuteurs, se promen- 
ant dans le lieu oil TAuteur les 
suppose, et s entretenantla-dessus, 
et pourdonner au Lecteur Texplica- 
tion de rembleme, on a mis au bas 
le vers suivant : 

eadem Jlectitqnc deorsum. 


External World. The volume contains some annotations, 
and an Appendix in which a counter-demonstration of the 
existence of Matter is attempted. Eschenbach s principal 
argument is indirect, and of the nature of a rcductio ad 
absurdum. He argues (as others have done) that the 
reasons produced against the independent reality of Mat 
ter are equally conclusive against the independent reality 
of Spirit. 

An interesting circumstance connected with the Dialogues 
between Hylas and Philonous was the appearance, also in 
1713, of the Clavis Universalis, or demonstration of the 
impossibility of Matter, of Arthur Collier, in which the 
merely ideal existence of the sensible world is maintained. 
The production, simultaneously, without concert, of con 
ceptions of the material world which verbally at least have 
much in common, is a curious coincidence. It shews 
that the intellectual atmosphere of the Lockian epoch in 
England contained elements favourable to a reconsideration 
of the ultimate meaning of Matter. They are both the 
genuine produce of the age of Locke and Malebranche. 
Neither Berkeley nor Collier were, when they published 
their books, familiar with ancient Greek speculations ; 
those of modern Germany had only begun to loom in 
the distance. Absolute Idealism, the Panphenomenalism 
of Auguste Comte, and the modern evolutionary conception 
of nature, have changed the conditions under which the 
universal problem is studied, and are making intelligible 
to this generation a manner of conceiving the Universe 
which, for nearly a century and a half, the British and 
French critics of Berkeley were unable to entertain. 

Berkeley s Principles appeared three years before the 
Clavis Universalis. Yet Collier tells us that it was after 
a ten years pause and deliberation, that, rather than 
the world should finish its course without once offering 
to inquire in what manner it exists/ he had resolved 



to put himself upon the trial of the common reader, without 
pretending to any better art of gaining him than dry 
reason and metaphysical demonstration. Mr. Benson, 
his biographer, says that it was in 1703, at the age of 
twenty-three, that Collier came to the conclusion that 
there is no such thing as an external world ; and he 
attributes the premises from which Collier drew this 
conclusion to his neighbour, John Norris. Among Collier s 
MSS., there remains the outline of an essay, in three 
chapters, dated January, 1708, on the non-externality of 
the visible world. 

There are several coincidences between Berkeley and 
Collier. Berkeley virtually presented his new theory of 
Vision as the first instalment of his explanation of the Reality 
of Matter. The first of the two Parts into which Collier s 
Clavis is divided consists of proofs that the Visible World 
is not, and cannot be, external. Berkeley, in the Principles 
and the Dialogues, explains the reality of Matter. In like 
manner the Second Part of the Clavis consists of reason 
ings in proof of the impossibility of an external world 
independent of Spirit. Finally, in his full-blown theory, 
as well as in its visual germ, Berkeley takes for granted, 
as intuitively known, the existence of sensible Matter ; 
meaning by this, its relative existence, or dependence 
on living Mind. The third proposition of Collier s 
system asserts the real existence of visible matter in 
particular, and of sensible matter in general. 

The invisibility of distances, as well as of real magni 
tudes and situations, and their suggestion by interpretation 
of visual symbols, propositions which occupy so large 
a space in Berkeley s Theory of Vision, have no counter 
part in Collier. His proof of the non-externality of 
the visible world consists of an induction of instances 
of visible objects that are allowed by all not to be external, 
although they seem to be as much so as any that are 
called external. His Demonstration consists of nine proofs, 


which may be compared with the reasonings and analyses 
of Berkeley. Collier s Demonstration concludes with 
answers to objections, and an application of his account of 
the material world to the refutation of the Roman doctrine 
of the substantial existence of Christ s body in the 

The universal sense-symbolism of Berkeley, and his 
pervading recognition of the distinction between physical 
or symbolical, and efficient or originative causation, are 
wanting in the narrow reasonings of Collier. Berke 
ley s more comprehensive philosophy, with its human 
sympathies and beauty of style, is now recognised as 
a striking expression and partial solution of fundamental 
problems, while Collier is condemned to the obscurity of 
the Schools \ 

1 Collier never came fairly in sight 
of the philosophical public of last 
century. He is referred to in Ger 
many by Bilfinger, in his Dihicida- 
tiones Philosophical (1746), and also 
in the Ada Ernditorutn, Suppl. VI. 
244, &c., and in England by Corry 
in his Reflections on Liberty and 
Necessity (1761), as well as in the 
Remarks on the Reflections, and 
Answers to the Remarks, pp. 7, 8 
(1763), where he is described as 
a weak reasoner, and a very dull 
writer also. Collier was dragged 
from his obscurity by Dr. Reid, in 

his Essays on the Intellectual Powers, 
Essay II. ch. 10. He was a sub 
ject of correspondence between Sir 
James Mackintosh, then at Bombay, 
and Dr. Parr, and an object of curi 
osity to Dugald Stewart. A beau 
tiful reprint of the Clavis i^of the 
original edition of which only seven 
copies were then known to exist) 
appeared in Edinburgh in 1836 ; 
and in the following year it was 
included in a collection of Meta- 
pJiysical Tracts by English Philo 
sophers of the Eighteenth Century, 
prepared for the press by Dr. Parr. 

B b 2 








The virtue, learning, and good sense which are acknow 
ledged to distinguish your character, would tempt me 
to indulge myself the pleasure men naturally take in 
giving applause to those whom they esteem and honour : 
and it should seem of importance to the subjects of Great 
Britain that they knew the eminent share you enjoy 
in the favour of your sovereign, and the honours she 
has conferred upon you, have not been owing to any 
application from your lordship, but entirely to her majesty s 
own thought, arising from a sense of your personal merit, 

1 William, fourth Lord Berkeley Ireland, an office which he held 

of Stratton, born about 1663, sue- till 1672, when he was succeeded 

ceeded his brother in 1697, and died by the Earl of Essex (see Burke s 

in 1741 at Bruton in Somerset- Extinct Peerages). It is said that 

shire. The Berkeleys of Stratton Bishop Berkeley s father was rela- 

were descended from a younger ted to him. The Bishop himself 

son of Maurice, Lord Berkeley was introduced by Dean Swift, in 

of Berkeley Castle, who died in 1713, to the Lord Berkeley of Strat- 

1326. His descendant, Sir John ton,towhomthe.D/Vi70,7^sarededi- 

Berkeley of Bruton, a zealous cated, as a cousin of his Lordship. 

Royalist, was created first Lord The title of Berkeley of Stratton 

Berkeley of Stratton in 1658, and became extinct on the death of the 

in 1669 became Lord Lieutenant of fifth Lord in 1773. 


and an inclination to reward it. But, as your name is 
prefixed to this treatise with an intention to do honour 
to myself alone, I shall only say that I am encouraged 
by the favour you have treated me with to address these 
papers,to your lordship. And I was the more ambitious 
of doing this, because a Philosophical Treatise could 
not so properly be addressed to any one as to a person 
of your lordship s character, who, to your other valuable 
distinctions, have added the knowledge and relish of 

I am, with the greatest respect, 

My Lord, 

Your lordship s most obedient and 
most humble servant, 



THOUGH it seems the general opinion of the world, no 
less than the design of nature and providence, that the 
end of speculation be Practice, or the improvement and 
regulation of our lives and actions ; yet those who are 
most addicted to speculative studies, seem as generally 
of another mind. And indeed if we consider the pains 
that have been taken to perplex the plainest things, that 
distrust of the senses, those doubts and scruples, those 
abstractions and refinements that occur in the very 
entrance of the sciences ; it will not seem strange that 
men of leisure and curiosity should lay themselves out 
in fruitless disquisitions, without descending to the prac 
tical parts of life, or informing themselves in the more 
necessary and important parts of knowledge. 

Upon the common principles of philosophers, we are 
not assured of the existence of things from their being 
perceived. And we are taught to distinguish their real 
nature from that which falls under our senses. Hence 
arise scepticism and paradoxes. It is not enough that 
we see and feel, that we taste and smell a thing : its true 
nature, its absolute external entity, is still concealed. For, 
though it be the fiction of our own brain, we have made 
it inaccessible to all our faculties. Sense is fallacious, 
reason defective. We spend our lives in doubting of those 
things which other men evidently know, and believing 
those things which they laugh at and despise. 

In order, therefore, to divert the busy mind of man 
from vain researches, it seemed necessary to inquire 
into the source of its perplexities ; and, if possible, to 

1 This interesting Preface is omit .ed in his last edition of the Dialogues. 


lay down such Principles as, by an easy solution of them, 
together with their own native evidence, may at once 
recommend themselves for genuine to the mind, and 
rescue it from those endless pursuits it is engaged in. 
Which, with a plain demonstration of the Immediate 
Providence of an all-seeing God, and the natural Immor 
tality of the soul, should seem the readiest preparation, 
as well as the strongest motive, to the study and practice 
of virtue. 

This design I proposed in the First Part of a treatise 
concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, published 
in the year 1710. But, before I proceed to publish the 
Second Part ! , I thought it requisite to treat more clearly 
and fully of certain Principles laid down in the First, and 
to place them in a new light. Which is the business 
of the following Dialogues. 

In this Treatise, which does not presuppose in the 
reader any knowledge of what was contained in the 
former, it has been my aim to introduce the notions I 
advance into the mind in the most easy and familiar 
manner ; especially because they carry with them a great 
opposition to the prejudices of philosophers, which have 
so far prevailed against the common sense and natural 
notions of mankind. 

If the Principles which I here endeavour to propagate 
are admitted for true, the consequences which, I think, 
evidently flow from thence are, that Atheism and Scepticism 
will be utterly destroyed, mairy; intricate points made 
plain, great difficulties solved, several useless parts of 
science retrenched, speculation referred to practice, and 
men reduced from paradoxes to common sense. 

And although it may, perhaps, seem an uneasy reflexion 
to some, that when they have taken a circuit through 
so many refined and unvulgar notions, they should at 
last come to think like other men ; yet, methinks, this 
return to the simple dictates of nature, after having wan 
dered through the wild mazes of philosophy, is not un 
pleasant. It is like coming home from a long voyage : 
a man reflects with pleasure on the many difficulties 

1 The Second Part of the Princi- in part written. See Editor s 
pies was never published, and only Preface to the Principles, 


and perplexities he has passed through, sets his heart 
at ease, and enjoys himself with more satisfaction for 
the future. 

As it was my intention to convince Sceptics and Infidels 
by reason, so it has been my endeavour strictly to observe 
the most rigid laws of reasoning. And, to an impartial 
reader, I hope it will be manifest that the sublime notion 
of a God, and the comfortable expectation of Immortality, 
do naturally arise from a close and methodical application 
of thought : whatever may be the result of that loose, 
rambling way, not altogether improperly termed Free- 
thinking by certain libertines in thought, who can no 
more endure the restraints of logic than those of religion 
or government. 

It will perhaps be objected to my design that, so 
far as it tends to ease the mind of difficult and useless 
inquiries, it can affect only a few speculative persons. 
But if, by their speculations rightly placed, the study of 
morality and the law of nature were brought more into 
fashion among men of parts and genius, the discourage 
ments that draw to Scepticism removed, the measures of 
right and wrong accurately defined, and the principles of 
Natural Religion reduced into regular systems, as art 
fully, disposed and clearly connected as those of some 
other sciences ; there are grounds to think these effects 
would not only have a gradual influence in repairing the 
too much defaced sense of virtue in the world, but also, 
by shewing that such parts of revelation as lie within 
the reach of human inquiry are most agreeable to right 
reason, would dispose all prudent, unprejudiced persons 
to a modest and wary treatment of those sacred mysteries 
which are above the comprehension of our faculties. 

It remains that I desire the reader to withhold his 
censure of these Dialogues till he has read them through. 
Otherwise, he may lay them aside in a mistake of their 
design, or on account of difficulties or objections which 
he would find answered in the sequel. A Treatise of 
this nature would require to be once read over coherently, 
in order to comprehend its design, the proofs, solution 
of difficulties, and the connexion and disposition of its 
parts. If it be thought to deserve a second reading, 
this, I imagine, will make the entire scheme very plain. 


Especially if recourse be had to an Essay I wrote some 
years since upon Vision, and the Treatise concerning 
the Principles of Human Knowledge] wherein divers notions 
advanced in these Dialogues are farther pursued, or placed 
in different lights, and other points handled which natur 
ally tend to confirm and illustrate them. 





Philonoiis. Good morrow, Hylas : I did not expect to 
find you abroad so early. 

Hylas. It is indeed something unusual ; but my thoughts 
were so taken up with a subject I was discoursing of last 
night, that finding I could not sleep, I resolved to rise 
and take a turn in the garden. 

Phil. It happened well, to let you see what innocent 
and agreeable pleasures you lose every morning. Can 
there be a pleasanter time of the day, or a more 
delightful season of the year? That purple sky, those 
wild but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant bloom upon 
the trees and flowers, the gentle influence of the rising 
sun, these and a thousand nameless beauties of nature 
inspire the soul with secret transports ; its faculties too 
being at this time fresh and lively, are fit for those medi 
tations, which the solitude of a garden and tranquillity 
of the morning naturally dispose us to. But I am afraid 
I interrupt your thoughts : for you seemed very intent 
on something. 

//> /. It is true, I was, and shall be obliged to you if 
you will permit me to go on in the same vein ; not that 
I would by any means deprive myself of your company, 
for my thoughts always flow more easily in conversation 


with a friend, than when I am alone : but my request is, 
that you would suffer me to impart my reflexions to you. 

Phil. With all my heart, it is what I should have request 
ed myself if you had not prevented me. 

HyL I was considering the odd fate of those men who 
have in all ages, through an affectation of beingdistinguished 
from the vulgar, or some unaccountable turn of thought, 
pretended either to believe nothing at all, or to believe 
the most extravagant things in the world. This however 
might be borne, if their paradoxes and scepticism did not 
draw after them some consequences of general disadvan 
tage to mankind. But the mischief lieth here; that when 
men of less leisure see them who are supposed to have 
spent their whole time in the pursuits of knowledge 
professing an entire ignorance of all things, or advancing 
such notions as are repugnant to plain and commonly 
received principles, they will be tempted to entertain 
suspicions concerning the most important truths, which 
they had hitherto held sacred and unquestionable 1 . 

Phil. I entirely agree with you, as to the ill tendency 
of the affected doubts of some philosophers, and fantastical 
conceits of others. I am even so far gone of late in this 
way of thinking, that I have quitted several of the sublime 
notions I had got in their schools for vulgar opinions. 
And I give it you on my word ; since this revolt from 
metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature and 
common sense 2 , I find my understanding strangely en 
lightened, so that I can now easily comprehend a great 
many things which before were all mystery and riddle. 

HyL I am glad to find there was nothing in the accounts 
I heard of you. 

Phil. Pray, what were those ? 

Hyl. You were represented, in last night s conversation, 
as one who maintained the most extravagant opinion that 
ever entered into the mind of man, to wit, that there is 
no such thing as material substance in the world. 

1 Principles, Introduction, sect. i. Philonous personates the revolt, 

- Berkeley s philosophy is pro- and represents Berkeley. Hylas 

fessedly a revolt from abstract vindicates the uncritical concep- 

ideas to an enlightened sense of con- tion of independent Matter, 
crete realities. In these Dialogues 


Phil. That there is no such thing as what philosophers 
call material substance, I am seriously persuaded : but, 
if I were made to see anything absurd or sceptical in this, 
I should then have the same reason to renounce this that 
I imagine I have now to reject the contrary opinion. 

Hyl. What ! can anything be more fantastical, more 
repugnant to Common Sense, or a more manifest piece of 
Scepticism, than to believe there is no such thing as matter * 

Phil. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove 
that you, who hold there is, are, by virtue of that opinion, 
a greater sceptic, and maintain more paradoxes and repug 
nances to Common Sense, than I who believe no such 

Hyl. You may as soon persuade me, the part is greater 
than the whole, as that, in order to avoid absurdity and 
Scepticism, I should ever be obliged to give up my 
opinion in this point. 

Phil. Well then, are you content to admit that opinion 
for true, which upon examination shall appear most 
agreeable to Common Sense, and remote from Scepticism ? 

Hyl. With all my heart. Since you are for raising 
disputes about the plainest things in nature, I am content 
for once to hear what you have to say. 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a sceptic ? 

Hyl. I mean what all men mean one that doubts of 

Phil. He then who entertains no doubt concerning 
some particular point, with regard to that point cannot 
be thought a sceptic. 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing the 
affirmative or negative side of a question ? 

Hyl. In neither ; for whoever understands English can 
not but know that doubting signifies a suspense between 

Phil. He then that denies any point, can no more be 
said to doubt of it, than he who affirmeth it with the same 
degree of assurance. 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. And, consequently, for such his denial is no more 
to be esteemed a sceptic than the other. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 


Phil. How cometh it to pass then, Hylas, that you 
pronounce me a sceptic, because I deny what you affirm, to 
wit, the existence of Matter? Since, for aught you can 
tell, I am as peremptory in my denial, as you in your 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I have been a little out in my 
definition ; but every false step a man makes in discourse 
is not to be insisted on. I said indeed that a sceptic was 
one who doubted of everything ; but I should have added, 
or who denies the reality and truth of things. 

Phil. What things ? Do you mean the principles and 
theorems of sciences ? But these you know are universal 
intellectual notions, and consequently independent of 
Matter. The denial therefore of this doth not imply the 
denying them J . 

Hyl. I grant it. But are there no other things ? What 
think you of distrusting the senses, of denying the real 
existence of sensible things, or pretending to know nothing 
of them. Is not this sufficient to denominate a man a 
sceptic ? 

Phil. Shall we therefore examine which of us it is that 
denies the reality of sensible things, or professes the 
greatest ignorance of them ; since, if I take you rightly, he 
is to be esteemed the greatest sceptic ? 

Hyl. That is what I desire. 

Phil. What mean you by Sensible Things ? 

Hyl. Those things which are perceived by the senses. 
Can you imagine that I mean anything else ? 

Phil. Pardon me, Hylas, if I am desirous clearly to 
apprehend your notions, since this may much shorten our 
inquiry. Suffer me then to ask you this farther question. 
Are those things only perceived by the senses which are 
perceived immediately? Or, may those things properly be 
said to be sensible which are perceived mediately, or not 
without the intervention of others ? 

Hyl. I do not sufficiently understand you. 

Phil. In reading a book, what I immediately perceive 

1 Berkeley s zeal against Matter universal intellectual notions 

in the abstract, and all abstract the principles and theorems of 

ideas of concrete things, is therefore sciences. 
not necessarily directed against 


are the letters ; but mediately, or by means of these, 
are suggested to my mind the notions of God, virtue, truth, 
&c. Now, that the letters are truly sensible things, or 
perceived by sense, there is no doubt : but I would know 
whether you take the things suggested by them to be so too. 

Hyl. No, certainly : it were absurd to think God or virtue 
sensible things ; though they may be signified and sug 
gested to the mind by sensible marks, with which they 
have an arbitrary connexion. 

Phil. It seems then, that by sensible things you mean 
those only which can be perceived immediately by sense? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Doth it not follow from this, that though I see one 
part of the sky red, and another blue, and that my reason 
doth thence evidently conclude there must be some cause of 
that diversity of colours, yet that cause cannot be said to be 
a sensible thing, or perceived by the sense of seeing ? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. In like manner, though I hear variety of sounds, 
yet I cannot be said to hear the causes of those sounds ? 

Hyl. You cannot. 

Phil. And when by. my touch I perceive a thing to be 
hot and heavy, I cannot say, with any truth or propriety, 
that I feel the cause of its heat or weight ? 

Hyl. To prevent any more questions of this kind, I tell 
you once for all, that by sensible tilings I mean those only 
i which are perceived by sense ; and that in truth the senses 
\perceive nothing which they do not perceive immediately : 
utbr they make no inferences. The deducing therefore of 
Causes or occasions from effects and appearances, which 
alone are perceived by sense, entirely relates to reason \ 

Phil. This point then is agreed between us That sensible 
things are those only which are immediately perceived by sense. 
You will farther inform me, whether we immediately per 
ceive by sight anything beside light, and colours, and 
figures a ; or by hearing, anything but sounds ; by the palate, 
anything beside tastes ; by the smell, beside odours ; or 
by the touch, more than tangible qualities. 

1 Here reason means reasoning and inference. 

or inference. Cf. Theory of Vision 2 figure as well as colour, is 

Vindicated, sect. 42, including the here included among the original 

distinction between suggestion data of sight. 


Hyl We do not. 

Phil. It seems, therefore, that if you take away all sensi 
ble qualities, there remains nothing sensible ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. Sensible things therefore are nothing else but 
so many sensible qualities, or combinations of sensible 
qualities ? 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. Heat then is a sensible thing ? 

Hyl. Certainly. 

Phil. Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being 
perceived? or, is it something distinct from their being 
perceived, and that bears no relation to the mind ? 

Hyl. To exist is one thing, and to be perceived is an 

Phil. I speak with regard to sensible things only. And 
of these I ask, whether by their real existence you mean a 
subsistence exterior to the mind, and distinct from their 
being perceived ? 

Hyl. I mean a real absolute being, distinct from, and 
without any relation to, their being perceived. 

Phil. Heat therefore, if it be allowed a real being, must 
exist without the mind * ? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, is this real existence equally com 
patible to all degrees of heat, which we perceive ; or is 
there any reason why we should attribute it to some, and 
deny it to others ? And if there be, pray let me know that 

Hyl. Whatever degree of heat we perceive by sense, we 
may be sure the same exists in the object that occasions it. 

Phil. What ! the greatest as well as the least ? 

Hyl. I tell you, the reason is plainly the same in respect 
of both. They are both perceived by sense; nay, the 
greater degree of heat is more sensibly perceived; and con 
sequently, if there is any difference, we are more certain of 
its real existence than we can be of the reality of a lesser 

Phil. But is not the most vehement and intense degree 
of heat a very great pain ? 

1 without the mind/ i. e. unrealised by any percipient mind. 


Hyl. No one can deny it. 

Phil. And is any unperceiving thing capable of pain or 
pleasure ? 

Hyl. No, certainly. 

Phil. Is your material substance a senseless being, or a 
being endowed with sense and perception ? 

HyL It is senseless without doubt, 

Phil. It cannot therefore be the subject of pain ? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. Nor consequently of the greatest heat perceived 
by sense, since you acknowledge this to be no small pain ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. What shall we say then of your external object ; is 
it a material Substance, or no ? 

Hyl. It is a material substance with the sensible quali 
ties inhering in it. 

Phil. Mow then can a great heat exist in it, since you 
own it cannot in a material substance ? I desire you 
would clear this point. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I fear I was out in yielding 
intense heat to be a pain. It should seem rather, that 
pain is something distinct from heat, and the consequence 
or effect of it. 

Phil. Upon putting your hand near the lire, do you 
perceive one simple uniform sensation, or two distinct 
sensations ? 

HyL But one simple sensation. 

Phil. Is not the heat immediately perceived ? 

HyL It is. 

Phil. And the pain ? 

HyL True. 

Phil. Seeing therefore they are both immediately per 
ceived at the same time, and the fire affects you only with 
one simple or uncompoundcd idea, it follows that this 
same simple idea is both the intense heat immediately per 
ceived, and the pain ; and, consequently, that the intense- 
heat immediately perceived is nothing distinct from a par 
ticular sort of pain. 

HyL It seems so. 

Phil. Again, try in your thoughts, Hylas, if you can 
conceive a vehement sensation to be without pain or 



Hyl. I cannot. 

Phil. Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sensible 
pain or pleasure in general, abstracted from every particu 
lar idea of heat, cold, tastes, smells ? &c. 

Hyl. I do not find that I can. 

Phil. Doth it not therefore follow, that sensible pain is 
nothing distinct from those sensations or ideas, in an 
intense degree? 

Hyl. It is undeniable ; and, to speak the truth, I begin 
to suspect a very great heat cannot exist but in a mind 
perceiving it. 

Phil. What ! are you then in that sceptical state of 
suspense, between affirming and denying? 

Hyl. I think I may be positive in the point. A very 
violent and painful heat cannot exist without the mind. 

Phil. It hath not therefore, according to you, any real 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. Is it therefore certain, that there is no body in 
nature really hot ? 

Hyl. I have not denied there is any real heat in bodies. 
I only say, there is no such thing as an intense real heat. 

Phil. But, did you not say before that all degrees of 
heat were equally real ; or, if there was any difference, that 
the greater were more undoubtedly real than the lesser? 

Hyl. True : but it was because I did not then consider 
the ground there is for distinguishing between them, 
which I now plainly see. And it is this : because intense 
heat is nothing else but a particular kind of painful 
sensation ; and pain cannot exist but in a perceiving 
being; it follows that no intense heat can really exist in 
an unperceiving corporeal substance. But this is no 
reason why we should deny heat in an inferior degree to 
exist in such a substance. 

Phil. But how shall we be able to discern those degrees 
of heat which exist only in the mind from those which 
exist without it? 

Hyl. That is no difficult matter. You know the least 
pain cannot exist unperceived ; whatever, therefore, degree 
of heat is a pain exists only in the mind. But, as for all 
other degrees of heat, nothing obliges us to think the same 
of them. 


Phil. I think you granted before that no unperceiving 
being was capable of pleasure, any more than of pain. 

Hyl I did. 

Phil. And is not warmth, or a more gentle degree of 
heat than what causes uneasiness, a pleasure? 

Hyl What then? 

Phil Consequently, it cannot exist without the mind in 
an unperceiving substance, or body. 

Hyl. So it seems. 

Phil Since, therefore, as well those degrees of heat that 
are not painful, as those that are, can exist only in 
a thinking substance ; may we not conclude that external 
bodies are absolutely incapable of any degree of heat 
whatsoever ? 

Hyl. On second thoughts, I do not think it so evident 
that warmth is a pleasure as that a great degree of heat is 
a pain. 

Phil. I do not pretend that warmth is as great a pleasure 
as heat is a pain. But, if you grant it to be even a small 
pleasure, it serves to make good my conclusion. 

Hyl. I could rather call it an indolence. It seems to be 
nothing more than a privation of both pain and pleasure. 
And that such a quality or state as this may agree to an 
unthinking substance, I hope you will not deny. 

Phil If you are resolved to maintain that warmth, or 
a gentle degree of heat, is no pleasure, I know not how to 
convince you otherwise than by appealing to your own 
sense. But what think you of cold ? 

Hyl. The same that I do of heat. An intense degree of 
cold is a pain ; for to feel a very great cold, is to perceive 
a great uneasiness : it cannot therefore exist without the 
mind ; but a lesser degree of cold may, as well as a lesser 
degree of heat. 

Phil. Those bodies, therefore, upon whose application 
to our own, we perceive a moderate degree of heat, must 
be concluded to have a moderate degree of heat or warmth 
in them ; and those, upon whose application we feel a like 
degree of cold, must be thought to have cold in them. 

Hyl. They must. 

Phil. Can any doctrine be true that necessarily leads 
a man into an absurdity ? 

Hyl. Without doubt it cannot. 

c c 2 


Phil. Is it not an absurdity to think that the same thing 
should be at the same time both cold and warm ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Suppose now one of your hands hot, and the other 
cold, and that they are both at once put into the same 
vessel of water, in an intermediate state ; will not the 
water seem qold to one hand, and warm to the other ! ? 

Hyl It will. 

Phil. Ought we not therefore, by your principles, to 
conclude it is really both cold and warm at the same time, 
that is, according to your own concession, to believe an 

Hyl. I confess it seems so. 

Phil. Consequently, the principles themselves are false, 
since you have granted that no true principle leads to an 

Hyl. But, after all, can anything be more absurd than to 
say, there is no heat in the fire t 

Phil. To make the point still clearer ; tell me whether, 
in two cases exactly alike, we ought not to make the same 
judgment ? 

Hyl. We ought. 

Phil. When a pin pricks your linger, doth it not rend 
and divide the fibres of your flesh ? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. And when a coal burns your linger, doth it any 
more ? 

Hyl. It doth not. 

Phil. Since, therefore, you neither judge the sensation 
itself occasioned by the pin, nor anything like it to be in 
the pin ; you should not, conformably to what you have 
now granted, judge the sensation occasioned by the fire, or 
anything like it, to be in the fire. 

Hyl. Well, since it must be so, 1 am content to yield 
this point, and acknowledge that heat and cold arc 
only sensations existing in our minds. But there still 
remain qualities enough to secure the reality of external 

Phil. But what will you say, Hylas, if it shall appear 
that the case is the same with regard to all other sensible 

1 Cf. Principles, sect. 14. 


qualities l , and that they can no more be supposed to exist 
without the mind, than heat and cold ? 

HyL Then indeed you will have done something to the 
purpose ; but that is what I despair of seeing proved. 

Phil. Let us examine them in order. What think you 
of tastes do they exist without the mind, or no? 

HyL Can any man in his senses doubt whether sugar is 
sweet, or wormwood bitter ? 

Phil. Inform me, Hylas. Is a sweet taste a particular 
kind of pleasure or pleasant sensation, or is it not? 

HyL It is. 

Phil. And is not bitterness some kind of uneasiness or 
pain ? 

HyL I grant it. 

Phil. If therefore sugar and wormwood are unthinking 
corporeal substances existing without the mind, how can 
sweetness and bitterness, that is, pleasure and pain, agree 
to them ? 

HyL Hold, Philonous, I now see what it was deluded me 
all this time. You asked whether heat and cold, sweet 
ness and bitterness, were not particular sorts of pleasure 
and pain ; to which I answered simply, that they were. 
Whereas I should have thus distinguished : those qualities, 
as perceived by us, are pleasures or pains ; but not as 
existing in the external objects. We must not therefore 
conclude absolutely, that there is no heat in the fire, or 
sweetness in the sugar, but only that heat or sweetness, as 
perceived by us, are not in the fire or sugar. What say 
you to this ? 

Phil. I say it is nothing to the purpose. Our discourse 
proceeded altogether concerning sensible things, which you 
defined to be, the things we immediately perceive by our 
senses. Whatever other qualities, therefore, you speak of, 
as distinct from these, I know nothing of them, neither do 
they at all belong to the point in dispute. You may, 
indeed, pretend to have discovered certain qualities which 
you do not perceive, and assert those insensible qualities 
exist in fire and sugar. But what use can be made of this 
to your present purpose, I am at a loss to conceive. Tell 
me then once more, do you acknowledge that heat and 

1 Cf. Principles, sect. 14, 15. 


cold, sweetness and bitterness (meaning those qualities 
which are perceived by the senses), do not exist without 
the mind ? 

Hyl. I see it is to no purpose to hold out, so I give up 
the cause as to those mentioned qualities. Though 
I profess it sounds oddly, to say that sugar is not sweet. 

Phil. But, for your farther satisfaction, take this along 
with you : that which at other times seems sweet, shall, to 
a distempered palate, appear bitter. And, nothing can be 
plainer than that divers persons perceive different tastes 
in the same food ; since that which one man delights in, 
another abhors. And how could this be, if the taste was 
something really inherent in the food ? 

HyL I acknowledge I know not how. 

Phil. In the next place, odours are to be considered. 
And, with regard to these, I would fain know whether what 
hath been said of tastes doth not exactly agree to them ? 
Are they not so many pleasing or displeasing sensations ? 

HyL They are. 

Phil. Can you then conceive it possible that they should 
exist in an unperceiving thing? 

Hyl. I cannot. 

Phil. Or, can you imagine that filth and ordure affect 
those brute animals that feed on them out of choice, with 
the same smells which we perceive in them ? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. May we not therefore conclude of smells, as of the 
other forementioned qualities, that they cannot exist in 
any but a perceiving substance or mind ? 

Hyl. I think so. 

Phil. Then as to sounds, what must we think of them : 
are they accidents really inherent in external bodies, or not? 

HyL That they inhere not in the sonorous bodies is plain 
from hence : because a bell struck in the exhausted 
receiver of an air-pump sends forth no sound. The air, 
therefore, must be thought the subject of sound. 

Phil. What reason is there for that, Hylas ? 

HyL Because, when any motion is raised in the air, we 
perceive a sound greater or lesser, according to the air s 
motion ; but without some motion in the air, we never hear 
any sound at all. 

Phil. And granting that we never hear a sound but when 


some motion is produced in the air, yet I do not see how 
you can infer from thence, that the sound itself is in the air. 

HyL It is this very motion in the external air that pro 
duces in the mind the sensation of sound. For, striking 
on the drum of the ear, it causeth a vibration, which by 
the auditory nerves being communicated to the brain, the 
soul is thereupon affected with the sensation called sound. 

Phil. What ! is sound then a sensation ? 

HyL I tell you, as perceived by us, it is a particular 
sensation in the mind. 

Phil. And can any sensation exist without the mind ? 

HyL No, certainly. 

Phil. How then can sound, being a sensation, exist in 
the air, if by the air you mean a senseless substance exist 
ing without the mind ? 

HyL You must distinguish, Philonous, between sound as 
it is perceived by us, and as it is in itself; or (which is the 
same thing) between the sound we immediately perceive, 
and that which exists without us. The former, indeed, is 
a particular kind of sensation, but the latter is merely a 
vibrative or undulatory motion in the air. 

PhiL I thought I had already obviated that distinction, 
by the answer I gave when you were applying it in a like 
case before. But, to say no more of that, are you sure 
then that sound is really nothing but motion ? 

HyL I am. 

PhiL Whatever therefore agrees to real sound, may with 
truth be attributed to motion ? 

HyL It may. 

PhiL It is then good sense to speak of motion as of 
a thing that is loud, sweet, acute, or grave. 

HyL I see you are resolved not to understand me. Is 
it not evident those accidents or modes belong only to 
sensible sound, or sound in the common acceptation of the 
word, but not to sound in the real and philosophic sense ; 
which, as I just now told you, is nothing but a certain 
motion of the air ? 

PhiL It seems then there are two sorts of sound the 
one vulgar, or that which is heard, the other philosophical 
and real ? 

HyL Even so. 

PhiL And the latter consists in motion ? 


Hyl. I told you so before. 

Phil Tell me, Hylas, to which of the senses, think you, 
the idea of motion belongs? to the hearing? 

Hyl. No, certainly; but to the sight and touch. 

Phil. It should follow then, that, according to you, real 
sounds may possibly be seen orfe/f, but never Jieard. 

Hyl. Look you, Philonous, you may, if you please, make 
a jest of my opinion, but that will not alter the truth of 
things. I own, indeed, the inferences you draw me into 
sound something oddly; but common language, you know, 
is framed by ; and for the use of the vulgar : we must not 
therefore wonder if expressions adapted to exact philo 
sophic notions seem uncouth and out of the way. 

Phil. Is it come to that ? I assure you, I imagine myself 
to have gained no small point, since you make so light of 
departing from common phrases and opinions; it being 
a main part of our inquiry, to examine whose notions are 
widest of the common road, and most repugnant to the 
general sense of the world. But, can you think it no more 
than a philosophical paradox, to say that real sounds are 
never heard, and that the idea of them is obtained by some 
other sense ? And is there nothing in this contrary to 
nature and the truth of things ? 

Hyl. To deal ingenuously, I do not like it. And, after 
the concessions already made, I had as well grant that 
sounds too have no real being without the mind. 

Phil. And I hope you will make no difficulty to acknow 
ledge the same of colours. 

Hyl. Pardon me : the case of colours is very different. 
Can anything be plainer than that we see them on the 
objects ? 

Phil. The objects you speak of are, I suppose, corporeal 
Substances existing without the mind ? 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. And have true and real colours inhering in them ? 

Hyl. Each visible object hath that colour which we see 
in it. 

Phil. How ! is there anything visible but what we 
perceive by sight ? 

Hyl. There is not. 

Phil. And, do we perceive anything by sense which we 
do not perceive immediately ? 


Hyl. How often must I be obliged to repeat the same 
thing ? I tell you, we do not. 

Phil. Have patience, good Hylas ; and tell me once 
more, whether there is anything immediately perceived by 
the senses, except sensible qualities. I know you asserted 
there was not ; but I would now be informed, whether you 
still persist in the same opinion. 

PlyL I do. 

Phil. Pray, is your corporeal substance either a sensible 
quality, or made up of sensible qualities ? 

Hyl. What a question that is ! who ever thought it was ? 

Phil. My reason for asking was, because in saying, each 
visible object hath that colour which we see in it, you make 
visible objects to be corporeal substances ; which implies 
either that corporeal substances are sensible qualities, or 
else that there is something beside sensible qualities per 
ceived by sight : but, as this point was formerly agreed 
between us, and is still maintained by you, it is a clear 
consequence, that your corporeal substance is nothing 
distinct from sensible qualities 1 . 

Hyl. You may draw as many absurd consequences as 
you please, and endeavour to perplex the plainest things ; 
but you shall never persuade me out of my senses. I clearly 
understand my own meaning. 

Phil. I wish you would make me understand it too. 
But, since you are unwilling to have your notion of 
corporeal substance examined, I shall urge that point no 
farther. Only be pleased to let me know, whether the 
same colours which we see exist in external bodies, or 
some other. 

Hyl. The very same. 

Phil. What ! are then the beautiful red and purple we 
see on yonder clouds really in them ? Or do you imagine 
they have in themselves any other form than that of a dark 
mist or vapour ? 

Hyl. I must own, Philonous, those colours are not really 
in the clouds as they seem to be at this distance. They 
are only apparent colours. 

Phil. Apparent call you them ? how shall we distinguish 
these apparent colours from real? 

1 Sensible qualities, i.e. the significant appearances presented in 


Hyl. Very easily. Those are to be thought apparent 
which, appearing only at a distance, vanish upon a nearer- 

Phil. And those, I suppose, are to be thought real which 
are discovered by the most near and exact survey. 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Is the nearest and exactest survey made by the 
help of a microscope, or by the naked eye ? 

Hyl. By a microscope, doubtless. 

Phil. But a microscope often discovers colours in an 
object different from those perceived by the unassisted 
sight. And, in case we had microscopes magnifying to 
any assigned degree, it is certain that no object whatsoever, 
viewed through them, would appear in the same colour 
which it exhibits to the naked eye. 

Hyl. And what will you conclude from all this ? You 
cannot argue that there are really and naturally no colours 
on objects : because by artificial managements they maybe 
altered, or made to vanish. 

Phil. I think it may evidently be concluded from your 
own concessions, that all the colours we see with our 
naked eyes are only apparent as those on the clouds, since 
they vanish upon a more close and accurate inspection 
which is afforded us by a microscope. Then, as to what 
you say by way of prevention : I ask you whether the 
real and natural state of an object is better discovered by 
a very sharp and piercing sight, or by one which is less 
sharp ? 

Hyl. By the former without doubt. 

Phil. Is it not plain from Dioptrics that microscopes 
make the sight more penetrating, and represent objects as 
they would appear to the eye in case it were naturally 
endowed with a most exquisite sharpness ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Consequently the microscopical representation is 
to be thought that which best sets forth the real nature of 
the thing, or what it is in itself. The colours, therefore, 
by it perceived are more genuine and real than those 
perceived otherwise. 

Hyl. I confess there is something in what you say. 

Phil. Besides, it is not only possible but manifest, that 
there actually are animals whose eyes are by nature framed 


to perceive those things which by reason of their minuteness 
escape our sight. What think you of those inconceivably 
small animals perceived by glasses ? must we suppose 
they are all stark blind ? Or, in case they see, can it be 
imagined their sight hath not the same use in preserving 
their bodies from injuries, which appears in that of all 
other animals ? And if it hath, is it not evident they must 
see particles less than their own bodies; which will present 
them with a far different view in each object from that 
which strikes our senses l ? Even our own eyes do not 
always represent objects to us after the same manner. In 
the jaundice every one knows that all things seem yellow. 
Is it not therefore highly probable those animals in whose 
eyes we discern a very different texture from that of ours, 
and whose bodies abound with different humours, do not 
see the same colours in every object that we do ? From 
all which, should it not seem to follow that all colours are 
equally apparent, and that none of those which we perceive 
are really inherent in any outward object ? 

Hyl It should. 

Phil. The point will be past all doubt, if you consider 
that, in case colours were real properties or affections 
inherent in external bodies, they could admit of no altera 
tion without some change wrought in the very bodies 
themselves : but, is it not evident from what hath been 
said that, upon the use of microscopes, upon a change 
happening in the humours of the eye, or a variation of 
distance, without any manner of real alteration in the thing 
itself, the colours of any object are either changed, or 
totally disappear ? Nay, all other circumstances remaining 
the same, change but the situation of some objects, and 
they shall present different colours to the eye. The same 
thing happens upon viewing an object in various degrees 
of light. And what is more known than that the same 
bodies appear differently coloured by candle-light from 
what they do in the open day? Add to these the ex 
periment of a prism which, separating the heterogeneous 
rays of light, alters the colour of any object, and will cause 
the whitest to appear of a deep blue or red to the naked 
eye. And now tell me whether you are still of opinion 

1 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 80-86. 


that every body hath its true real colour inhering in it ; 
and, if you think it hath ; I would fain know farther from 
you, what certain distance and position of the object, what 
peculiar texture and formation of the eye, what degree or 
kind of light is necessary for ascertaining that true colour, 
and distinguishing it from apparent ones. 

Hyl. I own myself entirely satisfied, that they are all 
equally apparent, and that there is no such thing as colour 
really inhering in external bodies, but that it is altogether 
in the light. And what confirms me in this opinion is, that 
in proportion to the light colours are still more or less 
vivid ; and if there be no light, then are there no colours 
perceived. Besides, allowing there are colours on external 
objects, yet, how is it possible for us to perceive them? 
For no external body affects the mind, unless it acts first 
on our organs of sense. But the only action of bodies is 
motion ; and motion cannot be communicated otherwise 
than by impulse. A distant object therefore cannot act 
on the eye ; nor consequently make itself or its properties 
perceivable to the soul. Whence it plainly follows that it 
is immediately some contiguous substance, which, operating 
on the eye, occasions a perception of colours : and such is 

Phil. How! is light then a substance ? 

Hyl. I tell you, Philonous, external light is nothing but 
a thin fluid substance, whose minute particles being agitated 
with a brisk motion, and in various manners reflected from 
the different surfaces of outward objects to the eyes, com 
municate different motions to the optic nerves ; which, 
being propagated to the brain, cause therein various 
impressions ; and these are attended with the sensations 
of red, blue, yellow, cS:c. 

Phil. It seems then the light doth no more than shake 
the optic nerves. 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. And consequent to each particular motion of the 
nerves, the mind is affected with a sensation, which is some 
particular colour. 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. And these sensations have no existence without 
the mind. 

Hyl. They have not, 


Phil. How then do you affirm that colours are in the 
light ; since by light you understand a corporeal substance 
external to the mind ? 

Hyl. Light and colours, as immediately perceived by us, 
I grant cannot exist without the mind. But in themselves 
they are only the motions and configurations of certain 
insensible particles of matter. 

Phil. Colours then, in the vulgar sense, or taken for the 
immediate objects of sight, cannot agree to any but a per 
ceiving substance. 

Hyl. That is what I say. 

Phil. Well then, since you give up the point as to those 
sensible qualities which are alone thought colours by all 
mankind beside, you may hold what you please with regard 
to those invisible ones of the philosophers. It is not my 
business to dispute about them ; only I would advise you 
to bethink yourself, whether, considering the inquiry we 
are upon, it be prudent for you to affirm the red and blue 
which ivc see are not real colours, but certain unknown motions 
and figures ivhicli no man ever did or can see are truly so. 
Are not these shocking notions, and are not they subject 
to as many ridiculous inferences, as those you were obliged 
to renounce before in the case of sounds? 

Hyl. I frankly own, Philonous, that it is in vain to stand 
out any longer. Colours, sounds, tastes, in a word all 
those termed secondary qualities, have certainly no existence 
without the mind. But by this acknowledgment I must 
not be supposed to derogate anything from the reality of 
Matter, or external objects ; seeing it is no more than 
several philosophers maintain , who nevertheless are the 
farthest imaginable from denying Matter. For the clearer 
understanding of this, you must know sensible qualities 
are by philosophers divided into Primary and Secondary". 
The former are Extension, Figure, Solidity, Gravity, 
Motion, and Rest ; and