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Full text of "The works of George Berkeley D. D. ... including his posthumous works"

HENRY FROWDE, M.A. 

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD 

LONDON, EDINBURGH 

NEW YORK 



The 

Works of George Berkeley 

D.D. ; Formerly 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 ^© 

B\BL/Or^jQ' 

In Four Volumes Or\^ 

Vol. II : Philosophical Workv^ 



Oxford 
At the Clarendon Press 

mdcccci 



OXFORD 

PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 

BY HORACE HART, M.A. 
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY 




CONTENTS 



Alciphron ; or, The Minute Philosopher . 

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

First published in 1732. 

The Editor's Preface 

The Author's Advertisement 

Contents . 

The Dialogues 

The First Dialogue 

The Second Dialogue 

The Third Dialogue 

The Fourth Dialogue 

The Fifth Dialogue 

The Sixth Dialogue 

The Seventh Dialogue 



3 
23 
26 

3i 
3i 
69 
120 
153 
193 
242 

3i7 



The Theory of Vision, or Visual Language, 
shewing the immediate presence and provi- 
DENCE of a Deity 369 

First published in 1733. 

The Editor's Preface 37 1 

The Tract 379 



ALCIPHRON 

OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

IN SEVEN DIALOGUES 

CONTAINING AN APOLOGY FOR THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 
AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE CALLED FREE-THINKERS 




' They have forsaken me the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them 
out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.' — Jer. ii. 13 

1 Sin mortuus, ut quidam Minuti Philosophi censent, nihil sentiam, non 

vereor ne hunc errorem meum mortui philosophi 

irrideant.' — Cicero 



First published in 1732 



BERKELEY : FRASER. II. 






) 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 



TO 



ALCIPHRON 
OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



ALCIPHRON, or, The Minute Philosopher, published 
■*-*■ in 1732, is the largest, and probably the most popular, 
of Berkeley's works. The narrowness of the philosophy 
of those who then claimed for themselves exclusively in- 
tellectual strength and comprehensiveness, under the name 
of 'free-thinkers/ is signified by its title. Alciphron, 
or the ' strong man ' in his own conceit, is presented as 
a 'minute philosopher,' whose horizon is confined to 
data of sense, excluding from his universe of reality the 
spiritual or moral world and God, shown to be in reason 
the chief realities of all. The atheism of so-called free- 
thinkers is attributed to their confined intellectual vision ; 
and its inconsistency with their claim to be the apostles of 
philanthropy is argued, on the ground that atheism with- 
draws the strongest motive to promote the common good, 
which is man's chief end as a reasonable being. -- • • ► < I 

In these Dialogues we find ourselves in an atmosphere 
different from the earlier philosophical works of Berkeley. 
Here social idealism, latent in the earlier works, takes 
the place of the physical and metaphysical idealism 

b 2 



4 EDITOR S PREFACE TO 

of the Principles and the De Motu. More than ten years 
have passed since the De Motu made its appearance. 
Berkeley was then on his way from Italy to Trinity College. 
The Minute Philosopher was prepared in his American 
home in Rhode Island, and was given to the world on his 
return to London, after he had essayed the most romantic 
missionary enterprise of modern piety. The work bears 
marks of the new direction in which his characteristic enthu- 
siasm was drawn. He sees more clearly that men are not 
independent individuals : they are made for one another : 
the material world, as a system of sense-signals, enables 
them to make signs and have social intercourse, each re- 
cognising that he is part of a whole, to the common good 
of which he ought to contribute, and order his ways and 
actions suitably — if he would live 'according to nature,' in 
the high meaning of ' nature.' 

In the De Motu, Berkeley was engaged in applying his 
New Principles to restrain mechanical science within due 
philosophical limits, as the interpreter of sense-presented 
signs of sensible realities; their active, responsible, and 
therefore ultimate Cause being beyond its ken, in data not 
of sense but of inner consciousness. It was virtually an 
inquiry into the meaning of natural or physical causation. 
But in Alciphron moral or personal causes, and their social 
relations, fill the view. His surroundings in the interven- 
ing years help to explain the change. 

On his return from Italy in 1721, he found England 
depressed by the agitation and misery that followed the 
collapse of the South Sea project. He set himself with 
eagerness to devise practical ways of relief. The low tone 
of social morality shocked and distressed him. Perhaps 
his active imagination and eager temperament exagger- 
ated the symptoms. He seemed to find in a supposed 
growth of atheistic freedom from religious restraints the 
chief cause of the social maladies. At first his anxiety 
found vent in the short Essay towards preventing the Ruin of 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 5 

Great Britain, offered by him to the world before the end 
of 1 721 ; the eloquent lamentation of a fervid social idealist, 
biographicall y important as a forecast of its author's career 
in middle life and after. It was the first symptom of practical 
endeavour to realise around him a state of society nearer 
to his own lofty ideal ; the Cassandra wail of a sorrowful 
prophet, who soon after turned his eye of hope to more 
distant regions. In one of his letters to Lord Percival, 
he tells that in the year after his return from Italy, he 
had made up his mind to spend the remainder of his 
life in Bermuda, in order to establish there a missionary 
college 'for promoting reformation of manners amongst 
the English in our Western Plantations, and for the propa- 
gation of the Gospel amongst the American savages.' The 
next seven years were largely given to negotiations and 
preparations with a view to exchanging life in an Old 
World of social decay for an American Utopia. In the 
interval he had been advanced to the Deanery of Derry. 
A multiplicity of affairs had arrested his pen, for in those 
ten years his only publication was the few pages of A 
Proposal for the better supplying of Churches in our Foreign 
Plantations, issued in 1725, and the Verses on the prospect 
of Planting Arts and Sciences in America. 

In September 1728, devoted to this ideal, he sailed 
for Rhode Island, on his way to Bermuda, fortified by 
Sir Robert Walpole's promise of support. He there 
made a home for himself, named Whitehall, in which he 
lived for more than two years, but he never reached 
Bermuda. It was in this home that Alciphron was written, 
the issue of reading and meditation in the seclusion of the 
ocean-girt island, pictures of which so often appear on its 
pages. The opening sentences in the First Dialogue 
remind us of the disaster which befell the Bermuda pro- 
ject, after long waiting in Rhode Island. In other 
Dialogues we are carried to the alcove among the rocks 
on that magnificent coast, where he was accustomed to 



6 editor's preface to 

study, after he had exchanged the society of men of 
letters in London and Paris for a solitude occasionally 
broken by unsophisticated missionaries in the New 
England Plantations, who travelled great distances to 
visit him. The subtle intellect which had worked out 
the Principles and the earlier Dialogues, enriched by 
experience of life in Europe and America, is found in 
Alciphron offering a philosophical vindication of religion, 
at a time when, according to Bishop Butler, it had come 
f to be taken for granted that Christianity is not so 
much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is now at length 
discovered to be fictitious V And this application of his 
New Principles to criticism of the ' minute philosophy ! 
of his age, takes the form of Dialogues more fitted than 
any in English literature to recall the charm of Plato 
and Cicero. 

Alciphron should be studied in the light of the history of 
English deism and free thought from Hobbes onwards; with 
Mandeville and Shaftesbury, who figure in the second and 
third Dialogues, and Collins more or less throughout, 
especially in view 2 . The account of the knowledge 
of God which man is intellectually capable of receiving, 
that was advocated by two Irish prelates, Archbishop King 
and Bishop Browne, should not be overlooked in con- 
nexion with the fourth Dialogue and the seventh. 

Although Alciphron is Berkeley's most direct contribution 
to religious philosophy, it must be remembered that the 
moral inspiration of all his metaphysical works was the 
struggle — in the midst of which he lived —between those 
who sought to exclude and those who sought to retain 
faith in God, as the foundation and motive of human life. 
The questions raised by English deists and atheistical 
free-thinkers of his time were for him the living form of 

1 See Butler's Analogy — Adver- 2 See Lechler's Geschichte des 

tisement. The Analogy was pub- Englischen Deismns. (Stuttgart, 
lished in 1736. 1841.) 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 7 

the perennial struggle between Faith and Scepticism. 
Moral reaction against materialism had spread the glow 
of earnest human feeling over his earlier treatises, which 
Were intended to illustrate ' the incorporeal nature of the 
Soul, and the immediate Providence of Deity in opposi- 
tion to Sceptics and Atheists.' 

There is a greater appearance of learning in Alciphron 
than in Berkeley's earlier works. Authorities are more 
frequently cited, ancient as well as modern, and allusions 
are spontaneous and abundant that indicate greater famili- 
arity with literature, and more extensive observation of 
tne World. The appeals to imagination, in the form of 
rural pictures, are bold and striking, and in parts the 
work has the charm and sentiment of a pastoral poem. 

In March 1732, very soon after Berkeley's return from 
America, the first edition of Alctphron was published in 
Dublin, with the Essay towards a New Theory oj Vision 
appended, 'printed for G. Risk, G. Ewing, and W. Smith, 
booksellers in Dame Street,' and in London, 'printed for 
J. Tonson, in the Strand ' : a second London edition 
followed later in the same year. Each of these editions was 
in two volumes : the first contained Dialogues I-V, and the 
second Dialogues VI and VII, along with the New Theory 
of Vision. The title-page of the first volume presents in 
vignette the 'fountain of living waters,' and the 'balances 
of deceit ' appear on the title-page of the second. These 
quaint characteristic engravings are here retained. A 
third edition of Alciphron, in one volume, was published 
in London in 1752 (the year before the author's death), as 
mentioned in an Appendix to the Oxford edition of the 
Collected Works. Its existence became known to me 
only when that edition was almost out of the press. 
Mr. Sampson has since drawn attention to the curious 
fact that a third edition exists in two forms, identical 
in date, but not in contents. One is a careless reprint 



8 editor's preface to 

of the first edition, full of obvious errors, while the other 
contains a carefully revised text. A notable change in the 
third edition is the omission of what formed sections 5, 
6, 7 in the Seventh Dialogue, directed against abstract 
general ideas. Does this omission mean that he had 
modified his early ardent Nominalism in advanced life ? 
Alciphron has been frequently republished since Berke- 
ley's death. Changes introduced by the author into 
the second and third editions, and afterwards omitted, 
seemingly by inadvertence, in the posthumous republica- 
tions, are restored in the present edition. 

A French version appeared at the Hague in 1734. It 
was the earliest translation of any of Berkeley's writings 
into a foreign language ; Siris followed, at Amsterdam, in 
1745, and in 1756 the Dialogues between Hylas and 
Philonous were translated into German. 

The first American edition was published at Newhaven 
in 1803, with a Preface by Dr. Timothy Dwight, President 
of Yale College, who describes the author as 'one of the 
first philosophers of any age or country.' 

The first of the seven Dialogues in Alciphron is intro- 
ductory ; the second and third are ethical ; the fourth, 
on which the treatise turns, is an argument, founded on 
the New Theory of Vision, for the existence and universal 
Providence of God, indispensable to the vitality of virtue 
and the practice of morality; the three last discuss the 
individual and social utility of Christianity ; the miracu- 
lous signs of its being a true revelation of God ; and its 
involved mysteries, argued to be unreasonable objec- 
tion to faith in its contents. Berkeley's ingenuity and 
fancy are employed in defending moral order against 
ethical theories founded on selfishness, like Mandeville's, 
or on taste, as he interpreted Shaftesbury's ; while his 
own metaphysical philosophy is engaged for the support 
of theism, and in refutation of objections to its articulate 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 9 

development in Christian form. The advantage to good- 
ness of faith in a future life; the Active Intelligence 
which governs the universe that we enter when we become 
percipient ; the sufficiency of evidence for the reasonable 
demands of faith, notwithstanding the mysteries of re- 
ligion, are all presented in the light of ethical or meta- 
physical philosophy, and of experience of the world. 

In the discussion, Alciphron (Strong-Mind) and Lysicles 
represent 'minute philosophy,' or 'free-thinking'; the former 
in its more intellectual aspect, and the latter as found 
among shallow men of the world who live for pleasure. 
Euphranor unfolds reason latent in religion, and Crito 
moderates in the debate. Dion, who personates Berkeley, 
is mostly a spectator. 

In the First Dialogue, the party try to discover some 
general principles in which they can all agree. At the 
end of this Dialogue, Alciphron acknowledges that all 
beliefs found to be absolutely indispensable to the common 
weal must be principles that are natural to man. He had 
previously argued (sect. 9) that the sensual appetites and 
passions are the only genuine constituents of human 
nature; and that faith in God and in life after death 
has been artificially produced by education : those beliefs 
differ in different nations and ages ; and a principle cannot 
be 'natural' to the human mind unless it appears in 
all men from birth (sect. 14). What genuine naturalness 
consists in, and by what marks it may be recognised, are 
accordingly discussed (sect. 14-16). Alciphron is obliged 
to allow that beliefs which fail to shew themselves upon 
our first entrance into the world, and which are only im- 
perfectly developed, or not developed at all, in many men, 
may be latent in human nature. He grants at last to 
Euphranor that the proper measure of moral truths is 
their tendency to promote the good of mankind ; and that, 
since men exist for one another, each should consider 
himself part of a social whole, to the common good of 



IO EDITOR S PREFACE TO 

which he is bound by the highest motives. So the 
question to be discussed in the Dialogues that follow 
resolves itself into this : — Has faith in Moral Order, 
Providence, and a Future Life, from which minute philo- 
sophers release themselves, a tendency to promote the 
highest good of mankind ? Is it needed as true rational- 
ism, for the full satisfaction of reason ? 

The Second Dialogue is intended to refute Mandeville, 
whose Fable of the Bees, with its maxim ' private vices are 
public benefits/ and its satire upon man, was in vogue at 
the time. Lysicles, the light-hearted worlding, represents 
Mandeville. Granting the principle already accepted that 
the good of society is the test of right action, are not the 
vices of individuals, he asks, universally useful ? Are not 
virtue and faith in God, on the other hand, inconsis- 
tent with, the general happiness? In the discussion of 
this question, the place of man in nature and the differ- 
ences in kind among pleasures are considered, as well 
as the social injury done by indulgence in pleasures which 
degrade the individual below the true human ideal. 

In the Third Dialogue, Alciphron, adopting Shaftes- 
bury, reduces conscience to taste, enlarges upon the beauty 
of virtue, and disparages faith in a future life as a selfish 
and cowardly appeal to hope and fear. Against this 
Euphranor maintains that a sense of the beauty of good- 
ness is inadequate for making us good, as man needs for 
this a stronger and more awe-inspiring motive than taste : 
the springs of action must be sustained by faith in the 
destiny of man under God. The Third Dialogue leads 
to the connexion between Morality and Religion. 

But the true thinker asks for reason in the faith that 
God exists. The foundation and nature of this belief is, 
accordingly, discussed in the Fourth Dialogue, in which 
the whole argument concentrates. Here Euphranor in- 
troduces Berkeley's conception of the sensible world as 
a visible symbolism into the discussion, arguing (sect. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER II 

8-15) that, as the visible world is a sensible expression 
of Intelligence and Will, each man has the same kind of 
evidence that God exists which he has that a fellow man 
exists when he hears him speaking. The visible world 
is, accordingly, a Divine Language, which contains all the 
signs of a perpetually present God that human words do 
of a man when he is actually addressing us. And our 
knowledge of God, Crito maintains (sect. 19-21), is more 
than negative ; negative knowledge of God being practically 
useless. The reasoning here is opposed to analogical 
theories of Archbishop King, in his Sermon on Pre- 
destination (1709), and of Bishop Browne, in his Answer to 
Toland (1699), his Procedure, Extent, and Limits of Human 
Understanding (1728), and his Analogy (1733) *. We know 
God, Crito concludes, as a living Spirit, who is continually 
communicating with others in and through the symbolism 
of the visible world. 

. The three remaining Dialogues are a vindication of reli- 
gion in its Christian form. I n the Fifth Dialogue, Christianity 
is represented as proved by the experience of mankind to 
be the most useful and ennobling form of religious worship, 
socially elevating far above Greek and Roman and all 
other religions; in the Sixth, it is argued in the faith 
of miracles, events reported in history with a probability 
sufficient to justify practical faith ; and, in the Seventh, 
as not necessarily incredible on account of the mysteries 
of Grace, Incarnation, Trinity, and Moral Agency, which 
are not more mysterious than those found at the root 
of natural science, and indeed of all human experience. 

That Christian thinking is true free-thinking is the 
lesson of the Minute Philosopher: Christian Faith is 

1 The last of those works of pervades the two earlier ones. 

Browne was published after the King's analogical knowledge of 

appearance of Alciphron, which he God is criticised by Browne, 
criticises. The theory, however, 



12 EDITOR S PREFACE TO 

Wisdom in its highest form. Berkeley's Alciphron may 
rank with the Analogy of Butler, and the Pense'es of 
Pascal, as memorable works of the eighteenth and the 
preceding century in the religious philosophy of Europe. 

The Minute Philosopher was attacked soon after its 
appearance. 

The Fourth Dialogue, along with its Theory of Vision, 
occasioned the Letter from an Anonymous Writer, in the 
Daily Post Boy, to which Berkeley replied in his Vindication 
and Explanation of Visual Language. 

The attack upon the Fable of the Bees, in the Second 
Dialogue, called out Mandeville, whose Letter to Dion, occa- 
sioned by his book called Alciphron (1732), complains of 
misrepresentation, and takes refuge under cover of its own 
ambiguous principles \ 

A flippant attack upon the whole performance followed, 
in a tract entitled Remarks on the Minute Philosopher : in 
a Letter from a Country Clergyman to his Friend in London. 

1 Mandeville's Fable of the Bees attention, and was presented as 

appeared in 17 14, in the form of a a nuisance by the grand jury of 

short apologue in verse, called The Middlesex, in 1723. The Present- 

Grumbling Hive : or Knaves turned ment states that books and pamph- 

honest. To these verses the author lets are published almost every 

added long notes and illustrations week against religion and morality ; 

under the name of ' Remarks.' He which affirm fate, deny Divine 

afterwards composed six dialogues Providence, and recommend lux- 

in defence of his doctrine, and ury, avarice, sensuality, and other 

published the whole, in 1728, as vices, as necessary to the pub- 

a prose treatise in two volumes, lie welfare. Mandeville, in his 

entitled The Fable of the Bees: or Letter to Dion, explains that he 

Private Vices Public Benefits. One means merely, thatviceoften proves 

professed purpose of the book is advantageoustotheworldlyinterest 

to shew that selfishness, luxury, of those who are guilty of it, and 

and lust, indulged to a certain to the societies of which they are 

extent, are the foundation and members. He died in 1733. Tenne- 

motive force of social prosperity; mannsaysthatBerkeley's^4/«^/iro« 

that the welfare of society is is chiefly directed against Mande- 

dependent on the immorality of ville and Bishop Browne, but in 

its individual members. This the fact only one of the Seven Dialogues 

author tries to prove, by tracing is devoted to the moral heresies of 

to their consequences some ex- the former, and a few sections in 

amples of vicious actions. The another to Browne, 
original work excited popular 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 13 



The so-called 'Country Clergyman ' was John, Lord Hervey, 
the 'Sporus' of Pope, a familiar figure at the Court of 
Queen Caroline, the inner life of which he has so vividly 
presented to us. Hervey objects to the employment of 
reasoning, especially subtle reasoning, in matters of faith, 
denies that Atheism is a characteristic of so-called free 
thinkers, charges Berkeley with misrepresenting the Fable of 
the Bees, and himself misrepresents the theory of 'Visual 
Language V 

Among other tracts due to Alciphron, there is a curious 
one, dated ' Near Inverness, August 1732,' in the form of 
a letter to a friend in Edinburgh, entitled A Vindication 
of the Reverend D — B — y from the scandalous imputation of 
being the author of a late book, entitled 'Alciphron, or, the 
Minute Philosopher! To the Vindication are subjoined 
' the predictions of the late Earl of Shaftesbury con- 
cerning the book, together with an Appendix, and an 
Advertisement 2 .' 



1 The Country Clergyman sums 
up his Remarks as follows : — 

1 First, That, as the Minute Philo- 
sopher professes writing to the 
Free- thinkers of the present age, 
he should have left Atheism quite 
out of the question ; because it is 
not the error of these times. 

' Secondly, That if it were, he is 
likelier (by telling people his are 
the best arguments to prove a God) 
to make than to convert atheists. 

' Thirdly, That metaphysics are 
an improper method to take for the 
support of Christianity ; because, 
whatever is designed for common 
use should be levelled to common 
apprehension, and whatever is to 
be universally received ought to 
be universally understood. 

1 Fourthly, That as metaphysics 
are generally the most obscure of 
all writings, so his writings are 
the most obscure of all metaphysics. 

1 And Lastly, That, by his manner 



of handling every proposition, he 
always does one or other of these 
three things : — he either begs the 
question, by some arbitrary de- 
cision at the end of the dispute, 
which he had just as good a right 
to make at the beginning of it (as 
in the 16th section of the First 
Dialogue, and the 2nd of the 
Fifth) ; or he puzzles and per- 
plexes the question so much that 
nobody can pick out any decision 
at all (as in his Visual Language) ; 
or else he inadvertently gives up 
the question, by some slip in the 
course of reasoning, which he can 
never afterwards retrieve.' 

a For the ' predictions,' see 
Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. 
III.pp. 29i-296(fifth edition, 1732), 
where he gives reasons ' for avoid- 
ing the direct way of Dialogue; 
which at present lies so low, and 
is used only now and then, in our 
party pamphlets, or new-fangled 



14 editor's preface to 

The most important parts of Alctphron are so connected 
with Berkeley's conception of the material world, and that 
conception was so ill understood by his contemporaries, 
that the work obtained imperfect appreciation in contem- 
poraneous criticism. 

Soon after Berkeley's arrival in Rhode Island, he was 
visited by the Reverend Samuel Johnson, missionary of 
the Church of England at Stratford in Connecticut, an 
acute thinker, and a recent convert to Berkeley's Prin- 
ciples, which he regarded as the best philosophical support 
of religious faith. More than twenty years after his inter- 
course with Berkeley in Rhode Island, Johnson pro- 
duced his Elementa Philosophica, 'printed by Benjamin 
Franklin, at Philadelphia/ in 1752. This little book con- 
sists of two parts— i Ncetica, or things relating to the 
Understanding, and Ethtca, or things relating to the moral 
behaviour.' It is dedicated to Berkeley, and adopts his 
philosophical principles \ 

At Rhode Island, besides successive visits of Johnson, 
Berkeley corresponded with him on questions of philo- 
sophical theology with which they were both engaged. As 
early as June 25, 1729, Berkeley wrote in reply to in- 
quiries and difficulties of Johnson regarding his Immate- 
rialism. The letter is biographjcajly as well as philosophi- 
cally interesting, and along with the letter which follows 

theological essays. For of late the way, records the remark ot 

Dialogue has been introduced into Hurd, that there were only three 

Church-controversy, with an atn Dialogues in English that deserved 

tempt of raillery and humour, as applause — the Moralists of Shaftes- 

a more successful method of deal- bury ; Mr. Addison's Treatise on 

ing with heresy and infidelity. The, Medals; and the Minute Philosopher 

burlesque-divinity grows mightily of Berkeley. See his Essay on 

in vogue. And thecried-upanswers the Genius and Writings of Pope. 

to heterodox discourses are gener- The 'Advertisement' is a squib 

ally such as are written in drollery, occasioned by Dial. V. sect. 22. 

or with resemblance of the facetious , ' This work is rarely found. I 

and humorous language of conver- am indebted to Mr. Sibley, libra- 

sation.' So also vol. I. pp. 65-67, rian of Harvard University, for a 

and vol. III. p. 6, — Warton, by sight of it. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 15 

it, deserves a place among Berkeley's Works, especially in 
connexion with Alciphron, which was in preparation at the 
time they were written l . Here is the first letter : — 

Reverend Sir, 

. The ingenious letter you favoured me with found me very 
much indisposed with a gathering or imposthumation in my 
head, which confined me several weeks, and is now, I thank 
God, relieved 2 . The objections of a candid thinking man to 
what I have written will always be welcome, and I shall not 
fail to give all the satisfaction I am able, not without hopes of 
convincing or being convinced. It is a common fault for men to 
hate opposition, and be too much wedded to their own opinions. 
I am so sensible of this in others that I could not pardon it to 
myself if I considered mine any further than they seem to me 
to be true ; which I shall the better be able to judge of when 
they have passed the scrutiny of persons so well qualified to 
examine them as you and your friends appear to be, to whom 
my illness must be an apology for not sending this answer 
sooner. 

1. The true use and end of Natural Philosophy is to explain 
the phenomena of nature ; which is done by discovering the laws 
of nature, and reducing particular appearances to them. This is 
Sir Isaac Newton's method ; and such method or design is not 
in the least inconsistent with the principles I lay down. This 
mechanical philosophy doth not assign or suppose any one 
natural efficient cause in the strict and proper sense ; nor is it, 
as to its use, concerned about matter; nor is matter connected 
therewith ; nor doth it infer the being of matter 8 . It must be 
owned, indeed, that the mechanical philosophers do suppose 
(though unnecessarily) the being of matter 3 . They do even pre- 
tend to demonstrate that matter is proportional to gravity, which, 
if they could, this indeed would furnish an unanswerable objec- 
tion. But let us examine their demonstration. It is laid down 
in the first place, that the momentum of any body is the product 
of its quantity by its velocity, moles in celeritatem ducta. If, 
therefore, the velocity is given, the momentum will be as its 
quantity. But it is observed that bodies of all kinds descend in 
vacuo with the same velocity ; therefore the momentum of 
descending bodies is as the quantity or moles, 1. e. gravity is as 

1 See my Life and Letters of his letters from this date onwards 
Berkeley (1871), pp. 178-82, where to the end of his life. 

they appear in part. 3 i. e. independent matter, un- 

2 This is one of the not infre- realised in percipient life, 
quent references to ill-health in 



16 editor's preface to 

matter. But this argument concludes nothing, and is a mere 
circle. For, I ask, when it is premised that the momentum is 
equal to the moles in celeritatem ducta, how the moles or quantity 
of matter is estimated ? If you say, by extent, the proposition is 
not true ; if by weight, then you suppose that the quantity of 
matter is proportional to matter ; i. e. the conclusion is taken for 
granted in one of the premises. As for absolute space and 
motion, which are also supposed without any necessity or 
use, I refer you to what I have already published ; particularly 
in a Latin treatise, De Motu, which I shall take care to send 
to you. 

2. Cause is taken in different senses. A proper active 
efficient cause I can conceive none but Spirit ; nor any action, 
strictly speaking, but where there is Will. But this doth not 
hinder the allowing occasional causes (which are in truth but 
signs) ; and more is not requisite in the best physics, i. e. the 
mechanical philosophy. Neither doth it hinder the admitting 
other causes besides God ; such as spirits of different orders, 
which may be termed active causes, as acting indeed, though by 
limited and derivative powers. But as for an unthinking agent, 
no point of physics is explained by it, nor is it conceivable. 

3. Those who have all along contended for a material world 
have yet acknowledged that natura naturans (to use the language 
of the Schoolmen) is God ; and that the divine conservation of 
things is equipollent to, and in fact the same thing with, a con- 
tinued repeated creation : in a word, that conservation and 
creation differ only in the terminus a quo. These are the com- 
mon opinions of the Schoolmen ; and Durandus, who held the 
world to be a machine like a clock, made and put in motion by 
God, but afterwards continuing to go of itself, was therein par- 
ticular, and had few followers. The very poets teach a doctrine 
not unlike the schools, — Mens agitat molem. (Virg. iEneid VI.) 
The Stoics and Platonists are everywhere full of the same notion. 
I am not therefore singular in this point itself, so much as in my 
way of proving it. Further, it seems to me that the power and 
wisdom of God are as worthily set forth by supposing Him to act 
immediately as an omnipresent infinitely active Spirit, as by sup- 
posing Him to act by the mediation of subordinate causes, in 
preserving and governing the natural world. A clock may 
indeed go independent of its maker or artificer, inasmuch as 
the gravitation of its pendulum proceeds from another cause, and 
that the artificer is not the adequate cause of the clock ; so that 
the analogy would not be just to suppose a clock is in respect 
of its artist what the world is in respect of its Creator. For 
aught I can see, it is no disparagement to the perfections of 
God to say that all things necessarily depend on Him as their 
Conservator as well as Creator, and that all nature would shrink 
to nothing, if not upheld and preserved in being by the same 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 17 

force that first created it. This I am sure is agreeable to Holy 
Scripture, as well as to the writings of the most esteemed philo- 
sophers ; and if it is to be considered that men make use of 
tools and machines to supply defect of power in themselves, we 
shall think it no honour to the Divinity to attribute such things 
to him. 

4. As to guilt, it is the same thing whether I kill a man with 
my hands or an instrument ; whether I do it myself or make use 
of a ruffian. The imputation therefore upon the sanctity of God 
is equal, whether we suppose our sensations to be produced 
immediately by God, or by the mediation of instruments and 
subordinate causes, all which are His creatures, and moved by 
His laws. This theological consideration, therefore, may be 
waved, as leading beside the question ; for such I hold all points 
to be which bear equally hard on both sides of it. Difficulties 
about the principle of moral actions will cease, if we consider 
that all guilt is in the will, and that our ideas l , from whatever 
cause they are produced, are alike inert. 

5. As to the art and contrivance in the parts of animals, &c, 
I have considered that matter in the Principles of Human Know- 
ledge, and, if I mistake not, sufficiently shewn the wisdom and 
use thereof, considered as signs and means of information. 
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. What 
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 easy 
to the mind, and take off that shocking appearance which hath 
often been observed to attend speculative truths. 

6. 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 separ- 
ate 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 intervention of these tangible 
things we call bodies. It is even very possible to apprehend 

1 ' our ideas,' i. e. the phenomena that are presented to our senses. 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. C 



18 editor's preface to 

how the soul may have ideas of colour without an eye, or of 
sounds without an ear. 

And now, Sir, I submit these hints (which I have hastily 
thrown together as soon as my illness gave me leave) to your 
own maturer thoughts, which after all you will find the best 
instructors. What you have seen of mine 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 consistently, 
language being framed to 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, by consulting their own minds, and looking 
into their own thoughts. As to the Second Part of my treatise 
concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, the fact is 
that I had made a considerable progress in it ; but the manu- 
script 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 subject. 

Objections passing through your hands have their full force 
and clearness. I like them the better. This intercourse with 
a man of parts and philosophic genius is very agreeable. I sin- 
cerely wish we were nearer neighbours \ In the meantime, 
whenever either you or your friends favour me with their 
thoughts, you may be sure of a punctual correspondence on 
my part. Before I have done I will venture to recommend 
these points : i. To consider well the answers I have already 
given in my books to several objections. 2. To consider 
whether any new objection that shall occur doth not suppose 
the doctrine of abstract general ideas. 3. Whether the diffi- 
culties proposed in objection to my scheme can be solved by 
the contrary ; for if they cannot, it is plain they can be no 
objections to mine. 

I know not whether you have got my treatise concerning the 
Principles of Human Knowledge. I intend to send it to you 
with my tract De Motu. My humble service to your friends, to 
whom I understand I am indebted for some part of your letter. 

I am your faithful humble servant, 

GEORGE BERKELEY. 

Another letter, written after Berkeley was well settled in 
his new home, shews that further explanation was needed 
to set several things in a fuller and clearer light. 

1 Stratford is about 120 miles from Rhode Island. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 19 

Reverend Sir, 

Yours of Feb. 5th came not to my hands before yesterday : 
and this afternoon, being informed that a sloop is ready to sail 
towards your town, I would not let slip the opportunity of 
returning you an answer, though wrote in a hurry. 

1. I have no objection against calling the Ideas in the mind 
of God archetypes of ours. But I object against those arche- 
types by philosophers supposed to be real things, and to have 
an absolute rational existence, distinct from their being per- 
ceived by any mind whatsoever ; it being the opinion of all 
materialists ' that an ideal existence in the Divine Mind is one 
thing, and the real existence of material things another. 

2. As to Space. I have no notion of any but that which is 
relative. I know some late philosophers have attributed exten- 
sion to God, particularly mathematicians, one of whom, in a 
treatise De Spatio Reali 2 , pretends to find out fifteen of the 
incommunicable attributes of God in Space. But it seems to 
me that, they being all negative, he might as well have found 
them in Nothing; and that it would have been as justly inferred 
from Space being impassive, increated, indivisible, &c, that it 
was Nothing as that it was God. 

Sir Isaac Newton supposeth an absolute Space, different 
from relative, and consequent thereto ; absolute Motion different 
from relative motion ; and with all other mathematicians he 
supposeth the infinite divisibility of the finite parts of this 
absolute Space ; he also supposeth material bodies to drift 
therein. Now, though I do acknowledge Sir Isaac to have 
been an extraordinary man, and most profound mathematician, 
yet I cannot agree with him in these particulars. I make no 
scruple to use the word Space, as well as all other words 
in common use ; but I do not thereby mean a distinct 
absolute being. For my meaning I refer you to what I have 
published. 

By the rb viv I suppose to be implied that all things, past and 
to come, are actually present to the mind of God, and that there 
is in Him no change, variation, or succession. A succession of 
ideas I take to constitute Time, and not to be only the sensible 
measure thereof, as Mr. Locke and others think. But in these 
matters every man is to think for himself, and speak as he finds. 
One of my earliest inquiries was about Time, which led me 
into several paradoxes that I did not think fit or necessary to 
publish ; particularly the notion that the Resurrection follows 
the next moment to death. We are confounded and perplexed 

1 He calls all who believe in a De Spacio Reali, seu ente In- 

the independent reality of matter finito : Conamen Math. Metaph. 

'materialists.' ( l l°6)- 

t 11. C 2 



20 EDITOR S PREFACE TO 

about Time, (i) Supposing a succession in God. (a) Conceiving 
that we have an abstract idea of Time. (3) Supposing that the 
Time in one mind is to be measured by the succession of ideas 
in another. (4) Not considering the true use and end of words, 
which as often terminate in the will as in the understanding, 
being employed rather to excite, influence, and direct action, 
than to produce clear and distinct ideas. 

3. That the soul of man is passive as well as active, I make 
no doubt. Abstract general ideas was a notion that Mr. Locke 
held in common with the Schoolmen, and I think all other 
philosophers ; it runs through his whole book of Human Under- 
standing. He holds an abstract idea of Existence ; exclusive of 
perceiving and being perceived. I cannot find I have any such 
idea, and this is my reason against it. Des Cartes proceeds 
upon other principles. One square foot of snow is as white as 
a thousand yards ; one single perception is as truly a perception 
as one hundred. Now, any degree of perception being sufficient 
to Existence, it will not follow that we should say one existed 
more at one time than another, any more than we should say 
a thousand yards of snow are whiter than one yard. But, after 
all, this comes to a verbal dispute. I think it might prevent 
a good deal of obscurity and dispute to examine well what 
I have said about abstraction, and about the true sense and 
significance of words, in several parts of these things that I have 
published l , though much remains to be said on that subject. 

You say you agree with me that there is nothing within your 
mind but God and other spirits, with the attributes or properties 
belonging to them, and the ideas contained in them. 

This is a principle or main point, from which, and from what 
I had laid down about abstract ideas, much may be deduced. 
But if in every inference we should not agree, so long as the 
main points are settled and well understood, I should be less 
solicitous about particular conjectures. I could wish that all the 
things I have published on these philosophical subjects were 
read in the order wherein I published them ; once, to take in the 
design and connexion of them, and a second time with a critical 
eye, adding your own thought and observation upon every part 
as you went along. 

I send you herewith the bound books and one unbound. 
You will take yourself what you have not already. You will 
give the Principles, the Theory, and the Dialogues, one of each, 
with my service, to the gentleman who is Fellow of Newhaven 
College, whose compliments you brought to me. What remains 
you will give as you please. 

If at any time your affairs should draw you into these parts, 
you shall be very welcome to pass as many days as you can 

1 See especially the Introduction to the Principles 0/ Human Knowledge. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 21 

spend at my house. Four or five days' conversation would set 
several things in a fuller and clearer light than writing could do 
in as many months. In the meantime, I shall be glad to hear 
from you or your friends, whenever you please to favour, 
Reverend Sir, 

Your very humble servant, 

GEORGE BERKELEY. 

Pray let me know whether they would admit the writings of 
Hooker and Chillingworth into the Library of the College in 
Newhaven \ 

Rhode Island, March 24, 1730. 

When Berkeley was in Rhode Island, America possessed 
in Jonathan Edwards, at Northampton, its most illustrious 
metaphysician, of whom it has been truly said that he laid 
the foundation of its independent literature, unsurpassed 
among his contemporaries in power of subtle argument. It 
is less known that in early life he adopted Berkeley's con- 
ceptions of the ideal reality of the material world and 
sense-symbolism ; although in interpretating and applying 
the Principles of Causality and Substance he is more akin 
to Collins or Spinoza than to Berkeley, in his celebrated 
Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, which appeared 
in 1754. Long before he had argued for the depen- 
dence of the data of sense for their reality upon percipient 
mind, recognising too that they are not originated or 
ultimately regulated by the human percipient, but by 
God acting uniformly in Nature and in Man. 'The 
world,' he finds to be ' an ideal one ; the law of creating, 
and the succession of ideas in sense, is constant and regu- 
lar. If we suppose that the world is mental, in the sense sup- 
posed, natural philosophy is not in the least affected. . . . 
Place is only mental : within and without are mental concep- 

1 Yale College. He suggests recent withdrawal of Johnson from 
a possible Puritan prejudice against the College and the Congregation- 
Anglican theologians, which might alist communion, and his admission 
have been strengthened by the to the Church of England. 



22 EDITOR'S PREFACE TO ALCIPHRON, ETC. 

tions. When I say the material universe exists only in 
mind, I mean that it is absolutely dependent on the concep- 
tions of mind for its existence ; and does not exist as spirits 
do, whose existence does not consist in, nor in dependence 
on, the conceptions of other minds... .The infinitely exact and 
precise Divine Idea, together with an answerable, perfectly 
exact, precise and stable Will, with respect to corresponding 
communications to created minds, is the substance of all 
bodies.' The conception of the visible world, on which 
the argument in Alciphron turns, based upon Berkeley's 
discovery that the original data of sight are wholly dif- 
ferent from those of touch, is also adopted by Edwards, 
who argues that error is involved in all unenlightened 
common assumptions regarding the material world. 

Edwards does not name Berkeley. It does not appear 
that they ever met or that they were in any way known 
to one another; but the coincidence in their philosophi- 
cal conceptions is interesting, like that between Berke- 
ley and Collier l . At any rate, it is worthy of record that 
Berkeley was preparing Alciphron in Rhode Island in the 
neighbourhood of a disciple so sympathetic as Johnson, 
and an ally so powerful as Jonathan Edwards. 

1 See Appendix on Arthur Collier and Jonathan Edwards, in vol. III. 



ADVERTISEMENT 



The Author's design being to consider the Free-thinker 
in the various lights of atheist, libertine, enthusiast, scorner, 
critic, metaphysician, fatalist, and sceptic, it must not there- 
fore be imagined that every one of these characters agrees 
with every individual Free-thinker ; no more being implied 
than that each part agrees with some or other of the sect. 
There may, possibly, be a reader who shall think the char- 
acter of atheist agrees with none ; but though it hath been 
often said there is no such thing as a speculative atheist, 
yet we must allow there are several atheists who pretend to 
speculation. This the Author knows to be true ; and is 
well assured that one of the most noted writers against 
Christianity in our times declared he had found out a 
demonstration against the being of a God \ And he doubts 



1 Anthony Collins is apparently 
the writer referred to. The follow- 
ing passage in Chandler's ' Life ' 
(P- 57) of Johnson is interesting : — 
' While the Dean [Berkeley] re- 
sided at Rhode Island, he com- 
posed his Alciphron, or, Minute 
Philosopher, written by way of dia- 
logue, in the manner of Plato. The 
design of it was to vindicate the 
Christian religion, in answer to 
the various objections and cavils 
of atheists, libertines, enthusiasts, 
scorners, critics, metaphysicians, 
fatalists, and sceptics. In the 
"Advertisement " prefixed to these 
Dialogues, the author affirms that 
he was well assured one of the 
most noted writers against Chris- 
tianity had declared he had found 
out a demonstration against the 



being of a God. Mr. Johnson, 
in one of his visits to the Dean, 
conversing with him on the sub- 
ject of the work then on hand, 
was more particularly informed by 
him, that he himself (the Dean) had 
heard this strange declaration, while 
he was present in one of the deistical 
clubs in London, in the pretended 
character of a learner ; that Collins 
was the man who made it ; and 
that the "demonstration "was what 
he afterwards published, in an 
attempt to prove that every action 
is the effect of fate and necessity, 
in his book entitled A Philosophical 
Inquiry concerning Human Liberty. 
And indeed, could the point be 
once established, that everything is 
produced by fate and necessity, 
it would naturally follow that there 



24 



author's advertisement to 



not, whoever will be at the pains to inform himself, by a 
general conversation, as well as books, of the principles and 
tenets of our modern Free-thinkers, will see too much cause 
to be persuaded that nothing in the ensuing characters is 
beyond the life. 

[ l As the author hath not confined himself to write against 
books alone, so he thinks it necessary to make thisdeclaration. 
It must not, therefore, be thought that authors are misre- 
presented, if every notion of Alciphron or Lysicles is not 
found precisely in them. A gentleman in private conference, 
may be supposed to speak plainer than others write, to 
improve on their hints, and draw conclusions from their 
principles. 

Whatever they pretend, it is the author's opinion that all 
those who write, either explicitly or by insinuation, against 
the dignity, freedom, and immortality of the Human Soul, 



is no God; or that He is a very 
useless and insignificant Being, 
which amounts to the same thing.' 
Collins's Philosophical Inquiry 
concerning Human Liberty was first 
published in 17 15. It is virtually 
an argument against a finally 
ethical conception of the uni- 
verse. The second edition of this 
book followed in 1717, in which 
year Dr. Samuel Clarke published 
Remarks upon the 'Philosophical 
Inquiry concerning Human Liberty,' 
as a reply to Collins. In 1729, 
shortly after Clarke's death, a 
reply to his Remarks, attributed 
to Collins, appeared, in the form 
of a Dissertation on Liberty and 
Necessity : wherein the powers of ideas, 
from their first entrance into the soul, 
until their production of action, is 
delineated ; with some Remarks upon 
the late Reverend Dr. Clarke's reason- 
ing on this point. By A. C, Esq. 
The reply was unknown to Dugald 
Stewart (Dissertation, art. Collins). 
Collins died in 1729. Athirdedition 
of his Philosophical Inquiry appeared 

in nas- 

The way in which Berkeley here 
and elsewhere refers to Collins is 



difficult to reconcile with the affec- 
tionate regard which Locke in his 
old age expressed for the youthful 
Essex squire, who was his devoted 
friend. 

The question raised by Collins 
was the occasion of various tracts, 
in defence and attack, about the 
time of the publication of Alciphron. 
In particular John Jackson, Rector 
of Rossington, and Dr. Gretton, 
Rector of Springfield, Essex, re- 
plied, in 1730, to the ' Dissertation 
of A. C.,' published in the preced- 
ing year. The controversy between 
Clarke and Collins is alluded to in 
(Corry's ?) Reflections upon Liberty 
and Necessity, London, 1761, where 
it is said (p. 7) that the threatened 
interposition of the magistrates 
hindered Collins from defending 
his Philosophical Inquiry. The 
English literature of the contro- 
versy about moral agency in man 
and in the universe, in the former 
part of last century, is copious 
and curious; as also in the pre- 
ceding century, when it engaged 
Hobbes, Bramhall, and Cudworth. 

1 The bracketed paragraphs were 
introduced in the second edition. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 25 

may so far forth be justly said to unhinge the principles of 
morality, and destroy the means of making men reasonably 
virtuous. Much is to be apprehended from that quarter 
against the interests of virtue. Whether the apprehension 
of a certain admired writer l , that the cause of virtue is likely 
to suffer less from its witty antagonists than from its tender 
nurses, who are apt to overlay it, and kill it with excess of 
care and cherishing, and make it a mercenary thing, by 
talking so much of its reward — whether, I say, this appre- 
hension be so well founded, the reader must determine.] 

As for the Treatise concerning Vision, why the Author 
annexed it to the ' Minute Philosopher ' will appear upon 
perusal of the Fourth Dialogue 2 . 

1 [Essay on the Freedom of Wit the prominent figure, 

and Humour, Part II. sect. 3.] — 2 The Essay on Vision is not ap- 

Author. The allusion is, of course, pended to the author's third edition 

to Shaftesbury. Cf. Alciphron, (1752). 
Dial. Ill, in which Shaftesbury is 



CONTENTS 

THE FIRST DIALOGUE. 



a. Aha and t iV jtcnrs of free-thinkers. 

3. Opposed by Ac clergy. 

4. Liberty of free-thinking. 

5. Farther accoomt of the views of free-thinkers. 
61 The progress of a bee-thinker towards alhrr«aa. 

7. Joist isipiiilsii of the priest and wagistrate. 

8. The fk ee-thmker's ■aetfaod in nriking converts and disc oicrm. 

9. The atheist alone free. His sense of natural good and eviL 

10. Modern free-thinkers wore ptopulj ninvd nrihate philosophers, 
ix. Mmnte philosophers, what sort of men, and how educated. 

12. Their nnndii 1 1, progn 

13. Ci— iiiiid with other ] 

14. What dungs: 
15- Trath the saa 
16. Role and awasnre of axaal truths. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE. 

K. Valgar error— That vice is hnrtfuL 

a. The benefit of ihnnlmni 11 )„ gaanag, and whoring. 

3. PrejndKe J^ii n tl vice wearing off. 

4. Ilinufwlm 111 ilnililiilin llii in Inn 11 nfTillirln milTrlr ifli 

5. The reasoning of Ljsides in behalf of rice examined. 

6. Wrong to paaish actions, when the doc tr ines whence they flow are 




ALCIPHROS OR THE MDfUTE PHIIOSOFHEK 



27 




THE THIRD DIALOGUE. 

:ofl 




THE FOURTH DIALOGUE. 



:: be 



1 BaA 



3. Wb* sort of proof be experts. 
4- Wbeace we coflert tbe bag « 
5-Tbes- 
6. Aidpbro. s 
-. fed qpoia 




28 CONTENTS TO 

ir. The signification of this language learned by experience. 

12. God explaineth Himself to the eyes of men by the arbitrary use of 

sensible signs. 

13. The prejudice and two-fold aspect of a minute philosopher. 

14. God present to mankind, informs, admonishes, and directs them in 

a sensible manner. 

15. Admirable nature and use of this Visual Language. 

16. Minute philosophers content to admit a God in certain senses. 

17. Opinion of some who hold that knowledge and wisdom are not pro- 

perly in God. 

18. Dangerous tendency of this notion. 

19. Its original. 

20. The sense of schoolmen upon it 

21. Scholastic use of the terms Analogy and Analogical explained : 

analogical perfections of God misunderstood. 

22. God intelligent, wise, and good in the proper sense of the words. 

23. Objection from moral evil considered. 

24. Men argue from their own defects against a Deity. 

25. Religious worship reasonable and expedient. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE. 

1. Minute philosophers join in the cry, and follow the scent of others. 

2. Worship prescribed by the Christian religion suitable to God and man. 

3. Power and influence of the Druids. 

4. Excellency and usefulness of the Christian religion. 

5. It ennobles mankind, and makes them happy. 

6. Religion neither bigotry nor superstition. 

7. Physicians and physic for the soul. 

8. Character of the Clergy. 

9. Natural religion and human reason not to be disparaged. 

10. Tendency and use of the Gentile religion. 

11. Good effects of Christianity. 

12. Englishmen compared with ancient Greeks and Romans. 

13. The modern practice of duelling. 

14. Character of the old Romans, how to be formed. 

15. Genuine fruits of the Gospel. 

16. Wars and factions not an effect of the Christian religion. 

17. Civil rage and massacres in Greece and Rome. 

18. Virtue of ancient Greeks. 

19. Quarrels of polemical divines. 

20. Tyranny, usurpation, sophistry of ecclesiastics. 

21. The Universities censured. 

22. Divine writings of a certain modern critic. 

23. Learning the effect of religion. 

24. Barbarism of the schools. 

25. Restoration of learning and polite arts, to whom owing. 

26. Prejudice and ingratitude of minute philosophers. 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 29 

27. Their pretensions and conduct inconsistent. 

28. Men and brutes compared with respect to religion. 

29. Christianity the only means to establish natural religion. 

30. Free-thinkers mistake their talents ; have a strong imagination. 

31. Tithes and church-lands. 

32. Men distinguished from human creatures. 

33. Distribution of mankind into birds, beasts, and fishes. 

34. Plea for reason allowed, but unfairness taxed. 

35. Freedom a blessing or a cur;se as it is used. 

36. Priestcraft not the reigning evil. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE. 

1. Points agreed. 

2. Sundry pretences to revelation. 

3. Uncertainty of tradition. 

4. Object and ground of faith. 

5. Some books disputed, others evidently spurious. 

6. Style and composition of Holy Scripture. 

7. Difficulties occurring therein. 

8. Obscurity not always a defect. 

9. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd. 

10. Objections from the form and matter of Divine revelation considered. 

11. Infidelity an effect of narrowness and prejudice. 

12. Articles of Christian faith not unreasonable. 

13. Guilt the natural parent of fear. 

14. Things unknown, reduced to the standard of what men know. 

15. Prejudices against the Incarnation of the Son of God. 

16. Ignorance of the Divine CEconomy, a source of difficulties. 

17. Wisdom of God, foolishness to man. 

18. Reason, no blind guide. 

19. Usefulness of Divine revelation. 

20. Prophecies, whence obscure. 

21. Eastern accounts of time older than the Mosaic. 

22. The humour of ^Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other nations 

extending their antiquity beyond truth accounted for. 

23. Reasons confirming the Mosaic account. 

24. Profane historians inconsistent. 

25. Ceisus, Porphyry, and Julian. 

26. The testimony of Josephus considered. 

27. Attestation of Jews and Gentiles to Christianity. 
38. Forgeries and heresies. 

29. Judgment and attention of minute philosophers. 

30. Faith and miracles. 

31. Probable arguments a sufficient ground of faith. 

32. The Christian religion able to stand the test of rational inquiry. 



30 CONTENTS TO ALCIPHRON 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE. 

i. Christian faith impossible. 

2. Words stand for ideas. 

3. No knowledge or faith without ideas. 

4. Grace, no idea of it. 

[5. Abstract ideas what and how made. 

6. Abstract general ideas impossible. 

7. In what sense there may be general ideas.l ' 

5. [8.] Suggesting ideas not the only use of words. 

6. [9.] Force as difficult to form an idea of as grace. 

7. [10.] Notwithstanding which useful propositions may be formed con- 

cerning it. 

8. [11.] Belief of the Trinity and other mysteries not absurd. 

9. [12.] Mistakes about faith an occasion of profane raillery. 

10. [13.] Faith, its true nature and effects. 

11. [14.] Illustrated by science. 

12. [15.] By arithmetic in particular. 

13. [16.] Sciences conversant about signs. 

14. [17.] The true end of speech, reason, science, and faith. 

15. [18.] Metaphysical objections as strong against human sciences as 

articles of Faith. 

16. [19.] No religion, because no human liberty. 

17. [20.] Farther proof against human liberty. 

18. [a 1.] Fatalism a consequence of erroneous suppositions. 

19. [22.] Man an accountable agent. 

20. [23.] Inconsistency, singularity, and credulity of minute philosophers. 

31. [34.] Untrodden paths and new light of the minute philosophers. 
22 [25.] Sophistry of the minute philosophers. 

23. [26.] Minute philosophers ambiguous, aenigmatical, unfathomable. 

24. [27.] Scepticism of the minute philosophers. 

25. [28.] How a sceptic ought to behave. 

26. [29.] Minute philosophers why difficult to convince. 

27. [30.] Thinking not the epidemical evil of these times. 

28. [31.] Infidelity not an effect of reason or thought — its true motives 

assigned. 

29. [32.] Variety of opinions about religion, effects thereof. 
3°- (33-1 Method for proceeding with minute philosophers. 

31. [34.] Want of thought and want of education defects of the present age. 

' For explanation of bracketed numbers see p. 323 below. 



ALCIPHRON 



OR 



THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 1 . 



Introduction. 

by the clergy, 

the views of free-thinkers 



Aim and endeavours of free-thinkers. 3. Opposed 

4. Liberty of free-thinking. 5. Farther account of 

6. The progress of a free-thinker towards 



atheism. 7. Joint imposture of the priest and magistrate. 8. The 
free-thinker's method in making converts and discoveries. 9. The 
atheist alone free. His sense of natural good and evil. 10. Modern 
free-thinkers more properly named minute philosophers. 11. Minute 
philosophers, what sort of men, and how educated. 12. Their 
numbers, progress, and tenets. 13. Compared with other philo- 
sophers. 14. What things and notions to be esteemed natural. 
15. Truth the same, notwithstanding diversity of opinion. 16. Rule 
and measure of moral truths. 



i. I flattered myself, Theages, that before this time 
I might have been able to have sent you an agreeable 
account of the success of the affair which brought me into 
this remote corner of the country. But, instead of this, 
I should now give you the detail of its miscarriage, if I 
did not rather choose to entertain you with some amusing 



1 In this Dialogue we are in- 
troduced to the interlocutors and 
to the sect of Free-thinkers, or 
Minute Philosophers, personified, 
in one aspect, by Alciphron, i.e. 
Strong-Mind — sarcastically, and by 
Lysicles, the man of pleasure, in 



another. The scenes supposed are 
in Rhode Island, around White- 
hall, Berkeley's American home 
where he wrote Alciphron, and 
where he was informed of the 
' miscarriage' of his Bermuda enter- 
prise. 



32 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

incidents, which have helped to make me easy under a 
circumstance I could neither obviate nor foresee. Events 
are not in our power ; but it always is, to make a good use 
even of the very worst. And, I must needs own, the 
course and event of this affair gave opportunity for re- 
flexions that make me some amends for a great loss of 
time, pains, and expense. A life of action, which takes its 
issues from the counsels, passions, and views of other men, 
if it doth not draw a man to imitate, will at least teach him 
to observe. And a mind at liberty to reflect on its own 
observations, if it produce nothing useful to the world, 
seldom fails of entertainment to itself. For several months 
past, I have enjoyed such liberty and leisure in this distant 
retreat, far beyond the verge of that great whirlpool of 
business, faction, and pleasure, which is called the world. 
And a retreat in itself agreeable, after a long scene of 
trouble and disquiet, was made much more so by the con- 
versation and good qualities of my host, Euphranor, who 
unites in his own person the philosopher and the farmer, 
two characters not so inconsistent in nature as by custom 
they seem to be. 

Euphranor, from the time he left the university, hath 
lived in this small town, where he is possessed of a con- 
venient house with a hundred acres of land adjoining to 
it; which, being improved by his own labour, yield him 
a plentiful subsistence. He hath a good collection, chiefly 
of old books, left him by a clergyman his uncle, under 
whose care he was brought up. And the business of his 
farm doth not hinder him from making good use of it. 
He hath read much, and thought more; his health and 
strength of body enabling him the better to bear fatigue of 
mind. He is of opinion that he could not carry on his 
studies with more advantage in the closet than the field, 
where his mind is seldom idle while he prunes the trees, 
follows the plough, or looks after his flocks. 

In the house of this honest friend I became acquainted 
with Crito, a neighbouring gentleman of distinguished 
merit and estate, who lives in great friendship with 
Euphranor. 

Last summer, Crito, whose parish-church is in our town, 
dining on a Sunday at Euphranor's, I happened to inquire 
after his guests, whom we had seen at church with him the 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 33 

Sunday before. They are both well, said Crito, but, having 
once occasionally conformed, to see what sort of assembly 
our parish could afford, they had no further curiosity to 
gratify at church, and so chose to stay at home. How, 
said Euphranor, are they then dissenters ? No, replied 
Crito, they are free- thinkers. Euphranor, who had never 
met with any of this species or sect of men, and but little 
of their writings, shewed a great desire to know their prin- 
ciples or system. That is more, said Crito, than I will 
undertake to tell you. Their writers are of different 
opinions. Some go farther, and explain themselves more 
freely than others. But the current general notions of the 
sect are best learned from conversation with those who 
profess themselves of it. Your curiosity may now be 
satisfied, if you and Dion ' would spend a week at my 
house with these gentlemen, who seem very ready to 
declare and propagate their opinions. Alciphron is above 
forty, and no stranger either to men or books. I knew 
him first at the Temple, which, upon an estate's falling to 
him, he quitted, to travel through the polite parts of 
Europe. Since his return he hath lived in the amuse- 
ments of the town, which, being grown stale and tasteless 
to his palate, have flung him into a sort of splenetic 
indolence. The young gentleman, Lysicles, is a near 
kinsman of mine, one of lively parts and a general insight 
into letters, who, after having passed the forms of educa- 
tion, and seen a little of the world, fell into an intimacy 
with men of pleasure and free-thinkers, I am afraid much 
to the damage of his constitution and his fortune. But 
what I most regret is the corruption of his mind, by a set 
of pernicious principles, which, having been observed to 
survive the passions of youth, forestall even the remote 
hopes of amendment. They are both men of fashion, and 
would be agreeable enough, if they did not fancy them- 
selves free-thinkers. But this, to speak the truth, has given 
them a certain air and manner, which a little too visibly 
declare they think themselves wiser than the rest of the 
world. I should therefore be not at all displeased if my 



1 Dion personifies Berkeley. Philosopher.' By the Author of 

See Letter to Dion, occasioned by his the ' Fable of the Bees.' (London, 

book called 'Alciphron, or the Minute 1732.) 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. J) 



34 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

guests met with their match, where they least expected 
it — in a country farmer. I shall not, replied Euphranor, 
pretend to any more than barely to inform myself of their 
principles and opinions. For this end I propose to-morrow 
to set a week's task to my labourers, and accept your in- 
vitation, if Dion thinks good. To which I gave consent. 
Meanwhile, said Crito, I shall prepare my guests, and let 
them know that an honest neighbour hath a mind to dis- 
course with them on the subject of their free-thinking. 
And, if I am not much mistaken, they will please them- 
selves with the prospect of leaving a convert behind them, 
even in a country village. 

Next morning Euphranor rose early, and spent the fore- 
noon in ordering his affairs. After dinner we took our walk 
to Crito's, which lay through half a dozen pleasant fields 
planted round with plane-trees, that are very common in 
this part of the country. We walked under the delicious 
shade of these trees for about an hour before we came to 
Crito's house, which stands in the middle of a small park, 
beautified with two fine groves of oak and walnut, and 
a winding stream of sweet and clear water \ We met a 
servant at the door with a small basket of fruit, which he 
was carrying into a grove, where he said his master was 
with the two strangers. We found them all three sitting 
under a shade. And after the usual forms at first meeting, 
Euphranor and I sat down by them. 

Our conversation began upon the beauty of this rural 
scene, the fine season of the year, and some late improve- 
ments which had been made in the adjacent country by 
new methods of agriculture. Whence Alctphron took 
occasion to observe, that the most valuable improvements 
came latest. I should have small temptation, said he, to 
live where men have neither polished manners, nor im- 
proved minds, though the face of the country were ever so 
well improved. But I have long observed that there is 
a gradual progress in human affairs. The first care of 
mankind is to supply the cravings of nature ; in the next 
place they study the conveniences and comforts of life. 
But the subduing prejudices, and acquiring true knowledge, 
that Herculean labour, is the last; being what demands 

1 This is a picture of a scene near Whitehall. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 35 

the most perfect abilities, and to which all other advantages 
are preparative. Right, said Euphranor, Alciphron hath 
touched our true defect. It was always my opinion that 
as soon as we had provided subsistence for the body our 
next care should be to improve the mind. But the desire 
of wealth steps between, and engrosseth men's thoughts. 

2. Alciphron. Thought is that which we are told dis- 
tinguished man from beast; and freedom of thought makes 
as great a difference between man and man. It is to the 
noble assertors of this privilege and perfection of human 
kind, the free-thinkers I mean, who have sprung up and 
multiplied of late years ', that we are indebted for all those 
important discoveries, that ocean of light, which hath broke 
in and made its way, in spite of slavery and superstition. 

Euphranor, who is a sincere enemy to both, testified a 
great esteem for those worthies who had preserved their 
country from being ruined by them, having spread so much 
light and knowledge over the land. He added, that he 
liked the name and character of a free-thinker : but, in his 
sense of the word, every honest inquirer after truth in any 
age or country was entitled to it. He therefore desired to 
know what this sect was that Alciphron had spoken of as 
newly sprung up ; what were their tenets ; what were their 
discoveries ; and wherein they employed themselves for 
the benefit of mankind. Of all which, he should think 
himself obliged, if Alciphron would inform him. 

That I shall very easily, replied Alciphron, for I profess 
myself one of the number, and my most intimate friends 
are some of the most considerable among them. 

And, perceiving that Euphranor heard him with respect, 

1 See Collins' Discourse of Free- the narrow sort which, according 
thinking, occasioned by the rise to Bacon, ' inclineth Man's mind to 
and groivth of a sect called Free- Atheism, while deeper philosophy 
thinkers (1713). The free-thinkers bringeth men's minds about to re- 
are called ' minute philosophers ' ligion ; for while the mind of man 
by Berkeley, because they leave looketh upon second causes scatter- 
out of their philosophy all that ed, it may sometimes rest within 
transcends the data of the senses, and go no further, but when it be- 
and are therefore faithless to truth, holdeth the chain of them con- 
because faithless to the spiritual federate, and linked together, it 
foundation of the whole. Their must needs fly to Providence and 
philosophy is treated by him as of Deity.' 

D2 



36 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

he proceeded very fluently. — You must know, said he, that 
the mind of man may be fitly compared to a piece of land. 
What stubbing, ploughing, digging, and harrowing are to 
the one, that thinking, reflecting, examining are to the 
other. Each hath its proper culture ; and, as land that 
is suffered to lie waste and wild for a long tract of time will 
be overspread with brush-wood, brambles, thorns, and such 
vegetables which have neither use nor beauty; even so 
there will not fail to sprout up in a neglected uncultivated 
mind a great number of prejudices and absurd opinions, 
which owe their origin partly to the soil itself, the passions 
and imperfections of the mind'of man, and partly to those 
seeds which chance to be scattered in it by every wind of 
doctrine, which the cunning of statesmen, the singularity 
of pedants, the superstition of fools, or the imposture of 
priests shall raise. Represent to yourself the mind of 
man, or human nature in general, that for so many ages 
had lain obnoxious to the frauds of designing and the 
follies of weak men ; how it must be overrun with pre- 
judices and errors, what firm and deep roots they must 
have taken, and consequently how difficult a task it must 
be to extirpate them ! And yet this work, no less difficult 
than glorious, is the employment of the modern free- 
thinkers. Alciphron having said this made a pause, and 
looked round on the company. 

Truly, said I, a very laudable undertaking ! 

We think, said Euphranor, that it is praiseworthy to 
clear and subdue the earth, to tame brute animals, to 
fashion the outsides of men, provide sustenance for their 
bodies, and cure their maladies. But what is all this in 
comparison of that most excellent and useful undertaking — 
to free mankind from their errors, and to improve and 
adorn their minds. For things of less merit towards the 
world altars have been raised, and temples built, in ancient 
times. 

Too many in our days, replied Alciphron, are such fools 
as not to know their best benefactors from their worst 
enemies. They have a blind respect for those who enslave 
them, and look upon their deliverers as a dangerous sort of 
men thatwould undermine received principles and opinions. 

Euphranor. It were a great pity such worthy ingenious 
men should meet with any discouragement. For my part. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 37 

I should think a man who spent his time in such a painful 
impartial search after truth a better friend to mankind 
than the greatest statesman or hero ; the advantage of 
whose labours is confined to a little part of the world and a 
short space of time, whereas a ray of truth may enlighten 
the whole world and extend to future ages. 

Ale. It will be some time I fear before the common herd 
think as you do. But the better sort, the men of parts and 
polite education, pay a due regard to the patrons of light 
and truth. 

3. Euph. The clergy, no doubt, are on all occasions 
ready to forward and applaud your worthy endeavours. 

Upon hearing this Lysicles could hardly refrain from 
laughing. And Alciphron with an air of pity told Euph- 
ranor that he perceived he was unacquainted with the real 
character of those men. For, saith he, you must know 
that of all men living they are our greatest enemies. If 
it were possible, they would extinguish the very light of 
nature, turn the world into a dungeon, and keep mankind 
for ever in chains and darkness. 

Euph. I never imagined anything like this of our 
Protestant clergy, particularly those of the Established 
Church, whom, if I may be allowed to judge by what I 
have seen of them and their writings, I should have 
thought lovers of learning and useful knowledge. 

Ale. Take my word for it, priests of all religions are the 
same : wherever there are priests there will be priestcraft ; 
and wherever there is priestcraft there will be a persecuting 
spirit, which they never fail to exert to the utmost of their 
power against all those who have the courage to think for 
themselves, and will not submit to be hoodwinked and 
manacled by their reverend leaders. Those great masters 
of pedantry and jargon have coined several systems, which 
are all equally true, and of equal importance to the world. 
The contending sects are each alike fond of their own, 
and alike prone to discharge their fury upon all who 
dissent from them. Cruelty and ambition being the 
darling vices of priests and churchmen all the world 
over, they endeavour in all countries to get an ascendant 
over the rest of mankind ; and the magistrate, having 
a joint interest with the priest in subduing, amusing, and 



38 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

scaring the people, too often lends a hand to the hierarchy, 
who never think their authority and possessions secure, 
so long as those who differ from them in opinion are 
allowed to partake even in the common rights belonging 
to their birth or species. To represent the matter in 
a true light, figure to yourselves a monster or spectre 
made up of superstition and enthusiasm, the joint issue 
of statecraft and priestcraft, rattling chains in one hand, 
and with the other brandishing a flaming sword over the 
land, and menacing destruction to all who shall dare to 
follow the dictates of Reason and Common Sense. Do 
but consider this, and then say if there was not danger 
as well as difficulty in our undertaking. Yet, such is 
the generous ardour that truth inspires, our free-thinkers 
are neither overcome by the one nor daunted by the other. 
In spite of both we have already made so many proselytes 
among the better sort, and their numbers increase so fast, 
that we hope we shall be able to carry all before us, beat 
down the bulwarks of all tyranny, secular or ecclesiastical, 
break the fetters and chains of our countrymen, and restore 
the original inherent rights, liberties, and prerogatives of 
mankind. 

Euphranor heard this discourse with his mouth open, 
and his eyes fixed upon Alciphron, who, having uttered 
it with no small emotion, stopped to draw breath and 
recover himself; but, finding that nobody made answer, 
he resumed the thread of his discourse, and, turning to 
Euphranor, spoke in a lower note what follows : — The 
more innocent and honest a man is, the more liable is 
he to be imposed on by the specious pretences of other 
men. You have probably met with certain writings of 
our divines that treat of grace, virtue, goodness, and such 
matters, fit to amuse and deceive a simple, honest mind. 
But, believe me when I tell you they are all at bottom 
(however they may gild their designs) united by one 
common principle in the same interest. I will not deny 
there may be here and there a poor half-witted man that 
means no mischief ; but this I will be bold to say, that all 
the men of sense among them are true at bottom to these 
three pursuits of ambition, avarice, and revenge. 

4. While Alciphron was speaking, a servant came to tell 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 39 

him and Lysicles that some men who were going to London 
waited to receive their orders. Whereupon they both 
rose up, and went towards the house. They were no 
sooner gone but Euphranor, addressing himself to Crito, 
said, he believed that poor gentleman had been a great 
sufferer for his free-thinking ; for that he seemed to ex- 
press himself with the passion and resentment natural to 
men who have received very bad usage. 

I believe no such thing, answered Crito, but have often 
observed those of his sect run into two faults of conversa- 
tion, declaiming and bantering, just as the tragic or the 
comic humour prevails. Sometimes they work themselves 
into high passions, and are frightened at spectres of their 
own raising. In those fits every country curate passes 
for an inquisitor. At other times they affect a sly facetious 
manner, making use of hints and allusions, expressing 
little, insinuating much, and upon the whole seeming to 
divert themselves with the subject and their adversaries. 
But, if you would know their opinions, you must make 
them speak out and keep close to the point. Persecution 
for free-thinking is a topic they are apt to enlarge on, 
though without any just cause, every one being at full 
liberty to think what he pleases, there being no such thing 
in England that I know as persecution for opinion, 
sentiment, or thought. But in every country, I suppose, 
some care is taken to restrain petulant speech, and, what- 
ever men's inward thoughts may be, to discourage an 
outward contempt of what the public esteemeth sacred. 
Whether this care in England hath of late been so ex- 
cessive as to distress the subject of this once free and easy 
government, whether the free-thinkers can truly complain 
of any hardship upon the score of conscience or opinion, 
you will better be able to judge, when you hear from 
themselves an account of the numbers, progress, and 
notions of their sect ; which I doubt not they will com- 
municate fully and freely, provided nobody present seem 
shocked or offended : for in that case it is possible good 
manners may put them upon some reserve. 

Oh ! said Euphranor, I am never angry with any man 
for his opinion : whether he be Jew, Turk, or Idolator, he 
may speak his mind freely to me without fear of offending. 



40 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

I should even be glad to hear what he hath to say, 
provided he saith it in an ingenuous candid manner. 
Whoever digs in the mine of truth I look on as my 
fellow-labourer ; but if, while I am taking true pains, he 
diverts himself with teasing me, and flinging dust in mine 
eyes, I shall soon be tired of him. 

5. In the meantime, Alciphron and Lysicles, having 
despatched what they went about, returned to us. Lysicles 
sat down where he had been before. But Alciphron stood 
over against usj with his arms folded across, and his head 
reclined on the left shoulder, in the posture of a man 
meditating. We sat silent, not to disturb his thoughts ; 
and after two or three minutes he uttered these words — 
Oh truth ! oh liberty ! After which he remained musing 
as before. 

Upon this Euphranor took the freedom to interrupt him. 
Alciphron, said he, it is not fair to spend your time in 
soliloquies. The conversation of learned and knowing 
men is rarely to be met with in this corner, and the 
opportunity you have put into my hands I value too much 
not to make the best use of it. 

Ale. Are you then in earnest a votary of truth, and is it 
possible you should bear the liberty of a fair inquiry ? 

Euph. It is what I desire of all things. 

Ale. What ! upon every subject ? upon the notions you 
first sucked in with your milk, and which have been 
ever since nursed by parents, pastors, tutors, religious 
assemblies, books of devotion, and such methods of pre- 
possessing men's minds ? 

Euph. I love information upon all subjects that come in 
my way, and especially upon those that are most important. 

Ale. If then you are in earnest, hold fair and stand 
firm, while I probe your prejudices and extirpate your 
principles. 

Dum veteres avias tibi de pulmone revello. 

Having said thus, Alciphron knit his brows and made 
a short pause, after which he proceeded in the following 
manner: — 

If we are at the pains to dive and penetrate into the 
bottom of things, and analyse opinions into their first 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 41 

principles, we shall find that those opinions which are 
thought of greatest consequence have the slightest original, 
being derived either from the casual customs of the country 
where we live, or from early instruction instilled into 
our tender minds, before we are able to discern between 
right and wrong, true and false. The vulgar (by whom 
I understand all those who do not make a free use of their 
reason) are apt to take these prejudices for things sacred 
and unquestionable ; believing them to be imprinted on 
the hearts of men by God Himself, or conveyed by revela- 
tion from heaven, or to carry with them so great light and 
evidence as must force an assent without any inquiry or 
examination. Thus the shallow vulgar have their heads 
furnished with sundry conceits, principles, and doctrines- 
religious, moral, and political— all which they maintain 
with a zeal proportionable to their want of reason. On 
the other hand, those who duly employ their faculties in the 
search of truth, take especial care to weed out of their 
minds, and extirpate all such notions or prejudices as were 
planted in them before they arrived at the free and entire 
use of reason. This difficult task hath been successfully 
performed by our modern free-thinkers, who have not only 
dissected with great sagacity the received systems, and 
traced every established prejudice to the fountain-head, 
the true and genuine motives of assent : but also, having 
been able to embrace in one comprehensive view the several 
parts and ages of the world, they observed a wonderful 
variety of customs and rites, of institutions religious and 
civil, of notions and opinions very unlike, and even con- 
trary one to another — a certain sign they cannot all be 
true. And yet they are all maintained by their several 
partisans with the same positive air and warm zeal ; and, if 
examined, will be found to bottom on one and the same 
foundation, the strength of prejudice. By the help of these 
remarks and discoveries, they have broke through the 
bands of popular custom, and, having freed themselves 
from imposture, do now generously lend a hand to their 
fellow- subjects, to lead them into the same paths of light 
and liberty. Thus, gentlemen, I have given you a summary 
account of the views and endeavours of those men who are 
called free-thinkers. If, in the course of what I have said, 
or shall say hereafter, there be some things contrary to 



42 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

your preconceived opinions, and therefore shocking and 
disagreeable, you will pardon the freedom and plainness 
of a philosopher, and consider that, whatever displeasure 
I give you of that kind, I do it in strict regard to truth, 
and obedience to your own commands. I am very sensible 
that eyes long kept in the dark cannot bear a sudden view 
of noonday light, but must be brought to it by degrees. 
It is for this reason the ingenious gentlemen of our pro- 
fession are accustomed to proceed gradually, beginning 
with those prejudices to which men have the least attach- 
ment, and thence proceeding to undermine the rest by 
slow and insensible degrees, till they have demolished the 
whole fabric of human folly and superstition. But the 
little time I can propose to spend here obligeth me to take 
a shorter course, and be more direct and plain than 
possibly may be thought to suit with prudence and good 
manners. 

Upon this, we assured him, he was at full liberty to 
speak his mind of things, persons, and opinions, without 
the least reserve. 

It is a liberty, replied Alciphron, that we free-thinkers 
are equally willing to give and take. We love to call 
things by their right names, and cannot endure that truth 
should suffer through complaisance. Let us, therefore, 
lay it down for a preliminary, that no offence be taken 
at anything, whatsoever shall be said on either side. To 
which we all agreed. 

6. In order then, said Alciphron, to find out the truth, 
we will suppose that I am bred up, for instance, in the 
Church of England. When I come to maturity of judg- 
ment, and reflect on the particular worship and opinions 
of this Church, I do not remember when or by what means 
they first took possession of my mind, but there I find 
them from time immemorial. Then, casting an eye on 
the education of children, from whence I can make a 
judgment of my own, I observe they are instructed in 
religious matters before they can reason about them ; and, 
consequently, that all such instruction is nothing else but 
filling the tender mind of a child with prejudices. I do, 
therefore, reject all those religious notions, which I consider 
as the other follies of my childhood. I am confirmed in 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 43 

this way of thinking when I look abroad into the world, 
where I observe Papists, and several sects of Dissenters ; 
which do all agree in a general profession of belief in 
Christ, but differ vastly one from another in the particulars 
of faith and worship. I then enlarge my views so as to 
take in Jews and Mahometans; between whom and the 
Christians I perceive, indeed, some small agreement in 
the belief of one God; but then they have each their 
distinct laws and revelations, for which they express the 
same regard. But, extending my view still further to 
heathenish and idolatrous nations, I discover an endless 
variety, not only in particular opinions and modes of 
worship, but even in the very notion of a Deity, wherein 
they widely differ one from another, and from all the 
forementioned sects. Upon the whole, instead of truth 
simple and uniform, I perceive nothing but discord, oppo- 
sition, and wild pretensions, all springing from the same 
source, to wit, the prejudice of education. From such 
reasonings and reflexions as these, thinking men have 
concluded that all religions are alike false and fabulous. 
One is a Christian, another a Jew, a third a Mahometan, 
a fourth an idolatrous Gentile, but all from one and the 
same reason — because they happen to be bred up each 
in his respective sect. In the same manner, therefore, 
as each of these contending parties condemns the rest, so 
an unprejudiced stander-by will condemn and reject them 
altogether, observing, that they all draw their origin from 
the same fallacious principle, and are carried on by the 
same artifice, to answer the same ends of the priest and 
the magistrate. 

7. Euph. You hold then that the magistrate concurs 
with the priest in imposing on the people? 

Ale. I do ; and so must every one who considers things 
in a true light. For, you must know the magistrate's 
principal aim is to keep the people under him in awe. 
Now, the public eye restrains men from open offences 
against the laws and government. But, to prevent secret 
transgressions, a magistrate finds it expedient that men 
should believe there is an eye of Providence watching over 
their private actions and designs. And, to intimidate those 
who might otherwise be drawn into crimes by the prospect 



44 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

of pleasure and profit, he gives them to understand that 
whoever escapes punishment in this life will be sure to 
find it in the next ; and that so heavy and lasting as 
infinitely to over-balance the pleasure and profit accruing 
from his crimes. Hence, the belief of a God, the im- 
mortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and 
punishments have been esteemed useful engines of govern- 
ment. And, to the end that these notional airy doctrines 
might make a sensible impression, and be retained on the 
minds of men, skilful rulers have, in several of the civilized 
nations of the earth, devised temples, sacrifices, churches, 
rites, ceremonies, habits, music, prayer, preaching, and the 
like spiritual trumpery, whereby the priest maketh temporal 
gains, and the magistrate findeth his account in frighten- 
ing and subduing the people. This is the original of the 
combination between Church and State, of religion by law 
established, of rights, immunities, and incomes of priests 
all over the world : there being no government but would 
have you fear God, that you may honour the king or civil 
power. And you will ever observe that politic princes 
keep up a good understanding with their clergy, to the 
end that they in return, by inculcating religion and loyalty 
into the minds of the people, may render them tame, 
timorous, and slavish. 

Crito and I heard this discourse of Alciphron with the 
utmost attention, though without any appearance of sur- 
prise, there being, indeed, nothing in it to us new or 
unexpected. But Euphranor, who had never before been 
present at such conversation, could not help shewing some 
astonishment; which Lysicles observing, asked him with 
a lively air, how he liked Alciphron's lecture. It is, said 
he, the first I believe that you ever heard of the kind, and 
requireth a strong stomach to digest it. 

Euph. I will own to you that my digestion is none of the 
quickest; but it hath sometimes, by degrees, been able to 
master things which at first appeared indigestible. At 
present I admire the free spirit and eloquence of Alci- 
phron ; but, to speak the truth, I am rather astonished than 
convinced of the truth of his opinions. How ! (said he, 
turning to Alciphron) is it then possible you should not 
believe the being of a God ? 

Ale. To be plain with you, I do not. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 45 

8. But this is what I foresaw — a flood of light let in at 
once upon the mind being apt to dazzle and disorder, 
rather than enlighten it. Was I not pinched in time, the 
regular way would be to have begun with the circum- 
stantials of religion ; next to have attacked the mysteries 
of Christianity ; after that proceeded to the practical doc- 
trines ; and in the last place to have extirpated that which 
of all other religious prejudices, being the first taught and 
basis of the rest, hath taken the deepest root in our minds, 
I mean, the belief of a God. I do not wonder it sticks with 
you, having known several very ingenious men who found 
it difficult to free themselves from this prejudice. 

Euph. All men have not the same alacrity and vigour in 
thinking ; for my own part, I find it a hard matter to keep 
pace with you. 

Ale. To help you, I will go a little way back, and resume 
the thread of my reasoning. First, I must acquaint you 
that, having applied my mind to contemplate the idea of 
Truth, I discovered it to be of a stable, permanent, and 
uniform nature; not various and changeable, like modes 
or fashions, and things depending on fancy. In the next 
place, having observed several sects and subdivisions of 
sects espousing very different and contrary opinions, and 
yet all professing Christianity, I rejected those points 
wherein they differed, retaining only that which was agreed 
to by all, and so became a Latitudinarian. Having after- 
wards, upon a more enlarged view of things, perceived 
that Christians, Jews, and Mahometans had each their 
different systems of faith, agreeing only in the belief of 
one God, I became a Deist. Lastly, extending my view 
to all the other various nations which inhabit this globe, 
and finding they agreed in no one point of faith, but 
differed one from another, as well as from the fore- 
mentioned sects, even in the notion of a God, in which 
there is as great diversity as in the methods of worship, 
I thereupon became an Atheist: it being my opinion that 
a man of courage and sense should follow his argument 
wherever it leads him, and that nothing is more ridiculous 
than to be a free-thinker by halves. I approve the man 
who makes thorough work, and, not content with lopping 
off the branches, extirpates the very root from which they 
sprung. 



46 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

9. Atheism therefore, that bugbear of women and fools, 
is the very top and perfection of free-thinking l . It is the 
grand arcanum to which a true genius naturally riseth, by 
a certain climax or gradation of thought, and without which 
he can never possess his soul in absolute liberty and re- 
pose. For your thorough conviction in this main article, 
do but examine the notion of a God with the same freedom 
that you would other prejudices. Trace it to the fountain- 
head, and you shall not find that you had it by any of your 
senses, the only true means of discovering what is real and 
substantial in nature : you will find it lying amongst other 
old lumber in some obscure corner of the imagination, the 
proper receptacle of visions, fancies, and prejudices of all 
kinds ; and if you are more attached to this than the rest, 
it is only because it is the oldest. This is all, take my 
word for it, and not mine only but that of many more the 
most ingenious men of the age, who, I can assure you, 
think as I do on the subject of a Deity. Though some 
of them hold it proper to proceed with more reserve in 
declaring to the world their opinion in this particular than 
in most others. And, it must be owned, there are still too 
many in England who retain a foolish prejudice against 
the name of atheist. But it lessens every day among the 
better sort ; and when it is quite worn out, our free-thinkers 
may then (and not till then) be said to have given the finish- 
ing stroke to religion ; it being evident that, so long as 
the existence of God is believed, religion must subsist in 
some shape or other. But the root being once plucked up, 
the scions which shoot from it will of course wither and 
decay. Such are all those whimsical notions of conscience, 
duty, principle, and the like, which fill a man's head with 
scruples, awe him with fears, and make him a more 
thorough slave than the horse he rides. A man had better 
a thousand times be hunted by bailiffs or messengers than 
haunted by these spectres, which embarrass and embitter 
all his pleasures, creating the most real and sore ser- 
vitude upon earth. But the free-thinker, with a vigorous 
flight of thought, breaks through those airy springes, and 
asserts his original independency. Others indeed may talk, 

1 Throughout it is assumed by sciously or unconsciously, the goal 
Berkeley that Atheism is, con- of the free-thinking sect. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 47 

and write, and fight about liberty, and make an outward 
pretence to it; but the free-thinker alone is truly free. 

Alciphron having ended this discourse with an air of 
triumph, Euphranor spoke to him in the following 
manner : — 

You make clear work. The gentlemen of your pro- 
fession are, it seems, admirable weeders. You have rooted 
up a world of notions : I should be glad to see what fine 
things you have planted in their stead. 

Ale. Have patience, good Euphranor. I will shew you, 
in the first place, that whatever was sound and good we 
leave untouched, and encourage it to grow in the mind 
of man. And, secondly, I will shew you what excellent 
things we have planted in it. You must know then that, 
pursuing our close and severe scrutiny, we do at last arrive 
at something solid and real, in which all mankind agree, 
to wit, the appetites, passions, and senses : these are 
founded in nature, are real, have real objects, and are 
attended with real and substantial pleasures; food, drink, 
sleep, and the like animal enjoyments being what all men 
like and love. And, if we extend our view to other kinds 
of animals, we shall find them all agree in this, that they 
have certain natural appetites and senses, in the gratify- 
ing and satisfying of which they are constantly employed. 
Now, these real natural good things, which include nothing 
of notion or fancy, we are so far from destroying, that we 
do all we can to cherish and improve them. According to 
us, every wise man looks upon himself, or his own bodily 
existence in this present world, as the centre and ultimate 
end of all his actions and regards. He considers his 
appetites as natural guides, directing to his proper good, 
his passions and senses as the natural true means of enjoy- 
ing this good. Hence, he endeavours to keep his appetites 
in high relish, his passions and senses strong and lively, and 
to provide the greatest quantity and variety of real objects 
suited to them, which he studieth to enjoy by all possible 
means, and in the highest perfection imaginable. And the 
man who can do this without restraint, remorse, or fear is 
as happy as any other animal whatsoever, or as his nature 
is capable of being. Thus I have given you a succinct 
view of the principles, discoveries, and tenets of the select 
spirits of this enlightened age. 



48 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

10. Crito remarked, that Alciphron had spoken his mind 
with great clearness. 

Yes, replied Euphranor, we are obliged to the gentleman 
for letting us at once into the tenets of his sect. But, if I 
may be allowed to speak my mind, Alciphron, though in 
compliance with my own request, hath given me no small 
uneasiness. 

You need, said Alciphron, make no apology for speaking 
freely what you think to one who professeth himself a free- 
thinker. I should be sorry to make one, whom I meant to 
oblige, uneasy. Pray let me know wherein I have offended. 

I am half ashamed, replied Euphranor, to own that I, 
who am no great genius, have a weakness incidental to 
little ones. I would say that I have favourite opinions, 
which you represent to be errors and prejudices. For 
instance, the Immortality of the Soul is a notion I am fond 
of, as what supports the mind with a very pleasing pros- 
pect. And, if it be an error, I should perhaps be of Tully's 
mind, who in that case professed he should be sorry to 
know the truth, acknowledging no sort of obligation to 
certain philosophers in his days, who taught the soul of 
man was mortal \ They were, it seems, predecessors to 
those who are now called free-thinkers ; which name being 
too general and indefinite, inasmuch as it comprehends all 
those who think for themselves, whether they agree in 
opinion with these gentlemen or no — it should not seem 
amiss to assign them a specific appellation or peculiar name, 
whereby to distinguish them from other philosophers, at 
least in our present conference. For I cannot bear to 
argue against free-thinking and free-thinkers 2 . 

Ale. In the eyes of a wise man words are of small 
moment. We do not think truth attached to a name. 

Euph. If you please then, to avoid confusion, let us call 
your sect by the same name that Tully (who understood 
the force of language) bestowed upon them. 

Ale. With all my heart. Pray what may that name be ? 

Euph. Why, he calls them minute philosophers z . 

Right, said Crito, the modern free-thinkers are the very 

1 Cicero, Tuscul. Quast. I. § 24. thinkers, and their opponents are 

2 Religious thinking, according the rationalists. 

to Euphranor, is free- thinking; free- 3 Cicero, De Fittibus, I. §18; De 

thinkers are really the narrow Senectute,%%6\DeDivinatione,\.%(y2. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 49 

same with those Cicero called minute philosophers ; which 
name admirably suits them, they being a sort of sect which 
diminish all the most valuable things, the thoughts, views, 
and hopes of men ; all the knowledge, notions, and theories 
of the mind they reduce to sense ; human nature they con- 
tract and degrade to the narrow low standard of animal 
life, and assign us only a small pittance of time instead of 
immortality. 

Alciphron very gravely remarked that the gentlemen of 
his sect had done no injury to man, and that, if he be 
a little, short-lived, contemptible animal, it was not their 
saying it made him so : and they were no more to blame 
for whatever defects they discover than a faithful glass for 
making the wrinkles which it only shows. As to what you 
observe, said he, of those we now call free-thinkers having 
been anciently termed minute philosophers, it is my opinion 
this appellation might be derived from their considering 
things minutely, and not swallowing them, in the gross, as 
other men are used to do. Besides, we all know the best 
eyes are necessary to discern the minutest objects : it 
seems, therefore, that minute philosophers might have 
been so called from their distinguished perspicacity. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! these minute philosophers (since 
that is their true name) are a sort of pirates who plunder 
all that come in their way. I consider myself as a man 
left stripped and desolate on a bleak beach. 

11. But who are these profound and learned men that 
of late years have demolished the whole fabric which law- 
givers, philosophers, and divines had been erecting for so 
many ages ? 

Lysicles, hearing these words, smiled, and said he 
believed Euphranor had figured to himself philosophers in 
square caps and long gowns : but, thanks to these happy 
times, the reign of pedantry was over. Our philosophers, 
said he, are of a different kind from those awkward 
students who think to come at knowledge by poring on 
dead languages and old authors, or by sequestering them- 
selves from the cares of the world to meditate in solitude 
and retirement. They are the best bred men of the age, 
men who know the world, men of pleasure, men of fashion, 
and fine gentlemen. 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. E 



50 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. I have some small notion of the people you 
mention, but should never have taken them for philoso- 
phers. 

Cri. Nor would any one else till of late. The world it 
seems was long under a mistake about the way to know- 
ledge, thinking it lay through a tedious course of aca- 
demical education and study. But, among the discoveries 
of the present age, one of the principal is the finding out 
that such a method doth rather retard and obstruct than 
promote knowledge. 

Ale. Academical study may be comprised in two points, 
reading and meditation. Their reading is chiefly employed 
on ancient authors in dead languages : so that a great part 
of their time is spent in learning words ; which, when they 
have mastered with infinite pains, what do they get by it 
but old and obsolete notions, that are now quite exploded 
and out of use ? Then, as to their meditations, what can 
they possibly be good for? He that wants the proper 
materials of thought may think and meditate for ever to 
no purpose : those cobwebs spun by scholars out of their 
own brains being alike unserviceable, either for use or 
ornament. Proper ideas or materials are only to be got 
by frequenting good company. I know several gentlemen 
who, since their appearance in the world, have spent as 
much time in rubbing off the rust and pedantry of a college 
education as they had done before in acquiring it. 

Lysicles. I will undertake, a lad of fourteen, bred in the 
modern way, shall make a better figure, and be more con- 
sidered in any drawing-room or assembly of polite people, 
than one at four-and-twenty, who hath lain by a long time 
at school and college. He shall say better things in a 
better manner, and be more liked by good judges. 

Euph. Where doth he pick up all this improvement ? 

Cri. Where our grave ancestors would never have 
looked for it — in a drawing-room, a coffee-house, a choco- 
late-house, at the tavern, or groom-porter's. In these and 
the like fashionable places of resort, it is the custom for 
polite persons to speak freely on all subjects, religious, 
moral, or political. So that a young gentleman who 
frequents them is in the way of hearing many instructive 
lectures, seasoned with wit and raillery, and uttered with 
spirit. Three or four sentences from a man of quality, 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 51 

spoken with a good air, make more impression and convey 
more knowledge than a dozen dissertations in a dry aca- 
demical way. 

Euph. There is then no method, or course of studies, in 
those places ? 

Lys. None but an easy free conversation, which takes in 
everything that offers, without any rule or design. 

Euph. I always thought that some order was necessary 
to attain any useful degree of knowledge ; that haste and 
confusion begat a conceited ignorance; that to make our 
advances sure, they should be gradual, and those points 
first learned which might cast a light on what was to 
follow. 

Ale. So long as learning was to be obtained only by 
that slow formal course of study, few of the better sort 
knew much of it : but, now it has grown an amusement, our 
young gentry and nobility imbibe it insensibly amidst their 
diversions, and make a considerable progress. 

Euph. Hence probably the great number of minute 
philosophers. 

Cri. It is to this that sect is owing for so many ingenious 
proficients of both sexes. You may now commonly see 
(what no former age ever saw) a young lady, or a petit 
maitre, nonplus a divine, or an old-fashioned gentleman, 
who hath read many a Greek and Latin author, and spent 
much time in hard methodical study. 

Euph. It should seem then that method, exactness, and 
industry are a disadvantage. 

Here Alciphron, turning to Lysicles, said he could make 
the point very clear, if Euphranor had any notion of 
painting. 

Euph. I never saw a first-rate picture in my life, but 
have a tolerable collection of prints, and have seen some 
good drawings. 

Ale. You know then the difference between the Dutch 
and Italian manner ? 

Euph. I have some notion of it. 

Ale. Suppose now a drawing finished by the nice and 
laborious touches of a Dutch pencil, and another off-hand 
scratched out in the free manner of a great Italian master. 
The Dutch piece, which hath cost so much pains and time, 
will be exact indeed, but without that force, spirit, and 

e 2 



52 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

grace which appear in the other, and are the effects of an 
easy, free pencil. Do but apply this, and the point will be 
clear. 

Euph. Pray inform me, did those great Italian masters 
begin and proceed in their art without any choice of method 
or subject, and always draw with the same ease and free- 
dom ? Or did they observe some method, beginning with 
simple and elementary parts, an eye, a nose, a finger, which 
they drew with great pains and care, often drawing the same 
thing, in order to draw it correctly, and so proceeding with 
patience and industry, till, after a considerable length of 
time, they arrive at the free masterly manner you speak 
of. If this were the case, I leave you to make the appli- 
cation. 

Ale. You may dispute the matter if you please. But 
a man of parts is one thing, and a pedant another. Pains 
and method may do for some sort of people. A man must 
be a long time kindling wet straw into a vile smothering 
flame, but spirits blaze out at once. 

Euph. The minute philosophers have, it seems, better 
parts than other men, which qualifies them for a different 
education. 

Ale. Tell me, Euphranor, what is it that gives one man 
a better mien than another; more politeness in dress, 
speech, and motion ? Nothing but frequenting good com- 
pany. By the same means men get insensibly a delicate 
taste, a refined judgment, a certain politeness in thinking 
and expressing one's self. No wonder if you countrymen 
are strangers to the advantage of polite conversation, which 
constantly keeps the mind awake and active, exercising its 
faculties, and calling forth all its strength and spirit, on 
a thousand different occasions and subjects that never 
came in the way of a book-worm in a college, any more 
than of a ploughman. 

Cri. Hence those lively faculties, that quickness of appre- 
hension, that slyness of ridicule, that egregious talent of 
wit and humour which distinguish the gentlemen of your 
profession. 

Euph. It should seem then that your sect is made up 
of what you call fine gentlemen. 

Lys. Not altogether, for we have among us some con- 
templative spirits of a coarser education, who, from observ- 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 53 

ing the behaviour and proceedings of apprentices, watermen, 
porters, and the assemblies of rabble in the streets, have 
arrived at a profound knowledge of human nature, and 
made great discoveries about the principles, springs, and 
motives of moral actions. These have demolished the 
received systems, and done a world of good in the city. 

Ale. I tell you we have men of all sorts and professions, 
plodding citizens, thriving stock-jobbers, skilful men in 
business, polite courtiers, gallant men of the army ; but 
our chief strength, and flower of the flock, are those pro- 
mising young men who have the advantage of a modern 
education. These are the growing hopes of our sect, by 
whose credit and influence in a few years we expect to see 
those great things accomplished that we have in view. 

Euph. I could never have imagined your sect so con- 
siderable. 

Ale. There are in England many honest folk as much in 
the dark about these matters as yourselves. 

12. To judge of the prevailing opinion among people 
of fashion, by what a senator saith in the house, a judge 
upon the bench, or a priest in the pulpit, who all speak 
according to law, that is to the reverend prejudices of our 
forefathers, would be wrong. You should go into good 
company, and mind what men of parts and breeding say, 
those who are best heard and most admired, as well in 
public places of resort as in private visits. He only who 
hath these opportunities can know our real strength, our 
numbers, and the figure that we make. 

Euph. By your account there must be many minute 
philosophers among the men of rank and fortune. 

Ale. Take my word for it, not a few ; and they do much 
contribute to the spreading our notions. For, he who 
knows the world must observe that fashions constantly 
descend. It is therefore the right way to propagate an 
opinion from the upper end. Not to say that the patronage 
of such men is an encouragement to our authors. 

Euph. It seems, then, you have authors among you. 

Lys. That we have, several, and those very great men, 
who have obliged the world with many useful and profound 
discoveries. 

Cri. Moschon, for instance, hath proved that man and 



54 ALCIPHRON OR THE MTNUTE PHILOSOPHER 

beast are really of the same nature : that consequently 
a man need only indulge his senses and appetites to be as 
happy as a brute. Gorgias hath gone further, demon- 
strating man to be a piece of clock-work or machine ; and 
that thought or reason is the same thing as the impulse of 
one ball against another. Cimon hath made noble use of 
these discoveries, proving, as clearly as any proposition 
in mathematics, that conscience is a whim, and morality a 
prejudice ; and that a man is no more accountable for his 
actions than a clock is for striking. Tryphon hath written 
irrefragably on the usefulness of vice. Thrasenor hath 
confuted the foolish prejudice men had against atheism, 
shewing that a republic of atheists might live very happily 
together. Demylas hath made a jest of loyalty, and con- 
vinced the world there is nothing in it : to him and another 
philosopher of the same stamp this age is indebted for 
discovering that public spirit is an idle enthusiasm, which 
seizeth only on weak minds. It would be endless to re- 
count the discoveries made by writers of this sect. 

Lys. But the masterpiece and finishing stroke is a learned 
anecdote of our great Diagoras, containing a demonstration 
against the being of God : which it is conceived the public 
is not yet ripe for \ But I am assured by some judicious 
friends who have seen it, that it is as clear as daylight, 
and will do a world of good, at one blow demolishing the 
whole system of religion. These discoveries are published 
by our philosophers, sometimes in just volumes, but often 
in pamphlets and loose papers for their readier conveyance 
through the kingdom. And to them must be ascribed that 
absolute and independent freedom which groweth so fast 
to the terror of all bigots. Even the dull and ignorant 
begin to open their eyes, and be influenced by the example 
and authority of so many ingenious men. 

Euph. It should seem by this account that your sect 
extend their discoveries beyond religion ; and that loyalty 
to his prince and reverence for the laws are but mean 
things in the eye of a minute philosopher. 

Lys. Very mean. We are too wise to think there is 
anything sacred either in king or constitution, or indeed 

1 The reference is to Anthony Alciphron,' and ' Advertisement,' 
Collins. See ' Editor's Preface to note by Editor. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 55 

in anything else. A man of sense may perhaps seem to 
pay an occasional regard to his prince : but this is no more 
at bottom than what he pays to God, when he kneels at 
the sacrament to qualify himself for an office \ ' Fear 
God ' and ' Honour the king* are a pair of slavish maxims, 
which had for a long time cramped human nature, and 
awed not only weak minds but even men of good under- 
standing, till their eyes, as I observed before, were opened 
by our philosophers. 

Euph. Methinks I can easily comprehend that when the 
fear of God is quite extinguished the mind must be very 
easy with respect to other duties, which become outward 
pretences and formalities, from the moment that they quit 
their hold upon the conscience; and conscience always 
supposeth the being of a God. But I still thought that 
Englishmen of all denominations (how widely soever they 
differ as to some particular points) agreed in the belief 
of a God, and of so much at least as is called Natural 
Religion. 

Ale. I have already told you my own opinion of those 
matters, and what I know to be the opinion of many more. 

Cri. Probably, Euphranor, by the title of Deists, which 
is sometimes given to minute philosophers, you have been 
misled to imagine they believe and worship a God according 
to the light of nature ; but, by living among them, you 
may soon be convinced of the contrary. They have neither 
time, nor place, nor form of Divine worship ; they offer 
neither prayers nor praises to God in public ; and in their 
private practice shew a contempt or dislike even of the 
duties of Natural Religion. For instance, the saying 
grace before and after meals is a plain point of natural 
worship, and was once universally practised, but in pro- 
portion as this sect prevailed it hath been laid aside, not 
only by the minute philosophers themselves, who would 
be infinitely ashamed of such a weakness as to beg God's 
blessing or give God thanks for their daily food, but also 
by others who are afraid of being thought fools by the 
minute philosophers 2 . 

1 Cf. Dial. III. sect. 2. in his Remarks on the Minute 

2 This sentence is ridiculed by the Philosopher, pp. 38-40. 
i Country Clergyman ' (' Sporus '), 



56 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. Is it possible that men who really believe a God 
should yet decline paying so easy and reasonable a duty 
for fear of incurring the contempt of atheists ? 

Cri. I tell you there are many who, believing in their 
hearts the truth of religion, are yet afraid or ashamed 
to own it, lest they should forfeit their reputation with 
those who have the good luck to pass for great wits and 
men of genius. 

Ale. O Euphranor, we must make allowance for Crito's 
prejudice : he is a worthy gentleman, and means well. 
But doth it not look like prejudice to ascribe the respect 
that is paid our ingenious free-thinkers rather to good luck 
than to merit? 

Euph. I acknowledge their merit to be very wonderful, 
and that those authors must needs be great men who are 
able to prove such paradoxes : for example, that so knowing 
a man as a minute philosopher should be a mere machine, 
or at best no better than a brute. 

Ale. It is a true maxim — That a man should think with 
the learned, and speak with the vulgar. I should be loath to 
place a gentleman of merit in such a light, before prejudiced 
or ignorant men. The tenets of our philosophy have this 
in common with many other truths in metaphysics, geometry, 
astronomy, and natural philosophy, that vulgar ears cannot 
bear them. All our discoveries and notions are in them- 
selves true and certain ; but they are at present known 
only to the better sort, and would sound strange and odd 
among the vulgar. But this, it is to be hoped, will wear 
off with time. 

Euph. I do not wonder that vulgar minds should be 
startled at the notions of your philosophy. 

Cri. Truly a very curious sort of philosophy, and much 
to be admired ! 

13. The profound thinkers of this way have taken a 
direct contrary course to all the great philosophers of 
former ages, who made it their endeavour to raise and 
refine human-kind, and remove it as far as possible from 
the brute ; to moderate and subdue men's appetites ; to 
remind them of the dignity of their nature ; to awaken 
and improve their superior faculties, and direct them 
to the noblest objects; to possess men's minds with 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 57 

a high sense of the Divinity, of the Supreme Good, and 
the Immortality of the Soul. They took great pains to 
strengthen the obligations to virtue ; and upon all those 
subjects have wrought out noble theories, and treated 
with singular force of reason. But it seems our minute 
philosophers act the reverse of all other wise and thinking 
men ; it being their end and aim to erase the principles 
of all that is great and good from the mind of man, to 
unhinge all order of civil life, to undermine the foundations 
of morality, and, instead of improving and ennobling our 
natures, to bring us down to the maxims and way of think- 
ing of the most uneducated and barbarous nations, and 
even to degrade human-kind to a level with brute beasts. 
And all the while they would pass upon the world for 
men of deep knowledge. But, in effect, what is all this 
negative knowledge better than downright savage ignor- 
ance ? That there is no Providence, no Spirit, no Future 
State, no Moral Duty : truly a fine system for an honest 
man to own, or an ingenious man to value himself upon ! 

. Alciphron, who heard this discourse with some uneasiness, 
very gravely replied : — Disputes are not to be decided by 
the weight of authority, but by the force of reason. You 
may pass, indeed, general reflexions on our notions, and 
call them brutal and barbarous if you please : but it is such 
brutality and such barbarism as few could have attained 
to if men of the greatest genius had not broken the ice, 
there being nothing more difficult than to get the better 
of education, and conquer old prejudices. To remove and 
cast off a heap of rubbish that has been gathering upon 
the soul from our very infancy requires great courage and 
great strength of faculties. Our philosophers, therefore, do 
well deserve the name of esprits forts, men of strong heads, 
free-thinkers, and such like appellations, betokening great 
force and liberty of mind. It is very possible the heroic 
labours of these men may be represented (for what is not 
capable of misrepresentation ?) as a piratical plundering ', 
and stripping the mind of its wealth and ornaments, when 
it is in truth divesting it only of its prejudices, and reducing 
it to its untainted original state of nature. Oh nature ! the 
genuine beauty of pure nature ! 

1 Cf. sect 10. 



58 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. You seem very much taken with the beauty of 
nature. Be pleased to tell me, Alciphron, what those things 
are which you esteem natural, or by what mark I may 
know them. 

14. Ale. For a thing to be natural, for instance, to the 
mind of man, it must appear originally therein ; it must 
be universally in all men ; it must be invariably the same 
in all nations and ages. These limitations of original, 
universal, and invariable exclude all those notions found 
in the human mind which are the effect of custom and 
education '. The case is the same with respect to all other 
species of beings. A cat, for example, hath a natural 
inclination to pursue a mouse, because it agrees with the 
forementioned marks. But, if a cat be taughf to play 
tricks, you will not say those tricks are natural. For the 
same reason, if upon a plum-tree peaches and apricots are 
engrafted, nobody will say they are the natural growth 
of the plum-tree. 

Euph. But to return to man. It seems you allow those 
things alone to be natural to him which show themselves 
upon his first entrance into the world ; to wit, the senses, 
and such passions and appetites as are discovered upon 
the first application of their respective objects. 

Ale. That is my opinion. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, if from a young apple-tree, 
after a certain period of time, there should shoot forth 
leaves, blossoms, and apples ; would you deny these things 
to be natural, because they did not discover and display 
themselves in the tender bud ? 

Ale. I would not. 

Euph. And suppose that in a man, after a certain season, 
the appetite of lust, or the faculty of reason, shall shoot 

1 The marks for distinguishing and in the same form in all ; and 

the genuine constituent principles must faith in Moral Government 

of human nature from prejudices and in a Future Life be pronounced 

apt to be mistaken for them, are irrational prejudices, if we find that, 

discussed in this and the following unlike the bodily appetites, they 

section. This is obviously a cardinal are of gradual growth, and un- 

inquiryin philosophical method and developed in some men? — Cf. 

criticism. Are those judgments only Berkeley's Discourse of Passive 

to be esteemed natural which shew Obedience, sect. 4-12. 
themselves in infancy, in all men, 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 59 

forth, open, and display themselves, as leaves and blossoms 
do in a tree ; would you, therefore, deny them to be 
natural to him, because they did not appear in his original 
infancy ? 

Ale. I acknowledge I would not. 

Euph. It seems, therefore, that the first mark of a thing's 
being natural to the mind was not warily laid down by 
you ; to wit, that it should appear originally in it. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Again, inform me, Alciphron, whether you do not 
think it natural for an orange-plant tree to produce oranges ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. But plant it in the north end of Great Britain, 
and it shall with care produce, perhaps, a good salad ; 
in the southern parts of the same island, it may, with much 
pains and culture, thrive and produce indifferent fruit ; 
but in Portugal or Naples it will produce much better, 
with little or no pains. Is this true or not? 

Ale. It is true. 

Euph. The plant being the same in all places doth not 
produce the same fruit — sun, soil, and cultivation making 
a difference. 

Ale. I grant it. 

Euph. And, since the case is, you say, the same with 
respect to all species, why may we not conclude, by a parity 
of a reason, that things may be natural to human-kind, 
and yet neither found in all men, nor invariably the same 
where they are found ? 

Ale. Hold, Euphranor, you must explain yourself further. 
I shall not be over hasty in my concessions. 

Lys. You are in the right, Alciphron, to stand upon your 
guard. I do not like these ensnaring questions. 

Euph. I desire you to make no concessions in com- 
plaisance to me, but only to tell me your opinion upon each 
particular, that we may understand one another, know 
wherein to agree, and proceed jointly in finding out the 
truth. But (added Euphranor, turning to Crito and me) 
if the gentlemen are against a free and fair inquiry, I shall 
give them no further trouble. 

Ale. Our opinions will stand the test. We fear no trial ; 
proceed as you please. 

Euph. It seems then that, from what you have granted, 



60 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

it should follow things may be natural to men, although 
they do not actually shew themselves in all men, nor in 
equal perfection ; there being as great difference of culture, 
and every other advantage, with respect to human nature, 
as is to be found with respect to the vegetable nature of 
plants, to use your own similitude ; is it so or not ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Answer me, Alciphron, do not men in all times 
and places, when they arrive at a certain age, express their 
thoughts by speech ? 

Ale. They do. 

Euph. Should it not seem, then, that language is natural ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And yet there is a great variety of languages ? 

Ale. I acknowledge there is. 

Euph. From all this will it not follow a thing may be 
natural and yet admit of variety ? 

Ale. I grant it will. 

Euph. Should it not seem, therefore, to follow that a 
thing may be natural to mankind, though it have not those 
marks or conditions assigned ; though it be not original, 
universal, and invariable ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And that, consequently, religious worship and 
civil government may be natural to man, notwithstanding 
they admit of sundry forms and different degrees of per- 
fection ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. You have granted already that reason is natural 
to mankind. 

Ale. I have. 

Euph. Whatever, therefore, is agreeable to reason is 
agreeable to the nature of man. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Will it not follow from hence that truth and 
virtue are natural to man ? 

Ale. Whatever is reasonable I admit to be natural. 

Euph. And, as those fruits which grow from the most 
generous and mature stock, in the choicest soil, and with 
the best culture, are most esteemed ; even so ought we 
not to think those sublime truths, which are the fruits 
of mature thought, and have been rationally deduced by 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 6l 

men of the best and most improved understandings, to be 
the choicest productions of the rational nature of man ? 
And, if so, being in fact reasonable, natural, and true, 
they ought not to be esteemed unnatural whims, errors 
of education, and groundless prejudices, because they are 
raised and forwarded by manuring and cultivating our 
tender minds, because they take early root, and sprout 
forth betimes by the care and diligence of our instructors ? 

Ale. Agreed, provided still they may be rationally de- 
duced : but to take this for granted of what men vulgarly 
call the Truths of Morality and Religion, would be begging 
the question. 

Euph. You are in the right : I do not, therefore, take 
for granted that they are rationally deduced. I only 
suppose that, if they are, they must be allowed natural 
to man ; or, in other words, agreeable to, and growing 
from, the most excellent and peculiar part of human 
nature. 

Ale. I have nothing to object to this. 

Euph. What shall we think then of your former asser- 
tions — that nothing is natural to man but what may be 
found in all men, in all nations and ages of the world ; 
that, to obtain a genuine view of human nature, we must 
extirpate all the effects of education and instruction, and 
regard only the senses, appetites, and passions, which are 
to be found originally in all mankind ; that, therefore, the 
notion of a God can have no foundation in nature, as not 
being originally in the mind, nor the same in all men ? Be 
pleased to reconcile these things with your late concessions, 
which the force of truth seems to have extorted from you \ 

15. Ale. Tell me, Euphranor, whether truth be not one 
and the same, uniform, invariable thing : and, if so, whether 
the many different and inconsistent notions which men 
entertain of God and duty be not a plain proof there is 
no truth in them ? 

Euph. That truth is constant and uniform I freely own, 
and that consequently opinions repugnant to each other 
cannot all be true : but I think it will not hence follow they 

1 Butler's Sermons — Preface,and nature,' and living 'naturally,' may 
the 'Sermons on Human Nature' — be compared with this section, 
in which he explains ' following 



62 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

are all alike false. If, among various opinions about the 
same thing, one be grounded on clear and evident reasons, 
that is to be thought true, and others only so far as they 
consist with it. Reason is the same, and rightly applied 
will lead to the same conclusions, in all times and places. 
Socrates, two thousand years ago, seems to have reasoned 
himself into the same notion of a God which is entertained 
by the philosophers of our days, if you will allow that 
name to any who are not of your sect \ And the remark 
of Confucius, that a man should guard in his youth against 
lust, in manhood against faction, and in old age against 
covetousness, is as current morality in Europe as in 
China. 

Ale. But still it would be a satisfaction if all men thought 
the same way ; difference of opinions implying uncertainty. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, what you take to be the cause 
of a lunar eclipse ? 

Ale. The shadow of the earth interposing between the 
sun and moon. 

Euph. Are you sure of this ? 

Ale. Undoubtedly. 

Euph. Are all mankind agreed in this truth ? 

Ale. By no means. Ignorant and barbarous people 
assign different ridiculous causes of this appearance. 

Euph. It seems, then, there are different opinions about 
the nature of an eclipse ? 

Ale. There are. 

Euph. And nevertheless one of these opinions is true. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Diversity, therefore, of opinions about a thing, 
doth not hinder that the thing may be, and one of the 
opinions concerning it may be true ? 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that your argument 
against the belief of a God, from the variety of opinions 
about His nature, is not conclusive. Nor do I see how 
you can conclude against the truth of any moral or religious 
tenet, from the various opinions of men upon the same 
subject. Might not a man as well argue, that no historical 
account of a matter of fact can be true, when different 

1 ' of your sect ' — * atheists,' in the first edition. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 63 

relations are given of it ? Or, may we not as well infer 
that, because the several sects of philosophy maintain dif- 
ferent opinions, none of them can be in the right ; not even 
the minute philosophers themselves ? 

During this conversation Lysicles seemed uneasy, like 
one that wished in his heart there was no God. Alciphron, 
said he, methinks you sit by very tamely, while Euphranor 
saps the foundation of our tenets. 

Be of good courage, replied Alciphron: a skilful gamester 
has been known to ruin his adversary by yielding him 
some advantage at first. I am glad, said he, turning to 
Euphranor, that you are drawn in to argue, and make 
your appeals to reason. For my part, wherever reason 
leads I shall not be afraid to follow. Know then, Euphranor, 
that I freely give up what you now contend for. I do not 
value the success of a few crude notions thrown out in 
a loose discourse, any more than the Turks do the loss 
of that vile infantry they place in the front of their armies, 
for no other end but to waste the powder, and blunt the 
swords of their enemies. Be assured I have in reserve 
a body of other guess arguments, which I am ready to 
produce. I will undertake to prove 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I do not doubt your faculty of 
proving. But, before I put you to the trouble of any 
farther proofs, 1 should be glad to know whether the 
notions of your minute philosophy are worth proving; 
I mean, whether they are of use and service to mankind. 

16. Ale. As to that, give me leave to tell you, a thing 
may be useful to one man's views, and not to another's : 
but truth is truth, whether useful or not, and must not 
be measured by the convenience of this or that man, or 
party of men. 

Euph. But is not the general good of mankind to be 
regarded as a rule and measure of moral truths, of all 
such truths as direct or influence the moral actions of 
men l ? 

Ale. That point is not clear to me. I know, indeed, 

1 The Discourse of Passive Obedi- for illustrating Berkeley's criterion 
ence may be compared with this of truth in morality, 
and the two following Dialogues, 



64 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

that legislators, and divines, and politicians have always 
alleged, that it is necessary to the well-being of mankind 
that they should be kept in awe by the slavish notions 
of religion and morality \ But, granting all this, how will 
it prove these notions to be true ? Convenience is one 
thing, and truth is another. A genuine philosopher, there- 
fore, will overlook all advantages, and consider only truth 
itself as such. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is your genuine philosopher 
a wise man, or a fool ? 

Ale. Without question, the wisest of men. 

Euph. Which is to be thought the wise man, he who acts 
with design, or he who acts at random ? 

Ale. He who acts with design. 

Euph. Whoever acts with design, acts for some end : 
doth he not ? 

Ale. He doth. 

Euph. And a wise man for a good end ? 

Ale. True. 

Euph. And he sheweth his wisdom in making choice of 
fit means to obtain his end ? 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Euph. By how much, therefore, the end proposed is 
more excellent, and by how much fitter the means em- 
ployed are to obtain it, so much the wiser is the agent 
to be esteemed ? 

Ale. This seems to be true. 

Euph. Can a rational agent propose a more excellent 
end than happiness ? 

Ale. He cannot. 

Euph. Of good things, the greater good is most excel- 
lent? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. Is not the general happiness of mankind a greater 
good than the private happiness of one man, or of some 
certain men ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Is it not therefore the most excellent end ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

1 ' The moral virtues are the begot upon pride.'— Fable of the 
political offspring which flattery Bees. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 65 

Euph. Are not then those who pursue this end, by the 
properest methods, to be thought the wisest men ? 

Ale. I grant they are. 

Euph. Which is a wise man governed by, wise or foolish 
notions ? 

Ale. By wise, doubtless. 

Euph. It seems then to follow, that he who promotes the 
general well-being of mankind, by the proper necessary 
means, is truly wise, and acts upon wise grounds. 

Ale. It should seem so. 

Euph. And is not folly of an opposite nature to wisdom ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Might it not therefore be inferred, that those men 
are foolish who go about to unhinge such principles as 
have a necessary connexion with the general good of 
mankind ? 

Ale. Perhaps this might be granted : but at the same 
time I must observe that it is in my power to deny it. 

Euph. How ! you will not surely deny the conclusion, 
when you admit the premises ? 

Ale. I would fain know upon what terms we argue ; 
whether in this progress of question and answer, if a man 
makes a slip, it be utterly irretrievable ? For, if you are 
on the catch to lay hold of every advantage, without 
allowing for surprise or inattention, I must tell you this 
is not the way to convince my judgment. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I aim not at triumph, but at truth. 
You are therefore at full liberty to unravel all that hath 
been said, and to recover or correct any slip you have 
made. But then you must distinctly point it out : otherwise 
it will be impossible ever to arrive at any conclusion. 

Ale. I agree with^ou upon these terms jointly to proceed 
in search of truth, for to that I am sincerely devoted. In 
the progress of our present inquiry, I was, it seems, guilty 
of an oversight, in acknowledging the general happiness of 
mankind to be a greater good than the particular happi- 
ness of one man. For in fact the individual happiness of 
every man alone constitutes his own entire good. The 
happiness of other men, making no part of mine, is not 
with respect to me a good : I mean a true natural good. 
It cannot therefore be a reasonable end to be proposed by 
me, in truth and nature (for I do not speak of political 

BERKELEY ! FRASER. II. F 



66 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

pretences), since no wise man will pursue an end which 
doth not concern him. This is the voice of nature. O 
nature ! thou art the fountain, original, and pattern of 
all that is good and wise. 

Euph. You would like then to follow nature, and propose 
her as a guide and pattern for your imitation ? 

Ale. Of all things. 

Euph. Whence do you gather this respect for nature ? 

Ale. From the excellency of her productions. 

Euph. In a vegetable, for instance, you say there is use 
and excellency ; because the several parts of it are so 
connected and fitted to each other as to protect and nourish 
the whole, make the individual grow, and propagate the 
kind ; and because in its fruits or qualities it is adapted 
to please the sense, or contribute to the benefit of man. 

Ale. Even so. 

Euph. In like manner, do you not infer the excellency 
of animal bodies from observing the frame and fitness 
of their several parts, by which they mutually conspire 
to the well-being of each other as well as of the whole ? 
Do you not also observe a natural union and consent 
between animals of the same kind ; and that even different 
kinds of animals have certain qualities and instincts 
whereby they contribute to the exercise, nourishment, 
and delight of each other? Even the inanimate unor- 
ganized elements seem to have an excellence relative 
to each other. Where was the excellency of water, if 
it did not cause herbs and vegetables to spring from the 
earth, and put forth flowers and fruits ? And what would 
become of the beauty of the earth, if it was not warmed 
by the sun, moistened by water, and fanned by air? 
Throughout the whole system of the visible and natural 
world, do you not perceive a mutual connexion and 
correspondence of parts ? And is it not from hence that 
you frame an idea of the perfection, and order, and beauty 
of nature ? 

Ale. All this I grant. 

Euph. And have not the Stoics heretofore said (who 
were no more bigots than you are), and did you not 
yourself say, this pattern of order was worthy of the 
imitation of rational agents? 

Ale. I do not deny this to be true. 



THE FIRST DIALOGUE 67 

Euph. Ought we not, therefore, to infer the same union, 
order, and regularity in the moral world that we perceive 
to be in the natural ? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. Should it not therefore seem to follow, that 
reasonable creatures were, as the philosophical Emperor 1 
observes, made one for another; and, consequently, that 
man ought not to consider himself as an independent indivi- 
dual, whose happiness is not connected with that of other 
men ; but rather as a part of a whole, to the common good 
of which he ought to conspire, and order his ways and 
actions suitably, if he would live according to nature ? 

Ale. Supposing this to be true, what then ? 

Euph. Will it not follow that a wise man should consider 
and pursue his private good, with regard to, and in con- 
junction with that of other men ? In granting of which, 
you thought yourself guilty of an oversight. Though, 
indeed, the sympathy of pain and pleasure, and the mutual 
affections by which mankind are knit together have been 
always allowed a plain proof of this point : and though 
it was the constant doctrine of those who were esteemed 
the wisest and most thinking men among the ancients, 
as the Platonists, Peripatetics, and Stoics ; to say nothing 
of Christians, whom you pronounce to be an unthinking, 
prejudiced sort of people 2 . 

Ale. I shall not dispute this point with you. 

Euph. Since, therefore, we are so far agreed, should 
it not seem to follow from the premises — that the belief 
of a God, of a future state, and of moral duties are the 
only wise, right, and genuine principles of human conduct, 
in case they have a necessary connexion with the well- 
being of mankind ? This conclusion you have been led to 
by your own concessions, and by the analogy of nature. 

Ale. I have been drawn into it step by step through 
several preliminaries, which I cannot well call to mind ; 

1 [M. Antonin. Lib. IV.]— Au- a whole, to the common good of 
thor. which he ought to conspire,' if 

2 This implies Berkeley's moral he would live 'according to nature.' 
Ideal, and the root of his Social The happiness of mankind, being a 
Idealism— that each man ought not greater good than the happiness of 
to consider himself an independent any one man, ought accordingly to 
individual, but rather as ■ part of be the chief end of human actions. 

F 2 



68 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

but one thing I observe, that you build on the necessary 
connexion those principles have with the well-being of 
mankind, which is a point neither proved nor granted. 

Lys. This I take to be a grand fundamental prejudice, 
as I doubt not, if I had time, I could make appear. But it 
is now late, and we will, if you think fit, defer this subject 
till to-morrow *. 

Upon which motion of Lysicles, we put an end to our 
conversation for that evening. 

' The Country Clergyman, section Euphranor ' puzzles and 
(' Sporus ') complains that in this perplexes the question.' 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 1 . 



i. Vulgar error, that vice is hurtful. 2. The benefit of drunkenness, 
gaming, and whoring. 3. Prejudice against vice wearing off. 4. Its 
usefulness illustrated in the instances of Callicles and Telesilla. 
5. The reasoning of Lysicles in behalf of vice examined. 6. Wrong 
to punish actions, when the doctrines whence they flow are tolerated. 
7. Hazardous experiment of the minute philosophers. 8. Their 
doctrine of circulation and revolution. 9. Their sense of a reformation. 
10. Riches alone not the public weal. 11. Authority of minute 
philosophers : their prejudice against religion. 12. Effects of luxury : 
virtue, whether notional ? 13. Pleasure of sense. 14. What sort 
of pleasure most natural to man. 15. Dignity of human nature. 
16. Pleasure mistaken. 17. Amusements, misery, and cowardice of 
minute philosophers. 18. Rakes cannot reckon. 19. Abilities and 
success of minute philosophers. 20. Happy effects of the minute 
philosophy in particular instances. 21. Their free notions about 
government. 22. England the proper soil for minute philosophy. 
23. The policy and address of its professors. 24. Merit of minute 
philosophers towards the public. 25. Their notions and character. 
26. Their tendency towards popery and slavery. 

i. Next morning Alciphron and Lysicles said the 
weather was so fine they had a mind to spend the day 
abroad, and take a cold dinner under a shade in some 

1 In this Dialogue Mandeville is at the opposite pole to that of 

represented by Lysicles ; who de- Shaftesbury, whose system is the 

fends the paradox — 'private vices, subject of discussion in -the Third 

public benefits,' popular among Dialogue, while this Dialogue is 

the men of pleasure of the time, devoted to Mandeville, so that a 

the text in the Fable of the Bees, sort of pessimism and a sort of 

the sixth edition of which appeared optimism are represented in those 

in the same year as Alciphron. His Dialogues. Berkeley here deals 

reply to Berkeley is contained in with free-thought as proposing, on 

the Letter to Dion. the ground of the public good, an 

Bernard de Mandeville was born unrestrained freedom of the animal 

in Holland about 1670, practised as man. Lysicles, the man of plea- 

a physician in London, and died sure, is accordingly now the promi- 

' n J 733- The Fable of the Bees nent free-thinker. 
(1 702) argues for a view of morality 



70 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

pleasant part of the country. Whereupon, after break- 
fast, we went down to a beach about half a mile off; 
where we walked on the smooth sand, with the ocean 
on one hand, and on the other wild broken rocks ', 
intermixed with shady trees and springs of water, till 
the sun began to be uneasy. We then withdrew into 
a hollow glade, between two rocks, where we had no 
sooner seated ourselves than Lysicles, addressing himself 
to Euphranor, said : — I am now ready to perform what 
I undertook last evening, which was to shew there is 
nothing in that necessary connexion which some men 
imagine between those principles you contend for, and 
the public good. I freely own that if this question was 
to be decided by the authority of legislators or philo- 
sophers it must go against us. For those men generally 
take it for granted that Vice is pernicious to the public ; 
and that men cannot be kept from vice but by the fear 
of God, and the sense of a Future State : whence they are 
induced to think the belief of such things necessary to 
the well-being of human-kind. This false notion hath pre- 
vailed for many ages in the world, and done an infinite 
deal of mischief, being in truth the cause of religious 
establishments, and gaining the protection and encourage- 
ment of laws and magistrates to the clergy and their 
superstitions. Even some of the wisest among the ancients, 
who agreed with our sect in denying a Providence and 
the Immortality of the Soul, had nevertheless the weakness 
to lie under the common prejudice, that vice was hurtful 
to societies of men. But England hath of late produced 
great philosophers 2 , who have undeceived the world, and 

1 The Second Beach and Hanging vices, by dexterous management 
Rocks, Rhode Island. of governors, may be made to tend 

2 Mandeville is here referred to. to public happiness ; " or, " private 
' It is not,' says Hutcheson, in his vices naturally and necessarily flow 
reply to Mandeville, ' the interest from public happiness ; " or, lastly, 
of every writer to free his words " private vices will probably flow 
from ambiguity. " Private vices from public prosperity, through the 
public benefits" may signify any present corruption of men." . . . 
one of these five distinct proposi- Far be it from a candid writer to 
tions : — M private vices are them- charge upon him [ Mandeville] any 
selves public benefits;" or, "private one of these opinions more than 
vices naturally tend, as the direct another; for, if we treat him fairly, 
and necessary means, to produce and compare the several parts of 
public happiness;" or, "private his works together, we shall find 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 7 1 

proved to a demonstration that private vices are public 
benefits. This discovery was reserved to our times, and 
our sect hath the glory of it. 

Cri. It is possible some men of fine understanding might 
in former ages have had a glimpse of this important truth ; 
but it may be presumed they lived in ignorant times and 
bigoted countries, which were not ripe for such a discovery. 

Lys. Men of narrow capacities and short sight, being 
able to see no further than one link in a chain of conse- 
quences, are shocked at small evils which attend upon 
vice. But those who can enlarge their view, and look 
through a long series of events, may behold happiness 
resulting from vice, and good springing out of evil in 
a thousand instances. To prove my point, I shall not 
trouble you with authorities, or far-fetched arguments, but 
bring you to plain matter of fact. Do but take a view of 
each particular vice, and trace it through its effects and 
consequences, and then you will clearly perceive the 
advantage it brings to the public 1 . 

2. Drunkenness 2 , for instance, is by your sober moralists 
thought a pernicious vice ; but it is for want of considering 
the good effects that flow from it. For, in the first place, 
it increases the malt tax, a principal branch of his majesty's 
revenue, and thereby promotes the safety, strength, and 
glory of the nation. Secondly, it employs a great number 
of hands, the brewer, the maltster, the ploughman, the 
dealer in hops, the smith, the carpenter, the brazier, the 
joiner, with all other artificers necessary to supply those 
enumerated with their respective instruments and utensils. 
All which advantages are procured from drunkenness in 
the vulgar way, by strong beer. This point is so clear 
it will admit of no dispute. But, while you are forced to 
allow thus much, I foresee you are ready to object against 
drunkenness occasioned by wine and spirits, as exporting 
wealth into foreign countries. But do you not reflect on 
the number of hands which even this sets on work at 

no ground for such a charge.' — ' This of Lysicles is almost a 

{Remarks upon the Fable of the quotation from the Fable of the 

Bees.) In Mandeville's Letter to Bees. 

Dion, pp. 36-38, he seems to adopt a See Fable of the Bees, 'Remark' 

the third of those propositions, and G, where the author tries to shew 

adds that by 'happiness' he intends the tendency of drunkenness to 

temporal happiness only. increase wealth. 



72 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

home: the distillers, the vintners, the merchants, the 
sailors, the shipwrights, with all those who are employed 
towards victualling and fitting out ships, which upon a nice 
computation will be found to include an incredible variety 
of trades and callings. Then, for freighting our ships to 
answer these foreign importations, all our manufacturers 
throughout the kingdom are employed, the spinners, the 
weavers, the dyers, the wool-combers, the carriers, the 
packers. And the same may be said of many other manu- 
facturers, as well as the woollen. And if it be further 
considered how many men are enriched by all the fore- 
mentioned ways of trade and business, and the expenses 
of these men and their families, in all the several articles 
of convenient and fashionable living, whereby all sorts of 
trades and callings, not only at home but throughout all 
parts wherever our commerce reaches, are kept in employ- 
ment; you will be amazed at the wonderfully-extended 
scene of benefits which arises from the single vice of 
drunkenness, so much run down and declaimed against 
by all grave reformers. 

With as much judgment your half-witted folk are 
accustomed to censure gaming 1 . And indeed (such is 
the ignorance and folly of mankind) a gamester and a 
drunkard are thought no better than public nuisances, 
when in truth they do each in their way greatly conduce 
to the public benefit. If you look only on the surface and 
first appearance of things, you will no doubt think playing 
at cards a very idle and fruitless occupation. But dive 
deeper, and you shall perceive this idle amusement 
employs the card-maker, and he sets the paper-mills at 
work, by which the poor rag-man is supported ; not to 
mention the builders and workers in wood and iron that 
are employed in erecting and furnishing those mills. 
Look still deeper, and you shall find that candles and 
chair-hire employ the industrious and the poor, who, by 
these means, come to be relieved by sharpers and gentle- 
men, who would not give one penny in charity. But, you 
will say that many gentlemen and ladies are ruined by 
play, without considering that what one man loses another 
gets, and that, consequently, as many are made as ruined : 

1 See Fable of the Bees, 'Remark' making it an article in social 
E, on the advantages of gambling, morality. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 73 

money changeth hands, and in this circulation the life of 
business and commerce consists. When money is spent, 
it is all one to the public who spends it. Suppose a fool 
of quality becomes the dupe of a man of mean birth and 
circumstance who has more wit. In this case what harm 
doth the public sustain? Poverty is relieved, ingenuity 
is rewarded, the money stays at home, and has a lively 
circulation, the ingenious sharper being enabled to set up 
an equipage and spend handsomely, which cannot be done 
without employing a world of people. But you will per- 
haps object that a man reduced by play may be put upon 
desperate courses, hurtful to the public. Suppose the 
worst, and that he turns highwayman ; such men have 
a short life and a merry. While he lives, he spends, and 
for one that he robs makes twenty the better for his 
expense. And, when his time is come, a poor family may 
be relieved by fifty or a hundred pounds set upon his head. 
A vulgar eye looks on many a man as an idle or mis- 
chievous fellow, whom a true philosopher, viewing in 
another light, considers as a man of pleasant occupation, 
who diverts himself, and benefits the public, and that with 
so much ease that he employs a multitude of men, and 
sets an infinite machine in motion, without knowing the 
good he does, or even intending to do any: which is 
peculiar to that gentleman-like way of doing good by vice. 

I was considering play, and that insensibly led me to the 
advantages which attend robbing on the highway. Oh the 
beautiful and never-enough-admired connexion of vices ! 
It would take too much time to shew how they all hang 
together, and what an infinite deal of good takes its rise 
from every one of them. One word for a favourite vice, 
and I shall leave you to make out the rest yourself, by 
applying the same way of reasoning to all other vices. 
A poor girl, who might not have the spending of half- 
a-crown a week in what you call an honest way, no 
sooner hath the good fortune to be a kept-mistress, but 
she employs milliners, laundresses, tire-women, mercers, 
and a number of other trades, to the benefit of her 
country. It would be endless to trace and pursue 
every particular vice through its consequences and effects, 
and shew the vast advantage they all are of to the public. 
The true springs that actuate the great machine of com- 



74 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

merce, and make a flourishing state, have been hitherto 
little understood. Your moralists and divines have for so 
many ages been corrupting the genuine sense of mankind, 
and filling their heads with such absurd principles, that it 
is in the power of few men to contemplate real life with an 
unprejudiced eye. And fewer still have sufficient parts and 
sagacity to pursue a long train of consequences, relations, 
and dependences, which must be done in order to form 
a just and entire notion of the public weal. But, as I said 
before, our sect hath produced men capable of these dis- 
coveries, who have displayed them in full light, and made 
them public for the benefit of their country. 

3. Oh ! said Euphranor, who heard this discourse with 
great attention, you, Lysicles, are the very man I wanted, 
eloquent and ingenious, knowing in the principles of your 
sect, and willing to impart them. Pray tell me, do these 
principles find an easy admission in the world ? 

Lys. They do among ingenious men and people of 
fashion, though you will sometimes meet with strong pre- 
judices against them in the middle sort, an effect of 
ordinary talents and mean breeding. 

Euph. I should wonder if men were not shocked at 
notions of such a surprising nature, so contrary to all laws, 
education, and religion. 

Lys. They would be shocked much more if it had not 
been for the skilful address of our philosophers, who, con- 
sidering that most men are influenced by names rather 
than things, have introduced a certain polite way of speak- 
ing, which lessens much of the abhorrence and prejudice 
towards vice. 

Euph. Explain me this. 

Lys. Thus, in our dialect, a vicious man is a man of 
pleasure, a sharper is one that plays the whole game, a 
lady is said to have an affair, a gentleman to be a gallant, 
a rogue in business to be one that knows the world. By 
this means, we have no such things as sots, debauchees, 
whores, rogues, or the like, in the beau monde, who may 
enjoy their vices without incurring disagreeable appella- 
tions. 

Euph. Vice then is, it seems, a fine thing with an ugly 
name. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 75 

Lys. Be assured it is. 

Euph. It should seem then that Plato's fearing lest youth 
might be corrupted by those fables which represented the 
gods vicious was an effect of his weakness and ignorance \ 

Lys. It was, take my word for it. 

Euph. And yet Plato had kept good company, and lived 
in a court ! And Cicero, who knew the world well, had 
a profound esteem for him 2 . 

Cri. I tell you, Euphranor, that Plato and Tully might 
perhaps make a figure in Athens or Rome : but, were they 
to revive in our days, they would pass but for underbred 
pedants, there being at most coffee-houses in London 
several able men who could convince them they knew 
nothing in, what they are valued so much for, morals and 
politics. 

Lys. How many long-headed men do I know, both in 
the court-end and the city, with five times Plato's sense, 
who care not one straw what notions their sons have of 
God or virtue. 

4. Cri. I can illustrate this doctrine of Lysicles by 
examples that will make you perceive its force. Cleophon, 
a minute philosopher, took strict care of his son's educa- 
tion, and entered him betimes in the principles of his sect. 
Callicles (that was his son's name), being a youth of parts, 
made a notable progress ; insomuch that before he became 
of age he killed his old covetous father with vexation, and 
ruined the estate he left behind him ; or, in other words, 
made a present of it to the public, spreading the dunghill 
collected by his ancestors over the face of the nation, and 
making out of one overgrown estate several pretty fortunes 
for ingenious men, who live by the vices of the great. 
Telesilla, though a woman of quality and spirit, made no 
figure in the world, till she was instructed by her husband 
in the tenets of minute philosophy, which he wisely thought 
would prevent her giving anything in charity. From that 
time, she took a turn towards expensive diversions, particu- 
larly deep play, by which means she soon transferred 
a considerable share of his fortune to several acute men 
skilled in that mystery, who wanted it more, and circulated 

1 See Republic, Bk. II. * See Tuscul. Quasi. I. 17. 



76 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

it quicker, than her husband would have done, who in 
return hath got an heir to his estate, having never had 
a child before. The same Telesilla, who was good for 
nothing as long as she believed her catechism, now shines 
in all public places, is a lady of gallantry and fashion, and 
has, by her extravagant parade in lace and fine clothes, 
raised a spirit of expense in other ladies, very much to the 
public benefit, though it must be owned to the mortifica- 
tion of many frugal husbands. 

While Crito related these facts with a grave face, I could 
not forbear smiling, which Lysicles observing — Superficial 
minds, said he, may perhaps find something to ridicule in 
these accounts ; but all who are masters of a just way of 
thinking must needs see that those maxims, the benefit 
whereof is universal, and the damage only particular to 
private persons or families, ought to be encouraged in 
a wise commonwealth. 

For my part, said Euphranor, I confess myself to be 
rather dazzled and confounded than convinced by your 
reasoning ; which, as you observed yourself, taking in the 
connexion of many distant points, requires great extent of 
thought to comprehend it. I must therefore entreat you 
to bear with my defects ; suffer me to take to pieces what 
is too big to be received at once. And, where I cannot 
keep pace with you, permit me to follow you step by step, 
as fast as I can. 

Lys. There is reason in what you say. Every one can- 
not suddenly take a long concatenation of arguments. 

Euph. Your several arguments seem to centre in this : 
that vice circulates money and promotes industry \ which 
cause a people to flourish. Is it not so ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph, And the reason that vice produceth this effect, is, 
because it causeth an extravagant consumption ; which is 
the most beneficial to the manufactures, their encourage- 
ment consisting in a quick demand and high price ? 

Lys. True. 

Euph. Hence you think a drunkard most beneficial to 
the brewer and the vintner, as causing a quick consump- 
tion of liquor, inasmuch as he drinks more than other men ? 

1 See Fable of the Bees, ' Remarks/ passim. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 77 

Lys. Without doubt. 

Euph. Say, Lysicles, who drinks most, a sick man or 
a healthy? 

Lys. A healthy. 

Euph. And which is healthier, a sober man or a 
drunkard ? 

Lys. A sober man. 

Euph. A sober man, therefore, in health may drink more 
than a drunkard when he is sick ? 

Lys. He may. 

Euph. What think you, will a man consume more meat 
and drink in a long life or a short one ? 

Lys. In a long. 

Euph. A sober healthy man, therefore, in a long life, 
may circulate more money by eating and drinking, than 
a glutton or drunkard in a short one ? 

Lys. What then ? 

Euph. Why then it should seem that he may be more 
beneficial to the public, even in this way of eating and 
drinking. 

Lys. I shall never own that temperance is the way to 
promote drinking. 

Euph. But you will own sickness lessens, and death 
puts an end to all drinking? The same argument will 
hold, for aught I can see, with respect to all other vices 
that impair men's health and shorten their lives. And, if 
we admit this, it will not be so clear a point that vice hath 
merit towards the public J . 

Lys. But, admitting that some artificers or traders might 
be as well encouraged by the sober men as the vicious ; 
what shall we say of those who subsist altogether by vice 
and vanity? 

Euph. If such there are, may they not be otherwise 
employed without loss to the public ? Tell me, Lysicles, 
is there anything in the nature of vice, as such, that renders 
it a public blessing, or is it only the consumption it occa- 
sions ? 

Lys. I have already shewn how it benefits the nation by 
the consumption of its manufactures. 

Euph. And you have granted that a long and healthy 

1 In Hutcheson's Remarks upon the Fable of the Bees, p. 61, similar 
reasoning is employed. 



78 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

life consumes more than a short and sickly one ; and you 
will not deny that many consume more than one ? Upon 
the whole then, compute and say, which is most likely to 
promote the industry of his countrymen, a virtuous married 
man with a healthy numerous offspring, and who feeds 
and clothes the orphans in his neighbourhood, or a fashion- 
able rake about town ? I would fain know whether money 
spent innocently doth not circulate as well as that spent 
upon vice ? And, if so, whether by your own rule it doth 
not benefit the public as much ? 

Lys. What I have proved, I proved plainly, and there 
is no need of more words about it. 

Euph. You seem to me to have proved nothing, unless 
you can make it out that it is impossible to spend a fortune 
innocently. I should think the public weal of a nation 
consists in the number and good condition of its inhabit' 
ants ; have you anything to object to in this ? 

Lys. I think not. 

Euph. To this end which would most conduce, the 
employing men in open air and manly exercise, or in 
a sedentary business within doors ? 

Lys. The former, I suppose. 

Euph. Should it not seem, therefore, that building, 
gardening, and agriculture would employ men more use- 
fully to the public than if tailors, barbers, perfumers, dis- 
tillers, and such arts were multiplied ? 

Lys. All this I grant ; but it makes against you. For, 
what moves men to build and plant but vanity, and what is 
vanity but vice ? 

Euph. But, if a man should do those things for his con- 
venience or pleasure, and iif proportion to his fortune, 
without a foolish ostentation, or overrating them beyond 
their due value, they would not then be the effect of vice ; 
and how do you know but this may be the case ? 

Cri. One thing I know, that the readiest way to quicken 
that sort of industry, and employ carpenters, masons, 
smiths, and all such trades, would be to put in practice the 
happy hint of a celebrated minute philosopher \ who, by 
profound thinking, has discovered that burning the city of 
London would be no such bad action as silly prejudiced 

1 Mandeville. who refers to this thrust in his Letter to Dion, p. 4. 






THE SECOND DIALOGUE 79 

people might possibly imagine ; inasmuch as it would pro- 
duce a quick circulation of property, transferring it from 
the rich to the poor, and employing a great number of 
artificers of all kinds. This, at least, cannot be denied, 
that it hath opened a new way of thinking to our incendi- 
aries, of which the public hath of late begun to reap the 
benefit. 

Euph. I cannot sufficiently admire this ingenious thought. 

6. But methinks it would be dangerous to make it 
public. 

Cri. Dangerous to whom ? 

Euph. In the first place to the publisher. 

Cri. That is a mistake ; for the notion hath been published 
and met with due applause, in this most wise and happy 
age of free-thinking, free-speaking, free-writing, and free- 
acting. 

Euph. How may a man then publish and practise such 
things with impunity ? 

Cri. To speak the truth, I am not so clear as to the 
practical part. An unlucky accident now and then befals 
an ingenious man. The minute philosopher Magirus, 
being desirous to benefit the public, by circulating an 
estate possessed by a near relation who had not the 
heart to spend it, soon convinced himself, upon these 
principles; that it would be a very worthy action to dispatch 
out of the way such a useless fellow, to whom he was 
next heir. But, for this laudable attempt, he had the 
misfortune to be hanged by an underbred judge and jury. 
Could anything be more unjust? 

Euph. Why unjust? 

Cri. Is it not unjust to punish actions, when the prin- 
ciples from which they directly follow are tolerated and 
applauded by the public ? Can anything be more incon- 
sistent than to condemn in practice what is approved in 
speculation ? Truth is one and the same ; it being im- 
possible a thing should be practically wrong and specu- 
latively right. Thus much is certain, Magirus was perfect 
master of all this theory, and argued most acutely about 
it with a friend of mine, a little before he did the fact for 
which he died. 

Lys. The best of it is the world every day grows wiser ; 



80 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

P though it must be owned, the writers of our sect have 
not yet shaken off all respect for human laws, whatever 
they may do as to divine. It seems they venture no 
further, than to recommend an inward principle of vice, 
operating under an outward restraint of human laws. 

Cri. That writer who considers man only as an instru- 
ment of passion, who absolves him from all ties of con- 
science and religion, and leaves him no law to respect or 
fear but the law of the land, is to be sure a public benefit.] 
You mistake, Euphranor, if you think the minute philo- 
sophers idle theorists ; they are men of practical views. 

Euph. As much as I love liberty, I should be afraid to 
live among such people ; it would be, as Seneca some- 
where expresseth it, in libertate bellis ac tyrannis sceviore. 

Lys. What do you mean by quoting Plato and Seneca ? 
Can you imagine a free-thinker is to be influenced by the 
authority of such old-fashioned writers ? 

Euph. You, Lysicles, and your friend, have often quoted 
to me ingenious moderns, profound fine gentlemen, with 
new names of authors in the minute philosophy, to whose 
merits I am a perfect stranger. Suffer me in my turn to 
cite such authorities as I know, and have passed for many 
ages upon the world. 

7. But, authority apart, what do you say to experience ? 
My observation can reach as far as a private family ; and 
some wise men have thought a family may be considered 
as a small kingdom, or a kingdom as a great family. Do 
you admit this to be true ? 

Lys. If I say yes, you will make an inference ; and if 
I say no, you will demand a reason. The best way is to 
say nothing at all. There is, I see, no end of answering. 

Euph. If you give up the point you undertook to prove, 
there is an end at once : but, if you hope to convince me, 
you must answer my questions, and allow me the liberty 
to argue and infer. 

Lys. Well, suppose I admit that a kingdom may be con- 
sidered as a great family. 

Euph. I shall ask you then, whether ever you knew 
private families thrive by those vices you think so beneficial 
to the public ? 

1 The words within brackets were added in the second edition. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 8f 

Lys. Suppose I have not. 

Euph. Might not a man therefore, by a parity of reason, 
suspect their being of that benefit to the public ? 

Lys. Fear not ; the next age will thrive and flourish. 

Euph. Pray tell me, Lysicles ; suppose you saw a fruit 
of a new untried kind ; would you recommend it to your 
own family to make a full meal of? 

Lys. I would not. 

Euph. Why then would you try upon your own country 
these maxims which were never admitted in any other ? 

Lys. The experiment must begin somewhere ; and we 
are resolved our own country shall have the honour and 
advantage of it. 

Euph. O Lysicles ! hath not old England subsisted for 
many ages without the help of your notions ? 

Lys. She has. 

Euph. And made some figure ? 

Lys. I grant it. 

Euph. "Why then should you make her run the risk of a 
new experiment, when it is certain she may do without it ? 

Lys. But we would make her do better. We would 
produce a change in her that never was seen in any nation. 

Euph. Sallust observes ] that a little before the downfall 
of the Roman greatness avarice (the effect of luxury) had 
erased the good old principles of probity and justice, had 
produced a contempt for religion, and made everything 
venal ; while ambition bred dissimulation, and caused 
men to unite in clubs and parties, not from honourable 
motives, but narrow and interested views. The same 
historian observes 2 of that great free-thinker Catiline, that 
he made it his business to insinuate himself into the ac- 
quaintance of young men, whose minds, unimproved by 
years and experience, were more easily seduced. I know 
not how it happens, but these passages have occurred 
to my thoughts more than once during this conversation. 

Lys. Sallust was a sententious pedant. 

Euph. But consult any historian, look into any writer. 
See, for instance, what Xenophon and Livy say of Sparta 
and Rome, and then tell me if vice be not the likeliest 
way to ruin and enslave a people. 

1 Ca/ilina, 10. s Ibid. 16. 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. G 



82 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Lys. When a point is clear by its own evidence, I never 
think it worth while to consult old authors about it. 

Cri. It requires much thought and delicate observation 
to go to the bottom of things. But one who hath come at 
truth with difficulty can impart it with ease. I will, 
therefore, Euphranor, explain to you in three words (what 
none of your old writers ever dreamt of) — the true cause 
of ruin to those states. You must know that vice and 
virtue, being opposite and contradictory principles, both 
working at once in a state, will produce contrary effects, 
which intestine discord must needs tend to the dissolution 
and ruin of the whole. But it is the design of our minute 
philosophers, by making men wicked upon principle, a 
thing unknown to the ancients, so to weaken and destroy 
the force of virtue that its effects shall not be felt in the 
public. In which case, vice being uncontrolled, without 
let or impediment of principle, pure and genuine, without 
allay of virtue, the nation must doubtless be very flourish- 
ing and triumphant. 

Euph. Truly, a noble scheme ! 

Cri. And in a fair way to take effect. For, our young 
proficients in the minute philosophy, having, by a rare 
felicity of education, no tincture of bigotry or prejudice, 
do far outgo the old standers and professors of the sect ; 
who, though men of admirable parts, yet, having had the 
misfortune to be imbued in their childhood with some 
religious notions, could never after get entirely rid of 
them ; but still retain some small grains of conscience and 
superstition, which are a check upon the noblest genius. 
In proof of this, I remember that the famous minute 
philosopher, old Demodicus, came one day from conver- 
sation upon business with Timander, a young gentleman 
of the same sect, full of astonishment. I am surprised, 
said he, to see so young, and withal so complete a villain ; 
and, such was the force of prejudice, spoke of Timander 
with abhorrence, not considering that he was only the 
more egregious and profound philosopher of the two. 

8. Euph. Though much may be hoped from the un- 
prejudiced education of young gentlemen, yet it seems 
we are not to expect a settled and entire happiness, before 
vice reigns pure and unmixed : till then, much is to be 
feared from the dangerous struggle between vice and 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 83 

virtue, which may perchance overturn and dissolve this 
government, as it hath done others. 

Lys. No matter for that, if a better comes in its place. 
We have cleared the land of all prejudices towards 
government or constitution, and made them fly like other 
phantasms before the light of reason and good sense. 
Men who think deeply cannot see any reason why power 
should not change hands as well as property ; or why the 
fashion of a government should not be changed as easy 
as that of a garment. The perpetual circulating and revolv- 
ing of wealth and power, no matter through what or whose 
hands, is that which keeps up life and spirit in a state 1 . 
Those who are even slightly read in our philosophy, know 
that of all prejudices, the silliest is an attachment to forms. 

Cri. To say no more upon so clear a point, the over- 
turning of a government may be justified upon the same 
principles as the burning a town, would produce parallel 
effects, and equally contribute to the public good. In both 
cases, the natural springs of action are forcibly exerted ; 
and, in this general industry, what one loses another gets, 
a quick circulation of wealth and power making the sum 
total to flourish. 

Euph. And do the minute philosophers publish these 
things to the world ? 

Lys. It must be confessed our writers proceed in Politics 
with greater caution than they think necessary with regard 
to Religion. 

Cri. But those things plainly follow from their principles, 
and are to be admitted for the genuine doctrine of the sect, 
expressed perhaps with more freedom and perspicuity than 
might be thought prudent by those who would manage the 
public, or not offend weak brethren. 

Euph. And pray, is there not need of caution, a rebel or 
incendiary being characters that many men have a prejudice 
against ? 

Lys. Weak people of all ranks have a world of absurd 
prejudices. 

Euph. But the better sort, such as statesmen and legis- 
lators ; do you think they have not the same indisposition 
towards admitting your principles ? 

1 See Fable of the Bees, ' Remarks ' G, I, L, M. 

G 2 



84 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Lys. Perhaps they may ; but the reason is plain. 

Cri. This puts me in mind of that ingenious philosopher, 
the gamester Glaucus, who used to say, that statesmen and 
law-givers may keep a stir about right and wrong, just and 
unjust, but that, in truth, property of every kind had so 
often passed from the right owners by fraud and violence 
that it was now to be considered as lying on the common, 
and with equal right belonged to every one that could 
seize it. 

Euph. What are we to think then of laws and regula- 
tions relating to right and wrong, crimes and duties ? 

Lys. They serve to bind weak minds, and keep the 
vulgar in awe : but no sooner doth a true genius arise, 
but he breaks his way to greatness through all the tram- 
mels of duty, conscience, religion, law ; to all which he 
sheweth himself infinitely superior. 

9. Euph. You are, it seems, for bringing about a thorough 
reformation ? 

Lys. As to what is commonty called the Reformation, 
I could never see how or wherein the world was the better 
for it. It is much the same as Popery, with this difference, 
that it is the more prude-like and disagreeable thing of the 
two. A noted writer of ours 1 makes it too great a compli- 
ment, when he computes the benefit of hooped petticoats 
to be nearly equal to that of the Reformation. Thorough 
reformation is thorough liberty. Leave nature at full free- 
dom to work her own way, and all will be well. This is 
what we aim at, and nothing short of this can come up 
to our principles. 

Crito, who is a zealous protestant, hearing these words, 
could not refrain. The worst effect of the Reformation, 
said he, was the rescuing wicked men from a darkness 
which kept them in awe. This, as it hath proved, was 
holding out light to robbers and murderers. Light in 
itself is good, and the same light which shews a man the 
folly of superstition, might shew him the truth of religion, 
and the madness of atheism. But, to make use of light 
only to see the evils on one side, and never to see, but 
to run blindly upon the worst extreme — this is to make 

1 Mandeville in the Fable of the Bees. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 85 

the best of things produce evil, in the same sense as you 
prove the worst of things to produce good, to wit, accident- 
ally or indirectly : and, by the same method of arguing, 
you may prove that even diseases are useful : but whatever 
benefit seems to accrue to the public, either from disease 
of mind or body, is not their genuine offspring, and may 
be obtained without them. 

Lysicles was a little disconcerted by the affirmative air 
of Crito ; but, after a short pause, replied briskly, That 
to contemplate the public good was not every one's 
talent. 

True, said Euphranor, I question whether every one 
can frame a notion of the public good, much less judge 
of the means to promote it. 

10. But you, Lysicles, who are master of this subject, 
will be pleased to inform me, whether the public good 
of a nation doth not imply the particular good of its 
individuals ? 

Lys. It doth. 

Euph. And doth not the good or happiness of a man 
consist in having both soul and body sound and in good 
condition, enjoying those things which their respective 
natures require, and free from those things which are 
odious or hurtful to them? 

Lys. I do not deny all this to be true. 

Euph. Now, it should seem worth while to consider, 
whether the regular decent life of a virtuous man may not 
as much conduce to this end as the mad sallies of intemper- 
ance and debauchery. 

Lys. I will acknowledge that a nation may merely 
subsist, or be kept alive, but it is impossible it should 
flourish without the aid of vice. To produce a quick 
circulation of traffic and wealth in a state, there must be 
exorbitant and irregular motions in the appetites and 
passions \ 

1 ' The worst of all the multitude This, as in music harmony. 

Did something for the common Made jarrings in the main 
good ; agree ; 

This was the State's-craft Parties directly opposite 

that maintained Assist each other, as 'twere 
The whole, of which each part for spite ; 

complained. And temperance with sobriety 



86 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. The more people a nation contains, and the 
happier those people are, the more that nation may be 
said to flourish. I think we are agreed in this point. 

Lys. We are. 

Euph. You allow then that riches are not an ultimate 
end, but should only be considered as the means to 
procure happiness ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. It seems that means cannot be of use without our 
knowing the end, and how to apply them to it ? 

Lys. It seems so. 

Euph. Will it not follow that in order to make a nation 
flourish it is not sufficient to make it wealthy, without 
knowing the true end and happiness of mankind, and how 
to apply wealth towards attaining that end. In proportion 
as these points are known and practised, I think the nation 
should be likely to flourish. But, for a people who neither 
know nor practise them, to gain riches seems to me the 
same advantage that it would be for a sick man to come at 
plenty of meat and drink, which he could not use but to his 
hurt. 

Lys. This is mere sophistry; it is arguing without 
persuading. Look into common life ; examine the pur- 
suits of men : have a due respect for the consent of the 
world ; and you will soon be convinced that riches alone 
are sufficient to make a nation flourishing and happy. 
Give them riches and they will make themselves happy, 
without that political invention, that trick of statesmen and 
philosophers, called virtue. 

ir. Euph. Virtue then, in your account, is a trick of 
statesmen ? 
Lys. It is. 
Euph. Why then do your sagacious sect betray and 

Serve drunkenness and glut- And odious pride a million 

tony. more ; 

The root of evil, avarice, Envy itself, and vanity, 

That damned, ill-natur'd, bane- Were ministers of industry,' 

ful vice, &c. 

Was slave to prodigality, The Grumbling Hive. 

That noble sin ; whilst luxury See relative ' Remarks ' in Fable 

Employed a million of the of the Bees. 

poor, 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 87 

divulge that trick or secret of state, which wise men 
have judged necessary for the good government of the 
world ? 

Lysicles hesitating, Crito made answer, That he pre- 
sumed it was because their sect, being wiser than all 
other wise men, disdained to see the world governed by 
wrong maxims, and would set all things on a right 
bottom. 

Euph. Thus much is certain. If we look into all institu- 
tions of government, and the political writings of such as 
have heretofore passed for wise men, we shall find a great 
regard for virtue. 

Lys. You shall find a strong tincture of prejudice ; but, 
as I said before, consult the multitude if you would find 
nature and truth. 

Euph. But, among country gentlemen, and farmers, and 
the better sort of tradesmen, is not virtue a reputable 
thing? 

Lys. You pick up authorities among men of low life and 
vile education. 

Euph. Perhaps we ought to pay a decent respect to the 
authority of minute philosophers. 

Lys. And I would fain know whose authority should 
be more considered than that of those gentlemen, 
who are alone above prejudice, and think for them- 
selves. 

Euph. How doth it appear that you are the only un- 
prejudiced part of mankind ? May not a minute philo- 
sopher, as well as another man, be prejudiced in favour 
of the leaders of his sect ? May not an atheistical education 
prejudice towards atheism ? What should hinder a man's 
being prejudiced against religion, as well as for it ? Or 
can you assign any reason why an attachment to pleasure, 
interest, vice, or vanity, may not be supposed to prejudice 
men against virtue ? 

Lys. This is pleasant. What ! suppose those very men 
influenced by prejudice who are always disputing against 
it, whose constant aim it is to detect and demolish pre- 
judices of all kinds ! 

Except their own, replied Crito ; for, you must pardon 
me if I cannot help thinking they have some small pre- 
judice, though not in favour of virtue, 



88 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

12. I observe, Lysicles, that you allowed to Euphranor *, 
the greater number of happy people there are in a state, 
the more that state may be said to flourish : it follows, 
therefore, that such methods as multiply inhabitants are 
good, and such as diminish them are bad, for the public. 
And one would think nobody need be told, that the 
strength of a state consists more in the number and sort 
of people than in anything else. But, in proportion as 
vice and luxury, those public blessings encouraged by 
this minute philosophy, prevail among us, fewer are dis- 
posed to marry, too many being diverted by pleasure, 
disabled by disease, or frightened by expense. Nor doth 
vice only thin a nation, but also debaseth it by a puny 
degenerate race. I might add that it is ruinous to our 
manufactures ; both as it makes labour dear, and there- 
by enables our more frugal neighbours to undersell us : 
and also as it diverts the lower sort of people from honest 
callings to wicked projects. If these and such considera- 
tions were taken into account, I believe it would be 
evident to any man in his senses that the imaginary 
benefits of vice bear no proportion to the solid real woes 
that attend it. 

Lysicles, upon this, shook his head, and smiled at Crito, 
without vouchsafing any answer. After which, addressing 
himself to Euphranor, There cannot, said he, be a stronger 
instance of prejudice than that a man should at this time 
of day preserve a reverence for that idol Virtue, a thing 
so effectually exposed and exploded by the most knowing 
men of the age, who have shewn that a man is a mere 
engine, played upon and driven about by sensible objects ; 
and that moral virtue is only a name, a notion, a chimera, 
an enthusiasm, or at best a fashion, uncertain and change- 
able, like all other fashions 2 . 

Euph. What do you think, Lysicles, of health ; doth 
it depend on fancy and caprice, or is it something real in 
the bodily composition of a man ? 

Lys. Health is something real, which results from the 
right constitution and temperature of the organs and the 
fluids circulating through them. 

Euph. This you say is health of body ? 

1 Cf. sect. io. certainty than in Fashions.' — Fable 

* < In morals there is no greater of the Bees, 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 89 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. And may we not suppose a healthy constitution 
of soul, when the notions are right, the judgments true, 
the will regular, the passions and appetites directed to 
their proper objects, and confined within due bounds ? 
This, in regard to the soul, seems what health is to the 
body. And the man whose mind is so constituted, is he 
not properly called virtuous ? And to produce this healthy 
disposition in the minds of his countrymen, should not 
every good man employ his endeavours ? If these things 
have any appearance of truth, as to me they seem to have, 
it will not then be so clear a point that virtue is a mere 
whim or fashion, as you are pleased to represent it — 
I must own something unexpectedly, after what had been 
discoursed in last evening's conference, which, if you 
would call to mind, might perhaps save both of us some 
trouble. 

Lys. Would you know the truth, Euphranor ? I must 
own I have quite forgot all your discourse about virtue, 
duty, and all such points, which, being of an airy notional 
nature, are apt to vanish, and leave no trace on a mind 
accustomed only to receive impression from realities. 

13. Having heard these words, Euphranor looked at 
Crito and me, and said, smiling, I have mistaken my part ; 
it was mine to learn, and his to instruct. Then, addressing 
himself to Lysicles, Deal faithfully, said he, and let me 
know, whether the public benefit of vice be in truth that 
which makes you plead for it ? 

Lys. I love to speak frankly what I think. Know then 
that private interest is the first and principal consideration 
with philosophers of our sect. Now of all interests pleasure 
is that which hath the strongest charms, and no pleasures 
like those which are heightened and enlivened by licence. 
Herein consists the peculiar excellency of our principles, 
that they shew people how to serve their country by 
diverting themselves, causing the two streams of public 
spirit and self-love to unite and run in the same channel. 
I have told you already that I admit a nation might sub- 
sist by the rules of virtue. But, give me leave to say, it 
will barely subsist, in a dull joyless insipid state ; whereas 
the sprightly excesses of vice inspire men with joy. And 



90 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

where particulars rejoice, the public, which is made up 
of particulars, must do so too : that is, the public must 
be happy. This I take to be an irrefragable argument. 
But, to give you its full force, and make it as plain as 
possible, I will trace things from their original. Happi- 
ness ' is the end to which created beings naturally tend x ; 
but we find that all animals, whether men or brutes, do 
naturally and principally pursue real pleasure of sense ; 
which is therefore to be thought their supreme good, their 
true end and happiness. It is for this men live; and 
whoever understands life must allow that man to enjoy 
the top and flower of it who hath a quick sense of pleasure, 
and withal spirit, skill, and fortune sufficient to gratify 
every appetite and every taste. Niggards and fools will 
envy or traduce such a one because they cannot equal 
him. Hence all that sober trifling in disparagement of 
what every one would be master of if he could — a full 
freedom and unlimited scope of pleasure. 

Euph. Let me see whether I understand you. Pleasure 
of sense, you say, is the chief pleasure ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And this would be cramped and diminished by 
virtue ? 

Lys. It would. 

Euph. Tell me, Lysicles, is pleasure then at the height 
when the appetites are satisfied ? 

Lys. There is then only an indolence, the lively sense 
of pleasure being past. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that the appetites must 
be always craving, to preserve pleasure alive ? 

Lys. That is our sense of the matter. 

Euph. The Greek philosopher, therefore, was in the 
right, who considered the body of a man of pleasure as 
a leaky vessel, always filling and never full. 

Lys. You may divert yourself with allegories, if you 
please. But all the while ours is literally the true taste 
of nature. Look throughout the universe, and you shall 
find birds and fishes, beasts and insects, all kinds of 
animals, with which the creation swarms, constantly 
engaged by instinct in the pursuit of sensible pleasure. 

1 See Aristotle's Nichom. Ethics, I. 4-7, X. 1-7 ; Cicero, De Finibus, 
I. 11. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 91 

And shall man alone be the grave fool who thwarts, and 
crosses, and subdues his appetites, whilst his fellow- 
creatures do all most joyfully and freely indulge them? 

Euph. How ! Lysicles ! I thought that being governed 
by the senses, appetites, and passions was the most grievous 
slavery ; and that the proper business of free-thinkers, 
or philosophers, had been to set men from the power 
of ambition, avarice, and sensuality ! 

Lys. You mistake the point. We make men relish the 
world, attentive to their interests, lively and luxurious 
in their pleasures, without fear or restraint either from 
God or man. We despise those preaching writers, who 
used to disturb or cramp the pleasures and amusements 
of human life. We hold that a wise man who meddles 
with business doth it altogether for his interest, and refers 
his interest to his pleasure. With us it is a maxim, that 
a man should seize the moments as they fly. With- 
out love, and wine, and play, and late hours we hold 
life not to be worth living. I grant, indeed, that there 
is something gross and ill-bred in the vices of mean men, 
which the genteel philosopher abhors. 

Cri. But to cheat, whore, betray, get drunk, do all 
these things decently, this is true wisdom, and elegance 
of taste. 

14. Euph. To me, who have been used to another way 
of thinking, this new philosophy seems difficult to digest. 
I must, therefore, beg leave to examine its principles with 
the same freedom that you do those of other sects. 

Lys. Agreed. 

Euph. You say, if I mistake not, that a wise man pur- 
sues only his private interest, and that this consists in 
sensual pleasure ; for proof whereof you appeal to nature. 
Is not this what you advance ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. You conclude, therefore, that, as other animals 
are guided by natural instinct, man too ought to follow 
the dictates of sense and appetite ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. But in this do you not argue as if man had only 
sense and appetite for his guides; on which supposition 
there might be truth in what you say ? But what if he 



92 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

hath intellect, reason, a higher instinct and a nobler life * ? 
If this be the case, and you, being man, live like a brute, 
is it not the way to be defrauded of your true happiness ? 
to be mortified and disappointed ? Consider most sort 
of brutes, you shall perhaps find them have a greater 
share of sensual happiness than man. 

Lys. To our sorrow we do. This hath made several 
gentlemen of our sect envy brutes, and lament the lot 
of human-kind. 

Cri. It was a consideration of this sort which inspired 
Erotylus with the laudable ambition of wishing himself 
a snail, upon hearing of certain particularities discovered 
in that animal by a modern virtuoso. 

Euph. Tell me, Lysicles, if you had an inexhaustible 
fund of gold and silver, should you envy another for 
having a little more copper than you ? 

Lys. I should not. 

Euph. Are not reason, imagination, and sense, faculties 
differing in kind, and in rank higher one than another ? 

Lys. I do not deny it. 

Euph. Their acts therefore differ in kind ? 

Lys. They do. 

Euph. Consequently the pleasures perfective of those 
acts are also different. 

Lys. They are. 

Euph. You admit, therefore, three sorts of pleasure : — 
pleasure of reason, pleasure of imagination, and pleasure 
of sense. 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And, as it is reasonable to think the operation 
of the highest and noblest faculty to be attended with the 
highest pleasure, may we not suppose the two former 
to be as gold or silver, and the latter only as copper? 
whence it should seem to follow that man need not envy 
or imitate a brute. 

Lys. And, nevertheless, there are very ingenious men 
who do. And surely every one may be allowed to know 
what he wants, and wherein his true happiness consists. 

Euph. Is it not plain that different animals have different 
pleasures ? Take a hog from his ditch or dunghill, lay 

1 See Butler's Sermons, Preface. 






THE SECOND DIALOGUE 93 

him on a rich bed, treat him with sweetmeats, and music, 
and perfumes. All these things will be no entertainment 
to him. Do not a bird, a beast, a fish amuse themselves 
in various manners, insomuch that what is pleasing to one 
may be death to another ? Is it ever seen that one of 
those animals quits its own element or way of living, 
to adopt that of" another? and shall man quit his own 
nature to imitate a brute? 

Lys. But sense is not only natural to brutes ; is it not 
also natural to man ? 

Euph. It is, but with this difference : it maketh the 
whole of a brute, but is the lowest part or faculty of 
a human soul. The nature of anything is peculiarly that 
which doth distinguish it from other things, not what it 
hath in common with them. Do you allow this to be 
true? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And is not reason that which makes the principal 
difference between man and other animals ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. Reason, therefore, being the principal part of 
our nature, whatever is most reasonable should seem most 
natural to man. Must we not therefore think rational 
pleasures more agreeable to human-kind than those of 
sense ? Man and beast, having different natures, seem 
to have different faculties, different enjoyments, and dif- 
ferent sorts of happiness. You can easily conceive, that 
the sort of life which makes the happiness of a mole or 
a bat would be a very wretched one for an eagle. And 
ma y you not as well conceive that the happiness of a brute 
can never constitute the true happiness of a man ? A beast, 
without reflexion or remorse, without foresight, or appetite 
of immortality, without notion of vice or virtue, or order, 
or reason, or knowledge ! What motive, what grounds, 
can there be for bringing down man, in whom are all these 
things, to a level with such a creature ? What merit, what 
ambition, in the minute philosopher to make such an 
animal a guide or rule for human life 2 ? 

1 Cf. Dial. I. sect. 14, on the constitute practical reason, being 
notions and beliefs which are to be agreeable to, or developed from, its 
esteemed natural to man — which constituent elements. 



94 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

15. Lys. It is strange, Euphranor, that one who admits 
freedom of thought, as you do, should yet be such a slave 
to prejudice. You still talk of order and virtue, as of real 
things, as if our philosophers had never demonstrated that 
they have no foundation in nature, and are only the effects 
of education. 

I know, said Crito, how the minute philosophers are 
accustomed to demonstrate this point. They consider the 
animal nature of man, or man so far forth as he is animal 1 ; 
and it must be owned that, considered in that light, he 
hath no sense of duty, no notion of virtue. He, therefore, 
who should look for virtue among mere animals, or human- 
kind as such, would look in the wrong place. But that 
philosopher who is attentive only to the animal part of his 
being, and raiseth his theories from the very dregs of our 
species, might probably, upon second thoughts, find himself 
mistaken. 

Look you, Crito, said Lysicles, my argument is with 
Euphranor ; to whom addressing his discourse: — I observe, 
said he, that you stand much upon the dignity of human 
nature. This thing of dignity is an old worn-out notion, 
which depends on other notions, old and stale, and worn- 
out, such as an immaterial spirit, and a ray derived from 
the Divinity. But in these days men of sense make a jest 
of all this grandeur and dignity; and many there are 
would gladly exchange their share of it for the repose, 
and freedom, and sensuality of a brute. But comparisons 
are odious; waiving therefore all inquiry concerning the 
respective excellencies of man and beast, and whether it 
is beneath a man to follow or imitate brute animals, in 
judging of the chief good, and conduct of life and manners, 
I shall be content to appeal to the authority of men them- 
selves for the truth of my notions. Do but look abroad 
into the world, and ask the common run of men, whether 
pleasure of sense be not the only true, solid, substantial 
good of their kind ? 

Euph. But might not the same vulgar sort of men prefer 
a piece of sign-post painting to one of Raphael's, or a 
Grub-street ballad to an ode of Horace? Is there not 
a real difference between good and bad writing? 

1 Cf. sect. 14. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 95 

Lys. There is. 

Euph. And yet you will allow there must be a maturity 
and improvement of understanding to discern this differ- 
ence, which doth not make it therefore less real? 

Lys. 1 will. 

Euph. In the same manner, what should hinder but 
there may be in nature a true difference between vice and 
virtue, although it require some degree of reflexion and 
judgment to observe it ? In order to know whether a thing 
be agreeable to the rational nature of man, it seems one 
should rather observe and consult those who have most 
employed or improved their reason. 

Lys. Well, I shall not insist on consulting the common 
herd of mankind. From the ignorant and gross vulgar, 
I might myself appeal in many cases to men of rank 
and fashion. 

Euph. They are a sort of men I have not the honour 
to know much of by my own observation. But I remember 
a remark of Aristotle, who was himself a courtier, and 
knew them well. 'Virtue/ saith he 1 , 'and good sense 
are not the property of high birth or a great estate. Nor 
if they who possess these advantages, wanting a taste for 
rational pleasure, betake themselves to those of sense, 
ought we therefore to esteem them eligible, any more 
than we should the toys and pastimes of children, because 
they seem so to them ? ' — And indeed one may be allowed 
to question whether the truest estimate of things was to 
be expected from a mind intoxicated with luxury, and 
dazzled with the splendour of high living. 

Cum stupet insanis acies fulgoribus, et cum 
Acclinis falsis animus meliora recusat. — Hor. 

Crito upon this observed that he knew an English noble- 
man 2 who in the prime of life professeth a liberal art, and 
is the first man of his profession in the world ; and that 

1 [Ethic, ad Nicom. Lib.X. c. vi.] 'conceived a high esteem for him 

— Author. - on account of his great taste and 

a Probably Richard Boyle, third skill in architecture ; an art of 

Earl of Burlington, famed for which his lordship was an excellent 

architectural taste. Pope intro- judge and patron, and which Mr. 

duced Berkeley, on his return from Berkeley had made his particular 

the Continent, to Lord Burlington, study while in Italy.' 
who, as we are told by Stock, 



96 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

he was very sure he had more pleasure from the exercise 
of that elegant art than from any sensual enjoyment within 
the power of one of the largest fortunes and most bountiful 
spirits in Great Britain. 

1 6. Lys. But why need we have recourse to the judg- 
ment of other men in so plain a case? I appeal to your 
own breast, consult that, and then say if sensible pleasure 
be not the chief good of man. 

Euph. I, for my part, have often thought those pleasures 
which are highest in the esteem of sensualists, so far from 
being the chiefest good, that it seemed doubtful, upon the 
whole, whether they were any good at all, any more than 
the mere removal of pain. Are not our wants and appetites 
uneasy ? 

Lys. They are. 

Euph. Doth not sensual pleasure consist in satisfying 
them? 

Lys. It doth. 

Euph. But the cravings are tedious, the satisfaction 
momentary. Is it not so ? 

Lys. It is; but what then? 

Euph. Why then it should seem that sensual pleasure 
is but a short deliverance from long pain. A long avenue 
of uneasiness leads to a point of pleasure, which ends in 
disgust or remorse. 

Cri. And he who pursues this ignis fatuus imagines 
himself a philosopher and free-thinker. 

Lys. Pedants are governed by words and notions, while 
the wiser men of pleasure follow fact, nature, and sense. 

Cri. But what if notional pleasures should in fact prove 
the most real and lasting ? Pure pleasures of reason and 
imagination neither hurt the health, nor waste the fortune, 
nor gall the conscience. By them the mind is long enter- 
tained without loathing or satiety. On the other hand, 
a notion (which with you it seems passeth for nothing) 
often embitters the most lively sensual pleasures ; which 
at bottom will be found also to depend upon notion more 
than perhaps you imagine : it being a vulgar remark, that 
those things are more enjoyed by hope and foretaste of 
the soul than by possession. Thus much is yielded, that 
the actual enjoyment is very short, and the alternative of 
appetite and disgust long as well as uneasy. So that, 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 97 

upon the whole, it should seem those gentlemen who 
are called men of pleasure, from their eager pursuit of it, 
do in reality, with great expense of fortune, ease, and 
health, purchase pain. 

Lys. You may spin out plausible arguments, but will 
after all find it a difficult matter to convince me that so 
many ingenious men should not be able to distinguish 
between things so directly opposite as pain and pleasure. 
How is it possible to account for this? 

Cri. I believe a reason may be assigned for it, but to 
men of pleasure no truth is so palatable as a fable. Jove 
once upon a time having ordered that pleasure and pain 
should be mixed in equal proportions in every dose of 
human life ; upon a complaint that some men endeavoured 
to separate what he had joined, and taking more than their 
share of the sweet, would leave all the sour for others, 
commanded Mercury to put a stop to this evil, by fixing 
on each delinquent a pair of invisible spectacles, which 
should change the appearance of things, making pain 
look like pleasure, and pleasure like pain, labour like 
recreation, and recreation like labour. From that time 
the men of pleasure are eternally mistaking and re- 
penting. 

Lys. If your doctrine takes place, I would fain know 
what can be the advantage of a great fortune, which all 
mankind so eagerly pursue. 

Cri. It is a common saying with Eucrates that a great 
fortune is an edged tool, which a hundred may come at for 
one who knows how to use it, so much easier is the art of 
getting than that of spending. What its advantage is I will 
not say, but I will venture to declare what it is not. I am 
sure that where abundance excludes want, and enjoyment 
prevents appetites, there is not the quickest sense of those 
pleasures we have been speaking of, in which the footman 
hath often a greater share than his lord, who cannot 
enlarge his stomach in proportion to his estate. 

17. Reasonable and well-educated men of all ranks have, 
I believe, pretty much the same amusements, notwith- 
standing the difference of their fortunes : but those who 
are particularly distinguished as men of pleasure seem to 
possess it in a very small degree. 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. H 



98 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. I have heard that among persons of that character 
a game of cards is esteemed a chief diversion. 

Lys. Without cards there could be no living for people 
of fashion. It is the most delightful way of passing an 
evening when gentlemen and ladies are got together, who 
would otherwise be at a loss what to say or do with them- 
selves. But a pack of cards is so engaging that it doth 
not only employ them when they are met, but serves to 
draw them together. Quadrille gives them pleasure in 
prospect during the dull hours of the day, they reflect on it 
with delight, and it furnishes discourse when it is over. 

Cri. One would be apt to suspect these people of con- 
dition pass their time but heavily, and are but little the 
better for their fortunes, whose chief amusement is a thing 
in the power of every porter or footman, who is as well 
qualified to receive pleasure from cards as a peer. I can 
easily conceive that, when people of a certain turn are got 
together, they should prefer doing anything to the ennui 
of their own conversation ; but it is not easy to conceive 
there is any great pleasure in this. What a card-table can 
afford requires neither parts nor fortune to judge of. 

Lys. Play is a serious amusement, that comes to the 
relief of a man of pleasure, after the more lively and 
affecting enjoyments of sense. It kills time beyond any- 
thing; and is a most admirable anodyne to divert or 
prevent thought, which might otherwise prey upon the 
mind. 

Cri. I can easily comprehend that no man upon earth 
ought to prize anodynes for the spleen more than a man of 
fashion and pleasure. An ancient sage, speaking of one 
of that character, saith he is made wretched by disappoint- 
ments and appetites, Ai>7reiTai a.Trorvy)(6.vu>v koI iTnOvfxwv. And 
if this was true of the Greeks, who lived in the sun, and had 
so much spirit, I am apt to think it is still more so of our 
modern English. Something there is in our climate and 
complexion that makes idleness nowhere so much its own 
punishment as in England, where an uneducated fine 
gentleman pays for his momentary pleasures, with long 
and cruel intervals of spleen : for relief of which he is 
driven into sensual excesses, that produce a proportionable 
depression of spirits, which, as it createth a greater want 
of pleasures, so it lessens the ability to enjoy them. There 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 99 

is a cast of thought in the complexion of an Englishman, 
which renders him the most unsuccessful rake in the 
world. He is (as Aristotle expresseth it) at variance 
with himself 1 . He is neither brute enough to enjoy his 
appetites, nor man enough to govern them. He knows 
and feels that what he pursues is not his true good ; his 
reflexion serving only to shew him that misery which 
his habitual sloth and indolence will not suffer him to 
remedy. At length, being grown odious to himself, and 
abhorring his own company, he runs into every idle 
assembly, not from the hopes of pleasure, but merely to 
respite the pain of his own mind. Listless and uneasy at 
the present, he hath no delight in reflecting on what is 
past, or in the prospect of anything to come. This man 
of pleasure, when, after a wretched scene of vanity and 
woe, his animal nature is worn to the stumps, wishes 
and dreads death by turns, and is sick of living, without 
having ever tried or known the true life of man. 

Euph. It is well this sort of life, which is of so little 
benefit to the owner, conduceth so much to that of the 
public. But pray tell me, do these gentlemen set up for 
minute philosophers ? 

CrL That sect, you must know, contains two sorts of 
philosophers, the wet and the dry. Those I have been 
describing are of the former kind. They differ rather in 
practice than in theory. As an older, graver, or duller 
man, from one that is younger, and more capable or fond 
of pleasure. The dry philosopher passeth his time but 
dryly. He has the honour of pimping for the vices of 
more sprightly men, who in return offer some small incense 
to his vanity. Upon this encouragement, and to make his 
own mind easy when it is past being pleased, he employs 
himself in justifying those excesses he cannot partake in. 
But, to return to your question, those miserable folk are 
mighty men for the minute philosophy. 

Euph. What hinders them then from putting an end to 
their lives 2 ? 

Cri. Their not being persuaded of the truth of what they 

1 Magna Moralia, II. 6. minute philosophy, author of the 

2 The reference is perhaps to Aiiima Mundi and other works, 
Charles Blount (1654-93), one of whose death was self-inflicted. His 
the early representatives of English creed was expounded after his 

H 2 



IOO ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

profess. Some, indeed, in a fit of despair, do now and 
then lay violent hands on themselves. And as the minute 
philosophy prevails, we daily see more examples of suicide. 
But they bear no proportion to those who would put an 
end to their lives if they durst. My friend Clinias, who 
had been one of them, and a philosopher of rank, let me 
into the secret history of their doubts, and fears, and 
irresolute resolutions of making away with themselves, 
which last he assures me is a frequent topic with men of 
pleasure, when they have drunk themselves into a little 
spirit. It was by virtue of this mechanical valour the 
renowned philosopher Hermocrates shot himself through 
the head '. The same thing hath since been practised by 
several others, to the great relief of their friends. Splen- 
etic, worried, and frightened out of their wits, they run 
upon their doom with the same courage as a bird runs 
into the mouth of a rattle-snake, not because they are bold 
to die, but because they are afraid to live. Clinias endea- 
voured to fortify his irreligion by the discourse and opinion 
of other minute philosophers, who were mutually strength- 
ened in their unbelief by his. After this manner, authority 
working in a circle, they endeavoured to atheize one another. 
But, though he pretended even to a demonstration against 
the being of a God, yet he could not inwardly conquer his 
own belief. He fell sick, and acknowledged this truth, is 
now a sober man and a good Christian ; owns he was 
never so happy as since he has become such, nor so 
wretched as while he was a minute philosopher. And he 
who has tried both conditions may be allowed a proper 
judge of both. 

Lys. Truly a fine account of the brightest and bravest 
men of the age ! 

Cri. Bright and brave are fine attributes. But our 
curate is of opinion that all you free-thinking rakes are 
either fools or cowards. Thus he argues : if such a man 
doth not see his true interest, he wants sense ; if he doth, 
but dare not pursue it, he wants courage. In this manner, 

death by his friend Charles Gildon, solation of the unhappy (1732), 

in his Oracles of Reason, which license in morals, and the occa- 

appeared in 1695. sional expediency of suicide, is 

1 In the Philosophical Dissertation vindicated. So also in the Preface 

upon Death, composed for the con- to Gildon 's Oracles of Reason. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE IOI 

from the defect of sense and courage, he deduceth that 
whole species of men, who are so apt to value themselves 
upon both those qualities. 

Lys. As for their courage, they are at all times ready to give 
proof of it ; and for their understanding, thanks to nature, 
it is of a size not to be measured by country parsons. 

18. Euph. But Socrates, who was no country parson, 
suspected your men of pleasure were such through ignor- 
ance. 

Lys. Ignorance of what ? 

Euph. Of the art of computing. It was his opinion that 
rakes cannot reckon \ And that for want of this skill they 
make wrong judgments about pleasure, on the right choice 
of which their happiness depends. 

Lys. I do not understand you. 

Euph. Do you grant that sense perceiveth only sensible 
things ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. Sense perceiveth only things present? 

Lys. This too I grant. 

Euph. Future pleasures, therefore, and pleasures of the 
understanding are not to be judged of by actual sense ? 

Lys. They are not. 

Euph. Those therefore who judge of pleasure by sense 
may find themselves mistaken at the foot of the account. 

Cum lapidosa cheragra 
Fregerit articulos veteris ramalia fagi, 
Turn crassos transisse dies lucemque palustrem, 
Et sibi jam seri vitam ingemuere relictam 2 . 

To make a right computation, should you not consider all 
the faculties, and all the kinds of pleasure, taking into your 
account the future as well as the present, and rating them 
all according to their true value ? 

Cri. The Epicureans themselves allowed that pleasure 
which procures a greater pain, or hinders a greater pleasure, 
should be regarded as a pain ; and, that pain which pro- 
cures a greater pleasure, or prevents a greater pain, is to 
be accounted a pleasure 3 . In order therefore to make 

1 [Plato in Pro tag. ] — Author. 3 Cicero, De Finibus, I. And 

* [Persius, Sat. V.] — Author. some modern Utilitarians are fain 



102 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

a true estimate of pleasure, the great spring of action, and 
that from whence the conduct of life takes its bias, we 
ought to compute intellectual pleasures and future pleasures, 
as well as present and sensible ; we ought to make allow- 
ance, in the valuation of each particular pleasure, for all 
the pains and evils, for all the disgust, remorse, and shame, 
that attend it ; we ought to regard both kind and quantity, 
the sincerity, the intenseness, and the duration of pleasures. 

[* Let a free-thinker but bethink himself, how little of 
human pleasure consists in actual sensation, and how much 
in prospect. Let him then compare the prospect of a 
virtuous believer with that of an unbelieving rake.] 

Euph. And, all these points duly considered, will not 
Socrates seem to have had reason on his side, when he 
thought ignorance made rakes — and particularly their being 
ignorant of what he calls the science of more and less, 
greater and smaller, equality and comparison, that is to 
say, of the art of computing ? 

Lys. All this discourse seems notional. For real abilities 
of every kind, it is well known, we have the brightest men 
of the age among us. But all those who know the world 
do calculate that what you call a good Christian, who 
hath neither a large conscience, nor unprejudiced mind, 
must be unfit for the affairs of it. Thus you see, while 
you compute yourselves out of pleasure, others compute 
you out of business. What then are you good for with all 
your computation ? 

Euphi I have all imaginable respect for the abilities of 
free-thinkers. My only fear was, their parts might be too 
lively for such slow talents as forecast and computation, 
the gifts of ordinary men. 

19. Cri. I cannot make them the same compliment that 
Euphranor does. For, though I shall not pretend to 
characterise the whole sect, yet thus much I may truly 
affirm — that those who have fallen in my way have been 
mostly raw men of pleasure, old sharpers in business, 
or a third sort of lazy sciolists, who are neither men of 

to recognise contrasts in the quality their generic differences. 

as well as in the quantity of our ' Added in the author's second 

pleasures. J. S. Mill, in his Utili- edition. 

tarianism, insists frequently upon 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 103 

business, nor men of speculation, but set up for judges 
or critics in all kinds, without having made a progress in 
any. These, among men of the world, pass for profound 
theorists, and among speculative men would seem to know 
the world : a conceited race, equally useless to the affairs 
and studies of mankind. Such as these, for the most 
part, seem to be sectaries of the minute philosophy. I will 
not deny that now and then you may meet with a man 
of easy manners, that, without those faults and affectations, 
is carried into the party by the mere stream of education, 
fashion, or company; all which do in this age prejudice 
men against religion, even those who mechanically rail at 
prejudice. I must not forget that the minute philosophers 
have also a strong party among the beaux and fine ladies ; 
and, as affectations out of character are often the strongest, 
there is nothing so dogmatical and inconvincible as one 
of these fine things, when it sets up for free-thinking. But, 
be these professors of the sect never so dogmatical, their 
authority must needs be small with men of sense. For 
who would choose for his guide, in the search for truth, 
a man whose thoughts and time are taken up with dress, 
visits, and diversions? or whose education hath been 
behind the counter, or in an office ? or whose speculations 
have been employed on the forms of business, who is only 
well read in the ways and commerce of mankind, in stock- 
jobbing, purloining, supplanting, bribing? Or would any 
man in his senses give a fig for meditations and discoveries 
made over a bottle? And yet it is certain that, instead 
of thought, books, and study, most free-thinkers are the 
proselytes of a drinking club. Their principles are often 
settled, and decisions on the deepest points made, when 
they are not fit to make a bargain. 

Lys. You forget our writers, Crito. They make a world 
of proselytes. 

Cri. So would worse writers in such a cause. Alas ! 
how few read ! and of these, how few are able to judge ! 
How many wish your notions true ! How many had 
rather be diverted than instructed ! How many are con- 
vinced by a title ! I may allow your reasons to be effectual, 
without allowing them to be good. Arguments, in them- 
selves of small weight, have great effect, when they are 
recommended by a mistaken interest, when they are 



104 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

pleaded for by passion, when they are countenanced by the 
humour of the age ; and above all, with some sort of men, 
when they are against law, government, and established 
opinions : things which, as a wise and good man would not 
depart from without clear evidence, a weak or a bad man 
will affect to disparage on the slightest grounds. 

Lys. And yet the arguments of our philosophers alarm. 

Cri. The force of their reasoning is not what alarms : 
their contempt of laws and government is alarming : their 
application to the young and ignorant is dangerous. 

Euph. But without disputing or disparaging their talent 
at ratiocination, it seems very possible their success might 
not be owing to that alone. May it not in some measure 
be ascribed to the defects of others, as well as to their own 
perfections? My friend Eucrates used to say, that the 
church would thrive and flourish beyond all opposition, 
if some certain persons minded piety more than politics, 
practics than polemics, fundamentals than consectaries, 
substance than circumstance, things than notions, and 
notions than words. 

Lys. Whatever may be the cause, the effects are too 
plain to be denied. And when a considering man observes 
that our notions do, in this most learned and knowing 
age, spread and multiply, in opposition to established laws, 
and every day gain ground against a body so numerous, 
so learned, so well supported, protected, and encouraged, 
for the service and defence of religion : I say, when a man 
observes and considers all this, he will be apt to ascribe it 
to the force of truth, and the merits of our cause ; which, 
had it been supported with the revenues and establishments 
of the church and universities, you may guess what a figure 
it would make, by the figure that it makes without them. 

Euph. It is much to be pitied that the learned professors 
of your sect do not meet with the encouragement they 
deserve. 

Lys. All in due time. People begin to open their eyes. 
It is not impossible but those revenues that in ignorant 
times were applied to a wrong use may, hereafter, in a 
more enlightened age, be applied to a better. 

Cri. But why professors and encouragement for what 
needs no teaching ? An acquaintance of mine has a most 
ingenious footman that can neither write nor read, who 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 105 

learned your whole system in half an hour : he knows 
when and how to nod, shake his head, smile, and give 
a hint, as well as the ablest sceptic, and is in fact a very 
minute philosopher. 

Lys. Pardon me, it takes time to unlearn religious 
prejudices, and requires a strong head. 

Cri. I do not know how it might have been once upon 
a time. But in the present laudable education, I know 
several who have been imbued with no religious notions 
at all ; and others who have had them so very slight, that 
they rubbed off without the least pains. 

20. Panope, young and beautiful, under the care of her 
aunt, an admirer of the minute philosophy, was kept from 
learning the principles of religion, that she might not be 
accustomed to believe without a reason, nor assent to 
what she did not comprehend. Panope was not indeed 
prejudiced with religious notions, but got a notion of 
intriguing, and a notion of play, which ruined her repu- 
tation by fourteen, and her fortune by four-and-twenty. — I 
have often reflected on the different fate of two brothers 
in my neighbourhood. Cleon, the elder, being designed 
an accomplished gentleman, was sent to town, and had 
the first part of his education in a great school : what 
religion he learned there was soon unlearned in a certain 
celebrated society, which, till we have a better, may pass 
for a nursery of minute philosophers. Cleon dressed well, 
could cheat at cards, had a nice palate, understood the 
mystery of the die, was a mighty man in the minute 
philosophy; and having shined a few years in these accom- 
plishments, he died before thirty, childless and rotten, 
expressing the utmost indignation that he could not outlive 
that old dog his father; who, having a great notion of 
polite manners, and knowledge of the world, had pur- 
chased them to his favourite son with much expense, but 
had been more frugal in the education of Chaerephon, the 
younger son ; who was brought up at a country school, 
and entered a commoner in the university, where he 
qualified himself for a parsonage in his father's gift, which 
he is now possessed of, together with the estate of the 
family, and a numerous offspring. 

Lys. A pack of unpolished cubs, I warrant. 



106 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Cri. Less polished, perhaps, but more sound, more 
honest, and more useful, than many who pass for fine 
gentlemen. Crates, a worthy justice of the peace in this 
country, having had a son miscarry at London, by the 
conversation of a minute philosopher, used to say, with 
a great air of complaint — If a man spoils my corn, or hurts 
my cattle, I have a remedy against him ; but if he spoils 
my children I have none. 

Lys. I warrant you he was for penal methods : he would 
have had a law to persecute tender consciences. 

Cri. The tender conscience of a minute philosopher ! 
He who tutored the son of Crates soon after did justice 
on himself. For he taught Lycidas, a modest young man, 
the principles of his sect. Lycidas, in return, debauched 
his daughter, an only child : upon which, Charmides (that 
was the minute philosopher's name) hanged himself. Old 
Bubalion in the city is carking, starving, and cheating, 
that his son may drink, game, and keep mistresses, hounds, 
and horses, and die in a jail. Bubalion nevertheless thinks 
himself wise, and passeth for one that minds the main 
chance. He is a minute philosopher, which learning. he 
acquired behind the counter, from the works of Prodicus 
and Tryphon. This same Bubalion was one night at 
supper, talking against the immortality of the soul, with 
two or three grave citizens, one of whom the next day 
declared himself a bankrupt, with five thousand pounds 
of Bubalion's in his hands : and the night following he 
received a note from a servant, who had during his lecture 
waited at table, demanding the sum of fifty guineas to be 
laid under a stone, and concluding with most terrible 
threats and imprecations. 

Lys. Not to repeat what hath been already demon- 
strated '—that the public is at bottom no sufferer by such 
accidents, which in truth are inconvenient only to private 
persons, who in their turn too may reap the benefit of 
them ; I say, not to repeat all that hath been demon- 
strated on that head, I shall only ask you whether there 
would not be rakes and rogues, although we did not make 
them ? Believe me, the world always was, and always will 
be the same, as long as men are men. 

1 Cf. sect. 2. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 107 

Cri. I deny that the world is always the same. Human 
nature, to use Alciphron's comparison, is like land, better 
or worse, as it is improved, and according to the seeds or 
principles sown in it. Though nobody held your tenets, 
I grant there might be bad men by the force of corrupt 
appetites and irregular passions ; but, where men, to the 
force of appetite and passion, add that of opinion, and are 
wicked from principle, there will be more men wicked, 
and those more incurably and outrageously so. The error 
of a lively rake lies in his passions, and may be reformed : 
but the dry rogue who sets up for judgment is incorrigible. 
It is an observation of Aristotle's, that there are two sorts 
of debauchees, the aKpar^, and the d/coXao-ros, of which 
the one is so against his judgment, the other with it ' ; and 
that there may be hopes of the former, but none of the 
latter. And in fact I have always observed, that a rake 
who is a minute philosopher, when grown old, becomes 
a sharper in business. 

Lys. I could name you several such who have grown 
most noted patriots. 

Cri. Patriots ! such patriots as Catiline and Mark 
Anthony. 

Lys. And what then? Those famous Romans were 
brave, though unsuccessful. They wanted neither sense 
nor courage ; and if their schemes had taken effect, the 
brisker part of their countrymen had been much the better 
for them. 

21. The wheels of government go on, though wound up 
by different hands ; if not in the same form, yet in some 
other, perhaps a better. There is an endless variety in 
nature. Weak men, indeed, are prejudiced towards rules 
and systems in life and government ; and think if these 
are gone all is gone : but a man of a great soul and free 
spirit delights in the noble experiment of blowing up 
systems and dissolving governments, to mould them anew 
upon other principles and in another shape. Take my 
word for it, there is a plastic nature in things that seeks 
its own end. Pull a state to pieces, jumble, confound, and 
shake together the particles of human society, and then 

1 See Nicom. Ethics, VII. i ; also Butler in his Sermons. 



108 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

let them stand a while, and you shall soon see them settle 
of themselves in some convenient order, where heavy 
heads are lowest, and men of genius uppermost. 

Euph. Lysicles speaks his mind freely. 

Lys. Where was the advantage of free-thinking, if it 
were not attended with free-speaking ; or of free-speaking, 
if it did not produce free-acting ? We are for thorough, 
independent, original freedom. Inward freedom without 
outward is good for nothing but to set a man's judgment 
at variance with his practice. 

Cri. This free way of Lysicles may seem new to you : 
it is not so to me. As the minute philosophers lay it 
down for a maxim — that there is nothing sacred of any 
kind, nothing but what may be made a jest of, exploded, 
and changed like the fashion of their clothes ; so nothing 
is more frequent than for them to utter their schemes and 
principles, not only in select companies, but even in public. 

In a certain part of the world, where ingenious men are 
wont to retail their speculations, I remember to have seen 
a valetudinarian in a long wig and a cloak, sitting at the 
upper end of a table, with half a dozen disciples about 
him. After he had talked about religion, in a manner and 
with an air that would make one think atheism established 
by law, and religion only tolerated, he entered upon civil 
government ; and observed to his audience, that the natural 
world was in a perpetual circulation. Animals, said he, 
who draw their sustenance from the earth, mix with that 
same earth, and in their turn become food for vegetables, 
which again nourish the animal kind : the vapours that 
ascend from this globe descend back upon it in showers ; 
the elements alternately prey upon each other : that which 
one part of nature loseth another gains ; the sum total 
remaining always the same, being neither bigger nor 
lesser, better nor worse, for all these intestine changes. 
Even so, said this learned professor, the revolutions in 
the civil world are no detriment to human-kind ; one part 
whereof rises as the other falls, and wins by another's 
loss. A man therefore who thinks deeply, and hath an 
eye on the whole system, is no more a bigot to govern- 
ment than to religion. He knows how to suit himself 
to occasions, and make the best of every event : for the 
rest, he looks on all translations of power and property 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 109 

from one hand to another with a philosophic indifference. 
Our lecturer concluded his discourse with a most ingenious 
analysis of all political and moral virtues into their first 
principles and causes, shewing them to be mere fashions, 
tricks of state, and illusions on the vulgar. 

Lys. We have been often told of the good effects of 
religion and learning, churches and universities : but 
I dare affirm that a dozen or two ingenious men of our 
sect have done more towards advancing real knowledge, 
by extemporaneous lectures, in the compass of a few 
years, than all the ecclesiastics put together for as many 
centuries. 

Euph. And the nation no doubt thrives accordingly ; but 
it seems, Crito, you have heard them discourse. 

Cri. Upon hearing this, and other lectures of the same 
tendency, methought it was needless to establish pro- 
fessors for the minute philosophy in either university; 
while there are so many spontaneous lecturers in every 
corner of the streets, ready to open men's eyes, and 
rub off their prejudices about religion, loyalty, and public 
spirit. 

Lys. If wishing was to any purpose, I could wish for 
a telescope that might draw into my view things future 
in time, as well as distant in place. Oh ! that I could 
but look into the next age, and behold what it is that 
we are preparing to be, the glorious harvest of our 
principles : the spreading of which hath produced a visible 
tendency in the nation towards something great and 
new. 

Cri. One thing I dare say you would expect to see, be 
the changes and agitations of the public what they will, 
that is, every free-thinker upon his legs. You are all 
sons of nature, who cheerfully follow the fortunes of the 
common mass. 

Lys. And it must be owned we have a maxim — that each 
should take care of one. 

Cri. Alas, Lysicles, you wrong your own character. 
You would feign pass upon the world, and upon your- 
selves, for interested cunning men : but can anything be 
more disinterested than to sacrifice all regards to the 
abstracted speculation of truth? Or can anything be 
more void of all cunning than to publish your discoveries 



1IO ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

to the world, teach others to play the whole game, and arm 
mankind against yourselves ? 

22. If a man may venture to suggest so mean a thought 
as the love of their country to souls fired with the love 
of truth, and the love of liberty, and grasping the whole 
extent of nature; I would humbly propose it to you, 
gentlemen, to observe the caution practised by all other 
discoverers, projectors, and makers of experiments, who 
never hazard all on the first trial. Would it not be 
prudent to try the success of your principles on a small 
model in some remote corner? For instance, set up 
a colony of atheists in Monomotapa, and see how it 
prospers, before you proceed any farther at home : half 
a dozen ship-loads of minute philosophers might easily 
be spared upon so good a design. In the meantime, you 
gentlemen, who have found out that there is nothing to 
be hoped or feared in another life, that conscience is 
a bug-bear, that the bands of government and the cement 
of human society are rotten things, to be resolved and 
crumbled into nothing by the argumentation of every 
minute philosopher : be so good as to keep these sublime 
discoveries to yourselves : suffer us, our wives, our 
children, our servants, and our neighbours, to continue 
in the belief and way of thinking established by the laws 
of our country. In good earnest, I wish you would go try 
your experiments among the Hottentots or Turks. 

Lys. The Hottentots we think well of, believing them 
to be an unprejudiced people : but it is to be feared their 
diet and customs would not agree with our philosophers. 
As for the Turks, they are bigots, who have a notion of 
God, and a respect for Jesus Christ ; I question whether 
it might be safe to venture among them. 

Cri. Make your experiment then in some other part of 
Christendom. 

Lys. We hold all other Christian nations to be much 
under the power of prejudice : even our neighbours the 
Dutch are too much prejudiced in favour of their religion 
by law established for a prudent man to attempt innova- 
tions under their government. Upon the whole, it seems 
we can execute our schemes nowhere with so much 
security and such prospect of success as at home. Not 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE III 

to say that we have already made a good progress. Oh ! 
that we could but once see a parliament of true, staunch, 
libertine free-thinkers ! 

Cri. God forbid ! I should be sorry to have such men 
for my servants, not to say, for my masters. 

Lys. In that we differ. 

23. But you will agree with me that the right way to 
come at this was to begin with extirpating the prejudices 
of particular persons. We have carried on this work for 
many years with much art and industry, and at first with 
secrecy, working like moles under ground, concealing our 
progress from the public, and our ultimate views from 
many, even of our own proselytes, blowing the coals 
between polemical divines, laying hold on and improving 
every incident which the passions and folly of churchmen 
afforded to the advantage of our sect. As our principles 
obtained, we still proceeded to farther inferences ; and as 
our numbers multiplied, we gradually disclosed ourselves 
and our opinions : where we are now I need not say. We 
have stubbed, and weeded, and cleared human nature to 
that degree that, in a little time, leaving it alone without 
any labouring or teaching, you shall see natural and just 
ideas sprout forth of themselves. 

Cri. But I have heard a man, who had lived long and 
observed much, remark, that the worst and most unwhole- 
some weed was this same minute philosophy. We have 
had, said he, divers epidemical distempers in the state, but 
this hath produced of all others the most destructive 
plague. Enthusiasm had its day, its effects were violent 
and soon over; this infects more quietly, but spreads 
widely : the former bred a fever in the state ; this breeds 
a consumption and final decay. A rebellion or an invasion 
alarms, and puts the public upon its defence ; but a corrup- 
tion of principles works its ruin more slowly perhaps, but 
more surely. 

This may be illustrated by a fable I somewhere met with 
in the writings of a Swiss philosopher, setting forth the 
original of brandy and gunpowder. The government. of 
the north being once upon a time vacant, the prince of the 
power of the air convened a council in hell, wherein, upon 
competition between two demons of rank, it was deter- 



112 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

mined they should both make trial of their abilities, and 
he should succeed who did most mischief. One made his 
appearance in the shape of gunpowder, the other in that 
of brandy : the former was a declared enemy, and roared 
with a terrible noise, which made folks afraid, and put 
them on their guard; the other passed as a friend and 
a physician through the world, disguised himself with 
sweets, and perfumes, and drugs, made his way into the 
ladies' cabinets and the apothecaries' shops, and, under 
the notion of helping digestion, comforting the spirits, and 
cheering the heart, produced direct contrary effects ; and, 
having insensibly thrown great numbers of human-kind 
into a lingering but fatal decay, was found to people hell 
and the grave so fast as to merit the government which he 
still possesses. 

24. Lys. Those who please may amuse themselves with 
fables and allegories. This is plain English : — liberty is 
a good thing, and we are the support of liberty. 

Cri. To me it seems that liberty and virtue were made 
for each other. If any man wish to enslave his country, 
nothing is a fitter preparative than vice ; and nothing leads 
to vice so surely as irreligion. For my part, I cannot 
comprehend or find out, after having considered it in all 
lights, how this crying down religion should be the effect 
of honest views towards a just and legal liberty. Some 
seem to propose an indulgence in vice ; others may have 
in prospect the advantage which needy and ambitious men 
are used to make in the ruin of a state. One may indulge 
a pert petulant spirit ; another hope to be esteemed among 
libertines, when he wants wit to please, or abilities to be 
useful. But, be men's views what they will, let us examine 
what good your principles have done : who has been the 
better for the instructions of these minute philosophers ? 
Let us compare what we are in respect of learning, loyalty, 
honesty, wealth, power, and public spirit, with what we 
have been. Free-thinking (as it is called) hath wonderfully 
grown of late years. Let us see what hath grown up with 
it, or what effects it hath produced. To make a catalogue 
of ills is disagreeable ; and the only blessing it can pretend 
to is luxury : that same blessing which revenged the world 
upon old Rome ; that same luxury that makes a nation, 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 1 13 

like a diseased pampered body, look full and fat with one 
foot in the grave. 

Lys. You mistake the matter. There are no people who 
think and argue better about the public good of a state 
than our sect; who have also invented many things 
tending to that end which we cannot as yet conveniently 
put in practice. 

Cn. But one point there is from which it must be owned 
the public hath already received some advantage, which 
is the effect of your principles, flowing from them, and 
spreading as they do : I mean that old Roman practice 
of self-murder, which at once puts an end to all distress, 
ridding the world and themselves of the miserable. 

Lys. You were pleased before to make some reflexions 
on this custom, and laugh at the irresolution of our free- 
thinkers : but I can aver for matter of fact that they have 
often recommended it by their example as well as argu- 
ments ! ; and that it is solely owing to them that a practice, 
so useful and magnanimous, hath been taken out of the 
hands of lunatics, and restored to that credit among men 
of sense which it anciently had. In whatever light you 
may consider it, this is in fact a solid benefit. But the 
best effect of our principles is that light and truth so 
visibly shed abroad in the world. From how many pre- 
judices, errors, perplexities, and contradictions have we 
freed the minds of our fellow-subjects ! How many hard 
words and intricate absurd notions had possessed the 
minds of men before our philosophers appeared in the 
world ! But now even women and children have right 
and sound notions of things. What say you to this, 
Crito ? 

Cri. I say, with respect to these great advantages of 
destroying men and notions, that I question whether the 
public gains as much by the latter as it loseth by the 
former. For my own part, I had rather my wife and 
children all believed what they had no notion of, and 
daily pronounced words without a meaning, than that 
any one of them should cut his throat, or leap out of 
a window. Errors and nonsense, as such, are of small 
concern in the eyes of the public ; which considers not 

1 e. g. in the Philosophy of Death. 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. 



IT4 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

the metaphysical truth of notions, so much as the tendency 
they have to produce good or evil. Truth itself is valued 
by the public, as it hath an influence, and is felt in the 
course of life. You may confute a whole shelf of school- 
men, and discover many speculative truths, without any 
great merit towards your country. But if I am not mis- 
taken, the minute philosophers are not the men to whom 
we are most beholden for discoveries of that kind : this 
I say must be allowed, supposing, what I by no means 
grant, your notions to be true. For, to say plainly what 
I think, the tendency of your opinions is so bad that 
no good man can endure them, and your arguments for 
them so weak that no wise man will admit them. 

Lys. Has it not been proved as clear as the meridian 
sun that the politer sort of men lead much happier lives, 
and swim in pleasure, since the spreading of our principles ? 
But, not to repeat or insist further on what has been so 
amply deduced, I shall only add that the advantages flow- 
ing from them extend to the tenderest age and the softer 
sex : our principles deliver children from terrors by night, 
and ladies from splenetic hours by day. 

Cri, [* Instead of these old-fashioned things, prayers 
and the Bible, the grateful amusements of drams, dice, 
and billet-doux have succeeded. The fair sex have now 
nothing to do but dress and paint, drink and game, adorn 
and divert themselves, and enter into all the sweet society 
of life.] I thought, Lysicles, the argument from pleasure 
had been exhausted. But, since you have not done with 
that point, let us once more, by Euphranor's rule, cast up 
the account of pleasure and pain, as credit and debt, under 
distinct articles. We will set down in the life of your 
fine lady rich clothes, dice, cordials, scandal, late hours, 
against vapours, distaste, remorse, losses at play, and 
the terrible distress of ill-spent age increasing every day : 
suppose no cruel accident of jealousy, no madness or 
infamy of love, yet, at the foot of the account, you shall 
find that empty, giddy, gaudy, fluttering thing, not half so 
happy as a butterfly or a grasshopper on a summer's day. 
And for a rake or man of pleasure, the reckoning will be 

1 The sentences within brackets to thisofCrito in the author's third 
were transferred from the close of edition, to be read ironically, 
the preceding speech of Lysicles 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 115 

much the same, if you place listlessness, ignorance, rotten- 
ness, loathing, craving, quarrelling, and such qualities or 
accomplishments, over against his little circle of fleeting 
amusements — long woe against momentary pleasure ; and 
if it be considered that, when sense and appetite go off, 
though he seek refuge from his conscience in the minute 
philosophy, yet in this you will find, if you sift him to the 
bottom, that he affects much, believes little, knows nothing. 

Upon which, Lysicles, turning to me, observed, that 
Crito might dispute against fact if he pleased, but that 
every one must see the nation was the merrier for their 
principles. 

True, answered Crito, we are a merry nation indeed : 
young men laugh at the old ; children despise their 
parents ; and subjects make a jest of the government : 
happy effects of the minute philosophy ! 

25. Lys. Infer what effects you please: that will not 
make our principles less true. 

Cri. Their truth is not what I am now considering. 
The point at present is the usefulness of your principles. 
And to decide this point we need only take a short view of 
them fairly proposed and laid together : — that there is no 
God or providence : that man is as the beasts that perish : 
that his happiness as theirs consists in obeying animal in- 
stincts, appetites, and passions : that all stings of conscience 
and sense of guilt are prejudices and errors of education : 
that religion is a state trick : that vice is beneficial to the 
public : that the soul of man is corporeal, and dissolveth 
like a flame or vapour : that man is a machine actuated 
according to the laws of motion : that consequently he is 
no agent, or subject of guilt : that a wise man will make 
his own particular individual interest in this present life 
the rule and measure of all his actions :— these, and such 
opinions, are, it seems, the tenets of a minute philosopher, 
who is himself, according to his own principles, an organ 
played on by sensible objects, a ball bandied about by 
appetites and passions : so subtle is he as to be able 
to maintain all this by artful reasonings ; so sharp-sighted 
and penetrating to the very bottom of things as to find out 
that the most interested occult cunning is the only true 
wisdom. To complete his character, this curious piece 

1 2 



Il6 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

of clock-work, having no principle of action within itself, 
and denying that it hath or can have any one free thought 
or motion, sets up for the patron of liberty, and earnestly 
contends fox free-thinking. 

Crito had no sooner made an end but Lysicles addressed 
himself to Euphranor and me — Crito, said he, has taken 
a world of pains, but convinced me only of one single 
point, to wit, that I must despair of convincing him. 
Never did I in the whole course of my life meet with 
a man so deeply immersed in prejudice; let who will 
pull him out for me. But I entertain better hopes of you. 

I can answer, said I, for myself, that my eyes and ears 
are always open to conviction : I am attentive to all that 
passes, and upon the whole shall form, whether right or 
wrong, a very impartial judgment. 

Crito, said Euphranor, is a more enterprising man than 
I, thus to rate and lecture a philosopher. For my part, 
I always find it easier to learn than to teach. I shall 
therefore beg your assistance to rid me of some scruples 
about the tendency of your opinions ; which I find myself 
unable to master, though never so willing. This done, 
though we should not tread exactly in the same steps, nor 
perhaps go the same road, yet we shall not run in all points 
diametrically opposite one to another. 

26. Tell me now, Lysicles, you who are a minute 
observer of things, whether a shade be more agreeable 
at morning, or evening, or noon-day ? 

Lys. Doubtless at noon-day. 

Euph. And what disposeth men to rest ? 

Lys. Exercise. 

Euph. When do men make the greatest fires ? 

Lys. In the coldest weather. 

Euph. And what creates a love for icy liquors ? 

Lys. Excessive heat. 

Euph. What if you raise a pendulum to a great height 
on one side? 

Lys. It will, when left to itself, ascend so much the 
higher on the other. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that darkness ensues 
from light, rest from motion, heat from cold, and in general 
that one extreme is the consequence of another ? 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 117 

Lys. It should seem so. 

Euph. And doth not this observation hold in the civil as 
well as natural world ? Doth not power produce licence, 
and licence power ? Do not whigs make tories, and tories 
whigs. Bigots make atheists, and atheists bigots ' ? 

Lys. Granting this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not hence follow that as we abhor slavish 
principles we should avoid running into licentious ones? 
I am and always was a sincere lover of liberty, legal 
English liberty ; which I esteem a chief blessing, orna- 
ment, and comfort of life, and the great prerogative of 
an Englishman. But is it not to be feared that, upon the 
nation's running into a licentiousness which hath never 
been endured in any civilised country, men feeling the 
intolerable evils of one extreme may naturally fall into 
the other ? You must allow the bulk of mankind are not 
philosophers, like you and Alciphron. 

Lys. This I readily acknowledge. 

Euph. I have another scruple about the tendency of 
your opinions. Suppose you should prevail, and destroy 
this protestant church and clergy : how could you come 
at the popish ? I am credibly informed there is a great 
number of" emissaries of the church of Rome disguised in 
England : who can tell what harvest a clergy so numerous, 
so subtle, and so well furnished with arguments to work 
on vulgar and uneducated minds, may be able to make in 
a country despoiled of all religion, and feeling the want of 
it ? Who can tell whether the spirit of free-thinking 
ending with the opposition, and the vanity with the distinc- 
tion, when the whole nation are alike infidels ; who can 
tell, I say, whether in such a juncture the men of genius 
themselves may not affect a new distinction, and be the 
first converts to popery? 

Lys. And suppose they should. Between friends it 
would be no great matter. These are our maxims. In 
the first place, we hold it would be best to have no religion 
at all. Secondly, we hold that all religions are indifferent. 
If, therefore, upon trial, we find the country cannot do 
without a religion, why not popery as well as another ? 
I know several ingenious men of our sect, who, if we had 

1 Cf. Dial. V. sect. 29. 



Il8 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

a popish prince on the throne, would turn papists to- 
morrow. This is a paradox, but I shall explain it. A 
prince whom we compliment with our religion, to be sure 
must be grateful. 

Euph. I understand you. But what becomes of free- 
thinking all the while ? 

Lys. Oh ! we should have more than ever of that, for 
we should keep it all to ourselves. As for the amusement 
of retailing it, the want of this would be largely com- 
pensated by solid advantages of another kind. 

Euph. It seems then, by this account, the tendency you 
observed in the nation towards something great and new 
proves a tendency towards popery and slavery. 

Lys. Mistake us not, good Euphranor. The thing first 
in our intention is consummate liberty : but, if this will not 
do, and there must after all be such things tolerated as 
religion and government, we are wisely willing to make 
the best of both. 

Cri. This puts me in mind of a thought I have often 
had — that minute philosophers are dupes of the Jesuits. 
The two most avowed, professed, busy, propagators of 
infidelity, in all companies, and upon all occasions, that 
I ever met with, were both bigoted papists ; and, being 
both men of considerable estates, suffered considerably on 
that score ; which it is wonderful their thinking disciples 
should never reflect upon. Hegemon, a most distinguished 
writer among the minute philosophers, and hero of the 
sect, I am well assured, was once a papist, and never 
heard that he professed any other religion. I know that 
many of the church of Rome abroad are pleased with the 
growth of infidelity among us, as hoping it may make way 
for them. The emissaries of Rome are known to have 
personated several other sects, which from time to time 
have sprung up amongst us ; and why not this of the 
minute philosophers, of all others the best calculated to 
ruin both church and state ? I myself have known 
a Jesuit abroad talk among English gentlemen like a free- 
thinker. I am credibly informed that Jesuits, known to 
be such by the minute philosophers at home, are admitted 
into their clubs, and I have observed them to approve, 
and speak better of the Jesuits; than of any other clergy 
whatsoever. Those who are not acquainted with the 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 119 

subtle spirit, the refined politics, and wonderful economy, 
of that renowned society, need only read the account 
given of them by the Jesuit Inchofer, in his book De 
Monarchia Solipsorum ; and those who are will not be 
surprised they should be able to make dupes of our 
minute philosophers : dupes, I say, for I can never think 
they suspect they are only tools to serve the ends of 
cunninger men than themselves. They seem to me drunk 
and giddy with a false notion of liberty, and spurred on by 
this principle to make mad experiments on their country ; 
they agree only in pulling down all that stands in their 
way ; without any concerted scheme, and without caring 
or knowing what to erect in its stead. To hear them, 
as I have often done, descant on the moral virtues, resolve 
them into shame, then laugh at shame as a weakness, 
admire the unconfined lives of savages *, despise all order 
and decency of education — one would think the intention 
of these philosophers was, when they had pruned and 
weeded the notions of their fellow-subjects, and divested 
them of their prejudices, to strip them of their clothes, and 
fill the country with naked followers of nature, enjoying all 
the privileges of brutality. 

Here Crito made a pause, and fixed his eyes on Alci- 
phron, who during this whole conversation had sat 
thoughtful and attentive, without saying a word ; and 
with an air one while dissatisfied at what Lysicles ad- 
vanced, another serene and pleased, seeming to approve 
some better thought of his own. But the day being now 
far spent, Alciphron proposed to adjourn the argument till 
the following ; when, said he, I shall set matters on a new 
foundation, and in so full and clear a light, as, I doubt not, 
will give entire satisfaction 2 . So we changed the discourse, 
and after a repast upon cold provisions, took a walk on 
the strand, and in the cool of the evening returned to 
Crito's. 

1 Cf. Berkeley's Discourse ad- taken to constitute right conduct. 
dressed to Magistrates, sect. 21. Alciphron accordingly promises 

2 The preceding Dialogue makes to vindicate atheistic morality ' on a 
Lysicles fail to prove, that free new foundation,' superior to the 
indulgence of the animal appetites objections which were fatal to the 
is the true way to promote the paradoxical hypothesis of Lysicles. 
public good, regard for which is 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 1 . 



i. Alciphron's account of honour. 2. Character and conduct of men of 
honour. 3. Sense of moral beauty. 4. The honestum or to kolXov 
of the ancients. 5. Taste for moral beauty — whether a sure guide or 
rule. 6. Minute philosophers ravished with the abstract beauty of 
virtue. 7. Their virtue alone disinterested and heroic. 8. Beauty 
of sensible objects — what, and how perceived. 9. The idea of beauty 
explained by painting and architecture. 10. Beauty of the moral 
system, wherein it consists. II. It supposeth a Providence. 12. 
Influence of to kcl\6v and to irpenov. 13. Enthusiasm of Cratylus com- 
pared with the sentiments of Aristotle. 14. Compared with the 
Stoical principles. 15. Minute philosophers, their talent for raillery 
and ridicule. 16. The wisdom of those who make virtue alone its 
own reward. 

i. The following day, as we sat round the tea-table, in 
a summer parlour which looks into the garden, Alciphron 
after the first dish turned down his cup, and, reclining 
back on his chair, proceeded as follows — Above all the 
sects upon earth, it is the peculiar privilege of ours, not to 
be tied down by any principles. While other philosophers 
profess a servile adherence to certain tenets, ours assert 
a noble freedom, differing not only one from another, but 

1 The Second Dialogue having and afterwards the critic, of Locke, 

exposed the hypothesis of the utility who is alleged to make a sense of 

of vice, the Third is meant to shew the beauty of a constant regard for 

the insufficiency of taste, or a sense the public good the foundation of 

of the abstract beauty of virtue, for virtuous conduct ; independently of 

practical morals and regulating the the endless penalties which he as- 

actions of men : the need for faith sociates with the popular religion, 

in the omnipresence and moral Shaftesbury's Characteristics should 

government of God, in this and in be compared with this Dialogue, 

a future life, is accordingly sug- which is hardly fair to the ethical 

gested. merit and elevated theism of a 

This Dialogue discusses the philosopher who was admired by 

ethical theory of the third Earl of Leibniz, and followed by Francis 

Shaftesbury (1671-1713), the pupil, Hutcheson. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 121 

very often the same man from himself. Which method of 
proceeding, beside other advantages, hath this annexed to 
it, that we are of all men the hardest to confute. You 
may, perhaps, confute a particular tenet, but then this 
affects only him who maintains it, and so long only as 
he maintains it. Some of our sect dogmatize more than 
others, and in some more than other points. The doctrine 
of the usefulness of vice is a point wherein we are not all 
agreed. Some of us are great admirers of virtue. With 
others the points of vice and virtue are problematical. 
For my part, though I think the doctrine maintained 
yesterday by Lysicles an ingenious speculation ; yet upon 
the whole, there are divers reasons which incline me to 
depart from it, and rather to espouse the virtuous side of 
the question ; with the smallest, perhaps, but the most 
contemplative and laudable part of our sect. It seemeth, 
I say, after a nice inquiry and balancing on both sides, 
that we ought to prefer virtue to vice ; and that such pre- 
ference would contribute both to the public weal, and the 
reputation of our philosophers. 

You are to know then, we have among us several 
that, without one grain of religion, are men of the nicest 
honour, and therefore men of virtue because men of 
honour. Honour is a noble unpolluted source of virtue, 
without the least mixture of fear, interest, or superstition. 
It hath all the advantages without the evils which attend 
religion. It is the mark of a great and fine soul, and is 
to be found among persons of rank and breeding. It 
affects the court, the senate, and the camp, and in general 
every rendezvous of people of fashion. 

Euph. You say then that honour is the source of virtue? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. Can a thing be the source of itself? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. The source, therefore, is distinguished from that 
of which it is the source ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. Honour then is one thing, and virtue another? 

Ale. I grant it. Virtuous actions are the effect, and 
honour is the source or cause of that effect. 

Euph. Tell me. Is honour the will producing those 
actions, or the final cause for which they are produced ; 



122 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

or right reason which is their rule and limit, or the object 
about which they are conversant? Or do you by the 
word honour understand a faculty or appetite ? all which 
are supposed, in one sense or other, to be the source of 
human actions. 

Ale. Nothing of all this. 

Euph. Be pleased then to give me some notion or de- 
finition of it. — Alciphron, having mused a while, answered, 
that he defined honour to be a principle of virtuous 
actions. 

To which Euphranor replied : — If I understand it rightly, 
the word principle is variously taken. Sometimes by prin- 
ciples we mean the parts of which a whole is composed, 
and into which it may be resolved. Thus the elements 
are said to be principles of compound bodies. And thus 
words, syllables, and letters are the principles of speech. 
Sometimes by principle we mean a small particular seed, 
the growth or gradual unfolding of which doth produce an 
organised body, animal or vegetable, in its proper size and 
shape. Principles at other times are supposed to be certain 
fundamental theorems in arts and sciences, in religion and 
politics. Let me know in which of these senses, or whether 
it be in some other sense, that you understand this word, 
when you say — honour is a principle of virtue. 

To this Alciphron replied, that for his part he meant it in 
none of those senses, but defined honour to be a certain 
ardour or enthusiasm that glowed in the breast of a gallant 
man. 

Upon this, Euphranor observed, it was always admitted 
to put the definition in place of the thing defined. Is this 
allowed, said he, or not ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. May we not therefore say, that a man of honour 
is a warm man, or an enthusiast ? 

Alciphron, hearing this, declared that such exactness 
was to no purpose ; that pedants, indeed, may dispute and 
define, but could never reach that high sense of honour 
which distinguished the fine gentleman, and was a thing 
rather to be felt than explained. 

2. Crito, perceiving that Alciphron could not bear being 
pressed any farther on that article, and willing to give 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 123 

some satisfaction to Euphranor, said that of himself indeed 
he should not undertake to explain so nice a point, but he 
would retail to them part of a conversation he once heard 
between Nicander a minute philosopher and Menecles a 
Christian, upon the same subject, which was for substance 
as follows : — 

M. From what principle are you gentlemen virtuous? 
N. From honour. We are men of honour. 
M. May not a man of honour debauch another's 
wife, or get drunk, or sell a vote, or refuse to pay his 
debts, without lessening or tainting his honour ? 

N. He may have the vices and faults of a gentle- 
man : but is obliged to pay debts of honour, that is, 
all such as are contracted by play. 

M. Is not your man of honour always ready to 
resent affronts and engage in duels ? 

N. He is ready to demand and give gentleman's 
satisfaction upon all proper occasions. 

M. It should seem, by this account, that to ruin 
tradesmen, break faith to one's own wife, corrupt 
another man's, take bribes, cheat the public, cut a 
man's throat for a word, are all points consistent with 
your principle of honour. 

TV. It cannot be denied that we are men of gallantry, 
men of fire, men who know the world, and all that. 

M. It seems therefore that honour among infidels 

is like honesty among pirates— something confined 

to themselves, and which the fraternity perhaps may 

find their account in, but every one else should be 

constantly on his guard against. 

By this dialogue, continued Crito, a man who lives out of 

the grand monde may be enabled to form some notion 

of what the world calls honour, and men of honour. 

Euph. I must entreat you not to put me off with 
Nicander's opinion, whom I know nothing of, but rather 
give me your own judgment, drawn from your own observa- 
tion upon men of honour. 

Cri. If I must pronounce, I can very sincerely assure 
you that, by all I have heard or seen, I could never find 
that honour, considered as a principle distinct from con- 
science, religion, reason, and virtue, was more than an 
empty name. And I do verily believe that those who build 



124 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

upon that notion have less virtue than other men; and 
that what they have, or seem to have, is owing to fashion 
(being of the reputable kind), if not to a conscience early 
imbued with religious principles, and afterwards retaining 
a tincture from them without knowing it. These two 
principles seem to account for all that looks like virtue in 
those gentlemen. Your men of fashion, in whom animal 
life abounds, a sort of bullies in morality, who disdain to 
have it thought they are afraid of conscience — these descant 
much upon honour, and affect to be called men of honour, 
rather than conscientious or honest men. But, by all that 
I could ever observe, this specious character, where there 
is nothing of conscience or religion underneath, to give 
it life and substance, is no better than a meteor or painted 
cloud. 

Euph. I had a confused notion that honour was some- 
thing connected with truth ; and that men of honour were 
the greatest enemies to all hypocrisy, fallacy, and disguise. 

Cri. So far from that, an infidel, who sets up for the 
nicest honour, shall, without the least grain of faith or 
religion, pretend himself a Christian, take any test, join in 
any act of worship, kneel, pray, receive the sacrament, 
to serve an interest 1 . The same person, without any 
impeachment of his honour, shall most solemnly declare 
and promise, in the face of God and the world, that he will 
love his wife, and forsaking all others keep only to her, 
when at the same time it is certain he intends never to 
perform one tittle of his vow ; and convinceth the whole 
world of this as soon as he gets her in his power, and her 
fortune, for the sake of which this man of untainted honour 
makes no scruple to cheat and lie. 

Euph. We have a notion here in the country that it was 
of all things most odious, and a matter of much risk and 
hazard, to give the lie to a man of honour. 

Cri. It is very true. He abhors to take the lie, but not 
to tell it. 

3. "'Akiphron, having heard all this with great com- 
posure of mind and countenance, spake as follows : — 

Cf. Dial. I. sect. 12. Shaftesbury as Shaftesbury was 

2 Alciphron here personates conceived by Berkeley. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 125 

[' The word Free-thinker, as it comprehends men of very 
different sorts of sentiments, cannot in a strict sense, be said 
to constitute one particular sect, holding a certain system of 
positive and distinct opinions. Though it must be owned 
we do all agree in certain points of unbelief, or negative 
principles, which agreement, in some sense, unites us under 
the common idea of one sect. But then those negative 
principles as they happen to take root in men of different 
age, temper, and education, do produce various tendencies, 
opinions, and characters, widely differing one from another.] 
You are not to think that our greatest strength lies in our 
greatest number — libertines, and mere men of honour. 
No : we have among us philosophers of a very different 
character — men of curious contemplation, not governed by 
such gross things as sense and custom, but of an abstracted 
virtue and sublime morals : and the less religious the more 
virtuous. For virtue of the high and disinterested kind 
no man is so well qualified as an infidel ; it being a mean 
and selfish thing to be virtuous through fear or hope. 
The notion of a Providence, and future state of rewards 
and punishments, may indeed tempt or scare men of abject 
spirit into practices contrary to the natural bent of their 
souls, but will never produce a true and genuine virtue. 
To go to the bottom of things, to analyse virtue into its 
first principles, and fix a scheme of duty on its true basis, 
you must understand that there is an Idea of Beauty 
natural to the mind of man. This all men desire, this they 
are pleased and delighted with for its own sake, purely 
from an instinct of nature. A man needs no arguments 
to make him discern and approve what is beautiful; it 
strikes at first sight, and attracts without a reason. And 
as this beauty is found in the shape and form of corporeal 
things ; so also is there analogous to it a beauty of another 
kind— an order, a symmetry, and comeliness, in the moral 
world. And as the eye perceiveth the one, so the mind 
doth, by a certain interior sense 2 , perceive the other; 
which sense, talent, or faculty is ever quickest and purest 
in the noblest minds. Thus, as by sight I discern the 
beauty of a plant or an animal, even so the mind appre- 

1 The sentences within brackets ■ Afterwards called a moral 

were introduced in the third edition. sense. See p. 129. 



T26 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

hends the moral excellence, the beauty, and decorum of 
justice and temperance. And as we readily pronounce 
a dress becoming, or an attitude graceful, we can, with the 
same free untutored judgment, at once declare whether 
this or that conduct or action be comely and beautiful. 
To relish this kind of beauty there must be a delicate and 
fine taste ; but, where there is this natural taste, nothing 
further is wanting, either as a principle to convince, or 
as a motive to induce men to the love of virtue. And 
more or less there is of this taste or sense in every creature 
that hath reason. All rational beings are by nature social. 
They are drawn one towards another by natural affections. 
They unite and incorporate into families, clubs, parties, 
and commonwealths by mutual sympathy. As, by means 
of the sensitive soul, our several distinct parts and members 
do consent towards the animal functions, and are con- 
nected in one whole ; even so, the several parts of these 
rational systems or bodies politic, by virtue of this moral 
or interior sense, are held together, have a fellow feeling, 
do succour and protect each other, and jointly co-operate 
towards the same end. Hence that joy in society, that 
propension towards doing good to our kind, that gratula- 
tion and delight in beholding the virtuous deeds of other 
men, or in reflecting on our own. By contemplation of 
the fitness and order of the parts of a moral system, 
regularly operating, and knit together by benevolent affec- 
tions, the mind of man attaineth to the highest notion 
of beauty, excellence, and perfection. Seized and rapt 
with this sublime idea, our philosophers do infinitely 
despise and pity whoever shall propose or accept any 
other motive to virtue. Interest is a mean ungenerous 
thing, destroying the merit of virtue ; and falsehood of 
every kind is inconsistent with the genuine spirit of 
philosophy. 

Cri. The love therefore that you bear to moral beauty, 
and your passion for abstracted truth, will not suffer you 
to think with patience of those fraudulent impositions upon 
mankind — Providence, the Immortality of the Soul, and 
a future Retribution of rewards and punishments ; which, 
under the notion of promoting, do, it seems, destroy all 
true virtue, and at the same time contradict and disparage 
your noble theories, manifestly tending to the perturbation 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 127 

and disquiet of men's minds, and filling them with fruitless 
hopes and vain terrors '. 

Ale. Men's first thoughts and natural notions are the 
best in moral matters. And there is no need that mankind 
should be preached, or reasoned, or frightened into virtue, 
a thing so natural and congenial to every human soul. 
Now, if this be the case, as it certainly is, it follows that 
all the ends of society are secured without Religion, and 
that an infidel bids fair to be the most virtuous man, in 
a true, sublime, and heroic sense. 

4. Euph. O Alciphron, while you talk, I feel an affection 
in my soul like the trembling of one lute upon striking 
the unison strings of another. Doubtless there is a beauty 
of the mind, a charm in virtue, a symmetry and proportion 
in the moral world. This moral beauty was known to the 
ancients by the name of honestum, or to koKqv 2 . And, in 
order to know its force and influence, it may not be amiss 
to inquire, what it was understood to be, and what light 
it was placed in, by those who first considered it, and 
gave it a name. To /caXoV, according to Aristotle, is the 
enaiverov or laudable ; according to Plato, it is the ijSu or 
dxpe'Kifiov, pleasant or profitable, which is meant with respect 
to a reasonable mind and its true interest. Now, I would 
feign know whether a mind which considers an action as 
laudable be not carried beyond the bare action itself, to 
regard the opinion of others concerning it ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. And whether this be a sufficient ground or 
principle of virtue, for a man to act upon, when he 
thinks himself removed from the eye and observation 
of every other intelligent being? 

Ale. It seems not. 

Euph. Again : I ask whether a man who doth a thing 
pleasant or profitable, as such, might not be supposed 
to forbear doing it, or even to do the contrary, upon the 
prospect of greater pleasure or profit ? 

Ale. He might. 

1 Not all of the free-thinking 2 ' The beautiful ' (to koKuv), re- 
party disowned immortality, and garded ethically, is characteristic 
professed to follow virtue only on of Greek morality, with its fine 
account of its abstract beauty. artistic feeling. 



128 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. Doth it not follow from hence that the beauty 
of virtue, or ™ koK6v, in either Aristotle's or Plato's sense, 
is not a sufficient principle or ground to engage sensual 
and worldly-minded men in the practice of it ? 

Ale. What then ? 

Euph. Why then it will follow that hope of reward and 
fear of punishment are highly expedient to cast the balance 
of pleasant and profitable on the side of virtue, and there- 
by very much conduce to the benefit of human society. 

Alciphron upon this appealed : — Gentlemen, said he, you 
are witnesses of this unfair proceeding of Euphranor, who 
argues against us from explications given by Plato and 
Aristotle of the beauty of virtue, which are things we have 
nothing to say to ; the philosophers of our sect abstract- 
ing from all praise, pleasure, and interest, when they are 
enamoured and transported with that sublime idea. 

I beg pardon, replied Euphranor, for supposing the 
minute philosophers of our days think like those ancient 
sages. But you must tell me, Alciphron, since you do not 
think fit to adopt the sense of Plato or Aristotle, what 
sense it is in which you understand the beauty of virtue. 
Define it, explain it, make me to understand your meaning, 
that so we may argue about the same thing, without which 
we can never come to a conclusion. 

5. Ale. Some things are better understood by definitions 
and descriptions ; but I have always observed that those 
who would define, explain, and dispute about this point 
make the least of it. Moral beauty is of so peculiar and 
abstracted a nature, something so subtle, fine, and fugacious, 
that it will not bear being handled and inspected, like 
every gross and common subject. You will, therefore, 
pardon me if I stand upon my philosophic liberty ; and 
choose rather to intrench myself within the general and 
indefinite sense, rather than, by entering into a precise 
and particular explication of this beauty, perchance lose 
sight of it ; or give you some hold whereon to cavil, and 
infer, and raise doubts, queries, and difficulties about a 
point as clear as the sun, when nobody reasons upon it. 

Euph. How say you, Alciphron, is that notion clearest 
when it is not considered ? 

Ale. I say it is rather to be felt than understood — a 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 129 

certain je ne sais quoi. An object, not of the discursive 
faculty, but of a peculiar sense, which is properly called 
the moral sense \ being adapted to the perception of moral 
beauty, as the eye to colours, or the ear to sounds. 

Euph. That men have certain instinctive sensations 
or passions from nature, which make them amiable and 
useful to each other, I am clearly convinced. Such are 
a fellow-feeling with the distressed, a tenderness for our 
offspring, an affection towards our friends, our neighbours, 
and our country, an indignation against things base, cruel, 
or unjust. These passions are implanted in the human 
soul, with several other fears and appetites, aversions 
and desires, some of which are strongest and uppermost 
in one mind, others in another. Should it not therefore 
seem a very uncertain guide in morals, for a man to follow 
his passion or inward feeling; and would not this rule 
infallibly lead different men different ways, according to 
the prevalency of this or that appetite or passion? 

Ale. I do not deny it. 

Euph. And will it not follow from hence that duty and 
virtue are in a fairer way of being practised, if men are 
led by reason and judgment, balancing low and sensual 
pleasures with those of a higher kind, comparing present 
losses with future gains, and the uneasiness and disgust 
of every vice with the delightful practice of the opposite 
virtue, and the pleasing reflexions and hopes which attend 
it ? Or can there be a stronger motive to virtue than the 
shewing that, considered in all lights, it is every man's 
true interest ? 

6. Ale. I tell you, Euphranor, we contemn the virtue 
of that man who computes and deliberates, and must have 
a reason for being virtuous. The refined moralists of 
our sect are ravished and transported with the abstract 
beauty of virtue. They disdain all forensic motives to 

1 The term 'moral sense' {sensiis senses. It is so employed by 
decoriethonestioi ancient moralists) Shaftesbury, in his Inquiry con- 
came into use about the time Berke- cerning Virtue (1699); and after- 
ley wrote, as a substitute for con- wards by Hutcheson, in his Inquiry 
science, to indicate perception of into the Origin of Ideas of Beauty 
moral qualities in a way analo- and Virtue (1725), and his lilustra- 
gous to our apprehension of the tions upon the Moral Sense (1728). 
qualities of matter in the external 



BERKELEY: FKASEK. II. 



K 



130 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

it ; and love virtue only for virtue's sake. Oh rapture ! 
oh enthusiasm ! oh the quintessence of beauty ! methinks 
I could dwell for ever on this contemplation : but, rather 
than entertain myself, I must endeavour to convince you. 
Make an experiment on the first man you meet. Propose 
a villainous or unjust action. Take his first sense of 
the matter, and you shall find he detests it. He may, 
indeed, be afterwards misled by arguments, or overpowered 
by temptation ; but his original, unpremeditated, and 
genuine thoughts are just and orthodox. How can we 
account for this but by a moral sense, which, left to itself, 
hath as quick and true a perception of the beauty and 
deformity of human actions as the eye hath of colours ? 

Euph. May not this be sufficiently accounted for by 
conscience, affection, passion, education, reason, custom, 
religion ; which principles and habits, for aught I know, 
may be what you metaphorically call a moral sense ? 

Ale. What I call a moral sense is strictly, properly, 
and truly such, and in kind different from all those things 
you enumerate. It is what all men have, though all may 
not observe it. 

Upon this Euphranor smiled and said — Alciphron has 
made discoveries where I least expected it. For, said 
he, in regard to every other point I should hope to learn 
from him ; but for the knowledge of myself, or the faculties 
and powers of my own mind, I should have looked at 
home. And there I might have looked long enough with- 
out finding this new talent, which even now, after being 
tutored, I cannot comprehend. For Alciphron, I must 
needs say, is too sublime and enigmatical upon a point 
which of all others ought to be most clearly understood. 
I have often heard that your deepest adepts and oldest 
professors in science are the obscurest. Lysicles is young, 
and speaks plain. Would he but favour us with his sense 
of this point, it might perhaps prove more upon a level 
with my apprehension. 

7. Lysicles shook his head, and in a grave and earnest 
manner addressed the company. — Gentlemen, said he, 
Alciphron stands upon his own legs. I have no part in 
these refined notions he is at present engaged to defend. 
If I must subdue my passions, abstract, contemplate, be 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 131 

enamoured of virtue ; in a word, if I must be an enthusiast, 
I owe so much deference to the laws of my country as 
to choose being an enthusiast in their way. Besides, 
it is better being so for some end than for none. This 
doctrine hath all the solid inconveniences, without the 
amusing hopes and prospects, of the Christian. 

Ale. I never counted on Lysicles for my second in this 
point ; which after all doth not need his assistance or 
explication. All subjects ought not to be treated in the 
same manner. The way of definition and division is 
dry and pedantic. Besides, the subject is sometimes too 
obscure, sometimes too simple for this method. One 
while we know too little of a point, another too much, 
to make it plainer by discourse. 

Cri. To hear Alciphron talk puts me in mind of that 
ingenious Greek who, having wrapped a man's brother 
up in a cloak, asked him whether he knew that person ; 
being ready, either by keeping on or pulling off the 
cloak, to confute his answer whatever it should be. For 
my part, I believe, if matters were fairly stated, that 
rational satisfaction, that peace of mind, that inward com- 
fort, and conscientious joy, which a good Christian finds 
in good actions, would not be found to fall short of 
all the ecstasy, rapture, and enthusiasm supposed to be 
the effect of that high and undescribed principle. In 
earnest, can any ecstasy be higher, any rapture more 
affecting, than that which springs from the love of God 
and man, from a conscience void of offence, and an inward 
discharge of duty, with the secret delight, trust, and hope 
that attend it ? 

Ale. O Euphranor, we votaries of truth do not envy 
but pity the groundless joys and mistaken hopes of a 
Christian. And, as for conscience and rational pleasure, 
how can we allow a conscience without allowing a vindic- 
tive Providence ? Or how can we suppose the charm of 
virtue consists in any pleasure or benefit attending virtuous 
actions \ without giving great advantages to the Christian 
religion ; which, it seems, excites its believers to virtue 

1 [' There can never be less self- good.' Characteristics, vol. III. 
enjoyment than in these supposed p. 301.] — Note in third edition, 
wise characters, these selfish com- by the Author, 
puters of happiness and private 

K 2 



132 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

by the highest interests and pleasures in reversion. Alas ! 
should we grant this, there would be a door opened to 
all those rusty declaimers upon the necessity and useful- 
ness of the great points of Faith — the immortality of the 
soul, a future state, rewards and punishments, and the 
like exploded conceits ; which, according to our system 
and principles, may perhaps produce a low, popular, 
interested kind of virtue, but must absolutely destroy and 
extinguish it in the sublime and heroic sense. 

8. Euph. What you now say is very intelligible : I wish 
I understood your main principle as well. 

Ale. And are you then in earnest at a loss ? Is it 
possible you should have no notion of beauty, or that 
having it you should not know it to be amiable — amiable 
I say, in itself, and for itself? 

Euph. Pray tell me, Alciphron, are all mankind agreed 
in the notion of a beauteous face ? 

Ale. Beauty in human-kind seems to be of a mixed and 
various nature ; forasmuch as the passions, sentiments, 
and qualities of the soul, being seen through and blending 
with the features, work differently on different minds, 
as the sympathy is more or less. But with regard to 
other things is there no steady principle of beauty? Is 
there upon earth a human mind without the idea of order, 
harmony, and proportion ? 

Euph. O Alciphron, it is my weakness that I am apt 
to be lost and bewildered in abstractions and generalities, 
but a particular thing is better suited to my faculties '. 
I find it easy to consider and keep in view the objects 
of sense : let us therefore try to discover what their beauty 
is, or wherein it consists ; and so, by the help of these 
sensible things, as a scale or ladder 2 , ascend to moral 
and intelligible beauty. Be pleased then to inform me, 
what is it we call beauty in the objects of sense ? 

Ale. Every one knows beauty is that which pleases. 

Euph. There is then beauty in the smell of a rose, or 
the taste of an apple ? 

1 d. Principles of Human Know- ception. What follows, in this 
ledge, Introduction, sect. 6-17, and and the next section, relates to 
other passages directed against the sense of beauty in the world 
metaphysical abstractions. of the senses. 

2 So Sin's, in its general con- 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 133 

Ale. By no means. Beauty is, to speak properly, per- 
ceived only by the eye. 

Euph. It cannot therefore be defined in general— that 
which pleaseth ? 

Ale. I grant it cannot. 

Euph. How then shall we limit or define it ? 

Alciphron, after a short pause, said that beauty con- 
sisted in a certain symmetry or proportion pleasing to 
the eye. 

Euph. Is this proportion one and the same in all things, 
or is it different in different kinds of things ? 

Ale. Different, doubtless. The proportions of an ox 
would not be beautiful in a horse. And we may observe 
also in things inanimate, that the beauty of a table, a chair, 
a door, consists in different proportions. 

Euph. Doth not this proportion imply the relation of 
one thing to another? 

Ale. It doth. 

Euph. And are not these relations founded in size and 
shape ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. And, to make the proportions just, must not those 
mutual relations of size and shape in the parts be such 
as shall make the whole complete and perfect in its 
kind? 

Ale. I grant they must. 

Euph. Is not a thing said to be perfect in its kind when 
it answers the end for which it was made ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. The parts, therefore, in true proportions must be 
so related, and adjusted to one another, as that they may 
best conspire to the use and operation of the whole ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. But the comparing parts one with another, the 
considering them as belonging to one whole, and referring 
this whole to its use or end, should seem the work of 
reason : should it not ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. Proportions, therefore, are not, strictly speaking, 
perceived by the sense of sight, but only by reason through 
the means of sight. 

Ale. This I grant. 



134 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. Consequently beauty, in your sense of it, is an 
object, not of the eye, but of the mind. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. The eye, therefore, alone cannot see that a chair 
is handsome, or a door well proportioned. 

Ale. It seems to follow; but I am not clear as to this 
point. 

Euph. Let us see if there be any difficulty in it. Could 
the chair you sit on, think you, be reckoned well pro- 
portioned or handsome, if it had not such a height, breadth, 
wideness, and was not so far reclined as to afford a con- 
venient seat ? 

Ale. It could not. 

Euph. The beauty, therefore, or symmetry of a chair 
cannot be apprehended but by knowing its use, and com- 
paring its figure with that use ; which cannot be done 
by the eye alone, but is the effect of judgment. It is, 
therefore, one thing to see an object, and another to discern 
its beauty. 

Ale. I admit this to be true. 

9. Euph. The architects judge a door to be of a beautiful 
proportion, when its height is double of the breadth. But 
if you should invert a well-proportioned door, making its 
breadth become the height, and its height the breadth, the 
figure would still be the same, but without that beauty 
in one situation which it had in another. What can be 
the cause of this, but that, in the fore-mentioned supposition, 
the door would not yield convenient entrances to creatures 
of a human figure? But, if in any other part of the 
universe there should be supposed rational animals of an 
inverted stature, they must be supposed to invert the rule 
for proportion of doors ; and to them that would appear 
beautiful which to us was disagreeable. 

Ale. Against this I have no objection. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is there not something truly 
decent and beautiful in dress ? 

Ale. Doubtless, there is. 

Euph. Are any likelier to give us an idea of this beauty 
in dress than painters and sculptors, whose proper business 
and study it is to aim at graceful representations ? 

Ale. I believe not. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 135 

Euph. Let us then examine the draperies of the great 
masters in these arts : how, for instance, they use to clothe 
a matron, or a man of rank. Cast an eye on those figures 
(said he, pointing to some prints after Raphael and Guido, 
that hung upon the wall) — what appearance do you think 
an English courtier or magistrate, with his Gothic, succinct, 
plaited garment, and his full-bottomed wig ; or one of our 
ladies in her unnatural dress, pinched and stiffened and 
enlarged, with hoops and whale-bone and buckram, must 
make, among those figures so decently clad in draperies 
that fall into such a variety of natural, easy, and ample 
folds, that appear with so much dignity and simplicity, 
that cover the body without encumbering it, and adorn 
without altering the shape? 

Ale. Truly I think they must make a very ridiculous 
appearance. 

Euph. And what do you think this proceeds from ? 
Whence is it that the Eastern nations, the Greeks, and 
the Romans, naturally ran into the most becoming dresses ; 
while our Gothic gentry, after so many centuries racking 
their inventions, mending, and altering, and improving, 
and whirling about in a perpetual rotation of fashions, 
have never yet had the luck to stumble on any that was 
not absurd and ridiculous? Is it not from hence — that, 
instead of consulting use, reason, and convenience, they 
abandon themselves to irregular fancy, the unnatural 
parent of monsters ? Whereas the ancients, considering 
the use and end of dress, made it subservient to the 
freedom, ease, and convenience of the body ; and, having 
no notion of mending or changing the natural shape, they 
aimed only at shewing it with decency and advantage. 
And, if this be so, are we not to conclude that the beauty 
of dress depends on its subserviency to certain ends and 
uses? 

Ale. This appears to be true. 

Euph. This subordinate relative nature of beauty, per- 
haps, will be yet plainer, if we examine the respective 
beauties of a horse and a pillar. Virgil's description of 
the former is — 

I Hi ardua cervix, <\ 

Argutumque caput, brevis alvus, obesaque terga, 
Luxuriatque toris animosum pectus. 



136 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Now, I would fain know whether the perfections and uses 
of a horse may not be reduced to these three points, 
courage, strength, and speed ; and whether each of the 
beauties enumerated doth not occasion or betoken one of 
these perfections? After the same manner, if we inquire 
into the parts and proportions of a beautiful pillar, we 
shall perhaps find them answer to the same idea. Those 
who have considered the theory of architecture tell us ' 
the proportions of the three Grecian orders were taken 
from the human body, as the most beautiful and perfect 
production of nature. Hence were derived those graceful 
ideas of columns, which had a character of strength 
without clumsiness, or of delicacy without weakness. 
Those beautiful proportions were, I say, taken originally 
from nature, which, in her creatures, as hath been already 
observed, referreth them to some end, use, or design. 
The gonfiezza also, or swelling, and the diminution of a 
pillar, is it not in such proportion as to make it appear 
strong and light at the same time? In the same manner, 
must not the whole entablature, with its projections, be 
so proportioned, as to seem great but not heavy, light but 
not little ; inasmuch as a deviation into either extreme 
would thwart that reason and use of things wherein their 
beauty is founded, and to which it is subordinate ? The 
entablature, and all its parts and ornaments, architrave, 
frieze, cornice, triglyphs, metopes, modiglions, and the 
rest, have each a use or appearance of use, in giving 
firmness and union to the building, in protecting it from 
the weather and casting off the rain, in representing the 
ends of beams with their intervals, the production of 
rafters, and so forth. And if we consider the graceful 
angles in frontispieces, the spaces between the columns, 
or the ornaments of their capitals — shall we not find, that 
their beauty riseth from the appearance of use, or the 
imitation of natural things, whose beauty is originally 
founded on the same principle ? which is, indeed, the 
grand distinction between Grecian and Gothic architecture; 
the latter being fantastical, and for the most part founded 

1 [See the learned Patriarch of fostered in Italy, has been already 

Aquileia's Commentary on Vitrn- referred to. Cf. Dial. II. sect. 15, 

vius, Lib. IV. cap. 1.] — Author. note. 
Berkeley's taste in architecture, 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 137 

neither in nature nor in reason, in necessity nor use, the 
appearance of which accounts for all the beauty, grace, 
and ornament of the other. 

Cri. What Euphranor has said confirms the opinion 
I always entertained— that the rules of architecture were 
founded, as all other arts which flourished among the 
Greeks, in truth, and nature, and good sense. But the 
ancients, who, from a thorough consideration of the grounds 
and principles of art, formed their idea of beauty, did not 
always confine themselves strictly to the same rules and 
proportions; but, whenever the particular distance, position, 
elevation, or dimension of the fabric or its parts seemed 
to require it, made no scruple to depart from them, without 
deserting the original principles of beauty, which governed 
whatever deviations they made. This latitude or licence 
might not, perhaps, be safely trusted with most modern 
architects, who in their bold sallies seem to act without 
aim or design ; and to be governed by no idea, no reason, 
or principle of art, but pure caprice, joined with a thorough 
contempt of that noble simplicity of the ancients, without 
which there can be no unity, gracefulness, or grandeur 
in their works ; which of consequence must serve only 
to disfigure and dishonour the nation, being so many 
monuments to future ages of the opulence and ill taste of 
the present ; which, it is to be feared, would succeed as 
wretchedly, and make as mad work in other affairs, were 
men to follow, instead of rules, precepts, and morals, their 
own taste and first thoughts of beauty. 

Ale. I should now, methinks, be glad to see a little more 
distinctly the use and tendency of this digression upon 
architecture. 

Euph. Was not beauty the very thing we inquired after ? 

Ale. It was. 

Euph. What think you, Alciphron, can the appearance 
of a thing please at this time, and in this place, which 
pleased two thousand years ago, and two thousand miles 
off, without some real principle of beauty ? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. And is not this the case with respect to a just 
piece of architecture ? 

Ale. Nobody denies it. 

Euph. Architecture, the noble offspring of judgment 



138 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

and fancy, was gradually formed in the most polite and 
knowing countries of Asia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy. It 
was cherished and esteemed by the most flourishing states 
and most renowned princes, who with vast expense im- 
proved and brought it to perfection. It seems, above all 
other arts, peculiarly conversant about order, proportion, 
and symmetry. May it not therefore be supposed, on all 
accounts, most likely to help us to some rational notion of 
thej'e ne sals quoi in beauty? And, in effect, have we not 
learned from this digression that, as there is no beauty 
without proportion, so proportions are to be esteemed just 
and true, only as they are relative to some certain use or 
end, their aptitude and subordination to which end is, 
at bottom, that which makes them please and charm ? 
Ale. I admit all this to be true. 

10. Euph. According to this doctrine, I would fain 
know what beauty 1 can be found in a moral system, 
formed, connected, and governed by chance, fate, or any 
other blind unthinking principle? Forasmuch as without 
thought there can be no end or design ; and without an 
end there can be no use; and without use there is no 
aptitude or fitness of proportion, from whence beauty 
springs. 

Ale. May we not suppose a certain vital principle of 
beauty, order, and harmony, diffused throughout the world, 
without supposing a Providence inspecting, punishing, 
and rewarding the moral actions of men ; without suppos- 
ing the immortality of the soul, or a life to come; in 
a word, without admitting any part of what is commonly 
called Faith, Worship, and Religion ? 

Cri. Either you suppose this principle intelligent, or 
not intelligent : if the latter, it is all one with chance or 
fate, which was just now argued against : if the former, 
let me entreat Alciphron to explain to me wherein consists 
the beauty of a moral system, with a supreme Intelligence 
at the head of it which neither protects the innocent, 
punishes the wicked, nor rewards the virtuous. To suppose 
indeed a society of rational agents, acting under the eye 
of Providence, concurring in one design to promote the 

1 Shaftesbury's analogy between sense was reproduced by Hutcheson 
the sense of beauty and the moral in his Inquiry. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE. I39 

common benefit of the whole, and conforming their actions 
to the established laws and order of the Divine parental 
wisdom : wherein each particular agent shall not consider 
himself apart, but as the member of a great City, whose 
author and founder is God : in which the civil laws are 
no other than the rules of virtue and the duties of religion : 
and where every one's true interest is combined with his 
duty : — to suppose this would be delightful : on this 
supposition a man need be no Stoic or knight- errant, to 
account for his virtue. In such a system, vice is madness, 
cunning is folly, wisdom and virtue are the same thing ; 
where, notwithstanding all the crooked paths and by-roads, 
the wayward appetites and inclinations of men, sovereign 
reason is sure to reform whatever seems amiss, to reduce 
that which is devious, make straight that which is crooked, 
and, in the last act, wind up the whole plot according to 
the exactest rules of wisdom and justice. In such a system 
or society, governed by the wisest precepts, enforced by 
the highest rewards and discouragements, it is delightful 
to consider how the regulation of laws, the distribution of 
good and evil, the aim of moral agents, do all conspire in 
due subordination to promote the noblest end, to wit, the 
complete happiness or well-being of the whole. In con- 
templating the beauty of such a moral system, we may 
cry out with the Psalmist— ' Very excellent things are 
spoken of thee, thou City of God.' 

11. In a system of spirits, subordinate to the will, and 
under the direction of the Father of spirits, governing them 
by laws, and conducting them by methods suitable to wise 
and good ends \ there will be great beauty. But in an 
incoherent fortuitous system, governed by chance, or in 
a blind system, governed by fate, or in any system where 
Providence doth not preside, how can beauty be, which 
cannot be without order, which cannot be without design ? 
When a man is conscious that his will is inwardly con- 
formed to the Divine will, producing order and harmony 
in the universe, and conducting the whole by the justest 

1 This is Berkeley's implied con- through data of sense, all ideally 

ception of the economy of the united in God. It is further un- 

Universe— a City of God— a society folded in Sin's. 
of persons, in intercommunion 



140 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

methods to the best end : this gives a beautiful idea. But, 
on the other hand, a consciousness of virtue overlooked, 
neglected, distressed by men, and not regarded or re- 
warded by God, ill-used in this world, without hope or 
prospect of being better used in another — I would fain 
know where is the pleasure of this reflexion, where is the 
beauty of this scene ? Or, how could any man in his senses 
think the spreading such notions the way to spread or 
propagate virtue in the world? Is it not, I beseech you, 
an ugly system in which you can suppose no law and prove 
no duty, wherein men thrive by wickedness and suffer by 
virtue ? Would it not be a disagreeable sight to see an 
honest man peeled by sharpers, to see virtuous men injured 
and despised while vice triumphed ? An enthusiast may 
entertain himself with visions and fine talk about such 
a system ; but when it comes to be considered by men of 
cool heads and close reason, I believe they will find no 
beauty nor perfection in it ; nor will it appear that such 
a moral system can possibly come from the same hand, 
or be of a piece with the natural, throughout which there 
shine so much order, harmony, and proportion. 

Ale, Your discourse serves to confirm me in my opinion. 
You may remember, I declared that touching this beauty 
of morality in the high sense, a man's first thoughts are 
the best ; and that, if we pretend to examine, inspect, and 
reason, we are in danger to lose sight of it 1 . That in fact 
there is such a thing cannot be doubted, when we consider 
that in these days some of our philosophers have a high 
sense of virtue, without the least notion of religion— a clear 
proof of the usefulness and efficacy of our principles ! 

12. Cri. Not to dispute the virtue of minute philosophers, 
we may venture to call its cause in question, and make 
a doubt whether it be an inexplicable enthusiastic notion 
of moral beauty, or rather, as to me it seems, what was 
already assigned by Euphranor — complexion, custom, and 
religious education ? But, allowing what beauty you please 
to virtue in an irreligious system, it cannot be less in 

1 [' Men's first thoughts on moral than those refined by study.' 
matters are generally better than Characteristics, vol. I. p. 18.] — Note 
their second : their natural notions in third edition, by the Author). 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 141 

a religious, unless you will suppose that her charms 
diminish as her dowry increaseth. The truth is, a believer 
hath all the motives from the beauty of virtue in any 
sense whatsoever that an unbeliever can possibly have, 
besides other motives which an unbeliever hath not. 
Hence, it is plain those of your sect who have moral 
virtue owe it not to their peculiar tenets, which serve only 
to lessen the motives to virtue. Those, therefore, who 
are good are less good, and those who are bad are more 
bad, than they would have been were they believers. 

Euph. To me it seems those heroic infidel inamoratos 
of abstracted beauty are much to be pitied, and much to be 
admired. 

Lysicles hearing this, said with some impatience : — 
Gentlemen, you shall have my whole thoughts upon this 
point plain and frank. All that is said about a moral 
sense, or moral beauty, in any signification, either of 
Alciphron, or Euphranor, or any other, I take to be at 
bottom mere bubble and pretence. The itakfo and the 
ttjhttov, the beautiful and decent, are things outward, relative, 
and superficial, which have no effect in the dark, but are 
specious topics to discourse and expatiate upon, as some 
formal pretenders of our sect, though in other points very 
orthodox, are used to do. But should one of them get 
into power, you would find him no such fool as Euphranor 
imagines. He would soon shew he had found out that 
the love of one's country is a prejudice : that mankind are 
rogues and hypocrites, and that it were folly to sacrifice 
one's-self for the sake of such : that all regards centre in 
this life, and that, as this life is to every man his own life, 
it clearly follows that charity begins at home. Benevolence 
to mankind is perhaps pretended, but benevolence to 
himself is practised by the wise. The livelier sort of our 
philosophers do not scruple to own these maxims; and 
as for the graver, if they are true to their principles, one 
may guess what they must think at the bottom. 

Cri. Whatever may be the effect of pure theory upon 
certain select spirits, of a peculiar make, or in some other 
parts of the world, I do verily think that in this country of 
ours, reason, religion, and law are all together little enough 
to subdue the outward to the inner man ; and that it must 
argue a wrong head and weak judgment to suppose that 



T42 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

without them men will be enamoured of the golden mean. 
To which my countrymen perhaps are less inclined than 
others, there being in the make of an English mind 1 
a certain gloom and eagerness, which carries to the sad 
extreme— religion to fanaticism ; free-thinking to atheism ; 
liberty to rebellion : nor should we venture to be governed 
by taste, even in matters of less consequence. The 
beautiful in dress, furniture, and building is, as Euphranor 
hath observed, something real and well grounded : and 
yet our English do not find it out of themselves. What 
wretched work do they and other northern people make 
when they follow their own taste of beauty in any of these 
particulars, instead of acquiring the true, which is to be 
got from ancient models and the principles of art, as in 
the case of virtue from great models and meditation, 
so far as natural means can go ? But in no case is it to 
be hoped that ™ ko\6v will be the leading idea of the 
many, who have quick senses, strong passions, and gross 
intellects. 

13. Ale. The fewer they are the more ought we to 
esteem and admire such philosophers, whose souls are 
touched and transported with this sublime idea. 

Cri. But then one might expect from such philosophers 
so much good sense and philanthropy as to keep their 
tenets to themselves, and consider their weak brethren, 
who are more strongly affected by certain senses and 
notions of another kind than that of the beauty of pure 
disinterested virtue. 

Cratylus 2 , a man prejudiced against the Christian reli- 
gion, of a crazy constitution, of a rank above most men's 
ambition, and a fortune equal to his rank, had little capa- 
city for sensual vices, or temptation to dishonest ones. 
Cratylus, having talked himself, or imagined that he had 
talked himself, into a stoical enthusiasm about the beauty 
of virtue, did, under the pretence of making men heroically 
virtuous, endeavour to destroy the means of making them 
reasonably and humanly so : a clear instance that neither 
birth, nor books, nor conversation can introduce a know- 
ledge of the world into a conceited mind, which will ever 

1 Cf. Dial. II. sect. 17. 2 Shaftesbury. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 143 

be its own object, and contemplate mankind in its own 
mirror ! 

Ale. Cratylus was a lover of liberty, and of his country, 
and had a mind to make men incorrupt and virtuous upon 
the purest and most disinterested principles. 

Cri. ['It is true the main scope of all his writings (as he 
himself tells us 2 ) was to assert the reality of a beauty 
and charm in moral as well as in natural subjects ; to 
demonstrate a taste which he thinks more effectual than 
principle ; to recommend morals on the same foot with 
manners ; and so to advance philosophy on the very 
foundation of what is called agreeable and polite. As for 
religious qualms — the belief of a future state of rewards 
and punishments, and such matters — this great man sticks 
not to declare that the liberal, polished, and refined part 
of mankind must needs consider them only as children's 
tales and amusements of the vulgar 3 . For the sake 
therefore of the better sort, he hath, in great goodness 
and wisdom, thought of something else, to wit, a taste or 
relish: this, he assures us, is at least what will influence; 
since, according to him, whoever has any impression of 
gentility (as he calls it) or politeness, is so acquainted with 
the decorum and grace of things as to be readily trans- 
ported with the contemplation thereof 4 .] His conduct 
seems just as wise as if a monarch should give out that 
there was neither jail nor executioner in his kingdom to 
enforce the laws, but that it would be beautiful to observe 
them, and that in so doing men would taste the pure 
delight which results from order and decorum \ 

1 What follows, within brackets, Miscel. 5, cap. 3 ; Miscel. 3, cap. 2.] 
was introduced in the second — Author. 

edition. 5 Here and elsewhere Berkeley 

2 ' It has been the main scope does less than justice to Shaftes- 
and principal end of these volumes bury's view of the relation of 
to assert the reality of a beauty religion to morality ; as if he re- 
and charm in moral as well as presented regard for reward and 
natural subjects ; and to demon- punishment in a future life to be 
strate the reasonableness of a pro- necessarily selfish, and so really 
portionate taste, and determinate immoral, for he recognises it as 
choice in life and manners.' Char- auxiliary. But this when heaven 
acteristics, vol. III. p. 303. is anticipated as realised good- 

3 See Characteristics, vol. III. ness, and hell as the opposite of 
pp. 177-8. this. Take the following state- 

* [See Characteristics, vol. III. ment :-—' If by the hope of reward 



144 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Ale. After all, is it not true that certain ancient philoso- 
phers, of great note, held the same opinion with Cratylus, 
declaring that he did not come up to the character, or 
deserve the title of a good man, who practised virtue for 
the sake of anything but its own beauty ? 

Cri. I believe, indeed, that some of the ancients said 
such things as gave occasion for this opinion. 

Aristotle 1 distinguisheth between two characters of a 
good man — the one he calleth dya06<s, or simply good; the 
other /caXos KayaOos, from whence the compound term koAo- 
Kaya$La, which cannot, perhaps, be rendered by any one 
word in our language. But his sense is plainly this : — 
ayaOos he defineth to be, that man to whom the good things 
of nature are good : for, according to him, those things which 
are vulgarly esteemed the greatest goods, as riches, honours, 
power, and bodily perfections, are indeed good by nature, 
but they happen nevertheless to be hurtful and bad to 
some persons, upon the account of evil habits ; inasmuch 
as neither a fool, nor an unjust man, nor an intemperate, 
can be at all the better for the use of them, any more than 
a sick man for using the nourishment proper for those 
who are in health. But *a\o9 /cayatfo's is that man in whom 
are to be found all things worthy and decent and laudable, 
purely as such and for their own sake, and who practiseth 
virtue from no other motive than the sole love of her own 
innate beauty. That philosopher observes likewise that 
there is a certain political habit, such as the Spartans and 
others had, who thought virtue was to be valued and 
practised on account of the natural advantages that attend 
it. For which reason, he adds, they are indeed good men, 
but they have not the KaXoKayaOia, or supreme consummate 
virtue. From hence it is plain that, according to Aristotle, 

he understood the love and desire things with the highest perfection 
of virtuous enjoyment, or of the of goodness, must necessarily be- 
very practice and exercise of virtue lieve virtue to be naturally good 
in another life ; an expectation and advantageous. . . . Hence we 
or hope of this kind is so far from may determine justly the relation 
being derogatory from virtue that which virtue has to piety ; the 
it is an evidence of our loving it first being not complete but in the 
the more sincerely, and for its own latter ' {Characteristics, Inquiry con- 
sake. . . . He who, as a sound cerning Virtue, Bk. I). 
theist, believes in a reigning Mind, l [Ethic, ad Eudemum, Lib. VII. 
sovereign in nature and ruling all cap. ult.] — Author. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 145 

a man may be a good man without believing virtue its own 
reward, or being only moved to virtue by the sense of 
moral beauty. It is also plain that he distinguisheth the 
political virtues of nations, which the public is everywhere 
concerned to maintain, from this sublime and speculative 
kind. 

It might also be observed that his exalted idea did 
consist with supposing a Providence which inspects and 
rewards the virtues of the best men. For, saith he, in 
another place 1 — If the gods have any care of human 
affairs, as it appears they have 2 , it should seem reasonable 
to suppose they are most delighted with the most excellent 
nature, and most approaching their own, which is the 
mind, and that they will reward those who chiefly love 
and cultivate what is most dear to them. The same philoso- 
pher observes 3 , that the bulk of mankind are not naturally 
disposed to be awed by shame, but by fear ; nor to abstain 
from vicious practices on account of their deformity, but 
only of the punishment which attends them. And again 4 , 
he tells us that youth, being of itself averse from abstinence 
and sobriety, should be under the restraint of laws regu- 
lating their education and employment; and that the same 
discipline should be continued even after they became 
men. For which, saith he, we want laws, and, in one 
word, for the whole ordering of life ; inasmuch as the 
generality of mankind obey rather force than reason, and 
are influenced rather by penalties than the beauty of 

virtue (fcrjfuais 17 t<3 KaX<3). 

From all which, it is very plain what Aristotle would 
have thought of those who should go about to lessen or 
destroy the hopes and fears of mankind, in order to make 
them virtuous on this sole principle of the beauty of 
virtue. 

1 [Ad Nicom. Lib. X. cap. 8.]— at least views the problems ofethics 

Author. as unaffected by this regard, virtue 

* * as it appears they have ' — being superior to the course of 

wffirep SoKti, in the original, in- events. Aristotle and Shaftesbury 

dicates that a Divine Providence is are here perhaps more akin than 

possible, but without pronouncing Crito allows. 

upon its truth or falsehood. Aris- 3 [Ad Nicom. Lib. X. cap. 10.] — . 

totle, unlike Plato, generally avoids Author. 

a decision about a future life (cf. * [Ad Nicom. Lib. X. cap. 9.]— 

Nicom. Ethics, I. 10, 11; III. 6), or Author. 

BERKELEY : FRASER. It. I* 



146 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

14. Ale. But, whatever the Stagirite and his Peripatetics 
might think, is it not certain that the Stoics maintained 
this doctrine in its highest sense, asserting the beauty of 
virtue to be all-sufficient, that virtue was her own reward, 
that this alone could make a man happy, in spite of all 
those things which are vulgarly esteemed the greatest 
woes and miseries of human life ? And all this they held 
at the same time that they believed the soul of man to be 
of a corporeal nature, and in death dissipated like a flame 
or vapour. 

Cri. It must be owned the Stoics sometimes talk as if 
they believed the mortality of the soul '. Seneca, in a letter 
of his to Lucilius, speaks much like a minute philosopher 
in this particular. But, in several other places, he declares 
himself of a clear contrary opinion, affirming that the souls 
of men after death mount aloft into the heavens, look down 
upon earth, entertain themselves with the theory of celestial 
bodies, the course of nature, and the conversation of wise 
and excellent men, who, having lived in distant ages and 
countries upon earth, make one society in the other world. 

It must also be acknowledged that Marcus Antoninus 
sometimes speaks of the soul as perishing, or dissolving 
into its elementary parts. But it is to be noted that he 
distinguisheth three principles in the composition of human 
nature — the a-w/jua, if/vxrj, vovs 2 , body, soul, mind ; or, as he 
otherwise expresseth himself — o-ap/aa, irvcv^aTLov, and ^yepo- 
vikov— flesh, spirit, and governing principle 3 . What he calls 
the ifrvxVt or soul, containing the brutal part of our nature, 
is indeed represented as a compound dissoluble, and 
actually dissolved by death ; but the vovs, or to t^^ovikov 4 
— the mind, or ruling principle — he held to be of a pure 
celestial nature, dcov aTroa-rraa-ixa, a particle of God, which he 
sends back entire to the stars and the Divinity. Besides, 

1 Seneca and Marcus Aurelius seem to have accepted a pantheistic 

are the only authorities referred to necessity, alien to belief in the im- 

by Crito, in support of his inter- mortality of the individual, 
pretation of the Stoical doctrine of * [Marc. Antonin. Lib. III. cap. 

the relation of morality to religion 16.] — Author. 
— inadequate evidence in the light 3 Compare this with St. Paul, 

of recent research. Cf. even Sin's, 1 Thess. v. 23, who adopts a 

sect. 153, 172, 185, 276, 302, 323, similar division. 
&c. See Zeller's Philosophic der * Cf. Sin's, sect. 160, 172,326. 

Griechsen, vol. III. Most Stoics 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 147 

among all his magnificent lessons and splendid sentiments 
upon the force and beauty of virtue, he is positive as to 
the being of God ; and that not merely as a plastic nature, 
or soul of the world, but in the strict sense of a Providence 
inspecting and taking care of human affairs '. 

The Stoics, therefore, though their style was high, and 
often above truth and nature, yet it cannot be said that 
they so resolved every motive to a virtuous life into the 
sole beauty of virtue as to endeavour to destroy the belief 
of the immortality of the soul and a distributive Providence. 
After all, allowing the disinterested Stoics (therein not 
unlike our modern Quietists) to have made virtue its own 
sole reward, in the most rigid and absolute sense, yet 
what is this to those who are no Stoics? If we adopt 
the whole principles of that sect, admitting their notions 
of good and evil, their celebrated apathy, and, in one word, 
setting up for complete Stoics, we may possibly maintain 
this doctrine with a better grace; at least it will be of 
a piece, and consistent with the whole. But he who shall 
borrow this splendid patch from the Stoics, and hope to 
make a figure by inserting it into a piece of modern com- 
position, seasoned with the wit and .notions of these times, 
will indeed make a figure, but perhaps it may not be in the 
eyes of a wise man the figure he intended 2 . 

1 [Marc. Antonin. Lib. II. cap. tions towards public good, or the 
11.] — Author. interest of society, and introduce 

2 Shaftesbury warns against a certain narrowness of spirit, 
selfishness in our anticipation of which, as some pretend, is pecu- 
reward and punishment after liarly observable in the devout 
death :—< In this religious sort of persons and zealots of almost every 
discipline, the principle of self-love, religious persuasion. This too 
which is naturally so prevailing in must be confessed, that, if it be 
us, being no way moderated or true piety to love God for His own 
restrained, but rather improved and sake, the over-solicitous regard to 
made stronger every day, by the private good expected from Him, 
exercise of the passions in a subject must of necessity prove a diminu- 
of more extended self-interest; there tion of piety.' {Characteristics, 
may be reason to apprehend lest vol. II. pp. 58, 59.) ' To be bribed 
the temper of this kind should only or terrified into an honest 
extend itself in general through all practice bespeaks little of real 
the parts of life. For, if the habit honesty or worth. If virtue be not 
be such as to occasion in every really estimable in itself, I can see 
particular a stricter attention to nothing estimable in following it 
self-good and private interest, it for the sake of a bargain.' (Vol.1, 
must insensibly diminish the affec- p. 97-) Cf. Characteristics, vol. II 

I. 2 



148 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

15. Though it must be owned the present age is very 
indulgent to everything that aims at profane raillery ; 
which is alone sufficient to recommend any fantastical 
composition to the public. You may behold the tinsel 
of a modern author pass upon this knowing and learned 
age for good writing; affected strains for wit; pedantry 
for politeness ; obscurity for depths ; ramblings for flights ; 
the most awkward imitation for original humour ; and all 
this upon the sole merit of a little artful profaneness. 

Ale. Every one is not alike pleased with writings of 
humour, nor alike capable of them. It is the fine irony 
of a man of quality l , ' that certain reverend authors, who 
can condescend to lay-wit, are nicely qualified to hit the 
air of breeding and gentility, and that they will in time, 
no doubt, refine their manner to the edification of the 
polite world ; who have been so seduced by the way of 
raillery and wit.' The truth is, the various taste of readers 
requireth various kinds of writers. Our sect hath pro- 
vided for this with great judgment. To proselyte the 
graver sort, we have certain profound men at reason and 
argument. For the coffee-houses and populace, we have 
declaimers of a copious vein. Of such a writer it is no 
reproach to say, fluit lutulentus ; he is the fitter for his 
readers. Then, for men of rank and politeness, we have 
the finest and wittiest railleurs in the world, whose ridicule 
is the surest test of truth 2 . 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are those ingenious railleurs 
men of knowledge ? 

Ale. Very knowing. 

Euph. Do they know, for instance, the Copernican 
system, or the circulation of the blood ? 

Ale. One would think you judged of our sect by your 

pp. 54-57, 68, 69, 270-273, &c. — alitj', is an evidence of love of 

Those passages justly condemn the goodness for its own sake. The 

servile so-called religion which is Characteristics attack perversion of 

neither moral nor religious. But this truth. 

if, with the most enlightened philo- x Compare with this Shaftes- 

sophers and theologians, we mean bury's Characteristics, vol. III. p. 

by the hope of heaven hope of 291. 

perpetual goodness for its own 2 See Shaftesbury's Essay on the 

sake; and by 'salvation,' life in Freedom 0/ Wit and Humour. Also 

conformity to the Divine ideal ; Leland's Vieiv, Letter V, and 

then religious hope of heaven, so Warburton's Divine Legation of 

far from being derogatory to mor- Moses — Dedication. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 149 

country neighbours : there is nobody in town but knows 
all those points. 

Euph. You believe then antipodes, mountains in the 
moon, and the motion of the earth ? 

Ale. We do. 

Euph. Suppose, five or six centuries ago, a man had 
maintained these notions among the beaux esprits of an 
English court ; how do you think they would have been 
received ? 

Ale. With great ridicule. 

Euph. And now it would be ridiculous to ridicule them ? 

Ale. It would. 

Euph. But truth was the same then and now ? 

Ale. It was. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that ridicule is no such 
sovereign touchstone and test of truth as you gentlemen 
imagine. 

Ale. One thing we know : our raillery and sarcasms gall 
the black tribe, and that is our comfort. 

Cri. There is another thing it may be worth your while 
to know : that men in a laughing fit may applaud a ridicule 
which shall appear contemptible when they come to them- 
selves. Witness the ridicule of Socrates by the comic 
poet, the humour and reception it met with no more proving 
that than the same will yours to be just, when calmly con- 
sidered by men of sense. 

Ale. After all, thus much is certain, our ingenious men 
make converts by deriding the principles of religion. And, 
take my word, it is the most successful and pleasing method 
of conviction. These authors laugh men out of their 
religion, as Horace did out of their vices : Admissi circum 
prcecordia ludunt. But a bigot cannot relish or find out 
their wit. 

16. Cri. Wit without wisdom, if there be such a thing, is 
hardly worth finding. And as for the wisdom of these 
men, it is of a kind so peculiar one may well suspect 
it. Cicero was a man of sense, and no bigot ; neverthe- 
less, he makes Scipio own himself much more vigilant 
and vigorous in the race of virtue, from supposing heaven 
the prize \ And he introduceth Cato declaring he would 

1 [Somn. Scipionis.']— Author. 



150 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

never have undergone those virtuous toils for the service 
of the public, if he had thought his being was to end with 
this life 1 . 

Ale. I acknowledge Cato, Scipio, and Cicero were very 
well for their times ; but you must pardon me if I do not 
think they arrived at the high, consummate virtue of our 
modern free-thinkers. 

Euph. It should seem then that virtue flourished! more 
than ever among us ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And this abundant virtue is owing to the method 
taken by your profound writers to recommend it. 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. But you have acknowledged that the enthusiastic 
lovers of virtue are not the many of your sect, but only 
a few select spirits. 

To which Alciphron making no answer, Crito addressed 
himself to Euphranor : — To make, said he, a true estimate 
of the worth and growth of modern virtue, you are not to 
count the virtuous men, but rather to consider the quality 
of their virtue. Now, you must know the virtue of these 
refined theorists is something so pure and genuine that 
a very little goes far, and is in truth invaluable. To which 
that reasonable interested virtue of the old English or 
Spartan kind can bear no proportion. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are there not diseases of the 
soul as well as of the body ? 

Ale. Without doubt. 

Euph. And are not those diseases vicious habits ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. And, as bodily distempers are cured by physic, 
those of the mind are cured by philosophy : are they not ? 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Euph. It seems, therefore, that philosophy is a medicine 
for the soul of man. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. How shall we be able to judge of medicines, or 
know which to prefer ? Is it not from the effects wrought 
by them ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

1 \De Senedtite.~] — Author. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE T51 

Euph. Where an epidemical distemper rages, suppose 
a new physician should condemn the known established 
practice, and recommend another method of cure, would 
you not, in proportion as the bills of mortality increased, 
be tempted to suspect this new method, notwithstanding 
all the plausible discourse of its abettors ? 

Ale. This serves only to amuse and lead us from the 
question. 

Cri. It puts me in mind of my friend Lamprocles, who 
needed but one argument against infidels. I observed, said 
he, that as infidelity grew, there grew corruption of every 
kind, and new vices. This simple observation on matter 
of fact was sufficient to make him, notwithstanding the 
remonstrance of several ingenious men, imbue and season 
the minds of his children betimes with the principles of 
religion. The new theories, which our acute moderns 
have endeavoured to substitute in place of religion, have 
had their full course in the present age, and produced 
their effect on the minds and manners of men. That men 
are men, is a sure maxim : but it is as sure that English- 
men are not the same men they were ; whether better or 
worse, more or less virtuous, I need not say. Every one 
may see and judge. Though, indeed, after Aristides had 
been banished, and Socrates put to death at Athens, 
a man, without being a conjuror, might guess what the 
Beauty of Virtue could do in England. But there is now 
neither room nor occasion for guessing. We have our 
own experience to open our eyes ; which yet, if we continue 
to keep shut till the remains of religious education are 
quite worn off from the minds of men, it is to be feared we 
shall then open them wide, not to avoid, but to behold and 
lament our ruin. 

Ale. Be the consequences what they will, I can never 
bring myself to be of a mind with those who measure 
truth by convenience. Truth is the only divinity that 
I adore. Wherever truth leads, I shall follow. 

Euph. You have then a passion for truth ? 

Ale. Undoubtedly. 

Euph. For all truths ? 

Ale. For all. 

Euph. To know, or to publish them ? 

Ale. Both. 



"152 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. What! would you undeceive a child that was 
taking physic ? Would you officiously set an enemy right 
that was making a wrong attack? Would you help an 
enraged man to his sword? 

Ale. In such cases, common sense directs one how to 
behave. 

Euph. Common sense, it seems then, must be consulted 
whether a truth be salutary or hurtful, fit to be declared 
or concealed. 

Ale. How ? you would have me conceal and stifle the 
truth, and keep it to myself. Is this what you aim at ? 

Euph. I only make a plain inference from what you 
grant. As for myself, I do not believe your opinions true. 
And, although you do, you should not therefore, if you 
would appear consistent with yourself, think it necessary 
or wise to publish hurtful truths. What service can it do 
mankind to lessen the motives to virtue, or what damage 
to increase them ? 

Ale. None in the world. But, I must needs say I cannot 
reconcile the received notions of a God and Providence to 
my understanding; and my nature abhors the baseness 
of conniving at a falsehood. 

Euph. Shall we therefore appeal to truth, and examine 
the reasons by which you are withheld from believing these 
points ? 

Ale. With all my heart ; but enough for the present. 
We will make this the subject of our next conference '. 

1 Belief that goodness is beautiful the question which leads into what 
is not enough to make men good : follows. Their thoughts and beliefs 
we are moved to do our duty by about God are what make men 
faith in omnipotent goodness. Is good. Whether religion is reason- 
there reason in this faith, by which able, and God in any way or degree 
morality is vitalised? This is the knowableby man, is what the inter- 
outcome of the Third Dialogue, and locutors now proceed to discuss. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 1 . 



i. Prejudices concerning a Deity. 2. Rules laid down by Alciphron to 
be observed in proving a God. 3. What sort of proof he expects. 

4. Whence we collect the being of other thinking individuals. 

5. The same method a fortiori proves the being of God. 6. Alciphron's 
second thoughts on this point. 7. God speaks to men. 8. How 
distance is perceived by sight. 9. The proper objects of sight at 
no distance. 10. Lights, shades, and colours, variously combined, 
form a language. 11. The signification of this language learned by 
experience. 12. God explaineth Himself to the eyes of men by the 
arbitrary use of sensible signs. 13. The prejudice and twofold aspect 
of a minute philosopher. 14. God present to mankind, informs, 
admonishes, and directs them in a sensible manner. 15. Admirable 
nature and use of this Visual Language. 16. Minute philosophers 
content to admit a God in certain senses. 17. Opinion of some 
who hold, that knowledge and wisdom are not properly in God. 
18. Dangerous tendency of this notion. 19. Its original. 20. The 
sense of schoolmen upon it. 21. Scholastic use of the terms 
' analogy ' and ' analogical ' explained : analogical perfections of God 
misunderstood. 22. God intelligent, wise, and good, in the proper 
sense of the words. 23. Objection from moral evil considered. 
24. Men argue from their own defects against a Deity. 25. Religious 
worship reasonable and expedient. 

i. Early the next morning, as I looked out of my 
window, I saw Alciphron walking in the garden with all 
the signs of a man in deep thought. Upon which I went 
down to him. 

1 In this Dialogue, the transition the only real Substance and Power, 
is made from Ethics to Religion, for the inscrutable 'substances' and 
which is discussed as the alleged ' causes ' of Materialism, and inter- 
supreme motive force in conduct. prets Natural Law as the outcome 
We have here Berkeley's vindica- of the perpetual Providence of God. 
tion of religion, on the foundation In sect. 8-15, Euphranor and 
of his own metaphysical philosophy, Crito rest faith in God on the fact 
which substitutes living Spirit as of Visual Language, or Sense-sym- 



154 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Alciphron, said I, this early and profound meditation 
puts me in no small fright. How so ? Because I should 
be sorry to be convinced there was no God. The thought 
of anarchy in nature *, is to me more shocking than in civil 
life : inasmuch as natural concerns are more important 
than civil, and the basis of all others. 

I grant, replied Alciphron, that some inconvenience may 
possibly follow from disproving a God : but as to what you 
say of fright and shocking, all that is nothing but mere 
prejudice. Men frame an idea or chimera in their own 
minds, and then fall down and worship it. Notions govern 
mankind : but of all notions that of God's governing the 
world hath taken the deepest root and spread the farthest. 
It is therefore in philosophy an heroical achievement to 
dispossess this imaginary monarch of his government, 
and banish all those fears and spectres which the light of 
reason alone can dispel : 

Non radii solis, non lucida tela diei 
Discutiunt, sed naturae species ratioque 2 . 

My part, said I, shall be to stand by, as I have hitherto 
done, and take notes of all that passeth during this 
memorable event ; while a minute philosopher, not six 
feet high, attempts to dethrone the Monarch of the 
Universe. 

bolism ; — the universally accepted a visual language, involved in the 

ground of belief in the existence of Essay on Vision, is adopted by 

our fellow men. The Essay towards Euphranor in this Dialogue, and 

a New Theory of Vision, and parti- expanded into a divine visual lan- 

cularly the Vindication and Ex- guage, intelligible by man, and in 

planation of that Theory, published which he is continually spoken to 

the year after the appearance of by God. 

Alciphron, should be compared with 1 If God is the principle of phy- 

those sections. sical and moral order, vitalised and 

Sections 16-24 discuss the know- universalised, as at the centre of 

ableness of God, and in what sense existence, Atheism is necessarily 

of the words man is justified in say- 'anarchic' and inconsistent with 

ing that God exists, and is powerful, the order in external nature on 

intelligent, and good. The Fourth which even physical science is 

Dialogue thus involves a criticism based. In rejecting the theistic 

of Atheism and Agnosticism, in postulate of experience the atheist 

which Euphranor fulfils his pro- therefore subverts physical science 

mise, arguing that love of truth as well as religion in a universal 

obliges him to accept the theistic nescience, 

interpretation of the universe. The 2 [Lucretius.] — Author. 
conception of the visible world as 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 155 

Alas ! replied Alciphron, arguments are not to be 
measured by feet and inches. One man may see more 
than a million ; and a short argument, managed by a free- 
thinker, may be sufficient to overthrow the most gigantic 
chimera. 

As we were engaged in this discourse, Crito and Euph- 
ranor joined us. 

I find you have been beforehand with us to-day, said 
Crito to Alciphron, and taken the advantage of solitude 
and early hours, while Euphranor and I were asleep in 
our beds. We may, therefore, expect to see atheism 
placed in the best light, and supported by the strongest 
arguments. 

2. Ale. The being of a God is a subject upon which 
there has been a world of commonplace, which it is 
needless to repeat. Give me leave therefore to lay down 
certain rules and limitations, in order to shorten our 
present conference. For, as the end of debating is to 
persuade, all those things which are foreign to this end 
should be left out of our debate. 

First then, let me tell you I am not to be persuaded by 
metaphysical arguments ; such, for instance, as are drawn 
from the idea of an all-perfect being, or the absurdity of 
an infinite progression of causes l . This sort of arguments 
I have always found dry and jejune ; and, as they are 
not suited to my way of thinking, they may perhaps 
puzzle, but never will convince me. Secondly, I am not 
to be persuaded by the authority either of past or present 
ages, of mankind in general, or of particular wise men, 
all which passeth for little or nothing with a man of sound 
argument and free thought. Thirdly, all proofs drawn 
from utility or convenience are foreign to the purpose. 
They may prove indeed the usefulness of the notion, but 
not the existence of the thing. Whatever legislators or 
statesmen may think, truth and convenience are very 
different things to the rigorous eye of a philosopher. 

And now, that I may not seem partial, I will limit 
myself also not to object, in the first place, from anything 
that may seem irregular or unaccountable in the works 

1 As in the Meditations of Descartes, or in Clarke's Demonstration of 
the existence and attributes of God. 



156 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

of nature, against a cause of infinite power and wisdom ; 
because I already know the answer you will make, to wit, 
that no one can judge of the symmetry and use of the 
parts of an infinite machine, which are all relative to each 
other, and to the whole, without being able to comprehend 
the entire machine, or the whole universe. And, in the 
second place, I shall engage myself not to object against 
the justice and providence of a supreme Being from the 
evil that befals good men, and the prosperity which is 
often the portion of wicked men in this life ; because 
I know that, instead of admitting this to be an objection 
against a Deity, you would make it an argument for 
a future state, in which there shall be such a retribution 
of rewards and punishments as may vindicate the Divine 
attributes, and set all things right in the end. Now, these 
answers, though they should be admitted for good ones, 
are in truth no proofs of the being of God, but only 
solutions of certain difficulties which might be objected, 
supposing it already proved by proper arguments. Thus 
much I thought fit to premise, in order to save time and 
trouble both to you and myself. 

Cri. I think that as the proper end of our conference 
ought to be supposed the discovery and defence of truth, 
so truth may be justified, not only by persuading its 
adversaries, but, where that cannot be done, by shewing 
them to be unreasonable. Arguments, therefore, which 
carry light have their effect, even against an opponent who 
shuts his eyes, because they shew him to be obstinate and 
prejudiced. Besides, this distinction between arguments 
that puzzle and that convince, is least of all observed by 
minute philosophers, and need not therefore be observed 
by others in their favour.— But, perhaps, Euphranor may 
be willing'to encounter you on your own terms, in which 
case I have nothing further to say. 

3. Euph. Alciphron acts like a skilful general, who is 
bent upon gaining the advantage of the ground, and alluring 
the enemy out of their trenches. We who believe a God 
are entrenched within tradition, custom, authority, and 
law. And, nevertheless, instead of attempting to force us, 
he proposes that he should voluntarily abandon these in- 
trenchments, and make the attack ; when we may act on 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 157 

the defensive with much security and ease, leaving him 
the trouble to dispossess us of what we need not resign. 
Those reasons (continued he, addressing himself to Alci- 
phron) which you have mustered up in this morning's 
meditation, if they do not weaken, must establish our belief 
of a God ; for the utmost is to be expected from so great 
a master in his profession, when he sets his strength to 
a point. 

Ale. I hold the confused notion of a Deity, or some 
invisible power, to be of all prejudices the most unconquer- 
able. When half-a-dozen ingenious men are got together 
over a glass of wine, by a cheerful fire, in a room well 
lighted, we banish with ease all the spectres of fancy 
and education, and are very clear in our decisions. But, 
as I was taking a solitary walk before it was broad day- 
light in yonder grove, methought the point was not quite 
so clear ; nor could I readily recollect the force of those 
arguments which used to appear so conclusive at other 
times. I had I know not what awe upon my mind, and 
seemed haunted by a sort of panic, which I cannot other- 
wise account for than by supposing it the effect of prejudice: 
for, you must know that I, like the rest of the world, was 
once upon a time catechised and tutored into the belief of 
a God or Spirit. There is no surer mark of prejudice 
than the believing a thing without reason. What necessity 
then can there be that I should set myself the difficult 
task of proving a negative, when it is sufficient to observe 
that there is no proof of the affirmative, and that the 
admitting it without proof is unreasonable ? Prove there- 
fore your opinion ; or, if you cannot, you may indeed 
remain in possession of it, but you will only be possessed 
of a prejudice. 

Euph. O Alciphron, to content you we must prove, it 
seems, and we must prove upon your own terms. But, 
in the first place, let us see what sort of proof you expect. 

Ale. Perhaps I may not expect it, but I will tell you 
what sort of proof I would have : and that is, in short — 
such proof as every man of sense requires of a matter of 
fact, or the existence of any other particular thing. For 
instance, 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 



158 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

who saw him. But as for this King of kings, I neither 
saw Him myself, or any one else that ever did see Him. 
Surely, if there be such a thing as God, it is very strange 
that He should leave Himself without a witness ; that men 
should still dispute His being; and that there should be 
no one evident, sensible, plain proof of it, without recourse 
to philosophy or metaphysics. A matter of fact is not to 
be proved by notions, but by facts 1 . This is clear and 
full to the point. You see what I would be at. Upon 
these principles I defy superstition. 

Euph. You believe then as far as you can see ? 

Ale. That is my rule of faith. 

Euph. How ! will you not believe the existence of things 
which you hear, unless you also see them ? 

Ale. I will not say so neither. When I insisted on 
seeing, I would be understood to mean perceiving in 
general. Outward objects make very different impressions 
upon the animal spirits, all which are comprised under the 
common name of sense. And whatever we can perceive 
by any sense we may be sure of. 

4. Euph. What ! do you believe then that there are 
such things as animal spirits? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. By what sense do you perceive them ? 

Ale. I do not perceive them immediately by any of my 
senses. I am nevertheless persuaded of their existence, 
because I can collect it from their effects and operations. 
They are the messengers which, running to and fro in 
the nerves, preserve a communication between the soul 
and outward objects. 

Euph. You admit then the being of a soul ? 

1 So Hume: 'The contrary of some other fact' (Hume's Inquiry 

every matter of fact is still possible concerning Understanding, Part I, 

because it can never imply a con- sect. 4). But although a present 

tradiction. That the sun will not fact may reasonably prove an absent 

rise to-morrow is no less intelligible finite fact, can finite facts prove 

a proposition, and implies no more God ? Can an infinite conclusion 

contradiction, than the affirmation be drawn from finite premises ? Is 

that it will rise. If you ask a man not God presupposed as the condi- 

why he believes any matter of fact tion of all proof from facts, because 

which is absent he would give you this proof postulates the divine 

a reason; and this reason would be trustworthiness of natural order ? 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 159 

Ale. Provided I do not admit an immaterial substance, 
I see no inconvenience in admitting there may be such 
a thing as a soul. And this may be no more than a thin 
fine texture of subtile parts or spirits residing in the brain. 

Euph. I do not ask about its nature. I only ask whether 
you admit that there is a principle of thought and action, 
and whether it be perceivable by sense. 

Ale. I grant that there is such a principle, and that it is 
not the object of sense itself, but inferred from appearances 
which are perceived by sense. 

Euph. If I understand you rightly, from animal functions 
and motions you infer the existence of animal spirits, and 
from reasonable acts you infer the existence of a reason- 
able soul. Is it not so ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that the being of things 
imperceptible to sense may be collected from effects and 
signs, or sensible tokens. 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is not the soul that which 
makes the principal distinction between a real person and 
a shadow, a living man and a carcass ? 

Ale. I grant it is. 

Euph. I cannot, therefore, know that you, for instance, 
are a distinct thinking individual, or a living real man, by 
surer or other signs than those from which it can be 
inferred that you have a soul ' ? 

Ale. You cannot. 

Euph. Pray tell me, are not all acts immediately and 
properly perceived by sense reducible to motion 2 ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. From motions, therefore, you infer a mover or 
cause ; and from reasonable motions (or such as appear 
calculated for a reasonable end) a rational cause, soul or 
spirit ? 

Ale. Even so. 

1 Accordingly, in strictness, / organised body for the self-con - 

cannot see you : I can only see scious person signified by the body, 

sensuous appearances, which sig- 2 The De Motu appears to grant 

nify that you, the invisible spiritual that motion is the key to the pheno- 

agent or person, are present. But mena of the material world, so far 

the materialist mistakes the visible as mechanical science is concerned. 



160 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

5. Euph. The soul of man actuates but a small body, an 
insignificant particle, in respect of the great masses of 
nature, the elements, and heavenly bodies, and system 
of the world. And the wisdom that appears in those 
motions which are the effect of human reason is incom- 
parably less than that which discovers itself in the structure 
and use of organised natural bodies, animal or vegetable. 
A man with his hand can make no machine so admirable 
as the hand itself; nor can any of those motions by which 
we trace out human reason approach the skill and con- 
trivance of those wonderful motions of the heart, and 
brain, and other vital parts, which do not depend on the 
will of man. 

Ale. All this is true. 

Euph. Doth it not follow, then, that from natural motions, 
independent of man's will, may be inferred both power 
and wisdom incomparably greater than that of the human 
soul? 

Ale. It should seem so. 

Euph. Further, is there not in natural productions and 
effects a visible unity of counsel and design ? Are not the 
rules fixed and immoveable? Do not the same laws of 
motion obtain throughout ? The same in China and here, 
the same two thousand years ago and at this day ? 

Ale. All this I do not deny. 

Euph. Is there not also a connexion or relation between 
animals and vegetables, between both and the elements, 
between the elements and heavenly bodies ; so that, from 
their mutual respects, influences, subordinations, and uses, 
they may be collected to be parts of one whole, conspiring 
to one and the same end, and fulfilling the same design ? 

Ale. Supposing all this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not then follow that this vastly great, or 
infinite power and wisdom must be supposed in one and 
the same Agent, Spirit, or Mind ; and that we have at least 
as clear, full, and immediate certainty of the being of this 
infinitely wise and powerful Spirit, as of any one human 
soul whatsoever besides our own ? 

Ale. Let me consider : I suspect we proceed too hastily. 
What ! Do you pretend you can have the same assurance 
of the being of a God that you can have of mine, whom 
you actually see stand before you and talk to you? 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE l6r 

EupJi. The very same, if not greater \ 

Ale. How do you make this appear? 

Euph. By the person Alciphron is meant an individual 
thinking thing, and not the hair, skin, or visible surface, or 
any part of the outward form, colour, or shape, of Alciphron. 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. And, in granting this, you grant that, in a strict 
sense, I do not see Alciphron, i.e. that individual thinking 
thing, but only such visible signs and tokens as suggest 
and infer 2 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, such 
effects and operations, as suggest, indicate, and demonstrate 
an invisible God — as certainly, 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 prin- 
ciple ; 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. The point, 
therefore, doubted or denied by you at the beginning- 
now seems manifestly to follow from the premises. 
Throughout this whole inquiry, have we not considered 
every step with care, and made not the least advance 
without clear evidence ? You and I examined and assented 
singly to each foregoing proposition : what shall we do 
then with the conclusion ? For my part, if you do not 
help me out, I find myself under an absolute necessity 
of admitting it for true. You must therefore be content 
henceforward to bear the blame, if I live and die in the 
belief of a God B . 

6. Ale. It must be confessed, I do not readily find an 
answer. There seems to be some foundation for what you 

1 Cf. Principles, sect. 147. the absolute trustworthiness of the 

2 ' suggest and infer.' Cf. Theory Power universally at work, at the 

of Vision Vindicated, sect. 42. root of our trust in the significance 

3 Is belief in the existence of of those visible appearances which 

other men thus analogous to faith ' suggest' the presence of another 

in the existence of God? Is not self-conscious person? 

faith in the divine synthesis, and in 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. M 



162 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

say. But, on the other hand, if the point was so clear as 
you pretend, I cannot conceive how so many sagacious men 
of our sect should be so much in the dark as not to know 
or believe one syllable of it. 

Euph. O Alciphron, it is not our present business to 
account for the oversights, or vindicate the honour, of those 
great men the free-thinkers, when their very existence is 
in danger of being called in question. 

Ale. How so ? 

Euph. Be pleased to recollect the concessions you have 
made, and then shew me, if the arguments for a Deity be 
not conclusive, by what better arguments you can prove 
the existence of that thinking thing which in strictness 
constitutes the free-thinker. 

As soon as Euphranor had uttered these words, Alciphron 
stopped short, and stood in a posture of meditation, while 
the rest of us continued our walk and took two or three 
turns, after which he joined us again with a smiling count- 
enance, like one who had made some discovery. I have 
found, said he, what may clear up the point in dispute, 
and give Euphranor entire satisfaction ; I would say an 
argument which will prove the existence of a free-thinker, 
the like whereof cannot be applied to prove the existence 
of God. You must know then that your notion of our 
perceiving the existence of God, as certainly and imme- 
diately as we do that of a human person, I could by no 
means digest, though I must own it puzzled me, till I had 
considered the matter. At first methought a particular 
structure, shape, or motion was a most certain proof of 
a thinking reasonable soul. But a little attention satisfied 
me that these things have no necessary connexion with 
reason, knowledge, and wisdom ; and that, allowing them 
to be certain proofs of a living soul, they cannot be so of 
a thinking and reasonable one. Upon second thoughts, 
therefore, and a minute examination of this point, I have 
found that nothing so much convinces me of the existence 
of another person as his speaking to me. It is my hearing 
you talk that, in strict and philosophical truth, is to me 
the best argument for your being. And this is a peculiar 
argument, inapplicable to your purpose ; for, you will not, 
I suppose, pretend that God speaks to man in the same 
clear and sensible manner as one man doth to another ? 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 163 

7. Euph. How ! is then the impression of sound so 
much more evident than that of other senses ? Or, if it 
be, is the voice of man louder than that of thunder ? 

Ale. Alas ! you mistake the point. What I mean is not 
the sound of speech merely as such, but the arbitrary use 
of sensible signs, which have no similitude or necessary 1 
connexion with the things signified ; so as by the apposite 
management of them to suggest and exhibit to my mind 
an endless variety of things, differing in nature, time, and 
place ; thereby informing me, entertaining me, and directing 
me how to act, not only with regard to things near and 
present, but also with regard to things distant and future. 
No matter whether these signs are pronounced or written ; 
whether they enter by the eye or ear : they have the same 
use, and are equally proofs of an intelligent, thinking, 
designing cause. 

Euph. But what if it should appear that God really 
speaks to man ; would this content you ? 

Ale. I am for admitting no inward speech, no holy 
instincts, or suggestions of light or spirit. All that, you 
must know, passeth with men of sense for nothing. If 
you do not make it plain to me that God speaks to men 
by outward sensible signs, of such sort and in such manner 
as I have defined, you do nothing 2 . 

Euph. But 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 con- 
nexion 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 

1 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. written languages of mankind, is 

17, 23, 28, 51, 58-66, 147; Prin- illustrated. The relations are ' ar- 

ciples of Human Knowledge, sect. bitrary ' in as far as an exhaustive 

30, 31, 65, 66, &c. ; Theory of interpretation of the changes in 

Vision Vindicated, sect. 30, 39, 40, nature transcends human intelli- 

42-45, &c. ; Siris, sect. 252-255, gence. 

&c. — all of which enforce the arbi- 2 Alciphron rejects moral and 

trariness (relatively to us) of the spiritual experience as evidence of 

relations of co-existence and sue- God, and insists on the need for 

cession found to prevail among the evidence in the data of the senses, 

phenomena of nature ; also the But God is already so far pre- 

consequent analogy between these supposed, when the data of the 

relations, and those of signs to senses are presumed to be inter- 

their meanings, in the spoken and pretable. 

M 2 



164 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

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 ? 

Ale. It is the very thing I would have you make out ; 
for therein consists the force, and use, and nature of 
language. 

8. Euph. Look, Alciphron, do you not see the castle 
upon yonder hill ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. Is it not at a great distance from you ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is not distance a line turned 
end-wise to the eye ' ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. And can a line, in that situation, project more 
than one single point on the bottom of the eye ? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. Therefore the appearance of a long and of a short 
distance is of the same magnitude, or rather of no magni- 
tude at all — being in all cases one single point. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Should it not follow from hence that distance 
is not immediately perceived by the eye ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. Must it not then be perceived by the mediation 
of some other thing ? 

Ale. It must. 

Euph. To discover what this is, let us examine what 
alteration there may be in the appearance of the same object, 
placed at different distances from the eye. Now, I find 
by experience that when an object is removed still farther 
and farther off in a direct line from the eye, its visible 
appearance still grows lesser and fainter ; and this change 
of appearance, being proportional and universal, seems 

1 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. repeat that part of the Essay on 
2-51, with this and with what Vision which deals with our inter- 
follows, regarding Distance. This pretation of the visual signs of 
and the four following sections distance (sect. 2-5). 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 165 

to me to be that by which we apprehend the various 
degrees of distance. 

Ale. I have nothing to object to this. 

Euph. But littleness or faintness, in their own nature, 
seem to have no necessary connexion with greater length 
of distance ? 

Ale. I admit this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not follow then that they could never 
suggest it but from experience? 

Ale. It will. 

Euph. That is to say — we perceive distance, not im- 
mediately, but by mediation of a sign, which hath no 
likeness to it, or necessary connexion with it, but only 
suggests it from repeated experience, as words do 
things. 

Ale. Hold, Euphranor : now I think of it, the writers 
in optics tell us of an angle made by the two optic axes, 
where they meet in the visible point or object; which 
angle, the obtuser it is the nearer it shews the object 
to be, and by how much the acuter, by so much the farther 
off; and this from a necessary demonstrable connexion. 

Euph. The mind then finds out the distance of things 
by geometry ? 

Ale. It doth. 

Euph. Should it not follow, therefore, that nobody could 
see but those who had learned geometry, and knew some- 
thing of lines and angles ? 

Ale. There is a sort of natural geometry which is got 
without learning. 

Euph. Pray inform me, Alciphron, in order to frame- 
a proof of any kind, or deduce one point from another, 
is it not necessary that I perceive the connexion of the 
terms in the premises, and the connexion of the premises 
with the conclusion ; and, in general, to know one thing 
by means of another, must I not first know that other 
thing ? When I perceive your meaning by your words, 
must I not first perceive the words themselves ? and must 
I not know the premises before I infer the conclusion ? 

Ale. All this is true. 

Euph. Whoever, therefore, collects a nearer distance 
from a wider angle, or a farther distance from an acuter 
angle, must first perceive the angles themselves. And 



166 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

he who doth not perceive those angles can infer nothing 
from them. Is it so or not ? 

Ale. It is as you say. 

Euph. Ask now the first man you meet whether he 
perceives or knows anything of those optic angles ? or 
whether he ever thinks about them, or makes any infer- 
ences from them, either by natural or artificial geometry ? 
What answer do you think he would make ? 

Ale. To speak the truth, I believe his answer would 
be, that he knew nothing of these matters. 

Euph. It cannot therefore be that men judge of distance 
by angles : nor, consequently, can there be any force in 
the argument you drew from thence, to prove that dis- 
tance is perceived by means of something which hath 
a necessary connexion with it. 

Ale. I agree with you. 

9. Euph. To me it seems that a man may know whether 
he perceives a thing or no ; and, if he perceives it, whether 
it be immediately or mediately : and, if mediately, whether 
by means of something like or unlike, necessarily or arbi- 
trarily connected with it. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. And is it not certain that distance is perceived 
only by experience \ if it be neither perceived immediately 
by itself, nor by means of any image, nor of any lines and 
angles which are like it, or have a necessary connexion 
with it? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Doth it not seem to follow, from what hath been 
said and allowed by you, that before all experience a man 
would not imagine the things he saw were at any distance 
from him ? 

Ale. How ! let me see. 

Euph. The littleness or faintness of appearance, or any 
other idea or sensation not necessarily connected with 
or resembling distance, can no more suggest different 
degrees of distance, or any distance at all, to the mind 

1 ' experience/ i. e. of a con- mediately seen and the tactual or 
nexion that is independent of the locomotive phenomena signified by 
will of man, between what is im- what is immediately seen. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 167 

which hath not experienced a connexion of the things 
signifying and signified, than words can suggest notions 
before a man hath learned the language. 

Ale. I allow this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not thence follow that a man born blind, 
and made to see, would, upon first receiving his sight, 
take the things he saw not to be at any distance from him, 
but in his eye, or rather in his mind ' ? 

Ale. I must own it seems so. And yet, on the other 
hand, I can hardly persuade myself that, if I were in 
such a state, I should think those objects which I now 
see at so great distance to be at no distance at all. 

Euph. It seems, then, that you now think the objects 
of sight are at a distance from you ? 

Ale. Doubtless I do. Can any one question but yonder 
castle is at a great distance ? 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, can you discern the doors, 
windows, and battlements of that same castle ? 

Ale. I cannot. At this distance it seems only a small 
round tower. 

Euph. But I, who have been at it, know that it is no 
small round tower, but a large square building with battle- 
ments and turrets, which it seems you do not see. 

Ale. What will you infer from thence ? 

Euph. I would infer that the very object which you 
strictly and properly perceive by sight is not that thing 
which is several miles distant. 

Ale. Why so? 

Euph. Because a little round object is one thing, and 
a great square object is another. Is it not ? 

Ale. I cannot deny it. 

Euph. Tell me, is not the visible appearance alone the 
proper object of sight ? 

Ale. It is. 

What think you now (said Euphranor, pointing towards 
the heavens) of the visible appearance of yonder planet ? 
Is it not a round luminous flat, no bigger than a six- 
pence ? 

Ale. What then ? 

Euph. Tell me then, what you think of the planet itself. 

1 Cf. New Theory 0/ Vision, sect. 41 ; Vindication, sect. 7T. 



l68 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Do you not conceive it to be a vast opaque globe, with 
several unequal risings and valleys ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. How can you therefore conclude that the proper 
object of your sight 1 exists at a distance ? 

Ale. I confess I know not. 

Euph. For your further conviction, do but consider that 
crimson cloud. Think you that, if you were in the very 
place where it is, you would perceive anything like what 
you now see ? 

Ale By no means. I should perceive only a dark mist. 

Euph. Is it not plain, therefore, that neither the castle, 
the planet, nor the cloud, which you see here, are those 
real ones which you suppose exist at a distance ? 

10. Ale. What am I to think then ? Do we see any- 
thing at all, or is it altogether fancy and illusion ? 

Euph. Upon the whole, it seems the proper objects 
of sight are light and colours 2 , with their several shades 
and degrees ; all which, being infinitely diversified and 
combined, do form a language wonderfully adapted to 
suggest and exhibit to us the distances, figures, situations, 
dimensions, and various qualities of tangible objects — 
not by similitude, nor yet by inference of necessary con- 
nexion, but by the arbitrary imposition of Providence, 
just as words suggest the things signified by them. 

Ale. How ! Do we not, strictly speaking, perceive by 
sight such things as trees, houses, men, rivers, and the like ? 

Euph. We do, indeed, perceive or apprehend those 
things by the faculty of sight. But, will it follow from 
thence that they are the proper and immediate objects 
of sight, any more than that all those things are the 
proper and immediate objects of hearing which are signified 
by the help of words or sounds? 

Ale. You would have us think, then, that light, shades, 

1 ' the proper object of sight,' ence of the adult. One may ask 

i. e. the phenomena which are due whether the adult could read rela- 

to the sense of sight alone, before tions of space into the sensuous 

we learn by experience to read data either of sight or touch, unless 

into them phenomena of tactual space relations were presupposed 

and locomotive experience which in them. 

they signify. This ' pure vision ' 2 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect, 

cannot be revived in the experi- 43. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 169 

and colours, variously combined, answer to the several 
articulations of sound in language ; and that, by means 
thereof, all sorts of objects are suggested to the mind 
through the eye, in the same manner as they are suggested 
by words or sounds through the ear : that is, neither from 
necessary deduction to the judgment, nor from similitude 
to the fancy, but purely and solely from experience, custom, 
and habit. 

Euph. I would not have you think anything more than 
the nature of things obligeth you to think, nor submit 
in the least to my judgment, but only to the force of truth : 
which is an imposition that I suppose the freest thinkers 
will not pretend to be exempt from. 

Ale. You have led me, it seems, step by step, till I am 
got I know not where. But I shall try to get out again, 
if not by the way I came, yet by some other of my own 
finding. 

Here Alctphron, having made a short pause, proceeded 
as follows — 

11. Answer me, Euphranor, should it not follow from 
these principles that a man born blind, and made to see, 
would, at first sight, not only not perceive their distance, 
but also not so much as know the very things themselves 
which he saw, for instance, men or trees? which surely 
to suppose must be absurd. 

Euph. I grant, in consequence of those principles, which 
both you and I have admitted, that such a one would 
never think of men, trees, or any other objects that he 
had been accustomed to perceive by touch, upon having 
his mind filled with new sensations of light and colours, 
whose various combinations he doth not yet understand, 
or know the meaning of; no more than a Chinese, upon first 
hearing the words man and tree. would think of the things 
signified by them. In both cases, there must be time 
and experience, by repeated acts, to acquire a habit of 
knowing the connexion between the signs and things 
signified ; that is to say, of understanding the language, 
whether of the eyes or of the ears 1 . And I conceive 
no absurdity in all this. 

1 The office of custom in the latent in the constitution of experi- 
evolution of the elements of reason ence is here recognised. ' Custom,' 



170 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Ale. I see, therefore, in strict philosophical truth, that 
rock only in the same sense that I may be said to hear it, 
when the word rock is pronounced. 

Euph. In the very same. 

Ale. How comes it to pass then that every one shall 
say he sees, for instance, a rock or a house, when those 
things are before his eyes ; but nobody will say he hears 
a rock or a house, but only the words or sounds them- 
selves by which those things are said to be signified or 
suggested but not heard 1 ? Besides, if vision be only 
a language speaking to the eyes, it may be asked, when 
did men learn this language ? To acquire the knowledge 
of so many signs as go to the making up a language is 
a work of some difficulty. But, will any man say he hath 
spent time, or been at pains, to learn this Language of 
Vision ? 

Euph. No wonder; we cannot assign a time beyond our 
remotest memory. If we have been all practising this 
language, ever since our first entrance into the world : 
if the Author of Nature constantly speaks to the eyes 
of all mankind, even in their earliest infancy, whenever 
the eyes are open in the light, whether alone or in com- 
pany : it doth not seem to me at all strange that men 
should not be aware they had ever learned a language 
begun so early, and practised so constantly, as this of 
Vision. And, if we also consider that it is the same 
throughout the whole world, and not, like other languages, 
differing in different places, it will not seem unaccountable 
that men should mistake the connexion between the 
proper objects of sight and the things signified by them 
to be founded in necessary relation or likeness ; or, that 
they should even take them for the same things. Hence 
it seems easy to conceive why men who do not think 
should confound in this language of vision the signs with 
the things signified, otherwise than they are wont to do in 
the various particular languages formed by the several 
nations of men 2 . 

says Pascal, ' may be conceived as .... deep almost as life.' 

secondary nature, and nature as pri- ' Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect, 

marycustom.' So too Wordsworth: 46, 47. 

'And custom lie upon thee with ' Ibid., sect. 144. 
a weight 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 171 

12. It may be also worth while to observe that signs, 
being little considered in themselves, or for their own 
sake, but only in their relative capacity, and for the sake 
of those things whereof they are signs, it comes to pass 
that the mind overlooks them, so as to carry its attention 
immediately on to the things signified. Thus, for example, 
in reading we run over the characters with the slightest 
regard, and pass on to the meaning. Hence it is frequent 
for men to say, they see words, and notions, and things in 
reading of a book ; whereas in strictness they see only 
the characters which suggest words, notions, and things. 
And, by parity of reason, may we not suppose that men, 
not resting in, but overlooking the immediate and proper 
objects of sight, as in their own nature of small moment, 
carry their attention onward to the very things signified, 
and talk as if they saw the secondary objects? which, in 
truth and strictness, are not seen, but only suggested and 
apprehended by means of the proper objects of sight, 
which alone are seen. 

Ale. To speak my mind freely, this dissertation grows 
tedious, and runs into points too dry and minute for 
a gentleman's attention. 

I thought, said Crito, we had been told that minute 
philosophers loved to consider things closely and minutely. 

Ale. That is true, but in so polite an age who would 
be a mere philosopher? There is a certain scholastic 
accuracy which ill suits the freedom and ease of a well- 
bred man. But, to cut short this chicane, I propound 
it fairly to your own conscience, whether you really think 
that God Himself speaks every day and in every place to 
the eyes of all men. 

Euph. That is really and in truth my opinion ; and it 
should be yours too, if you are consistent with yourself, 
and abide by your own definition of language. Since 
you cannot deny that the great Mover and Author of 
nature constantly explaineth Himself to the eyes of men 
by the sensible intervention of arbitrary signs, which have 
no similitude or connexion with the things signified ; so 
as, by compounding and disposing them, to suggest and 
exhibit an endless variety of objects, differing in nature, 
time, and place; thereby informing and directing men 
how to act with respect to things distant and future, as 



I72 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

well as near and present. In consequence, I say, of your 
own sentiments and concessions, you have as much reason 
to think the Universal Agent or God speaks to your eyes, 
as you can have for thinking any particular person speaks 
to your ears \ 

Ale. I cannot help thinking that some fallacy runs 
throughout this whole ratiocination, though perhaps I may 
not readily point it out. Hold ! let me see. In language 
the signs are arbitrary, are they not ? 

Euph. They are. 

Ale. And, consequently, they do not always suggest 
real matters of fact. Whereas this Natural Language, 
as you call it, or these visible signs, do always suggest 
things in the same uniform way, and have the same 
constant regular connexion with matters of fact : whence 
it should seem the connexion was necessary ; and, there- 
fore, according to the definition premised, it can be no 
language. How do you solve this objection ? 

Euph. You may solve it yourself by the help of a picture 
or looking-glass 2 . 

Ale. You are in the right. I see there is nothing in it. 
I know not what else to say to this opinion, more than 
that it is so odd and contrary to my way of thinking that 
I shall never assent to it. 

13. Euph. Be pleased to recollect your own lectures 
upon prejudice, and apply them in the present case. 
Perhaps they may help you to follow where reason leads, 
and to suspect notions which are strongly rivetted, without 
having been ever examined. 

Ale. I disdain the suspicion of prejudice. And I do 
not speak only for myself. I know a club of most in- 
genious men, the freest from prejudice of any men alive, 
who abhor the notion of a God, and I doubt not would be 
very able to untie this knot. 

1 He thus infers the continual the natural incarnation of God, cor- 

omnipresence of the living God in responding to the human organism 

external nature by analogy with in man. 

the visible signs of the presence of 2 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect, 

a human being — both of them 45. So also Jonathan Edwards, 

equally revelations of a spiritual Remarks in Mental Philosophy, 

agent behind the sensible signs. art. 'Existence,' in Appendix to 

The visible world is thus taken as Dwight's Memoir. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 1 73 

Upon which words of Alciphron, I, who had acted the 
part of an indifferent stander-by, observed to him — That 
it misbecame his character and repeated professions, to 
own an attachment to the judgment, or build upon the 
presumed abilities of other men, how ingenious soever ; 
and that this proceeding might encourage his adversaries 
to have recourse to authority, in which perhaps they would 
find their account more than he 1 . 

Oh ! said Crito, I have often observed the conduct of 
minute philosophers. When one of them has got a ring 
of disciples round him, his method is to exclaim against 
prejudice, and recommend thinking and reasoning, giving 
to understand that himself is a man of deep researches 
and close argument, one who examines impartially, and 
concludes warily. The same man, in other company, if he 
chance to be pressed with reason, shall laugh at logic, and 
assume the lazy supine airs of a fine gentleman, a wit, 
a railleur, to avoid the dryness of a regular and exact 
inquiry. This double face of the minute philosopher is of 
no small use to propagate and maintain his notions. 
Though to me it seems a plain case that if a fine gentle- 
man will shake off authority, and appeal from religion to 
reason, unto reason he must go : and, if he cannot go 
without leading-strings, surely he had better be led by the 
authority of the public than by that of any knot of minute 
philosophers. 

Ale. Gentlemen, this discourse is very irksome, and 
needless. For my part, I am a friend to inquiry. I am 
willing reason should have its full and free scope. I build 
on no man's authority. For my part, I have no interest 
in denying a God. Any man may believe or not believe 
a God, as he pleases, for me. But, after all, Euphranor 
must allow me to stare a little at his conclusions. 

Euph. The conclusions are yours as much as mine, for 
you were led to them by your own concessions. 

14. You, it seems, stare to find that God is not far 
from every one of us ; and that in Him we live, and move, 

1 But with Berkeley's recognition founded on significance in nature 

of natural change as virtually Divine are ultimately based on faith in the 

language, more or less interpreted Power or Person universally at 

in human science, all reasonings work in nature. 



174 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

and have our being \ You, who, in the beginning of this 
morning's 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. 

Ale. I must own I do. I was aware, indeed, of a certain 
metaphysical hypothesis of our seeing all things in God by 
the union of the human soul with the intelligible substance 
of the Deity 2 , which neither I, nor any one else could 
make sense of. But I never imagined it could be pre- 
tended 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 3 . 

Cri. \* As for that metaphysical hypothesis, I can make 
no more of it than you. But I think it plain] this Optic 
Language hath a necessary connexion with knowledge, 
wisdom, and goodness 5 . It is equivalent to a constant 
creation, betokening an immediate act of power and 
providence. It cannot be accounted for by mechanical 
principles, by atoms, attractions, or effluvia. The in- 
stantaneous production and reproduction of so many signs, 
combined, dissolved, transposed, diversified, and adapted 
to such an endless variety of purposes, ever shifting with 
the occasions and suited to them, being utterly inexplicable 
and unaccountable by the laws of motion, by chance, by 
fate, or the like blind principles, doth set forth and testify 
the immediate operation of a spirit or thinking being ; and 
not merely of a spirit, which every motion or gravitation 
may possibly infer, but of one wise, good, and provident 
Spirit, which directs and rules and governs the world. 
Some philosophers, being convinced of the wisdom and 
power of the Creator, from the make and contrivance of 

1 At this view of things God 147. 

animates the whole material world, * Introduced in second edition, 

as a man animates or moves his 5 He thus postulates ' necessary 

own body : sensible things are the connexion' between physical order 

symbol and sacrament of Omni- and moral government, but with- 

present Deity, and nature is essen- out articulating the connexion. Is 

tially supernatural. not the perfect goodness of the 

3 Malebranche's hypothesis of Universal Power presupposed in 

the vision of the sensible world in all trust in experience, rather than 

God, which Berkeley here and logically proved by what we ex- 

clsewhere disclaims. perience ? 

8 Cf. sect. 5, and Principles, sect. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 1 75 

organised bodies and orderly system of the world, did 
nevertheless imagine that he left this system with all its 
parts and contents well adjusted and put in motion, as an 
artist leaves a clock, to go thenceforward of itself for 
a certain period ! . But this Visual Language proves, 
not a Creator merely, but a provident Governor, actually 
and intimately present, and attentive to all our interests 
and motions, who watches over our conduct, and takes 
care of our minutest actions and designs throughout the 
whole course of our lives, informing, admonishing, and 
directing incessantly, in a most evident and sensible 
manner. This is truly wonderful 2 . 

Euph. And is it not so, that men should be encompassed 
by such a wonder, without reflecting on it ? 

15. Something there is of Divine and admirable in this 
Language, addressed to our eyes, that may well awaken 
the mind, and deserve its utmost attention : — it is learned 
with so little pains : it expresseth the differences of things 
so clearly and aptly: it instructs with such facility and 
despatch, by one glance of the eye conveying a greater 
variety of advices, and a more distinct knowledge of things, 
than could be got by a discourse of several hours. And, 
while it informs, it amuses and entertains the mind with 
such singular pleasure and delight. It is of such excellent 
use in giving a stability and permanency to human dis- 
course, in recording sounds and bestowing life on dead 
languages, enabling us to converse with men of remote 
ages and countries. And it answers so apposite to the 
uses and necessities of mankind, informing us more 
distinctly of those objects whose nearness and magnitude 
qualify them to be of greatest detriment or benefit to our 
bodies, and less exactly in proportion as their littleness 
or distance makes them of less concern to us 8 . 

1 See the Collection of Papers the Cosmos would relapse into 

between Leibniz and Clarke, relat- meaningless abstraction, apart from 

ing to the Principles of Natural the continuous spiritual agency of 

Philosophy and Religion (1717), God, determined according to 

PP- 3> 5> m which this illustration Divine or perfect order, all regu- 

occurs ; also the Systeme Nouveau lated for the best. 

de la Nature of Leibniz. 3 Euphranor makes much of the 

1 Under Berkeley's conception sense-symbolism in nature as evi- 

of the reality of the material world, dence of the constant sensible 



176 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Ale. And yet these strange things affect men but little. 

Euph. But they are not strange, they are familiar ; and 
that makes them be overlooked. Things which rarely 
happen strike ; whereas frequency lessens the admiration 
of things, though in themselves ever so admirable. Hence, 
a common man, who is not used to think and make re- 
flexions, would probably be more convinced of the being 
of a God by one single sentence heard once in his life 
from the sky than by all the experience he has had of this 
Visual Language, contrived with such exquisite skill, so 
constantly addressed to his eyes, and so plainly declaring 
the nearness, wisdom, and providence of Him with whom 
we have to do. 

Ale. After all, I cannot satisfy myself how men should 
be so little surprised or amazed about this visive faculty, 
if it was really of a nature so surprising and amazing. 

Euph. But let us suppose a nation of men blind from 
their infancy, among whom a stranger arrives, the only 
man who can see in all the country; let us suppose this 
stranger travelling with some of the natives, and that one 
while he foretels to them that, in case they walk straight 
forward, in half a hour they shall meet men or cattle, or 
come to a house ; that, if they turn to the right and pro- 
ceed, they shall in a few minutes be in danger of falling 
down a precipice ; that, shaping their course to the left, they 
will in such a time arrive at a river, a wood, or a mountain. 
What think you ? Must they not be infinitely surprised 
that one who had never been in their country before 
should know it so much better than themselves ? And would 
not those predictions seem to them as unaccountable and 
incredible as Prophecy to a minute philosopher ? 

Ale. I cannot deny it. 

Euph. But it seems to require intense thought to be 
able to unravel a prejudice that has been so long forming ; 
to get over the vulgar errors or ideas common to both 
senses ; and so to distinguish between the objects of sight 
and touch ] , which have grown (if I may so say), blended 

presence of God ; not much of our by miracles presented to the 

finding God more fully in the senses. 

moral and spiritual life which wells l [See the annexed Treatise, 

up in inner consciousness, and wherein this point and the whole 

may be evoked from dormancy Theory of Vision are more fully 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 177 

together in our fancy, as to be able to suppose ourselves 
exactly in the state that one of those men would be in, 
if he were made to see. And yet this I believe is possible, 
and might seem worth the pains of a little thinking, 
especially to those men whose proper employment and 
profession it is to think, and unravel prejudices, and 
confute mistakes. 

Ale. I frankly own I cannot find my way out of this 
maze, and should gladly be set right by those who see 
better than myself. 

Cri. The pursuing this subject in their own thoughts 
would possibly open a new scene to those speculative 
gentlemen of the minute philosophy. It puts me in 
mind of a passage in the Psalmist, where he represents 
God to be covered with light as with a garment, and would 
methinks be no ill comment on that ancient notion of 
some eastern sages — that God had light for His body, and 
truth for His soul 1 . 

This conversation lasted till a servant came to tell us 
the tea was ready : upon which we walked in, and found 
Lysicles at the tea-table. 

16. As soon as we sat down, I am glad, said Alciphron, 
that I have here found my second, a fresh man to maintain 
our common cause, which, I doubt, Lysicles will think 
hath suffered by his absence. 

Lys. Why so ? 

Ale. I have been drawn into some concessions you will 
not like. 

Lys. Let me know what they are. 

Ale. Why, that there is such a thing as a God, and that 
His existence is very certain. 

explained : the paradoxes of which To both these editions the Essay 

Theory, though at first received on Vision was annexed, but was 

with great ridicule by those who withdrawn along with this note in 

think ridicule the test of truth, the third edition, 

were many years after surprisingly l This whole argument rests on 

confirmed, by a case of a person data of sense, and takes little 

made to see who had been blind account of the data and inevitable 

from his birth. See Philos. Trans- presuppositions of moral experi- 

act., No. 402.] — Author. In the ence,without which scientific infer- 

author's first edition this note ences from sensuous phenomena 

ended at 'explained' ; the remainder are untrustworthy, 
was added in his second edition. 



BERKELEY : FRASER. II. 



N 



178 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Lys. Bless me ! How came you to entertain so wild a 
notion ? 

Ale. You know we profess to follow reason wherever it 
leads. And in short I have been reasoned into it. 

Lys. Reasoned ! You should say, amused with words, 
bewildered with sophistry. 

Euph. Have you a mind to hear the same reasoning that 
led Alciphron and me step by step, that we may examine 
whether it be sophistry or no ? 

Lys. As to that I am very easy. I guess all that can be 
said on that head. It shall be my business to help my 
friend out, whatever arguments drew him in. 

Euph. Will you admit the premises and deny the con- 
clusions ? 

Lys. What if I admit the conclusion ? 

Euph. How ! will you grant there is a God ? 

Lys. Perhaps I may. 

Euph. Then we are agreed. 

Lys. Perhaps not. 

Euph. O Lysicles, you are a subtle adversary. I know 
not what you would be at. 

Lys. You must know then that at bottom the being of 
a God is a point in itself of small consequence, and a man 
may make this concession without yielding much. The 
great point is what sense the word God is to be taken in \ 
The very Epicureans allowed the being of gods ; but then 
they were indolent gods, unconcerned with human affairs. 
Hobbes allowed a corporeal God : and Spinosa held the 
universe to be God. And yet nobody doubts they were 
staunch free-thinkers. I could wish indeed the word 
God were quite omitted ; because in most minds it is 
coupled with a sort of superstitious awe, the very root of 
all religion. I shall not, nevertheless, be much disturbed, 

J This is still the 'great point.' superhuman agent, as distinguish- 
Does 'God' connote conscious life ed from the Absolute Being, the 
and voluntary agency; or is the ground of all that exists or can 
word only a name for abstract re- exist ? Is it applicable to a Power 
lations of reason, presupposed in acting capriciously, not absolute- 
intelligible experience ; or not even ly and necessarily good, and not 
for this, but for an Unknowable making for the goodness of all 
at the root of all ? Also is the persons that exist 1 Is religion only 
term rightly applied to the 'gods' fear or awe of any power that is 
of Polytheism, or to any merely superhuman ? 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 179 

though the name be retained, and the being of a God 
allowed in any sense but in that of a Mind which knows all 
things, and beholds human actions, like some judge or 
magistrate, with infinite observation and intelligence. The 
belief of a God in this sense fills a man's mind with 
scruples, lays him under constraints, and embitters his 
very being : but in another sense it may be attended 
with no great ill consequence. This I know was the 
opinion of our great Diagoras, who told me he would 
never have been at the pains to find out a demonstration 
that there was no God \ if the received notion of God had 
been the same with that of some Fathers and Schoolmen. 
Euph. Pray what was that ? 

17. Lys. You must know, Diagoras, a man of much 
reading and inquiry, had discovered that once upon a time 
the most profound and speculative divines, finding it 
impossible to reconcile the attributes of God, taken in the 
common sense, or in any known sense, with human reason, 
and the appearances of things, taught that the words 
knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and such like, when spoken 
of the Deity, must be understood in a quite different sense 
from what they signify in the vulgar acceptation, or from 
anything that we can form a notion of or conceive 2 . 
Hence, whatever objections might be made against the 
attributes of God they easily solved — by denying those 
attributes belonged to God, in this, or that, or any known 
particular sense or notion ; which was the same thing 
as to deny they belonged to Him at all. And thus deny- 
ing the attributes of God, they in effect denied His being, 
though perhaps they were not aware of it. 

1 He elsewhere attributes this presupposes the ultimate reason- 

'demonstration'toAnthonyCollins. ableness or divineness of the uni- 

Surely neither atheism nor theism verse of reality, 
is scientifically demonstrable. The 2 It has been held by eminent 

alternative would now seem to theologians, e. g. recently by Dean 

be between an agnostic issue of Mansel, that knowledge, wisdom,a.nd 

the final problem, as even relatively goodness, in our meaning of those 

insoluble, and tacit recognition of terms, are applicable to God only 

a theistic faith in experience, iden- analogically, or at least relatively 

tical in fact with causal faith, in the to our highest point of view, while 

deepest meaning of causality. All they are inadequate to Deity at the 

reasoning about things or persons absolute or divine point of view. 

N 2 



l8o ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Suppose, for instance, a man should object that future 
contingencies were inconsistent with the Foreknowledge 
of God, because it is repugnant that certain knowledge 
should be of an uncertain thing : it was a ready and an 
easy answer to say that this may be true with respect 
to knowledge taken in the common sense, or in any sense 
that we can possibly form any notion of; but that there 
would not appear the same inconsistency between the 
contingent nature of things and Divine Foreknowledge, 
taken to signify somewhat that we know nothing of, which 
in God supplies the place of what we understand by 
knowledge ; from which it differs not in quantity or degree 
of perfection, but altogether, and in kind, as light doth 
from sound ; — and even more, since these agree in that 
they are both sensations ; whereas knowledge in God 
hath no sort of resemblance or agreement with any notion 
that man can frame of knowledge. The like may be said 
of all the other attributes, which indeed may by this means 
be equally reconciled with everything or with nothing. 
But all men who think must needs see this is cutting knots 
and not untying them. For, how are things reconciled 
with the Divine attributes when these attributes them- 
selves are in every intelligible sense denied ; and, con- 
sequently, the very notion of God taken away, and nothing 
left but the name, without any meaning annexed to it ? 
In short, the belief that there is an unknown subject of 
attributes absolutely unknown ' is a very innocent doctrine; 
which the acute Diagoras well saw, and was therefore 
wonderfully delighted with this system 2 . 

18. For, said he, if this could once make its way and 
obtain in the world, there would be an end of all natural 
or rational religion, which is the basis both of the Jewish 
and the Christian : for he who comes to God, or enters 

1 Like the supposed material point of view of omniscience, is no 
substance against which Berkeley reason for dissolving our faith- 
argues in his Principles, and Dia- venture in omnipotent wisdom and 
logues. goodness, in the highest meaning 

2 That 'our line is,' as Hume of those words that is attainable 
says, 'too short to fathom such in the progressive evolution of 
immense abysses ' as are involved thought — if that faith-venture is the 
in a complete solution of the final basis of human experience, 
problem of existence from the 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE l8l 

himself in the church of God, must first believe that there 
is a God in some intelligible sense ; and not only that 
there is something in general, without any proper notion, 
though never so inadequate, of any of its qualities or 
attributes: for this maybe fate, or chaos, or plastic nature, 
or anything else as well as God. Nor will it avail to say 
— There is something in this unknown being analogous 
to knowledge and goodness ; that is to say, which produceth 
those effects which we could not conceive to be produced 
by men, in any degree, without knowledge and goodness. 
For, this is in fact to give up the point in dispute between 
theists and atheists — the question having always been, 
not whether there was a Principle (which point was allowed 
by all philosophers, as well before as since Anaxagoras), 
but whether this Principle was a vovs, a thinking intelligent 
being : that is to say, whether that order, and beauty, and 
use, visible in natural effects, could be produced by any- 
thing but a Mind or Intelligence, in the proper sense of 
the word ? And whether there must not be true, real, and 
proper knowledge, in the First Cause ? We will, therefore, 
acknowledge that all those natural effects which are 
vulgarly ascribed to knowledge and wisdom proceed from 
a being in which there is, properly speaking, no knowledge 
or wisdom at all, but only something else, which in reality 
is the cause of those things which men, for want of know- 
ing better, ascribe to what they call knowledge and wisdom 
and understanding. You wonder perhaps to hear a man 
of pleasure, who diverts himself as I do, philosophize at 
this rate. But you should consider that much is to be 
got by conversing with ingenious men, which is a short 
way to knowledge, that saves a man the drudgery of read- 
ing and thinking. 

And, now we have granted to you that there is a 
God in this indefinite sense, I would fain see what use 
you can make of this concession. You cannot argue from 
unknown attributes, or, which is the same thing, from 
attributes in an unknown sense. You cannot prove that 
God is to be loved for His goodness, or feared for His 
justice, or respected for His knowledge: all which con- 
sequences, we own, would follow from those attributes 
admitted in an intelligible sense. But we deny that 
those or any other consequences can be drawn from 



182 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

attributes admitted in no particular sense, or in a sense 
which none of us understand. Since, therefore, nothing 
can be inferred from such an account of God, about 
conscience, or worship or religion, you may even make 
the best of it. And, not to be singular, we will use the 
name too, and so at once there is an end of atheism. 

Euph. This account of a Deity is new to me. I do not 
like it, and therefore shall leave it to be maintained by 
those who do. 

19. Cri. It is not new to me. I remember not long 
since to have heard a minute philosopher triumph upon 
this very point ; which put me on inquiring what founda- 
tion there was for it in the Fathers or Schoolmen. And, 
for aught that I can find, it owes its original to those 
writings which have been published under the name of 
Dionysius the Areopagite \ The author of which, it must 
be owned, hath written upon the Divine attributes in 
a very singular style. In his treatise of the Celestial 
Hierarchy 2 , he saith that God is something above all 
essence and life, virlp -n-ao-av oio-tav /cat £<ar)v ; and again, in 
his treatise of the Divine Names s , that He is above all 
wisdom and understanding, virep irao-av croc/>iav /cat avveaiv, 
ineffable and innominable, appyros /cat avwwfAos ; the wisdom 
of God he terms an unreasonable, unintelligent, and 

foolish Wisdom ' ttjv aXoyov, /cat avow, /cat fxaipav cro<pia.v. 
But then the reason he gives for expressing himself in 
this strange manner is, that the Divine wisdom is the 

1 The books attributed to Diony- ance of God, and deny that ovaia 
sius the Areopagite, who was said can properly be affirmed of Deity, 
to be a contemporary of the Apos- God, according to the pseudo- 
ties, and first Bishop of Athens, Dionysius, transcends all negation 
were in vogue among the mystics and all affirmation {{mep iraaav ual 
of the Middle Ages. They belong &<patpe<Ttv ical 6eoiv). The hyper- 
probably to the third or fourth bolical language of Dionysius, and 
century, if not to a later period. even of some Fathers of the Church, 
They are entitled De Hierarchia hardly falls short of the paradox of 
Ccelesii, De Nominibus Divinis, De Oken, which identifies God with 
Hierarchia Ecclesiasiica, and De Nothing. He is virepayvojoros Cmore 
Theologia Mystica. Various editions than unknown), di/un-ap/cro? (without 
appeared in the sixteenth and existence), avovaios (unsubstantial), 
seventeenth centuries. In common 2 \De Hierarch. Ccelest. cap. 2 .] — 
with some of the early Fathers of Author. 

the Church, they allege, in strong 3 [De Nom. Div. cap. 7.] — 

language, man's necessary ignor- Author. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 183 

cause of all reason, wisdom, and understanding, and 
therein are contained the treasures of all wisdom and 
knowledge. He calls God i>7repo-o<£os and v-n-ipCus ; as if 
wisdom and life were words not worthy to express the 
Divine perfections : and he adds that the attributes unin- 
telligent and unperceiving must be ascribed to the Divinity, 
not kolt IAAch/w, by way of defect, but ko.6' vircpoxw, by way 
of eminency ; which he explains by our giving the name 
of darkness to light inaccessible. And, notwithstanding 
the harshness of his expressions in some places, he affirms 
over and over in others— that God knows all things ; not 
that He is beholden to the creatures for His knowledge, 
but by knowing Himself, from whom they all derive their 
being, and in whom they are contained as in their cause. 
It was late before these writings appear to have been 
known in the world ; and, although they obtained credit 
during the age of the Schoolmen, yet, since critical learn- 
ing hath been cultivated, they have lost that credit, and 
are at this day given up for spurious, as containing several 
evident marks of a much later date than the age of 
Dionysius. Upon the whole, although this method of 
growing in expression and dwindling in notion, of clearing 
up doubts by nonsense, and avoiding difficulties by run- 
ning into affected contradictions, may perhaps proceed from 
a well-meant zeal, yet it appears not to be according to 
knowledge ; and, instead of reconciling atheists to the 
truth, hath, I doubt, a tendency to confirm them in their 
own persuasion. It should seem, therefore, very weak 
and rash in a Christian to adopt this harsh language of an 
apocryphal writer preferably to that of the Holy Scriptures. 
I remember, indeed, to have read of a certain philosopher, 
who lived some centuries ago, that used to say — if these 
supposed works of Dionysius had been known to the 
primitive Fathers, they would have furnished them ad- 
mirable weapons against the heretics, and would have 
saved a world of pains. But the event since their dis- 
covery hath by no means confirmed his opinion. 

It must be owned, the celebrated Picus of Mirandula 1 , 

1 John Picus, Count of Miran- philosophy of Plato to the books 

dula, who lived in the fifteenth of Moses. The disputation in 

century, sought to harmonize Plato which he proposed to defend his 

and Aristotle, and referred the famous nine hundred theses never 



184 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

among his nine hundred conclusions (which that prince, 
being very young, proposed to maintain by public disputa- 
tion at Rome), hath this for one — to wit, that it is more 
improper to say of God, He is an intellect or intelligent 
Being, than to say of a reasonable soul that it is an angel : 
which doctrine it seems was not relished. And Picus, 
when he comes to defend it, supports himself altogether 
by the example and authority of Dionysius, and in effect 
explains it away into a mere verbal difference — affirming 
that neither Dionysius nor himself ever meant to deprive 
God of knowledge, or to deny that He knows all things ; 
but that, as reason is of kind peculiar to man, so by intel- 
lection he understands a kind or manner of knowing 
peculiar to angels ; and that the knowledge which is in 
God is more above the intellection of angels than angel 
is above man. He adds that, as his tenet consists with 
admitting the most perfect knowledge in God, so he would 
by no means be understood to exclude from the Deity 
intellection itself, taken in the common or general sense, 
but only that peculiar sort of intellection proper to angels, 
which he thinks ought not to be attributed to God any 
more than human reason. Picus 1 , therefore, though he 
speaks as the apocryphal Dionysius, yet, when he explains 
himself, it is evident he speaks like other men. And, 
although the forementioned books of the Celestial Hierarchy 
and of the Divine Names, being attributed to a saint and 
martyr of the apostolical age, were respected by the School- 
men, yet it is certain they rejected or softened his harsh 
expressions, and explained away or reduced his doctrine 
to the received notions taken from Holy Scripture and 
the light of nature. 

20. Thomas Aquinas expresseth his sense of this point 
in the following manner. All perfections, saith he, derived 
from God to the creatures are in a certain higher sense, 
or (as the Schoolmen term it) eminently in God. When- 
ever therefore, a name borrowed from any perfection in 
the creature is attributed to God, we must exclude from 
its signification everything that belongs to the imperfect 

took place. They were published ' [Pic. Mirand. in Apolog. p. 155, 

at Re mc in i486. cd. Bas.]— Author. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 185 

manner wherein that attribute is found in the creature. 
Whence he concludes that knowledge in God is not a habit 
but a pure act 1 . And again, the same Doctor observes 
that our intellect gets its notions of all sorts of perfections 
from the creatures, and that as it apprehends those per- 
fections so it signifies them by names. Therefore, saith 
he, in attributing these names to God we are to consider 
two things : first the perfections themselves, as goodness, 
life, and the like, which are properly in God ; and secondly, 
the manner which is peculiar to the creature, and cannot, 
strictly and properly speaking, be said to agree to the 
Creator 2 . 

And although Suarez 3 , with other Schoolmen, teacheth 
that the mind of man conceiveth knowledge and will to 
be in God as faculties or operations, by analogy only 
to created beings, yet he gives it plainly as his opinion 
that when knowledge is said not to be properly in God it 
must be, understood in a sense including imperfection, such 
as discursive knowledge, or the like imperfect kind found 
in the creatures 4 : and that, none of those imperfections 
in the knowledge of men or angels belonging to the formal 
notion of knowledge, or to knowledge as such, it will not 
thence follow that knowledge, in its proper formal sense, 
may not be attributed to God. And of knowledge taken 
in general for the clear evident understanding of all truth, 
he expressly affirms that it is in God, and that this was 
never denied by any philosopher who believed a God 5 . 
It was, indeed, a current opinion in the schools that even 
Being itself should be attributed analogically to God and 
the creatures. That is, they held that God, the supreme, 



1 [Sum. Theolog. Part I. quest. gence, but inconsistent with omni- 
xiv. art. i.] — Author. scient intuition. If we were able 

2 [Ibid, quest, xiii. art. iii.] — to know all things in all their 
Author. relations in a single intellectual 

3 Suarez, the Spanish Thomist, view, discursive thought or reason- 
who died in 1617. See his Dis- ing would seem to be superfluous. 
putationes Metaphysics, xxx, ' Quid Man advances in knowledge 
Deus Sit.' through the medium of what is 

4 This implies that discursive supposed to be already known, i.e. 
knowledge, or reasoning (included by means of premisses in which 
in knowledge as that term is conclusions are virtually contained, 
applicable to man) is an ' imper- * [Suarez, Dis. Metaph. torn. II. 
fection' inevitable to finite intelli- disp. xxx. sect. 15.]— Author. 



186 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

independent, self-originate cause and source of all beings, 
must not be supposed to exist in the same sense with 
created beings ; not that He exists less truly, properly, 
or formally than they, but only because He exists in a 
more eminent and perfect manner 1 . 

21. But, to prevent any man's being led, by mistaking 
the scholastic use of the terms analogy and analogical, into 
an opinion that we cannot frame in any degree a true and 
proper notion of attributes applied by analogy, or, in the 
school phrase, predicated analogically, it may not be amiss 
to inquire into the true sense and meaning of those words. 
Every one knows that analogy is a Greek word used by 
mathematicians to signify a similitude of proportions. For 
instance, when we observe that two is to six as three is to 
nine, this similitude or equality of proportion is termed 
analogy. And, although proportion strictly signifies the 
habitude or relation of one quantity to another, yet, in 
a looser and translated sense, it hath been applied to 
signify every other habitude ; and, consequently, the term 
analogy comes to signify all similitude of relations or 
habitudes whatsoever. Hence the Schoolmen tell us there 
is analogy between intellect and sight ; forasmuch as 
intellect is to the mind what sight is to the body, and that 
he who governs the state is analogous to him who steers 
a ship. Hence a prince is analogically styled a pilot, 
being to the state as a pilot is to his vessel' 2 . 

For the further clearing of this point, it is to be observed 
that a twofold analogy is distinguished by the Schoolmen 
— metaphorical and proper. Of the first kind there are 
frequent instances in Holy Scripture, attributing human 
parts and passions to God. When He is represented as 
having a finger, an eye, or an ear; when He is said to 
repent, to be angry, or grieved ; every one sees that 
analogy is metaphorical. Because those parts and passions, 
taken in the proper signification, must in every degree 
necessarily, and from the formal nature of the thing, 
include imperfection. When, therefore, it is said — the 

1 That is to say, life in the Uni- we are manifested, through inward 

versal Power is mysteriously above, consciousness, to ourselves, 

not below, the personal conscious 2 [Vide Cajetan. de Nom. Analog. 

life we experience, and in which cap. 3.] — Author. 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 187 

finger of God appears in this or that event, men of common 
sense mean no more but that it is as truly ascribed to God 
as the works wrought by human fingers are to man : and 
so of the rest. But the case is different when wisdom 
and knowledge are attributed to God. Passions and 
senses, as such, imply defect; but in knowledge simply, 
or as such, there is no defect ] . Knowledge, therefore, in 
the proper formal meaning of the word, may be attributed 
to God proportionably, that is, preserving a proportion to 
the infinite nature of God 2 . We may say, therefore, that 
as God is infinitely above man, so is the knowledge of God 
infinitely above the knowledge of man, and this is what 
Cajetan calls analogia proprie facta. And after this same 
analogy we must understand all those attributes to belong 
to the Deity which in themselves simply, and as such, 
denote perfection. We may, therefore, consistently with 
what hath been premised, affirm that all sorts of perfection 
which we can conceive in a finite spirit are in God, but 
without any of that allay 3 which is found in the creatures. 
This doctrine, therefore, of analogical perfections in God, 
or our knowing God by analogy, seems very much mis- 
understood and misapplied by those who would infer from 
thence that we cannot frame any direct or proper notion, 
though never so inadequate, of knowledge or wisdom, as 
they are in the Deity ; or understand any more of them 
than one born blind can of light and colours 4 . 



1 But this does not forbid that in part of last century. Among other 
human knowledge there must be replies to Toland's Christianity not 
something which bars our attain- Mysterious (1696) was a Letter by 
ment of the unity supposed in Peter Browne, which appeared in 
Omniscience, and which obliges 1699. I* ' s there maintained that 
us, as reasonable beings, to 'leave our only possible conception of God 
many things abrupt,' to use Bacon's and the divine attributes is by a 
words. The Infinite Reality may divine analogy with our experience 
be necessarily inexplicable in our of ourselves and of the things of 
'little systems,' and if so attempts sense, and that this metaphorical 
to reach the perfect explanation conception is sufficient for all 
must be irrational. human purposes. In 1709, Arch- 

2 What does this seemingly im- bishop King published a Sermon 
portant qualification imply? on the Consistency of Predestination 

3 'allay' — alloy. So Bacon. and Foreknowledge with the Freedom 

4 Whether man can have only of Man's Will, which he defended, 
this analogical knowledge of God professedly on the same foundation 
was much discussed in the early of analogy, but in a manner which 



188 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

22. And now, gentlemen, it may be expected I should 
ask your pardon for having dwelt so long on a point of 
metaphysics, and introduced such unpolished and un- 
fashionable writers as the Schoolmen into good company : 
but, as Lysicles gave the occasion, I leave him to answer 
for it. 

Lys. I never dreamt of this dry dissertation. But, if 
I have been the occasion of discussing these scholastic 
points, by my unluckily mentioning the Schoolmen, it was 
my first fault of the kind, and I promise it shall be the 
last. The meddling with crabbed authors of any sort is 
none of my taste. I grant one meets now and then with 
a good notion in what we call dry writers, such a one for 
example as this I was speaking of, which I must own 
struck my fancy. But then, for these we have such as 
Prodicus or Diagoras, who look into obsolete books, and 
save the rest of us that trouble. 

Cri. So you pin your faith upon them ? 

Lys. It is only for some odd opinions, and matters of 
fact, and critical points. Besides, we know the men to 
whom we give credit: they are judicious and honest, and 
have no end to serve but truth. And I am confident some 
author or other has maintained the forementioned notion 
in the same sense as Diagoras related it. 

Cri. That may be. But it never was a received notion, 
and never will, so long as men believe a God : the same 
arguments that prove a first cause proving an intelligent 
cause ; — intelligent, I say, in the proper sense ; wise and 
good in the true and formal acceptation of the words. 
Otherwise, it is evident that every syllogism brought to 

.seemed to imply that our highest graduate and Fellow, was after- 
conceptions of God are necessarily wards Bishop of Cork and Ross 
untrue. Bishop Browne defends till his death in 1735. Tennemann 
at great length his account of says that Berkeley's Alciphron was 
the manner in which God can written as a reply to him. although 
be knowable by man, first in his this applies only to a few sections 
Procedure, Extent, and Limits of in this Dialogue. Skelton's Letter 
Human Understanding (1728), and to the Authors of the Divine Analogy 
again in Things Divine and Super- and the Minute Philosopher, in vol.V. 
natural conceived by Analogy with of Skelton's Works, is one of 
Things Natural and Human (1733). several other publications to which 
Browne, who was Provost of the question here discussed gave 
Trinity College, Dublin (1699- rise at the time. 
1710), when Berkeley was under- 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 189 

prove those attributes, or, which is the same thing, to prove 
the being of a God, will be found to consist of four terms, 
and consequently can conclude nothing '. But for your 
part, Alciphron, you have been fully convinced that God 
is a thinking intelligent being, in the same sense with 
other spirits; though not in the same imperfect manner 
or degree 2 . 

23. Ale. And yet I am not without my scruples : for, 
with knowledge you infer wisdom, and with wisdom good- 
ness. [ s Though I cannot see that it is either wise or good 
to enact such laws as can never be obeyed. 

Cri. Doth any one find fault with the exactness of 
geometrical rules, because no one in practice can attain 
to it ? The perfection of a rule is useful, even though it is 
not reached. Many approach what all may fall short of. 

Ale] But how is it possible to conceive God so good 
and man so wicked ? It may, perhaps, with some colour 
be alleged that a little soft shadowing of evil sets off the 
bright and luminous parts of the creation, and so con- 
tributes to the beauty of the whole piece ; but for blots so 
large and so black it is impossible to account by that 
principle. That there should be so much vice, and so 
little virtue upon earth, and that the laws of God's kingdom 
should be so ill observed by His subjects, is what can 
never be reconciled with that surpassing wisdom and 
goodness of the supreme Monarch *. 

1 Four terms in ' a syllogism,' a with the Divine Spirit supreme, 

common fallacy, due to ambiguity In the practical spirit of his 

in one of its terms. He charges philosophy, he evades the per- 

Bishop Browne with this, because plexities in which Infinity in- 

Browne holds that wisdom , know- volves finite conception. Cf. Dial. 

ledge, and goodness in God are III. sect. 10, II, and Dial. VII. 

not wisdom, knowledge, and good- passim ; also New Theory of Vision, 

ness, in any human meaning of sect. 81,123; Principles of Human 

the terms, but only words which Knowledge, sect. 119, 123-132; 

stand for mysteries that transcend Analyst, passim, 
human conception. 3 Added in second edition. 

a Berkeley here makes our * This is the obtrusive mystery 

knowledge of God similar in of the evil which we find in us 

origin and nature to our knowledge and around us on this planet, which 

of other finite spirits— different is a matter of fact, not merely a 

only in degree. He conceives the speculative incompetence in us. 
universe as a hierarchy of spirits, 



190 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, would you argue that a state 
was ill administered, or judge of the manners of its citizens, 
by the disorders committed in the jail or dungeon? 

Ale. I would not. 

Euph. And, for aught we know, this spot, with the few 
sinners on it, bears no greater proportion to the universe 
of intelligences than a dungeon doth to a kingdom. It 
seems we are led not only by revelation, but by common 
sense, observing and inferring from the analogy of visible 
things, to conclude there are innumerable orders of intel- 
ligent beings more happy and more perfect than man ; 
whose life is but a span, and whose place, this earthly 
globe, is but a point, in respect of the whole system of 
God's creation. We are dazzled, indeed, with the glory 
and grandeur of things here below, because we know no 
better. But, I am apt to think, if we knew what it was to 
be an angel for one hour, we should return to this world, 
though it were to sit on the brightest throne in it, with 
vastly more loathing and reluctance than we would now 
descend into a loathsome dungeon or sepulchre *. 

24. Cri. To me it seems natural that such a weak, 
passionate, and short-sighted creature as man should be 
ever liable to scruples of one kind or other. But, as this 
same creature is apt to be over-positive in judging, and 
over-hasty in concluding, it falls out that these difficulties 
and scruples about God's conduct are made objections to 
His being 2 . And so men come to argue from their own 
defects against the Divine perfections. And, as the views 
and humours of men are different and often opposite, you 
may sometimes see them deduce the same atheistical con- 

1 Astronomers tell us of thirty tation of each to the whole, how- 
millions of observed stars or suns, ever insignificant each may seem, 
with, as we may suppose, attendant The law of gravitation does not 
planetary systems ; many, if not all, overlook the grain of sand, and this 
it may be, the homes of sentient law is only a subordinate in the 
beings and moral agents. With infinite providential order, 
the conception thus suggested of 2 This mitigation of the mystery 
the population of moral agents in of sorrow and sin found in the 
existence, we are apt to ask sentient life and the morally re- 
1 What is man, that Thou art sponsible agents on this planet is 
mindful of him ? ' — in forgetfulness more in the spirit of Butler's than 
of the universality of providential of Browne's ' analogy.' 
order, which implies perfect adap- 



THE FOURTH DIALOGUE 191 

elusions from contrary premises. I knew an instance of 
this in two minute philosophers of my acquaintance, who 
used to argue each from his own temper against a Provi- 
dence. One of them, a man of a choleric and vindictive 
spirit, said he could not believe a Providence, because 
London was not swallowed up or consumed by fire from 
heaven ; the streets being, as he said, full of people who 
shew no other belief or worship of God but perpetually 
praying that He would damn, rot, sink, and confound 
them. The other, being of an indolent easy temper, con- 
cluded there could be no such thing as Providence ; for that 
a being of consummate wisdom must needs employ himself 
better than in minding the prayers and actions and little 
interests of mankind J . 

Ale. After all, if God have no passions, how can it be 
true that vengeance is His? Or how can He be said to 
be jealous of His glory? 

Cri. We believe that God executes vengeance without 
revenge, and is jealous without weakness, just as the mind 
of man sees without eyes, and apprehends without hands. 

25. Ale. To put a period to this discourse, we will grant 
there is a God in this dispassionate sense : but what then ? 
What hath this to do with Religion or Divine worship ? 
To what purpose are all these prayers, and praises, and 
thanksgivings, and singing of psalms, which the foolish 
vulgar call serving God ? What sense, or use, or end is 
there in all these things ? 

Cri. We worship God, we praise and pray to Him : not 
because we think that He is proud of our worship, or fond 
of our praise or prayers, and affected with them as man- 
kind are ; or that all our service can contribute in the 
least degree to His happiness or good : but because it is 
good for us to be so disposed towards God : because it is 
just and right, and suitable to the nature of things, and 
becoming the relation we stand in to our supreme Lord 
and Governor. 

Ale. If it be good for us to worship God, it should seem 
that the Christian Religion, which pretends to teach men 

1 Is not the universe as perfectly greatest thing and person and 
adapted to the least as to the event? 



192 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



the knowledge and worship of God, was of some use and 
benefit to mankind. 

Cri. Doubtless. 

Ale. If this can be made appear, I shall own myself very 
much mistaken. 

Cri. It is now near dinner-time. Wherefore, if you 
please, we will put an end to this conversation for the 
present, and to-morrow morning resume our subject 1 . 



1 Perhaps the preceding Dia- 
logue insufficiently recognises the 
position of the inquirer who feels 
the difficulty of defining human in- 
telligence as intermediate between 
agnostic nescience and a fully 
comprehended God. God totally 
unknowable under the condi- 
tions of human knowledge cannot 
engage faith : God fully compre- 
hensible under human conditions 
is not God, and can be only a 
superhuman spirit. A visible God, 
whose existence is proved by the 
data of the senses, is not God : 
Omnipotent Goodness is neither 
presented to the senses, nor is it 
a logical conclusion from empirical 
data of sense. Is God not an in- 
evitable, tacit if not conscious, 
presupposition, involved in all in- 
ferences from sensuous or any 



other data ? For all real inferences 
rest upon the assumption that 
external nature and human nature 
— the universe, in short — is abso- 
lutely trustworthy, and cannot in 
the end put us to confusion, intel- 
lectually or morally. In other 
words, its fundamental divinity 
must be assumed as the foundation 
of all reasoning, and cannot other- 
wise be proved by reasoning. 

That we are living or having 
our being in Omnipotent Goodness 
is thus the fundamental Faith, 
latent in man, which becomes more 
conscious and explicit in the pro- 
vidential progress of the indivi- 
dual and the race. Christianity 
claims to be its deepest, and truest, 
and most powerful manifestation. 
Its claim is discussed in the three 
following Dialogues. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 1 

i. Minute philosophers join in the cry, and follow the scent, of others. 
2. Worship prescribed by the Christian religion suitable to God and 
man. 3. Power and influence of the Druids. 4. Excellency and 
usefulness of the Christian religion. 5. It ennobles mankind, and 
makes them happy. 6. Religion neither bigotry nor superstition. 
7. Physicians and physic for the soul. 8. Character of the clergy. 
9. Natural religion and human reason not to be disparaged. 10. Ten- 
dency and use of the Gentile religion. 11. Good effects of Christi- 
anity. 12. Englishmen compared with ancient Greeks and Romans. 
13. The modern practice of duelling. 14. Character of the old 
Romans, how to be formed. 15. Genuine fruits of the Gospel. 16. 
Wars and factions not an effect of the Christian religion. 17. Civil 
rage and massacres in Greece and Rome. 18. Virtue of the ancient 
Greeks. 19. Quarrels of polemical divines. 20. Tyranny, usurpa- 
tion, and sophistry of Ecclesiastics. 21. The universities censured. 
22. Divine writings of a certain modern critic. 23. Learning the 
effect of religion. 24. Barbarism of the schools. 25. Restoration of 
learning and polite arts, to whom owing. 26. Prejudice and ingrati- 
tude of minute philosophers. 27. Their pretensions and conduct 
inconsistent. 28. Men and brutes compared with respect to religion. 
29. Christianity the only means to establish natural religion. 30. 
Free-thinkers mistake their talents; have a strong imagination. 
31. Tithes and church-lands. 32. Men distinguished from human 
creatures. 33. Distribution of mankind into birds, beasts, and fishes. 
34. Plea for reason allowed, but unfairness taxed. 35. Freedom 
a blessing, or a curse, as it is used. 36. Priestcraft not the reigning 
evil. 

i. We amused ourselves next day every one to his fancy 
till nine of the clock, when word was brought that the 
tea-table was set in the library, which is a gallery on the 
ground-floor, with an arched door at one end opening into 
a walk of limes ; where, as soon as we had drunk tea, we 

1 The discussion here passes in Christ has made men good and 

from theism in general to theism happy, more than any of the many 

in its Christian form. The utility other forms of religious faith. This 

of Christianity and its institutions is the thesis of Euphranor in the 

is the subject of the Fifth Dia- following Dialogue. The argument 

logue. Faith in God as God appears for the unique superiority of Chris- 

BERKELEY: FRASEK. II. O 



t94 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

were tempted by fine weather to take a walk which led 
us to a small mount of easy ascent, on the top whereof 
we found a seat under a spreading tree. Here we had 
a prospect on one hand of a narrow bay or creek of the 
sea, enclosed on either side by a coast beautified with rocks 
and woods, and green banks and farm-houses. At the 
end of the bay was a small town, placed upon the slope 
of a hill, which, from the advantage of its situation, made 
a considerable figure. Several fishing-boats and lighters, 
gliding up and down on a surface as smooth and bright 
as glass, enlivened the prospect. On the other side, we 
looked down on green pastures, flocks, and herds basking 
beneath in sunshine, while we, in our superior situation, 
enjoyed the freshness of air and shade \ 

Here we felt that sort of joyful instinct which a rural 
scene and fine weather inspire; and proposed no small 
pleasure in resuming and continuing our conference with- 
out interruption till dinner. But we had hardly seated 
ourselves and looked about us when we saw a fox run by 
the foot of our mount into an adjacent thicket. A few 
minutes after, we heard a confused noise of the opening 
of hounds, and winding of horns, and the roaring of 
country squires. While our attention was suspended by 
this event, a servant came running, out of breath, and told 
Crito that his neighbour Ctesippus, a squire of note, was 
fallen from his horse, attempting to leap over a hedge, 
and brought into the hall, where he lay for dead. Upon 
which we all rose, and walked hastily to the house, where 
we found Ctesippus just come to himself, in the midst of 
half-a-dozen sun-burnt squires, in frocks, and short wigs, 
and jockey-boots. Being asked how he did, he answered 
it was only a broken rib. With some difficulty Crito per- 
suaded him to lie on a bed till the chirurgeon came. 
These fox-hunters, having been up early at their sport, 
were eager for dinner, which was accordingly hastened. 

tianity in its individual and social Dialogue. That the comparative 

influence may be compared with Science of Religions was unknown 

Tyndal's Christianity as Old as the in Berkeley's day is apparent in 

Creation, a Republication of the Re- the discussion. 

ligion of Nature (1730), a treatise ' This is a picture of the town 

which seems to have been in view of Newport in Rhode Island, and 

of Butler in his Analogy, as well as of Narragansett Bay as seen from 

of Berkeley in this and the following Honyman's Hill. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 195 

They passed the afternoon in a loud rustic mirth, gave 
proof of their religion and loyalty by the healths they 
drank, talked of hounds, and horses, and elections, and 
country fairs, till the chirurgeon, who had been employed 
about Ctesippus, desired he might be put into Crito's 
coach, and sent home, having refused to stay all night \ 

Our guests being gone, we reposed ourselves after the 
fatigue of this tumultuous visit, and next morning assembled 
again at the seat on the mount. 

Now Lysicles, being a nice man and a bel esprit, had an 
infinite contempt for the rough manners and conversation 
of fox-hunters, and could not reflect with patience that he 
had lost, as he called it, so many hours in their company. 
I flattered myself, said he, that there had been none of 
this species remaining among us : strange that men should 
be diverted with such uncouth noise and hurry, or find 
pleasure in the society of dogs and horses ! How much 
more elegant are the diversions of the town ! 

There seems, replied Euphranor, to be some resem- 
blance between fox-hunters and free-thinkers ; the former 
exerting their animal faculties in pursuit of game, as you 
gentlemen employ your intellectuals in the pursuit of truth. 
The kind of amusement is the same, although the object 
be different. 

Lys. I had rather be compared to any brute upon earth 
than a rational brute. 

Cri. You would then have been less displeased with my 
friend Pythocles, whom I have heard compare the common 
sort of minute philosophers not to the hunters but the 
hounds. For, said he, you shall often see among the dogs 
a loud babbler, with a bad nose, lead the unskilful part 
of the pack, who join all in his cry without following any 
scent of their own, any more than the herd of free-thinkers 
follow their own reason. 

2. But Pythocles was a blunt man, and must never have 
known such reasoners among them as you gentlemen, who 
can sit so long at an argument, dispute every inch of 

1 This spirited picture of a fox See my Life and Letters of Berkeley 
chase is characteristic of Rhode (1871), p. 159. 
Island when Berkeley lived there. 

O 2 



196 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

ground, and yet know when to make a reasonable con- 
cession. 

Lys. I do not know how it comes to pass, but methinks 
Alciphron makes concession for himself and me too. For 
my own part, I am not altogether of such a yielding temper; 
but yet I do not care to be singular neither. 

Cri. Truly, Alciphron, when I consider where we are 
got, and how far we are agreed, I conceive it probable we 
may agree altogether in the end. You have granted that 
a life of virtue is upon all accounts eligible, as most con- 
ducive both to the general and particular good of mankind ; 
and you allow that the beauty of virtue alone is not a 
sufficient motive with mankind to the practice of it. This 
led you to acknowledge that the belief of a God would 
be very useful in the world ; and that, consequently, you 
should be disposed to admit any reasonable proof of His 
being : which point hath been proved, and you have 
admitted the proof. 

If then we admit a Divinity, why not divine worship? 
And if worship, why not religion to teach this worship ? 
And if a religion, why not the Christian, if a better cannot 
be assigned, and it be already established by the laws of 
our country, and handed down to us from our forefathers ? 
Shall we believe a God, and not pray to Him for future 
benefits, nor thank Him for the past ? Neither trust in His 
protection, nor love His goodness, nor praise His wisdom, 
nor adore His power ? And if these things are to be done, 
can we do them in a way more suitable to the dignity of 
God or man that is prescribed by the Christian religion ? 

Ale. I am not, perhaps, altogether sure that religion 
must be absolutely bad for the public : but I cannot bear 
to see policy and religion walk hand in hand. I do not 
like to see human rights attached to the divine. I am 
for no pontifex maximus, such as in ancient or in modern 
Rome; no high-priest, as in Judea; no royal priests, as in 
Egypt and Sparta ; no such things as Dairos of Japan, or 
Lamas of Tartary '. 

3. I knew a late witty gentleman of our sect who was 
a great admirer of the ancient Druids 2 . He had a mortal 

1 This section is one of the 3 Probably Toland, whose Critical 

passages of which ' Sporus' com- History of the Celtic Religion (1725) 
plains, contains an account of the Druids. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE I97 

antipathy to the present established religion, but used to 
say he should like well to see the Druids and their religion 
restored, as it anciently flourished in Gaul and Britain ; 
for it would be right enough that there should be a number 
of contemplative men set apart to preserve a knowledge 
of arts and sciences, to educate youth, and teach men the 
immortality of the soul and the moral virtues. Such, said 
he, were the Druids of old, and I should be glad to see 
them once more established among us. 

Cri. How would you like, Alciphron, that priests should 
have power to decide all controversies, and adjudge pro- 
perty, distribute rewards and punishments ; that all who 
did not acquiesce in their decrees should be excommuni- 
cated, held in abhorrence, excluded from all honours and 
privileges, and deprived of the common benefit of the laws ; 
and that now and then a number of laymen should be 
crammed together in a wicker-idol, and burnt for an offer- 
ing to their pagan gods ? How should you like living 
under such priests and such a religion ? 

Ale. Not at all. Such a situation would by no means 
agree with free-thinkers. 

Cri. And yet such were the Druids and such their re- 
ligion, if we may trust Caesar's account of them 1 . 

Lys. I am now convinced more than ever there ought 
to be no such thing as an established religion of any kind. 
Certainly all the nations of the world have been hitherto 
out of their wits. Even the Athenians themselves, the 
wisest and freest people upon earth, had I know not what 
foolish attachment to their established church. They 
offered, it seems, a talent as a reward to whoever should 
kill Diagoras the Melian, a free-thinker of those times, 
who derided their mysteries : and Protagoras, another of 
the same turn, narrowly escaped being put to death, for 
having wrote something that seemed to contradict their 
received notions of the gods. Such was the treatment 
our generous sect met with at Athens. And I make no 
doubt that these Druids would have sacrificed many a 
holocaust of free-thinkers. 1 would not give a single 
farthing to exchange one religion for another. Away with 
all together, root and branch, or you had as good do 

1 [DeBello Gallko, Lib. VI. 16.]— Author. 



T98 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

nothing. No Druids or priests of any sort for me : I see 
no occasion for any of them. 

4. Euph. What Lysicles saith puts me in mind of the 
close of our last conference, wherein it was agreed in 
the following to resume the point we were then entered 
upon : — to wit, the use or benefit of the Christian religion, 
which Alciphron expected Crito should make appear. 

. Cri. I am the readier to undertake this point, because 
I conceive it to be no difficult one, and that one great mark 
of the truth of Christianity is, in my mind, its tendency to 
do good, which seems the north star to conduct our judg- 
ment in moral matters, and in all things of a practical 
nature; moral or practical truths being ever connected 
with universal benefit. But, to judge rightly of this matter, 
we should endeavour to act like Lysicles upon another 
occasion, taking into our view the sum of things, and con- 
sidering principles as branched forth into consequences to 
the utmost extent we are able. We are not so much to 
regard the humour, or caprice, or imaginary distresses 
of a few idle men, whose conceit may be offended though 
their conscience cannot be wounded ; but fairly to consider 
the true interest of individuals, as well as of human society. 
Now, the Christian religion, considered as a fountain of 
light, and joy, and peace ; as a source of faith, and hope, 
and charity (and that it is so will be evident to whoever 
takes his notion of it from the gospel), must needs be 
a principle of happiness and virtue. And he who sees not 
that the destroying the principles of good actions must 
destroy good actions sees nothing : and he who, seeing 
this, shall yet persist to do it, if he be not wicked, who is ? 

5. To me it seems the man can see neither deep nor far, 
who is not sensible of his own misery, sinfulness, and 
dependence; who doth not perceive that this present 
world is not designed or adapted to make rational souls 
happy ; who would not be glad of getting into a better 
state ; and who would not be overjoyed to find that the 
road leading thither was the love of God and man, the 
practising every virtue, the living reasonably while we are 
here upon earth, proportioning our esteem to the value 
of things, and so using this world as not to abuse it. For 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 199 

this is what Christianity requires. It neither enjoins the 
nastiness of the Cynic, nor the insensibility of the Stoic. 
Can there be a higher ambition than to overcome the 
world, or a wiser than to subdue ourselves, or a more 
comfortable doctrine than the remission of sins, or a more 
joyful prospect than that of having our base nature renewed 
and assimilated to the Deity, our being made fellow-citizens 
with angels, and sons of God? Did ever Pythagoreans, 
or Platonists, or Stoics, even in idea or in wish, propose 
to the mind of man purer means, or a nobler end? How 
great a share of our happiness depends upon hope ! How 
totally is this extinguished by the minute philosophy ! 
On the other hand, how is it cherished and raised by the 
gospel ! Let any man who thinks in earnest but consider 
these things, and then say which he thinks deserveth best 
of mankind — he who recommends, or he who runs down 
Christianity? Which he thinks likelier to lead a happy 
life, to be a hopeful son, an honest dealer, a worthy 
patriot — he who sincerely believes the gospel, or he who 
believes not one tittle of it ; he who aims at being a child 
of God, or he who is contented to be thought, and to be, 
one of Epicurus's hogs? And, in fact, do but scan the 
characters, and observe the behaviour of the common sort 
of men on both sides : observe, and say which live most 
agreeably to the dictates of reason ? How things should 
be, the reason is plain ; how they are, I appeal to fact. 

6. Ale. It is wonderful to observe how things change 
appearance, as they are viewed in different lights, or by 
different eyes. The picture, Crito, that I form of religion 
is very unlike yours, when I consider how it unmans the 
soul, filling it with absurd reveries, and slavish fears ; 
how it extinguishes the gentle passions, inspiring a spirit 
of malice, and rage, and persecution ; when I behold bitter 
resentments and unholy wrath in those very men who 
preach up meekness and charity to others. 

Cri. It is very possible that gentlemen of your sect may 
think religion a subject beneath their attention ; but yet 
it seems that whoever sets up for opposing any doctrine 
should know what it is he disputes against. Know, then, 
that religion is the virtuous mean between incredulity and 
superstition. We do not therefore contend for super- 



200 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

stitious follies, or for the rage of bigots. What we plead 
for is, religion against profaneness, law against confusion, 
virtue against vice, the hope of a Christian against the 
despondency of an atheist. I will not justify bitter resent- 
ments and unholy wrath in any man, much less in a 
Christian, and least of all in a clergyman. But, if sallies 
of human passion should sometimes appear even in the 
best, it will not surprise any one who reflects on the 
sarcasms and ill manners with which they are treated 
by the minute philosophers. For, as Cicero somewhere 
observes, Habet quendam aculeum contumelia, quern pati 
prudentes ac viri bom difficillime possunt. But, although 
you might sometimes observe particular persons, pro- 
fessing themselves Christians, run into faulty extremes of 
any kind, through passion and infirmity, while infidels 
of a more calm and dispassionate temper shall perhaps 
behave better — yet these natural tendencies on either side 
prove nothing, either in favour of infidel principles, or 
against Christian. If a believer doth evil, it is owing 
to the man, not to his belief. And if an infidel doth good, 
it is owing to the man, and not to his infidelity. 

7. Lys. To cut this matter short, I shall borrow an 
allusion to physic, which one of you made use of against 
our sect. It will not be denied that the clergy pass for 
physicians of the soul, and that religion is a sort of medicine 
which they deal in and administer. If then souls in great 
numbers are diseased and lost, how can we think the 
physician skilful, or his physic good? It is a common 
complaint that vice increases, and men grow daily more • 
and more wicked. If a shepherd's flock be diseased 
or unsound, who is to blame but the shepherd ; for 
neglecting, or not knowing how to cure them ? A fig 
therefore for such shepherds, such physic, and such 
physicians, who, like other mountebanks, with great gravity, 
and elaborate harangues, put off their pills to the people, 
who are never the better for them. 

Euph. Nothing seems more reasonable than this remark, 
that men should judge of a physician and his physic by 
its effect on the sick. But pray, Lysicles, would you 
judge of a physician by those sick who take his physic, 
and follow his prescriptions, or by those who do not ? 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 201 

Lys. Doubtless by those who do. 

Euph. What shall we say then, if great numbers refuse 
to take the physic, or instead of it take poison of a direct 
contrary nature, prescribed by others, who make it their 
business to discredit the physician and his medicines, to 
hinder men from using them, and to destroy their effect 
by drugs of their own ? Shall the physician be blamed 
for the miscarriage of those people ? 

Lys. By no means. 

Euph. By a parity of reason, should it not follow that 
the tendency of religious doctrines ought to be judged 
of by the effects which they produce, not upon all who 
hear them, but upon those only who receive or believe 
them? 

Lys. It seems so. 

Euph. Therefore, to proceed fairly, shall we not judge 
of the effects of religion by the religious, or faith by 
believers, of Christianity by Christians. 

8. Lys. But I doubt these sincere believers are very few. 

Euph. But will it not suffice to justify our principles, 
if, in proportion to the numbers which receive them, and 
the degree of faith with which they are received, they 
produce good effects ? Perhaps the number of believers 
are not so few as you imagine ; and if they were, whose 
fault is that so much as of those who make it their professed 
endeavour to lessen that number? And who are those 
but the minute philosophers ? 

Lys. I tell you it is owing to the clergy themselves, 
to the wickedness and corruption of clergymen. 

Euph. And who denies but there may be minute philo- 
sophers even among the clergy ? 

Cri. In so numerous a body it is to be presumed there 
are men of all sorts. But, notwithstanding the cruel 
reproaches cast upon that order by their enemies, an 
equal observer of men and things will, if I mistake not, 
be inclined to think those reproaches owing as much to 
other faults as those of the clergy; especially if he con- 
siders the declamatory manner of those who censure them. 

Euph. My knowledge of the world is too narrow for 
me to pretend to judge of the virtue, and merit, and liberal 
attainments of men in the several professions. Besides, 



202 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

I should not care for the odious work of comparison. 
But I may venture to say the clergy of this country 
where I live are by no means a disgrace to it ; on the con- 
trary, the people seem much the better for their exam- 
ple and doctrine. But supposing the clergy to be (what 
all men certainly are) sinners and faulty; supposing you 
might spy out here and there among , them even great 
crimes and vices, what can you conclude against the pro- 
fession itself from its unworthy professors, any more 
than from the pride, pedantry, and bad lives of some 
philosophers against philosophy, or of lawyers against 
law? 

['9. Cri. It is certainly right to judge of principles from 
their effects ; but then we must know them to be effects 
of those principles. It is the very method I have observed 
with respect to religion and the minute philosophy. And 
I can honestly aver that I never knew any man or family 
grow worse in proportion as they grew religious : but 
I have often observed that minute philosophy is the worst 
thing that can get into a family, the readiest way to im- 
poverish, divide, and disgrace it.] 

Ale. By the same method of tracing causes from their 
effects, I have made it my observation that the love of 
truth, virtue, and the happiness of mankind are specious 
pretexts, but not the inward principles that set divines 
at work : else why should they affect to abuse human 
reason, to disparage natural religion, to traduce the philo- 
sophers, as they universally do? 

Cri. Not so universally perhaps as you imagine. A 
Christian, indeed, is for confining reason within its due 
bounds ; and so is every reasonable man. If we are 
forbid meddling with unprofitable questions, vain philo- 
sophy, and science falsely so called, it cannot be thence 
inferred that all inquiries into profitable questions, useful 
philosophy, and true science are unlawful. A minute 
philosopher may indeed impute, and perhaps a weak 
brother may imagine, those inferences, but men of sense 
will never make them. God is the common father of 
lights; and all knowledge really such, whether natural 

1 In the first and second editions these three sentences form the con- 
clusion of Euphranor's speech. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 203 

or revealed, is derived from the same source of light 
and truth. To amass together authorities upon so plain 
a point would be needless. It must be owned some men's 
attributing too much to human reason hath, as is natural, 
made others attribute too little to it. But thus much is 
generally acknowledged— that there is a natural religion, 
which may be discovered and proved by the light of 
reason, to those who are capable of such proofs. But 
it must be withal acknowledged that precepts and oracles 
from heaven are incomparably better suited to popular 
improvement and the good of society than the reasonings 
of philosophers; and, accordingly, we do not find that 
natural or rational religion, as such, ever became the 
popular national religion of any country 1 . 

10. Ale. It cannot be denied that in all heathen countries 
there have been received, under the colour of religion, 
a world of fables and superstitious rites. But I question 
whether they were so absurd and of so bad influence 
as is vulgarly represented, since their respective legis- 
lators and magistrates must, without doubt, have thought 
them useful. 

Cri. It were needless to inquire into all the rites and 
notions of the Gentile world. This hath been largely 
done when it was thought necessary. And whoever thinks 
it worth while may be easily satisfied about them. But 
as to the tendency and usefulness of the heathen religion 
in general, I beg leave to mention a remark of St. Augus- 
tine's 2 , who observes that the heathens in their religion 
had no assemblies for preaching, wherein the people were 
to be instructed what duties or virtues the gods required, 

1 How does he intend to dis- philosopher may shew the rational 

tinguish ' revealed ' from ' natural ' inevitableness of the presupposi- 

knowledge of God, seeing that in tion. Consistently with this, divine 

the preceding Dialogue he has re- revelation presented in Christ may 

presented God as revealing Himself awaken latent (so called) natural 

to us — speaking to us — in the in- religion in degrees and ways other- 

telligible signs that are presented wise unattainable, making theistic 

to our eyes? ' Natural or rational faith more obviously reasonableand 

religion' does not originate in 'the spiritually satisfying than it could 

reasonings of philosophers,' if it is be otherwise. 

tacitly presupposed in all reasonings 2 [De Civifale Dei. Lib. II.] — 

about what is real, although the Author. 



204 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

no place or means to be taught what Persius 1 exhorts 
them to learn : — 

Disciteque 6 miseri, et causas cognoscite rerum, 
Quid sumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur. 

Ale. This is the true spirit of the party, never to allow 
a grain of use or goodness to anything out of their own 
pale ; but we have had learned men who have done justice 
to the religion of the Gentiles. 

Cri. We do not deny that there was something useful 
in the old religions of Rome and Greece, and some other 
pagan countries. On the contrary, we freely own they 
produced some good effects on the people. But then these 
good effects were owing to the truths contained in those 
false religions : the truer therefore the more useful. I 
believe you will find it a hard matter to produce any 
useful truth, any moral precept, any salutary principle 
or notion, in any Gentile system, either of religion or 
philosophy, which is not comprehended in the Christian, 
and either enforced by stronger motives, or supported 
by better authority, or carried to a higher point of per- 
fection. 

ii. Ale. Consequently you would have us think our- 
selves a finer people than the ancient Greeks or Romans. 

Cri. If by finer you mean better, perhaps we are ; and 
if we are not, it is not owing to the Christian religion, 
but to the want of it. 

Ale. You say ' perhaps we are.' I do not pique myself 
on my reading : but should be very ignorant to be capable 
of being imposed on in so plain a point. What ! compare 
Cicero or Brutus to an English patriot, or Seneca to 
one of our parsons ! Then that invincible constancy and 
vigour of mind, that disinterested and noble virtue, that 
adorable public spirit you so much admire, are things 
in them so well known, and so different from our manners, 
that I know not how to excuse your perhaps. Euphranor, 
indeed, who passeth his life in this obscure corner, may 
possibly mistake the characters of our times, but you 
who know the world, how could you be guilty of such 
a mistake ? 

Cri. O Alciphron, I would by no means detract from 
1 [Sat. III.]— Author. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 205 

the noble virtue of ancient heroes. But I observe those 
great men were not the minute philosophers of their times ; 
that the best principles upon which they acted are common 
to them with Christians, of whom it would be no difficult 
matter to assign, if not in our own times, yet within the 
compass of our own history, many instances in every kind 
of worth and virtue, public or private, equal to the most 
celebrated of the ancients. Though perhaps their story 
might not have been so well told, set off with such fine 
lights and colourings of style, or so vulgarly known and 
considered by every schoolboy. But though it should be 
granted that here and there a Greek or Roman genius, 
bred up under strict laws and severe discipline, animated 
to public virtue by statues, crowns, triumphal arches, and 
such rewards and monuments of great actions, might 
attain to a character and fame beyond other men : yet 
this will prove only that they had more spirit, and lived 
under a civil polity more wisely ordered in certain points 
than ours ; which advantages of nature and civil institution 
will be no argument for their religion, or against ours. 
On the contrary, it seems an invincible proof of the power 
and excellency of the Christian religion that, without the 
help of those civil institutions and incentives to glory, 
it should be able to inspire a phlegmatic people with the 
noblest sentiments, and soften the rugged manners of 
northern boors into gentleness and humanity ; and that 
these good qualities should become national, and rise 
and fall in proportion to the purity of our religion, as 
it approaches to, or recedes from, the plan laid down 
in the gospel. 

12. To make a right judgment of the effects of the 
Christian religion, let us take a survey of the prevailing 
notions and manners of this very country where we live, 
and compare them with those of our heathen predecessors. 

Ale. I have heard much of the glorious light of the 
gospel, and should be glad to see some effects of it in 
my own dear country, which, by the bye, is one of the 
most corrupt and profligate upon earth, notwithstanding 
the boasted purity of our religion. But it would look 
mean and diffident to affect a comparison with the bar- 
barous heathen from whence we drew our original. If 



2o6 ALC1PHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

you would do honour to your religion, dare to make it 
with the most renowned heathens of antiquity. 

Cri. It is a common prejudice to despise the present, 
and overrate remote times and things. Something of 
this seems to enter into the judgments men make of the 
Greeks and Romans. For, though it must be allowed 
those nations produced some noble spirits, and great 
patterns of virtue, yet, upon the whole, it seems to me, 
they were much inferior, in point of real virtue and good 
morals, even to this corrupt and profligate nation, as you 
are now pleased to call it in dishonour to our religion ; 
however you may think fit to characterize it when you 
would do honour to the minute philosophy. This, I think, 
will be plain to any one who shall turn off his eyes from 
a few shining characters, to view the general manners 
and customs of those people. Their insolent treatment of 
captives, even of the highest rank and softer sex, their 
unnatural exposing of their own children, their bloody 
gladiatorian spectacles, compared with the common notions 
of Englishmen, are to me a plain proof that our minds 
are much softened by Christianity. Could anything be 
more unjust than the condemning a young lady to the 
most infamous punishment and death for the guilt of her 
father, or a whole family of slaves, perhaps some hundreds, 
for a crime committed by one ? Or more abominable 
than their bacchanals and unbridled lusts of every kind ? 
which, notwithstanding all that has been done by minute 
philosophers to debauch the nation, and their successful 
attempts on some parts of it, have not yet been matched 
among us, at least not in every circumstance of impudence 
and effrontery. While the Romans were poor they were 
temperate ; but, as they grew rich, they became luxurious 
to a degree that is hardly believed or conceived by us. 
It cannot be denied the old Roman spirit was a great 
one. But it is as certain there have been numberless 
examples of the most resolute and clear courage in Britons, 
and in general from a religious cause. Upon the whole, 
it seems an instance of the greatest blindness and in- 
gratitude that we do not see and own the exceeding great 
benefits of Christianity, which, to omit higher considera- 
tions, hath so visibly softened, polished, and embellished 
our manners. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 207 

Ale. O Crito ! we are alarmed at cruelty in a foreign 
shape, but overlook it in a familiar one. Else how is it 
possible that you should not see the inhumanity of that 
barbarous custom of duelling, a thing avowed, and toler- 
ated, and even reputable among us ? Or that, seeing this, 
you suppose our Englishmen of a more gentle disposi- 
tion than the old Romans, who were altogether strangers 
to it? 

Cri. I will by no means make an apology for every Goth 
that walks the streets, with a determined purpose to murder 
any man who shall but spit in his face, or give him the lie. 
Nor do I think the Christian religion is in the least 
answerable for a practice so directly opposite to its pre- 
cepts, and which obtains only among the idle part of the 
nation, your men of fashion ; who, instead of law, reason, 
or religion, are governed by fashion. Be pleased to con- 
sider that what may be, and truly is, a most scandalous 
reproach to a Christian country, may be none at all to the 
Christian religion : for the Pagan encouraged men in 
several vices, but the Christian in none. 

Ale. Give me leave to observe that what you now say is 
foreign to the purpose. For, the question, at present, is 
not concerning the respective tendencies of the Pagan and 
the Christian religions, but concerning our manners, as 
actually compared with those of ancient heathens, who, 
I aver, had no such barbarous custom as duelling. 

Cri. And I aver that, bad as this is, they had a worse : 
and that was poisoning. By which we have reason to 
think there were many more lives destroyed than by this 
Gothic crime of duelling : inasmuch as it extended to all 
ages, sexes, and characters, and as its effects were more 
secret and unavoidable ; and as it had more temptations, 
interest as well as passion, to recommend it to wicked men. 
And for the fact, not to waste time, I refer you to the 
Roman authors themselves. 

Lys. It is very true. Duelling is not so general a 
nuisance as poisoning, nor of so base a nature. This 
crime, if it be a crime, is in a fair way to keep its ground 
in spite of the law and the gospel. The clergy never 
preach against it, because themselves never suffer by it : 
and the man of honour must not appear against the means 
of vindicating honour. 



208 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Cri. Though it be remarked by some of your sect, that 
the clergy are not used to preach against duelling, yet 
I neither think the remark itself just, nor the reason 
assigned for it. In effect, one half of their sermons, all 
that is said of charity, brotherly love, forbearance, meek- 
ness, and forgiving injuries, is directly against this wicked 
custom ; by which the clergy themselves are so far from 
never suffering, that perhaps they will be found, all things 
considered, to suffer oftener than other men. 

Lys. How do you make this appear ? 

Cri. An observer of mankind may remark two kinds of 
bully, the fighting and the tame, both public nuisances ; 
the former (who is the more dangerous animal, but by 
much the less common of the two) employs himself wholly 
and solely against the laity, while the tame species exert 
their talents upon the clergy. The qualities constituent of 
this tame bully are natural rudeness joined with a delicate 
sense of danger. For, you must know, the force of inbred 
insolence and ill manners is not diminished, though it 
acquire a new determination, from the fashionable custom 
of calling men to account for their behaviour. Hence you 
may often see one of these tame bullies ready to burst 
with pride and ill-humour, which he dares not vent, till 
a parson has come in the way to his relief. And the man 
of raillery, who would as soon bite off his tongue as break 
a jest on the profession of arms in the presence of a military 
man, shall instantly brighten up, and assume a familiar air 
with religion and the church before ecclesiastics. Dorcon, 
who passeth for a poltroon and stupid in all other com- 
pany, and really is so, when he is got among clergymen 
affects a quite opposite character. And many Dorcons 
there are, who owe their wit and courage to this passive 
order. 

14. Ale. But to return to the point in hand, can you 
deny the old Romans were as famous for justice and in- 
tegrity as men in these days for the contrary qualities ? 

Cri. The character of the Romans is not to be taken 
from the sentiments of Tully, or Cato's actions, or a 
shining passage here and there in their history, but from 
the prevailing tenor of their lives and notions. Now, if 
they and our modern Britons were weighed in this same 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 209 

equal balance, you will, if I mistake not, appear to have 
been prejudiced in favour of the old Romans against your 
own country— probably because it professeth Christianity. 
Whatever instances of" fraud or injustice may be seen in 
Christians carry their own censure with them, in the care 
that is taken to conceal them, and the shame that attends 
their discovery. There is, even at this day, a sort of 
modesty in all our public councils and deliberations. And 
I believe the boldest of our minute philosophers would 
hardly undertake, in a popular assembly, to propose any- 
thing parallel to the rape of the Sabines, the most unjust 
usage of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, or the ungrateful 
treatment of Camillus ; which, as a learned father observes, 
were instances of iniquity agreed to by the public body of 
the Romans. And if Rome in her early days were capable 
of such flagrant injustice, it is most certain she did not 
mend her manners as she grew great in wealth and empire, 
having produced monsters in every kind of wickedness, as 
far exceeding other men as they surpassed them in power. 
I freely acknowledge the Christian religion hath not had 
the same influence upon the nation that it would in case it 
had been always professed in its purity, and cordially be- 
lieved by all men. But I will venture to say that if you 
take the Roman history from one end to the other, and 
impartially compare it with your own, you will neither find 
them so good, nor your countrymen so bad, as you imagine. 
On the contrary, an indifferent eye may, I verily think, 
perceive a vein of charity and justice, the effect of Christian 
principles, run through the latter; which, though not 
equally discernible in all parts, yet discloseth itself suffi- 
ciently to make a wide difference upon the whole, in spite 
of the general appetites and passions of human nature, as 
well as of the particular hardness and roughness of the 
block out of which we were hewn. And it is observable 
(what the Roman authors themselves do often suggest) that 
even their virtues and magnanimous actions rose and fell 
with a sense of Providence and a future state, and a philo- 
sophy the nearest to the Christian religion. 

15. Crito having spoke thus paused. 
But Alciphron, addressing himself to Euphranor and 
me, said— It is natural for men, according to their several 

BERKELEY: FRASER. II. P 



2IO ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

educations and prejudices, to form contrary judgments upon 
the same things, which they view in very different lights. 
Crito, for instance, imagines that none but salutary effects 
proceed from religion : on the other hand, if you appeal to 
the general experience and observation of other men, you 
shall find it grown into a proverb that religion is the root 
of evil : — 

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. 

And this not only among Epicureans or other ancient 
heathens, but among moderns speaking of the Christian 
religion. Now, methinks it is unreasonable to oppose 
against the general concurring opinion of the world, the 
observation of a particular person, or particular set of zea- 
lots, whose prejudice sticks close to them, and ever mixeth 
with their judgment ; and who read, collect, and observe 
with an eye, not to discover the truth, but to defend their 
prejudice. 

Cri. Though I cannot think with Alciphron, yet I must 
own I admire his address and dexterity in argument. 
Popular and general opinion is by him represented, on 
certain occasions, to be a sure mark of error. But when it 
serves his ends that it should seem otherwise, he can as 
easily make it a character of truth. But it will by no means 
follow that a profane proverb, used by the friends and 
admired authors of a minute philosopher, must therefore 
be a received opinion, much less a truth grounded on the 
experience and observation of mankind. Sadness may 
spring from guilt or superstition, and rage from bigotry ; 
but darkness might as well be supposed the natural effect 
of sunshine, as sullen and furious passions to proceed from 
the glad tidings and divine precepts of the gospel. What 
is the sum and substance, scope and end of Christ's reli- 
gion, but the love of God and man ? To which all other 
points and duties are relative and subordinate, as parts or 
means, as signs, principles, motives, or effects. Now, 
I would fain know how it is possible for evil or wickedness 
of any kind to spring from such a source ? I will not pre- 
tend there are no evil qualities in Christians, nor good in 
minute philosophers. But this I affirm, that, whatever evil 
is in us, our principles certainly lead to good ; and, whatever 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 211 

good there may be in you, it is most certain your prin- 
ciples lead to evil \ 

16. Ale. It must be owned there is a fair outside, and 
many plausible things may be said for the Christian reli- 
gion taken simply as it lies in the gospel. But it is the 
observation of one of our great writers 2 , that the first 
Christian preachers very cunningly began with the fairest 
face and the best moral doctrines in the world. It was all 
love, charity, meekness, patience, and so forth. But when 
by this means they had drawn over the world and got 
power, they soon changed their appearance, and shewed 
cruelty, ambition, avarice, and every bad quality. 

Cri. That is to say, some men very cunningly preached 
and underwent a world of hardships, and laid down their 
lives to propagate the best principles and the best morals, 
to the end that others some centuries after might reap the 
benefit of bad ones. Whoever may be cunning, there is 
not much cunning in the maker of this observation. 

Ale. And yet ever since this religion hath appeared in 
the world we have had eternal feuds, factions, massacres, 
and wars, the very reverse of that hymn with which it is 
introduced in the gospel : — ' Glory be to God on high, on 
earth peace, good-will towards men.' 

Cri. This I will not deny. I will even own that the 
Gospel and the Christian religion have been often the pre- 
texts for these evils ; but it will not thence follow they were 
the cause. On the contrary, it is plain they could not be 
the real proper cause of these evils ; because a rebellious, 
proud, revengeful, quarrelsome spirit is directly opposite 
to the whole tenor and most express precepts of Chris- 
tianity: a point so clear that I shall not prove it. And, 
secondly, because all those evils you mention were as fre- 
quent, nay, much more frequent, before the Christian 
religion was known in the world. They are the common 
product of the passions and vices of mankind, which are 
sometimes covered with the mask of religion by wicked 
men, having the form of godliness without the power of it. 
This truth seems so plain that I am surprised how any 

1 Cf. sect. 6, 20. 

2 See Shaftesbury's Characteristics vol. III. pp. 114, 115. 

P 2 



212 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

man of sense, knowledge, and candour can make a doubt 
of it. 

17. Take but a view of heathen Rome: what a scene is 
there of faction, and fury, and civil rage ! Let any man 
consider the perpetual feuds between the patricians and 
plebeians, the bloody and inhuman factions of Marius and 
Sylla, Cinna and Octavius, and the vast havoc of mankind, 
during the two famous triumvirates. To be short, let any 
man of common candour and common sense but cast an 
eye from one end to the other of the Roman story, and 
behold that long scene of seditions, murders, massacres, 
proscriptions, and desolations of every kind, enhanced by 
every cruel circumstance of rage, rapine, and revenge ; 
and then say, whether those evils were introduced into the 
world with the Christian religion, or whether they are not 
less frequent now than before ? 

Ale. The ancient Romans, it must be owned, had a high 
and fierce spirit, which produced eager contentions and 
very bloody catastrophes. The Greeks, on the other hand, 
were a polite and gentle sort of men, softened by arts and 
philosophy. It is impossible to think of the little states 
and cities of Greece without wishing to have lived in those 
times, without admiring their policy, and envying their 
happiness. 

Cri. Men are apt to consider the dark sides of what they 
possess, and the bright ones of things out of their reach. 
A fine climate, elegant taste, polite amusements, love of 
liberty, and a most ingenious inventive spirit for arts and 
sciences were indisputable prerogatives of ancient Greece. 
But, as for peace and quietness, gentleness and humanity, 
I think we have plainly the advantage : for those envied 
cities composed of gentle Greeks were not without their 
factions, which persecuted each other with such treachery, 
rage, and malice that in respect of them our factious folk 
are mere lambs. To be convinced of this truth, you need 
only look into Thucydides 1 , where you will find those 
cities in general involved in such bitter factions as for 
fellow-citizens without the formalities of war to murder 
one another, even in their senate-houses and their temples ; 

1 [Thucyd. Lib. III.]— Author. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 213 

no regard being had to merit, rank, obligation, or nearness 
of blood. And if human nature boiled up to so vehement 
a pitch in the politest people, what wonder that savage 
nations should scalp, roast, torture, and destroy each other, 
as they are known to do? It is therefore plain that 
without religion there would not be wanting pretexts for 
quarrels and debates; all which can very easily be ac- 
counted for by the natural infirmities and corruption of 
men. It would not perhaps be so easy to account for the 
blindness of those who impute the most hellish effects to 
the most Divine principle, if they could be supposed in 
earnest and to have considered the point. One may daily 
see ignorant and prejudiced men make the most absurd 
blunders. But that free-thinkers, divers to the bottom of 
things, fair inquirers, and openers of eyes, should be capable 
of such a gross mistake is what one would not expect. 

18. Ale. The rest of mankind we could more easily 
give up : but as for the Greeks, men of the most refined 
genius express a high esteem of them ; not only on ac- 
count of those qualities which you think fit to allow them, 
but also for their virtues. 

Cri. I shall not take upon me to say how far some men 
may be prejudiced against their country, or whether others 
may not be prejudiced in favour of it. But, upon the 
fullest and most equal observation that I am able to make, 
it is my opinion that, if by virtue is meant truth, justice, 
gratitude, there is incomparably more virtue now at this 
day in England than at any time could be found in ancient 
Greece. Thus much will be allowed— that we know few 
countries, if any, where men of eminent worth, and famous 
for deserving well of the public, met with harder fate, 
and were more ungratefully treated than in the most polite 
and learned of the Grecian states 1 . Though Socrates, 
it must be owned, would not allow that those statesmen, 
by adorning the city, augmenting the fleet, or extending 
the commerce of Athens, deserved well of their country ; 
or could with justice complain of the ungrateful returns 
made by their fellow-citizens, whom, while they were in 
power, they had taken no care to make better men, by 

1 Cicero, De Rcpub. I. 3. 



214 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

improving and cultivating their minds with the principles 
of virtue, which if they had done, they needed not to have 
feared their ingratitude. If I were to declare my opinion, 
what gave the chief advantage to Greeks and Romans 
and other nations which have made the greatest figure 
in the world, I should be apt to think it was a peculiar 
reverence for their respective laws and institutions, which 
inspired them with steadiness and courage, and that 
hearty generous love of their country : by which they did 
not merely understand a certain language or tribe of men, 
much less a particular spot of earth, but included a certain 
system of manners, customs, notions, rites, and laws, civil 
and religious. 

Ale. Oh ! I perceive your drift : you would have us 
reverence the laws and religious institutions of our country. 
But herein we beg to be excused, if we do not think fit 
to imitate the Greeks, or to be governed by any authority 
whatsoever. 

P Cri. So far from it. If Mahometanism were estab- 
lished by authority, I make no doubt those very free- 
thinkers, who at present applaud Turkish maxims and 
manners to that degree you would think them ready to 
turn Turks, would then be the first to exclaim against them.] 

Ale. But to return : as for wars and factions, I grant 
they ever were, and ever will be in the world, upon some 
pretext or other, as long as men are men. 

19. But there is a sort of war and warriors peculiar to 
Christendom which the heathens had no notion of: I 
mean disputes in theology, and polemical divines, which 
the world hath been wonderfully pestered with : these 
teachers of peace, meekness, concord, and what not ! if 
you take their word for it : but, if you cast an eye upon 
their practice, you find them to have been in all ages 
the most contentious, quarrelsome, disagreeing crew, that 
ever appeared upon earth. To observe the skill and 
sophistry, the zeal and eagerness, with which those bar- 
barians, the school-divines, split hairs and contest about 
chimeras, gives me more indignation, as being more absurd 
and a greater scandal to human reason, than all the am- 
bitious intrigues, cabals, and politics of the court of Rome. 

1 This of Crilo was introduced in the second edition. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 215 

Cri. If divines are quarrelsome, that is not so far forth 
as divine, but as undivine and unchristian. Justice is a 
good thing ; and the art of healing is excellent ; never- 
theless, in the administering of justice or physic, men 
may be wronged or poisoned. But as wrong cannot be 
justice, or the effect of justice, so poison cannot be medicine, 
or the effect of medicine ; so neither can pride or strife 
be religion, or the effect of religion. Having premised 
this, I acknowledge you may often see hot-headed bigots 
engage themselves in religious as well as civil parties, 
without being of credit or service to either. And as for 
the Schoolmen in particular, I do not in the least think 
the Christian religion concerned in the defence of them, 
their tenets, or their method of handling them : but, what- 
ever futility there may be in their notions, or inelegancy in 
their language, in pure justice to truth one must own — they 
neither banter nor rail nor declaim in their writings, and 
are so far from shewing fury or passion that perhaps an 
impartial judge will think the minute philosophers are by 
no means to be compared with them, for keeping close to 
the point, or for temper and good manners. But, after all, 
if men are puzzled, wrangle, talk nonsense, and quarrel 
about religion, so they do about law, physic, politics, and 
everything else of moment. I ask whether, in these pro- 
fessions, or in any other where men have refined and 
abstracted, they do not run into disputes, chicane, non- 
sense, and contradictions, as well as in divinity? And 
yet this doth not hinder but there may be many excellent 
rules, and just notions, and useful truths, in all those 
professions. In all disputes human passions too often 
mix themselves, in proportion as the subject is conceived 
to be more or less important. But we ought not to con- 
found the cause of man with the cause of God, or make 
human follies an objection to Divine truths. It is easy 
to distinguish what looks like wisdom from above, and 
what proceeds from the passion and weakness of men. 
This is so clear a point, that one would be tempted to 
think the not doing it was an effect, not of ignorance, but 
of something worse. 

20. The conduct we object to minute philosophers is 
a natural consequence of their principles. Whatsoever 



2l6 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

they can reproach us with is an effect, not of our prin- 
ciples, but of" human passion and frailty K 

Ale. This is admirable. So we must no longer object 
to Christians the absurd contentions of Councils, the 
cruelty of Inquisitions, the ambition and usurpation of 
churchmen 2 . 

Cri. You may object them to Christians, but not to 
Christianity. If the Divine Author of our religion and 
His disciples have sowed a good seed ; and, together with 
this good seed, the enemies of His gospel (among whom 
are to be reckoned the minute philosophers of all ages) 
have sowed bad seeds, whence spring tares and thistles ; 
is it not evident, these bad weeds cannot be imputed to 
the good seed, or to those who sowed it ? Whatever you 
do or can object against ecclesiastical tyranny, usurpation, 
or sophistry, may, without any blemish or disadvantage 
to religion, be acknowledged by all true Christians ; pro- 
vided still that you impute those wicked effects to their 
true cause, not blaming any principles or persons for them 
but those that really produce or justify them. Certainly, 
as the interests of Christianity are not to be supported 
by unchristian methods, whenever these are made use of, 
it must be supposed there is some other latent principle 
which sets them at work. If the very court of Rome hath 
been known, from motives of policy, to oppose settling 
the Inquisition in a kingdom where the secular power 
hath endeavoured to introduce it in spite of that court 3 ; 
we may well suppose that, elsewhere, factions of state and 
political views of princes have given birth to transactions 
seemingly religious, wherein at bottom neither religion, 
nor church, nor churchmen, were at all considered. As 
no man of common sense and honesty will engage in 
a general defence of ecclesiastics, so I think no man of 
common candour can condemn them in general. Would 
you think it reasonable to blame all statesmen, lawyers, 
or soldiers for the faults committed by those of their 
profession ; though in other times, or in other countries, 
and influenced by other maxims and other discipline? 
And if not, why do you measure with one rule to the 
clergy, and another to the laity ? Surely the best reason 

1 Cf. sect. 6, 15. 3 [P. Paolo, Istoria delV Inquisi- 

2 C£ Dial. I. sect. 3. Hone, p. 42.] — Author. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 21 7 

that can be given for this is prejudice. Should any man 
rake together all the mischiefs that have been committed 
in all ages and nations by soldiers and lawyers, you 
would, I suppose, conclude from thence, not that the state 
should be deprived of those useful professions, but only 
that their exorbitances should be guarded against and 
punished. If you took the same equitable course with the 
clergy, there would indeed be less to be said against you ; 
but then you would have much less to say. This plain 
obvious consideration, if every one who read considered, 
would lessen the credit of your declaimers. 

Ale. But when all is said that can be said, it must move 
a man's indignation to see reasonable creatures, under the 
notion of study and learning, employed in reading and 
writing so many voluminous tracts de land caprind. 

Cri. I shall not undertake the vindication of theological 
writings, a general defence being as needless as a general 
charge is groundless. Only let them speak for them- 
selves ; and let no man condemn them upon the word of a 
minute philosopher. But we will imagine the very worst, 
and suppose a wrangling pedant in divinity disputes, and 
ruminates, and writes upon a refined point, as useless and 
unintelligible as you please. Suppose this same person 
bred a layman, might he not have employed himself in 
tricking bargains, vexatious law-suits, factions, seditions, 
and such like amusements, with much more prejudice to 
the public ? Suffer then curious wits to spin cobwebs : 
where is the hurt? 

Ale. The mischief is, what men want in light they com- 
monly make up in heat : zeal and ill-nature, being weapons 
constantly exerted by the partisans, as well as champions, 
on either side; and those perhaps not mean pedants or 
book-worms. You shall often see even the learned and 
eminent divine lay himself out in explaining things inex- 
plicable, or contend for a barren point of theory, as if his 
life, liberty, or fortune were at stake. 

Cri. No doubt all points in divinity are not of equal 
moment. Some may be too finely spun, and others have 
more stress laid on them than they deserve. Be the 
subject what it will, you shall often observe that a point, 
by being controverted, singled out, examined, and nearly 
inspected, groweth considerable to the same eye that, 



2l8 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

perhaps, would have overlooked it in a large and com- 
prehensive view. Nor is it an uncommon thing to behold 
ignorance and zeal united in men who are born with a 
spirit of party, though the church or religion have in truth 
but- small share in it. Nothing is easier than to make 
a caricatura (as the painters call it) of any profession upon 
earth : but, at bottom, there will be found nothing so 
strange in all this charge upon the clergy, as the partiality 
of those who censure them, in supposing the common 
defects of mankind peculiar to their order, or the effect 
of religious principles. 

Ale. Other folks may dispute or squabble as they please, 
and nobody mind them ; but, it seems, these venerable 
squabbles of the clergy pass for learning, and interest 
mankind. To use the words of the most ingenious 
Characterizer of our times :— 'A ring is made, and readers 
gather in abundance. Every one takes party and encourages 
his own side. " This shall be my champion ! — This man 
for my money ! — Well hit, on our side ! — Again, a good 
stroke ! — There he was even with him ! — Have at him the 
next bout !— Excellent sport ' ! " ' 

Cri. Methinks I trace the man of quality and breeding 
in this delicate satire, which so politely ridicules those 
arguments, answers, defences, and replications which the 
press groans under. 

Ale. To the infinite waste of time and paper, and all 
the while nobody is one whit the wiser. And who indeed 
can be the wiser for reading books upon subjects quite 
out of the way, incomprehensible, and most wretchedly 
written ? What man of sense or breeding would not 
abhor the infection of prolix pulpit eloquence ; or of that 
dry, formal, pedantic, stiff, and clumsy style, which smells 
of the lamp and the college ? 

21. They who have the weakness to reverence the 
universities as seats of learning must needs think this 
a strange reproach ; but it is a very just one. For the 
most ingenious men are now agreed, that they are only 
the nurseries of prejudice, corruption, barbarism, and 
pedantry 2 . 

1 [Characteristics, vol. III. c. 2, 2 Shaftesbury, Characteristics, 

p. 9.] — Author. vol. III. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 219 

Lys. For my part, I find no fault with universities. All 
I know is that I had the spending of three hundred pounds 
a year in one of them, and think it the cheerfullest time 
of my life. As for their books and style, I had not leisure 
to mind them. 

Cri. Whoever hath a mind to weed will never want 
work; and he that shall pick out bad books on every 
subject will soon fill his library. I do not know what 
theological writings Alciphron and his friends may be 
conversant in ; but, I will venture to say, one may find 
among our English divines many writers who, for compass 
of learning, weight of matter, strength of argument, and 
purity of style are not inferior to any in our language. 
It is not my design to apologize for the universities : 
whatever is amiss in them (and what is there perfect among 
men ?) I heartily wish amended. But I dare affirm, 
because I know it to be true, that any impartial observer, 
although they should not come up to what in theory he 
might wish or imagine, will nevertheless find them much 
superior to those that in fact are to be found in other 
countries, and far beyond the mean picture that is drawn 
of them by minute philosophers. It is natural for those 
to rail most at places of education who have profited least 
by them. Weak and fond parents will also readily impute 
to a wrong cause those corruptions themselves have 
occasioned, by allowing their children more money than 
they know how to spend innocently. And too often a 
gentleman who has been idle at the college, and kept idle 
company, will judge of a whole university from his own 
cabal. 

Ale. Crito mistakes the point. I vouch the authority, 
not of a dunce, or a rake, or absurd parent, but of the 
most consummate critic this age has produced. This great 
man characterizeth men of the church and universities 
with the finest touches and most masterly pencil. What 
do you think he calls them ? 

Euph. What? 

Ale. Why, the black tribe, magicians, formalists, pedants, 
bearded boys ; and having sufficiently derided and ex- 
ploded them, and their mean, ungenteel learning, he sets 
most admirable models of his own for good writing : and 
it must be acknowledged they are the finest things in our 



220 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

language ; as I could easily convince you, for I am never 
without something of that noble writer about me 1 . 

Euph. He is then a noble writer ? 

Ale. I tell you he is a nobleman. 

Euph. But a nobleman who writes is one thing, and 
a noble writer another. 

Ale. Both characters are coincident, as you may see. 

22. Upon which Alciphron pulled a treatise out of his 
pocket, entitled A Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author. 
Would you behold, said he, looking round upon the com- 
pany, a noble specimen of fine writing? do but dip into 
this book: which Crito opening, read verbatim as 
follows 2 : — 

' Where then are the pleasures which ambition promises, 
And love affords ? How 's the gay world enjoy'd ? 
Or are those to be esteem'd no pleasures 
Which are lost by dulness and inaction ? 
But indolence is the highest pleasure. 
To live, and not to feel ! To feel no trouble. 
What good then ? Life itself. And is 
This properly to live ? Is sleeping, life ? 
Is this what I should study to prolong? 
Here the 

Fantastic tribe itself seems scandalized. 
A civil war begins : the major part 
Of the capricious dames do range themselves 
On reason's side, 

And declare against the languid Siren. 
Ambition blushes at the offered sweet. 
Conceit and Vanity take superior airs. 
Ev'n Luxury herself, in her polite 
And elegant humour, reproves th' apostate 
Sister, 

And marks her as an alien to true pleasure. 
Away, thou 

Drowsy phantom ! haunt me no more ; for I 
Have learn'd from better than thy sisterhood, 
That life and happiness consist in action 
And employment. 

But here a busy form solicits us — 

Active, industrious, watchful, and despising 

1 Shaftesbury. See Character- 320, here presented sarcastically 
istics, vol. I. pp. 64, 333-335. in blank verse. The Soliloquy ap- 

2 [Part III. sect. 2.] — Author. peared in 1710. 
Sec Characteristics, vol. I. pp. 318- 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 221 

Pains and labour. She wears the serious 

Countenance of Virtue, but with features 

Of anxiety and disquiet. 

What is't she mutters? What looks she on with 

Such admiration and astonishment? 

Bags ! coffers ! heaps of shining metal ! What ! 

For the service of Luxury? For her 

These preparations? Art thou then her friend, 

Grave Fancy ? Is it for her thou toilest ? 

No, but for provision against want. 

But, luxury apart, tell me now, 

Hast thou not already a competence? 

'Tis good to be secure against the fear 

Of starving. Is there then no death but this? 

No other passage out of life ? Are other doors 

Secured if this be barr'd ? Say, Avarice ! 

Thou emptiest of phantoms, is it not vile 

Cowardice thou serv'st ? What further have I then 

To do with thee (thou doubly vile dependent) 

When once I have dismiss'd thy patroness, 

And despised her threats? 

Thus I contend with Fancy and Opinion.' 

Euphranor having heard thus far, cried out, What ! will 
you never have done with your poetry ? another time may 
serve : but why should we break off our conference to 
read a play ? 

You are mistaken, it is no play nor poetry, replied 
Alciphron, but a famous modern critic moralizing in prose. 
You must know this great man hath (to use his own words) 
revealed a grand arcanum to the world, having instructed 
mankind in what he calls mirror-writing, self-discoursing 
practice, and author practice, and shewed l , that ' by virtue 
of an intimate recess we may discover a certain duplicity 
of soul, and divide our self into two parties/ or (as he 
varies the phrase) 'practically form the dual number.' 
In consequence whereof, he hath found out that a man 
may argue with himself; and not only with himself, but 
also with notions, sentiments, and vices, which by a 
marvellous prosopopoeia he converts into so many ladies ; 
and so converted, he confutes and confounds them in 
a Divine strain. Can anything be finer, bolder, or more 
sublime ? 

Euph. It is very wonderful. I thought, indeed, you had 

1 See Characteristics, vol. I. p. 169 ; also pp. 171, 195, 199? 2 °5- 



222 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

been reading a piece of tragedy. Is this he who despiseth 
our universities, and sets up for reforming the style and 
tastes of the age ? 

Ale. The very same. This is the admired critic of 
our times. Nothing can stand the test of his correct judg- 
ment, which is equally severe to poets and parsons. ' The 
British Muses (saith this great man l ) lisp as in their 
cradles ; and their stammering tongues, which nothing but 
youth and rawness can excuse, have hitherto spoken in 
wretched pun and quibble. Our dramatic Shakespear, our 
Fletcher, Jonson, and our epic Milton, preserve this style.' 
And, according to him, even our later authors, 'aiming at 
a false sublime, entertain our raw fancy and unpractised 
ear ; which has not yet had leisure to form itself, and become 
truly musical.' 

Euph. Pray what effect may the lessons of this great 
man, in whose eyes our learned professors are but bearded 
boys, and our most celebrated wits but wretched punsters, 
have had upon the public ? Hath he rubbed off the college 
rust, cured the rudeness and rawness of our authors, and 
reduced them to his own attic standard ? Do they aspire 
to his true sublime, or imitate his chaste unaffected style ? 

Ale. Doubtless the taste of the age is much mended : 
in proof whereof his writings are universally admired. 
When our author published this Treatise, he foresaw the 
public taste would improve apace ; that arts and letters 
would grow to great perfection ; that there would be 
a happy birth of genius : of all which things he spoke, 
as he saith himself, in a prophetic style. 

Cri. And yet, notwithstanding the prophetical predic- 
tions of this critic, I do not find any science hath throve 
among us of late so much as the minute philosophy. In 
this kind, it must be confessed, we have had many notable 
productions. But whether they are such masterpieces for 
good writing, I leave to be determined by their readers. 

23. In the meantime, I must beg to be excused if I cannot 
believe your great man on his bare word ; when he would 
have us think that ignorance and ill-taste are owing to the 
Christian religion or the clergy, it being my sincere opinion 

1 Characteristics, vol. I. p. 217. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 223 

that whatever learning or knowledge we have among us 
is derived from that order. If those who are so sagacious 
at discovering a mote in other eyes would but purge their 
own, I believe they might easily see this truth. For, what 
but religion could kindle and preserve a spirit towards 
learning in such a northern rough people l ? Greece 
produced men of active and subtile genius. The public 
conventions and emulations of their cities forwarded that 
genius; and their natural curiosity was amused and ex- 
cited by learned conversation, in their public walks and 
gardens and porticos. Our genius leads to amusements 
of a grosser kind : we breathe a grosser and a colder air ' ; 
and that curiosity which was general in Athenians, and the 
gratifying of which was their chief recreation, is among 
our people of fashion treated like affectation, and as such 
banished from polite assemblies and places of resort ; 
and without doubt would in a little time be banished the 
country, if it were not for the great reservoirs of learning, 
where those formalists, pedants, and bearded boys, as your 
profound critic calls them 2 , are maintained by the liberality 
and piety of our predecessors. For, it is as evident that 
religion was the cause of those seminaries as it is that 
they are the cause or source of all the learning and taste 
which are to be found, even in those very men who are 
the declared enemies of our religion and public foundations. . 
Every one, who knows anything, knows we are indebted 
for our learning to the Greek and Latin tongues. This 
those severe censors will readily grant. Perhaps they 
may not be so ready to grant, what all men must see, 
that we are indebted for those tongues to our religion. 
What else could have made foreign and dead languages 
in such request among us ? What could have kept in being 
and handed them down to our times, through so many 
dark ages in which the world was wasted and disfigured 
by wars and violence ? What, but a regard to the Holy 
Scriptures, and theological writings of the Fathers and 
Doctors of the Church ? And in fact, do we not find that 
the learning of those times was solely in the hands of 
ecclesiastics ; that they alone lighted the lamp in succession 
one from another, and transmitted it down to after ages ; 

1 Cf. sect. 11, 14; also Dial. II. 17; III. 12. 
3 Cf. sect. ai. 



224 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

and that ancient books were collected and preserved in 
their colleges and seminaries, when all love and re- 
membrance of polite arts and studies was extinguished 
among the laity, whose ambition entirely turned to 
arms? 

24. Ale. There is, I must needs say, one sort of learning 
undoubtedly of Christian original, and peculiar to the 
universities ; where our youth spend several years in 
acquiring that mysterious jargon of Scholasticism; than 
which there could never have been contrived a more 
effectual method to perplex and confound human under- 
standing. It is true, gentlemen are untaught by the world 
what they have been taught at the college : but then their 
time is doubly lost. 

Cri. But what if this scholastic learning was not of 
Christian but of Mahometan original, being derived from 
the Arabs? And what if this grievance of gentlemen's 
spending several years in learning and unlearning this 
jargon be all grimace, and a specimen only of the truth 
and candour of certain minute philosophers, who raise 
great invectives from slight occasions, and judge too often 
without inquiring ? Surely it would be no such deplorable 
loss of time, if a young gentleman spent a few months 
upon that so much despised and decried art of Logic, 
a surfeit of which is by no means the prevailing nuisance 
of this age. It is one thing to waste one's time in learning 
and unlearning the barbarous terms, wire-drawn distinc- 
tions, and prolix sophistry of the Schoolmen; and another 
to attain some exactness in defining and arguing — things 
perhaps not altogether beneath the dignity even of a 
minute philosopher. There was indeed a time when 
Logic was considered as its own object : and that art of 
reasoning, instead of being transferred to things, turned 
altogether upon words and abstractions ; which produced 
a sort of leprosy in all parts of knowledge, corrupting and 
converting them into hollow verbal disputations in a most 
impure dialect. But those times are past ; and that, 
which had been cultivated as the principal learning for 
some ages, is now considered in another light ; and by 
no means makes that figure in the universities, or bears 
that part in the studies of young gentlemen educated there, 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 225 

which is pretended by those admirable reformers of religion 
and learning, the minute philosophers. 

25. But who were they that encouraged and produced 
the restoration of arts and polite learning? What share 
had the minute philosophers in this affair? Matthias 
Corvinus king of Hungary, Alphonsus king of Naples, 
Cosmusde Medicis, Picus of Mirandula, and other princes, 
and great men, famous for learning themselves, and for 
encouraging it in others with a munificent liberality, were 
neither Turks, nor Gentiles, nor minute philosophers. 
Who was it that transplanted and revived the Greek 
language and authors, and with them all polite arts and 
literature, in the west? Was it not chiefly Bessarion a 
cardinal, Marcus Musurus an archbishop, Theodore Gaza 
a private clergyman ? Has there been a greater and more 
renowned patron and restorer of elegant studies in every 
kind, since the days of Augustus Caesar, than Leo the 
Tenth, pope of Rome? Did any writers approach the 
purity of the classics nearer than the cardinals Bembus 
and Sadoletus, or than the bishops of Jovius and Vida? 
Not to mention an endless number of ingenious ecclesi- 
astics, who flourished on the other side of the Alps in the 
golden age (as the Italians call it) of Leo the Tenth, and 
wrote, both in their own language and the Latin, after the 
best models of antiquity. It is true, this first recovery of 
learning preceded the Reformation, and lighted the way 
to it; but the religious controversies which ensued did 
wonderfully propagate and improve it in all parts of 
Christendom. And surely, the Church of England is at 
least as well calculated for the encouragement of learning 
as that of Rome. Experience confirms this observation ; 
and I believe the minute philosophers will not be so 
partial to Rome as to deny it. 

Ale. It is impossible your account of learning beyond 
the Alps should be true. The noble critic in my hands, 
having complimented the French, to whom he allows some 
good authors, asserts x of other foreigners, particularly the 
Italians, ' That they may be reckoned no better than the 
corrupters of true learning and erudition V 



BERKELEY: FRASER. II. 



1 Characteristics, vol. I. p. 35, note. 

2 Ibid. p. 33s, note. 



226 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Cri. With some sorts of critics, dogmatical censures 
and conclusions are not always the result of perfect know- 
ledge or exact inquiry ; and if they harangue upon taste, 
truth of art, a just piece, grace of style, attic elegance, and 
such topics, they are to be understood only as those that 
would fain talk themselves into reputation for courage. 
To hear Thrasymachus speak of resentment, duels, and 
point of honour, one would think him ready to burst 
with valour. 

Lys. Whatever merit this writer may have as a demo- 
lisher, I always thought he had very little as a builder. 
It is natural for careless writers to run into faults they 
never think of; but for an exact and severe critic to shoot 
his bolt at random is unpardonable. If he, who professes 
at every turn a high esteem for polite writing, should yet 
despise those who most excel in it ; one would be tempted 
to suspect his taste. But if the very man who of all men 
talks most about art, and taste, and critical skill, and 
would be thought to have most considered those points, 
should often deviate from his own rules, into the false 
sublime, or the mauvaise plaisanterie — what reasonable 
man would follow the taste and judgment of such a guide, 
or be seduced, or climb the steep ascent, or tread in the 
rugged paths of virtue on his recommendation ? 

26. Ale. But to return : methinks Crito makes no com- 
pliment to the genius of his country, in supposing that 
Englishmen might not have wrought out of themselves all 
art and science and good taste ; without being beholden 
to church or universities, or ancient languages. 

Cri. What might have been is only conjecture. What 
has been it is not difficult to know. That there is a vein 
in Britain, of as rich an ore as ever was in any country, 
I will not deny; but it lies deep, and will cost pains to 
come at : and extraordinary pains require an extraordinary 
motive. As for what lies next the surface, it seems but 
indifferent, being neither so good nor in such plenty as 
in some other countries. It was the comparison of an 
ingenious Florentine, that the celebrated poems of Tasso 
and Ariosto are like two gardens, the one of cucumbers, 
the other of melons. In the one you shall find few bad, 
but the best are not a very good fruit ; in the other much 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 227 

the greater part are good for nothing, but those that are 
good are excellent. Perhaps the same comparison may 
hold, between the English and some of their neighbours. 

Ale. But suppose we should grant that the Christian 
religion and its seminaries might have been of use, in 
preserving or retrieving polite arts and letters; what then? 
Will you make this an argument of its truth ? 

Cri. I will make it an argument of prejudice and ingrati- 
tude in those minute philosophers, who object darkness, 
ignorance, and rudeness as an effect of that very thing 
which above all others hath enlightened and civilized and 
embellished their country ; which is as truly indebted to it 
for arts and sciences (which nothing but religion was ever 
known to have planted in such a latitude) as for that 
general sense of virtue and humanity, and belief of a 
Providence and future state, which all the argumentation 
of minute philosophers hath not yet been able to abolish. 

27. Ale. It is strange you should still persist to argue 
as if all the gentlemen of our sect were enemies to virtue, 
and downright atheists ; though I have assured you of the 
contrary, and that we have among us several who profess 
themselves in the interests of virtue and natural religion, 
and have also declared that I myself do now argue upon 
that foot. 

Cri. How can you pretend to be in the interests of 
natural religion, and yet be professed enemies of the 
Christian ; the only established religion which includes 
whatever is excellent in the natural, and which is the only 
means of making those precepts, duties, and notions, so 
called, become reverenced throughout the world ? Would 
not he be thought weak or insincere, who should go about 
to persuade people that he was much in the interests of 
an earthly monarch ; that he loved and admired his govern- 
ment ; when at the same time he shewed himself, on all 
occasions, a most bitter enemy of those very persons and 
methods which above all others contributed most to his 
service, and to make his dignity known and revered, his 
laws observed, or his dominion extended ? And is not 
this what minute philosophers do, while they set up for 
advocates of God and religion, and yet do all they can to 
discredit Christians and their worship ? It must be owned, 

Q2 



228 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

indeed, that you argue against Christianity, as the cause 
of evil and wickedness in the world ; but with such argu- 
ments and in such a manner as might equally prove the 
same thing of civil government, of meat and drink, of 
every faculty and profession, of learning, of eloquence, 
and even of human reason itself. After all, even those 
of your sect who allow themselves to be called Deists, if 
their notions are thoroughly examined, will I fear be found 
to include little of religion in them 1 . As for the Provi- 
dence of God watching over the conduct of human agents, 
and dispensing blessings or chastisements, the immortality 
of the soul, a final judgment, and future state of rewards and 
punishments ; how few, if any, of your free-thinkers have 
made it their endeavour to possess men's minds with 
a serious sense of those great points of natural religion ! 
How many, on the contrary, endeavour to render the 
belief of them doubtful or ridiculous ! [* It must be owned 
there may be found men that, without any regard to these 
points, make some pretence to religion : but who shall 
think them in earnest ? You shall sometimes see the very 
ringleaders of vice and profaneness write like men that 
would be thought to have virtue and piety at heart. This 
may, perhaps, prove them inconsistent writers, but can 
never prove them to be innocent. When a man's declared 
principles and peculiar tenets are utterly subversive of 
these things, whatever such an one saith of virtue, piety, 
and religion will be understood as mere deception, and 
compliance with common forms.] 

Lys. To speak the truth, I, for my part, had never any 
liking to religion of any kind, either revealed or unrevealed ; 
and I dare venture to say the same for those gentlemen 
of our sect that I am acquainted with, having never 
observed them guilty of so much meanness as even to 
mention the name of God with reverence, or to speak with 
the least regard of piety or any sort of worship. There 
may perhaps be found one or two formal pretenders to 
enthusiasm and devotion, in the way of natural religion, 
who laughed at Christians for publishing hymns and 
meditations, while they plagued the world with as bad 
of their own ; but the sprightly men made a jest of all this, 

1 Cf. Theory of Vision Vindicated, 2 The sentences within brackets 

sect. 2-6. were added in the second edition. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 229 

It seems to us mere pedantry. Sometimes, indeed, in 
good company one may hear a word dropped in com- 
mendation of honour and good-nature; but the former of 
these, by connoisseurs, is always understood to mean 
nothing but fashion; as the latter is nothing but temper 
and constitution, which guides a man just as appetite doth 
a brute. 

28. And after all these arguments and notions, which 
beget one another without end, to take the matter short ; 
neither I nor my friends for our souls could ever compre- 
hend, why man might not do very well and govern himself 
without any religion at all, as well as a brute, which is 
thought the sillier creature of the two. Have brutes in- 
stincts, senses, appetites, and passions, to steer and conduct 
them ? So have men, and reason over and above to con- 
sult upon occasion. From these premises, we conclude the 
road of human life is sufficiently lighted without religion. 

Cri. Brutes having but small power, limited to things 
present or particular, are sufficiently opposed and kept 
in order by the force or faculties of other animals and the 
skill of man, without conscience or religion : but conscience 
is a necessary balance to human reason, a faculty of such 
mighty extent and power, especially towards mischief. 
Besides, other animals are, by the law of their nature, 
determined to one certain end or kind of being, without 
inclination or means either to deviate or go beyond it. 
But man hath in him a will and higher principle ; by virtue 
whereof he may pursue different or even contrary ends ; 
and either fall short of or exceed the perfection natural to 
his species in this world ; as he is capable, either by giving 
up the reins to his sensual appetites, of degrading himself 
into the condition of brutes, or else by well ordering and 
improving his mind, of being transformed into the simili- 
tude of angels. Man alone of all animals hath under- 
standing to know his God. What availeth this knowledge 
unless it be to ennoble man, and raise him to an imitation 
and participation of the Divinity ? Or what could such 
ennoblement avail if to end with this life ? Or how can 
these things take effect without religion ? But the points 
of vice and virtue, man and beast, sense and intellect, 
have been already at large canvassed. What ! Lysicles, 



230 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

would you have us go back where we were three or four 
days ago? 

Lys. By no means : I had much rather go forward, and 
make an end as soon as possible. But, to save trouble, 
give me leave to tell you once for all that, say what you 
can, you shall never persuade me so many ingenious 
agreeable men are in the wrong, and a pack of snarling 
sour bigots in the right. 

29. Cri. O Lysicles ! I neither look for religion among 
bigots, nor reason among libertines ; each kind disgrace 
their several pretensions ; the one owing no regard even 
to the plainest and most important truths, while the others 
exert an angry zeal for points of least concern. And 
surely whatever there is of silly, narrow, and uncharitable 
in the bigot, the same is in great measure to be imputed 
to the conceited ignorance and petulant profaneness of the 
libertine. And it is not at all unlikely that, as libertines 
make bigots, so bigots should make libertines, the extreme 
of one party being ever observed to produce a contrary 
extreme of another. And although, while these adver- 
saries draw the rope of contention, reason and religion 
are often called upon, yet are they perhaps very little con- 
sidered or concerned in the contest. 

Lysicles, instead of answering Crito, turned short upon 
Alciphron. It was always my opinion, said he, that nothing 
could be sillier than to think of destroying Christianity, 
by crying up natural religion. Whoever thinks highly 
of the one can never, with a consistency, think meanly of 
the other; it being very evident that natural religion, 
without revealed, never was and never can be established 
or received anywhere, but in the brains of a few idle 
speculative men. I was aware what your concessions 
would come to. The belief of a God, virtue, a future 
state, and such fine notions are, as every one may see 
with half an eye, the very basis and corner-stone of the 
Christian religion. Lay but this foundation for them to 
build on, and you shall soon see what superstructures our 
men of divinity will raise from it. The truth and impor- 
tance of those points once admitted, a man need be no 
conjuror to prove, upon that principle, the excellency and 
usefulness of the Christian religion. And then to be sure, 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 231 

there must be priests to teach and propagate this useful 
religion. And if priests, a regular subordination without 
doubt in this worthy society, and a provision for their 
maintenance, such as may enable them to perform all 
their rites and ceremonies with decency, and keep their 
sacred character above contempt. And the plain conse- 
quence of all this is a confederacy between the prince and 
the priesthood to subdue the people ;— so we have let in 
at once upon us, a long train of ecclesiastical evils, priest- 
craft, hierarchy, inquisition. We have lost our liberty and 
property, and put the nation to vast expense, only to 
purchase bridles and saddles for their own backs. 

30. This being spoke with some sharpness of tone, and 
an upbraiding air, touched Alciphron to the quick, who 
replied nothing, but shewed confusion in his looks. 

Crito smiling looked at Euphranor and me, then, casting 
an eye on the two philosophers, spoke as follows : — If 
I may be admitted to interpose good offices for preventing 
a rupture between old friends and brethren in opinion, 
I would observe that in this charge of Lysicles there is 
something right and something wrong. It seems right to 
assert, as he doth, that the real belief of natural religion 
will lead a man to approve of revealed ; but it is as wrong 
to assert that Inquisitions, tyranny, and ruin must follow 
from thence. Your free-thinkers, without offence be it 
said, seem to mistake their talent. They imagine strongly, 
but reason weakly; mighty at exaggeration, and jejune in 
argument ! Can no method be found to relieve them from 
the terror of that fierce and bloody animal an English 
parson? Will it not suffice to pare his talons without 
chopping off his fingers ? Then they are such wonderful 
patriots for liberty and property ! When I hear these two 
words in the mouth of a minute philosopher, I am put in 
mind of the Teste di Ferro at Rome. His Holiness, it 
seems, not having power to assign pensions on Spanish 
benefices to any but natives of Spain, always keeps at 
Rome two Spaniards, called Teste di Ferro, who have the 
name of all such pensions, but not the profit, which goes 
to Italians. As we may see every day both things and 
notions placed to the account of liberty and property 
which in reality neither have nor are meant to have any 



232 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

share in them. What ! Is it impossible for a man to be 
a Christian but he must be a slave ; or a clergyman but 
he must have the principles of an inquisitor ? I am far 
from screening and justifying an appetite of domination or 
tyrannical power in ecclesiastics. Some, who have been 
guilty in that respect, have sorely paid for it, and it is to 
be hoped they always will. But, having laid the fury and 
folly of the ambitious prelate, is it not time to look about 
and spy whether, on the other hand, some evil may not 
possibly accrue to the state from the overflowing zeal of 
an independent Whig? This I may affirm, without being 
at any pains to prove it, that the worst tyranny this nation 
ever felt was from the hands of patriots of that stamp. 

31. Lys. I don't know. Tyranny is a harsh word, and 
sometimes misapplied. When spirited men of independent 
maxims create a ferment, or make a change in the state, 
he that loseth is apt to consider things in one light, and 
he that wins in another. In the mean time, this is certainly 
good policy, that we should be frugal of our money, and 
reserve it for better uses than to expend on the church 
and religion. 

Cri. Surely the old apologue of the belly and members 
need not be repeated to such knowing men. It should 
seem as needless to observe, that all other states which 
ever made any figure in the world for wisdom and polite- 
ness have thought learning deserved encouragement as 
well as the sword ; that grants for religious uses were 
as fitting as for knights' service ; and foundations for 
propagating piety as necessary to the public welfare and 
defence as either civil or military establishments. [ l In 
former times, when the clergy were a body much more 
numerous, wealthy, and powerful ; when in their state of 
celibacy they gave no pledges to the public ; when they 
enjoyed great exemptions and privileges above their fellow- 
subjects ; when they owned obedience to a foreign poten- 
tate—the case was evidently and widely different from 
what it is in our days. And the not discerning or not 
owning this difference is no proof either of sagacity or 
honesty in the minute philosophers.] But I ask who 

1 The sentences within brackets were added in the second edition. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 233 

are at this expense, and what is this expense so much 
complained of? 

Lys. As if you had never heard of church-lands and 
tithes ! 

Cri. But I would fain know how they can be charged as 
an expense, either upon the nation or private men. Where 
nothing is exported the nation loseth nothing : and it is all 
one to the public whether money circulates at home through 
the hands of a vicar or a squire. Then, as for private 
men, who, for want of thought, are full of complaint about 
the payment of tithes ; can any man justly complain of it 
as a tax, that he pays what never belonged to him ? The 
tenant rents his farm with this condition, and pays his 
landlord proportionately less than if his farm had been 
exempt from it : so he loseth nothing ; it being all one to 
him, whether he pays his pastor or his landlord. The 
landlord cannot complain that he has not what he hath no 
right to, either by grant, purchase, or inheritance. This 
is the case of tithes ; and as for the church-lands, he surely 
can be no free-thinker, nor any thinker at all, who doth 
not see that no man, whether noble, gentle, or plebeian, 
hath any sort of right or claim to them which he may not 
with equal justice pretend to all the lands in the kingdom. 

Lys. At present indeed we have no right, and that is 
our complaint. 

Cri. You would have then what you have no right to. 

Lys. Not so either : what we would have is first a right 
conveyed by law, and, in the next place, the lands by virtue 
of such right. 

Cri. In order to this, it might be expedient in the first 
place, to get an act passed for excommunicating from all 
civil rights every man that is a Christian, a scholar, and 
wears a black coat, as guilty of three capital offences 
against the public weal of this realm. 

Lys. To deal frankly, I think it would be an excellent 
good act. It would provide at once for several deserving 
men, rare artificers in wit, and argument, and ridicule ! 
who have, too many of them, but small fortunes, with a 
great arrear of merit towards their country, which they 
have so long enlightened and adorned gratis. 

Euph. Pray tell me, Lysicles, are not the clergy legally 
possessed of their lands and emoluments? 



234 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Lys. Nobody denies it. 

Euph. Have they not been possessed of them from time 
immemorial ? 

Lys. This too I grant. 

Euph. They claim them by law and ancient prescription? 

Lys. They do. 

Euph. Have the oldest families of the nobility a better 
title ? 

Lys. I believe not. It grieves me to see so many over- 
grown estates in the hands of ancient families, on account 
of no other merit but what they brought with them into 
the world. 

Euph. May you not then as well take their lands too, 
and bestow them on minute philosophers, as persons of 
more merit ? 

Lys. So much the better. This enlarges our view and 
opens a new scene : it is very delightful, in the contempla- 
tion of truth, to behold how one theory grows out of 
another. 

Ale. Old Paetus used to say that if the clergy were 
deprived of their hire we should lose the most popular 
argument against them. 

Lys. But, so long as men live by religion, there will 
never be wanting teachers and writers in defence of it. 

Cri. And how can you be sure they would be wanting 
though they did not live by it ; since it is well known 
Christianity had its defenders even when men died by it ? 

Lys. One thing I know : there is a rare nursery of 
young plants growing up, who have been carefully guarded 
against every air of prejudice, and sprinkled with the dew 
of our choicest principles : meanwhile, wishes are weari- 
some ; and to our infinite regret nothing can be done, so 
long as there remains any prejudice in favour of old 
customs and laws and national constitutions, which, at 
bottom, we very well know and can demonstrate to be only 
words and notions. 

32. But I can never hope, Crito, to make you think my 
schemes reasonable. We reason each right upon his own 
principles, and shall never agree till we quit our principles, 
which cannot be done by reasoning. We all talk of just, 
and right, and wrong, and public good, and all those things. 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 235 

The names may be the same, but the notions and con- 
clusions very different, perhaps diametrically opposite ; 
and yet each may admit of clear proofs, and be inferred 
by the same way of reasoning. For instance, the gentle- 
men of the club which I frequent define man to be a social 
animal : consequently, we exclude from this definition all 
those human creatures of whom it may be said, we would 
rather have their room than their company. And such, 
though wearing the shape of man, are to be esteemed, in 
all account of reason, not as men, but only as human 
creatures. Hence it plainly follows that men of pleasure, 
men of humour, and men of wit are alone properly and 
truly to be considered as men. Whatever, therefore, con- 
duceth to the emolument of such is for the good of mankind, 
and consequently very just and lawful, although seeming 
to be attended with loss or damage to other creatures : 
inasmuch as no real injury can be done in life or property 
to those who know not how to enjoy them. This we hold 
for clear and well-connected reasoning. But others may 
view things in another light, assign different definitions, 
draw other inferences, and perhaps consider what we 
suppose the very top and flower of the creation only as 
a wart or excrescence of human nature. From all which 
there must ensue a very different system of morals, politics, 
rights, and notions. 

Cri. If you have a mind to argue we will argue; if you 
have more mind to jest, we will laugh with you. 

Lys. 

Ridentem dicere verum 

Quid vetat? 

This partition of our kind into men and human creatures, 
puts me in mind of another notion, broached by one of our 
club, whom we used to call the Pythagorean. 

33. He made a threefold partition of the human species, 
into birds, beasts, and fishes, being of opinion that the 
road of life lies upwards, in a perpetual ascent through 
the scale of being : in such sort that the souls of insects 
after death make their second appearance in the shape of 
perfect animals, birds, beasts, or fishes ; which upon their 
death are preferred into human bodies ; and in the next 
stage into beings of a higher and more perfect kind. This 



236 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

man we considered at first as a sort of heretic — because 
his scheme seemed not to consist with our fundamental 
tenet, the mortality of the soul : but he justified the notion 
to be innocent, inasmuch as it included nothing of reward 
or punishment, and was not proved by any argument which 
supposed or implied either incorporeal spirit or Providence, 
being only inferred, by way of analogy, from what he had 
observed in human affairs, the court, the church, and the 
army ; wherein the tendency is always upwards from lower 
posts to higher. According to this system, the fishes are 
those men who swim in pleasure, such as petits maitres, 
bons vivans, and honest fellows. The beasts are dry, 
drudging, covetous, rapacious folk, and all those addicted 
to care and business, like oxen, and other dry-land animals, 
which spend their lives in labour and fatigue. The birds 
are airy notional men, enthusiasts, projectors, philosophers, 
and such-like : in each species every individual retaining 
a tincture of his former state, which constitutes what is 
called genius. If you ask me which species of human 
creatures I like best, I answer, the flying fish : that is, 
a man of animal enjoyment with a mixture of whim. Thus 
you see we have our creeds and our systems, as well as 
graver folks ; with this difference, that they are not strait- 
laced but sit easy, to be slipped off or on, as humour 
or occasion serves. And now I can, with the greatest 
equanimity imaginable, hear my opinions argued against, 
or confuted. 

34. Ale. It were to be wished all men were of that mind. 
But you should find a sort of men, whom I need not name, 
that cannot bear with the least temper to have their 
opinions examined or their faults censured. They are 
against reason, because reason is against them. For our 
parts we are all for liberty of conscience. If our tenets 
are absurd, we allow them to be freely argued and in- 
spected ; and by parity of reason we might hope to be 
allowed the same privilege with respect to the opinions of 
other men. 

Cri. O Alciphron ! wares that will not bear the light are 
justly to be suspected. Whatever therefore moves you to 
make this complaint, take my word I never will : but as 
hitherto I have allowed your reason its full scope, so for 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 237 

the future I always shall. And though I cannot approve 
of railling or declaiming, not even in myself, whenever you 
have shewed me the way to it : yet this I will answer for, 
that you shall ever be allowed to reason as closely and as 
strenuously as you can. But, for the love of truth, be 
candid, and do not spend your strength and our time in 
points of no significancy, or foreign to the purpose, or 
agreed between us. We allow that tyranny and slavery 
are bad things : but why should we apprehend them from 
the clergy at this time ? Rites and ceremonies we own are 
not points of chief moment in religion : but why should 
we ridicule things in their nature, at least, innocent, and 
which bear the stamp of supreme authority? That men 
in divinity, as well as other subjects, are perplexed with 
useless disputes, and are likely to be so as long as the world 
lasts, I freely acknowledge : but why must all the human 
weakness and mistakes of clergymen be imputed to wicked 
designs ? Why indiscriminately abuse their character and 
tenets? Is this like candour, love of truth, and free-think- 
ing? It is granted there may be found, now and then, 
spleen and ill-breeding in the clergy : but are not the same 
faults incident to English laymen of a retired education 
and country life ? I grant there is infinite futility in the 
Schoolmen : but I deny that a volume of that doth so much 
mischief, as a page of minute philosophy. That weak or 
wicked men should, by favour of the world, creep into 
power and high stations in the church is nothing wonder- 
ful : and that in such stations they should behave like 
themselves is natural to suppose. But all the while it is 
evident that not the gospel but the world, not the spirit 
but the flesh, not God but the devil, puts them upon their 
unworthy achievements. We make no difficulty to grant 
that nothing is more infamous than vice and ignorance in 
a clergyman; nothing more base than a hypocrite, more 
frivolous than a pedant, more cruel than an inquisitor. 
But it must be also granted by you, gentlemen, that nothing 
is more ridiculous and absurd than for pedantic, ignorant, 
and corrupt men to cast the first stone at every shadow of 
their own defects and vices in other men. 

35. Ale. When I consider the detestable state of slavery 
and superstition, I feel my heart dilate and expand itself 



238 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

to grasp that inestimable blessing of independent liberty. 
This is the sacred and high prerogative, the very life and 
health of our English constitution. You must not there- 
fore think it strange, if, with a vigilant and curious eye, 
we guard it against the minutest appearance of evil. You 
must even suffer us to cut round about, and very deep, 
and make use of the magnifying glass, the better to view 
and extirpate every the least speck which shall discover 
itself in what we are careful and jealous to preserve as the 
apple of our eye. 

Cri. As for unbounded liberty, I leave it to savages, 
among whom alone I believe it is to be found : but, for 
the reasonable legal liberty of our constitution, I most 
heartily and sincerely wish it may for ever subsist and 
flourish among us. You and all other Englishmen cannot 
be too vigilant, or too earnest, to preserve this goodly 
frame, or to curb and disappoint the wicked ambition of 
whoever, layman or ecclesiastic, shall attempt to change 
our free and gentle government into a slavish or severe 
one. But what pretext can this afford for your attempts 
against religion, or indeed how can it be consistent with 
them ? Is not the Protestant religion a main part of our 
legal constitution ? I remember to have heard a foreigner 
remark, that we of this island were very good Protestants, 
but no Christians. But whatever minute philosophers 
may wish, or foreigners say, it is certain our laws speak 
a different language. 

Ale. This puts me in mind of the wise reasoning of 
a certain sage magistrate, who, being pressed by the raillery 
and arguments of an ingenious man, had nothing to say for 
his religion but that ten millions of people inhabiting the 
same island might, whether right or wrong, if they thought 
good, establish laws for the worshipping of God in their 
temples, and appealing to Him in their courts of justice. 
And that in case ten thousand ingenious men should 
publicly deride and trample on those laws, it might be just 
and lawful for the said ten millions to expel the said ten 
thousand ingenious men out of their said island. 

Euph. And pray, what answer would you make to this 
remark of the sage magistrate ? 

Ale. The answer is plain. By the law of nature, which 
is superior to all positive institutions, wit and knowledge 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 239 

have a right to command folly and ignorance. I say, 
ingenious men have by natural right a dominion over 
fools. 

Euph. What dominion over the laws and people of 
Great Britain minute philosophers may be entitled to by 
nature, I shall not dispute, but leave to be considered 
by the public. 

Ale. This doctrine, it must be owned, was never 
thoroughly understood before our own times. In the last 
age, Hobbes and his followers, though otherwise very 
great men, declared for the religion of the magistrate ; 
probably because they were afraid of the magistrate : but 
times are changed, and the magistrates may now be afraid 
of us. 

Cri. I allow the magistrate may well be afraid of you in 
one sense, I mean, afraid to trust you. This brings to my 
thoughts a passage on the trial of Leander for a capital 
offence. That gentleman having picked out and excluded 
from his jury, by peremptory exception, all but some men 
of fashion and pleasure, humbly moved, when Dorcon was 
going to kiss the book, that he might be required to 
declare upon honour whether he believed either God or 
gospel. Dorcon, rather than hazard his reputation as a 
man of honour and free-thinker, openly avowed that he 
believed in neither. Upon which the court declared him 
unfit to serve on a jury. By the same reason, so many 
were set aside as made it necessary to put off the trial. 

We are very easy, replied Alciphron, about being trusted 
to serve on juries, if we can be admitted to serve in 
lucrative employments. 

Cri. But what if the government should enjoin that 
every one, before he was sworn into office, should make 
the same declaration which Dorcon was required to make? 

Ale. God forbid ! I hope there is no such design on 
foot. 

Cri. Whatever designs may be on foot, thus much is 
certain : the Christian reformed religion is a principal 
part and corner-stone of our free constitution ; and I verily 
think, the only thing that makes us deserving of freedom, 
or capable of enjoying it. Freedom is either a blessing 
or a curse as men use it. And to me it seems that if 
our religion were once destroyed from among us, and 



240 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

those notions which pass for prejudices of a Christian 
education erased from the minds of Britons, the best 
thing that could befal us would be the loss of our freedom. 
Surely a people wherein there is such restless ambition, 
such high spirits, such animosity of faction, so great 
interests, in contest such unbounded licence of speech 
and press, amidst so much wealth and luxury, nothing 
but those veteres avice, which you pretend to extirpate, 
could have hitherto kept from ruin. 

36. Under the Christian religion this nation hath been 
greatly improved. From a sort of savages, we have grown 
civil, polite, and learned. We have made a decent and 
noble figure both at home and abroad. And, as our 
religion decreaseth, I am afraid we shall be found to have 
declined. Why then should we persist in the dangerous 
experiment ? 

Ale. One would think, Crito, you had forgot the many 
calamities occasioned by churchmen and religion. 

Cri. And one would think you had forgot what was 
answered this very day to that objection. But, not to 
repeat eternally the same things, I should observe, in 
the first place, that, if we reflect on the past state of 
Christendom, and of our country in particular, with our 
feuds and factions subsisting while we were all of the 
same religion, for instance, that of the White and Red 
Roses, so violent and bloody and of such long continuance ; 
we can have no assurance that those ill humours, which 
have since shewn themselves under the mask of religion, 
would not have broke out with some other pretext, if this 
had been wanting. I observe, in the second place, that 
it will not follow, from any observations you can make 
on our history, that the evils, accidentally occasioned 
by religion, bear any proportion either to the good effects 
it hath really produced, or the evils it hath prevented. 
Lastly, I observe that the best things may, by accident, 
be the occasion of evil ; which accidental effect is not, 
to speak properly and truly, produced by the good thing 
itself, but by some evil thing, which, being neither part, 
property, nor effect of it, happens to be joined with it. 
But I should be ashamed to insist and enlarge on so 
plain a point. Certainly whatever evils this nation might 



THE FIFTH DIALOGUE 24.I 

have formerly sustained from superstition, no man of com- 
mon sense will say the evils felt or apprehended at pre- 
sent are from that quarter. Priestcraft is not the reigning 
distemper at this day. And surely it will be owned that 
a wise man, who takes upon him to be vigilant for the 
public weal, should touch proper things at proper times, 
and not prescribe for a surfeit when the distemper is a 
consumption. 

Ale. I think we have sufficiently discussed the subject 
of this day's conference. And now, let Lysicles take it 
as he will, I must, in regard to my own character, as a 
fair and impartial adversary, acknowledge there is some- 
thing in what Crito hath said, upon the usefulness of the 
Christian religion. I will even own to you that some of 
our sect are for allowing it a toleration. I remember, at 
a meeting of several ingenious men, after much debate 
we came successively to diverse resolutions. The first 
was, that no religion ought to be tolerated in the state : 
but this on more mature thought was judged impracticable. 
The second was, that all religion should be tolerated, 
but none countenanced except atheism : but it was appre- 
hended that this might breed contentions among the lower 
sort of people. We came therefore to conclude, in the 
third place, that some religion or other should be established 
for the use of the vulgar. And, after a long dispute what 
this religion should be, Lysis, a brisk young man, per- 
ceiving no signs of agreement, proposed that the present 
religion might be tolerated, till a better was found. But, 
allowing it to be expedient, I can never think it true, so 
long as there lie unanswerable objections against it ; which, 
if you please, I shall take the liberty to propose at our 
next meeting. 

To which we all agreed. 



BERKELEY: FRASER. II. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 1 




The balances of deceit are in his hand. — Hosea xii. 7. 

T^ e£aTraTao9at avrbv v<p' avrov iravraiv x a ^*™Ta.Tov. — Plato. 

1. Points agreed. 2. Sundry pretences to revelation. 3. Uncertainty 
of tradition. 4. Object and ground of faith. 5. Some books dis- 
puted, others evidently spurious. 6. Style and composition of Holy 
Scripture. 7. Difficulties occurring therein. 8. Obscurity not always 
a defect. 9. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd. 10. Objec- 
tions from the form and matter of Divine revelation considered. 11. 
Infidelity an effect of narrowness and prejudice. 12. Articles of 
Christian faith not unreasonable. 13. Guilt the natural parent of fear. 

14. Things unknown reduced to the standard of what men know. 

15. Prejudices against the incarnation of the Son of God. 16. Ignor- 
ance of the Divine economy a source of difficulties. 17. Wisdom of 
God foolishness to man. 18. Reason no blind guide. 19. Usefulness 
of Divine revelation. 20. Prophecies, whence obscure, ax. Eastern 
accounts of time older than the Mosaic. 22. The humour of 
Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other nations, extending their 

1 This Dialogue discusses evi- initiated in visible nature. The ar- 

dence for the truth of Christianity gument thus passes from the utility 

regarded as the consummation of of Christianity to its divinity. That 

the revelation of God to man that is the reason for receiving this deeper 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 243 

antiquity beyond truth, accounted for. 23. Reasons confirming the 
Mosaic account. 24. Profane historians inconsistent. 25. Celsus, 
Porphyry, and Julian. 26. The testimony of Josephus considered. 
27. Attestation of Jews and Gentiles to Christianity. 28. Forgeries 
and heresies. 29. Judgment and attention to minute philosophers. 
30. Faith and miracles. 31. Probable arguments, a sufficient ground 
of faith. 32. The Christian religion able to stand the test of rational 
inquiry. 

i. The following day being Sunday, our philosophers 
lay long in bed, while the rest of us went to church in 
the neighbouring town, where we dined at Euphranor's, 
and after evening service returned to the two philosophers, 
whom we found in the library. They told us that, if there 
was a God, He was present everywhere as well as at 
church ; and that if we had been serving Him one way, 
they did not neglect to do as much another ; inasmuch 
as a free exercise of reason must be allowed the most 
acceptable service and worship that a rational creature 
can offer to its Creator. However, said Alciphron, if you, 
gentlemen, can but solve the difficulties which I shall 
propose to-morrow morning, I promise to go to church 
next Sunday. 

After some general conversation of this kind, we sat 
down to a light supper, and the next morning assembled 
at the same place as the day before; where being all 
seated, I observed, that the foregoing week our con- 
ferences had been carried on for a longer time and with 
less interruption than I had ever known, or well could 
be, in town ; where men's hours are so broken by visits, 
business, and amusements, that whoever is content to 
form his notions from conversation only must needs have 
them very shattered and imperfect. 

And what have we got, replied Alciphron, by all these 
continued conferences? For my part, I think myself just 
where I was with respect to the main point that divides 
us— the truth of the Christian religion. 

and more practical revelation of The progress of historical criti- 
God is fundamentally moral or pro- cism and physical research, with 
bable, and that its acceptance, the consequent revolution in re- 
like our acceptance of natural cent conceptions of history and 
science, is at last a venture of faith, nature has made this Dialogue 
is acknowledged (by implication) an anachronism, 
at the close of the discussion. 

R 2 



244 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

I answered, that so many points had been examined, 
discussed, and agreed, between him and his adversaries, 
that I hoped to see them come to an entire agreement 
in the end. For, in the first place, said I, the principles 
and opinions of those who are called free-thinkers, or 
minute philosophers, have been pretty clearly explained \ 
It hath been also agreed, That vice is not of that benefit 
to the nation which some men imagine ; that virtue is 
highly useful to mankind 2 : but that the beauty of virtue 
is not alone sufficient to engage them in the practice of 
it s ; that therefore the belief of a God and Providence 
ought to be encouraged in the state, and tolerated in good 
company, as a useful notion 4 . Further, it hath been 
proved that there is a God 5 : that it is reasonable to 
worship Him : and that the worship, faith, and principles 
prescribed by the Christian religion have a useful ten- 
dency 8 . 

Admit, replied Alciphron, addressing himself to Crito, 
all that Dion saith to be true : yet this doth not hinder 
my being just where I was, with respect to the main point. 
Since there is nothing in all this that proves the truth 
of the Christian religion : though each of those particulars 
enumerated may, perhaps, prejudice in its favour. I am, 
therefore, to suspect myself at present for a prejudiced 
person ; prejudiced, I say, in favour of Christianity. This, 
as I am a lover of truth, puts me upon my guard against 
deception. I must, therefore, look sharp, and well consider 
every step I take. 

2. Cri. You may remember, Alciphron, you proposed, 
for the subject of our present conference — the considera- 
tion of certain difficulties and objections which you had 
to offer against the Christian religion. We are now 
ready to hear and consider whatever you shall think fit 
to produce of that kind. Atheism, and a wrong notion 
of Christianity, as of something hurtful to mankind, are 
great prejudices, the removal of which may dispose a man 
to argue with candour, and submit to reasonable proof: 
but the removing prejudices against an opinion is not 
to be reckoned prejudicing in its favour. It may be hoped, 

1 Dial. I. 2 Dial. II. 3 Dial. III. 

* Dial. IV. 5 Dial. V. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 245 

therefore, that you will be able to do justice to your cause, 
without being fond of it. 

Ale. O Crito ! that man may thank his stars to whom 
nature hath given a sublime soul, who can raise himself 
above popular opinions, and, looking down on the herd 
of mankind, behold them scattered over the surface of 
the whole earth, divided and subdivided into numberless 
nations and tribes, differing in notions and tenets, as in 
language, manners, and dress. The man who takes a 
general view of the world and its inhabitants from this 
lofty stand, above the reach of prejudice, seems to breathe 
a purer air, and to see by a clearer light : but how to 
impart this clear and extensive view to those who are 
wandering beneath in the narrow dark paths of error, 
this indeed is a hard task. Yet, hard as it is, I shall 
try if by any means 

Clara tuae possim praepandere lumina menti. — Lucret. 

Know then that all the various casts or sects of the sons 
of men have each their faith, and their religious system, 
germinating and sprouting forth from that common grain 
of Enthusiasm which is an original ingredient in the com- 
position of human nature. They each tell of intercourse 
with the invisible world, revelations from heaven, divine 
oracles, and the like. All which pretensions, when I 
regard with an impartial eye, it is impossible I should 
assent to all, when I find within myself something that 
withholds me from assenting to any of them. For, although 
I may be willing to follow, so far as common sense and 
the light of nature lead ; yet the same reason that bids 
me yield to rational proof forbids me to admit opinions 
without proof. This holds in general against all revela- 
tions whatsoever. — And be this my first objection against 
the Christian in particular. 

Cri. As this objection supposes there is no proof or 
reason for believing the Christian revelation, if good 
reason can be assigned for such belief, it comes to nothing. 
Now I presume you will grant the authority of the reporter 
is a true and proper reason for believing reports : and 
the better this authority, the juster claim it hath to our 
assent : but the authority of God is on all accounts the 



246 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

best: whatever therefore comes from God, it is most 
reasonable to believe. 

3. Ale. This I grant ; but then it must be proved to 
come from God. 

Cri. And are not miracles, and the accomplishments 
of prophecies, joined with the excellency of its doctrine, 
a sufficient proof that the Christian religion came from 
God? 

Ale. Miracles, indeed, would prove something 1 . But 
what proof have we of these miracles ? 

Cri. Proof of the same kind that we have or can have 
of any facts done a great way off, and a long time ago. 
We have authentic accounts transmitted down to us from 
eye-witnesses, whom we cannot conceive tempted to impose 
upon us by any human motive whatsoever ; inasmuch 
as they acted therein contrary to their interests, their 
prejudices, and the very principles in which they had 
been nursed and educated. These accounts were con- 
firmed by the unparalleled subversion of the city of 
Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jewish nation; which 
is a standing testimony to the truth of the gospel, par- 
ticularly of the predictions of our blessed Saviour. These 
accounts, within less than a century, were spread through- 
out the world, and believed by great numbers of people. 
These same accounts were committed to writing, trans- 
lated into several languages, and handed down with the 
same respect and consent of Christians in the most distant 
churches. 

Do you not see, said Alciphron, staring full at Crito, 
that all this hangs by tradition! And tradition, take my 
word for it, gives but a weak hold : it is a chain, whereof 
the first links may be stronger than steel, and yet the 
last weak as wax, and as brittle as glass. Imagine 
a picture copied successively by a hundred painters, one 
from another; how like must the last copy be to the 
original ! How lively and distinct will an image be, after 
a hundred reflexions between two parallel mirrors ! Thus 

1 Alciphron does not raise the speaking to man in Christ, as dis- 

question of the possibility of physi- tinguished from His language of 

cal miracles ; nor the rationale of Vision, signalised in the Fourth 

a miraculous proof that God is Dialogue. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 247 

like and thus lively do I think a faint vanishing tradition, 
at the end of sixteen or seventeen hundred years. Some 
men have a false heart, others a wrong head ; and, where 
both are true, the memory may be treacherous. Hence 
there is still something added, something omitted, and 
something varied from the truth : and the sum of many 
such additions, deductions, and alterations, accumulated 
for several ages, do, at the foot of the account, make quite 
another thing. 

Cri. Ancient facts we may know by tradition, oral or 
written : and this latter we may divide into two kinds, 
private and public, as writings are kept in the hands of 
particular men, or recorded in public archives. Now, 
all these three sorts of tradition, for aught I can see, 
concur to attest the genuine antiquity of the gospels. 
And they are strengthened by collateral evidence from 
rites instituted, festivals observed, and monuments erected 
by ancient Christians, such as churches, baptisteries, and 
sepulchres. Now, allowing your objection holds against 
oral tradition, singly taken, yet I can think it no such 
difficult thing to transcribe faithfully. And things once 
committed to writing are secure from slips of memory, 
and may with common care be preserved entire so long 
as the manuscript lasts : and this experience shews may be 
above two thousand years. The Alexandrine manuscript ! 
is allowed to be above twelve hundred years old ; and 
it is highly probable there were then extant copies four 
hundred years old. A tradition, therefore, of above sixteen 
hundred years old need have only two or three links in 
its chain. And these links, notwithstanding that great 
length of time, may be very sound and entire. Since no 
reasonable man will deny, that an ancient manuscript may 
be of much the same credit now as when it was first 
written. We have it on good authority, and it seems 
probable, that the primitive Christians were careful to 
transcribe copies of" the gospels and epistles for their 
private use ; and that other copies were preserved as 
public records, in the several churches throughout the 
world ; and that portions thereof were constantly read 

1 The latter part of the sixth MS. of Holy Scripture in Greek, 
century is the probable date of the now in the British Museum. 
Alexandrian Codex, that celebrated 



248 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

in their assemblies. Can more be said to prove the 
writings of classic authors, or ancient records of any 
kind authentic? 

Alciphron, addressing his discourse to Euphranor, said 
— It is one thing to silence an adversary, and another 
to convince him. What do you think, Euphranor ? 

Euph. Doubtless, it is. 

Ale. But what I want is to be convinced. 

Euph. That point is not so clear. 

Ale. But if a man had ever so much mind, he cannot 
be convinced by probable arguments against demonstra- 
tion. 

Euph. I grant he cannot. 

4. Ale. Now it is as evident as demonstration can make 
it, that no Divine faith can possibly be built upon tradition 1 . 
Suppose an honest and credulous countryman catechised 
and lectured every Sunday by his parish priest : it is plain 
he believes in the parson, and not in God. He knows 
nothing of revelations, and doctrines, and miracles but 
what the priest tells him. This he believes, and this faith 
is purely human. If you say he has the Liturgy and 
the Bible for the foundation of his faith, the difficulty still 
recurs. For, as to the Liturgy, he pins his faith upon the 
civil magistrate, as well as the ecclesiastic : neither of 
which can pretend Divine inspiration. Then for the Bible, 
he takes both that and his Prayer-book on trust from the 
printer, who, he believes, made true editions from true 
copies. You see then faith, but what faith ? Faith in the 
priest, in the magistrate, in the printer, editor, transcriber ; 
none of which can with any pretence be called Divine. 
I had the hint from Cratylus 2 ; it is a shaft out of his quiver, 
and believe me, a keen one. 

Euph. Let me take and make trial of this same shaft 
in my hands. Suppose then your countryman hears a 
magistrate declare the law from the bench, or suppose he 

1 Cf. Tindal's Christianity as Old for natural religion, which is in- 

as the Creation, ch. ix, xiii. Tin- dependent of history, 

dal urges the inadequacy of his- 2 See Shaftesbury's Characteris- 

tory and tradition, as a fallible me- tics, vol. I. pp. 146-7 ; III. pp. 319- 

dium for a revelation of God, and 34. Cratylus represents Shaftes- 

claims superiority in this respect bury. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 249 

reads it in a statute-book. What think you, is the printer 
or the justice the true and proper object of his faith and 
submission ? Or do you acknowledge a higher authority 
whereon to found those loyal acts, and in which they do 
really terminate ? Again, suppose you read a passage in 
Tacitus that you believe true ; would you say you assented 
to it on the authority of the printer or transcriber rather 
than the historian ? 

Ale. Perhaps I would, and perhaps I would not. I do 
not think myself obliged to answer these points. What 
is this but transferring the question from one subject to 
another? That which we considered was neither law nor 
profane history, but religious tradition, and Divine faith. 
I see plainly what you aim at, but shall never take for an 
answer to one difficulty, the starting of another. 

Cri. O Alciphron ! there is no taking hold of you, who 
expect that others should (as you were pleased to express l ) 
hold fair and stand firm, while you plucked out their 
prejudices. How shall he argue with you but from your 
concessions, and how can he know what you grant except 
you will be pleased to tell him ? 

Euph. But, to save you the trouble, for once I will 
suppose an answer. My question admits but of two 
answers ; take your choice. From the one it will follow 
that, by a parity of reason, we can easily conceive how 
a man may have Divine faith, though he never felt inspira- 
tion or saw a miracle : inasmuch as it is equally possible 
for the mind, through whatever conduit, oral or scriptural, 
Divine revelation be derived, to carry its thoughts and 
submission up to the source, and terminate its faith not 
in human but Divine authority; not in the instrument or 
vessel of conveyance, but in the great origin itself, as its 
proper and true object. From the other answer it will 
follow that you introduce a general scepticism into human 
knowledge, and break down the hinges on which civil 
government, and all the affairs of the world, turn and 
depend : in a word, that you would destroy human faith 
to get rid of Divine 2 . And how this agrees with your 

1 Dial. I. sect. 5. crete universe in which we find 

1 If human testimony is abso- ourselves is fundamentally undi- 

lutelyuntrustworthy human society vine, it is wholly unfit to be rea- 

must dissolve. And if the con- soned about, as we have then no 



250 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

professing that you want to be convinced I leave you to 
consider. 

5. Ale. I should in earnest be glad to be convinced one 
way or other, and come to some conclusion. But I have 
so many objections in store you are not to count much 
upon getting over one. Depend on it you shall find me 
behave like a gentleman and a lover of truth. I will 
propose my objections briefly and plainly, and accept of 
reasonable answers as fast as you can give them. Come, 
Euphranor, make the most of your tradition ; you can 
never make that a constant and universal one, which is 
acknowledged to have been unknown, or at best disputed, 
in the Church for several ages : — and this is the case of 
the canon of the New Testament. For, though we have 
now a canon, as they call it, settled, yet every one must 
see and own that tradition cannot grow stronger by age ; 
and that what was uncertain in the primitive times cannot 
be undoubted in the subsequent. What say you to this, 
Euphranor? 

Euph. I should be glad to conceive your meaning clearly 
before I return an answer. It seems to me this objection 
of yours supposeth that where a tradition hath been con- 
stant and undisputed, such tradition may be admitted as 
a proof; but that where the tradition is defective, the 
proof must be so too. Is this your meaning ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Consequently the Gospels, and Epistles of St. 
Paul, which were universally received in the beginning, 
and never since doubted of by the Church, must, notwith- 
standing this objection, be in reason admitted for genuine. 
And, if these books contain, as they really do, all those 
points that come into controversy between you and me, 
what need I dispute with you about the authority of some 
other books of the New Testament, which came later 
to be generally known and received in the Church ? If 
a man assent to the undisputed books, he is no longer an 

guarantee for its orderliness, or for ception of goodness) in the tacit 

reliance on our so-called faculties presupposition of all trustworthy 

of knowledge. The eternal omni- intercourse, through experience, 

presence of omnipotent goodness with the universe of things and 

(according to our highest con- persons. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 251 

infidel ; though he should not hold the Revelations, or the 
Epistle of St. James or Jude, or the latter of St. Peter, 
or the two last of St. John to be canonical. The addi- 
tional authority of these portions of Holy Scripture may 
have its weight in particular controversies between Chris- 
tians, but can add nothing to arguments against an in- 
fidel as such. Wherefore, though I believe good reasons 
may be assigned for receiving these books, yet these 
reasons seem now beside our purpose. When you are 
a Christian it will be then time enough to argue this point. 
And you will be the nearer being so, if the way be 
shortened by omitting it for the present. 

Ale. Not so near neither as you perhaps imagine : for, 
notwithstanding all the fair and plausible things you may 
say about tradition, when I consider the spirit of forgery 
which reigned in the primitive times, and reflect on the 
several Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, attributed to the 
apostles, which yet are acknowledged to be spurious, 
I confess I cannot help suspecting the whole. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you suspect all Plato's 
writings for spurious, because the Dialogue upon Death, 
for instance, is allowed to be so ? Or will you admit 
none of Tully's writings to be genuine, because Sigonius 
imposed a book of his own writing for Tully's treatise 
De Consolatione, and the imposture passed for some time 
on the world 1 ? 

Ale. Suppose I admit for the works of Tully and Plato 
those that commonly pass for such. What then ? 

Euph. Why then I would fain know whether it be equal 
and impartial in a free-thinker, to measure the credibility 
of profane and sacred books by a different rule. Let 
us know upon what foot we Christians are to argue with 
minute philosophers ; whether we may be allowed the 
benefit of common maxims in logic and criticism? If 
we may, be pleased to assign a reason why supposititious 
writings, which in the style and manner and matter bear 

1 Sigonius (Sigonio or Sigone), he was himself the author. It was 

a famous Italian scholar and an- accepted at the time by many of 

tiquary in the sixteenth century, the learned, and Tiraboschi was 

who passed off as genuine a skilful undeceived only by finding letters 

imitation of Cicero, in the form of in which Sigonius allows the for- 

a treatise De Consolatione, of which gery. 



252 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

visible marks of imposture, and have accordingly been 
rejected by the Church, can be made an argument against 
those which have been universally received, and handed 
down by an unanimous constant tradition. P I know nothing 
truly valuable that hath not been counterfeited ; therefore 
this argument is universal : but that which concludes 
against all things is to be admitted against none.] There 
have been in all ages, and in all great societies of men 
many capricious, vain, or wicked impostors, who for dif- 
ferent ends have abused the world by spurious writings, 
and created work for critics both in profane and sacred 
learning. And it would seem as silly to reject the true 
writings of profane authors for the sake of the spurious, 
as it would seem unreasonable to suppose, that among 
the heretics and several sects of Christians there should 
be none capable of the like imposture. 

[ 2 Ale. I see no means for judging: it is all dark 
and doubtful ; mere guess-work, at so great distance of 
time. 

Cri. But if I know that a number of fit persons, met 
together in Council, did examine and distinguish authentic 
writings from spurious, relating to a point of the highest 
concern, in an age near the date of those writings ; though 
I at the distance of many more centuries had no other 
proof, yet their decision may be of weight to determine my 
judgment. Since it is probable they might have had 
several proofs and reasons for what they did, and not 
at all improbable that those reasons might be lost in so 
long a tract of time 3 .] 

6. Ale. But, be the tradition ever so well attested, and 
the books ever so genuine, yet I cannot suppose them 
wrote by persons divinely inspired so long as I see in them 
certain characters inconsistent with such a supposition. 
Surely the purest language, the most perfect style, the 
exactest method, and in a word all the excellences of 
good writing, might be expected in a piece composed 
or dictated by the Spirit of God. But books wherein we 

1 Introduced in the third edition. 3 [Vide Can. LX. Concil. Lao- 

2 Introduced in the second edi- dicen.] — Author. 
tion. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 253 

find the reverse of all this, it were impious not to reject, 
but to attribute to the Divinity l . 

Euph. Say, Alciphron, are the lakes, the rivers, or the 
ocean, bounded by straight lines ? Are the hills and 
mountains exact cones or pyramids? Or the stars cast 
into regular figures ? 

Ale. They are not. 

Euph. But in the works of insects we may observe 
figures as exact as if they were drawn by the rule and 
compass. 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. Should it not seem, therefore, that a regular 
exactness, or scrupulous attention to what men call the 
rules of art, is not observed in the great productions of 
the Author of nature ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And when a great prince declareth his will in 
laws and edicts to his subjects, is he careful about a pure 
style or elegant composition ? Does he not leave his 
secretaries and clerks to express his sense in their own 
words? Is not the phrase on such occasions thought 
proper if it conveys as much as was intended ? And 
would not the divine strain of certain modern critics be 
judged affected, and improper for such uses ? 

Ale. It must be owned, laws, and edicts, and grants, 
for solecism and tautology, are very offensive to the 
harmonious ears of a fine writer. 

Euph. Why then should we expect in the Oracles of 
God an exactness that would be misbecoming and beneath 
the dignity of an earthly monarch, and which bears no 
proportion or resemblance to the magnificent works of 
the creation ? 

Ale. But, granting that a nice regard to particles and 
critical rules is a thing too little and mean to be expected 
in Divine revelations ; and that there is more force, and 
spirit, and true greatness in a negligent, unequal style, 
than in the well-turned periods of a polite writer ; — yet 
what is all this to the bald and flat compositions of those 
you call the Divine penmen ? , I can never be persuaded 
the Supreme Being would pick out the poorest and meanest 
scribblers for his secretaries. 

1 See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. III. pp. 229-35. 



254 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. O Alciphron ! if I durst follow my own judgment, 
I should be apt to think there are noble beauties in the 
style of the Holy Scripture : in the narrative parts a strain 
so simple and unaffected : in the devotional and prophetic 
so animated and sublime : and in the doctrinal parts such 
an air of dignity and authority as seems to speak their 
original Divine. But I shall not enter into a dispute 
about taste ; much less set up my judgment on so nice 
a point against that of the wits, and men of genius, with 
which your sect abounds. And I have no temptation 
to it, inasmuch as it seems to me the Oracles of God are 
not the less so for being delivered in a plain dress, rather 
than in ' the enticing words of man's wisdom.' 

Ale. This may perhaps be an apology for some simpli- 
city and negligence in writing. 

7. But what apology can be made for nonsense, crude 
nonsense ? * Of which I could easily assign many instances, 
having once in my life read the Scripture through with that 
very view. Look here, said he, opening a Bible, in the 
forty-ninth Psalm, the author begins magnificently, calling 
upon all the inhabitants of the earth to give ear, and 
assuring them his mouth shall speak of wisdom, and the 
meditation of his heart shall be of understanding : 

Quid dignum tanto feret hie promissor hiatu ? 

He hath no sooner done with his preface but he puts 
this senseless question, 'Wherefore should I fear in the 
days of evil ; when the wickedness of my heels shall 
compass me about ? ' The iniquity of my heels ! What 
nonsense after such a solemn irtroduction ! 

Euph. For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, 
and know there are many things that I cannot see, which 
are nevertheless distinctly seen by others. I do not there- 
fore conclude a thing to be absolutely invisible, because 
it is so to me. And, since it is possible it may be with 
my understanding as it is with my eyes, I dare not pro- 
nounce a thing to be nonsense, because I do not under- 
stand it. Of this passage many interpretations are given. 
The word rendered heels may signify fraud or supplanta- 
tion : by some it is translated 'past wickedness,' the heel 

1 So Tindal. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 255 

being the hinder part of the foot ; by others ' iniquity 
in the end of my days/ the heel being one extremity of 
the body ; by some ' the iniquity of my enemies that may 
supplant me j by others ' my own faults or iniquities which 
I have passed over as light matters, and trampled under 
my feet.' Some render it ' the iniquity of my ways ' ; 
others, ' my transgressions, which are like slips and slidings 
of the heel.' And after all, might not this expression, 
so harsh and odd to English ears, have been very natural 
and obvious in the Hebrew tongue, which, as every other 
language, had its idioms ? the force and propriety whereof 
may as easily be conceived lost in a long tract of time, 
as the signification of some Hebrew words which are not 
now intelligible, though nobody doubts but they had once 
a meaning as well as the other words of that language. 
Granting, therefore, that certain passages in the Holy 
Scripture may not be understood, it will not thence follow 
that its penman wrote nonsense ; for I conceive nonsense 
to be one thing, and unintelligible another. 

Cri. An English gentleman of my acquaintance one 
day entertaining some foreigners at his house sent a 
servant to know the occasion of a sudden tumult in the 
yard, who brought him word, 'the horses were fallen 
together by the ears.' His guests inquiring what the 
matter was, he translates it literally, Les chevaux sont 
tombez ensemble par les oreilles : which made them stare ; 
what expressed a very plain sense in the original English 
being incomprehensible when rendered word for word 
into French. And I remember to have heard a man excuse 
the bulls of his countrymen, by supposing them so many 
literal translations. 

Euph. But, not to grow tedious, I refer to the critics and 
commentators, where you will find the use of this remark, 
which, clearing up several obscure passages you take 
for nonsense, may possibly incline you to suspect your 
own judgment of the rest. In this very psalm you have 
pitched on, the good sense and moral contained in what 
follows, should, methinks, make a candid reader judge 
favourably of the original sense of the author, in that 
part which he could not understand. Say, Alciphron, 
in reading the classics, do you forthwith conclude every 
passage to be nonsense that you cannot make sense of? 



256 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Ale. By no means ; difficulties must be supposed to 
rise from different idioms, old customs, hints, and allusions, 
clear in one time or place, and obscure in another. 

Euph. And why will you not judge of Scripture by the 
same rule ? These sources of obscurity you mention are 
all common both to sacred and profane writings; and 
there is no doubt but an exacter knowledge in language 
and circumstances would in both cause difficulties to vanish 
like shades before the light of the sun. Jeremiah, to 
describe a furious invader, saith, ' Behold he shall come 
up as a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the 
habitation of the strong' 1 . One would be apt to think 
this passage odd and improper, and that it had been more 
reasonable to have said, 'a. lion from the mountain 
or the desert.' But travellers, as an ingenious man 
observes, who have seen the river Jordan bounded by 
low lands with many reeds or thickets affording shelter 
to wild beasts (which being suddenly dislodged by a rapid 
overflowing of the river rush into the upland country), 
perceive the force and propriety of the comparison ; and 
that the difficulty proceeds, not from nonsense in the 
writer, but from ignorance in the reader 2 . 

1 Jer. xlix. 19. to have heard this text explained 

2 The following sentences added by Laches, the vicar of our parish, 
here in the first and second e^i- to my neighbour Lycon, who was 
tions, were withdrawn in the third : much perplexed about its meaning. 
— ' It is needless to amass together If it had been translated, as it might 
instances which may be found in very justly u baptized for the sake 
every commentator. I only beg of the dead," I do not see, said 
leave to observe, that sometimes Laches, why people should be 
men looking higher or deeper than puzzled about the sense of this 
they need, for a profound or re- passage ; for, tell me, I beseech 
mote sense, overlook the natural you, for whose sake do you think 
obvious sense, lying, if I may so those Christians were baptized ? 
say, at their feet, and so make For whose sake, answered Lycon, 
difficulties instead of finding them. but their own ? How do you mean ? 
This seems to be the case of that for their own sake in this life, or 
celebrated passage, which hath the next ? Doubtless, in the next ; 
created so much work, in St. Paul's for it was plain they could get 
First Epistle to the Corinthians * : nothing by it in this. They were 
M What shall they do which are then, replied Laches, baptized not 
baptized for the dead, if the dead for the sake of themselves while 
rise not at all ? Why are they then living, but for the sake of them- 
baptized for the dead?" I remember selves when dead; not for the 

* 1 Corinth, xv. 29. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 257 

Ale. Here and there a difficult passage may be cleared : 
but there are many which no art or wit of man can account 
for. What say you to those discoveries, made by some of 
our learned writers, of false citations from the Old Testa- 
ment found in the Gospel ? 

Euph. That some few passages are cited by the writers 
of the New Testament out of the Old, and by the Fathers 
out of the New, which are not in so many words to be 
found in them, is no new discovery of minute philosophers, 
but was known and observed long before by Christian 
writers; who have made no scruple to grant that some 
things might have been inserted by careless or mistaken 
transcribers into the text, from the margin, others left out, 
and others altered ; whence so many various readings. 
But these are things of small moment, and which all other 
ancient authors have been subject to ; and upon which no 
point of doctrine depends which may not be proved without 
them. Nay further, if it be any advantage to your cause, 
it hath been observed, that the eighteenth Psalm, as re- 
cited in the twenty-second chapter of the Second Book of 
Samuel, varies in about forty places, if you regard every 
little verbal or literal difference ; and that a critic may 
now and then discover small variations is what nobody 
can deny. But, to make the most of these concessions, 
what can you infer from them more than that the design of 
the Holy Scripture was not to make us exactly knowing 
in circumstantials ? and that the Spirit did not dictate 
every particle and syllable, or preserve them from every 
minute alteration by miracle? which to believe, would 
look like Rabbinical superstition. 

Ale. But what marks of Divinity can possibly be in 
writings which do not reach the exactness even of human 
art? 

Euph. I never thought nor expected that the Holy 

living, but the dead ? I grant it. had sought baptism. There is 

Baptism, therefore, must have been then, concluded Laches, no neces- 

to them a fruitless thing, if the sity for supposing that living men 

dead rise not at all ? It must. were in those days baptized instead 

Whence Laches inferred that St. of those who died without baptism, 

Paul's argument was clear and or of running into any other odd 

pertinent for the resurrection : suppositions or strained and far- 

and Lycon allowed it to be argu- fetched interpretation to make 

mentum ad hominem to those who sense of this passage.' 



BERKELEY: FRASER. II. 



s 



258 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Scripture should shew itself Divine, by a circumstantial 
accuracy of narration, by exactness of method, by strictly 
observing the rules of rhetoric, grammar, and criticism, in 
harmonious periods, in elegant and choice expressions, or 
in technical definitions and partitions. These things would 
look too like a human composition. Methinks there is in 
that simple, unaffected, artless, unequal, bold, figurative 
style of the Holy Scripture, a character singularly great 
and majestic, and that looks more like Divine inspiration 
than any other composition that I know. But, as I said 
before, I shall not dispute a point of criticism with the 
gentlemen of your sect, who, it seems, are the modern 
standard for wit and taste. 

Ale. Well, I shall not insist on small slips, or the in- 
accuracy of citing or transcribing. And I freely own, that 
repetitions, want of method, or want of exactness in 
circumstances, are not the things that chiefly stick with 
me ; no more than the plain patriarchal manners, or the 
peculiar usages and customs of the Jews and first 
Christians, so different from ours ; and that to reject 
the Scripture on such accounts would be to act like those 
French wits who censure Homer because they do not find 
in him the style, notions, and manners of their own age 
and country. Was there nothing else to divide us, I 
should make no great difficulty of owning that a popular 
incorrect style might answer the general ends of reve- 
lation, as well perhaps as a more critical and exact one. 
But the obscurity still sticks with me. Methinks if the 
supreme Being had spoke to man, He would have spoke 
clearly to him, and that the Word of God should not need 
a comment. 

8. Euph. You seem, Alciphron, to think obscurity 
a defect ; but if it should prove to be no defect, there 
would then be no force in this objection. 

Ale. I grant there would not. 

Euph. Pray tell me, are not speech and style instru- 
mental to convey thoughts and notions, to beget knowledge, 
opinion, and assent ? 

Ale. This is true. 

Euph. And is not the perfection of an instrument to be 
measured by the use to which it is subservient ? 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 259 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. What therefore is a defect in one instrument 
may be none in another. For instance, edged tools are 
in general designed to cut ; but, the uses of an axe and 
a razor being different, it is no defect in an axe that it 
hath not the keen edge of a razor ; nor in a razor that it 
hath not the weight or strength of an axe. 

Ale. I acknowledge this to be true. 

Euph. And may we not say in general, that every in- 
strument is perfect which answers the purpose or intention 
of him who useth it ? 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. Hence it seems to follow, that no man's speech 
is defective in point of clearness, though it should not be 
intelligible to all men, if it be sufficiently so to those who 
he intended should understand it ; or though it should not 
in all parts be equally clear, or convey a perfect know- 
ledge, where he intended only an imperfect hint. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Ought we not therefore to know the intention of 
the speaker, to be able to know whether his style be 
obscure through defect or design ? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. But is it possible for one man to know all the 
ends and purposes of God's revelations ? 

Ale. It is not. 

Euph. How then can you tell but the obscurity of some 
parts of Scripture may well consist with the purpose which 
you know not, and consequently be no argument against 
its coming from God ? The books of Holy Scripture 
were written in ancient languages, at distant times, on 
sundry occasions, and very different subjects. Is it not, 
therefore, reasonable to imagine that some parts or 
passages might have been clearly enough understood by 
those for whose proper use they were principally designed, 
and yet seem obscure to us, who speak another language, 
and live in other times ? Is it at all absurd or unsuitable 
to the notion we have of God or man, to suppose that God 
may reveal, and yet reveal with a reserve upon certain 
remote and sublime subjects, content to give us hints and 
glimpses, rather than views ? May we not also suppose, . 
from the reason of things and the analogy of nature, that 

s 2 



260 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

some points, which might otherwise have been more 
clearly explained, were left obscure merely to encourage 
our diligence and modesty ? Two virtues, which, if it 
might not seem disrespectful to such great men, I would 
recommend to the minute philosophers l . 

Lysicles replied, This indeed is excellent ! You expect 
that men of sense and spirit should in great humility put 
out their eyes, and blindly swallow all the absurdities and 
nonsense that shall be offered to them for Divine reve- 
lation. 

Euph. On the contrary, I would have them open their 
eyes, look sharply, and try the spirit, whether it is of God ; 
and not supinely and ignorantly condemn in the gross all 
religions together, piety with superstition, truth for the 
sake of error, matter of fact for the sake of fiction : a con- 
duct which at first sight would seem absurd in history, 
physic, or any other branch of human inquiry. But, to 
compare the Christian system, or Holy Scriptures, with 
other pretences to Divine revelation ; to consider imparti- 
ally the doctrines, precepts, and events therein contained ; 
weigh them in the balance with any other religious, natural, 
moral, or historical accounts ; and diligently to examine 
all those proofs, internal and external, that for so many 
ages have been able to influence and persuade so many 
wise, learned, and inquisitive men — perhaps they might 
find in it certain peculiar characters which sufficiently 
distinguish it from all other religions and pretended reve j 
lations, whereon to ground a reasonable faith. In which 
case, I leave them to consider whether it would be right to 
reject with peremptory scorn a revelation so distinguished 
and attested, upon account of obscurity in some parts of 
it? and whether it would seem beneath men of their 
sense and spirit to acknowledge that, for aught they know, 
a light inadequate to things may yet be adequate to the 
purpose of Providence ? and whether it might be un- 
becoming their sagacity and critical skill to own, that 
literal translations from books in an ancient oriental 
tongue, wherein there are so many peculiarities, as to the 

1 Some people are apt to pre- medium, rather than in a manner 

suppose that God must be revealed, adapted to encourage diligent in- 

if at all, through a perfectly lucid quiry, and to keep in constant exer- 

and in all respects verbal infallible cise the moral venture of faith. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 261 

manner of writing, the figures of speech, and structure of 
the phrase, so remote from all our modern idioms, and in 
which we have no other coeval writings extant, might well 
be obscure in many places, especially such as treat of sub- 
jects sublime and difficult in their own nature, or allude to 
things, customs, or events very distant from our know- 
ledge? And lastly, whether it might not become their 
character, as impartial and unprejudiced men, to consider 
the Bible in the same light they would profane authors ? 
They are apt to make great allowance for transpositions, 
omissions, and literal errors of transcribers in other 
ancient books ; and very great for the difference of style 
and manner, especially in Eastern writings, such as the 
remains of Zoroaster and Confucius, and why not in the 
Prophets ? In reading Horace or Persius, to make out 
the sense, they will be at the pains to discover a hidden 
drama, and why not in Solomon or St. Paul? I hear 
there are certain ingenious men who despise King David's 
poetry, and yet profess to admire Homer and Pindar. If 
there be no prejudice or affectation in this, let them but 
make a literal version from those authors into English 
prose, and they will then be better able to judge of the 
Psalms. 

Ale. You may discourse and expatiate ; but, notwith- 
standing all you have said or shall say, it is a clear point, 
that a revelation which doth not reveal can be no better 
than a contradiction in terms. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you not acknowledge the 
light of the sun to be the most glorious production of 
Providence in this natural world ? 

Ale. Suppose I do. 

Euph. This light, nevertheless, which you cannot deny 
to be of God's making, shines only on the surface of things, 
shines not at all in the night, shines imperfectly in the 
twilight, is often interrupted, refracted, and obscured, 
represents distant things and small things dubiously, im- 
perfectly, or not at all. Is this true or no ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Should it not follow, therefore, that to expect in 
this world a light from God, without any mixture of shade 
or mystery, would be departing from the rule and analogy 
of the creation ? and that, consequently, it is no argument 



262 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

the light of revelation is not Divine, because it may not be 
so clear and full as you expect [ ; ' or because it may not 
equally shine at all times, or in all places]. 

Ale. As I profess myself candid and indifferent through- 
out this debate, I must needs own you say some plausible 
things, as a man of argument will never fail to do in vindi- 
cation of his prejudices. 

9. But, to deal plainly, I must tell you, once for all, that 
you may question and answer, illustrate, and enlarge for 
ever, without being able to convince me that the Christian 
Religion is of divine revelation. I have said several 
things, and have many more to say, which, believe me, 
have weight not only with myself, but with many great 
men my very good friends, and will have weight whatever 
Euphranor can say to the contrary. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I envy you the happiness of such 
acquaintance. But, as my lot, fallen in this remote corner, 
deprives me of that advantage, I am obliged to make the 
most of this opportunity which you and Lysicles have put 
into my hands. I consider you as two able chirurgeons, 
and you were pleased to consider me as a patient, whose 
cure you have generously undertaken. Now, a patient 
must have full liberty to explain his case, and tell all his 
symptoms, the concealing or palliating of whichmight prevent 
a perfect cure. You will be pleased therefore to under- 
stand me, not as objecting to, or arguing against, either 
your skill or medicines, but only as setting forth my own 
case, and the effects they have upon me. Say, Alciphron, 
did you not give me to understand that you would extirpate 
my prejudices ? 

Ale. It is true : a good physician eradicates every fibre 
of the disease. Come, you shall have a patient hearing. 

Euph. Pray, was it not the opinion of Plato, that God 
inspired particular men, as organs or trumpets, to proclaim 
and sound forth his oracles to the world 2 ? And was not 
the same opinion also embraced by others the greatest 
writers of antiquity ? 

Cri. Socrates seems to have thought that all true poets 
spoke by inspiration ; and Tully, that there was no extra- 

1 Added in second edition. 2 [Plato in lone.] — Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 263 

ordinary genius without it. This hath made some of our 
affected free-thinkers attempt to pass themselves upon the 
world for enthusiasts. 

Ale. What would you infer from all this ? 

Euph. I would infer that inspiration should seem nothing 
impossible or absurd, but rather agreeable to the light of 
reason and the notions of mankind. And this, I suppose, 
you will acknowledge, having made it an objection against 
a particular revelation, that there are so many pretences to 
it throughout the world. 

Ale. O Euphranor! he who looks into the bottom of 
things, and resolves them into their first principles, is not 
easily amused with words. The word inspiration sounds 
indeed big, but let us, if you please, take an original view 
of the thing signified by it. To inspire is a word borrowed 
from the Latin, and, strictly taken, means no more than to 
breathe or blow in : nothing, therefore, can be inspired but 
what can be blown or breathed ; and nothing can be so 
but wind or vapour, which indeed may fill or puff up men 
with fanatical and hypochondriacal ravings. This sort of 
inspiration I very readily admit. 

Euph. What you say is subtle, and I know not what 
effect it might have upon me, if your profound discourse 
did not hinder its own operation. 

Ale. How so ? 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you discourse, or do you 
not ? To me it seems that you discourse admirably. 

Ale. Be that as it will, it is certain I discourse. 

Euph. But, when I endeavour to look into the bottom of 
things, behold ! a scruple riseth in my mind how this can 
be ; for, to discourse is a word of Latin derivation, which 
originally signifies to run about ; and a man cannot run 
about but he must change place, and move his legs; so 
long, therefore, as you sit on this bench, you cannot be 
said to discourse. Solve me this difficulty, and then per- 
haps I may be able to solve yours. 

Ale. You are to know, that discourse is a word borrowed 
from sensible things, to express an invisible action of the 
mind, reasoning or inferring one thing from another; and, 
in this translated sense, we may be said to discourse though 
we sit still. 

Euph. And may we not as well conceive that the term 



264 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

inspiration might be borrowed from sensible things, to 
denote an action of God, in an extraordinary manner, 
influencing, exciting, and enlightening the mind of a pro- 
phet or an apostle ? who, in this secondary, figurative, and 
translated sense, may truly be said to be inspired, though 
there should be nothing in the case of that wind or vapour 
implied in the original sense of the word ? It seems to 
me that we may, by looking into our own minds, plainly 
perceive certain instincts, impulses, and tendencies, which, 
at proper periods and occasions, spring up unaccountably 
in the soul of man. We observe very visible signs of 
the same in all other animals. And, these things being 
ordinary and natural, what hinders but we may conceive 
it possible for the human mind, upon an extraordinary 
account, to be moved in an extraordinary manner, and its 
faculties stirred up and actuated by supernatural power? 
That there are, and have been, and are likely to be, wild 
visions and hypochondriacal ravings, nobody can deny; 
but, to infer from thence that there are no true inspirations 
would be too like concluding, that some men are not in 
their senses, because other men are fools. And, though 
I am no prophet, and consequently cannot pretend to a 
clear notion of this matter, yet I shall not therefore take 
upon me to deny but a true prophet or inspired person 
might have had a certain means of discerning between 
Divine inspiration and hypochondriacal fancy, as you can 
between sleeping and waking, till you have proved the 
contrary. You may meet in the book of Jeremiah with 
this passage — ' The prophet that hath a dream let him tell 
a dream : and he that hath my word, let him speak my 
word faithfully : what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the 
Lord ? Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord, and 
like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces 1 ? ' You 
see here a distinction made between wheat and chaff, true 
and spurious, with the mighty force and power of the 
former. But I beg pardon for quoting Scripture to you. 
I make my appeal to the general sense of mankind, and 
the opinion of the wisest heathens, which seems sufficient 
to conclude Divine inspiration possible, if not probable, 
at least till you prove the contrary. 

1 [Jer. xxiii. 28, 29.] — Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 265 

10. Ale. The possibility of inspirations and revelations 
I do not think it necessary to deny. Make the best you 
can of this concession. 

Euph. Now what is allowed possible we may suppose 
in fact. 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. Let us then suppose that God had been pleased 
to make a revelation to men ; and that He inspired some 
as a means to instruct others. Having supposed this, can 
you deny that their inspired discourses and revelations 
might have been committed to writing, or that, being 
written, after a long tract of time they might become 
in several places obscure; that some of them might 
even originally have been less clear than others, or 
that they might suffer some alteration by frequent trans- 
cribing, as other writings are known to have done? Is 
it not even very probable that all these things would 
happen ? 

Ale. I grant it. 

Euph. And, granting this, with what pretence can you 
reject the Holy Scriptures as not being Divine, upon the 
account of such signs or marks as you acknowledge would 
probably attend a Divine revelation transmitted down to 
us through so many ages ? 

Ale. But allowing all that in reason you can desire, and 
granting that this may account for some obscurity, may 
reconcile some small differences, or satisfy us how some 
difficulties might arise, by inserting, omitting, or changing, 
here and there a letter, a word, or perhaps a sentence ; 
yet these are but small matters, in respect of the much 
more considerable and weighty objections I could produce 
against the confessed doctrines, or subject-matter of those 
writings. Let us see what is contained in these sacred 
books, and then judge whether it is probable or possible 
such revelations should ever have been made by God. Now, 
I defy the wit of man to contrive anything more extravagant 
than the accounts we there find of apparitions, devils, 
miracles, God manifest in the flesh, regeneration, grace, 
self-denial, resurrection of the dead, and such-like cegri 
somnia : things so odd, unaccountable, and remote from 
the apprehension of mankind, you may as soon wash a 
blackamore white as clear them of absurdity. No critical 



266 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

skill can justify them, no tradition recommend them, I will 
not say for Divine revelations, but even for the inventions 
of men of sense. 

Euph. I had always a great opinion of your sagacity, but 
now, Alciphron, I consider you as something more than 
man ; else how should it be possible for you to know what, 
or how far, it may be proper for God to reveal ? Methinks 
it may consist with all due deference to the greatest of 
human understandings, to suppose them ignorant of many 
things, which are not suited to their faculties, or lie out 
of their reach. Even the counsels of princes lie often 
beyond the ken of their subjects, who can only know so 
much as is revealed by those at the helm ; and are often 
unqualified to judge of the usefulness and tendency even 
of that, till in due time the scheme unfolds, and is accounted 
for by succeeding events. That many points contained in 
Holy Scripture are remote from the common apprehensions 
of mankind cannot be denied. But I do not see that it 
follows from thence they are not of Divine revelation. 
On the contrary, should it not seem reasonable to suppose 
that a revelation from God should contain something 
different in kind, or more excellent in degree, than 
what lay open to the common sense of men, or could 
even be discovered by the most sagacious philosopher? 
Accounts of separate spirits, good or bad, prophecies, 
miracles, and such things, are undoubtedly strange; but 
I would fain see how you can prove them impossible or 
absurd. 

Ale. Some things there are so evidently absurd that it 
would be almost as silly to disprove them as to believe 
them ; and I take these to be of that class. 

ii. Euph. But is it not possible some men may shew 
as much prejudice and narrowness in rejecting all such 
accounts as others might easiness and credulity in admitting 
them ? I never durst make my own observation or experi- 
ence the rule and measure of things spiritual, supernatural, 
or relating to another world ; because I should think it 
a very bad one even for the visible and natural things of 
this. It would be judging like the Siamese, who was 
positive it did not freeze in Holland, because he had never 
known such a thing as hard water or ice in his own 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 267 

country '. I cannot comprehend why any one who admits 
the union of the soul and body should pronounce it im- 
possible for the human nature to be united to the Divine, 
in a manner ineffable and incomprehensible by reason. 
Neither can I see any absurdity in admitting that sinful 
man may become regenerate, or a new creature, by the 
grace of God reclaiming him from a carnal life to a spiritual 
life of virtue and holiness. And since the being governed 
by sense and appetite is contrary to the happiness and 
perfection of a rational creature, I do not at all wonder 
that we are prescribed self-denial. As for the resurrection 
of the dead, I do not conceive it so very contrary to the 
analogy of nature, when I behold vegetables left to rot in 
the earth rise up again with new life and vigour, or a worm, 
to all appearance dead, change its nature, and that, which 
in its first being crawled on the earth, become a new 
species, and fly abroad with wings. And indeed, when 
I consider that the soul and body are things so very 
different and heterogeneous, I can see no reason to be 
positive that the one must necessarily be extinguished 
upon the dissolution of the other; especially since I find 
in myself a strong natural desire of immortality, and I have 
not observed that natural appetites are wont to be given in 
vain, or merely to be frustrated. Upon the whole, those 
points which you account extravagant and absurd, I dare 
not pronounce to be so till I see good reason for it. 

12. Cri. No, Alciphron, your positive airs must not pass 
for proofs; nor will it suffice to say, things are contrary 
to common sense, to make us think they are so. By 

1 The argument here controverted, In this Hume concludes exclu- 
as well as this illustration, reappears sively from empirical data. But 
thus in Hume's criticism of miracle. empirical data alone do not justify 
A miracle, he assumes, is ' a viola- faith in future unalterableness in 
tion of the laws of nature ; and as customary sequences. Besides this, 
a firm and unalterable experience 'experience' thus contrasted with 
has established these laws, the ' tradition ' and ' testimony ' is am- 
proof against a miracle, from the biguous. No onecan limit his know- 
very nature of the fact, is as entire ledge of what happens in the 
as any argument from "experience" universe to his own individual 
can possibly be imagined. . . . The experience ; and when he includes 
Indian prince who refused to be- the experience of others, this must 
lieve the first relations concerning be gained by their testimony, 
the effects of frost reasoned justly.' 



268 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

common sense, I suppose, should be meant, either the 
general sense of mankind, or the improved reason of 
thinking men \ Now, I believe that all those articles you 
have with so much capacity and fire at once summed up 
and exploded may be shewn to be not disagreeable, much 
less contrary, to common sense in one or other of these 
acceptations. That the gods might appear and converse 
among men, and that the Divinity might inhabit human 
nature, were points allowed by the heathens ; and for this 
I appeal to their poets and philosophers, whose testimonies 
are so numerous and clear that it would be an affront to 
repeat them to a man of any education. And, though the 
notion of a Devil- may not be so obvious, or so fully 
described, yet there appear plain traces of it, either from 
reason or tradition. The latter Platonists, as Porphyry 
and Jamblichus, are very clear in the point, allowing that 
evil demons delude and tempt, hurt and possess mankind. 
That the ancient Greeks, Chaldeans, and Egyptians believed 
both good and bad angels may be plainly collected from 
Plato, Plutarch, and the Chaldean oracles. Origen ob- 
serves, that almost all the Gentiles, who held the being 
of demons, allowed there were bad ones 3 . There is even 
something as early as Homer, that is thought by the 
learned Cardinal Bessarion * to allude to the fall of Satan, 
in the account of Ate, whom the poet represents as cast 
down from heaven by Jove, and then wandering about 
the earth, doing mischief to mankind. The same Ate is 
said by Hesiod to be the daughter of Discord : and by 
Euripides, in his Hippolytus, is mentioned as a tempter 
to evil. And it is very remarkable that Plutarch, in his 
book De Vitando JEre Alieno, speaks, after Empedocles, of 
certain demons that fell from heaven, and were banished 

by God, Aai/xoves OcrjXaToi /cat ovpavo7reTeL<;. Nor is that less 

remarkable which is observed by Ficinus, from Pherecydes 

1 The term common sense has two sophical evolution, and all vindi- 

meanings, the popular and thephilo- cated against fundamental doubt, 
sophical. Popularly it expresses 2 The result of more recent 

the average faith and intelligence critical examination of the history 

of men : philosophically, this faith of this notion modifies what follows, 
and intelligence developed and 3 [Origen, Lib. VII. contra Cel- 

enlightened by rational criticism, sum. J — Author. 
according to the best thought of * [In Calumniat. Platonis, Lib. 

the time, in the progressive philo- III. cap. 7.] — Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 269 

Syrus, that there had been a downfall of demons who 
revolted from God ; and that Ophioneus (the old serpent) 
was head of that rebellious crew 1 . Then, as to other 
articles, let any one consider what the Pythagoreans taught 
of the purgation and Auo-is, or deliverance of the soul : what 
most philosophers, but especially the Stoics, of subduing 
our passions : what Plato and Hierocles have said of for- 
giving injuries : what the acute and sagacious Aristotle 
writes in his Ethics to Nicomachus, of the spiritual and 
Divine life — that life which, according to him, is too 
excellent to be thought human ; insomuch as man, so far 
forth as man, cannot attain to it, but only so far forth as 
he has something Divine in him : and, particularly, let 
him reflect on what Socrates taught, to wit, that virtue is 
not to be learned from men, that it is the gift of God, and 
that good men are not good by virtue of human care or dili- 
gence, ovk €ivai av$pui7rivr)v €7rt/i.eAetav rj ayaOoi ayadol yLyvovrai 2 . 
Let any man who really thinks but consider what other 
thinking men have thought, who cannot be supposed pre- 
judiced in favour of revealed religion; and he will see 
cause, if not to think with reverence of the Christian 
doctrines of grace, self-denial, regeneration, sanctification, 
and the rest, even the most mysterious, at least to judge 
more modestly and warily than those who shall, with 
a confident air, pronounce them absurd, and repugnant to 
the reason of mankind. And, in regard to a future state, 
the common sense of the gentile world, modern or ancient, 
and the opinions of the wisest men of antiquity, are things 
so well known, that I need say nothing about them 3 . To 
me it seems, the minute philosophers, when they appeal 
to reason and common sense, mean only the sense of their 
own party : a coin, how current soever among themselves, 
that other men will bring to the touchstone, and pass for 
no more than it is worth. 

Lys. Be those notions agreeable to what or whose sense 

1 [Vide Argum. in Phaedrum consistency of the inevitable faith 
Platonis.] — Author. in Omnipotent Goodness with the 

2 [Vide Plat, in Protag. et alibi supposition that this mixed and 
passim.] — Author. confused life is the only life of 

3 The rationale of hope of a the persons who inhabit our planet 
better life after death is not much — in a universe that is essentially 
gone into by Berkeley. Is this divine? 

hope not so far founded on the in- 



270 AI.CIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

they may, they are not agreeable to mine. And if I am 
thought ignorant for this, I pity those who think me so. 

13. I enjoy myself, and follow my own courses, without 
remorse or fear ; which I should not do, if my head were 
filled with enthusiasm ; whether gentile or Christian, 
philosophical or revealed, it is all one to me. Let others 
know or believe what they can, and make the best of it ; 
I, for my part, am happy and safe in my ignorance. 

Cri. Perhaps not so safe neither. 

Lys. Why, surely you will not pretend that ignorance is 
criminal ? 

Cri. Ignorance alone is not a crime. But that wilful 
ignorance, affected ignorance, ignorance from sloth, or 
conceited ignorance, is a fault, might easily be proved by 
the testimony of heathen writers ; and it needs no proof to 
shew that, if ignorance be our fault, we cannot be secure 
in it as an excuse. 

Lys. Honest Crito seems to hint that a man should take 
care to inform himself while alive, lest his neglect be 
punished when he is dead. Nothing is so pusillanimous 
and unbecoming a gentleman as fear; nor could you take 
a likelier course to fix and rivet a man of honour in guilt, 
than by attempting to frighten him out of it. This is the 
stale absurd stratagem of priests, and that which makes 
them and their religion more odious and contemptible to 
me than all the other articles put together. 

Cri. I would fain know why it may not be reasonable 
for a man of honour, or any man who has done amiss, 
to fear. Guilt is the natural parent of fear ; and nature is 
not used to make men fear where there is no occasion. 
That impious and profane men should expect Divine 
punishment doth not seem so absurd to conceive : and 
that, under this expectation, they should be uneasy and 
even afraid, how consistent soever it may or may not 
be with honour, I am sure consists with reason. 

Lys. That thing of hell and eternal punishment is the 
most absurd as well as the most disagreeable thought that 
ever entered the head of mortal man. 

Cri. But you must own that it is not an absurdity peculiar 
to Christians, since Socrates, that great free-thinker of 
Athens, thought it probable there may be such a thing as 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 27 1 

impious men for ever punished in hell \ It is recorded of 
this same Socrates, that he has been often known to think 
for four-and-twenty hours together, fixed in the same pos- 
ture, and wrapped up in meditation. 

Lys. Our modern free-thinkers are a more lively sort of 
men. Those old philosophers were most of them whimsical. 
They had, in my judgment, a dry, narrow, timorous way of 
thinking, which by no means came up to the frank humour 
of our times. 

Cri. But I appeal to your own judgment, if a man who 
knows not the nature of the soul can be assured, by the 
light of reason, whether it is mortal or immortal ? 

An simul intereat nobiscum morte perempta, 
An tenebras orci visat vastasque lacunas? 

Lys. But what if I know the nature of the soul ? What 
if I have been taught that whole secret by a modern free- 
thinker ? a man of science who discovered it not by a tire- 
some introversion of his faculties, not by amusing himself 
in a labyrinth of notions, or stupidly thinking for whole 
days and nights together, but by looking into things, and 
observing the analogy of nature. 

14. This great man is a philosopher by fire, who has 
made many processes upon vegetables. It is his opinion 
that men and vegetables are really of the same species ; 
that animals are moving vegetables, and vegetables fixed 
animals ; that the mouths of the one and the roots of the 
other serve to the same use, differing only in position ; 
that blossoms and flowers answer to the most indecent 
and concealed parts of the human body ; that vegetable 
and animal bodies are both alike organised, and that in 
both there is life, or a certain motion and circulation of 
juices through proper tubes or vessels. I shall never 
forget this able man's unfolding the nature of the soul 
in the following manner: — The soul, said he, is that 
specific form or principle from whence proceed the distinct 
qualities or properties of things. Now, as vegetables are 
a more simple and less perfect compound, and consequently 
more easily analysed than animals, we will begin with the 

1 [Vide Platon. in Gorgia.] — of the Gorgias. Cf. Guardian, No. 
Author. See Socrates at the end 27, where Socrates is quoted. 



272 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

contemplation of the souls of vegetables. Know then that 
the soul of any plant, rosemary for instance, is neither 
more nor less than its essential oil \ Upon this depends 
its peculiar fragrance, taste, and medicinal virtues, or in 
other words its life and operations. Separate or extract 
this essential oil by chemic art, and you get the soul of the 
plant ; what remains being a dead carcass, without any one 
property or virtue of the plant, which is preserved entire 
in the oil, a drachm whereof goes further than several 
pounds of the plant. Now this same essential oil is itself 
a composition of sulphur and salt, or of a gross unctuous 
substance, and a fine subtle principle or volatile salt 
imprisoned therein \ The volatile salt is properly the 
essence of the soul of the plant, containing all its virtue ; 
and the oil is the vehicle of this most subtle part of the 
soul, or that which fixes and individuates it. And as, 
upon separation of this oil from the plant, the plant dies, 
so a second death, or death of the soul, ensues upon the 
resolution of this essential oil into its principles ; as appears 
by leaving it exposed for some time to the open air, so 
that the volatile salt or spirit may fly off; after which 
the oil remains dead and insipid, but without any sensible 
diminution of its weight, by the loss of that volatile essence 
of the soul, that ethereal aura, that spark of entity, which 
returns and mixes with the solar light 2 , the universal soul 
of the world, and only source of life, whether vegetable, 
animal, or intellectual ; which differ only according to the 
grossness or fineness of the vehicles, and the different 
textures of the natural alembics, or, in other words, the 
organised bodies where the above-mentioned volatile 
essence inhabits and is elaborated, where it acts and is 
acted upon. This chemical system lets you at once into 
the nature of the soul, and accounts for all its phenomena. 
In that compound which is called man, the soul or essential 
oil is what commonly goes by the name of animal spirit : 
for, you must know it is a point agreed by chemists, that 

1 So afterwards in Sin's, especially trine, that solar- fire, or light, may 

sect. 8, 38, 42, 44-47, 59-61. be regarded as ' the animal spirit of 

2 Cf. Siris, e. g. sect. 43, 152, this visible world,' diffused through 

162, 193, 194 ; also First Letter to the universe, and the divine in- 

T — P — on the Virtues of Tar- strumental cause of all changes in 

Water, sect. 16, 17. He there un- external nature, 
folds and adopts the ancient doc- 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 273 

spirits are nothing but the more subtle oils. Now, in 
proportion as the essential oil of man is more subtle than 
that of other creatures, the volatile salt that impregnates it 
is more at liberty to act ; which accounts for those specific 
properties and actions of human-kind, which distinguish 
them above other creatures. Hence you may learn why, 
among the wise ancients \ salt was another name for wit, 
and in our times a dull man is said to be insipid or insulse. 
Aromatic oils, maturated by great length of time, turn to 
salts : this shews why human-kind grow wiser by age. 
And what I have said of the twofold death or dissolution, 
first of the compound, by separating the soul from the 
organical body, and secondly of the soul itself, by dividing 
the volatile salt from the oil, illustrates and explains that 
notion of certain ancient philosophers— that, as the man 
was a compound of soul and body, so the soul was com- 
pounded of the mind or intellect, and its sethereal vehicle ; 
and that the separation of soul and body, or death of the 
man, is, after a long tract of time, succeeded by a second 
death of the soul itself, to wit, the separation or deliverance 
of the intellect from its vehicle, and reunion with the sun ". 

Euph. O Lysicles ! your ingenious friend has opened 
a new scene, and explained the most obscure and difficult 
points in the clearest and easiest manner. 

Lys. I must own this account of things struck my fancy. 
I am no great lover of creeds or systems ; but when 
a notion is reasonable and grounded on experience I know 
how to value it. 

Cri. In good earnest, Lysicles, do you believe this 
account to be true ? 

Lys. Why then in good earnest I do not know whether 
I do or no. But I can assure you the ingenious artist 
himself has not the least doubt about it. And to believe an 
artist in his art is a just maxim and a short way to science. 

Cri. But what relation hath the soul of man to chemic 
art ? The same reason that bids me trust a skilful artist 
in his art inclines me to suspect him out of his art. Men 

1 Berkeley's reverence for an- animal spirit of the universe, which 

cient learning grew as his life ad- instrumentally connects all things, 

vanced. It appears more in Sin's. may be compared with this curious 

3 Sin's passim, with its doctrine forecast of the same in Akipliron. 
of an elementary fire medium, or 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. 



274 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

are too apt to reduce unknown things to the standard 
of what they know, and bring a prejudice or tincture from 
things they have been conversant in, to judge thereby of 
things in which they have not been conversant. I have 
known a fiddler gravely teach that the soul was harmony ; 
a geometrician very positive that the soul must be extended ; 
and a physician, who, having pickled half a dozen embryos, 
and dissected as many rats and frogs, grew conceited, and 
affirmed there was no soul at all, and that it was a vulgar 
error. 

Lys. My notions sit easy. I shall not engage in pedantic 
disputes about them. They who do not like them may 
leave them. 

Euph. This, I suppose, is said much like a gentleman. 

15. But pray, Lysicles, tell me whether the clergy come 
within that general rule of yours, that an artist may be 
trusted in his art ? 

Lys. By no means. 

Euph. Why so ? 

Lys. Because I take myself to know as much of those 
matters as they do. 

Euph. But you allow that, in any other profession, one 
who had spent much time and pains may attain more 
knowledge than a man of equal or better parts who never 
made it his particular business. 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And nevertheless in things religious and Divine 
you think all men equally knowing. 

Lys. I do not say all men. But I think all men of 
sense competent judges. 

Euph. What ! are the Divine attributes and dispensa- 
tions to mankind, the true end and happiness of rational 
creatures, with the means of improving and perfecting 
their beings, more easy and obvious points than those 
which make the subject of every common profession ? 

Lys. Perhaps not : but one thing I know, some things 
are so manifestly absurd that no authority shall make me 
give into them. For instance, if all mankind should 
pretend to persuade me that the Son of God was born 
upon earth in a poor family, was spit upon, buffeted, and 
crucified, lived like a beggar, and died like a thief, I should 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 275 

never believe one syllable of it. Common sense shews 
every one what figure it would be decent for an earthly 
prince or ambassador to make ; and the Son of God, upon 
an embassy from heaven, must needs have made an 
appearance beyond all others of great eclat, and in all 
respects the very reverse of that which Jesus Christ is 
reported to have made, even by his own historians. 

Euph. O Lysicles ! though I had ever so much mind to 
approve and applaud your ingenious reasoning, yet I dare 
not assent to this, for fear of Crito. 

Lys. Why so ? 

Euph. Because he observed just now, that men judge of 
things they do not know, by prejudices from things they 
do know. And I fear he would object that you, who have 
been conversant in the grand monde, having your head 
filled with a notion of attendants and equipage and liveries, 
the familiar badges of human grandeur, are less able to 
judge of that which is truly Divine ; and that one who had 
seen less, and thought more, would be apt to imagine 
a pompous parade of worldly greatness not the most 
becoming the author of a spiritual religion, that was 
designed to wean men from the world, and raise them 
above it. 

Cri. Do you think, Lysicles, if a man should make his 
entrance into London in a rich suit of clothes, with 
a hundred gilt coaches, and a thousand laced footmen ; 
that this would be a more Divine appearance, and have 
more of true grandeur in it, than if he had power with 
a word to heal all manner of diseases, to raise the dead to 
life, and still the raging of the winds and the sea ? 

Lys. Without all doubt it must be very agreeable to 
common sense to suppose, that he could restore others 
to life who could not save his own. You tell us, indeed, 
that he rose again from the dead : but what occasion was 
there for him to die, the just for the unjust, the Son of 
God for wicked men ? And why in that individual place ? 
Why at that very time above all others ? Why did he not 
make his appearance earlier, and preach in all parts of the 
world, that the benefit might have been more extensive 
['and equal] ? Account for all these points, and reconcile 

1 Added in the second edition. 

T2 



276 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

them, if you can, to the common notions and plain sense of 
mankind. 

Cri. And what if those, as well as many other points, 
should lie out of the road that we are acquainted with ; 
must we therefore explode them, and make it a rule to 
condemn every proceeding as senseless that doth not 
square with the vulgar sense of man ? [* That, indeed, 
which evidently contradicts sense and reason you have 
a right to disbelieve. And when you are unjustly treated 
you have the same right to complain. But I think you should 
distinguish between matter of debt and matter of favour. 
Thus much is observed in all intercourse between man 
and man ; wherein acts of mere benevolence are never 
insisted on, or examined and measured with the same 
accurate line as matters of justice. Who but a minute 
philosopher would, upon a gratuitous distribution of 
favours, inquire, why at this time, and not before ? why 
to these persons, and not to others ? Various are the 
natural abilities and opportunities of human-kind. How 
wide a difference is there in respect of the law of nature 
between one of our stupid ploughmen and a minute 
philosopher ! between a Laplander and an Athenian ! 
That conduct, therefore, which seems to you partial and 
unequal may be found as well in the dispensation of 
natural religion as of .revealed. And, if so, why it should 
be made an objection against the one more than the 
other, I leave you to account 2 .] If the precepts and 
certain primary tenets of religion appear in the eye of 
reason good and useful ; and if they are also found to be 
so by their effects ; we may, for the sake of them, admit 
certain other points or doctrines recommended with them 
to have a good tendency, to be right and true, although we 
cannot discern their goodness or truth by the mere light of 
human reason, which may well be supposed an insuffi- 
cient judge of the proceedings, counsels, and designs of 
Providence ; and this sufficeth to make our conviction 
reasonable. 

16. It is an allowed point that no man can judge of this 

1 Added in the second edition. tion, when it is carried back to 

2 So Bishop Butler in his Analogy, 'natural religion' itself, and equally 
who fails to deal with the objec- directed against it. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 277 

or that part of a machine taken by itself, without knowing 
the whole, the mutual relation or dependence of its parts, 
and the end for which it was made l . And, as this is a 
point acknowledged in corporeal and natural things, ought 
we not, by a parity of reason, to suspend our judgment 
of a single unaccountable part of the Divine economy, till 
we are more fully acquainted with the moral system, or 
world of spirits, and are let into the designs of God's 
Providence, and have an extensive view of His dispensa- 
tions, past, present, and future ? Alas ! Lysicles, what do 
you know even of yourself, whence you come, what you 
are, or whither you are going? To me it seems that a 
minute philosopher is like a conceited spectator, who 
never looked behind the scenes, and yet would judge of 
the machinery; who, from a transient glimpse of a part 
only of some one scene, would take upon him to censure 
the plot of a play \ 

Lys. As to the plot I will not say ; but in half a scene 
a man may judge of an absurd actor. With what colour 
or pretext can you justify the vindictive, froward, whim- 
sical behaviour of some inspired teachers or prophets 3 ? 
Particulars that serve neither for profit nor pleasure I make 
a shift to forget; but in general the truth of this charge 
I do very well remember. 

Cri. You need be at no pains to prove a point I shall 
neither justify nor deny. [ 4 1 would only beg leave to 
observe that it seems a sure sign of sincerity in the sacred 
writers, that they should be so far from palliating the 
defects as to publish even the criminal and absurd actions 
of those very persons whom they relate to have been 
inspired.] That there have been human passions, infirmities, 
and defects, in persons inspired by God, I freely own ; 
nay, that very wicked men have been inspired, as Balaam 
for instance and Caiaphas, cannot be denied. But what 
will you infer from thence ? Can you prove it impossible 
that a weak or sinful man should become an instrument 
of the Spirit of God, for conveying His purpose to other 

1 So in Butler's Analogy, Pt. I. Alciphron appeared four years be- 
en. 7. fore the Analogy. 

2 This of Crito may again be com- 3 So Tindal. 

pared with the negative argument 4 Introduced in the third edition, 

in Butler's Analogy, Pt. I, ch. 7. 



278 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

sinners, or that Divine light may not, as well as the light of 
the sun, shine on a foul vessel without polluting its rays? 

Lys. To make short work, the right way would be to 
put out our eyes, and not judge at all '. 

Cri. I do not say so; but I think it would be right, 
if some sanguine persons upon certain points suspected 
their own judgment. 

Ale. But the very things said to be inspired, taken by 
themselves and in their own nature, are sometimes so 
wrong, to say no worse, that a man may pronounce them 
not to be Divine at first sight ; without troubling his head 
about the system of Providence or connexion of events — 
as one may say that grass is green without knowing or 
considering how it grows, what uses it is subservient to, 
or how it is connected with the mundane system. Thus, 
for instance, the spoiling of the Egyptians, and the extirpa- 
tion of the Canaanites, every one at first glance sees to be 
cruel and unjust, and may therefore, without deliberating, 
pronounce them unworthy of God 2 . 

Cri. But, Alciphron, to judge rightly of these things, may 
it not be proper to consider how long the Israelites had 
wrought under those severe task-masters of Egypt, what 
injuries and hardships they had sustained from them, what 
crimes and abominations the Canaanites had been guilty 
of, what right God hath to dispose of the things of this 
world, to punish delinquents, and to appoint both the 
manner and the instruments of His justice? Man, who 
has not such right over his fellow-creatures, who is himself 
a fellow-sinner with them, who is liable to error as well as 
passion, whose views are imperfect, who is governed more 
by prejudice than the truth of things, may not improbably 
deceive himself, when he sets up for a judge of the pro- 
ceedings of the holy, omniscient, impassive Creator and 
Governor of all things. 

17. Ale. Believe me, Crito, men are never so industrious 
to deceive themselves, as when they engage to defend 

' He that takes away reason, out his eyes the better to receive 

to make way for [christian] reve- the remote light of an invisible star 

lation, puts out the light of both ; by a telescope.'— Locke, Essay, Bk. 

and does muchwhat the same as if IV. ch. 19, § 4. 

he would persuade a man to put 2 Tindal argues thus. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 279 

their prejudices. You would fain reason us out of all use 
of our reason. Can anything be more irrational? To 
forbid us to reason on the Divine dispensations is to 
suppose they will not bear the test of reason ; or, in other 
words, that God acts without reason, which ought not to 
be admitted, no, not in any single instance. For if in one, 
why not in another? Whoever, therefore, allows a God 
must allow that He always acts reasonably. I will not 
therefore attribute to Him actions and proceedings that are 
unreasonable. He hath given me reason to judge withal ; 
and I will judge by that unerring light, lighted from the 
universal lamp of nature. 

Cri. O Alciphron ! as I frankly own the common remark 
to be true, that when a man is against reason, it is a shrewd 
sign reason is against him ; so I should never go about to 
dissuade any one, much less one who so well knew the 
value of it, from using that noble talent. On the contrary, 
upon all subjects of moment, in my opinion, a man ought 
to use his reason : but then, whether it may not be reason- 
able to use it with some deference to superior reason, it 
will riot perhaps be amiss to consider. [' He who hath an 
exact view of the measure, and of the thing to be measured, 
if he applies the one to the other, may, I grant, measure 
exactly. But he who undertakes to measure, without 
knowing either, can be no more exact than he is modest. 
It may not, nevertheless, be impossible to find a man who, 
having neither an abstract idea of moral fitness, nor an 
adequate idea of the Divine economy, shall yet pretend to 
measure the one by the other.] 

Ale. It must surely derogate from the wisdom of God, 
to suppose His conduct cannot bear being inspected, not 
even by the twilight of human reason. 

Euph. You allow, then, God to be wise ? 

Ale, I do. 

Euph. What ! infinitely wise ? 

Ale. Even infinitely. 

Euph. His wisdom, then, far exceeds that of man? 

Ale. Vastly. 

Euph. Probably more than the wisdom of man that of 
a child ? 

Ale. Without all question. 

1 Added in the second edition, 



280 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. What think you, Alciphron, must not the conduct 
of a parent seem very unaccountable to a child, when its 
inclinations are thwarted, when it is put to learn the letters, 
when it is obliged to swallow bitter physic, to part with 
what it likes, and to suffer and do, and see, many things 
done contrary to its own judgment, however reasonable or 
agreeable to that of others ? 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. Will it not therefore follow from hence, by a 
parity of reason, that the little child, man, when it takes 
upon it to judge of the schemes of parental Providence ; 
and, a thing of yesterday, to criticise the economy of the 
Ancient of Days ; will it not follow, I say, that such a 
judge, of such matters, must be apt to make very erroneous 
judgments? esteeming those things in themselves unac- 
countable, which he cannot account for, and concluding 
of some certain points, from an appearance of arbitrary 
carriage towards him, which is suited to his infancy and 
ignorance, that they are in themselves capricious or absurd, 
and cannot proceed from a wise, just, and benevolent God. 
This single consideration, if duly attended to, would, 
I verily think, put an end to many conceited reasonings 
against revealed religion \ 

Ale. You would have us then conclude, that things, to 
our wisdom unaccountable, may nevertheless proceed from 
an abyss of wisdom which our line cannot fathom 2 ; and 
that prospects viewed but in part, and by the broken, 
tinged light of our intellects, though to us they may seem 
disproportionate and monstrous, may nevertheless appear 
quite otherwise to another eye, and in a different situation : 
in a word, that as human wisdom is but childish folly, in 
respect of the Divine, so the wisdom of God may some- 
times seem foolishness to man. 

18. Euph. I would not have you make these conclusions, 
unless in reason you ought to make them : but, if they are 
reasonable, why should you not make them ? 

1 'Revealed religion*, i.e. 're- 2 So Hume: 'Our line is too short 

vealed ' in the narrower sense of to fathom such immense abysses.' 

the revelation, i. e. confined to See his Inquiry concerning Human 

Christianity. Understanding, sect. 7, passim. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 281 

Ale. Some things may seem reasonable at one time and 
not at another: and I take this very apology you make, 
for credulity and superstition, to be one of those things. 
When I view it in its principles, it seems naturally to 
follow from just concessions ; but, when I consider its con- 
sequences, I cannot agree to it. A man had as good 
abdicate his nature as disclaim the use of reason. 
A doctrine is unaccountable ; therefore it must be 
Divine ! 

Euph. Credulity and superstition are qualities so dis- 
agreeable and degrading to human nature, so surely an 
effect of weakness, and so frequently a cause of wickedness, 
that I should be very much surprised to find a just course 
of reasoning lead to them. I can never think that reason 
is a blind guide to folly, or that there is any connexion 
between truth and falsehood ; no more than I can think 
a thing's being unaccountable a proof that it is Divine. 
Though, at the same time, I cannot help acknowledging 
it follows from your own avowed principles, that a thing's 
being unaccountable, or incomprehensible to our reason, 
is no sure argument to conclude it is not Divine ; especially 
when there are collateral proofs of its being so. A child 
is influenced by the many sensible effects it hath felt of 
paternal love and care and superior wisdom, to believe 
and do several things with an implicit faith and obedience : 
and if we, in the same manner, from the truth and reason- 
ableness which we plainly see in so many points within 
our cognizance, and the advantages which we experience 
from the seed of the gospel sown in good ground, were 
disposed to an implicit belief of certain other points, relating 
to schemes we do not know, or subjects to which our 
talents are perhaps disproportionate, I am tempted to 
think it might become our duty, without dishonouring our 
reason ; which is never so much dishonoured as when it 
is foiled, and never in more danger of being foiled than 
by judging where it hath neither means nor right to 
judge. 

Lys. I would give a good deal to see that ingenious 
gamester Glaucus have the handling of Euphranor one 
night at our club. I own he is a peg too high for me in 
some of his notions. But then he is admirable at vindi- 
cating human reason against the impositions of priestcraft. 



282 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

19. Ale. He would undertake to make it as clear 
as daylight, that there was nothing worth a straw in 
Christianity, but what every one knew, or might know, 
as well without as with it, before as since Jesus 
Christ. 

Cri. That great man, it seems, teacheth, that common 
sense alone is the pole-star by which mankind ought to 
steer ; and that what is called revelation must be ridiculous, 
because it is unnecessary and useless, the natural talents 
of every man being sufficient to make him happy, good, 
and wise, without any further correspondence from heaven 
either for light or aid. 

Euph. I have already acknowledged how sensible I am, 
that my situation in this obscure corner of the country 
deprives me of many advantages, to be had from the con- 
versation of ingenious men in town. To make myself 
some amends, I am obliged to converse with the dead and 
my own thoughts, which last I know are of little weight 
against the authority of Glaucus, or such-like great men 
in the minute philosophy 1 . But what shall we say to 
Socrates, for he too was of an opinion very different from 
that ascribed to Glaucus 2 ? 

Ale. For the present we need not insist on authorities, 
ancient or modern, or inquire which was the greater man, 
Socrates or Glaucus. Though, methinks, for so much as 
authority can signify, the present times, gray and hoary 
with age and experience, have a manifest advantage over 
those that are falsely called ancient*. But, not to dwell on 
authorities, I tell you in plain English, Euphranor, we do 
not want your revelations ; and that for this plain reason, 

1 Collins, for instance, and Tin- that earlier age in which the so- 
cial, in Christianity as Old as the called antients lived ; which though 
Creation, published in 1730, when in relation to us it was the elder, 
Berkeleywasinhis'obscurecorner' yet as regards the world itself it 
at Rhode Island. The latter part of was the younger. And truly as we 
Butler's Analogy was apparently look for greater knowledge and 
directed against Tindal. judgment in the old than in the 

2 For Socrates, see, among other young, because of their greater 
places, the closing passages of the experience, so from our age more 
Meno, and in the Symposium. might be expected than from ancient 

3 A maxim reiterated by Bacon : times, seeing that the world is now 
'The old age of the world is to be grown older, and become stored 
accounted the true antiquity; and with a larger and richer experience.' 
this belongs to our own age, not to {Novum Organum, Bk. I. 84.) 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 283 

those that are clear everybody knew before, and those that 
are obscure nobody is the better for. 

Euph. [*As it is impossible that a man should believe 
the practical principles of the Christian religion, and not be 
the better for them ; so, it is evident that those principles 
may be much more easily taught as points of faith* than 
demonstrated or discovered as points of science. This I 
call evident, because it is a plain fact. Since we daily see 
that many are instructed in matters of faith ; that few 
are taught by scientific demonstration ; and that there are 
still fewer who can discover truth for themselves. Did 
minute philosophers but reflect how rarely men are swayed 
or governed by mere ratiocination, and how often by faith, 
in the natural or civil concerns of the world ! how little 
they know, and how much they believe ! How uncommon 
is it to meet with a man who argues justly, who is in truth 
a master of reason, or walks by that rule ! How much 
better (as the world goes) men are qualified to judge of 
facts than of reasonings, to receive truth upon testimony 
than to deduce it from principles ! How general a spirit 
of trust or reliance runs through the whole system of life 
and opinion ! And at the same time how seldom the dry 
light of unprejudiced nature is followed or to be found ! 
I say, did our thinking men but bethink themselves of 
these things, they would perhaps find it difficult to assign 
a good reason why faith, which hath so great a share in 
everything else, should yet have none in religion. But 
to come more closely to your point.] Whether it was pos- 
sible for mankind to have known all parts of the Christian 
religion, besides mysteries and positive institutions, is not 
the question between us ; and that they actually did not 
know them is too plain to be denied. This, perhaps, was 
for want of making a due use of reason. But, as to the 
usefulness of revelation, it seems much the same thing 
whether they could not know, or would not be at the pains 
to know, the doctrines revealed. And, as for those doc- 
trines which were too obscure to penetrate, or too sublime 

1 The sentences within brackets seems here to be taken in its popu- 
were introduced in the second lar meaning ; not as the ultimate 
edition. venture on which applied reason 

2 ' taught as points of faith', i.e. in man finally rests, for man lacks 
on the authority of persons. ' Faith ' omniscience. 



284 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

to reach, by natural reason ; how far mankind may be the 
better for them is more, I had almost said, than even you 
or Glaucus can tell. 

20. Ale. But, whatever may be pretended as to obscure 
doctrines and dispensations, all this hath nothing to do 
with prophecies ; which, being altogether relative to man- 
kind, and the events of this world, to which our faculties 
are surely well enough proportioned, one might expect 
should be very clear, and such as might inform instead 
of puzzling us. 

Euph. And yet it must be allowed that, as some pro- 
phecies are clear, there are others very obscure : but, left 
to myself, I doubt I should never have inferred from 
thence that they were not Divine. In my own way of 
thinking, I should have been apt to conclude that the 
prophecies we understand are a proof for inspiration ; but 
that those we do not understand are no proof against it. 
Inasmuch as for the latter our ignorance, or the reserve of 
the Holy Spirit may account ; but for the other nothing, 
for aught that I see, can account but inspiration. 

Ale. Now I know several sagacious men who conclude 
this very differently from you, to wit, that the one sort of 
prophecies is nonsense, and the other contrived after the 
events \ Behold the difference between a man of free 
thought and one of narrow principles ! 

Euph. It seems then they reject the Revelations because 
they are obscure, and Daniel's prophecies because they 
are clear. 

Ale. Either way a man of sense sees cause to suspect 
there has been foul play. 

Euph. Your men of sense are, it seems, hard to please. 

Ale. Our philosophers are men of piercing eyes. 

Euph. I suppose such men never make transient judg- 
ments from transient views, but always establish fixed 
conclusions upon a thorough inspection of things. For 
my own part, I dare not engage with a man who has 
examined those points so nicely as it may be presumed 

1 So Collins, in his sceptical Dis- Literal Prophecy considered (1727). 

course on the Grounds and Reasons In the second of these, ' the Book 

of the Christian Religion (1724), of Daniel' is the object of criti- 

and especially in his Scheme of cism. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 285 

you have done ; but I could name some eminent writers 
of our own, now living, whose books on the subject 
of prophecy have given great satisfaction to gentlemen 
who pass for men of sense and learning here in the 
country \ 

Ale. You must know, Euphranor, I am not at leisure to 
peruse the learned writings of divines, on a subject which 
a man may see through with half an eye. To me it is 
sufficient, that the point itself is odd, and out of the road 
of nature. For the rest, I leave them to dispute and settle 
among themselves, where to fix the precise time when the 
sceptre departed from Judah ; or whether in Daniel's 
prophecy of the Messiah we should compute by the 
Chaldean or the Julian year. My only conclusion con- 
cerning all such matters is, that I will never trouble myself 
about them 2 . 

Euph. To an extraordinary genius, who sees things with 
half an eye, I know not what to say. But for the rest of 
mankind, one would think it very rash in them to conclude, 
without much and exact inquiry, on the unsafe side of 
a question which concerns their chief interest. 

Ale. Mark it well : a true genius in pursuit of truth 
makes swift advances on the wings of general maxims, 
while little minds creep and grovel amidst mean particu- 
larities. I lay it down for a certain truth, that by the 
fallacious arts of logic and criticism, straining and forcing, 
palliating, patching, and distinguishing, a man may justify 
or make out anything ; and this remark, with one or two 
about prejudice, saves me a world of trouble. 

Euph. You, Alciphron, who soar sublime on strong and 
free opinions, vouchsafe to lend a helping hand to those 
whom you behold entangled in the birdlime of prejudice. 
For my part, I find it very possible to suppose prophecy 

1 Bishop Chandler's Defence of theauthor'ssagacitywasimpugned. 

Christianity, front the Prophecies of 2 So Hume afterwards, in his 

the Old Testament (1725), and his chapter on 'Miracles' — includingof 

Vindication of the Defence (1728) ; course superhuman predictions of 

Bishop Sherlock on the Use and future events, faith in which, he 

Intent of Prophecy (1727); with argues, 'subverts the principles of 

many others. Sherlock was one human understanding, and gives 

of Berkeley's friends and admirers, one a determination to believe what 

and is said to have recommended is most contrary to custom and ex- 

Alciphron to Queen Caroline, when perience.' 



286 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

may be Divine, although there should be some obscurity 
at this distance, with respect to dates of time or kinds of 
years. You yourself own revelation 1 possible : and, 
allowing this, I can very easily conceive it may be odd, 
and out of the road of nature. I can, without amazement, 
meet in Holy Scripture divers prophecies, whereof I do 
not see the completion, divers texts I do not understand, 
divers mysteries above my comprehension, and ways of 
God to me unaccountable. Why may not some prophecies 
relate to parts of history I am not well enough acquainted 
with, or to events not yet come to pass ? It seems to me 
that prophecies unfathomed by the hearer, or even the 
speaker himself, have been afterward verified and under- 
stood in the event ; and it is one of my maxims, that, what 
hath been may be. Though I rub mine eyes, and do 
my utmost to extricate myself from prejudice, yet it still 
seems very possible to me that, what I do not, a more acute, 
more attentive, or more learned man, may understand. At 
least thus much is plain : the difficulty of some points 
or passages doth not hinder the clearness of others ; and 
those parts of Scripture which we cannot interpret, we are 
not bound to know the sense of. What evil or what 
inconvenience, if we cannot comprehend what we are not 
obliged to comprehend, or if we cannot account for those 
things which it doth not belong to us to account for? 
Scriptures not understood, at one time, or by one person, 
may be understood at another time, or by other persons. 
May we not perceive, by retrospect on what is past, a 
certain progress from darker to lighter, in the series of the 
Divine economy towards man ? And may not future 
events clear up such points as at present exercise the faith 
of believers ? Now, I cannot help thinking (such is the 
force either of truth or prejudice) that in all this there is 
nothing strained or forced, or which is not reasonable or 
natural to suppose. 

21. Ale. Well, Euphranor, I will lend you a helping 
hand, since you desire it, but think fit to alter my method. 
For, you must know, the main points of Christian belief 

1 'revelation,' i.e. miraculous re- a conception of the universe in 
velation. Berkeley nowhere asks which every natural event is super- 
what is meant by a ' miracle,' under natural. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 287 

have been infused so early, and inculcated so often by 
nurses, pedagogues, and priests, that, be the proofs ever so 
plain, it is a hard matter to convince a mind thus tinctured 
and stained, by arguing against revealed religion from its 
internal characters. I shall therefore set myself to con- 
sider things in another light, and examine your religion by 
certain external characters or circumstantials, comparing 
the system of revelation with collateral accounts of ancient 
heathen writers, and shewing how ill it consists with them. 
Know then that, the Christian revelation supposing the 
Jewish, it follows that, if the Jewish be destroyed, the 
Christian must of course fall to the ground. Now, to 
make short work, I shall attack this Jewish revelation in 
its head. Tell me, are we not obliged, if we believe the 
Mosaic account of things, to hold the world was created 
not quite six thousand years ago ? 

Euph. I grant we are \ 

Ale. What will you say now, if other ancient records 
carry up the history of the world many thousand years 
beyond this period ? What if the Egyptians and Chinese 
have accounts extending to thirty or forty thousand years ? 
What if the former of these nations have observed twelve 
hundred eclipses, during the space of forty-eight thousand 
years, before the time of Alexander the Great? What if 
the Chinese have also many observations antecedent to the 
Jewish account of the creation? What if the Chaldeans 
had been observing the stars for above four hundred 
thousand years? And what shall we say if we have 
successions of kings and their reigns, marked for several 
thousand years before the beginning of the world, assigned 
by Moses ? Shall we reject the accounts and records of 
all other nations, the most famous, ancient, and learned in 
the world, and preserve a blind reverence for the legislator 
of the Jews? 

Euph. And pray, if they deserve to be rejected, why 
should we not reject them ? What if those monstrous 
chronologies contain nothing but names without actions, 
and manifest fables? What if those pretended observations 

1 The revolution in cosmical con- here and elsewhere. But is faith 

ceptions since the days of Aid- in Christianity dependent upon 

phron, as well as in biblical exegesis the accidents of man's knowledge 

and historical criticism, is obvious of the history of this planet ? 



288 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

of Egyptians and Chaldeans were unknown or unregarded 
by ancient astronomers ? What if the Jesuits have shewn 
the inconsistency of the like Chinese pretensions with the 
truth of the Ephemerides ? What if the most ancient 
Chinese observations allowed to be authentic are those of 
two fixed stars, one in the winter solstice, the other in the 
vernal equinox, in the reign of their king Yao, which was 
since the flood 1 ? 

Ale. You must give me leave to observe, the Romish 
missionaries are of small credit in this point. 

Euph. But what knowledge have we, or can we have, of 
those Chinese affairs, but by their means? The same 
persons that tell us of these accounts refute them : if we 
reject their authority in one case, what right have we to 
build upon it in another ? 

Ale. When I consider that the Chinese have annals of 
more than forty thousand years, and that they are a 
learned, ingenious, and acute people, very curious, and 
addicted to arts and sciences, I profess I cannot help 
paying some regard to their accounts of time 2 . 

Euph. Whatever advantage their situation and political 
maxims may have given them, it doth not appear they are 
so learned or so acute in point of science as the Europeans. 
The general character of the Chinese, if we may believe 
Trigaltius and other writers, is, that they are men of 
a trifling and credulous curiosity, addicted to search after 
the philosopher's stone, and a medicine to make men 
immortal, to astrology, fortune-telling, and presages of all 
kinds. Their ignorance in nature and mathematics is 
evident, from the great hand the Jesuits make of that kind 
of knowledge among them. But what shall we think of 
those extraordinary annals, if the very Chinese themselves 
give no credit to them for more than three thousand years 
before Jesus Christ? if they do not pretend to have begun 
to write history above four thousand years ago ? and if the 
oldest books they have now extant, in an intelligible 

1 [Bianchini, Histor. Univers. cap. appeared at Rome in 1697. Bian- 

17-1 — Author. This learned chini died in 1729. 

Italian, born in 1662, formed the 2 Tindal and other 'minute philo- 

plan of a Universal History, founded sophers ' made much of the Chinese 

on materials supplied in part by and Confucius. 
Jesuit missionaries. The first part 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 289 

character, are not above two thousand years old ? One 
would think a man of your sagacity, so apt to suspect 
everything out of the common road of nature, should not, 
without the clearest proof, admit those annals for authentic, 
which record such strange things as the sun's not setting 
for ten days, and gold raining three days together. Tell 
me, Alciphron, can you really believe these things without 
inquiring by what means the tradition was preserved, 
through what hands it passed, or what reception it met 
with, or who first committed it to writing? 

Ale. To omit the Chinese and their story, it will serve 
my purpose as well to build on the authority of Manetho, 
that learned Egyptian priest, who had such opportunities 
of searching into the most ancient accounts of time, and 
copying into his dynasties the most venerable and authentic 
records inscribed on the pillars of Hermes. 

Euph. Pray, Alciphron, where were those chronological 
pillars to be seen ? 

Ale. In the Seriadical land. 

Euph. And where is that country ? 

Ale. I don't know. 

Euph. How were those records preserved for so many 
ages down to the time of this Hermes, who is said to have 
been the first inventor of letters ? 

Ale. I do not know. 

Euph. Did any other writers, before or since Manetho, 
pretend to have seen, or transcribed, or known anything 
about these pillars ? 

Ale. Not that I know. 

Euph. Or about the place where they are said to have 
been? 

Ale. If they did, it is more than I know. 

Euph. Do the Greek authors that went into Egypt, and 
consulted the Egyptian priests, agree with these accounts 
of Manetho ? 

Ale. Suppose they do not. 

Euph. Doth Diodorus, who lived since Manetho, follow, 
cite, or so much as mention this same Manetho ? 

Ale. What will you infer from all this ? 

Euph. If I did not know you and your principles, and 
how vigilantly you guard against imposture, I should infer 
that you were a very credulous man. For, what can we 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. U 



290 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

call it but credulity to believe most incredible things on 
most slender authority, such as fragments of an obscure 
writer, disagreeing with all other historians, supported by 
an obscure authority of Hermes' pillars, for which you 
must take his word, and which contain things so im- 
probable as successions of gods and demi-gods, for many 
thousand years, Vulcan alone having reigned nine thou- 
sand? There is little in these venerable dynasties of 
Manetho besides names and numbers; and yet in that 
little we meet with very strange things, that would be 
thought romantic in another writer : for instance, the Nile 
overflowing with honey, the moon grown bigger, a speak- 
ing lamb, seventy kings who reigned as many days one 
after another, a king a day '. If you are known, Alciphron, 
to give credit to these things, I fear you will lose the 
honour of being thought incredulous. 

Ale. And yet these ridiculous fragments, as you would 
represent them, have been thought worth the pains and 
lucubrations of very learned men. How can you account 
for the work that the great Joseph Scaliger and Sir John 
Marsham 2 make about them? 

Euph. I do not pretend to account for it. To see 
Scaliger add another Julian period to make room for such 
things as Manetho's dynasties, and Sir John Marsham 
take so much learned pains to piece, patch, and mend 
those obscure fragments, to range them in synchronisms, 
and try to adjust them with sacred chronology, or make 
them consistent with themselves and other accounts, is 
to me very strange and unaccountable. Why they, or 
Eusebius, or yourself, or any other learned man, should 
imagine those things deserve any regard I leave you to 
explain 3 . 

22. Ale. After all, it is not easy to conceive what should 
move, not only Manetho, but also other Egyptian priests, 
long before his time, to set up such great pretences to 

1 [Seal. Can. Isag. Lib. II.]— Bockh, Bunsen, Von Pessl, and 

Author. others have tended to restore the 

2 Sir John Marsham, an Egyptian credit of Manetho, whose annals, 
archaeologist, and eminent chrono- like those of Herodotus, are con- 
logist of the seventeenth century. firmed by modern archaeology. 

3 The most recent researches of 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 291 

antiquity, all which, however differing from one another, 
agree in this, that they overthrow the Mosaic history. 
How can this be accounted for without some real founda- 
tion ? What point of pleasure, or profit, or power could 
set men on forging successions of ancient names and 
periods of time for ages before the world began ? 

Euph. Pray, Alciphron, is there anything so strange or 
singular in this vain humour of extending the antiquity of 
nations beyond the truth ? Hath it not been observed in 
most parts of the world ? Doth it not even in our own 
times shew itself, especially among those dependent and 
subdued people who have little else to boast of? To pass 
over others of our fellow-subjects who, in proportion as 
they are below their neighbours in wealth and power, lay 
claim to a more remote antiquity ; are not the pretensions 
of Irishmen in this way known to be very great ? If I may 
trust my memory, O' Flaherty, in his Ogygia, mentions 
some transactions in Ireland before the flood. The same 
humour, and from the same cause, appears to have pre- 
vailed in Sicily, a country for some centuries past subject 
to the dominion of foreigners ; during which time the 
Sicilians have published divers fabulous accounts, con- 
cerning the original and antiquity of their cities, wherein 
they vie with each other. It is pretended to be proved by 
ancient inscriptions, whose existence or authority seems 
on a level with that of Hermes' pillars, that Palermo was 
founded in the days of the patriarch Isaac by a colony of 
Hebrews, Phoenicians, and Syrians; and that a grandson 
of Esau had been governor of a tower subsisting within 
these two hundred years in that city \ The antiquity of 
Messina hath been carried still higher, by some who would 
have us think it was enlarged by Nimrod 2 . The like 
pretensions are made by Catania, and other towns of that 
island, who .have found authors of as good credit as 
Manetho to support them. Now, I should be glad to 
know why the Egyptians, a subdued people, may not pro- 

1 [Fazelli, Hist. Sicul. Decad. I. ferences. Sicily so attracted him 

Lib. VIII.] — Author. The History that he prepared materials for a 

of Sicily by Tomaso Fazelli, written natural history of the island, which, 

in the fifteenth century, was es- with a journal of his tour there, 

teemed by contemporary writers. were lost on the passage to Naples. 

Berkeley's associations with Italy 2 [Reina, Notisie Istoriche di Mes- 

and its islands appear in these re- sinai\ — Author. 

U 2 



292 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

bably be supposed to have invented fabulous accounts 
from the same motive, and like others valued themselves 
on extravagant pretensions to antiquity, when in all other 
respects they were so much inferior to their masters ? 
That people had been successively conquered by Ethio- 
pians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Grecians, 
before it appears that those wonderful dynasties of Manetho 
and the pillars of Hermes were ever heard of; as they 
had been by the two first of those nations before the time 
of Solon himself, the earliest Greek that is known to have 
consulted the priests of Egypt ; whose accounts were so 
extravagant that even the Greek historians, though un- 
acquainted with Holy Scripture, were far from giving 
an entire credit to them. Herodotus, making a report 
upon their authority, saith, those to whom such things 
seem credible may make the best of them, for himself 
declaring that it was his purpose to write what he heard \ 
And both he and Diodorus do, on divers occasions, shew 
the same diffidence in the narratives of those Egyptian 
priests. And as we observed of the Egyptians, it is no 
less certain that the Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans 
were each a conquered and reduced people, before the 
rest of the world appear to have heard anything of their 
pretensions to so remote antiquity. 

Cri. But what occasion is there to be at any pains to 
account for the humour of fabulous writers? Is it not 
sufficient to see that they relate absurdities ; that they are 
unsupported by any foreign evidence ; that they do not 
appear to have been in credit, even among their own 
countrymen ; and that they are inconsistent one with 
another ? That men should have the vanity to impose on 
the world by false accounts is nothing strange : it is much 
more so that, after what hath been done towards un- 
deceiving the world by so many learned critics, there should 
be men found capable of being abused by those paltry 
scraps of Manetho, Berosus, Ctesias, or the like fabulous 
or counterfeit writers. 

Ale. Give me leave to observe, those learned critics 
may prove to be ecclesiastics, perhaps some of them 
papists. 

Cri. What do you think of Sir Isaac Newton, was he 
1 [Herodotus in Euterpe.] — Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 293 

either a papist or ecclesiastic? Perhaps you may not 
allow him to have been in sagacity, or force of mind, equal 
to the great men of the minute philosophy ; but it cannot 
be denied that he had read and thought much upon the 
subject, and that the result of his inquiry was a perfect 
contempt of all those celebrated rivals to Moses. 

Ale. It hath been observed by ingenious men, that Sir 
Isaac Newton, though a layman, was deeply prejudiced : 
witness his great regard to the Bible. 

Cri. And the same may be said of Mr. Locke, Mr. Boyle, 
Lord Bacon, and other famous laymen, who, however 
knowing in some points, must, nevertheless, be allowed 
not to have attained that keen discernment which is the 
peculiar distinction of your sect. 

23. But perhaps there may be other reasons beside 
prejudice to incline a man to give Moses the preference ; 
on the truth of whose history the government, manners, 
and religion of his country were founded and framed ; 
of whose history there are manifest traces in the most 
ancient books and traditions of the gentiles, particularly 
of the Brachmans and Persees ; [not to mention the general 
attestation of Nature as well as Antiquity to his account 
of a deluge ! ] whose history is confirmed by the late 
invention of arts and sciences, the gradual peopling of the 
world, the very names of ancient nations, and even by the 
authority and arguments of that renowned philosopher 
Lucretius, who, on other points, is so much admired and 
followed by those of your sect. Not to mention, that the 
continual decrease of fluids, the sinking of hills, and the 
retardation 2 of planetary motions, afford so many natural 
proofs which shew this world had a beginning; as the 
civil or historical proofs above mentioned do plainly point 
out this beginning to have been about the time assigned 
in Holy Scripture. After all which I beg leave to add 
one observation more. To any one who considers that, on 
digging into the earth, such quantities of shells, and, in 
some places, bones and horns of animals are found sound 
and entire, after having lain there in all probability some 
thousands of years ; it should seem probable that gems, 

1 Added in the third edition. 

2 ' retardation ' — ' diminution ' in the first edition. 



294 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

medals, and implements in metal and stone might have 
lasted entire, buried under the ground forty or fifty 
thousand years, if the world had been so old. How comes 
it then to pass that no remains are found, no antiquities 
of those numerous ages preceding the Scripture accounts 
of time ; no fragments of buildings, no public monuments, 
no intaglias, cammeos, statues, basso-relievos, medals, 
inscriptions, utensils, or artificial works of any kind are 
ever discovered, which may bear testimony to the exist- 
ence of those mighty empires, those successions of 
monarchs, heroes, and demi-gods, for so many thousand 
years? Let us look forward and suppose ten or twenty 
thousand years to come ; during which time we will sup- 
pose that plagues, famines, wars, and earthquakes shall 
have made great havoc in the world ; — is it not highly 
probable that, at the end of such a period, pillars, vases, 
and statues now in being, of granite, porphyry, or jasper 
(stones of such hardness as we know them to have lasted 
two thousand years above ground, without any consider- 
able alteration), would bear record of these and past ages? 
Or, that some of our current coins might then be dug up, 
or old walls, and the foundations of buildings shew them- 
selves, as well as the shells and stones of the primeval 
world are preserved down to our times ? To me it seems 
to follow from these considerations, which common sense 
and experience make all men judges of, that we may see 
good reason to conclude, the world was created about the 
time recorded in Holy Scripture. And if we admit a 
thing so extraordinary as the creation of this world, it 
should seem that we admit something strange, and odd, 
and new to human apprehension, beyond any other 
miracle whatsoever 1 . 

1 This curious passage, in proof bodies, and the attrition of their 

of the recent origin of this planet, parts, and the weakness of elastic 

was perhaps suggested by some of force in solid bodies, motion is, in 

Newton's or Boyle's speculations, the nature of things, always more 

or by Leibniz. ' It is evident,' says apt to diminish than to increase. 

Newton, in a passage thus trans- . . . Since, therefore, all the various 

lated from his Optics, in Dr. Samuel motions that are in the world are 

Clarke's Third Reply to Leibniz, perpetually decreasing ; it is ab- 

' that motion can on the whole solutely necessary, in order to pre- 

both increase and diminish. But, serve and renew those motions, 

because of the tenacity of fluid that we have recourse to some 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 295 

24. Alciphron sat musing and made no answer. 

Whereupon Lysicles expressed himself in the following 
manner: — I must own I should rather suppose with 
Lucretius, that the world was made by chance, and that 
men grew out of the earth, like pompions, than pin my 
faith on those wretched fabulous fragments of Oriental 
history. And as for the learned men who have taken 
pains to illustrate and piece them together, they appear 
to me no better than so many musty pedants. An ingenious 
free-thinker may perhaps now and then make some use of 
their lucubrations, and play one absurdity against another. 
But you are not therefore to think he pays any real regard 
to the authority of such apocryphal writers, or believes 
one syllable of the Chinese, Babylonian, or Egyptian 
traditions. If we seem to give them a preference before 
the Bible, it is only because they are not established by 
law. This is my plain sense of the matter, and I dare say 
it is the general sense of our sect ; who are too rational 
to be in earnest on such trifles, though they sometimes 
give hints of deep erudition, and put on a grave face to 
divert themselves with bigots. 

Ale. Since Lysicles will have it so, I am content not to 
build on accounts of time preceding the Mosaic. I must 
nevertheless beg leave to observe, there is another point 
of a different nature, against which there do not lie the same 
exceptions, that deserves to be considered, and may serve 
our purpose as well. I presume it will be allowed that 
historians, treating of times within the Mosaic account, 
ought by impartial men to be placed on the same foot with 

active principles.' — {Papers between laws of motion, will in time fall 

Leibniz and Clarke, in 17 15 and into confusion; and perhaps after 

1 7 16, relating to the Principles of that will be amended, or put into 

Natural Philosophy and Religion, p. a new form. But this amendment 

87.) ' The active forces which are is only relative, with regard to our 

in the universe,' Clarke remarks, conceptions. In reality, and with 

' diminishing themselves so as to regard to God, the present frames 

stand in need of new impressions, and the consequent disorder, and 

is no inconvenience, no disorder, the following renovation, are all 

no imperfection in the workman- equally parts of the design framed 

ship of the universe ; but is the con- in God's original perfect idea.' 

sequence of the nature of dependent (pp. 45, 47.) Cf. De Motu, sect, 

things.' (pp. 85, 87.) ; The present 19, 32, 36, and the Protogcea of 

frame of the solar system (for in- Leibniz, 
stance) according to the present 



296 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Moses. It may therefore be expected that those who 
pretend to vindicate his writings should reconcile them 
with parallel accounts of other authors, treating of the 
same times, things, and persons. And, if we are not 
attached singly to Moses, but take our notions from other 
writers, and the probability of things, we shall see good 
cause to believe the Jews were only a crew of leprous 
Egyptians, driven from their country on account of that 
loathsome distemper; and that their religion, pretended 
to have been delivered from Heaven at Mount Sinai, was 
in truth learned in Egypt, and brought from thence. 

Cri. Not to insist on what cannot be denied, that an 
historian writing of his own times is to be believed before 
others who treat of the same subject several ages after, 
it seems to me that it is absurd to expect that we should 
reconcile Moses with profane historians, till you have first 
reconciled them one with another. In answer, therefore, 
to what you observe, I desire you would consider, in the 
first place, that Manetho, Chaeremon, and Lysimachus had 
published inconsistent accounts of the Jews, and their 
going forth from Egypt ' : in the second place, that their 
language is a plain proof they were not of Egyptian, but 
either of Phoenician, of Syrian, or of Chaldean original : 
and, in the third place, that it doth not seem very probable 
to suppose their religion, the basis or fundamental principle 
of which was the worship of one supreme God, and the 
principal design of which was to abolish idolatry, could be 
derived from Egypt, the most idolatrous of all nations. 
It must be owned, the separate situation and institutions 
of the Jews occasioned their being treated by some 
foreigners with great ignorance and contempt of them and 
their original. But Strabo, who is allowed to have been 
a judicious and inquisitive writer, though he was not 
acquainted with their true history, makes more honourable 
mention of them. He relates that Moses, with many other 
worshippers of one infinite God, not approving the image- 
worship of the Egyptians and other nations, went out from 
Egypt and settled at Jerusalem, where they built a temple 
to one only God without images 2 . 

1 [Joseph. Contra Apion. Lib. I.] — Author. 

2 iStrab. Lib. XVI.]— Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 297 

25. Ale. We who assert the cause of liberty against 
religion, in these later ages of the world, lie under great 
disadvantages, from the loss of ancient books, which 
cleared up many' points to the eyes of those great men, 
Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, which at a greater distance 
and with less help cannot be so easily made out by us : 
but, had we those records, I doubt not we might demolish 
the whole system at once. 

Cri. And yet I make some doubt of this ; because those 
great men, as you call them, with all those advantages, 
could not do it. 

Ale. That must needs have been owing to the dullness 
and stupidity of the world in those days, when the art 
of reasoning was not so much known and cultivated as 
of late. But those men of true genius saw through the 
deceit themselves, and were very clear in their opinion, 
which convinces me they had good reason on their side. 

Cri. And yet that great man Celsus seems to have had 
very slight and inconstant notions : one while, he talks 
like a thorough Epicurean ; another, he admits miracles, 
prophecies, and a future state of rewards and punishments. 
What think you, Alciphron, is it not something capricious 
in so great a man, among other advantages which he 
ascribes to brutes above human-kind, to suppose they 
are magicians and prophets ; that they have a nearer 
commerce and union with the Divinity ; that they know 
more of men ; and that elephants, in particular, are ol 
all others most religious animals and strict observers 
of an oath *. 

Ale. A great genius will be sometimes whimsical. But 
what do you say to the Emperor Julian ? was he not 
an extraordinary man ? 

Cri. He seems by his writings to have been lively and 
satirical. Further, I make no difficulty of owning that he 
was a generous, temperate, gallant, and facetious emperor. 
But at the same time it must be allowed, because his own 
heathen panegyrist Ammianus Marcellinus 2 allows it, that 
he was a prating, light, vain, superstitious sort of man. 
And therefore his judgment or authority can be of but small 
weight with those who are not prejudiced in his favour. 

1 [Origen, Contra Celsum, Lib. IV.] — Author. 

2 [Am. Marcellin. Lib. XXV.]— Author. 



298 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Ale. But of all the great men who wrote against revealed 
religion, the greatest without question was that truly great 
man Porphyry, the loss of whose invaluable work can 
never be sufficiently lamented. This profound philosopher 
went to the bottom and original of things. He most 
learnedly confuted the Scriptures, shewed the absurdity 
of the Mosaic accounts, undermined and exposed the 
prophecies, and ridiculed allegorical interpretations '. The 
moderns, it must be owned, have done great things, and 
shewn themselves able men ; yet I cannot but regret the 
loss of what was done by a person of such vast abilities, 
and who lived so much nearer the fountain-head ; though 
his authority survives his writings, and must still have 
its weight with impartial men, in spite of the enemies 
of truth. 

Cri. Porphyry, I grant, was a thorough infidel, though 
he appears by no means to have been incredulous. It 
seems he had a great opinion of wizards and necromancers, 
and believed the mysteries, miracles, and prophecies of 
Theurgists and Egyptian priests. He was far from being 
an enemy to obscure jargon ; and pretended to extra- 
ordinary ecstasies. In a word, this great man appears 
to have been as unintelligible as a schoolman, as super- 
stitious as a monk, and as fanatical as any Quietist or 
Quaker ; and, to complete his character as a minute philo- 
sopher, he was under strong temptations to lay violent 
hands on himself. We may frame a notion of this patriarch 
of infidelity by his judicious way of thinking upon other 
points as well as the Christian religion. So sagacious 
was he as to find out that the souls of insects, when 
separated from their bodies, became rational : that demons 
of a thousand shapes assist in making philtrums and 
charms, whose spiritual bodies are nourished and fattened 
by the steams of libations and sacrifices : that the ghosts 
of those who died violent deaths used to haunt and 
appear about their sepulchres. This same egregious 
philosopher adviseth a wise man not to eat flesh, lest 

1 [*-. uc - Holstenius, De Vita et in consequence of studying Plato 

Scriptis Porphyrii.] — Author. and the Fathers. He removed to 

Holstenius was a German scholar Italy, was librarian of Cardinal 

of the seventeenth century, who Barbarini,annotatedvariousancient 

renounced Protestantism, it is said, writers, and died at Rome in 1661. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 299 

the impure soul of the brute that was put to violent death 
should enter, along with the flesh, into those who eat it. He 
adds, as a matter of fact confirmed by many experiments, 
that those who would insinuate into themselves the souls 
of such animals as have the gift of foretelling things to 
come, need only eat a principal part, the heart, for instance, 
of a stag or a mole, and so receive the soul of the animal, 
which will prophesy in them like a god '. No wonder 
if men whose minds were preoccupied by faith and tenets 
of such a peculiar kind should be averse from the reception 
of the gospel. Upon the whole, we desire to be excused 
if we do not pay the same deference to the judgment of 
men that appear to us whimsical, superstitious, weak, and 
visionary, which those impartial gentlemen do, who admire 
their talents, and are proud to tread in their footsteps. 

Ale. Men see things in different views : what one admires 
another contemns : it is even possible for a prejudiced 
mind, whose attention is turned towards the faults and 
blemishes of things, to fancy some shadow of defect in 
those great lights which in our own days have enlightened, 
and still continue to enlighten, the world. 

26. But pray tell me, Crito, what you think of Josephus. 
He is allowed to have been a man of learning and judgment. 
He was himself an assertor of revealed religion. And 
Christians, when his authority serves their turn, are used 
to cite him with respect. 

Cri. All this I acknowledge. 

Ale. Must it not then seem very strange, and very 
suspicious to every impartial inquirer, that this learned 
Jew, writing the history of his own country, of that very 
place, and those very times, where and when Jesus Christ 
made His appearance, should yet say nothing of the 
character, miracles, and doctrine of that extraordinary 
person ? Some ancient Christians were so sensible of 
this that, to make amends, they inserted a famous passage a 
in that historian ; which imposture hath been sufficiently 
detected by able critics in the last age. 

1 [Vide Porphyrium De Ab- resurrection of Jesus are referred to, 
stinentia, De Sacrt/jciis, De Diis et and He is spoken of as 'a wise man, 
Dcemonibus.~] — Author. if it be lawful to call Him a man, 

2 Josephus, Ant. Lib. XVIII. for he was a doer of wonderful 
cap. 3, where the life, miracles, and works,' &c. 



300 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Cri. Though there are not wanting able critics on the 
other side of the question, yet, not to enter upon the dis- 
cussion of that celebrated passage, I am content to give 
you all you can desire, and suppose it not genuine, but 
the pious fraud of some wrong-headed Christian, who 
could not brook the omission in Josephus. But this 
will never make such omission a real objection against 
Christianity. Nor is there, for aught I can see, anything 
in it whereon to ground either admiration or suspicion, 
inasmuch as it should seem very natural, supposing the 
gospel account exactly true, for Josephus to have said 
nothing of it : considering that the view of that writer 
was to give his country some figure in the eye of the 
world, which had been greatly prejudiced against the Jews 
and knew little of their history, to which end the life 
and death of our Saviour would not in any wise have 
conduced ; considering that Josephus could not have been 
an eye-witness of our Saviour or His miracles ; con- 
sidering that he was a Pharisee of quality and learning, 
foreign as well as Jewish, one of great employment in 
the state, and that the gospel was preached to the poor ; 
that the first instruments of spreading it and the first 
converts to it were mean and illiterate, that it might not 
seem the work of man, or beholden to human interest 
or power; considering the general prejudice of the Jews, 
who expected in the Messiah a temporal and conquering 
prince, which prejudice was so strong, that they chose rather 
to attribute our Saviour's miracles to the devil, than acknow- 
ledge Him to be the Christ ; considering also the hellish 
disorder and confusion of the Jewish state in the days 
of Josephus, when men's minds were filled and astonished 
with unparalleled wars, dissensions, massacres, and seditions 
of that devoted people. Laying all these things together, 
I do not^ think it strange that such a man, writing with 
such a view, at such a time, and in such circumstances, 
should omit to describe our blessed Saviour's life and 
death, or to mention His miracles, or to take notice of 
the state of the Christian church, which was then as 
a grain of mustard-seed beginning to take root and germi- 
nate. And this will seem still less strange, if it be con- 
sidered that the apostles in a few years after our Saviour's 
death departed from Jerusalem, setting themselves to con- 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 301 

vert the gentiles, and were dispersed throughout the world ; 
that the converts in Jerusalem were, not only of the 
meanest of the people, but also few ; the three thousand 
added to the church in one day upon Peter's preaching 
in that city, appearing to have been not inhabitants but 
strangers from all parts assembled to celebrate the feast 
of Pentecost ; and that all the time of Josephus and for 
several years after, during a succession of fifteen bishops, 
the Christians at Jerusalem observed the Mosaic law l , 
and were, consequently, in outward appearance, one people 
with the rest of the Jews, which must have made them 
less observable. I would fain know what reason we have 
to suppose that the gospel, which in its first propagation 
seemed to overlook the great or considerable men of this 
world, might not also have been overlooked by them, as 
a thing not suited to their apprehensions and way of 
thinking ? Besides, in those early times might not other 
learned Jews, as well as Gamaliel 2 , suspend their judg- 
ment of this new way, as not knowing what to make 
or say of it, being on one hand unable to quit the notions 
and traditions in which they were brought up, and, on 
the other, not daring to resist or speak against the gospel, 
lest they should be found to fight against God ? Surely 
at all events, it could never be expected that an uncon- 
verted Jew should give the same account of the life, 
miracles, and doctrine of Jesus Christ as might become 
a Christian to have given ; nor, on the other hand, was 
it at all improbable that a man of sense should beware 
to lessen or traduce what, for aught he knew, might have 
been a heavenly dispensation : between which two courses 
the middle was to say nothing, but pass it over in a doubt- 
ful or respectful silence. And it is observable that where 
this historian occasionally mentions Jesus Christ, in his 
account of St. James's death, he doth it without any re- 
flection, or saying either good or bad, though at the same 
time he shews a regard for the apostle. It is observable, 
I say, that, speaking of Jesus, his expression is, ' who 
was called the Christ/ not who pretended to be the Christ, 
or who was falsely called the Christ, but simply tov Xeyofxevov 

1 [Sulp. Sever. Sacr. Hist., Lib. II, et Euseb. Chron. Lib. poster.] — 
Author. 2 [Acts v.]— Author. 



302 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Xptorov 1 . It is evident Josephus knew there was such 
a man as Jesus, and that He was said to be the Christ, 
and yet he condemns neither him nor his followers ; which 
to me seems an argument in their favour. Certainly if 
we suppose Josephus to have known or been persuaded 
that He was an impostor, it will be difficult to account 
for his not saying so in plain terms. But, if we suppose 
him in Gamaliel's way of thinking, who suspended his 
judgment, and was afraid of being found to fight against 
God, it should seem natural for him to behave in that 
very manner which according to you makes against our 
faith, but I verily think makes for it. But what if Josephus 
had been a bigot, or even a Sadducee, an infidel, an 
atheist ? What then ! we readily grant there might have 
been persons of rank, politicians, generals, and men of 
letters, then as well as now, Jews as well as Englishmen, 
who believed no revealed religion ; and that some such 
persons might possibly have heard of a man in low life, 
who performed miracles by magic, without informing them- 
selves, or perhaps ever inquiring, about his mission and 
doctrine. Upon the whole, I cannot comprehend why 
any man should conclude against the truth of the gospel 
from Josephus's omitting to speak of it, any more than 
from his omitting to embrace it. Had the first Christians 
been chief-priests and rulers, or men of science and learn- 
ing, like Philo and Josephus, it might perhaps with better 
colour have been objected that their religion was of human 
contrivance, than now that it hath pleased God by weak 
things to confound the strong. This I think sufficiently 
accounts, why in the beginning the gospel might overlook 
or be overlooked by men of a certain rank and character. 

27. Ale. And yet it seems an odd argument in proof of 
any doctrine, that it was preached by simple people to 
simple people. 

Cri. Indeed if there was no other attestation to the 
truth of the Christian religion, this must be owned a very 
weak one. But if a doctrine begun by instruments, mean 
as to all human advantages, and making its first progress 
among those who had neither wealth, nor art, nor power 
to grace or encourage it, should in a short time, by its 

1 [Josephus, Ant. Lib. XX. cap. 8, 9.] — Author. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 303 

own innate excellency, the mighty force of miracles, and 
the demonstration of the Spirit, not only without but 
against all worldly motives, spread through the world, and 
subdue men of all ranks and conditions of life, would it 
not be very unreasonable to reject or suspect it, for the 
want of human means ? And might not this with much 
better reason be thought an argument of its coming from 
God? 

Ale. But still an inquisitive man will want the testimony 
of men of learning and knowledge. 

Cri. But, from the first century onwards, there was 
never wanting the testimony of such men, who wrote 
learnedly in defence of the Christian religion, who lived, 
many of them, when the memory of things was fresh, who 
had abilities to judge and means to know, and who gave 
the clearest proofs of their conviction and sincerity. 

Ale. But all the while these men were Christians, pre- 
judiced Christians, and therefore their testimony is to 
be suspected. 

Cri. It seems then you would have Jews or heathens 
attest to the truths of Christianity ? 

Ale. That is the very thing I want. 

Cri. But how can this be ? Or, if it could, would not 
any rational man be apt to suspect such evidence, and 
ask how it was possible for a man really to believe such 
things himself and not become a Christian ? The apostles 
and first converts were themselves Jews, and brought up 
in a veneration for the law of Moses, and in all the pre- 
judices of that people : many Fathers, Christian philo- 
sophers, and learned apologists for the faith, who had 
been bred gentiles, were without doubt imbued with pre- 
judices of education : and if the finger of God and force 
of truth converted both the one and the other from Judaism 
or gentileism, in spite of their prejudices to Christianity, 
is not their testimony so much the stronger ? You have 
then the suffrages of both Jews and gentiles, attesting to 
the truth of our religion in the earliest ages. But to 
expect or desire the attestation of Jews remaining Jews, 
or of gentiles remaining gentiles, seems unreasonable : nor 
can it be imagined that the testimony of men, who were 
not converted themselves, should be the likeliest to con- 
vert others. We have indeed the testimony of heathen 



304 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

writers to prove that about the time of our Saviour's birth 
there was a general expectation in the east of a Messiah 
or Prince, who should found a new dominion : that there 
were such people as Christians : that they were cruelly 
persecuted and put to death : that they were innocent 
and holy in life and worship : and that there did really 
exist in that time certain persons and facts mentioned 
in the New Testament. And for other points, we have 
learned Fathers, several of whom had been, as I have 
already observed, bred heathens, to attest their truth. 

Ale. For my part, I have no great opinion of the 
capacity or learning of the Fathers, and many learned 
men, especially of the reformed churches abroad, are 
of the same mind, which saves me the trouble of looking 
myself into their voluminous writings. 

Cri. I shall not take upon me to say, with the minute 
philosopher Pomponatius ', that Origen, Basil, Augustin, 
and divers other Fathers were equal to Plato, Aristotle, 
and the greatest of the gentiles in human knowledge. 
But, if I may be allowed to make a judgment from what 
I have 'seen of their writings, I should think several of 
them men of great parts, eloquence, and learning, and 
much superior to those who seem to undervalue them. 
Without any affront to certain modern critics or trans- 
lators, Erasmus may be allowed a man of fine taste, and 
a fit judge of sense and good writing, though his judgment 
in this point was very different from theirs. Some of our 
reformed brethren, because the Romanists attribute too 
much, seem to have attributed too little to them, from 
a very usual, though no very judicious, opposition; 
which is apt to lead men to remark defects, without 
making proper allowances, and to say things which 
neither piety, candour, nor good sense require them to say. 

28. Ale. But, though I should acknowledge that a con- 
curring testimony of many learned and able men throughout 

1 [Lib. De Immortalitate Anima:~] in philosophy, it does not appear 

—Author. Pomponatius (1462- that this interesting personage was 

x 5 2 5) was a bold Italian thinker, an unbeliever in religion, although 

who influenced opinion in the early he concluded that human immor- 

part of the sixteenth century. While tality was undemonstrable by 

he was a free inquirer and sceptic science. 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 305 

the first ages of Christianity may have its weight, yet 
when I consider the great number of forgeries and heresies 
that sprung up in those times, it very much weakens their 
credit. 

Cri. Pray, Alciphron, would it be allowed a good argu- 
ment in the mouth of a papist against the Reformation, 
that many absurd sects sprung up at the same time with it ? 
Are we to wonder that, when good seed is sowing, the 
enemy should sow tares ? But at once to cut off several 
objections, let us suppose in fact, what you do not deny 
possible, that there is a God, a devil, and a revelation from 
heaven committed to writing many centuries ago. Do but 
take a view of human nature, and consider what would 
probably follow from such a supposition ; and whether 
it is not very likely there should be half-believers, mistaken 
bigots, holy frauds, ambitious, interested, disputing, con- 
ceited, schismatical, heretical, absurd men among the 
professors of such revealed religion ; as well as, after 
a course of ages, various readings, omissions, transposi- 
tions, and obscurities in the text of the sacred oracles ? 
And if so, I leave you to judge whether it be reasonable 
to make those events an objection against the being of 
a thing which would probably and naturally follow upon 
the supposal of its being? 

Ale. After all, say what you will, this variety of opinions 
must needs shake the faith of a reasonable man. Where 
there are so many different opinions on the same point 
it is very certain they cannot all be true, but it is certain 
they may all be false. And the means to find out the 
truth ! When a man of sense sets about this inquiry, he 
finds himself on a sudden startled and amused with hard 
words and knotty questions. This makes him abandon 
the pursuit, thinking the game not worth the chase. 

Cri. But would not this man of sense do well to con- 
sider, it must argue want of discernment to reject Divine 
truths for the sake of human follies ? Use but the same 
candour and impartiality in treating of religion that you 
would think proper on other subjects. We desire no 
more, and expect no less. In law, in physic, in politics, 
wherever men have refined, is it not evident they have 
been always apt to run into disputes and chicane? But 
will that hinder you from admitting there are many good 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. X 



306 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

rules, and just notions, and useful truths in all those pro- 
fessions? Physicians may dispute, perhaps vainly and 
unintelligibly, about the animal system : they may assign 
different causes of distempers, some explaining them by 
the elementary qualities, hot and cold, moist and dry : yet 
this doth not hinder but the bark may be good for an 
ague, and rhubarb for a flux. Nor can it be inferred from 
the different sects which from time to time have sprung 
up in that profession, the dogmatic, for instance, empiric, 
methodic, Galenic, Paracelsian, or the hard words and 
knotty questions and idle theories which have grown from 
them, or been engrafted on them, that, therefore, we 
should deny the circulation of the blood, or reject their 
excellent rules about exercise, air, and diet. 

Ale, It seems you would screen religion by the example 
of other professions, all which have produced sects and 
disputes as well as Christianity; which may in itself be 
true and useful, notwithstanding many false and fruitless 
notions engrafted on it by the wit of man. Certainly if 
this had been observed or believed by many acute reasoners, 
they would never have made the multiplicity of religious 
opinions and controversies an argument against religion 
in general. 

Cri. How such an obvious truth should escape men of 
sense and inquiry 1 leave you to account : but I can very 
easily account for gross mistakes in those who pass for 
free-thinkers without ever thinking ; or, if they do think, 
whose meditations are employed on other points of a very 
different nature from a serious and impartial inquiry about 
religion. 

f 

29. But to return : what or where is the profession of 
men, who never split into schisms, or never talk nonsense ? 
Is it not evident that out of all the kinds of knowledge on 
which the human mind is employed there grow certain 
excrescences, which may be pared off, like the clippings 
of hair or nails in the body, and with no worse consequence ? 
Whatever bigots or enthusiasts, whatever notional or 
scholastic divines may say or think, it is certain the faith 
derived from Christ and His apostles was not a piece of 
empty sophistry : they did not deliver and transmit down 

to US Kevrjv airaT-qv, but yvfxvrjv yvw/xrjv, to use the expression 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 307 

of a holy confessor 1 . And to pretend to demolish their 
foundation for the sake of human superstructure, be it 
hay or stubble or what it will, is no argument of just 
thought or reason ; any more than it is of fairness to 
suppose a doubtful sense fixed, and argue from one side 
of the question in disputed points. Whether, for instance, 
the beginning of Genesis is to be understood in a literal 
or allegorical sense? Whether the book of Job be a 
history or a parable ? Being points disputed between 
Christians, an infidel can have no right to argue from one 
side of the question in those or the like cases. This or 
that tenet of a sect, this or that controverted notion, is 
not what we contend for at present, but the General Faith 
taught by Christ and His apostles, and preserved by uni- 
versal and perpetual tradition in all the churches down to 
our own times. To tax or strike at this Divine Doctrine, 
on account of things foreign and adventitious, the specu- 
lations and disputes of curious men, is in my mind an 
absurdity of the same kind as it would be to cut down a fine 
tree, yielding fruit and shade, because its leaves afforded 
nourishment to caterpillars, or because spiders may now 
and then weave cobwebs among the branches. 

Ale. To divide and distinguish would take time. We 
have several gentlemen very capable of judging in the 
gross, but that want attention for irksome and dry studies, 
or minute inquiries. To which, as it would be very hard 
to oblige men against their will, so it must be a great 
wrong to the world, as well as themselves, to debar them 
from the right of deciding according to their natural sense 
of things. 

Cri. It were to be wished those capable men would 
employ their judgment and attention on the same objects. 
If theological inquiries are unpalatable, the field of nature 
is wide. How many discoveries are to be made ! How 
many errors to be corrected in arts and sciences ! How 
many vices to be reformed in life and manners ! Why do 
men single out such points as are innocent and useful, 
when there are so many pernicious mistakes to be 
amended ? Why set themselves to destroy the hopes of 
human kind and encouragements to virtue ? Why delight 

1 [Socr. Histor. Eccles. Lib. I.] — Author. 

X 2 



308 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

to judge where they disdain to inquire ? Why not employ 
their noble talents on the longitude or perpetual motion ? 

Ale. I wonder you should not see the difference between 
points of curiosity and religion. Those employ only men 
of a genius or humour suited to them. But all mankind 
have a right to censure, and are concerned to judge of 
these ; except they will blindly submit to be governed by 
the stale wisdom of their ancestors, and the established 
laws of their country. 

Cri. It should seem, if they are concerned to judge, 
they are not less concerned to examine before they 
judge. 

Ale. But after all the examination and inquiry that 
mortal man can make about Revealed Religion, it is 
impossible to come at any rational sure footing. [ l Strange 
things are told us, and in proof thereof it is said that men 
have laid down their lives. But it may be easily conceived, 
and hath been often known, that men have died for the 
sake of opinions, the belief of which, whether right or 
wrong, had over-possessed their minds. 

Ale. I grant you may find instances of men dying for 
false opinions which they believed ; but can you assign an 
instance of a man's dying for the sake of an opinion which 
he did not believe. The case is inconceivable ; and yet 
this must have been the case if the witnesses of Christ's 
miracles and resurrection are supposed impostors.] 

30. There is, indeed, a deal of specious talk about faith 
founded upon miracles. But when I examine this matter 
thoroughly, and trace Christian faith up to its original, 
I find it rests upon much darkness, and scruple, and 
uncertainty. Instead of points evident or agreeable to 
human reason, I find a wonderful narrative of the Son of 
God tempted in the wilderness by the devil, a thing utterly 
unaccountable, without any end, or use, or reason what- 
soever. I meet with strange histories of apparitions of 
angels, and voices from heaven, with surprising accounts 
of demoniacs, things quite out of the road of common sense 
and observation, with several incredible feats said to have 
been done by Divine power, but more probably the inven-- 

1 The sentences within brackets were introduced in the third edition, 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 309 

tions of men : nor the less likely to be so, because I cannot 
pretend to say with what view they were invented. Designs 
deeply laid are dark, and the less we know the more we 
suspect : but, admitting them for true, I shall not allow 
them to be miraculous, until I thoroughly know the power 
of what are called second causes, and the force of Magic. 

Cri. You seem, Alciphron, to analyse, not faith, but 
infidelity, and trace it to its principles ; which, from your 
own account, I collect to be dark and doubtful scruples and 
surmises, hastiness in judging, and narrowness in thinking, 
grounded on a fanciful notion which overrates the little 
scantling of your own experience, and on real ignorance of 
the views of Providence, and of the qualities, operations, 
and mutual respects of the several kinds of beings which 
are, or may be, for aught you know, in the universe. Thus 
obscure, uncertain, conceited, and conjectural are the 
principles of infidelity. Whereas, on the other hand, the 
principles of faith seem to be points plain and clear. It is 
a clear point that this faith in Christ was spread abroad 
throughout the world soon after His death. It is a clear 
point that this was not effected by human learning, politics, 
or power. It is a clear point that in the early times of the 
church there were several men of knowledge and integrity, 
who embraced this faith not from any, but against all, 
temporal motives. It is a clear point that, the nearer they 
were to the fountain-head, the more opportunity they had 
to satisfy themselves as to the truth of those facts which 
they believed. It is a clear point that the less interest 
there was to persuade, the more need there was of evidence 
to convince them. It is a clear point that they relied on 
the authority of those who declared themselves eye- 
witnesses of the miracles and resurrection of Christ. It 
is a clear point that those professed eye-witnesses suffered 
much for this their attestation, and finally sealed it with 
their blood. It is a clear point that these witnesses, weak 
and contemptible as they were, overcame the world, spread 
more light, preached purer models, and did more benefit 
to mankind than all the philosophers and sages put 
together. 

These points appear to me clear and sure, and, being 
allowed such, they are plain, just, and reasonable motives 
of assent ; they stand upon no fallacious ground, they 



310 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

contain nothing beyond our sphere, neither supposing 
more knowledge nor other faculties than we are really 
masters of; and, if they should not be admitted for morally 
certain, as I believe they will by fair and unprejudiced 
inquirers, yet the allowing them to be only probable is 
sufficient to stop the mouth of an infidel. These plain 
points, I say, are the pillars of our faith, and not those 
obscure ones by you supposed ; which are in truth the 
unsound uncertain principles of infidelity, to a rash, pre- 
judiced, and assuming spirit. To raise an argument or 
answer an objection from hidden powers of Nature or 
Magic is groping in the dark ; but, by the evident light of 
sense, men might be sufficiently certified of sensible effects 
and matters of fact, such as the miracles and resurrection 
of Christ ; and the testimony of such men may be trans- 
mitted to after ages, with the same moral certainty as other 
historical narrations ; and those same miraculous facts, 
compared by reason with the doctrines they were brought 
to prove, do afford to an unbiassed mind strong indications 
of their coming from God, or a superior principle, whose 
Goodness retrieved the moral world, whose Power com- 
manded the natural, and whose Providence extended over 
both. Give me leave to say that nothing dark, nothing 
incomprehensible, or mysterious, or unaccountable, is the 
ground or motive, the principle or foundation, the proof or 
reason of our faith although it may be the object of it. 
For, it must be owned that, if by clear and sure principles 
we are rationally led to believe a point less clear, we do 
not therefore reject such point because it is mysterious to 
conceive, or difficult to account for; nor would it be right 
so to do. As for Jews and gentiles anciently attributing 
our Saviour's miracles to Magic, this is so far from being 
a proof against them that to me it seems rather a proof of 
the facts, without disproving the cause to which we ascribe 
them. As we do not pretend to know the nature and 
operations of demons, the history, laws, and system of 
rational beings, and the schemes or views of Providence, 
so far as to account for every action and appearance 
recorded in the gospel ; so neither do you know enough of 
those things to be able, from that knowledge of yours, to 
object against accounts so well attested. It is an easy 
matter to raise scruples upon many authentic parts of civil 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 3U 

history, which, requiring a more perfect knowledge of facts, 
circumstances, and councils than we can come at to explain 
them, must be to us inexplicable. And this is still more 
easy with respect to the history of Nature, in which, if 
surmises were admitted for proofs against things odd, 
strange, and unaccountable ; if our scanty experience were 
made the rule and measure of truth, and all those pheno- 
mena rejected, that we, through ignorance of the principles, 
and laws, and system of nature, could not explain, we 
should indeed make discoveries, but it would be only of 
our own blindness and presumption. And why men that 
are so easily and so often gravelled in common points, in 
things natural and visible, should yet be so sharp-sighted 
and dogmatical about the invisible world and its mysteries 
is to me a point utterly unaccountable by all the rules of 
logic and good sense. Upon the whole, therefore, I cannot 
help thinking there are points sufficiently plain, and clear, 
and full, whereon a man may ground a reasonable faith in 
Christ : but that the attacks of minute philosophers against 
this faith are grounded upon darkness, ignorance, and 
presumption. 

Ale. I doubt I shall still remain in the dark as to the 
proofs of the Christian religion, and always presume there 
is nothing in them. 

31. For, how is it possible, at this remote distance, to 
arrive at any knowledge, or frame any demonstration 
about it? 

Cri. What then ? Knowledge, I grant, in a strict sense, 
cannot be had without evidence or demonstration : but 
probable arguments are a sufficient ground of faith \ 
Who ever supposed that scientifical proofs were necessary 
to make a Christian ? Faith alone is required ; and, 
provided that, in the main and upon the whole, men are 
persuaded, this saving faith may consist with some degrees 
of obscurity, scruple, and error. For, although the light 
of truth be unchangeable, and the same in its eternal 
source, the Father of Lights : yet, with respect to us, it is 

1 Probability, accordingtoBerke- appeals to man, in the response 

ley, is the correlative of Faith : of his complex constitution, not as 

the reason for Christianity is pure intelligence. Cf. his Sermon 

mainly moral and practical. It before the S, P. G, 



312 



ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



variously weakened and obscured, by passing through 
a long distance or gross medium, where it is intercepted, 
distorted, or tinctured, by the prejudices and passions of 
men. But, all this notwithstanding, he that will use his 
eyes may see enough for the purposes either of nature or 
of grace — though by a light, dimmer indeed, or clearer, 
according to the place, or the distance, or the hour, or the 
medium. And it will be sufficient if such analogy appears 
between the dispensations of grace and nature, as may 
make it probable (although much should be unaccountable 
in both) to suppose them derived from the same Author, 
and the workmanship of one and the same Hand l . 

Ale. Those who saw, and touched, and handled Jesus 
Christ after His resurrection, if there were any such, may 
be said to have seen by a clear light : but to us the light is 
very dim, and yet it is expected we should believe this 
point as well as they. For my part, I believe, with 
Spinosa, that Christ's death was literal, but His resurrection 
allegorical 2 . 



1 This sentence expresses the 
leading conception in the Analogy 
of Butler. Butler's analogical argu- 
ment is not to be confounded with 
Browne's proposition — that man's 
so-called knowledge of God and His 
attributes must, from the limitations 
of human intelligence, be only 
' analogical ' or figurative. 

2 [Vide Spinosae Epist. ad Olden- 
bnrgium.~\ — Author. This is one 
of the few references to Spinosa by 
Berkeley. The following passage 
is probably alluded to : — ' Quod 
scilicet Christus non senatui, nee 
Pilato, neccuiquam in prcelium,sed 
Sanctis tantummodo apparuerit, et 
quod Deus neque dextram neque 
sinistram habeat nee in loco, sed 
ubique secundum essentiam sit, et 
quod materia ubique sit eadem, et 
quod Deus extra mundum in spatio, 
quod fingunt, imaginario, sese non 
manifestet, et quod denique cor- 
poris humanicompages intra debitos 
limites solo afiris pondere ccer- 
ceatur ; facile videbis hanc Christi 
apparitionem non absimilem -esse 



illi qua Deus Abrahamo apparuit, 
quando hie vidit homines, quos ad 
secum prandendum invitavit. At 
dices, Apostolos omnes omnino 
credidisse quod Christus a morte 
resurrexerit at ad ccelum revera 
ascenderit : quod ego non nego. 
Nam ipse etiam Abrahamus credi- 
dit, quod Deus apud ipsum pransus 
fuerit, et omnes Israelitae, quod 
Deus a ccelo igne circumdatus ad 
montem Sinai descenderit et cum iis 
immediate locutus fuerit, quum 
tamen haec et plura alia hujus modi 
apparitiones seu revelationes fue- 
rint, captui et opinionibus eorum 
hominum accommodatse, quibus 
Deus mentem suam iisdem revelare 
voluit. Concludo, itaque, Christi a 
mortuisresurrectionem revera spiri- 
tualem et solis fidelibus ad eorum 
captum revelatam esse, nempe quod 
Christus aeternitate donatus qui 
et a mortuis (mortuos hie intelligo 
eo sensu, quo Christus dixit — sinite 
mortuos sepelire mortuos suos) sur- 
rexit, simul atque vita et morte 
singularis sanctitatis exemplum 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 313 

Cri. And, for my part, I can see nothing in this 
celebrated infidel that should make me desert matters of 
fact, and moral evidence, to adopt his notions. Though 
I must needs own I admit an allegorical resurrection that 
proves the real — to wit, a resurrection of Christ's disciples 
from weakness to resolution, from fear to courage, from 
despair to hope, of which, for aught I can see, no rational 
account can be given, but the sensible evidence that our 
Lord was truly, really, and literally risen from the dead. 
But as it cannot be denied that His disciples, who were 
eye-witnesses of His miracles and resurrection, had 
stronger evidence than we can have of those points ' ; so 
it cannot be denied, that such evidence was then more 
necessary, to induce men to embrace a new institution, 
contrary to the whole system of their education, their 
prejudices, their passions, their interests, and every human 
motive. Though to me it seems the moral evidence and 
probable arguments within our reach are abundantly 
sufficient to make prudent thinking men adhere to the 
faith handed down to us from our ancestors, established 
by the laws of our country, requiring submission in points 
above our knowledge, and for the rest recommending 
doctrines the most agreeable to our interest and our 
reason. And, however strong the light might have been 
at the fountain-head, yet its long continuance and propaga- 
tion, by such unpromising instruments throughout the 
world, have been very wonderful. We may now take 
a more comprehensive view of the connexion, order, and 
progress of the Divine dispensations, and, by a retrospect 
on a long series of past ages, perceive a unity of design 
running throughout the whole, a gradual disclosing and 
fulfilling the purposes of Providence, a regular progress 
from types to antitypes, from things carnal to things 
spiritual, from earth to heaven. We may behold Christ 
crucified, that stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness 
to the Greeks, putting a final period to the temple-worship 

dedit ; et eatenus discipulos suos Christiance Principia Mathematical 

a mortuis suscitat, quatenus ipsi of John Craig, published in 1699, 

hoc vitae ejus et mortis exemplum an attempt is made to prove mathe- 

sequuntur.' — Epistola XXI 1 1. See matically that the historical evi- 

also Epistola XXI, XXV. dence of Christianity, gradually 

1 Cf. Berkeley's Sermon before weakening, will be reduced to zero 

the S. P. G. In the Theologice in a.d. 3150. 



314 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

of the one and the idolatry of the other, and that stone, which 
was cut out of the mountain without hands and brake in 
pieces all other kingdoms, become itself a great mountain. 

32. If a due reflexion on these things be not sufficient 
to beget a reverence for the Christian faith in the minds of 
men, I should rather impute it to any other cause than 
a wise and cautious incredulity : when I see their easiness 
of faith in the common concerns of life, where there is no 
prejudice or appetite to bias or disturb their natural 
judgment : when I see those very men that in religion will 
not stir a step without evidence, and at every turn expect 
demonstration, trust their health to a physician, their lives 
to a sailor, with an implicit faith, I cannot think they 
deserve the honour of being thought more incredulous than 
other men, or that they are more accustomed to know, and 
for this reason less inclined to believe. On the contrary, 
one is tempted to suspect that ignorance hath a greater 
share than science in our modern infidelity ; and that it 
proceeds more from a wrong head, or an irregular will, 
than from deep researches. 

Lys. We do not, it must be owned, think that learning 
or deep researches are necessary to pass right judgments 
upon things. I sometimes suspect that learning is apt to 
produce and justify whims, and sincerely believe we should 
do better without it. Our sect are divided on this point, 
but much the greater part think with me. I have heard 
more than once very observing men remark, that learning 
was the true human means which preserved religion in 
the world ; and that, if we had it in our power to prefer 
blockheads in the church, all would soon be right. 

Cri. Men must be strangely in love with their opinions, 
to put out their eyes rather than part with them. But it 
has been often remarked by observing men, that there are 
no greater bigots than infidels. 

Lys. What ! a free-thinker and a bigot — Impossible ! 

Cri. Not so impossible neither, that an infidel should be 
bigoted to his infidelity. Methinks I see a bigot wherever 
I see a man overbearing and positive without knowing 
why, laying the greatest stress on points of smallest 
moment, hasty to judge of the conscience, thoughts, and 
inward views of other men, impatient of reasoning against 



THE SIXTH DIALOGUE 315 

his own opinions, and choosing them with inclination 
rather than judgment, an enemy to learning, and attached 
to mean authorities. How far our modern infidels agree 
with this description, I leave to be considered by those 
who really consider and think for themselves. 

Lys. We are no bigots ; we are men that discover 
difficulties in religion, that tie knots and raise scruples, 
which disturb the repose and interrupt the golden dreams 
of bigots, who therefore cannot endure us. 

Cri. They who cast about for difficulties will be sure to 
find or make them upon every subject ; but he that would, 
upon the foot of reason, erect himself into a judge, in order 
to make a wise judgment on a subject of that nature, will 
not only consider the doubtful and difficult parts of it, but 
take a comprehensive view of the whole, consider it in all 
its parts and relations, trace it to its original, examine its 
principles, effects, and tendencies, its proofs internal and 
external. He will distinguish between the clear points 
and the obscure, the certain and the uncertain, the essential 
and circumstantial, between what is genuine and what 
foreign. He will consider the different sorts of proof 
that belong to different things — where evidence is to be 
expected, where probability may suffice, and where it is 
reasonable to suppose there should be doubts and scruples. 
He will proportion his pains and exactness to the import- 
ance of the inquiry, and check that disposition of his mind 
to conclude all those notions, groundless prejudices, with 
which it was imbued before it knew the reason of them. 
He will silence his passions, and listen to truth. He will 
endeavour to untie knots as well as tie them, and dwell 
rather on the light parts of things than the obscure. He 
will balance the force of his understanding with the 
difficulty of the subject, and, to render his judgment 
impartial, hear evidence on all sides, and, so far as he is 
led by authority, choose to follow that of the honestest and 
wisest men. Now, it is my sincere opinion, the Christian 
religion may well stand the test of such an inquiry. 

Lys. But such an inquiry would cost too much pains and 
time. We have thought of another method — the bringing 
religion to the test of wit and humour : this we find a much 
shorter, easier, and more effectual way. And, as all 
enemies are at liberty to choose their weapons, we make 



316 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

choice of those we are most expert at : and we are the better 
pleased with this choice, having observed that of all things 
a solid divine hates a jest. 

Euph} To consider the whole of the subject, to read 
and think on all sides, to object plainly, and answer 
directly, upon the foot of dry reason and argument, would 
be a very tedious and troublesome affair. Besides, it is 
attacking pedants at their own weapons. How much more 
delicate and artful is it, to give a hint, to cover oneself 
with an enigma, to drop a double entendre, to keep it in 
one's power to recover, and slip aside, and leave his 
antagonist beating the air ! 

Lys. This hath been practised with great success, and 
I believe it the top method to gain proselytes, and confound 
pedants. 

Cri. I have seen several things written in this way, 
which, I suppose, were copied from the behaviour of a sly 
sort of scorners one may sometimes meet with. Suppose 
a conceited man that would pass for witty, tipping the 
wink upon one, thrusting out his tongue at another ; one 
while waggishly smiling, another with a grave mouth and 
ludicrous eyes ; often affecting the countenance of one who 
smothered a jest, and sometimes bursting out in a horse- 
laugh : what a figure would this be, I will not say in the 
senate or council, but in a private visit among well-bred 
men ! And yet this is the figure that certain great authors, 
who in this age would pass for models, and do pass for 
models, make in their polite and elaborate writings on the 
most weighty points 2 . 

Ale. I who profess myself an admirer, an adorer of 
reason, am obliged to own that in some cases the sharp- 
ness of ridicule can do more than the strength of argument. 
But if we exert ourselves in the use of mirth and humour, 
it is not for want of other weapons. It shall never be said 
that a free-thinker was afraid of reasoning. No, Crito, 
we have reasons in store, the best are yet to come ; and if 
we can find an hour for another conference before we set 
out to-morrow morning, I will undertake you shall be plied 
with reasons, as clear, and home, and close to the point as 
you could wish. 

1 What Euphranor here says is in the first edition attributed to Lysieles. 

2 Shaftesbury. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 



i. Christian faith impossible. 2. Words stand for ideas. 3. No know- 
ledge or faith without ideas. 4. Grace, no idea of it. 5. Suggesting 
ideasnot the only use of words. 6. Force as difficult to form an idea of as 
grace. 7. Notwithstanding which, useful propositions may be formed 
concerning it. 8. Belief of the Trinity and other mysteries not 
absurd. 9. Mistakes about faith an occasion of profane raillery. 
10. Faith — its true nature and effects. 11. Illustrated by science. 
12. By arithmetic in particular. 13. Sciences conversant about signs. 
14. The true end of speech, reason, science, and faith. 15. Meta- 
physical objections as strong against human science as articles of 
faith. 16. No religion, because no human liberty. 17. Further proof 
against human liberty. 18. Fatalism a consequence of erroneous 
suppositions. 19. Man an accountable agent. 20. Inconsistency, 
singularity, and credulity of minute philosophers. 21. Untrodden 
paths and new light of the minute philosophers. 22. Sophistry of the 
minute philosophers. 23. Minute philosophers ambiguous, enigmatical, 
unfathomable. 24. Scepticism of the minute philosophers. 25. How 
a sceptic ought to behave. 26. Minute philosophers — why difficult to 
convince. 27. Thinking, not the epidemical evil of these times. 
28. Infidelity not an effect of reason or thought : its true motives 
assigned. 29. Variety of opinions about religion, effects thereof. 
30. Method for proceeding with minute philosophers. 31. Want of 
thought and want of education defects of the present age. 

i. The philosophers having resolved to set out for 
London next morning, we assembled at break of day in 
the library. 

1 In this Dialogue the argument Faith and Science, and the utility 

passes from the moral evidence of language even when terms 

of Christian faith to the credibility do not suggest ideas ; followed by 

of Christianity, notwithstanding an application to the mysteries of 

the Mysteries that are embedded Grace,Trinity, Incarnation, Original 

in it. Christianity, it was alleged Sin, and Free Agency — the last 

by free-thinkers, is essentially involving the fundamental presup- 

mysterious, and, as such, cannot position of religion and morality, 

be vindicated by any evidence, At the close of the discussion, 

however probable. This leads to Minute Philosophy appears to re- 

a discussion of the relation between solve into Universal Scepticism. 



318 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Alciphron began with a declaration of his sincerity, 
assuring us he had very maturely and with a most un- 
biassed mind considered all that had been said the day 
before. He added that upon the whole he could not deny 
several probable reasons were produced for embracing the 
Christian faith. But, said he, those reasons being only 
probable, can never prevail against absolute certainty and 
demonstration. If, therefore, I can demonstrate your 
religion to be a thing altogether absurd and inconsistent, 
your probable arguments in its defence do from that 
moment lose their force, and with it all right to be 
answered or considered. The concurring testimony of 
sincere and able witnesses hath without question great 
weight in human affairs. I will even grant that things odd 
and unaccountable to human judgment or experience may 
sometimes claim our assent on that sole motive. And 
I will also grant it possible for a tradition to be conveyed 
with moral evidence through many centuries. But at the 
same time you will grant to me that a thing demonstrably 
and palpably false is not to be admitted on any testimony 
whatever, which at best can never amount to demonstra- 
tion. To be plain, no testimony can make nonsense 
sense : no moral evidence can make contradictions con- 
sistent. Know, then, that as the strength of our cause 
doth not depend upon, so neither is it to be decided by 
any critical points of history, chronology, or languages. 
You are not to wonder, if the same sort of tradition and 
moral proof which governs our assent with respect to 
facts in civil or natural history is not admitted as a suffi- 
cient voucher for metaphysical absurdities and absolute 
impossibilities. Things obscure and unaccountable in 
human affairs or the operations of nature may yet be 
possible, and, if well attested, may be assented unto ; but 
religious assent or Faith can be evidently shewn in its own 
nature to be impracticable, impossible, and absurd. This is 
the primary motive to infidelity. This is our citadel and 
fortress, which may, indeed, be graced with outworks of 
various erudition, but, if those are demolished, remains 
in itself and of its own proper strength impregnable. 

Euph. This, it must be owned, reduceth our inquiry 
within a narrow compass : do but make out this, and 
I shall have nothing more to say. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 319 

Ale. Know then that the shallow mind of the vulgar, as 
it dwells only on the outward surface of things, and 
considers them in the gross, may be easily imposed on. 
Hence a blind reverence for religious Faith and Mystery. 
But when an acute philosopher comes to dissect and 
analyse these points, the imposture plainly appears ; and, 
as he has no blindness, so he has no reverence for empty 
notions ; or, to speak more properly, for mere forms of 
speech, which mean nothing, and are of no use to mankind. 

2. Words are signs : they do or should stand for ideas ; 
which so far as they suggest they are significant. But 
words that suggest no ideas are insignificant. He who , 
annexeth a clear idea to every word he makes use of[ 
speaks sense ; but where such ideas are wanting, the 
speaker utters nonsense 1 . In order therefore to know 
whether any man's speech be senseless and insignificant, 
we have nothing to do but lay aside the words, and 
consider the ideas suggested by them. Men, not being 
able immediately to communicate their ideas one to 
another, are obliged to make use of sensible signs or 
words ; the use of which is to raise those ideas in the 
hearer which are in the mind of the speaker ; and if they 
fail of this end they serve to no purpose. He who really 
thinks hath a train of ideas succeeding each other and 
connected in his mind ; and when he expresseth himself 
by discourse each word suggests a distinct idea to the 
hearer or reader ; who by that means hath the same train 
of ideas in his which was in the mind of the speaker or 
writer. As far as this effect is produced, so far the dis- 
course is intelligible, hath sense and meaning. Hence it 
follows that whoever can be supposed to understand what 
he reads or hears must have a train of ideas raised in his 
mind, correspondent to the train of words read or heard. 
These plain truths, to which men readily assent in theory, 
are but little attended to in practice, and therefore deserve 
to be enlarged on and inculcated, however obvious and 
undeniable. Mankind are generally averse from thinking, 

1 So Locke, Essay, Bk. III. ch. words we employ. Cf. Berkeley, 

2, 10, also Collins, Philosophical De Moiu, sect. 29. In what fol- 

Inquiry, pp. 2, 8, who urge the lows, ideas mean representative 

need for having ideas in all the intuitions, or generic images. 



320 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

though apt enough to entertain discourse either in them- 
selves or others : the effect whereof is that their minds are 
rather stored with names than ideas, the husk of science 
rather than the thing. And yet these words without 
meaning do often make distinctions of parties, the subject- 
matter of their disputes, and the object of their zeal. This 
is the most general cause of error, which doth not influence 
ordinary minds alone, but even those who pass for acute 
and learned philosophers are often employed about names 
instead of things or ideas, and are supposed to know when 
they only pronounce hard words without a meaning. 

3. Though it is evident that, as knowledge is the percep- 
tion of the connexion or disagreement between ideas l , he 
who doth not distinctly perceive the ideas marked by the 
terms, so as to form a mental proposition answering to the 
verbal, cannot possibly have knowledge. No more can 
he be said to have opinion or faith ; which imply a weaker 
assent, but still it must be to a proposition, the terms of 
which are understood as clearly, although the agreement 
or disagreement of the ideas may not be so evident, as 
in the case of knowledge. I say, all degrees of assent, 
whether founded on reason or authority, more or less 
cogent, are internal acts of the mind, which alike terminate 
in ideas as their proper object; without which there can 
be really no such thing as knowledge, faith, or opinion. 
We may perhaps raise a dust and dispute about tenets 
purely verbal ; but what is this at bottom more than mere 
trifling ? All which will be easily admitted with respect to 
human learning and science ; wherein it is an allowed 
method to expose any doctrine or tenet by stripping them 
of the words, and examining what ideas are underneath, 
or whether any ideas at all 2 ? This is often found the 
shortest way to end disputes, which might otherwise grow 
and multiply without end, the litigants neither under- 
standing one another nor themselves. It were needless 
to illustrate what shines by its own light, and is admitted 
by all thinking men. My endeavour shall be only to 
apply it in the present case. I suppose I need not be at 
any pains to prove that the same rules of reason and good 

1 So Locke, Essay, Bk. IV. ch. 1. 

2 Ci'. Principles, ' Introduction,' sect. 23, 24. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 32 1 

sense which obtain in all other subjects ought to take 
place in religion. As for those who consider faith and 
reason as two distinct provinces, and would have us think 
good sense has nothing to do where it is most concerned, 
I am resolved never to argue with such men, but leave 
them in quiet possession of their prejudices. 

And now, for the particular application of what I have 
said, I shall not single out any nice disputed points of 
school divinity, or those that relate to the nature and 
essence of God, which, being allowed infinite, you might 
pretend to screen them under the general notion of 
difficulties attending the nature of Infinity. 

4. Grace is the main point in the Christian dispensation : 
nothing is oftener mentioned or more considered through* 
out the New Testament ; wherein it is represented as 
somewhat of a very particular kind, distinct from anything 
revealed to the Jews, or known by the light of nature* 
This same grace is spoken of as the gift of God, as coming 
by Jesus Christ, as reigning, as abounding, as operating. 
Men are said to speak through grace, to believe through 
grace. Mention is made of the glory of grace, the riches 
of grace, the stewards of grace. Christians are said to be 
heirs of grace, to receive grace, grow in grace, be strong 
in grace, to stand in grace, and to fall from grace. And 
lastly, grace is said to justify and to save them. Hence 
Christianity is styled the covenant or dispensation of 
grace. And it is well known that no point hath created 
more controversy in the church than this doctrine of 
grace. What disputes about its nature, extent, and effects, 
about universal, efficacious, sufficient, preventing, irre- 
sistible grace, have employed the pens of Protestant as 
well as Popish divines, of Jansenists and Molinists, of 
Lutherans, Calvinists, and Arminians, as I have not the 
least curiosity to know, so I need not say. It sufficeth to 
observe, that there have been and are still subsisting great 
contests upon these points. Only one thing I should 
desire to be informed of, to wit, What is the clear and 
distinct idea marked by the word grace? I presume 
a man may know the bare meaning of a term, without 
going into the depth of all those learned inquiries. This 
surely is an easy matter, provided there is an idea annexed 

BERKELEY : FRASER. II. Y 



322 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

to such term. And if there is not, it can be neither the 
subject of a rational dispute, nor the object of real faith. 
Men may indeed impose upon themselves or others, and 
pretend to argue and believe, when at bottom there is 
no argument or belief, further than mere verbal trifling. 
Grace taken in the vulgar sense, either for beauty, or 
favour, I can easily understand. But when it denotes an 
active, vital, ruling principle, influencing and operating on 
the mind of man, distinct from every natural power or 
motive, I profess myself altogether unable to understand 
it, or frame any distinct idea of it ; and therefore I cannot 
assent to any proposition concerning it, nor consequently 
have any faith about it : and it is a self-evident truth, that 
God obligeth no man to impossibilities. At the request of 
a philosophical friend, I did cast an eye on the writings he 
shewed me of some divines, and talked with others on this 
subject, but after all I had read or heard could make 
nothing of it, having always found, whenever I laid aside 
the word grace, and looked into my own mind, a perfect 
vacuity or privation of all ideas. And, as I am apt to 
think men's minds and faculties are made much alike, 
I suspect that other men, if they examine what they call 
grace with the same exactness and indifference, would 
agree with me, that there was nothing in it but an empty 
name. This is not the only instance where a word often 
heard and pronounced is believed intelligible, for no other 
reason but because it is familiar. Of the same kind 
are many other points reputed necessary articles of faith. 
That which in the present case imposeth upon mankind 
I take to be partly this : men speak of this holy principle 
as of something that acts, moves, and determines, taking 
their ideas from corporeal things, from motion and the 
force or momentum of bodies, which, being of an obvious 
and sensible 1 nature, they substitute in place of a thing 
spiritual and incomprehensible, which is a manifest delu- 
sion. For, though the idea of corporeal force be never 
so clear and intelligible, it will not therefore follow that 
the idea of grace, a thing perfectly incorporeal, must be 
so too. And though we may reason distinctly, perceive, 
assent, and form opinions about the one, it will by no 

1 Cf. De Motu, sect. 43-66, which resolve motion into perceptible 
change of relative place. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 



3 2 3 



means follow that we can do so of the other. Thus it 
comes to pass that a clear sensible idea of what is real 
produceth, or rather is made a pretence for, an imaginary 
spiritual faith that terminates in no object — a thing im- 
possible ! For there can be no assent where there are no 
ideas : and where there is no assent there can be no faith : 
and what cannot be, that no man is obliged to. This is as 
clear as anything in Euclid *. 



1 The three following sections 
in brackets, which appear in the 
first and second editions of Alci- 
phron, as sections 5, 6, 7, were 
omitted in the amendedthird edition 
(1752); the omission is significant 
if it means dissatisfaction with his 
former mode of assailing ' abstract 
ideas ' : — 

'[5. The same method of reasoning 
may be applied by any man of sense 
to confute all other the most essen- 
tial articles of the Christian faith. 
You are not therefore to wonder 
that a man who proceeds on such 
solid grounds, such clear and evi- 
dent principles, should be deaf to 
all you can say from moral evidence, 
or probable arguments, which are 
nothing in the balance against 
demonstration. 

Euph. The more light and force 
there are in this discourse, the 
more you are to blame for not 
having produced it sooner. For 
my part, I should never have said 
one word against evidence. But 
let me see whether I understand 
you rightly. You say, every word 
in an intelligible discourse must 
stand for an idea ; which ideas as 
far as they are clearly and dis- 
tinctly apprehended, so far the 
discourse hath meaning, without 
which it is useless and insignificant. 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. For instance, when I hear 
the word man, triangle, colour, pro- 
nounced, they must excite in my 
mind distinct ideas of those things 
whereof they are signs ; otherwise 
I cannot be said to understand them. 



Ale. Right. 

Euph. And this is the only true 
use of language. 

Ale. That is what I affirm. 

Euph. But every time the word 
man occurs in reading or conversa- 
tion, I am not conscious that the 
particular distinct idea of a man 
is excited in my mind. For instance, 
when I read in St. Paul's Epistle 
to the Galatians these words, ' If 
a man thinketh himself to be some- 
thing when he is nothing, he de- 
ceiveth himself,' methinks I com- 
prehend the force and meaning of 
this proposition, although I do not 
frame to myself the particular dis- 
tinct idea of a man. 

Ale. It is very true you do not 
form in your mind the particular 
idea of Peter, James, or John, of 
a fair or a black, a tall or a low, 
a fat or a lean, a straight or a 
crooked, a wise or a foolish, a sleep- 
ing or a waking man ; but the 
abstract general idea of man, pre- 
scinding from and exclusive of all 
particular shape, size, complexion, 
passions, faculties, and every indi- 
vidual circumstance. 

To explain this matter more fully, 
you are to understand there is in 
the human mind a faculty of con- 
templating the general nature of 
things, separate from all those par- 
ticularities which distinguish the 
individuals one from another. For 
example, in Peter, James, and 
John, you may observe in each a 
certain collection of stature, figure, 
colour, and other peculiar proper- 
ties by which they are known 
Y 2 



324 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



5. Euph. Be the use of words or names what it will, 
I can never think it is to do things impossible. Let us 



asunder, distinguished from all 
other men, and, if I may so say, 
individuated. Now, leaving out of 
the idea of a man that which is 
peculiar to the individual, and re- 
taining only that which is common 
to all men, you form an abstract 
universal idea of man or human 
nature ; which includes no par- 
ticular stature, shape, colour or 
other quality, whether of mind or 
body. After the same manner you 
may observe particular triangles to 
differ one from another, as their 
sides are equal or unequal, and 
their angles greater or lesser ; 
whence they are denominated equi- 
lateral, equicrural, or scalenum, 
obtusangular, acutangular, or rect- 
angular. Butthemind,excludingout 
of its ideas all these peculiar proper- 
ties and distinctions, framed the gen- 
eral abstract idea of a triangle which 
is neither equilateral, equicrural, 
nor scalenum, neither obtusangular, 
acutangular, nor rectangular ; but 
all and none of these at once*. 
The same maybe saidof the general 
abstract idea of co/owr, which issome- 
thing distinct from and exclusive 
of blue, red, green, yellow, and 
every other particular colour, in- 
cluding only that general essence 
in which they all agree. And 
what has been said of these three 
general names, and the abstract 
general ideas they stand for, may 
be applied to all others. For you 
must know that particular things 
or ideas being infinite, if each 
were marked or signified by a 
distinct proper name, words must 
have been innumerable, and lan- 
guage an endless impossible thing. 
Hence it comes to pass that appella- 
tive or general names stand, imme- 
diately and properly, not for par- 
ticular 



ideas ; which they never fail to 
excite in the mind, as oft as they 
are used to any significant purpose. 
And without this there could be no 
communication or enlargement of 
knowledge, no such thing as uni- 
versal science or theorems of any 
kind. Now, for understanding any 
proposition or discourse, it is suffi- 
cient that distinct ideas are thereby 
raised in your mind, correspondent 
to those in the speaker's, whether 
the ideas so raised are particular, 
or only abstract and general ideas. 
Forasmuch, nevertheless, as these 
are not so obvious and familiar to 
vulgar minds, it happens that some 
men may think they have no idea 
at all, when they have not a par- 
ticular idea ; but the truth is, you 
had the abstract general idea of 
man, in the instance assigned, 
wherein you thought you had none. 
After the same manner, when it is 
said that the three angles of a tri- 
angle are equal to two right ones; or 
that colour is the obj ect of sight ; i t is 
evident the words do not stand for 
this or that triangle or colour, but 
for abstract general ideas, excluding 
everything peculiar to the indi- 
viduals, and including only the Uni- 
versal Nature common to the whole 
kind of triangles or of colours. 

6. Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are 
those abstract general ideas clear 
and distinct ? 

Ale. They are above all others 
clear and distinct, being the only 
proper object of science, which is 
altogether conversant about Uni- 
versals. 

Euph. And do you not think it 
very possible for any man to know 
whether he has this or that clear 
and distinct idea or no ? 

Ale. Doubtless. To know this 



but for abstract general 
[See Locke, On Human Understanding, Bk. IV. ch. 7.] — Author 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 



325 



then inquire what it is ? and see if we can make sense of 
our daily practice 1 . Words, it is agreed, are signs: it 



he needs only examine his own 
thoughts and look into his own 
mind. 

t- Euph, But, upon looking into 
my own mind, I do not find that 
I have or can have these general 
abstract ideas of a man or a triangle 
above-mentioned, or of colour pre- 
scinded from all particular colours*. 
Though I shut mine eyes, and use 
mine utmost efforts, and reflect on 
all that passeth in my own mind, 
I find it utterly impossible to form 
such ideas. 

Ale. To reflect with due attention 
and turn the mind inward upon 
itself is a difficult task, and not 
every one's talent. 

Euph. Not to insist on what you 
allowed — that every one might 
easily know for himself whether 
he has this or that idea or no, 
I am tempted to think nobody else 
can form those ideas any more than 
I can. Pray, Alciphron, which are 
those things you would call abso- 
lutely impossible ? 

Ale. Such as include a contra- 
diction. 

Euph. Can you frame an idea of 
what includes a contradiction ? 

Ale. I cannot. 

Euph. Consequently, whatever 
is absolutely impossible you cannot 
form an idea of? 



Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. But can a colour, or tri- 
angle, such as you describe their 
abstract general ideas, really exist ? 

Ale. It is absolutely impossible 
such things should exist in na- 
ture. 

Euph. Should it not follow, then, 
that they cannot exist in your 
mind, or, in other words, that you 
cannot conceive or frame an idea of 
them? 

Ale. You seem, Euphranor, not 
to distinguish between pure intel- 
lect and imagination -f\ Abstract 
general ideas I take to be the 
object of pure intellect, which may 
conceive them ; although they can- 
not perhaps be imagined. 

Euph. I do not perceive that 
I can by any faculty, whether of 
intellect or imagination, conceive 
or frame an idea of that which is 
impossible and includes a contra- 
diction. And I am very much at 
a loss to account for your admitting 
that in common instances, which 
you would make an argument 
against Divine faith and mysteries. 

7. Ale. There must be some mis- 
take in this. How is it possible 
there should be general knowledge 
without general propositions, or 
these without general names, which 

* [See the • Introduction ' to a Treatise concerning the Principles of 
Human Knowledge, printed in the year 17 10, where the absurdity of 
abstract ideas is fully considered.] — Author. 

Cf. also New Theory of Vision, sect. 124, 125 ; De Motu, passim ; and 
Defence of Free-thinking in Mathematics, sect. 45-48. Throughout his 
intellectual life he has been clinging to the concrete, and resisting the 
disposition to abstract from it. 

\ vornxara and (pavraanara, as the Greeks term the respective products 
of those faculties. Cf. Berkeley's De Motu, sect. 53, in which he 
distinguishes pure intellect and imagination. 



1 Note that while the omitted 
sections (5-7) harmonise with those 



in the Introduction to the Principles 
(sect. 7-17) that are directed against 



326 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 



may not therefore be amiss to examine the use of other 
signs, in order to know that of words. Counters, for 
instance, at a card-table are used, not for their own sake, 
but only as signs substituted for money, as words are for 
ideas. Say now, Alciphron, is it necessary every time 
these counters are used throughout the progress of a 
game, to frame an idea of the distinct sum or value that 
each represents : ? 
Ale. By no means : it is sufficient the players first agree 



cannot be without general ideas by 
standing for which they become 
general ? 

Euph. But may not words be- 
come general by being made to 
stand indiscriminately for all par- 
ticular ideas, which, from a mutual 
resemblance, belong to the same 
kind ; without the intervention of 
any abstract general idea ? 

Ale. Is there, then, no such thing 
as a general idea ? 

Euph. May we not admit general 
ideas though we should not admit 
them to be made by abstraction, 
or though we should not allow of 
general abstract ideas 1 To me it 
seems a particular idea may become 
general, by being used to stand 
for or represent other ideas ; and 
that general knowledge is con- 
versant about signs or general ideas 
made such by their signification ; 
and which are considered rather 
in their relative capacity, and as 
substituted for others, than in their 
own nature, or for their own sake. 
A black line, for instance, an inch 
long, though in itself particular, 



may yet become universal, being 
used as a sign to stand for any 
line whatsoever. 

Ale. It is your opinion, then, 
that words become general by repre- 
senting an indefinite number of 
particular ideas ? 

Euph. It seems so to me. 

Ale. Whenever, therefore, I hear 
a general name, it must be sup- 
posed to excite some one or other 
particular idea of that species in 
my mind ? 

Euph. I cannot say so neither. 
Pray, Alciphron, doth it seem to 
you necessary that, as often as the 
word man occurs in reading or 
discourse, you must form in your 
mind the idea of a particular man ? 

Ale. I own it doth not : and, not 
finding particular ideas always 
suggested by the words, I was led 
to think I had abstract general 
ideas suggested by them. And 
this is the opinion of all thinking 
men, who are agreed the only use 
of words is to suggest ideas. And 
indeed what other use can we 
assign them ?] * ' 



* In the table of contents prefixed to this Dialogue, in the first and 
second editions, sections 5, 6, 7, now omitted in the text, appear thus : — 

1 5. Abstract ideas, what, and how made. 6. Abstract general ideas 
impossible. 7. In what sense there may be general ideas.' 



1 abstract ideas,' this and the follow- 
ing sections restate, and apply to the 
question about mysteries, the teach- 
ing of the remainder of the Introduc- 
tion to the Principles (sect. 18-25), 
which treats of unreflecting employ- 



ment of language, as a source of 
the empty abstractions which men 
mistake for concrete realities. 

1 'anidea' — here a mental image 
or picture. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 327 

on their respective values, and at last substitute those 
values in their stead. 

Euph. And in casting up a sum, where the figures 
stand for pounds, shillings, and pence, do you think it 
necessary, throughout the whole progress of the operation, 
in each step to form ideas of pounds, shillings, and 
pence ? 

Ale. I do not ; it will suffice if in the conclusion those 
figures direct our actions with respect to things. 

Euph. From hence it seems to follow, that words may 
not be insignificant, although they should not, every time 
they are used, excite the ideas they signify in our minds ; 
it being sufficient that we have it in our power to substitute 
things or ideas ' for their signs when there is occasion. 
It seems also to follow, that there may be another use of 
words besides that of marking and suggesting distinct 
ideas, to wit, the influencing our conduct and actions; 
which may be done either by forming rules for us to 
act by, or by raising certain passions, dispositions, and 
emotions in our minds. A discourse, therefore, that directs 
how to act or excite to the doing or forbearance of an 
action may, it seems, be useful and significant, although 
the words whereof it is composed should not bring each 
a distinct idea into our minds 2 . 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Pray tell me, Alciphron, is not an idea altogether 
inactive ? 

Ale. It is 3 . 

Euph. An agent therefore, an active mind, or spirit 
cannot be an idea, or like an idea. Whence it should seem 
to follow that those words which denote an active principle, 
soul, or spirit do not, in a strict and proper sense, stand 
for ideas. And yet they are not insignificant neither; 
since I understand what is signified by the term /, or myself, 
or know what it means : although it be no idea, or like 
an idea, but that which thinks, and wills, and apprehends 

1 ' things or ideas,' i. e. concrete sect. 20. 
data either of sense or of sensuous 3 Cf. Principles of Human Know- 
imagination, which the signs may ledge, sect. 25 ; De Motu, sect. 22 — 
denote, and which we can realise in which, as elsewhere, the absolute 
in imagination if we take the powerlessness of sensible things 
trouble. is maintained, and causation is re- 

3 Cf. Principles, Introduction, fcrred exclusively to Spirit. 



328 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

ideas, and operates about them \ [ 2 Certainly it must be 
allowed that we have some notion, and that we understand 
or know what is meant by, the terms myself, will, memory, 
love, hate, and so forth ; although, to speak exactly, these 
words do not suggest so many distinct ideas.] 

Ale. What would you infer from this? 

Euph. What hath been inferred already — that words 
may be significant, although they do not stand for ideas 3 . 
The contrary whereof having been presumed seems to 
have produced the doctrine of abstract ideas. 

Ale. Will you not allow then that the mind can abstract? 

Euph. I do not deny it may abstract in a certain sense : 
inasmuch as those things that can really exist, or be really 
perceived asunder, may be conceived asunder, or abstracted 
one from the other ; for instance, a man's head from his 
body, colour from motion, figure from weight. But it will 
not thence follow that the mind can frame abstract general 
ideas, which appear to be impossible 4 . 

Ale. And yet it is a current opinion that every sub- 
stantive name marks out and exhibits to the mind one 
distinct idea separate from all others. 

Euph. Pray, Alciphron, is not the word number such 
a substantive name? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Do but try now whether you can frame an idea 
of number in abstract ; exclusive of all signs, words, and 
things numbered. I profess for my own part I cannot. 

Ale. Can it be so hard a matter to form a simple idea 
of number, the object of a most evident demonstrable 
science ? Hold, let me see if I cannot abstract the idea 
of number from the numerical names and characters, and 
all particular numerical things. — Upon which Alciphron 
paused awhile, and then said, To confess the truth I do 
not find that I can. 

1 Cf. Principles of Human Know- Knowledge, sect. 135, and the 'In- 
ledge, sect. 2, 26,27. Spirit, in short, traduction,' sect. 20.] — Author. 

is something deeper than its ideas ; 4 Such' ideas' involve the con- 

which (especially ideas of sense) tradiction of being at once empty 

are ultimately beyond the control abstractions and yet concrete ob- 

of finite spirits. jects ; seeing that Berkeley still 

2 The sentence in brackets was confines the term idea to what is 
introduced in the third edition. concrete and sensuous. 

:! [See the Principles of Human 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 329 

Euph. But, though it seems neither you nor I can form 
distinct simple ideas of number, we can nevertheless make 
a very proper and significant use of numeral names. They 
direct us in the disposition and management of our affairs, 
and are of such necessary use, that we should not know 
how to do without them. And yet, if other men's faculties 
may be judged by mine, to obtain a precise simple abstract 
idea of number, is as difficult as to comprehend any mystery 
in religion *. 

6. But, to come to your own instance, let us examine 
what idea we can frame of force, abstracted from body, 
motion, and outward sensible effects. For myself I do 
not find that I have or can have any such idea. 

Ale. Surely every one knows what is meant by force. 

Euph. And yet I question whether every one can form 
a distinct idea of force. Let me entreat you, Alciphron, 
be not amused by terms : lay aside the word force, and 
exclude every other thing from your thoughts, and then 
see what precise idea you have of force. 

Ale. Force is that in bodies which produces motion 
and other sensible effects. 

Euph. Is it then something distinct from those effects ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Be pleased now to exclude the consideration of 
its subject and effects, and contemplate force itself in its 
own precise idea. 

Ale. I profess I find it no such easy matter. 

Euph. Take your own advice, and shut your eyes to 
assist your meditation. — Upon this, Alciphron, having 
closed his eyes and mused a few minutes, declared he 
could make nothing of it. 

And that, replied Euphranor, which it seems neither 
you nor I can frame an idea of, by your own remark of 
men's minds and faculties being made much alike, we may 
suppose others have no more an idea of than we. 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. But, notwithstanding all this, it is certain there 
are many speculations, reasonings, and disputes, refined 

1 Cf. De Motu, sect. 7, 17, 18, 38, 39 ; also Analyst, sect. 7, 8, 47-50, 
in which the reasoning is similar. 



330 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

subtilties, and nice distinctions about this same force \ 
And to explain its nature, and to distinguish the several 
notions or kinds of it, the terms gravity, reaction, vis 
inertia;, vis insita, vis impressa, vis mortua, vis viva, impetus, 
momentum, solicitatio, conatus, and divers others such-like 
expressions, have been used by learned men : and no 
small controversies have arisen about the notions or defi- 
nitions of these terms. It had puzzled men to know 
whether force is spiritual or corporeal ; whether it remains 
after action ; how it is transferred from one body to 
another. Strange paradoxes have been framed about its 
nature, properties, and proportions : for instance, that 
contrary forces may at once subsist in the same quiescent 
body : that the force of percussion in a small particle is 
infinite. For which, and other curiosities of the same 
sort, you may consult Borellus, De Vi Percussionis, the 
Lezioni Academiche of Torricelli, the Exercitations of Her- 
manus 2 , and other writers. It is well known to the 
learned world what a controversy hath been carried on 
between mathematicians, particularly Monsieur Leibnitz 
and Monsieur Papin 3 , in the Leipsic Acta Eruditorum, 
about the proportion of forces : whether they be each to 
other in a proportion compounded of the simple pro- 
portions of the bodies and the celerities, or in one com- 
pounded of the simple proportion of the bodies and the 
duplicate proportion of the celerities ? A point, it seems, 
not yet agreed : as indeed the reality of the thing itself 
is made a question. Leibnitz distinguisheth between the 
nisus elementaris, and the impetus which is formed by 
a repetition of the nisus elementaris, and seems to think 
they do not exist in nature, but are made only by an 
abstraction of the mind. The same author, treating of 
original active force, to illustrate his subject, hath recourse 
to the substantial forms and entelecheia of Aristotle. And 
the ingenious Torricelli saith of force and impetus, that 

1 Cf. De Motu, sect. 8-20, and he was professor of mathematics, 
the notes, with what Euphranor He contributed on scientific sub- 
says here. jects to the Journal des Savans, 

* A German physician and natu- the Philosophical Transactions, and 

ral philosopher in the seventeenth the Acta Eruditorum of Leipsic, 

century. and invented the apparatus known 

3 A French natural philosopher, as 'Papin's digest jr.' 
who died in i7ioat Marburg, where 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 331 

they are subtle abstracts and spiritual quintessences ; and 
concerning the momentum and the velocity of heavy bodies 
falling, he saith they are un certo che, and un non so che ; 
that is, in plain English, he knows not what to make of 
them. Upon the whole, therefore, may we not pronounce 
that — excluding body, time, space, motion, and all its 
sensible measures and effects 1 — we shall find it as difficult 
to form an idea of force as of grace 2 ? 
Ale. I do not know what to think of it. 

7. Euph. And yet, I presume, you allow there are very 
evident propositions or theorems relating to force, which 
contain useful truths : for instance, that a body with 
conjunct forces describes the diagonal of a parallelogram, 
in the same time that it would the sides with separate. Is 
not this a principle of very extensive use ? Doth not the 
doctrine of the composition and resolution of forces depend 
upon it; and, in consequence thereof, numberless rules 
and theorems directing men how to act, and explaining 
phenomena throughout the Mechanics and mathematical 
Philosophy? And if, by considering this doctrine of 
force, men arrive at the knowledge of many inventions 
in Mechanics, and are taught to frame engines, by means 
of which things difficult and otherwise impossible may be 
performed ; and if the same doctrine which is so beneficial 
here below serveth also as a key to discover the nature 
of the celestial motions — shall we deny that it is of use, 
either in practice or speculation, because we have no 
distinct idea of force? Or that which we admit with 
regard to force, upon what pretence can we deny con- 
cerning grace? If there are queries, disputes, perplexities, 
diversity of notions and opinions about the one, so there 
are about the other also : if we can form no precise distinct 
idea of the one, so neither can we of the other. Ought 
we not therefore, by a parity of reason, to conclude there 
may be divers true and useful propositions concerning 
the one as well as the other ? And that grace may be an 
object of our faith, and influence our life and actions, as 

1 i. e. excluding the phenomena a This about force and grace is 

given in sense ; which form our criticised in Bishop Browne's 

concrete or real ideas of ' body, Divine Analogv, pp. 515 to the 

space, time, and motion.' end. 



332 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

a principle destructive of evil habits and productive of 
good ones, although we cannot attain a distinct idea of it, 
separate or abstracted from God the author, from man the 
subject, and from virtue and piety its effects * ? 

8. Shall we not admit the same method of arguing, the 
same rules of logic, reason, and good sense, to obtain in 
things spiritual and things corporeal, in faith and science? 
and shall we not use the same candour, and make the 
same allowances, in examining the revelations of God and 
the inventions of men ? For aught I see, that philosopher 
cannot be free from bias and prejudice, or be said to weigh 
things in an equal balance, who shall maintain the doctrine 
of force and reject that of grace ; who shall admit the 
abstract idea of a triangle, and at the same time ridicule 
the Holy Trinity 2 . But, however partial or prejudiced 
other minute philosophers might be, you have laid down 
for a maxim, that the same logic which obtains in other 
matters must be admitted in religion. 

Lys. I think, Alciphron, it would be more prudent to 
abide by the way of wit and humour than thus to try 
religion by the dry test of reason and logic. 

Ale. Fear not : by all the rules of right reason, it is 
absolutely impossible that any mystery, and least of all 
the Trinity, should really be the object of man's faith. 

Euph. I do not wonder you thought so, as long as you 
maintained that no man could assent to a proposition 
without perceiving or framing in his mind distinct ideas 
marked by the terms of it. But, although terms are 
signs, yet, having granted that those signs may be signi- 
ficant though they should not suggest ideas represented 
by them, provided they serve to regulate and influence 

1 If it is true that (in the end) om- are a bar to faith in physical 
nia exeunt in mysteria ; that neither science, or ordinary experience, 
the world presented to the senses, This is the argument which per- 
nor the spiritual world, on which vades the preceding and following 
the former depends, can be at last applications of the general principle 
fully stripped of all that is mys- that is implied, 
terious to imagination, it then fol- 2 The mystery of Triune Deity 
lows that the mysteries embedded is Euphranor's next example of 
in Christianity form no more an ab- ultimate mystery inexplicable for 
solute objection to its divinity than man, in religion as in physical 
the mysteries in physical nature nature. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 333 

our wills, passions, and conduct, you have consequently 
granted that the mind of man may assent to propositions 
containing such terms, when it is so directed or affected 
by them ; notwithstanding it should not perceive distinct 
ideas marked by those terms. Whence it seems to follow, 
that a man may believe the doctrine of the Trinity, if he 
finds it revealed in Holy Scripture that the Father, the 
Son, and the Holy Ghost, are God, and that there is but 
one God, although he doth not frame in his mind any 
abstract or distinct ideas of trinity, substance, or person- 
ality ; provided that this doctrine of a Creator, Redeemer, 
and Sanctifier makes proper impressions on his mind, 
producing therein love, hope, gratitude, and obedience, 
and thereby becomes a lively operative principle, influenc- 
ing his life and actions, agreeably to that notion of saving 
faith which is required in a Christian. This, I say, 
whether right or wrong, seems to follow from your own 
principles and concessions. But, for further satisfaction, 
it may not be amiss to inquire whether there be anything 
parallel to this Christian faith in the minute philosophy. 
Suppose a fine gentleman or lady of fashion, who are too 
much employed to think for themselves, and are only free- 
thinkers at second-hand, have the advantage of being 
betimes initiated in the principles of your sect, by con- 
versing with men of depth and genius, who have often 
declared it to be their opinion, the world is governed 
either by fate or by chance, it matters not which ; will you 
deny it possible for such persons to yield their assent to 
either of these propositions ? 

Ale. I will not. 

Euph. And may not such an assent be properly called 
faith ? 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. And yet it is possible those disciples of the 
minute philosophy may not dive so deep as to be able 
to frame any abstract, or precise, or any determinate idea 
whatsoever, either of fate or of chance ? 

Ale. This too I grant. 

Euph. So that, according to you, this same gentleman or 
lady may be said to believe or have faith where they have 
not ideas ? 

Ale. They may. 



334 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

Euph. And may not this faith or persuasion produce 
real effects, and shew itself in the conduct and tenor of 
their lives, freeing them from the fears of superstition, and 
giving them a true relish of the world, with a noble 
indolence or indifference about what comes after? 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. And may not Christians, with equal reason, be 
allowed to believe the Divinity of our Saviour, or that in 
Him God and man make one Person, and be verily per- 
suaded thereof, so far as for such faith or belief to become 
a real principle of life and conduct ? inasmuch as, by 
virtue of such persuasion, they submit to His government, 
believe His doctrine, and practise His precepts ; although 
they frame no abstract idea of the union between the 
Divine and human nature, nor may be able to clear up the 
notion of person to the contentmentof a minute philosopher? 
To me it seems evident that if none but those who had 
nicely examined, and could themselves explain, the 
principle of Individuation in man, or untie the knots and 
answer the objections which may be raised even about 
human personal identity, would require of us to explain 
the Divine mysteries, we should not be often called upon 
for a clear and distinct idea of person in relation to the 
Trinity, nor would the difficulties on that head be often 
objected to our faith. 

Ale. Methinks, there is no such mystery in personal 
identity. 

Euph. Pray, in what do you take it to consist ? 

Ale. In consciousness *. 

Euph. Whatever is possible may be supposed ? 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. We will suppose now (which is possible in the 
nature of things, and reported to be fact) that a person, 
through some violent accident or distemper, should fall 
into such a total oblivion as to lose all consciousness of 
his past life and former ideas. I ask, is he not still the 
same person ? 

Ale. He is the same man, but not the same person. 
Indeed you ought not to suppose that a person loseth its 
former consciousness, for this is impossible, though a man 

1 So Locke in his Essay, Bk. II. ch. 27, which compare with what 
follows ; also ch. 1. §§ 9-19. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 335 

perhaps may; but then he becomes another person. In 
the same person, it must be owned, some old ideas may be 
lost, and some new ones got ; but a total change is incon- 
sistent with identity of person. 

Euph. Let us then suppose that a person hath ideas and 
is conscious during a certain space of time, which we will 
divide into three equal parts, whereof the later terms are 
marked by the letters A, B, C. In the first part of time, 
the person gets a certain number of ideas, which are retained 
in A : during the second part of time, he retains one-half 
of his old ideas, and loseth the other half, in place of which 
he acquires as many new ones : so that in B his ideas are 
half old and half new. And in the third part, we will 
suppose him to lose the remainder of the ideas acquired in 
the first, and to get new ones in their stead, which are 
retained in C, together with those acquired in the second 
part of time. Is this a possible fair supposition ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Upon these premises, I am tempted to think one 
may demonstrate that personal identity doth not consist in 
consciousness. 

Ale. As how ? 

Euph. You shall judge: but thus it seems to me. The 
persons in A and B are the same, being conscious of 
common ideas by supposition. The person in B is (for the 
same reason) one and the same with the person in C. 
Therefore, the person in A is the same with the person in 
C, by that undoubted axiom, Quae conventunt uni tertio 
conveniunt inter se. But the person in C hath no idea 
in common with the person in A. Therefore personal 
identity doth not consist in consciousness. What do you 
think, Alciphron, is not this a plain inference ? 

Ale. I tell you what I think : you will never assist my 
faith, by puzzling my knowledge. 

9. Euph. There is, if I mistake not, a practical faith or 
assent, which sheweth itself in the will and actions of a 
man, although his understanding may not be furnished 
with those abstract, precise, distinct ideas, which, whatever 
a philosopher may pretend, are acknowledged to be above 
the talents of common men ; among whom, nevertheless, 
may be found, even according to your own concession, 



336 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

many instances of such practical faith, in other matters 
which do not concern religion. What should hinder, 
therefore, but that doctrines relating to heavenly mysteries 
might be taught, in this saving sense, to vulgar minds, 
which you may well think incapable of all teaching and 
faith, in the sense you suppose? 

Which mistaken sense, said Crito, has given occasion to 
much profane and misapplied raillery. But all this may 
very justly be retorted on the minute philosophers them- 
selves, who confound Scholasticism with Christianity, and 
impute to other men those perplexities, chimeras, and 
inconsistent ideas which are often the workmanship ot 
their own brains, and proceed from their own wrong way 
of thinking. Who doth not see that such an ideal ab- 
stracted faith is never thought of by the bulk of Christians, 
husbandmen, for instance, artisans, or servants? Or what 
footsteps are there in the Holy Scripture to make us think 
that the wiredrawing of abstract ideas was a task enjoined 
either Jews or Christians? Is there anything in the law 
or the prophets, the evangelists or apostles, that looks like 
it ? Every one whose understanding is not perverted by 
science falsely so-called may see the saving faith of Chris- 
tians is quite of another kind, a vital operative principle, 
productive of charity and obedience \ 

Ale. What are we to think then of the disputes and 
decisions of the famous Council of Nice, and so many 
subsequent Councils? What was the intention of those 
venerable Fathers — the homoousians and the homoiousians ? 
Why did they disturb themselves and the world with hard 
words, and subtle controversies ? 

Cri. Whatever their intention was, it could not be to 
beget nice abstracted ideas of mysteries in the minds of 
common Christians, this being evidently impossible. Nor 
doth it appear that the bulk of Christian men did in those 
days think it any part of their duty to lay aside the words, 
shut their eyes, and frame those abstract ideas ; any more 
than men now do of force, time, number, or several other 
things, about which they nevertheless believe, know, argue, 
and dispute 2 . To me it seems that, whatever was the 

1 Cf. Berkeley's Sermon before been said of the mysteries that are 
the S. P. G. (for man) involved in unbeginning 

'• Si non rogas intelligo ; ' as has and unending duration. 



2 ( < 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 337 

source of these controversies, and howsoever they were 
managed, wherein human infirmity must be supposed to 
have had its share, the main end was not, on either side, 
to convey precise positive ideas to the minds of men, by 
the use of those contested terms, but rather a negative 
sense, tending to exclude Polytheism on the one hand, 
and Sabellianism on the other '. 

Ale. But what shall we say of so many learned and 
ingenious divines, who from time to time have obliged 
the world with new explications of mysteries, who, having 
themselves professedly laboured to acquire accurate ideas, 
'would recommend their discoveries and speculations to 
others for articles of faith ? 

Cri. To all such innovators in religion I would say with 
Jerome, 'Why after so many centuries do you pretend to 
teach us what was untaught before ? why explain what 
neither Peter nor Paul thought necessary to be explained 2 ?' 
And it must be owned that the explication of mysteries 
in divinity, allowing the attempt as fruitless as the pursuit 
of the philosopher's stone in chemistry or the perpetual 
motion in mechanics, is no more than they chargeable on 
the profession itself, but only on the wrongheaded pro- 
fessors of it. 

10. It seems, that what hath been now said may be 
applied to other mysteries of our religion. Original sin, 
for instance, a man may find it impossible to form an idea 
of in abstract, or of the manner of its transmission : and 
yet the belief thereof may produce in his mind a salutary 
sense of his own unworthiness, and the goodness of his 
Redeemer : from whence may follow good habits, and 
from them good actions, the genuine effects of faith ; which, 
considered in its true light, is a thing neither repugnant 
nor incomprehensible, as some men would persuade us, 
but suited even to vulgar capacities ; placed in the will 
and affections rather than in the understanding, and pro- 
ducing holy lives rather than subtle theories. Faith, I say, 
is not an indolent perception, but an operative persuasion 
of mind, which ever worketh some suitable action, dis- 

1 [Vid. Sozomen, Lib. II. cap. 8.] machiutn et Oceanum, de Erroribus 
— Author. Origenis."] — Author. 

2 [Hieronym. (Jerome) Ad Pant- 

BERKELEY: FRASEK. II. 2 



338 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

position, or emotion in those who have it ; as it were easy 
to prove and illustrate by innumerable instances taken 
from human affairs. And, indeed, while the Christian 
religion is considered an institution fitted to ordinary 
minds, rather than to the nicer talents, whether improved 
or puzzled, of speculative men ; and our notions about 
faith are accordingly taken from the commerce of the 
world, and practice of mankind, rather than from the 
peculiar systems of refiners ; it will, I think, be no difficult 
matter to conceive and justify the meaning and use of our 
belief of mysteries, against the most confident assertions^ 
and objections of the minute philosophers ; who are easily 
to be caught in those very snares which they have spun 
and spread for others. And that humour of controversy, 
the mother and nurse of heresies, would doubtless very 
much abate, if it was considered that things are to be 
rated, not by colour, shape, or stamp, so truly as by the 
weight. If the moment of opinions had been by some 
litigious divines made the measure of their zeal, it might 
have spared much trouble both to themselves and others. 
Certainly one that takes his notions of faith, opinion, and 
assent from common sense, and common use, and has 
maturely weighed the nature of signs and language, will 
not be so apt to controvert the wording of a mystery, or 
to break the peace of the church, for the sake of retaining 
or rejecting a term. 

[ x But, to convince you by a plain instance of the effica- 
cious necessary use of faith without ideas : we will suppose 
a man of the world, a minute philosopher, prodigal and 
rapacious, one of large appetites and narrow circumstances, 
who shall have it in his power at once to seize upon a great 
fortune by one villanous act, a single breach of trust, 
which he can commit with impunity and secretly. Is it not 
natural to suppose him arguing in this manner ? All man- 
kind in their senses pursue their interest. The interests 
of the present life are either of mind, body, or fortune. 
If I commit this fault my mind will be easy (having nought 
to fear here or hereafter) ; my bodily pleasure will be 
multiplied ; and my fortune enlarged 2 . Suppose now, 
one of your refined theorists talks to him about the 

1 This paragraph was introduced in the second edition. 

2 Cf. Dial. II. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 339 

harmony of mind and affections, inward worth, truth of 
character, in one word, the beauty of virtue; which is 
the only interest he can propose to turn the scale against 
all other secular interests and sensual pleasures — would it 
not, think you, be a vain attempt 1 ? 2 1 say, in such a juncture 
what can the most plausible and refined philosophy of 
your sect offer to dissuade such a man from his purpose, 
more than assuring him that the abstracted delight of the 
mind, the enjoyments of an interior moral sense, the r6 
koXov, are what constitute his true interest? And what 
effect can this have on a mind callous to all these things, 
and at the same time strongly affected with a sense of 
corporeal pleasures, and the outward interest, ornaments, 
and conveniences of life ? Whereas that very man, do but 
produce in him a sincere belief of a Future State, although 
it be a mystery, although it be what eye hath not seen, 
nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to 
conceive, he shall, nevertheless, by virtue of such belief, 
be withheld from executing his wicked project : and that 
for reasons which all men can comprehend, though nobody 
can be the object of them. I will allow the points insisted 
on by your refined moralists to be as lovely and excellent 
as you please to a reasonable, reflecting, philosophical 
mind. But I will venture to say that, as the world goes, 
few, very few, will be influenced by them 3 . We see, there- 
fore, the necessary use, as well as the powerful effects of 
faith, even where we have not ideas.'] 

11. Ale. It seems, Euphranor, you would persuade me 
into an opinion, that there is nothing so singularly absurd 
as we are apt to think in the belief of mysteries ; and that 
a man need not renounce his reason to maintain his 
religion. But, if this were true, how comes it to pass that, 
in proportion as men abound in knowledge, they dwindle 
in faith ? 

Euph. O Alciphron, I have learned from you that there 
is nothing like going to the bottom of things, and analysing 

1 Cf. Dial. III. he shall forfeit eternal happiness, 

2 The second edition here con- or incur eternal misery ; and this 
tains the following sentence : — On alone may suffice to turn the scale, 
the other hand, possess him with 3 Cf. Dial. IV. 

a thorough belief or persuasion that 

Z 2 



34-0 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

them into their first principles. I shall therefore make an 
essay of this method, for clearing up the nature of faith : 
with what success, I shall leave you to determine ; for 
I dare not pronounce myself, on my own judgment, 
whether it be right or wrong : but thus it seems to me. 
The objections made to faith are by no means an effect 
of knowledge, but proceed rather from an ignorance of 
what knowledge is ; which ignorance may possibly be 
found even in those who pass for masters of this or that 
particular branch of knowledge. Science and faith agree 
in this, that they both imply an assent of the mind : and, 
as the nature of the first is most clear and evident, it should 
be first considered in order to cast a light on the other. 
To trace things from their original, it seems that the human 
mind, naturally furnished with the ideas of things particular 
and concrete, and being designed, not for the bare in- 
tuition 1 of ideas, but for action and operation about them, 
and pursuing her own happiness therein, stands in need 
of certain general rules or theorems to direct her opera- 
tions in this pursuit ; the supplying which want is the true, 
original, reasonable end of studying the arts and sciences. 
Now, these rules being general, it follows that they are 
not to be obtained by the mere consideration ' of the 
original ideas, or particular things, but by the means of 
marks and signs ; which, being so far forth universal, 
become the immediate instruments and materials of science. 
It is not, therefore, by mere contemplation of particular 
things, and much less of their abstract general ideas, that 
the mind makes her progress, but by an apposite choice 
and skilful management of signs : — for instance, force and 
number, taken in concrete, with their adjuncts, subjects, 
and signs, are what every one knows ; and considered in 
abstract, so as making precise ideas of themselves, they 
are what nobody can comprehend. That their abstract 
nature, therefore, is not the foundation of science is plain : 
and that barely considering their ideas in concrete, is not 
the method to advance in the respective sciences is what 
every one that reflects may see : nothing being more 
evident than that one who can neither write nor read, in 

1 Note that Berkeley distinguishes and signs' in their application to 
an ' intuition ' of a ' particular thing,' an indefinite number of ' particular 
and a ' consideration ' of ' marks things.' 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 341 

common use understands the meaning of numeral words, 
as well as the best philosopher or mathematician. 

12. But here lies the difference : the one who under- 
stands the notation of numbers, by means thereof is able 
to express briefly and distinctly all the variety and degrees 
of number, and to perform with ease and dispatch several 
arithmetical operations by the help of general rules. Of 
all which operations as the use in human life is very 
evident, so it is no less evident that the performing them 
depends on the aptness of the notation. If we suppose 
rude mankind without the use of language, 'it may be 
presumed they would be ignorant of arithmetic. But the 
use of names, by the repetition whereof in a certain order 
they might express endless degrees of number, would be 
the first step towards that science. The next step would 
be, to devise proper marks of a permanent nature, and 
visible to the eye, the kind and order whereof must be 
chosen with judgment, and accommodated to the names. 
Which marking or notation would, in proportion as it was 
apt and regular, facilitate the invention and application of 
general rules to assist the mind in reasoning and judging, 
in extending, recording, and communicating its knowledge 
about numbers : in which theory and operations, the mind 
is immediately occupied about the signs or notes, by 
mediation of which it is directed to act about things, or 
number in concrete (as the logicians call it) without ever 
considering the simple, abstract, intellectual, general idea 
of number. ^The signs indeed do in their use imply 
relations or proportions of things : but these relations 
are not abstract general ideas, being founded in particular 
things, and not making of themselves distinct ideas to the 
mind exclusive of the particular ideas and the signs.] 
I imagine one need not think much to be convinced that 
the science of arithmetic, in its rise, operations, rules, and 
theorems, is altogether conversant about the artificial use 
of signs, names, and characters. These names and char- 
acters are universal, inasmuch as they are signs. The 

1 This important sentence was ■ abstract ideas,' by its recognition 

added in the third edition. It of relations latent in things ; which 

modifies the extreme nominalism of it is the office of science to dis- 

Berkeley's former language about cover and express by signs. 



342 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

names are referred to things, and the characters to names, 
and both to operation. The names being few, and pro- 
ceeding by a certain analogy, the characters will be more 
useful, the simpler they are, and the more aptly they 
express this analogy. Hence the old notation by letters 
was more useful than words written at length. And the 
modern notation by figures, expressing the progression or 
analogy of the names by their simple places, is much pre- 
ferable to that, for ease and expedition ; as the invention 
of algebraical symbols is to this, for extensive and general 
use 1 . As arithmetic and algebra are sciences of great 
clearness, certainty, and extent, which are immediately 
conversant about signs, upon the skilful use and manage- 
ment whereof they entirely depend, so a little attention to 
them may possibly help us to judge of the progress of the 
mind in other sciences ; which, though differing in nature, 
design, and object, may yet agree in the general methods 
of proof and inquiry. 

13. If I mistake not, all sciences, so far as they are 
universal and demonstrable by human reason, will be 
found conversant about signs as their immediate object, 
though these in the application are referred to things 2 . 
The reason whereof is not difficult to conceive. For, as 
the mind is better acquainted with some sort of objects, 
which are earlier suggested to it, strike it more sensibly, 
or are more easily comprehended than others, it is naturally 
led to substitute those objects for such as are more subtile, 
fleeting, or difficult to conceive. Nothing, I say, is more 
natural, than to make the things we know a step towards 
those we do not know ; and to explain and represent things 
less familiar by others which are more so. Now, it is 
certain we imagine before we reflect, and we perceive by 
sense before we imagine, and of all our senses the sight 3 
is the most clear, distinct, various, agreeable, and compre- 
hensive. Hence it is natural to assist the intellect by 
the imagination, the imagination by sense, and the other 
senses by sight. Hence figures, metaphors, and types. We 

1 Cf. Berkeley's Arithmetica and that are immanent in nature. 

Miscellanea Mathematica, published 3 Cf. New Theory of Vision— 

in 1707. 'Dedication.' 

8 For they represent relations 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 343 

illustrate spiritual things by corporeal; we substitute 
sounds for thoughts, and written letters for sounds; em- 
blems, symbols, and hieroglyphics, for things too obscure 
to strike, and too various or too fleeting to be retained. 
We substitute things imaginable for things intelligible, 
sensible things for imaginable, smaller things for those 
that are too great to be comprehended easily, and greater 
things for such as are too small to be discerned distinctly, 
present things for absent, permanent for perishing, and 
visible for invisible. Hence the use of models and dia- 
grams. Hence right lines are substituted for time, velocity, 
and other things of very different natures. Hence we 
speak of spirits in a figurative style, expressing the opera- 
tions of the mind by allusions and terms borrowed from 
sensible things, such as apprehend, conceive, reflect, discourse, 
and such-like : and hence those allegories which illustrate 
things intellectual by visions exhibited to the fancy. Plato, 
for instance, represents the mind presiding in her vehicle 
by the driver of a winged chariot, which sometimes moults 
and droops : and is drawn by two horses, the one good 
and of a good race, the other of a contrary kind ; sym- 
bolically expressing the tendency of the mind towards the 
Divinity, as she soars or is borne aloft by two instincts 
like wings, the one in the Intellect towards truth, the other 
in the Will towards excellence, which instincts moult or 
are weakened by sensual inclinations ; expressing also her 
alternate elevations and depressions, the struggles between 
reason and appetite, like horses that go an unequal pace, 
or draw different ways, embarrassing the soul in her pro- 
gress to perfection 1 . 1 am inclined to think the doctrine 
of Signs a point of great importance, and general extent, 
which, if duly considered, would cast no small light upon 
Things, and afford a just and genuine solution of many 
difficulties 2 . 



1 See Socrates in the Phcedrus intellectual world ' ; the other two 
of Plato. Berkeley shews more being concerned, one of them 
affinity with Plato now than in his with outward Nature (pvaueff), and 
juvenile works. the other with human Conduct 

2 In Locke's Essay, Bk. IV. ch. ax, (irpaKTiicrj). With Berkeley, in fact, 
what he calls 'the doctrineof Signs' the whole sensible universe is a 
(ffrjfitiuTiKT]) is represented as one system of interpretable signs, with 
of the ' three great provinces of the their implied relations. 



344 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

14. Thus much, upon the whole, may be said of all 
signs : — that they do not always suggest ideas signified to 
the mind : that when they suggest ideas, they are not 
general abstract ideas : that they have other uses besides 
barely standing for and exhibiting ideas — such as raising 
proper emotions, producing certain dispositions or habits 
of mind, and directing our actions in pursuit of that happi- 
ness which is the ultimate end and design, the primary 
spring and motive, that sets rational agents at work * : 
[ 2 that signs may imply or suggest the relations of things ; 
which relations, habitudes, or proportions as they cannot 
be by us understood without the help of signs, so being 
thereby expressed and corrected, they enable us to act 
with regard to things :] that the true end of speech, reason, 
science, faith, assent, in all its different degrees, is not 
merely, or principally, or always, the imparting or acquiring 
of ideas, but rather something of an active operative nature, 
tending to a conceived good : which may sometimes be 
obtained, not only although the ideas marked are not 
offered to the mind, but even although there should be no 
possibility of offering or exhibiting any such idea to the 
mind ; for instance, the algebraic mark, which denotes 
the root of a negative square, hath its use in logistic opera- 
tions, although it be impossible to form an idea of any such 
quantity. And what is true of algebraic signs is also true 
of words or language ; modern algebra being in fact a more 
short, apposite, and artificial sort of language, and it being 
possible to express by words at length, though less con- 
veniently, all the steps of an algebraical process s . And it 
must be confessed that even the mathematical sciences 
themselves, which above all others are reckoned the most 
clear and certain, if they are considered, not as instru- 
ments to direct our practice, but as speculations to employ 
our curiosity, will be found to fall short in many instances 
of those clear and distinct ideas, which, it seems, the 
minute philosophers of this age, whether knowingly or 

1 Cf. Passive Obedience, sect. 5. a Inserted in the third edition — 

Accordingly in the Third Dialogue again a limitation of extreme nom- 

he objects to the ' abstract beauty' inalism. 

of virtue, apart from hope ofhappi- 3 So Dugald Stewart in his Ele- 

ness, as inadequate to move the ments— on ' Abstraction.' 
mass of mankind to a virtuous life. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 345 

ignorantly, expect and insist upon in the mysteries of 
religion *. 

15. Be the science or subject what it will, whensoever 
men quit particulars for generalities, things concrete for 
abstractions, when they forsake practical views, and the 
useful purposes of knowledge, for barren speculation, con- 
sidering means and instruments as ultimate ends, and 
labouring to attain precise ideas which they suppose indis- 
criminately annexed to all terms, they will be sure to 
embarrass themselves with difficulties and disputes. Such 
are those which have sprung up in geometry about the 
nature of the angle of contact, the doctrine of proportions, 
of indivisibles, infinitesimals, and divers other points ; not- 
withstanding all which, that science is very rightly esteemed 
an excellent and useful one, and is really found to be so 
in many occasions of human life, wherein it governs and 
directs the actions of men, so that by the aid or influence 
thereof those operations become just and accurate which 
would otherwise be faulty and uncertain. And, from a 
parity of reason, we should not conclude any other doc- 
trines which govern, influence, or direct the mind of man 
to be, any more than that, the less true or excellent, 
because they afford matter of controversy, and useless 
speculation to curious and licentious wits : particularly 
those articles of our Christian faith, which, in proportion 
as they are believed, persuade, and, as they persuade, 
influence the lives and actions of men. As to the per- 
plexity of contradictions and abstracted notions, in all 
parts whether of human science or Divine faith, cavillers 
may equally object, and unwary persons incur, while the 
judicious avoid it. There is no need to depart from the 
received rules of reasoning to justify the belief of Chris- 
tians. And if any pious men think otherwise, it may be 
supposed an effect, not of religion, or of reason, but only 
of human weakness. If this age be singularly productive 
of infidels, I shall not therefore conclude it to be more 
knowing, but only more presuming, than former ages : 
and their conceit, I doubt, is not the effect of consideration. 

1 Berkeley's Analyst and his Alciphron, expand and illustrate 
Defence of Free-thinking in Mathe- the thought contained in this sen- 
matics, published two years after tence. 



346 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

To me it seems that the more thoroughly and extensively 
any man shall consider and scan the principles, objects, 
and methods of proceeding in arts and sciences, the more 
he will be convinced there is no weight in those plausible 
objections that are made against the mysteries of faith ; 
which it will be no difficult matter for him to maintain or 
justify in the received method of arguing, on the common 
principles of logic, and by numberless avowed parallel 
cases, throughout the several branches of human know- 
ledge, in all which the supposition of abstract ideas creates 
the same difficulties. 

I 1 Ale. According to this doctrine, all points may be alike 
maintained. There will be nothing absurd in Popery, not 
even transubstantiation. 

Cri. Pardon me. This doctrine justifies no article of 
faith which is not contained in Scripture, or which is 
repugnant to human reason, which implies a contradiction, 
or which leads to idolatry or wickedness of any kind — all 
which is very different from our not having a distinct or 
an abstract idea of a point] 

16. Ale. I will allow, Euphranor, this reasoning of yours 
to have all the force you meant it should have. I freely 
own there may be mysteries ; that we may believe where 
we do not understand ; and that faith may be of use, 
although its object is not distinctly apprehended. In a 
word, I grant there may be faith and mysteries in other 
things, but not in religion : and that for this plain reason, 
because it is absurd to suppose there should be any 
such thing as religion; and, if there be no religion, it 
follows there cannot be religious faith or mysteries. 
Religion, it is evident, implies the worship of a God, 
which worship supposeth rewards and punishments, which 
suppose merits and demerits, actions good and evil, and 
these suppose human liberty 2 , a thing impossible : and, 

1 This within brackets appeared was the subject of a celebrated 
first in the second edition. controversy between Collins and 

2 What follows (sect. 16-19), Samuel Clarke, as it had previously 
regarding free-will or moral agency been between Clarke and Leibniz, 
in man, might have been sug- See also Cato's Letters (at first 
gested by the objections of Hobbes subscribed Diogenes), and Jackson's 
and Spinoza, but probably by the Defence of Liberty (1725). 
Inquiry concerning Human Liberty Clarke alleges as parallel, the 
( I 7 I 5) °f Anthony Collins. It evidence that we are moral agents, 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 347 

consequently, religion, a thing built thereon, must be an 
unreasonable absurd thing. There can be no rational 
hopes or fears where there is no guilt; nor any guilt 
where there is nothing done but what unavoidably follows 
from the structure of the world and the laws of motion. 
Corporeal objects strike on the organs of sense, whence 
ensues a vibration in the nerves, which, being communi- 
cated to the soul or animal spirit in the brain or root of 
the nerves, produceth therein that motion called volition : 
and this produceth a new determination in the spirits, 
causing them to flow into such nerves as must necessarily 
by the laws of mechanism produce such certain actions. 
This being the case, it follows that those things which 
vulgarly pass for human actions are to be esteemed 
mechanical, and that they are falsely ascribed to a free 
principle. There is therefore no foundation for praise or 
blame, fear or hope, reward or punishment; nor conse- 
quently for religion, which, as I observed before, is built 
upon and supposeth those things. 

Euph. You imagine, Alciphron, if I rightly understand 
you, that man is a sort of organ played on by outward 
objects, which, according to the different shape and tex- 
ture of the nerves, produce different motions and effects 
therein. 

Ale. Man may, indeed, be fitly compared to an organ : 
but a puppet is the very thing. You must know that 
certain particles, issuing forth in right lines from all 
sensible objects, compose so many rays, or filaments, 
which drive, draw, and actuate every part of the soul 
and body of man, just as threads or wires do the joints 
of that little wooden machine vulgarly called a puppet : 
with this only difference, that the latter are gross, and 
visible to common eyes, whereas the former are too fine 
and subtle to be discerned by any but a sagacious free- 
thinker. This admirably accounts for all those operations 
which we have been taught to ascribe to a thinking principle 
within us. 

Euph. This is an ingenious thought, and must be of 
great use in freeing men from all anxiety about moral 
notions ; as it transfers the principle of action from the 

and the evidence that the sensible be demonstrated, yet neither can 
vjorld exists. Neither, he says, can be doubted. 



348 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

human soul to things outward and foreign \ But I have 
nry scruples about it. For you suppose the mind in 
a literal sense to be moved, and its volitions to be mere 
motions. Now, if another should affirm, as it is not 
impossible some or other may, that the soul is incorporeal, 
and that motion is one thing and volition another 2 , I would 
fain know how you could make your point clear to such 
a one. It must be owned very clear to those who admit 
the soul to be corporeal, and all her acts to be but so 
many motions. Upon this supposition, indeed, the light 
wherein you place human nature is no less true than it is 
fine and new. But, let any one deny this supposition, 
which is easily done, and the whole superstructure falls 
to the ground. If we grant the above-mentioned points, 
I will not deny a fatal necessity must ensue. But I see no 
reason for granting them. On the contrary, it seems 
plain that motion and thought are two things as really 
and as manifestly distinct as a triangle and a sound . 
It seems, therefore, that, in order to prove the necessity 
of human actions, you suppose what wants proof as much 
as the very point to be proved. 

17. Ale. But, supposing the mind incorporeal, I shall, 
nevertheless, be able to prove my point. Not to amuse 
you with far-fetched arguments, I shall only desire you 
to look into your own breast and observe how things pass 
there, when an object offers itself to the mind. First, the 
understanding considers it : in the next place, the judgment 
decrees about it, as a thing to be chosen or rejected, to be 
omitted or done, in this or that manner : and this decree 
of the judgment doth necessarily determine the will, whose 
office is merely to execute what is ordained by another 
faculty : consequently, there is no such thing as freedom 
of the will. For, that which is necessary cannot be free. 
In freedom there should be an indifference to either side 
of the question, a power to act or not to act, without 
prescription or control : and without this indifference and 
this power, it is evident the will cannot be free. But it is 
no less evident that the will is not indifferent in its actions, 
being absolutely determined and governed by the judgment. 

1 It issues either in an unmoral Pantheism, or an unmoral Atheism. 
- See DeMotu, sect. 3-42. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 349 

Now, whatever moves the judgment, whether the greatest 
present uneasiness, or the greatest apparent good, or 
whatever else it be, it is all one to the point in hand. 
The will, being ever concluded and controlled by the 
judgment, is in all cases alike under necessity. There is, 
indeed, throughout the whole of human nature, nothing 
like a principle of freedom, every faculty being determined 
in all its acts by something foreign to it. The under- 
standing, for instance, cannot alter its idea, but must 
necessarily see it such as it presents itself. The appe- 
tites by a natural necessity are carried towards their 
respective objects. Reason cannot infer indifferently 
anything from anything, but is limited by the nature and 
connexion of things, and the eternal rules of reasoning. 
And, as this is confessedly the case of all other faculties, 
so it equally holds with respect to the will itself, as hath 
been already shewn. And, if we may credit the divine 
Characteriser of our times, this above all others must 
be allowed the most slavish faculty. ' Appetite (saith that 
noble writer : ), which is elder brother to Reason, being 
the lad of stronger growth, is sure, on every contest, to 
take the advantage of drawing all to his own side. And 
Will, so highly boasted, is but at best a foot-ball or top 
between these youngsters, who prove very unfortunately 
matched ; till the youngest, instead of now and then 
a kick or lash bestowed to little purpose, forsakes the 
ball or top itself, and begins to lay about his elder 
brother.' 

Cri. This beautiful parable for style and manner might 
equal those of a known English writer in low life, renowned 
for allegory 2 , were it not a little incorrect, making the 
weaker lad find his account in laying about the stronger. 

Ale. This is helped up by supposing the stronger lad 
the greater coward. But, be that as it will, so far as it 
relates to the point in hand, this is a clear state of the case. 

The same point may be also proved from the prescience 
of God. That which is certainly foreknown will certainly 
be. And what is certain is necessary. And necessary 
actions cannot be the effect of free-will. Thus you have 

1 Shaftesbury. See Characteristics, vol. I. p. 187. 

2 John Bunyan (?). 



350 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

this fundamental point of our free-thinking philosophy 
demonstrated different ways. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you think it implies a 
contradiction that God should make a man free? 

Ale. I do not. 

Euph. It is then possible there may be such a thing ? 

Ale. This I do not deny. . 

Euph. You can therefore conceive and suppose such a 
free agent ? 

Ale. Admitting that I can ; what then ? 

Euph. Would not such a one think that he acted ? 

Ale. He would. 

Euph. And condemn himself for some actions, and 
approve himself for others ? 

Ale. This too I grant. 

Euph. Would he not think he deserved reward or 
punishment ? 

Ale. He would. 

Euph. And are not all these characters actually found in 
man? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. Tell me now, what other character of your 
supposed free agent may not actually be found in man ? 
For, if there is none such, we must conclude that man 
hath all the marks of a free agent. 

Ale. Let me see ! I was certainly overseen in granting 
it possible, even for Almighty power, to make such a thing 
as a free agent. I wonder how I came to make such an 
absurd concession, after what had been, as I observed 
before, demonstrated so many different ways. 

Euph. [* Certainly whatever is possible may be supposed : 
and whatever doth not imply a contradiction is possible to 
an Infinite Power : therefore, if a natural agent implieth 
no contradiction, such a being may be supposed. Perhaps, 
from this supposition, I might infer man to be free. But 
I will not suppose him that free agent ; since, it seems, you 
pretend to have demonstrated the contrary.] O Alciphron ! 
it is vulgarly observed that men judge of others by them- 
selves. But, in judging of me by this rule, you may be 
mistaken. Many things are plain to one of your sagacity, 

1 The sentences within brackets were introduced in the second edition. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 351 

which are not so to me, who am often bewildered rather 
than enlightened by those very proofs that with you pass 
for clear and evident. And, indeed, be the inference never 
so just, yet, so long as the premises are not clear, I cannot 
be thoroughly convinced. You must give me leave there- 
fore to propose some questions, the solution of which may 
perhaps shew what at present I am not able to discern. 

Ale. I shall leave what hath been said with you, to 
consider and ruminate upon. It is now time to set out 
on our journey : there is, therefore, no room for a long 
string of question and answer. 

18. Euph. I shall then only beg leave, in a summary 
manner, to make a remark or two on what you have 
advanced. In the first place, I observe you take that for 
granted which I cannot grant, when you assert whatever 
is certain the same to be necessary. To me, certain and 
necessary seem very different ; there being nothing in the 
former notion that implies constraint, nor consequently 
which may not consist with a man's being accountable for 
his actions. If it is foreseen that such an action shall be 
done, may it not also be foreseen that it shall be an effect 
of human choice 1 and liberty? In the next place, I ob- 
serve that you very nicely abstract and distinguish the 
actions of the mind, judgment, and will : that you make 
use of such terms as power, faculty, act, determination, 
indifference, freedom, necessity, and the like, as if they 
stood for distinct abstract ideas : and that this supposition 
seems to ensnare the mind into the same perplexities and 
errors, which, in all other instances, are observed to 
attend the doctrine of abstraction. It is self-evident that 
there is such a thing as motion : and yet there have been 
found philosophers, who, by refined reasoning, would 
undertake to prove that there was no such thing. Walking 
before them was thought the proper way to confute those 
ingenious men 2 . It is no less evident that man is a free 
agent : and though, by abstracted reasonings, you would 
puzzle me, and seem to prove the contrary, yet, so long as 

1 But can the ' choice ' be fore- rogas, intelligo, are human ways of 
seen if it is an unconditioned act ? disposing of ultimate questions. 

2 Solviiur ambulando and si non 



352 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

I am conscious x of my own actions, this inward evidence 
of plain fact will bear me up against all your reasonings, 
however subtle and refined. The confuting plain points 
by obscure ones may perhaps convince me of the ability of 
your philosophers, but never of their tenets. I cannot 
conceive why the acute Cratylus 2 should suppose a power 
of acting in the appetite and reason, and none at all in the 
will ? Allowing, I say, the distinction of three such beings 
in the mind, I do not see how this could be true. But, if 
I cannot abstract and distinguish so many beings in the 
soul of man so accurately as you do, I do not find it 
necessary; since it is evident to me, in the gross and 
concrete, that I am a free agent. Nor will it avail to 
say, the will is governed by the judgment, or determined 
by the object, while, in every sudden common cause, 
I cannot discern nor abstract the decree of the judgment 
from the command of the will ; while I know the sensible 
object to be absolutely inert : and lastly, while I am 
conscious that I am an active being, who can and do 
determine myself. If I should suppose things spiritual 
to be corporeal, or refine things actual and real into 
general abstracted notions, or by metaphysical skill split 
things simple and individual into manifold parts, I do not 
know what may follow. But, if I take things as they are, 
and ask any plain untutored man, whether he acts or 
is free in this or that particular action, he readily assents, 
and I as readily believe him — from what I find within. 
And thus, by an induction of particulars, I may conclude 
man to be a free agent, although I may be puzzled to 
define or conceive a notion of freedom in general and 
abstract. And if man be free, he is plainly accountable. 
But, if you shall define, abstract, suppose, and it shall 
follow that, according to your definitions, abstractions, and 
suppositions, there can be no freedom in man, and you 
shall thence infer that he is not accountable, I shall make 
bold to depart from your metaphysical Abstracted Sense, 
and appeal to the Common Sense of mankind. 

1 Berkeley appeals throughout things. Is not conscience or moral 

to consciousness and enlightened reason at the root of consciousness 

common sense, on behalf both of in the former of those convictions? 

moral agency in man, and of the 2 Shaftesbury, 
dependent existence of sensible 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 353 

19. If we consider the notions that obtain in the world 
of guilt and merit, praise and blame, accountable and 
unaccountable, we shall find the common question, in 
order to applaud or censure, acquit or condemn a man, 
is, whether he did such an action ? and whether he was 
himself when he did it ? which comes to the same thing. 
It should seem, therefore, that, in the ordinary commerce 
of mankind, any person is esteemed accountable simply as 
he is an agent. And, though you should tell me that man 
is inactive, and that the sensible objects act upon him, yet 
my own experience assures me of the contrary. I know 
I act : and what I act I am accountable for. And, if this 
be true, the foundation of religion and morality remains 
unshaken. Religion, I say, is concerned no further than 
that man should be accountable : and this he is, according 
to my sense, and the common sense of the world, if he acts ; 
and that he doth act is self-evident. The grounds, there- 
fore, and ends of religion are secured, whether your 
philosophic notion of liberty agrees with man's actions 
or no ; and whether his actions are certain or contingent : 
the question being not whether he did it with a free will ? 
or what determined his will ? not, whether it was certain 
or foreknown that he would do it? but only, whether he 
did it wilfully ? as what must entitle him to the guilt or 
merit of it. 

Ale. But still, the question recurs, whether man be free ? 

Euph. To determine this question, ought we not at first 
to determine what is meant by the word free? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. In my opinion, a man is said to be free, so far 
forth as he can do what he will. Is this so, or is it not ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Man, therefore, acting according to his will, is 
to be accounted free. 

Ale. This I admit to be true in the vulgar sense. But 
a philosopher goes higher, and inquires whether man be 
free to will ? 

Euph. That is, whether he can will as he wills ? I know 
not how philosophical it may be to ask this question, but 
it seems very unintelligible l . The notions of guilt and 

1 After all it is the question, our volitions, but their source. Do 
which concerns not the effects of they originate in the agent abso- 

BERKELEY: FKASEK. II. A3 



354 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

merit, justice and reward, are in the minds of men ante- 
cedent to all metaphysical disquisitions ; and, according 
to those received natural notions, it is not doubted that 
man is accountable, that he acts, and is self-determined. 

20. But a minute philosopher shall, in virtue of wrong 
suppositions, confound things most evidently distinct ; 
body, for instance, with spirit ; motion with volition ; 
certainty with necessity. And an abstractor or refiner 
shall so analyse the most simple instantaneous act of the 
mind as to distinguish therein divers faculties and ten- 
dencies, principles and operations, causes and effects ; 
and, having abstracted, supposed, and reasoned upon 
principles, gratuitous and obscure, he will conclude it is 
no act at all ; and man no agent, but a puppet, or an organ 
played on by outward objects, and his will a top or a 
foot-ball. And this passeth for philosophy and free- 
thinking. Perhaps this may be what it passeth for, but 
it by no means seems a natural or just way of thinking. 
To me it seems that, if we begin from things particular 
and concrete, and thence proceed to general notions and 
conclusions, there will be no difficulty in this matter. 
But, if we begin with generalities, and lay our foundation 
in abstract ideas, we shall find ourselves entangled and 
lost in a labyrinth of our own making. I need not observe, 
what every one must see, the ridicule of proving man no 
agent ] , and yet pleading for free thought and action — of 
setting up at once for advocates of liberty and necessity. 
I have hastily thrown together these hints or remarks, 
on what you call a fundamental article of the minute 
philosophy, and your method of proving it, which seems 
to furnish an admirable specimen of the sophistry of ab- 
stract ideas. If, in this summary way, I have been more 
dogmatical than became me, you must excuse what you 

lutely, so that he only is responsible caused by a previous volition ; and 

for them, or are they merely terms accepts the unique fact of free 

in natural sequences? And it is activity, contained in our concrete 

the practical fact of moral liberty, spiritual experience, and implied 

not its metaphysical formula, in the belief of responsibility on 

that Berkeley is anxious about. which social life turns. 
He rejects as absurd the hypo- ' ' agent ' — all real action being 

thesis that each volition is naturally voluntary. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 355 

occasioned, by declining a joint and leisurely examination 
of the truth. 

Ale. I think we have examined matters sufficiently. 

Cri. To all you have said against human liberty, it is 
a sufficient answer to observe that your arguments proceed 
upon an erroneous supposition, either of the soul's being 
corporeal, or of abstract ideas. P Not to mention other 
gross mistakes and gratuitous principles. You might as 
well suppose that the soul is red or blue as that it is solid. 
You might as well make the will anything else as motion. 
And whatever you infer from such premises, which (to 
speak in the softest manner) are neither proved nor 
probable, I make no difficulty to reject. You distinguish 
in all human actions between the last degree of the judg- 
ment and the act of the will. You confound certainty 
with necessity : you inquire, and your inquiry amounts 
to an absurd question — whether man can will as he wills ? 
As evidently true as is this identical proposition, so 
evidently false must that way of thinking be which led you 
to make a question of it. [ 2 You say the appetites have by 
necessity of nature a tendency towards their respective 
objects. This we grant ; and withal that appetite, if you 
please, is not free. But you go further, and tell us that 
the understanding cannot alter its idea, nor infer indiffer- 
ently anything from anything. What then ? Can we not 
act at all, if we cannot alter the nature of objects, and may 
we not be free in other things, if we are not at liberty to 
make absurd inferences ?] You take for granted that the 
mind is inactive, but that its ideas act upon it : as if the 
contrary were not evident to every man of common sense, 
who cannot but know that it is the mind which considers 
its ideas, chooses, rejects, examines, deliberates, decrees, 
in a word acts about them, and not they about it. Upon 
the whole, your premises being obscure and false, the 
fundamental point, which you pretend to demonstrate so 
many different ways, proves neither sense nor truth in 
any. | And, on the other hand, there is not need of much 
inquiry to be convinced of two points, than which none 
are more evident, more obvious, and more universally 
admitted by men of all sorts, learned or unlearned, in all 

1 The passage within brackets was inserted in the second edition, 
(except the part related to note 2) 2 Introduced in the third edition. 

A a 2 



356 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

times and places, to wit, that man acts, and is accountable 
for his actions. Whatever abstracters, refiners, or men 
prejudiced to a false hypothesis may pretend, it is, if 
I mistake not, evident to every thinking man of common 
sense, that human minds are so far from being engines 
or footballs, acted upon and bandied about by corporeal 
objects, without any inward principle of freedom or action, 
that the only original true notions that we have of freedom , 
agent, or action are obtained by reflecting on ourselves, 
and the operations of our own minds l . The singularity 
and credulity of minute philosophers, who suffer them- 
selves to be abused by the paralogisms of three or four 
eminent patriarchs of infidelity in the last age, is, I think, 
not to be matched ; there being no instance of bigoted 
superstition the ringleaders whereof have been able to 
seduce their followers more openly and more widely from 
the plain dictates of nature and common sense. 

21. Ale. It has been always an objection against the 
discoverers of truth, that they depart from received 
opinions. The character of singularity is a tax on free- 
thinking : and as such we most willingly bear it, and glory 
in it. A genuine philosopher is never modest in a false 
sense, to the preferring authority before reason, or an old 
and common opinion before a true one. Which false 
modesty, as it discourages men from treading in untrodden 
paths, or striking out new light, is, above all other 
qualities, the greatest enemy to free-thinking. 

Cri. Authority in disputable points will have its weight 
with a judicious mind, which yet will follow evidence 
wherever it leads. Without preferring, we may allow it 
a good second to reason. Your gentlemen, therefore, of 
the minute philosophy may spare a word of common-place 
upon reason, and light, and discoveries. We are not 
attached to authority against reason, nor afraid of un- 
trodden paths that lead to truth, and are ready to follow 
a new light when we are sure it is no ignis fatuus. Reason 
may oblige a man to believe against his inclinations : but 

1 Berkeley virtually attributes volves reference of all change 

our faith in originative causation in the universe to Will or Active 

ultimately to our experience of Reason. Cf. De Motu, and Siris, 

morally responsible agency. Ac- passim, 
cordingly, the causal principle in- 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 357 

why should a man quit salutary notions for others not less 
unreasonable than pernicious ? Your schemes, and prin- 
ciples, and boasted demonstrations have been at large 
proposed and examined. You have shifted your notions, 
successively retreated from one scheme to another, and in 
the end renounced them all. Your objections have been 
treated in the same manner, and with the same' event. 
If we except all that relates to the errors and faults of 
particular persons, and difficulties which, from the nature 
of things, we are not obliged to explain; it is surprising 
to see, after such magnificent threats, how little remains 
that can amount to a pertinent objection against the 
Christian religion. What you have produced has been 
tried by the fair test of reason ; and though you should 
hope to prevail by ridicule when you cannot by reason, 
yet, in the upshot, I apprehend you will find it imprac- 
ticable to destroy all sense of religion. Make your country- 
men ever so vicious, ignorant, and profane ; men will still 
be disposed to look up to a Supreme Being. Religion, 
right or wrong, will subsist in some shape or other, and 
some worship there will surely be either of God or the 
creature. As for your ridicule, can anything be more 
ridiculous than to see the most unmeaning men of the age 
set up for free-thinkers, men so strong in assertion, and 
yet so weak in argument ; advocates for freedom intro- 
ducing a fatality ; patriots trampling on the laws of their 
country ; and pretenders to virtue destroying the motives 
of it? Let any impartial man but cast an eye on the 
opinions of the minute philosophers, and then say if any- 
thing can be more ridiculous than to believe such things 
and at the same time laugh at credulity. 

22. Lys. Say what you will, we have the laughers on 
our side ; and as for your reasoning I take it to be another 
name for sophistry. 

Crt. And I suppose by the same rule you take your own 
sophisms for arguments. To speak plainly, I know no 
sort of sophism that is not employed by minute philosophers 
against religion. They are guilty of" a petitio principit, in 
taking for granted that we believe contradictions; oinon 
causa pro causa, in affirming that uncharitable feuds and 
discords are the effects of Christianity ; ofignoratio elenchi, 



358 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

in expecting demonstrations where we pretend only to 
faith. If I were not afraid to offend the delicacy of polite 
ears, nothing were easier than to assign instances of every 
kind of sophism, which would shew how skilful your own 
philosophers are in the practice of that sophistry you 
impute to others. 

Eupli. For my own part, if sophistry be the art or 
faculty of deceiving other men, I must acquit these gentle- 
men of it. They seem to have led me a progress through 
atheism, libertinism, enthusiasm, fatalism, not to convince 
me of the truth of any of them, so much as to confirm me 
in my own way of thinking. They have exposed their 
fairy ware not to cheat but divert us. As I know them 
to be professed masters of ridicule, so in a serious sense 
I know not what to make of them. 

Ale. You do not know what to make of us ! I should 
be sorry you did. He must be a superficial philosopher 
that is soon fathomed. 

23. Cri. The ambiguous character is, it seems, the sure 
way to fame and esteem in the learned world, as it stands 
constituted at present. When the ingenious reader is at 
a loss to determine whether his author be atheist or deist 
or polytheist, stoic or epicurean, sceptic or dogmatist, 
infidel or enthusiast, in jest or in earnest, he concludes 
him without hesitation to be enigmatical and profound. 
In fact, it is true of the most admired writers of the age, 
that no man alive can tell what to make of them, or what 
they would be at. 

Ale. We have among us moles that dig deep under 
ground, and eagles that soar out of sight. We can act all 
parts and become all opinions, putting them on or off with 
great freedom of wit and humour. 

Euph. It seems then you are a pair of inscrutable, 
unfathomable, fashionable philosophers. 

Lys. It cannot be denied. 

Euph. But, I remember, you set out with an open dog- 
matical air, and talked of plain principles, and evident 
reasoning, promised to make things as clear as noonday, 
to extirpate wrong notions and plant right in their stead. 
Soon after, you began to recede from your first notions, 
and adopt others ; you advanced one while and retreated 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE - 359 

another, yielded and retracted, said and unsaid. And 
after having followed you through so many untrodden 
paths and intricate mazes I find myself never the nearer. 

Ale. Did we not tell you the gentlemen of our sect are 
great proficients in raillery ? 

Euph. But, methinks, it is a vain attempt for a plain 
man of any settled belief or principles, to engage with 
such slippery, fugitive, changeable philosophers. It seems 
as if a man should stand still in the same place, while his 
adversary chooses and changes his situation, has full range 
and liberty to traverse the field, and attack him on all 
sides and in all shapes, from a nearer or further distance, 
on horseback or on foot, in light or heavy armour, in close 
fight or with missive weapons. 

Ale. It must be owned, a gentleman hath great advantage 
over a strait-laced pedant or bigot. 

Euph. But, after all, what am I the better for the con- 
versation of two such knowing gentlemen ? I hoped to 
have unlearned my errors, and to have learned truths 
from you, but, to my great disappointment, I do not find 
that I am either untaught or taught. 

Ale. To unteach men their prejudices is a difficult task ; 
and this must first be done, before we can pretend to teach 
them the truth. Besides, we have at present no time to 
prove and argue. 

Euph. But suppose my mind white paper; and, without 
being at any pains to extirpate my opinions, or prove your 
own, only say what you would write thereon, or what you 
would teach me in case I were teachable. Be for once 
in earnest, and let me know some one conclusion of yours 
before we part ; or I shall entreat Crito to violate the laws 
of hospitality towards those who have violated the laws'of 
philosophy, by hanging out false lights to one benighted 
in ignorance and error. I appeal to you (said he, turning 
to Crito), whether these philosophical knight-errants should 
not be confined in this castle of yours, till they make 
reparation. 

Euphranor has reason, said Crito, and my sentence is, 
that you remain here in durance till you have done some- 
thing towards satisfying the engagement I am under — 
having promised, he should know your opinions from 
yourselves, which you also agreed to. 



360 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

24. Ale. Since it must be so, I will now reveal what 
I take to be the sum and substance, the grand arcanum and 
ultimate conclusion of our sect, and that in two words — 
IIANTA YnOAH^IS. 

Cri. You are then a downright sceptic. But, sceptic 
as you are, you own it probable there is a God, certain 
that the Christian religion is useful, possible it may be 
true, certain that, if it be, the minute philosophers are in 
a bad way. This being the case, how can it be questioned 
what course a wise man should take ? Whether the 
principles of Christians or infidels are truest may be made 
a question ; but which are safest can be none. Certainly 
if you doubt of all opinions you must doubt of your own ; 
and then, for aught you know, the Christian may be true. 
The more doubt the more room there is for faith, a sceptic 
of all men having the least right to demand evidence. 
But, whatever uncertainty there may be in other points, 
thus much is certain : — either there is or is not a God : 
there is or is not a revelation : man either is or is not an 
agent : the soul is or is not immortal. If the negatives are 
not sure, the affirmatives are possible. If the negatives 
are improbable, the affirmatives are probable. In pro- 
portion as any of your ingenious men finds himself unable 
to prove any one of these negatives, he hath grounds to 
suspect he may be mistaken. A minute philosopher, there- 
fore, that would act a consistent part, should have the 
diffidence, the modesty, and the timidity, as well as the 
doubts of a sceptic ; not pretend to an ocean of light, and 
then lead us to an abyss of darkness. If I have any notion 
of ridicule, this is most ridiculous. But your ridiculing 
what, for aught you know, may be true, I can make no 
sense of. It is neither acting as a wise man with regard 
to your own interest, nor as a good man with regard to 
that of your country. 

25. Tully saith somewhere, Aut undiqae religionem tolle, 
aut usquequaque conserva : Either let us have no religion 
at all, or let it be respected. If any single instance can 
be shewn of a people that ever prospered without some 
religion, or if there be any religion better than the Christian, 
propose it in the grand assembly of the nation to change 
our constitution, and either live without religion, or in- 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 361 

troduce that new religion. A sceptic, as well as other 
men, is member of a community, and can distinguish be- 
tween good and evil, natural or political. Be this then 
his guide as a patriot, though he be no Christian. Or, if 
he doth not pretend even to this discernment, let him not 
pretend to correct or alter what he knows nothing of: 
neither let him that only doubts behave as if he could 
demonstrate. Timagoras is wont to say, I find my country 
in possession of certain tenets ; they appear to have a 
useful tendency, and as such are encouraged by the legis- 
lature ; they make a main part of our constitution ; I do 
not find these innovators can disprove them, or substitute 
things more useful and certain in their stead : out of 
regard therefore to the good of mankind and the laws 
of my country, I shall acquiesce in them. I do not say 
Timagoras is a Christian, but I reckon him a patriot. Not 
to inquire in a point of so great concern is folly, but it is 
still a higher degree of folly to condemn without inquiring. 

Lysicles seemed heartily tired of this conversation. It 
is now late, said he to Alciphron, and all things are ready 
for our departure. Every one hath his own way of think- 
ing ; and it is as impossible for me to adopt another man's 
as to make his complexion and features mine. 

Alciphron pleaded that, having complied with Euph- 
ranor's conditions, they were now at liberty : and Enph- 
ranor answered that, all he desired having been to know 
their tenets, he had nothing further to pretend. 



26. The philosophers being gone, I observed to Crito 
how unaccountable it was that men so easy to confute 
should yet be so difficult to convince. 

This, said Crito, is accounted for by Aristotle, who tells 
us that arguments have not an effect on all men, but only 
on them whose minds are prepared by education and 
custom, as land is for seed 1 . Make a point never so 
clear, it is great odds that a man whose habits and the bent 
of whose mind lie in a contrary way shall be unable to 
comprehend it. So weak a thing is reason in competition 
with inclination. 

I replied, This answer might hold with respect to other 

1 [Ethic, ad Nicom. Lib. X. cap. 9.] — Author. 



362 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

persons and other times ; but when the question was of 
inquisitive men, in an age wherein reason was so much 
cultivated, and thinking so much in vogue, it did not seem 
satisfactory. 

I have known it remarked, said Criio, by a man of much 
observation, that in the present age thinking is more talked 
of but less practised than in ancient times ; and that since 
the revival of learning men have read much and wrote 
much, but thought little : insomuch that with us to think 
closely and justly is the least part of a learned man, and 
none at all of a polite man. The free-thinkers, it must be 
owned, make great pretensions to thinking, and yet they 
shew but little exactness in it. A lively man, and what 
the world calls a man of sense, are often destitute of this 
talent ; which is not a mere gift of nature, but must be 
improved and perfected by much attention and exercise 
on very different subjects ; a thing of more pains and time 
than the hasty men of parts in our age care to take. 
Such were the sentiments of a judicious friend of mine. And 
if you are not already sufficiently convinced of these truths, 
you need only cast an eye on the dark and confused, but 
nevertheless admired, writers of this famous sect ; and 
then you will be able to judge whether those who are led 
by men of such wrong heads can have very good ones 
of their own. Such, for instance, was Spinosa, the great 
leader of our modern infidels, in whom are to be found 
many schemes and notions much admired and followed 
of late years : — such as undermining religion under the 
pretence of vindicating and explaining it : the maintaining 
it not necessary to believe in Christ according to the flesh : 
the persuading men that miracles are to be understood 
only in a spiritual and allegorical sense : that vice is not 
so bad a thing as we are apt to think : that men are mere 
machines impelled by fatal necessity. 

I have heard, said I, Spinosa represented as a man of 
close argument and demonstration. 

He did, replied Crito, demonstrate ; but it was after 
such a manner as any one may demonstrate anything. 
Allow a man the privilege to make his own definitions of 
common words, and it will be no hard matter for him 
to infer conclusions which in one sense shall be true and 
in another false, at once seeming paradoxes and manifest 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 363 

truisms. For example, let but Spinosa define natural 
right to be natural power, and he will easily demonstrate 
that ' whatever a man can do ' he hath a right to do *. 
Nothing can be plainer than the folly of this proceeding : 
but our pretenders to the lumen siccum are so passionately 
prejudiced against religion, as to swallow the grossest 
nonsense and sophistry of weak and wicked writers for 
demonstration. 

27. And so great a noise do these men make, with their 
thinking, reasoning, and demonstrating, as to prejudice 
some well-meaning persons against all use and improvement 
of reason. Honest Demea, having seen a neighbour of 
his ruined by the vices of a free-thinking son, contracted 
such a prejudice against thinking that he would not suffer 
his own to read Euclid, being told it might teach him to 
think ; till a friend convinced him the epidemical distemper 
was not thinking, but only the want and affectation of it. 
I know an eminent free-thinker who never goes to bed 
without a gallon of wine in his belly, and is sure to re- 
plenish before the fumes are off his brain, by which means 
he has not had one sober thought these seven years ; 
another, that would not for the world lose the privilege and 
reputation of free-thinking, who games all night, and lies 
in bed all day : and as for the outside or appearance of 
thought in that meagre minute philosopher Ibycus, it is an 
effect, not of thinking, but of carking, cheating, and writing 
in an office. Strange, said he, that such men should set 
up for free-thinkers ! But it is yet more strange that other 
men should be out of conceit with thinking and reasoning, 
for the sake of such pretenders. 

I answered, that some good men conceived an opposition 
between reason and religion, faith and knowledge, nature 
and grace ; and that, consequently, the way to promote 
religion was to quench the light of nature and discourage 
all rational inquiry. 

28. How right the intentions of these men may be, 
replied Crito, I shall not say ; but surely their notions are 

1 [Tractat. Polit. cap. 2.] — Author. Spinoza was imperfectly under- 
stood when Berkeley wrote. 



364 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

very wrong. Can anything be more dishonourable to 
religion than the representing it as an unreasonable, un- 
natural, ignorant institution? God is the Father of all 
lights, whether natural or revealed. Natural concupiscence 
is one thing, and the light of nature another. You cannot 
therefore argue from the former against the latter : neither 
can you from science, falsely so called, against real know- 
ledge. Whatever, therefore, is said of the one in Holy 
Scripture is not to be interpreted of the other. 

I insisted that human learning in the hands of divines 
had, from time to time, created great disputes and divisions 
in the church. 

As abstracted metaphysics, replied Crito, have always 
a tendency to produce disputes among Christians, as well 
as other men, so it should seem that genuine truth and 
knowledge would allay this humour, which makes men 
sacrifice the undisputed duties of peace and charity to 
disputable notions \ 

After all, said I, whatever may be said for reason, it is 
plain the sceptics and infidels of the age are not to be 
cured by it. 

I will not dispute this point, said Crito : in order to cure 
a distemper, you should consider what produced it. Had 
men reasoned themselves into a wrong opinion, one might 
hope to reason them out of it. But this is not the case ; 
the infidelity of most minute philosophers seeming an 
effect of very different motives from thought and reason. 
Little incidents, vanity, disgust, humour, inclination, with- 
out the least assistance from reason, are often known to 
make infidels. Where the general tendency of a doctrine 
is disagreeable, the mind is prepared to relish and improve 
everything that with the least pretence seems to make 
against it. Hence the coarse manners of a country curate, 
the polite manners of a chaplain, the wit of a minute 
philosopher, a jest, a song, a tale can serve instead of 
a reason for infidelity. Bupalus preferred a rake in the 
church, and then made use of him as an argument against 
it. Vice, indolence, faction, and fashion produce minute 
philosophers, and mere petulancy not a few. Who then 
can expect a thing so irrational and capricious should yield 

1 Berkeley's life was a struggle against ' abstracted metaphysics.' 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 365 

to reason l ? It may, nevertheless, be worth while to argue 
against such men, and expose their fallacies, if not for their 
own sake, yet for the sake of others ; as it may lessen 
their credit, and prevent the growth of their sect, by 
removing a prejudice in their favour, which sometimes 
inclines others as well as themselves to think they have 
made a monopoly of human reason. 

29. The most general pretext which looks like reason is 
taken from the variety of opinions about religion. This 
is a resting-stone to a lazy and superficial mind. But one 
of more spirit and a juster way of thinking makes it a step 
whence he looks about, and proceeds to examine, and 
compare the differing institutions of religion. He will 
observe which of these is the most sublime and rational 
in its doctrines, most venerable in its mysteries, most 
useful in its precepts, most decent in its worship ? which 
createth the noblest hopes, and most worthy views ? He 
will consider their rise and progress : which oweth least 
to human arts or arms? which flatters the senses and 
gross inclinations of men ? which adorns and improves 
the most excellent part of our nature? which hath been 
propagated in the most wonderful manner ? which hath 
surmounted the greatest difficulties, or shewed the most 
disinterested zeal and sincerity in its professors ? He 
will inquire, which best accords with nature and history ? 
He will consider, what savours of the world, and what 
looks like wisdom from above? He will be careful to 
separate human alloy from that which is Divine ; and, 
upon the whole, form his judgment like a reasonable 
free-thinker. But, instead of taking such a rational course, 
one of these hasty sceptics shall conclude without demur- 
ring, there is no wisdom in politics, no honesty in dealings, 
no knowledge in philosophy, no truth in religion ; and all 
by one and the same sort of inference, from the numerous 
examples of folly, knavery, ignorance, and error which 
are to be met with in the world. But, as those who are 
unknowing in everything else imagine themselves sharp- 
sighted in religion, this learned sophism is oftenest levelled 
against Christianity. 

1 See Guardian, No. 9, on the intellectual narrowness of ' Free- 
thinkers ' ; hence called ' minute philosophers.' 



366 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

30. In my opinion, he that would convince an infidel 
who can be brought to reason ought in the first place 
clearly to convince him of the being of a God : it seeming 
to me, that any man who is really a theist, cannot be an 
enemy to the Christian religion ; and that the ignorance 
or disbelief of this fundamental point is that which at 
bottom constitutes the minute philosopher 1 . I imagine 
they who are acquainted with the great authors in the 
minute philosophy need not be told of this. The being 
of a God is capable of clear proof, and a proper object of 
human reason : whereas the mysteries of His nature, and 
indeed whatever there is of mystery in religion, to en- 
deavour to explain and prove by reason is a vain attempt *. 
It is sufficient if we can shew there is nothing absurd 
or repugnant in our belief of those points ; and, instead 
of framing hypotheses to explain them, we use our reason 
only for answering the objections brought against them. 
But, on all occasions, we ought to distinguish the serious, 
modest, ingenuous man of sense, who hath scruples about 
religion, and behaves like a prudent man in doubt, from 
•the minute philosophers, those profane and conceited men, 
who must needs proselyte others to their own doubts. 
When one of this stamp presents himself, we should 
consider what species he is of: whether a first or a second- 
hand philosopher, a libertine, scorner, or sceptic ; each 
character requiring a peculiar treatment. Some men are 
too ignorant to be humble, without which there can be 
no docility. But though a man must in some degree have 
thought and considered, to be capable of being convinced, 
yet it is possible the most ignorant may be laughed out of 
his opinions. I knew a woman of sense reduce two 
minute philosophers, who had long been a nuisance to the 
neighbourhood, by taking her cue from their predominant 
affectations. The one set up for being the most incredulous 
man upon earth, the other for the most unbounded freedom. 
She observed to the first, that he who had credulity 
sufficient to trust the most valuable things, his life and 

1 Akiphron is accordingly a dis- presupposition of all proof, rather 
cussion of the rationale of theism ; than itself dependent on external 
latterly of theism in its Christian proof ? Religion is rooted in human 
form, nature as a whole, not deduced 

2 Is not theistic faith or trust the by an abstract intelligence. 



THE SEVENTH DIALOGUE 367 

fortune, to his apothecary and lawyer, ridiculously affected 
the character of incredulous by refusing to trust his soul, 
a thing in his own account but a mere trifle, to his parish 
priest. The other, being what you call a beau, she made 
sensible how absolute a slave he was in point of dress, 
to him the most important thing in the world, while he 
was earnestly contending for a liberty of thinking, with 
which he never troubled his head ; and how much more 
it concerned and became him to assert an independency 
on fashion, and obtain scope for his genius where it was 
best qualified to exert itself. The minute philosophers 
at first hand are very few, and, considered in themselves, 
of small consequence : but their followers, who pin their 
faith upon them, are numerous, and not less confident 
than credulous ; there being something in the air and 
manner of these second-hand philosophers very apt to 
disconcert a man of gravity and argument, and much 
more difficult to be borne than the weight of their 
objections. 

31. Crito having made an end, Euphranor declared it 
to be his opinion, that it would much conduce to the 
public benefit, if, instead of discouraging free-thinking, 
there was erected in the midst of this free country a 
Dianoetic Academy, or seminary for free-thinkers, pro- 
vided with retired chambers, and galleries, and shady 
walks and groves, where, after seven years spent in silence 
and meditation, a man might commence a genuine free- 
thinker, and from that time forward have licence to think 
what he pleased, and a badge to distinguish him from 
counterfeits. 

In good earnest, said Crito, I imagine that thinking is the 
great desideratum of the present age ; and that the real 
cause of whatever is amiss may justly be reckoned the 
general neglect of education in those who need it most — ■ 
the people of fashion. What can be expected where those 
who have the most influence have the least sense, and 
those who are sure to be followed set the worst example ? 
where youth so uneducated are yet so forward ? where 
modesty is esteemed pusillanimity, and a deference 
to years, knowledge, religion, laws, want of sense and 
spirit ? Such untimely growth of genius would not have 



368 ALCIPHRON OR THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHER 

been valued or encouraged by the wise men of antiquity : 
whose sentiments on this point are so ill suited to the 
genius of our times that it is to be feared modern ears 
could not bear them. But, however ridiculous such 
maxims might seem to our British youth, who are so 
capable and so forward to try experiments, and mend the 
constitution of their country, I believe it will be admitted 
by men of sense that, if the governing part of mankind 
would in these days, for experiment's sake, consider them- 
selves in that old Homerical light as pastors of the people, 
whose duty it was to improve their flock, they would soon 
find that this is to be done by an education very different 
from the modern, and other guess maxims than those of 
the minute philosophy. If our youth were really inured to 
thought and reflexion, and an acquaintance with the excel- 
lent writers of antiquity, we should soon see that licentious 
humour, vulgarly called free-thinking, banished from the 
presence of gentlemen, together with ignorance and ill 
taste ; which as they are inseparable from vice, so men 
follow vice for the sake of pleasure, and fly from virtue 
through an abhorrence of pain. Their minds, therefore, 
betimes should be formed and accustomed to receive 
pleasure and pain from proper objects, or, which is the 
same thing, to have their inclinations and aversions rightly 
placed. KaAws x a 4 )eiv V fuvw. This, according to Plato 
and Aristotle, was the 6p9rj iracheia, the right education ] . 
And those who, in their own minds, their health, or their 
fortunes, feel the cursed effects of a wrong one, would do 
well to consider, they cannot make better amends for 
what was amiss in themselves than by preventing the 
same in their posterity. 

While Crito was saying this, company came in, which 
put an end to our conversation. 

1 [Plato in Protag., and Arist. Ethic, ad Nicom., Lib. II. cap. 2, and 
Lib. X. cap. 9.]— Author. 



THE 

THEORY OF VISION 

OR 

VISUAL LANGUAGE 

SHEWING THE IMMEDIATE PRESENCE AND PROVIDENCE 
OF A DEITY 

VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 



BY THE AUTHOR OF 

Alciphron, or, The Minute Philosopher 



Acts xvii. 28. 
In Him we live, and move, and have our being. 



First published in 1733 



[Price One Shilling] 



til. Bb 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 

TO THE 

THEORY OF VISION, OR VISUAL LANGUAGE, 
VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 

This tract, ostensibly a vindication and explanation of 
the theory, that in seeing we are interpreting a language 
which God is continually addressing to our senses, in- 
volves a retrospect of principles which Berkeley had been 
gradually unfolding and applying in his preceding meta- 
physical works. 

More particularly in the Fourth Dialogue in Alciphron, 
on which the whole discussion in the Minute Philosopher 
may be said to turn, Euphranor is engaged in shewing 
that the phenomena perceived in sight are so connected, 
in the order of Nature, with our tactual, muscular, and 
locomotive experience, that we can read this experience 
in terms of what we see : so that the Power immanent in 
Nature is virtually speaking to us in all visual phenomena, 
thus giving the same sort of evidence that Supreme Power 
is living and active Intelligence as a man gives when 
he addresses us in spoken or written words. This argu- 
ment may be taken as a development of the Theory of 
Vision, published more than twenty years before, now freed 
from the reserve with which it was embarrassed in the 
earlier work, when Berkeley's new conception of the reality 
of the material world was held back. In Alciphron it 
presents a striking lesson of the omnipresence of God in 

b b 2 



372 



EDITOR S PREFACE TO THE 



Nature, andof the immediate dependence of all charges 
and natural laws upon constant Divine agency and adapta- 
tion. 

The appearance of Alciphron, with this Fourth Dialogue 
at its centre, and with the original Essay on Vision of 
1709 appended, called forth the following Anonymous 
Letter, containing articulate objections to his account of 
Sight as the language of God. The Letter was published 
in London, in the Daily Post-Boy , on September 9, 1732. 

A Letter from an Anonymous Writer to the Author 

of the Minute Philosopher \ 

Reverend Sir, 

I have read over 3'our treatise called Alciphron, in which 
the Free-thinkers of the present age, in their various shifted 
tenets, are pleasantly, elegantly, and solidly confuted. The 
style is easy, the language plain, and the arguments are nervous. 
But upon the Treatise annexed thereto 2 , and upon that part 
where you seem to intimate that Vision is the sole Language 
of God , I beg leave to make these few observations, and offer 
them to your's and your readers' consideration. 

1. Whatever it is without that is the cause of any idea within, 
I call the object of sense : the sensations arising from such objects, 
I call ideas. The objects, therefore, that cause such sensations 
are without us, and the ideas within. 

2. Had we but one sense, we might be apt to conclude that 
there were no objects at all without us, but that the- whole 
scene of ideas which passed through the mind arose from its 
internal operations; but since the same object is the cause 
of ideas by different senses, thence we infer its existence. But, 
though the object be one and the same, the ideas that it pro- 
duces in different senses have no manner of similitude with 
one another. Because, 

3. Whatever connexion there is betwixt the idea of one 
sense and the idea of another, produced by the same object, 

1 The first edition of Alciphron of Vision was annexed to Alciphron 
was published six months before, on account of its connexion with 
and the Theory of Vision Vindicated the theistic argument in the Fourth 
and Explained four months after Dialogue. 

the appearance of this Letter. 3 The Essay on Vision, sect. 147 ; 

2 The Essay towards a New Theory also Alciphron, Dial. IV. sect. 7-15. 



THEORY OF VISION, OR VISUAL LANGUAGE 373 

arises only from experience. To explain this a little familiarly, 
let us suppose a man to have such an exquisite sense of feeling 
given him that he could perceive plainly and distinctly the 
inequality of the surface of two objects, which, by its reflecting 
and refracting the rays of light, produces the ideas of colours. 
At first, in the dark, though he plainly perceived a difference 
by his touch, yet he could not possibly tell which was red and 
which was white, whereas a little experience would make him 
feel a colour in the dark, as well as see it in the light. 

4. The same word in languages stands very often for the 
object without, and for the ideas it produces within in the 
several senses. When it stands for any object without, it is 
the representative of no manner of idea ; neither can we 
possibly have any idea of what is solely without us. Because, 

5. Ideas within have no other connexion with the objects 
without than from the frame and make of our bodies, 
which is by the arbitrary appointment of God : and, though 
we cannot well help imagining that the objects without are 
something like our ideas within, yet a new set of senses, or 
the alteration of the old ones, would soon convince us of our 
mistake ; and, though our ideas would then be never so dif- 
ferent, yet the objects might be the same. 

6. However, in the present situation of affairs, there is an 
infallible certain connexion betwixt the idea and the object ; 
and, therefore, when an object produces an idea in one sense, 
we know, but from experience only, what idea it will produce 
in another sense. 

7. The alteration of an object may produce a different idea 
in one sense from what it did before, which may not be dis- 
tinguished by another sense. But, where the alteration occa- 
sions different ideas in different senses, we may, from our 
infallible experience, argue from the idea of one sense to that 
of the other; so that, if a different idea arises in two senses 
from the alteration of an object, either in situation or distance, 
or any other way, when we have the idea in one sense, we know 
from use what idea the object so situated will produce in the other. 

8. Hence, as the operations of Nature are always regular 
and uniform, where the same alteration of the object occasions 
a smaller difference in the ideas of one sense, and a greater 
in the other, a curious observer may argue as well from exact 
observations as if the difference in the ideas was equal ; since 
experience plainly teaches us that a just proportion is observed 
in the alteration of the ideas of each sense, from the alteration 
of the object. Within this sphere is confined all the judicious 
observations and knowledge of mankind. 

Now, from these observations, rightly understood and con- 
sidered, your New Theory of Vision must in a great measure 
fall to the ground, and the laws of Optics will be found to stand 



374 editor's preface to the 

upon the old unshaken bottom. For, though our ideas of magni- 
tude and distance in one sense are entirely different from our 
ideas of magnitude and distance in another, yet we may justly 
argue from one to the other, as they have one common cause 
without, of which, as without, we cannot possibly have the 
faintest idea. The ideas I have of distance and magnitude 
by feeling are widely different from the ideas I have of them by 
seeing; but that something without, which is the cause of all the 
variety of the ideas within in one sense, is the cause also of 
the variety in the other: and, as they have a necessary con- 
nexion with it, we may very justly demonstrate from our ideas 
of feeling of the same object what will be our ideas in seeing. 
And, though to talk of seeing by tangible angles and tangible 
lines be, I agree with you, direct nonsense, yet to demonstrate 
from angles and lines in feelings, to the ideas in seeing that 
arise from the same common object, is very good sense, and so 
vice versa. 

From these observations, thus hastily laid together, and a 
thorough digestion thereof, a great many useful corollaries in 
all philosophical disputes might be collected. 

I am, 

Your humble servant, &c. 

This Letter was regarded by Berkeley as important 
enough to draw forth this Vindication and Explanation, 
also in the form of a Letter, which was published in 
London in March, 1733, 'printed for J. Tonson in the 
Strand.' It was written in London, where Berkeley, now 
in indifferent health, had been staying with his family from 
the time of his return from Rhode Island, early in the 
preceding year. 

The fortune of the Vindication and Explanation of the 
Theory of Divine Visual Language illustrates the tendency 
to read superficially and then neglect his cosmical and 
metaphysical conceptions, which strikes us when we follow 
their fortunes during his life. This interesting tract was 
unaccountably excluded from all collected, editions of 
Berkeley's Works preceding the Oxford edition in 187 1. 
It seems to have been forgotten for nearly a hundred 
years. It is alluded to in Smith's Optics, in 1738, and 
a century later by Sir James Mackintosh in his Disserla- 



THEORY OF VISION, OR VISUAL LANGUAGE 375 

tion x , and by Sir William Hamilton in his Discussions-. 
Its republication in i860 by Mr. Cowell of King's College, 
London, has now made it familiar to students. 

The eight opening sections of Berkeley's Answer press 
with earnestness the importance of 'Visual Language' 
as ' a new and unanswerable proof of the existence and 
immediate operation of God, and the constant care of 
His Providence,' against ' those who called themselves 
free-thinkers,' and were by Berkeley charged with a covert 
atheism, which made them ' minute ' philosophers. Here 
especially, and occasionally in Alciphron, his natural im- 
petuosity, added to indignation on account of the exclusive 
claim of the ' minute philosophers ' to free employment 
of reason in religion, tempt him to use language hardly 
consistent with the philosophical temper. Those whom 
he charged with atheism were professed theists, engaged 
with the important question of the nature and resources of 
what was called 'natural religion,' and the duty of reason 
to investigate this without restraint by ecclesiastical or 
other authority. This is a question which raises the deepest 
problems that can engage the human mind. It is true 
that one cannot rate highly either the religious or the 
philosophical insight of the deistical free-thinkers who 
were Berkeley's contemporaries. Their narrow premises 
and rapid conclusions were discredited by Berkeley and 
Butler. But they raised questions which still engross 
religious thinkers, which were soon afterwards discussed 
with more insight by Hume and Kant. And one must 
not forget the warm friendship of John Locke for Anthony 
Collins, against whom Berkeley directs his strongest in- 
vective. ' Believe it, my good friend,' Locke writes to 
Collins, 'to love truth for truth's sake is the principal 
part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot 

1 In connexion with Shaftesbury. 

2 In the article on Arthur Collier. 



376 editor's preface to the 

of all other virtues ; and if I mistake not, you have as 
much of it as ever I met with in any body.' This is the 
spirit in which Locke speaks of Collins throughout their 
interesting correspondence l . 

Sect. 9-18 offer some preliminary verbal explanations. 
In particular, the distinction between objects of perception 
in the five senses (called also ideas and sensations), on the 
one hand, and the cause of those appearances on the other 
hand, is strenuously insisted on, as of prime importance 
in the discussion. Then, as regards objects, it is ruled 
that those presented in each of the five senses have 
nothing in common with those presented in the other 
senses ; and yet they are so connected, under natural law, 
that objects perceived in one of our senses are made by 
the Supreme Power, signs of objects perceptible by another 
sense — the data of one thus forming what is virtually 
a language which tells us of data provided by the others. 
But mere appearances presented to our senses, and their 
significant relations to one another, must not be confounded 
with metaphysical questions about Power at work in this 
phenomenal cosmos. A study of the phenomena presented 
in the different senses should precede the deeper question 
about the Power that is continually at work throughout 
the Whole, and of which the Whole is a revelation. The 
theory of Vision, strictly regarded, is exhausted when it 
has fully realised the conception, that the objects of sight 
are signs in what is virtually a language ; but this opens 
the way to the higher conception, that this language is 
Divine, so that the entire universe of interpretable pheno- 
mena presented in sense is really a revelation of the 
Supreme Power as Active Mind. 

Articulate answers to each of the eight objections in the 
'Anonymous Letter' are given in sect. 19-34, based upon 
these preliminary explanations. 

1 See the letters to Collins in Locke's Works, vol. X. pp. 261-98. 



THEORY OF VISION, OR VISUAL LANGUAGE 377 

In sect. 35-47 the ' New Theory of Vision,' unfolded 
analytically in the juvenile Essay in 1709, is presented 
in reverse order, or synthetically. The aim of the previous 
analysis was to dissolve the prejudice occasioned by the 
constant association of visual with tactual experience ; 
to exhibit their antethesis as objects ; and after that 
their synthesis as interpretable signs. But in the Vindica- 
tion the conclusion reached in the early Essay is pre- 
supposed at the outset, and then applied to explain our 
judgments of the situations, sizes, and distances of things, 
which we seem to see immediately. In all this there is 
involved the assumption that the, human mind is governed 
by a law of suggestion through previous concomitance 
of the phenomena involved in the suggestion (sect. 39). 
Suggestion belongs primarily to sense more than to reason : 
to be suggested is one thing, to be inferred is another 
(sect. 42). In Visual Language the objects or signs are light 
and colour. How it comes to pass that we can apprehend, 
by the phenomena of light and colour, which are the only 
proper objects of sight, certain other ideas or objects, which 
neither resemble them, nor cause them, nor are caused 
by them, nor have any necessary connexion with them, 
comprehends in his view the whole theory of Vision 
(sect. 42). The leading constituents of the theory are, 
the absolute heterogeneity of objects visible and objects 
tangible ; an assumption of our inability a priori to 
interpret the tactual meaning of visual objects, in their 
capacity of visual signs ; and the proof that a constant 
association between the visual and the tangible world in 
our experience, together with instinctive faith in the uni- 
formity of nature, is sufficient to infuse reliable tactual 
meaning into the appearances of which we are immediately 
percipient in seeing (sect. 41-47). 

In sect. 48-69 this theory is applied synthetically to 
explain in detail our interpretation of Visual Signs 



378 editor's preface to the theory of vision 

of the tactual Situations, Magnitudes, and Distances of 
things. 

The Vindication closes (sect. 70), with an allusion to 
Chesselden's notable record, in the Philosophical Transac- 
tions, of the case of a youth born blind, and afterwards made 
to see ; in confirmation of the conclusion that our now 
constantly exercised ability to read the tactual meaning 
of visual signs is not an inexplicable instinct, but is 
explicable according to known laws of suggestion, under 
divinely-maintained relations between objects of sight and 
objects of touch. 

The design of this recognition of Visual Language is 
the practical one of restoring and sustaining faith in 
the constancy and universality of Divine Agency in the 
natural world. Sensuous phenomena are thus equivalent 
to words spoken by God, which we are all daily inter- 
preting; so that man by reflexion finds in them proof 
that he is always living and moving in a universe that 
is charged with Providential Intelligence. 



THE 

THEORY OF VISION 

OR 

VISUAL LANGUAGE, VINDICATED AND 
EXPLAINED 

In answer to an Anonymous Writer 

i. An ill state of health, which permits me to apply 
myself but seldom and by short intervals to any kind of 
studies, must be my apology, Sir, for not answering your 
Letter 1 sooner. This would have altogether excused me 
from a controversy upon points either personal or purely 
speculative, or from entering the lists with declaimers, 
whom I leave to the triumph of their own passions. And 
indeed to one of this character, who contradicts himself 
and misrepresents me, what answer can be made more 
than to desire his readers not to take his word for what 
I say, but to use their own eyes, read, examine, and judge 
for themselves? And to their Common Sense I appeal. 
For such a writer, such an answer may suffice. But 
argument, I allow, hath a right to be considered, and, 
where it doth not convince, to be opposed with reason. 
And being persuaded that the Theory of Vision, annexed 
to The Minute Philosopher, affords to thinking men a new 
and unanswerable proof of the Existence and immediate 
Operation of God, and the constant condescending care of 

1 [Published in the Daily Post-Boy of September the 9th, 1732.] — 
Author. 



380 THE THEORY OF VISION 

His Providence", I think myself concerned, as well as 
I am able, to defend and explain it, at a time wherein 
Atheism hath made a greater progress than some are 
willing to own, or others to believe. 

2. 1 He who considers that the present avowed enemies 
of Christianity began their attacks against it under the 
specious pretext of defending the Christian Church and 
its rights 2 , when he observes the same men pleading for 
Natural Religion, will be tempted to suspect their views, 
and judge of their sincerity in one case from what they 
have shewed in the other. Certainly the notion of a 
watchful, active, intelligent, free Spirit, with whom we 
have to do, and in whom we live and move and have our 
being, is not the most prevailing in the books and con- 
versation even of those who are called Deists. Besides, 
as their schemes take effect, we may plainly perceive 
moral virtue and the religion of nature to decay, and see, 
both from reason and experience, that the destroying the 
Revealed Religion must end in Atheism or Idolatry. 
It must be owned, many minute philosophers would not 
like at present to be accounted Atheists. But how many, 
twenty years ago, would have been affronted to be thought 
Infidels, who would now be much more affronted to be 
thought Christians ! As it would be unjust to charge 
those with Atheism who are not really tainted with it ; 
so it will be allowed very uncharitable and imprudent to 
overlook it in those who are, and suffer such men, under 
specious pretexts, to spread their principles, and in the 
event to play the same game with Natural Religion that 
they have done with Revealed. 

3. It must, without question, shock some innocent 
admirers of a certain plausible pretender to Deism and 
Natural Religion 8 , if a man should say, there are strong 
signatures of Atheism and irreligion in every sense, 
natural as well as revealed, to be found even in that 
admired writer: and yet, to introduce taste instead of 

1 Sect. 1-8 contain observations 2 The allusion is to Tindal's Rights 

upon 'free thinking' Atheism, 0/ the Christian Church. See sect, 

which the author finds at the 5, note 3. 

root of the English Deism, in the 3 Shaftesbury, against whom the 

early part of last century. Cf. Third Dialogue in Alciphron is 

Alciphron, Dial. I. directed. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 381 

duty, to make man a necessary agent, to deride a future 
judgment, seem to all intents and purposes atheistical, or 
subversive of all religion whatsoever. And these every 
attentive reader may plainly discover to be his principles ; 
although it be not always easy to fix a determinate sense 
on such a loose and incoherent writer. There seems to 
be a certain way of writing, whether good or bad, tinsel 
or sterling, sense or nonsense, which, being suited to that 
size of understanding that qualifies its owners for the 
Minute Philosophy, doth marvellously strike and dazzle 
those ingenious men, who are by this means conducted 
they know not how, and they know not whither. Doubt- 
less that Atheist who gilds, and insinuates, and, even 
while he insinuates, disclaims his principles, is the likeliest 
to spread them. What availeth it, in the cause of Virtue 
and Natural Religion, to acknowledge the strongest traces 
of wisdom and power throughout the structure of the 
universe, if this wisdom is not employed to observe, nor 
this power to recompense our actions ; if we neither 
believe ourselves accountable, nor God our Judge ? 

4. All that is said of a vital principle, or order, harmony, 
and proportion; all that is said of the natural decorum 
and fitness of things ; all that is said of taste and enthu- 
siasm, may well consist and be supported, without a grain 
even of Natural Religion ; without any notion of Law or 
Duty, any belief of a Lord or Judge, or any religious 
sense of a God : the contemplation of the mind upon the 
ideas of beauty, and virtue, and order, and fitness, being 
one thing, and a sense of religion another. So long as 
we admit no principle of good actions but natural affection, 
no reward but natural consequences ; so long as we appre- 
hend no judgment, harbour no fears, and cherish no 
hopes of a future state, but laugh at all these things, with 
the author of the Characteristics, and those whom he 
esteems the liberal and polished part of mankind 1 , how 

1 [Characteristics, vol. III. Miscel. the succeeding period it was justly 

3, ch. 2.] — Author. 'The fortune criticised, but too severely con- 

of the Characteristics,' says Sir. J. demned. Of late, more unjustly 

Mackintosh, ' has been singular. than in either of the two former 

For a time the work was admired cases, it has been generally neg- 

more undistinguishingly than its lected. It seemed to have the 

literary character warrants. In power of changing the temper of 



382 THE THEORY OF VISION 

can we be said to be religious in any sense? Or what 
is here that an Atheist may not find his account in as well 
as a Theist ? To what moral purpose might not Fate or 
Nature serve as well as a Deity, on such a scheme ? And is 
not this, at bottom, the amount of all those fair pretences ? 
5. Certainly that atheistical men, who hold no principles 
of any religion, natural or revealed, are an increasing 
number, and this too among people of no despicable rank, 
hath long since been expressly acknowledged by one who 
will be allowed a proper judge, even this same plausible 
pretender himself to Deism and Enthusiasm \ But if any 
well-meaning persons, deluded by artful writers in the 
Minute Philosophy, or wanting the opportunity of any 
unreserved conversation with some ingenious men of that 
sect, should think that Lysicles 2 hath overshot the mark, 
and misrepresented their principles ; to be satisfied of the 
contrary, they need only cast an eye on the Philosophical 
Dissertation upon Death 3 , lately published by a minute 
philosopher. Perhaps some man of leisure may think it 
worth while to trace the progress and unfolding of their 
principles, down from the writer in defence of the Rights 
of the Christian Church 4 , to this plain dealer, the admirable 
author upon Death. During which period of time, I think 
one may observe a laid design gradually to undermine 

its critics. It provoked the amiable as all moral feelings and judgments, 

Berkeley to a harshness equally are referred in this Essay to custom 

unwonted and unwarranted ; while and convention ; the licence of 

it softened the rugged Warburton a morality according to circum- 

so far as to dispose the fierce yet stances is vindicated ; also the law- 

not altogether ungenerous polemic fulness and occasional expediency 

to praise an enemy in the very ofsuicide. 

heat of conflict.' — Dissertation on 4 The Rights of the Christian 

the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, Church asserted against the Romish 

sect. V. and other Priests who claim an inde- 

1 \_Moralisls, Part II. sect. 3.] — pendent power over it. With a Pre- 
Author. face concerning the Government of 

2 One of the two free-thinking the Church of England as by Law 
interlocutors in Alciphron. established. (London, 1706.) The 

3 A Philosophical Dissertation author was Matthew Tindal. The 
upon Death, composed for the Con- work called forth a host of contro- 
solation of the Unhappy. By a versial pamphlets. It was defended 
Friend to Truth. (London, 1732.) by Le Clerc and others as a fair 
Thisworkwas attributed to A. Radi- attack on Sacerdotalism. In 1731, 
cati, Count de Passerano, and the Tindal published his Christianity as 
translation to John (Thomas ?) old as the Creation : or the Gospel a 
Morgan. The fear of death, as well republication of the Religion of Nature. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 3S3 

the belief of the Divine Attributes and Natural Religion ; 
which scheme runs parallel with their gradual, covert, 
insincere proceedings, in respect of the Gospel. 

6. That atheistical principles have taken deeper root, 
and are farther spread than most people are apt to imagine, 
will be plain to whoever considers that Pantheism, 
Materialism, Fatalism are nothing but Atheism a little 
disguised; that the notions of Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibnitz 1 , 
and Bayle are relished and applauded ; that as they who 
deny the freedom and immortality of the soul in effect 
deny its being, even so they do, as to all moral effects 
and natural religion, deny the being of God, who deny 
Him to be an observer, judge, and rewarder of human 
actions ; that the course of arguing pursued by infidels 
leads to Atheism as well as Infidelity-. 

[An instance of this may be seen in the proceeding of 
the author of a book 3 intituled, A Discourse of Free-think- 
ing occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a sect called Free- 
thinkers ; who, having insinuated his infidelity, from men's 
various pretences and opinions concerning revealed reli- 
gion, in like manner appears to insinuate his Atheism, 
from the differing notions of men concerning the nature 
and attributes of God particularly from the opinion of our 
knowing God by Analogy (see p. 42 of the mentioned 
book), as it hath been misunderstood and misinterpreted 
by some of late years. Such is the ill effect of untoward 
defences and explanations of our faith ; and such advan- 
tage do incautious friends give its enemies. If there 
be any modern well-meaning writer, who (perhaps from 
not having considered the Fifth Book of Euclid) writes 
much of Analogy without understanding it, and thereby 
hath slipped his foot into this snare, I wish him to slip 

1 Leibniz is here strangely asso- the occasion of much controversy, 
ciated with Hobbes, Spinoza, and See in particular Remarks upon 
Bayle, his professed antagonists; a late Discourse of Free-thinking : 
perhaps on the ground of his in a letter to T. H., D.D. (Dr. 
account of moral agency, in the Hare, afterwards Bishop of Chi- 
Theodice'e, and in his Correspondence Chester), by Phileleutherus Lipsiensis 
with Clarke. (Dr. Bentley). London, 1713. It 

2 'Infidelity' — want of faith in was in 17x3 that Berkeley's Essays 
Christianity. against the Free-thinkers appeared 

3 Anthony Collins, whose Dis- in the Guardian, 
course appeared in 17 13, and was 



384 THE THEORY OF VISION 

it back again, and, instead of causing scandal to good men 
and triumph to Atheists, discreetly explain away his first 
sense, and return to speak of God and His attributes in 
the style of other Christians ; allowing that knowledge 
and wisdom do, in the proper sense of the words, belong 
to God, and that we have some notion, though infinitely 
inadequate, of these Divine attributes, yet still more than 
a man blind from his birth can have of sight and colours '.J 

But to return, if I see it in their writings, if they own 
it in their conversation, if their ideas imply it, if their 
ends are not answered but by supposing it, if their 
leading author 2 hath pretended to demonstrate Atheism, 
but thought fit to conceal his Demonstration from the 
public ; if this was known in their clubs, and yet that 
author was nevertheless followed, and represented to the 
world as a believer of Natural Religion ; if these things 
are so (and I know them to be so), surely what the 
favourers of their schemes would palliate, it is the duty of 
others to display and refute. 

7. And although the characters of Divinity are large and 
legible throughout the whole creation to men of plain 



1 Cf. Alciphron, Dialogue IV. meaning of those words, cannot 

sect. 16-22, in which the terms be affirmed of Deity with abso- 

feeling, knowledge, and good- lute truth. I refer to Archbishop 

ness, as attributable to God, and King's discourse on The Right 

the opinion that those must then Method of interpreting Scripture, in 

be wholly analogical, i. e. meta- ivhat relates to the Nature of the 

phorical, are discussed. The Deity, edited with notes by Arch- 

' well-meaning writer, who writes bishop Whately ; Bishop Law's 

much of Analogy without under- Notes on Archbishop King's Essay 

standing it,' is Bishop Browne, on the Origin of Ejjil; Bishop Cople- 

whose book, entitled, Things Divine ston's Inquiry into the Doctrines of 

and Supernatural conceived by Ana- Necessity and Predestination; Bishop 

logy with Things Human, appeared Hampden's Bampton Lectures on 

m I 733> soon after Alciphron. Be- The Scholastic Philosophy in its 

sides Berkeley and Browne, both relation to Christian Theology ; and 

Irish bishops, two archbishops of Dean Mansel's Bampton Lectures 

Dublin, three English prelates, and on The Limits of Religious Thought. 

an English dean, have discussed 2 Anthony Collins. Cf. Aid- 

the possibility of knowledge of phron — ' Advertisement,' note. 'It 

God by man, and whether, like the is only through an analogy of the 

born-blind knowledge of light and human with the Divine nature.' 

colour, it is wholly ' analogical,' so says Sir W. Hamilton, ' that we 

that intellectual, moral, and spiritual are percipient and recipient of 

life and personality, in the human Divinity' (Discussions, p. 20, note). 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 385 

sense and common understanding, yet it must be con- 
sidered that we have other adversaries to oppose, other 
proselytes to make ; men prejudiced to false systems and 
proof against vulgar arguments, who must be dealt with 
on a different footing. Conceited, metaphysical, disputing 
men must be paid in another coin ; we must shew that 
truth and reason in all shapes are equally against them, 
except we resolve to give them up, what they are very 
fond of being thought to engross, all pretensions to 
philosophy, science, and speculation. 

8. Meanwhile thus much is evident : those good men 
who shall not care to employ their thoughts on this Theory 
of Vision have no reason to find fault. They are just 
where they were, being left in full possession of all other 
arguments for a God, none of which are weakened by 
this. And as for those who shall be at the pains to 
examine and consider this subject, it is hoped they may 
be pleased to find, in an age wherein so many schemes of 
Atheism are restored or invented, a new argument of 
a singular nature in proof of the immediate Care and 
Providence of a God, present to our minds, and directing 
our actions. As these considerations convince me that 
I cannot employ myself more usefully than in contributing 
to awaken and possess men with a thorough sense of the 
Deity inspecting, concerning, and interesting itself in 
human actions and affairs : so, I hope it will not be dis- 
agreeable to you l that, in order to this, I make my appeal 
to reason, from your remarks upon what I have wrote 
concerning Vision ; since men who differ in the means 
may yet agree in the end, and in the same candour and 
love of truth. 

9. By a sensible object* I understand that which is 
properly perceived by sense. Things properly perceived 
by sense are immediately perceived. Besides things pro- 
perly and immediately perceived by any sense, there may 
be also other things suggested to the mind by means 

1 ' you,' i. e. the anonymous of which we are directly percipi- 

writer of the ' Letter to the Author ent in sense, with the active cause 

of the Minute Philosopher,' to which presents them to the per- 

which this 'Vindication' is the cipient being. Cf. Observation 1 

reply. of the anonymous writer. 

a Sect. 9-18 contrast the objects 

BERKELEY: FKASER. II. C C 



386 THE THEORY OF VISION 

of those proper and immediate objects ; which things so 
suggested are not objects of that sense, being in truth 
only objects of the imagination, and originally belonging 
to some other sense or faculty. Thus, sounds are the 
proper objects of hearing, being properly and immediately 
perceived by that, and by no other sense. But, by the 
mediation of sounds or words, all other things may be 
suggested to the mind ; and yet things so suggested are 
not thought the object of hearing \ 

10. The peculiar objects of each sense, although they 
are truly or strictly perceived by that sense alone, may 
yet be suggested to the imagination by some other sense. 
The objects therefore of all the senses may become 
objects of imagination ; which faculty represents all 
sensible things. A colour, therefore, which is truly per- 
ceived by sight alone, may, nevertheless, upon hearing the 
words blue or red, be apprehended by the imagination. 
It is in a primary and peculiar manner the object of sight ; 
in a secondary manner it is the object of imagination : but 
cannot properly be supposed the object of hearing. 

ii. The objects of sense, being things immediately per- 
ceived, are otherwise called ideas. 

The cause of these ideas, or the power of producing 
them, is not the object of sense, not being itself perceived, 
but only inferred by reason from its effects, to wit, those 
objects or ideas which are perceived by sense. From our 
ideas of sense the inference of reason is good to power, 
cause, agent. But we may not therefore infer that our 
ideas are like unto this Power, Cause, or Active Being. 
On the contrary, it seems evident that an idea can be only 
like another idea, and that in our ideas or immediate 
objects of sense, there is nothing of power, causality, or 
agency included 2 . 

12. Hence it follows that the Power or Cause of ideas 
is not an object of sense, but of reason. Our knowledge 
of the cause is measured by the effect ; of the power, by 
our idea. To the absolute nature, therefore, of outward 

1 What is 'suggested' is not an ception. Is not reason unconsciously 

immediately present object of sense, at work in the spontaneous ex- 

but is represented in imagination, pectation here called 'suggestion '? 

which thus, in the formof an expec- 3 Cf. Principles of Human Know- 

tation, ministers to immediate per- ledge, sect. 25-28. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 387 

causes or powers, we have nothing to say : they are no 
objects of our sense or perception. Whenever, therefore, 
the appellation of sensible object is used in a determined 
intelligible sense, it is not applied to signify the absolutely 
existing outward cause or power, but the ideas themselves 
produced thereby. 

13. Ideas which are observed to be connected together 
are vulgarly considered under the relation of cause and 
effect, whereas, in strict and philosophic truth, they are 
only related as the sign to the thing signified. For, we 
know our ideas, and therefore know that one idea cannot 
be the cause of another. We know that our ideas of 
sense are not the cause of themselves *. We know also 
that we do not cause them. Hence we know they must 
have some other efficient Cause, distinct from them and ws 2 . 

14. In treating of Vision, it was my purpose to consider 
the effects and appearances, the objects, perceived by my 
senses, the ideas of sight as connected with those of 
touch 3 ; to inquire how one idea comes to suggest another 
belonging to a different sense, how things visible sug- 
gest things tangible, how present things suggest things 
more remote and future, whether by likeness, by necessary 
connexion, by geometrical inference, or by arbitrary in- 
stitution. 

15. It hath indeed been a prevailing opinion and un- 
doubted principle among mathematicians and philosophers 
that there were certain ideas common to both senses : 
whence arose the distinction of primary and secondary 
qualities. But, I think it hath been demonstrated that 
there is no such thing as a common object — as an idea, 
or kind of idea perceived both by sight and touch 4 . 

1 In other words, all (so-called) The material world is realised in 

natural causes are only constant living mind, but is independent of 

forerunners or signs of the changes my will, and is thus not me. Cf. 

in nature which are popularly Principles of Human Knowledge, 

called their effects, and which ac- sect. 56, 57, &c. 
cordingly they signify and suggest. 3 i. e. the effects, appearances, or 

The modern conception of phy- objects (called ideas) ; as distin- 

sical science is involved in this guished from their active cause, 

sentence. Cf. Principles of Human of which we are not immediately 

Knowledge, sect. 25, 26, 51-53, 65, percipient. 
66, &c. ; also De Motu, sect. 1-42. * [Theory of Vision, sect. 127, 

- This is Berkeley's externality. &c] — Author. 

C C 2 



388 THE THEORY OF VISION 

16. In order to treat with due exactness on the nature 
of Vision, it is necessary in the first place accurately to 
consider our own ideas ' ; to distinguish where there is 
a difference ; to call things by their right names ; to define 
terms, and not confound ourselves and others by their 
ambiguous use ; the want or neglect whereof hath so often 
produced mistakes. Hence it is that men talk as if one 
idea was the efficient cause of another ; hence they mis- 
take inferences of reason for perceptions of sense ; hence 
they confound the power residing in somewhat external 
with the proper object of sense ; which is in truth no more 
than our own idea. 

17. When we have well understood and considered the 
nature of Vision 2 , we may, by reasoning from thence, be 
better able to collect some knowledge of the external un- 
seen Cause of our ideas ; whether it be one or many, 
intelligent or unintelligent, active or inert, body or spirit. 
But, in order to understand and comprehend this Theory, 
and discover the true principles thereof, we should consider 
the likeliest way is, not to attend to unknown substances, 
external causes, agents or powers ; nor to reason or infer 
anything about or from things obscure, unperceived, and 
altogether unknown. 

18. As in this inquiry we are concerned with what 
objects we perceive, or our own ideas, so, upon them our 
reasonings must proceed. To treat of things utterly un- 
known as if we knew them, and so lay our beginning in 
obscurity, would not surely seem the properest means for 
the discovering of truth. Hence it follows, that it would 
be wrong if one about to treat of the nature of Vision, 
should, instead of attending to visible ideas, define the 
object of sight to be that obscure Cause, that invisible 
Power or Agent, which produced visible ideas in our 
minds. Certainly such Cause or Power does not seem 
to be the object either of the sense or the science of Vision, 
inasmuch as what we know thereby we know only of the 
effects. Having premised thus much, I now proceed to 

1 In other words, we must con- 2 i. e. what we are conscious 

trast the objects or appearances of of in seeing — apart from the active 

which we are conscious in each cause which gives rise to the 

of our senses — the immediate data sight, 
of each sense. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 389 

consider the principles laid down in your Letter, which 
I shall take in order as they lie. 

19. ' In your first paragraph or section, you say that 
' whatever it is without which is the cause of any idea 
within, you call the object of sense ' ; and you tell us soon 
after this 2 , ' that we cannot possibly have an idea of any 
object without.' — Hence it follows that by an object of sense 
you mean something that we can have no manner of idea 
of. This making the objects of sense to be things utterly 
insensible seems to me contrary to common sense and the 
use of language. That there is nothing in the reason of 
things to justify such a definition is, I think, plain from 
what has been premised 3 . And that it is contrary to 
received custom and opinion, I appeal to the experience of 
the first man you meet, who I suppose will tell you that 
by an object of sense he means that which is perceived 
by sense, and not a thing utterly unperceivable and un- 
known. The Beings, Substances, Powers which exist 
without may indeed concern a treatise on some other 
science, and may there become a proper subject of inquiry. 
But, why they should be considered as objects of the 
visive faculty, in a treatise of Optics, I do not com- 
prehend 4 . 

20. The real objects of sight we see, and what we see 
we know. And these true objects of sense and know- 
ledge, to wit, our own ideas, are to be considered, 
compared, distinguished, in order to understand the true 
Theory of Vision. As to the outward Cause of these ideas, 
whether it be one and the same, or various and manifold, 
whether it be thinking or unthinking, spirit or body, or 

1 Sect. 19-34 contain answers to actually conscious in sense (which 
the objections of the Anonymous he calls objects or ideas of sense), 
Writer, and remarks upon his on the one hand, and, on the other 
Letter. hand, what is suggested by the 

2 [Sect. 4.] — Author. objects of sense — between present 

3 [Supra, sect. 9, II, 12.] — objects of sense and absent objects 
Author. In short, Berkeley and suggested by them ; and between 
his critic use the term object of sense both of these the Divine Power on 
differently. which they both depend, and by 

1 Here, as elsewhere, Berkeley which their relations are deter- 
insists upon a distinction between mined, 
the appearances of which we are 



390 THE THEORY OF VISION 

whatever else we conceive or determine about it, the 
visible appearances do not alter their nature : our ideas 
are still the same. Though I may have an erroneous 
notion of the Cause, or though I may be utterly ignorant 
of its nature, yet this does not hinder my making true and 
certain judgments about my ideas ; my knowing which are 
the same, and which different ; wherein they agree, and 
wherein they disagree ; which are connected together, 
and wherein this connexion consists ; whether it be 
founded in a likeness of nature, in a geometrical necessity, 
or merely in experience and custom. 

21. In your second section, you say that ' if we had but one 
sense, we might be apt to conclude there were no objects 
at all without us ; but that, since the same object is the 
cause of ideas by different senses, thence we infer its 
existence.' — Now, in the first place, I observe, that I am at 
a loss concerning the point which is here assumed, and 
would fain be informed how we come to know that the 
same object causeth ideas by different senses. In the 
next place, I must observe that, if I had only one sense, 
I should nevertheless infer and conclude there was some 
cause without me (which you, it seems, define to be an 
object), producing the sensations or ideas perceived by that 
sense. For, if I am conscious that I do not cause them, 
and know that they are not the cause of themselves, both 
which points seem very clear, it plainly follows that there 
must be some other third cause distinct from me and 
them \ 

22. In your third section, you acknowledge with me that 
'the connexion between ideas of different senses ariseth 
only from experience.' — Herein we are agreed. 

In your fourth section you say that 'a word denoting an 
external object, is the representative of no manner of idea. 
Neither can we possibly have an idea of what is solely 
without us.' — What is here said of an external unknown 
object hath been already considered 2 . 

23. In the following section of your Letter, you declare 
that 'our ideas have only an arbitrary connexion with 

1 A Power of some sort, external mysenses — because distinguishable 

to my power, may accordingly be in its operation from my personal 

inferred from the appearances of agency, 
which I am conscious in each of - [Supra, sect. 19.] — Author. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 391 

outward objects, that they are nothing like the outward 
objects, and that a variation in our ideas doth not imply or 
infer a change in the objects, which may still remain the 
same.' — Now, to say nothing about the confused use of 
the word 'object/ which hath been more than once already 
observed, I shall only remark that the points asserted in 
this section do not seem to consist with some others that 
follow. 

24. For, in the sixth section, you say that ' in the present 
situation of things, there is an infallible certain connexion 
between the idea and the object.' — But how can we per- 
ceive this connexion, since, according to you, we never 
perceive such object, nor can have any idea of it ? or, not 
perceiving it, how can we know this connexion to be in- 
fallibly certain ? 

25. In the seventh section, it is said that ' we may, from 
our infallible experience, argue from our idea of one sense 
to that of another.' — But, I think it is plain that our ex- 
perience of the connexion between ideas of sight and touch 
is not infallible ; since, if it were, there could be no deceptio 
visus, neither in painting, perspective, dioptrics, nor any 
otherwise. 

26. In the last section, you affirm that 'experience plainly 
teaches us that a just proportion is observed in the altera- 
tion of the ideas of each sense, from the alteration of the 
object.' — Now, I cannot possibly reconcile this section with 
the fifth ; or comprehend how experience should shew us 
that the alteration of the object produceth a proportionable 
alteration in the ideas of different senses, or how indeed 
it should shew us anything at all either from or about 
the alteration of an object utterly, unknown, of which we 
neither have nor can have any manner of idea. What 
I do not perceive or know, how can I perceive or 
know to be altered ? And, knowing nothing of its altera- 
tions, how can I compute anything by them, deduce any- 
thing from them, or be said to have any experience about 
them l ? 

1 In the preceding sections, Hamilton to this. What is un- 

Berkeleyisvirtuallyarguingagainst presentable to any of my senses 

a wholly representative perception of must be unrepresentable in sensuous 

things. Here and elsewhere he imagination, 
anticipates objections of Rcid and 



392 



THE THEORY OF VISION 



27. From the observations you have premised, rightly 
understood and considered, you say it follows that my 
'New Theory of Vision must in great measure fall to the 
ground ; and the laws of Optics will be found to stand upon 
the old unshaken bottom.' — But, though I have considered 
and endeavoured to understand your remarks, yet I do 
not in the least comprehend how this conclusion can be 
inferred from them. The reason you assign for such 
inference is, because, ' although our ideas in one sense are 
entirely different from our ideas in another, yet we may 
justly argue from one to the other, as they have one 
common cause without, of which, as without,' you say, 
'we cannot possibly have even the faintest idea.' — Now, 
my theory nowhere supposeth that we may not justly 
argue from the ideas of one sense to those of another, 
by analogy and by experience ; on the contrary, this very 
point is affirmed, proved, or supported throughout \ 

28. Indeed I do not see how the inferences which we 
make from visible to tangible ideas include any considera- 
tion of one common unknown external cause, or depend 
thereon, but only on mere custom or habit. The experi- 
ence which I have had that certain ideas of one sense 
are attended or connected with certain ideas of a different 
sense is, I think, a sufficient reason why the one may 
suggest the other 2 . 

29. In the next place, you affirm that 'something without, 
which is the cause of all the variety of ideas within in 
one sense, is the cause also of the variety in another : 
and, as they have a necessary connexion with it, we very 
justly demonstrate, from our ideas of feeling of the same 
object, what will be our ideas of seeing.' — As to which, 
give me leave to remark that to inquire whether that 
unknown something be the same in both cases, or different, 
is a point foreign to Optics ; inasmuch as our perceptions 
by the visive faculty will be the very same, however we 
determine that point. Perhaps I think that the same 
Being which causeth our ideas of sight doth cause not 
only our ideas of touch likewise, but also all our ideas 

[ Theory of Vision, sect. 38 and constancy of the connexion — in 
78, &c.] — Author. a word, the interpretability of 

2 Not unless I presuppose the nature. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 393 

of all the other senses, with all the varieties thereof. 
But this, I say, is foreign to the purpose 2 . 

30. As to what you advance, that our ideas have a 
necessary connexion with such cause, it seems to me gratis 
dictum : no reason is produced for this assertion ; and 
I cannot assent to it without a reason. The ideas or 
effects I grant are evidently perceived : but the cause 
you say is utterly unknown 3 . How then can you tell 
whether such unknown cause acts arbitrarily or neces- 
sarily ? I see the effects or appearances : and I know 
that effects must have a cause : but I neither see nor 
know that their connexion with that cause is necessary. 
Whatever there may be, I am sure I see no such necessary 
connexion, nor, consequently, can demonstrate by means 
thereof from ideas of one sense to those of another. 

31. You add that 'although to talk of seeing by tangible 
angles and lines be direct nonsense, yet, to demonstrate 
from angles and lines in feelings to the ideas in seeing 
that arise from the same common object is very good 
sense.' — If by this no more is meant than that men might 
argue and compute geometrically by lines and angles in 
Optics, it is so far from carrying in it any opposition 
to my theory that I have expressly declared the same 
thing 4 . This doctrine, as admitted by me, is indeed 
subject to certain limitations ; there being divers cases 
wherein the writers of Optics thought we judged by lines 
and angles, or by a sort of natural geometry, with regard 
to which I think they were mistaken, and I have given 
my reasons for it. And those reasons, as they are un- 
touched in your letter, retain their force with me. 

32. I have now gone through your reflexions, which 
the conclusion intimates to have been written in haste, 
and, having considered them with all the attention I am 

1 He thus recalls his fundamental with the effects — the immediate 
conception of the active causality data of the several senses, and 
of sensible things in God, as op- their relations to one another, 
posed to their active causality in as immediately-perceived sensuous 
an unknown Something, called sign, and mediately - perceived 
Matter, supposed to exist inde- sensible meaning. 

pendently of all Mind. 3 [Letter, sect. iand4.] — Author. 

2 In Optics we arc concerned * [Theory of Vision, sect. 78.] — 
exclusively, according to Berkeley. Author. 



394 THE THEORY OF VISION 

master of, must now leave it to the thinking reader to 
judge whether they contain anything that should oblige 
me to depart from what I have advanced in my Theory 
of Vision. For my own part, if I were ever so willing, 
it is not on this occasion in my power to indulge myself 
in the honest satisfaction it would be frankly to give up 
a known error ; a thing so much more right and reputable 
to denounce than to defend. On the contrary, it should 
seem that the Theory will stand secure ; since you agree 
with me that men do not see by lines and angles ; since 
I, on the other hand, agree with you that we may never- 
theless compute in Optics by lines and angles, as I have 
expressly shewed ; since all that is said in your Letter 
about the object, the same object, the alteration of the 
object, is quite foreign to the Theory, which considereth 
our ideas ' as the object of sense, and hath nothing to 
do with that unknown, unperceived, unintelligible thing 
which you signify by the word object" 1 . Certainly the 
laws of Optics will not stand on the old, unshaken bottom, 
if it be allowed that we do not see by geometry 3 ; if it 
be evident that explications of phenomena given by the 
received theories in Optics are insufficient and faulty ; 
if other principles are found necessary for explaining the 
nature of vision ; if there be no idea, nor kind of idea, 
common to both senses 4 , contrary to the old received 
universal supposition of optic writers. 

33. We not only impose on others but often on ourselves, 
by the unsteady or ambiguous use of terms. One would 
imagine that an object should be perceived. I must own, 
when that word is employed in a different sense, that I am 
at a loss for its meaning, and consequently cannot com- 
prehend any arguments or conclusions about it. And 
I am not sure that, on my own part, some inaccuracy of 
expression, as well as the peculiar nature of the subject, 
not always easy either to explain or conceive, may not 
have rendered my Treatise concerning Vision difficult to 
a cursory reader. But, to one of due attention, and who 
makes my words an occasion of his own thinking, I con- 

1 ' our ideas,' i. e. the appear- 3 {Letter, sect. 8.]— Author. 
ances presented to us in each of * [Theory 0/ Vision, sect. 127.] — 
the senses. Author. 

2 [Supra, sect. 14.] — Author. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 395 

ceive the whole to be very intelligible : and, when it is 
rightly understood, I scarce doubt but it will be assented to. 
One thing at least I can affirm, that, if I am mistaken, 
I can plead neither haste nor inattention, having taken 
true pains and much thought about it. 

34. And had you, Sir, thought it worth while to have 
dwelt more particularly on the subject, to have pointed out 
distinct passages in my Treatise, to have answered any 
of my objections to the received notions, refuted any of my 
arguments in behalf of mine, or made a particular appli- 
cation of your own ; I might without doubt have profited 
by your reflections. But it seems to me we have been 
considering, either different things, or else the same things 
in such different views as the one can cast no light on the 
other. I shall, nevertheless, take this opportunity to make 
a review of my Theory, in order to render it more easy and 
clear; and the rather because, as I had applied myself 
betimes to this subject, it became familiar; and in treating 
of things familiar to ourselves, we are too apt to think 
them so to others. 

35. 1 It seemed proper, if not unavoidable, to begin in 
the accustomed style of optic writers, admitting divers 
things as true, which, in a rigorous sense, are not such, 
but only received by the vulgar and admitted as such. 
There hath been a long and close connexion in our minds 
between the ideas of sight and touch 2 . Hence they are 
considered as one thing; which prejudice suiteth well 
enough with the purpose of life, and language is suited 
to this prejudice. The work of science and speculation 
is to unravel our prejudices and mistakes, untwisting the 
closest connexions, distinguishing things that are different; 
instead of confused or perplexed, giving us distinct views; 
gradually correcting our judgment, and reducing it to a 
philosophical exactness. And, as this work is the work 
of time, and done by degrees, it is extremely difficult, if at 
all possible, to escape the snares of popular language, and 
the being betrayed thereby to say things strictly speaking 

1 Sect. 35-47 contain a restate- ally addressing us. 

ment of the theory, that the im- a i. e. between phenomena that 

mediate data of sight constitute a are visible only, and phenomena 

Language in which God is continu- that are tangible only. 



396 THE THEORY OF VISION 

neither true nor consistent. This makes thought and 
candour more especially necessary in the reader. For, 
language being accommodated to the praenotions of men 
and use of life, it is difficult to express therein the precise 
truth of things, which is so distant from their use, and so 
contrary to our praenotions \ 

36. In the contrivance of Vision, as that of other things, 
the wisdom of Providence seemeth to have consulted the 
operation rather than the theory of man ; to the former 
things are admirably fitted, but, by that very means, the 
latter is often perplexed 2 . For, as useful as these immediate 
suggestions and constant connexions are to direct our 
actions; so is our distinguishing between things confounded, 
and as it were blended together, no less necessary to the 
speculation and knowledge of truth. 

37. The knowledge of these connexions, relations, and 
differences of things visible and tangible, their nature, 
force, and significancy hath not been duly considered by 
former writers on Optics, and seems to have been the 
great desideratum in that science, which for want thereof 
was confused and imperfect. A Treatise, therefore, of this 
philosophical kind, for the understanding of Vision, is at 
least as necessary as the physical consideration of the eye, 
nerve, coats, humours, refractions, bodily nature, and 
motion of light ; or as the geometrical application of lines 
and angles for praxis or theory, in dioptric glasses and 
mirrors, for computing and reducing to some rule and 
measure our judgments, so far as they are proportional 
to the objects of geometry. In these three lights Vision 
should be considered, in order to a complete Theory 
of Optics. 

38. It is to be noted that, in considering the Theory of 
Vision, I observed a certain known method, wherein, from 
false and popular suppositions, men do often arrive at truth. 
Whereas in the synthetical method of delivering science 
or truth already found, we proceed in an inverted order ; 
the conclusions in the analysis being assumed as principles 

1 Cf. Principles of Human Know- intelligence, whose philosophy may 

ledge— 1 Introduction.' be intelligent enough for conduct, 

- This sentence expresses well while charged with speculative 

the final conceptions of things that mysteries, 
are possible to an w/omniscient 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 397 

in the synthesis. I shall therefore now begin with that 
conclusion, that Vision is the Language of the Author of 
Nature, from thence deducing theorems and solutions of 
phenomena, and explaining the nature of visible things 
and the visive faculty 1 . 

39. Ideas which are observed to be connected with other 
ideas come to be considered as signs, by means whereof 
things not actually perceived by sense are signified or 
suggested to the imagination ; whose objects they are, and 
which alone perceives them. And, as sounds suggest 
other things, so characters suggest other sounds ; and, in 
general, all signs suggest the things signified, there being 
no idea which may not offer to the mind another idea 
which hath been frequently joined with it. In certain 
cases a sign may suggest its correlate as an image, in 
others as an effect, in others as a cause. But, where there 
is no such relation of similitude or causality, nor any 
necessary connexion whatsoever, two things, by their 
mere coexistence, or two ideas, merely by being perceived 
together, may suggest or signify one the other, their 
connexion being all the while arbitrary ; for it is the con- 
nexion only, as such, that causeth this effect'-. 

40. A great number of arbitrary signs :t , various and 
opposite, do constitute a Language. If such arbitrary 
connexion 3 be instituted by men, it is an artificial language; 

1 In the original Essay towards stant sequences and coexistences 
a New Theory of Vision, Berkeley divinely established among pheno- 
proceeds analytically ; whereas, mena. It may be compared with 
in the following synopsis, he first Kant's theory of perception, ac- 
hypothetically assumes the exist- cording to which phenomena of 
ence of a Visual Language — with sense, under the forms of space 
which the earlier treatise concludes. and time, are made intelligible 
He then proceeds to verify this, by through the categories. In Siris, 
shewing synthetically that it ex- sect. 318, Berkeley says that space 
plains the phenomena of Vision ; is neither an intellectual notion, 
and in particular solves difficulties nor perceived by any of the senses, 
contained in our judgments of the 3 The natural connexion which 
situations, sizes, and distances of makes them signs seems 'arbitrary ' 
things. on account of our inadequate know- 

2 * Suggestion ' is the construe- ledge of rational order and adapta- 
tive tendency recognised in the tion in the constitution of the uni- 
New Theory ; which is an ap- verse — not arbitrary in the sense 
plication of the law of constant of being really capricious and 
association, regulating imagination irrational. 

and belief in harmony with the con- 



398 THE THEORY OF VISION 

if by the Author of Nature, it is a natural language. 
Infinitely various are the modifications of light and sound ; 
whence they are each capable of supplying an endless 
variety of signs, and, accordingly, have been each employed 
to form languages ; the one by the arbitrary appointment 
of mankind, the other by that of God Himself 1 . A con- 
nexion established by the Author of Nature, in the ordinary 
course of things, may surely be called natural, as that 
made by men will be named artificial. And yet this doth 
not hinder but the one may be as arbitrary as the other. 
And, in fact, there is no more likeness to exhibit, or neces- 
sity to infer, things tangible from the modifications of light, 
than there is in language to collect the meaning from the 
sound 2 . But such as the connexion is of the various tones 
and articulations of voice with their several meanings, the 
same is it between the various modes of light and their 
respective correlates, or, in other words, between the ideas 
of sight and touch. 

41. As to light, and its several modes or colours, all 
thinking men are agreed that they are ideas peculiar only 
to sight ; neither common to the touch, nor of the same 
kind with any that are perceived by that sense. But herein 
lies the mistake, that, beside these, there are supposed 
other ideas common to both senses, being equally per- 
ceived by sight and touch, such as Extension, Size, Figure, 
and Motion. But that there are in reality no such common 
ideas, and that the objects of sight 3 , marked by these words, 
are entirely different and heterogeneous from whatever is 
the object of feeling 4 , marked by the same names, hath 
been proved in the Theory 6 , and seems by you admitted ; 
though I cannot conceive how you should in reason admit 
this, and at the same time contend for the received 
theories, which are so much ruined as mine is established 
by this main part and pillar thereof. 

42. To perceive is one thing ; to judge is another. So 

1 [Minute Philosopher, Dial. IV. ' i. e. the immediate objects— the 
sect. 7, 1 1. J — Author. appearances of which we are con- 

2 [Theory of Vision, sect. 144 and scious in our tactual, muscular, and 
J 47-] — Author. locomotive experience. 

3 i. e. the immediate objects— the 5 [Theory of Vision, sect. 127.]— 
appearances of which we are Author. 

visually conscious. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED' 399 

likewise, to be suggested is one thing, and to be inferred 
another. Things are suggested and perceived by sense. 
We make judgments and inferences by the understanding. 
What we immediately and properly perceive by sight is 
its primary object — light and colours. What is suggested, 
or perceived by mediation thereof, are tangible ideas, 
which may be considered as secondary and improper 
objects of sight. We infer causes from effects, effects from 
causes, and properties one from another, where the con- 
nexion is necessary '. But how comes it to pass that we 
apprehend by the ideas of sight certain other ideas, which 
neither resemble them, nor cause them, nor are caused by 
them, nor have any necessary connexion with them ? — the 
solution of this problem, in its full extent, doth comprehend 
the whole Theory of Vision. This stating of the matter 
placeth it on a new foot, and in a different light from all 
preceding theories. 

43. To explain how the mind or soiil of man simply 
sees is one thing, and belongs to Philosophy. To consider 
particles as moving in certain lines, rays of light as re- 
fracted or reflected, or crossing, or including angles, is 
quite another thing, and appertaineth to Geometry. To 
account for the sense of vision by the mechanism of the 
eye is a third thing, which appertaineth to Anatomy and 
experiments. These two latter speculations are of use in 
practice, to assist the defects and remedy the distempers 
of sight, agreeably to the natural laws contained in this 
mundane system. But the former Theory is that which 
makes us understand the true nature of Vision, considered 
as a faculty of the soul. Which Theory, as I have already 
observed, may be reduced to this simple question, to wit, 
How comes it to pass that a set of ideas, altogether 
different from tangible ideas, should nevertheless suggest 

1 The Theory of Vision is thus and inference are assigned to the 

confined to the two elements of Understanding, conversant with 

immediate perception (of the data necessary truth, and not with 'arbi- 

peculiar to sight) ; and suggestion trary' connexion, either in the sub- 

in imagination (of data peculiar to jective imagination of individual 

touch), erroneously supposed to in- men, or in that objective Provi- 

volve perception of absolutely ne- dence of God by which sense- 

cessary relations, as distinguished experience, and consequently scien- 

from the apparently arbitrary or tific prevision, is determined, 
contingent relations. Judgment 



400 THE THEORY OF VISION 

them to us, there being no necessary connexion between 
them ? To which the proper answer is, That this is done 
in virtue of an arbitrary connexion, instituted by the Author 
of Nature. 

44. The proper, immediate object of vision is light, in 
all its modes and variations, various colours in kind, 
in degree, in quantity; some lively, others faint; more of 
some and less of others ; various in their bounds or limits ; 
various in their order and situation. A blind man, when 
first made to see, might perceive these objects, in which 
there is an endless variety : but he would neither perceive 
nor imagine any resemblance or connexion between these 
visible objects and those perceived by feeling 1 . Lights, 
shades, and colours would suggest nothing to him about 
bodies, hard or soft, rough or smooth : nor would their 
quantities, limits, or order suggest to him geometrical 
figures, or extension, or situation, which they must do 
upon the received supposition, that these objects are 
common to sight and touch. 

45. All the various sorts, combinations, quantities, de- 
grees, and dispositions of light and colours, would, upon 
the first perception thereof, be considered in themselves 
only as a new set of sensations and ideas. As they are 
wholly new and unknown, a man born blind would not, at 
first sight, give them the names of things formerly known 
and perceived by his touch 2 . But, after some experience, 
he would perceive 3 their connexion with tangible things, 
and would, therefore, consider them as signs, and give 
them (as is usual in other cases) the same names with the 
things signified. 

46. More and less, greater and smaller, extent, propor- 
tion, interval are all found in Time as in Space ; but it 
will not therefore follow that these are homogeneous 
quantities. No more will it follow, from the attribution 
of common names, that visible ideas are homogeneous 
with those of feeling. It is true that terms denoting 
tangible extension, figure, location, motion, and the like, 

1 [Theory of Vision, sect. 41 and blind,' when they first receive 
106.] — Author. sight, is conjectured. 

2 Cf. Essay on Vision, sect. 41, 3 i.e. perceive mediately, through 
and other passages in which the suggestion. 

probable experience of the ' born 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 401 

are also applied to denote the quantity, relation, and order 
of the proper visible objects, or ideas of sight. But this 
proceeds only from experience and analogy. There is 
a higher and lower in the notes of music ; men speak in 
a high or a low key. And this, it is plain, is no more 
than metaphor or analogy. So likewise, to express the 
order of visible ideas, the words situation, high and low, 
tip and down, are made use of; and their sense, when so 
applied, is analogical. 

47. But, in the case of Vision we do not rest in a sup- 
posed analogy between different and heterogeneous natures. 
We suppose an identity of nature, or one and the same 
object common to both senses. And this mistake we are 
led into ; forasmuch as the various motions of the head, 
upward and downward, to the right and to the left, being 
attended with a diversity in the visible ideas, it cometh to 
pass that those motions and situations of the head, which 
in truth are tangible, do confer their own attributes and 
appellations on visible ideas wherewith they are connected, 
and which by that means come to be termed high and low, 
right and left, and to be marked by other names betokening 
the modes of position ; which, antecedently to such ex- 
perienced connexion, would not have been attributed to 
them, at least not in the primary and literal sense \ 

48. From hence we may see how the mind is enabled 
to discern by Sight the Situation of distant objects '-'. 
Those immediate objects whose mutual respect and order 
come to be expressed by terms relative to tangible place, 
being connected with the real objects of touch, what we 
say and judge of the one, we say and judge of the other, 
transferring our thought or apprehension from the signs 
to the things signified ; as it is usual, in hearing or reading 
a discourse, to overlook the sounds or letters, and instantly 
pass on to the meaning :! . 

49. But there is a great difficulty relating to the situa- 
tion of objects, as perceived by sight. For, since the 

1 [Theory of Vision, sect. 99.] — sect. 88-119 in the Essay ott 
Author. Vision. 

2 Sect. 48-53 treat of our visual 3 [Minute Philosopher, Dial. IV* 
discernment of Situation by sugges- sect. 12.] — Author. 

tion, and may be compared with 

BERKELEY: FKASEK. II. 1} d 



402 THE THEORY OF VISION 

pencils of rays issuing from any luminous object do, after 
their passage through the pupil, and their refraction by the 
crystalline, delineate inverted pictures in the retina, which 
pictures are supposed the immediate proper objects of 
sight, how comes it to pass that the objects whereof the 
pictures are thus inverted do yet seem erect and in their 
natural situation? For, the objects not being perceived 
otherwise than by their pictures, it should follow that, as 
these are inverted, those should seem so too. But this 
difficulty, which is inexplicable on all the received prin- 
ciples and theories, admits of a most natural solution, if it 
be considered that the retina, crystalline, pupil, rays, 
crossing refracted, and reunited in distinct images, corre- 
spondent and similar to the outward objects, are things 
altogether of a tangible nature. 

50. The pictures, so called, being formed by the radious 
pencils, after their above-mentioned crossing and refraction, 
are not so truly pictures as images, or figures, or projections 
— tangible figures projected by tangible rays on a tangible 
retina, which are so far from being the proper objects of 
sight that they are not at all perceived thereby, being by 
nature altogether of the tangible kind, and apprehended 
by the Imagination alone, when we suppose them actually 
taken in by the eye. These tangible images on the retina 
have some resemblance unto the tangible objects from 
which the rays go forth ; and in respect of those objects 
I grant they are inverted. But then I deny that they are, 
or can be, the proper immediate objects of sight. This, 
indeed, is vulgarly supposed by the writers of Optics : but 
it is a vulgar error; which being removed, the fore- 
mentioned difficulty is removed with it, and admits a just 
and full solution, being shewn to arise from a mistake. 

51. Pictures, therefore, maybe understood in a twofold 
sense, or as two kinds quite dissimilar and heterogeneous 
— the one consisting of" light, shade, and colours ; the 
other not properly pictures, but images projected on the 
retina. Accordingly, for distinction, I shall call those 
pictures, and these images. The former are visible, and 
the peculiar objects of sight. The latter are so far other- 
wise, that a man blind from his birth may perfectly imagine, 
understand, and comprehend them. And here it may not 
be amiss to observe that figures and motions which cannot 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 403 

be actually felt by us, but only imagined, may nevertheless be 
esteemed tangible ideas ; forasmuch as they are of the 
same kind with the objects of touch, and as the imagination 
drew them from that sense. 

52. Throughout this whole affair the mind is wonderfully 
apt to be deluded by the sudden suggestions of Fancy, 
which it confounds with the Perceptions of Sense, and is 
prone to mistake a close and habitual connexion between 
the most distinct and different things for an identity of 
nature 1 . The solution of this knot about inverted images 
seems the principal point in the whole Optic Theory; 
the most difficult perhaps to comprehend, but the most 
deserving of our attention, and, when rightly understood, 
the surest way to lead the mind into a thorough knowledge 
of the true nature of Vision. 

53. It is to be noted of these inverted images on the 
retina that, although they are in kind altogether different 
from the proper objects of sight or pictures, they may 
nevertheless be proportional to them ; as indeed the 
most different and heterogeneous things in nature may, 
for all that, have analogy, and be proportional each to 
other. And although those images, when the distance 
is given, should be simply as the radiating surfaces ; and 
although it be consequently allowed that the pictures are 
in that case proportional to those radiating surfaces, or 
the tangible real magnitude of things ; yet it will not 
thence follow that in common sight we perceive or judge 
of those tangible real magnitudes simply by the visible 
magnitudes of the pictures ; for, therein the distance is 
not given, tangible objects being placed at various dis- 
tances ; and the diameters of the images, to which images 
the pictures are proportional, are inversely as those 
distances, which distances are not immediately perceived 
by sight "'. And, admitting they were, it is nevertheless 
certain that the mind, in apprehending the magnitudes 
of tangible objects of sight, doth not compute them by 
means of the inverse proportion of the distances, and the 
direct proportion of the pictures. That no such inference 

1 [Theory of Vision, sect. 144. J — visual perception in our present 
Author. The so-called 'images,' embodied state, 
or concurrent rays on the retina, a [Theory of Vision, sect. 2.] — 

are merely organic conditions of Author. 

D d 2 



404 THE THEORY OF VISION 

or reasoning attends the common act of seeing, every one's 
experience may inform him. 

54. To know how we perceive or apprehend by sight the 
real Magnitude 1 of tangible objects, we must consider the 
immediate visible objects, and their properties or accidents. 
These immediate objects are the pictures. These pictures 
are some more lively, others more faint. Some are higher, 
others are lower in their own ©rder or peculiar location ; 
which, though in truth quite distinct, and altogether 
different from that of tangible objects, hath nevertheless 
a relation and connexion with it, and thence comes to be 
signified by the same terms, high, low, and so forth. Now, 
by the greatness of the pictures, their faintness and their 
situation, we perceive the magnitude of tangible objects — 
the greater, the fainter, and the upper pictures suggesting 
the greater tangible magnitude. 

55. For better explication of this point, we may suppose 
a diaphanous plain erected near the eye, perpendicular to 
the horizon, and divided into small equal squares. A 
straight line from the eye to the utmost limit of the horizon, 
passing through this diaphanous plain, will mark a certain 
point or height to which the horizontal plain, as projected 
or represented in the perpendicular plain, would rise. 
The eye sees all the parts and objects in the horizontal 
plain, through certain corresponding squares of the per- 
pendicular diaphanous plain. Those that occupy most 
squares have a greater visible extension, which is pro- 
portional to the squares. But the tangible magnitudes 
of objects are not judged proportional thereto. For those 
that are seen through the upper squares shall appear vastly 
bigger than those seen through the lower squares, though 
occupying the same, or a much greater number of those 
equal squares in the diaphanous plain. 

56. Rays issuing from every point of each part or object 
in the horizontal plain, through the diaphanous plain to 
the ^ eye, do to the imagination exhibit an image of the 
horizontal plain and all its parts, delineated in the dia- 

1 Sect. 54-61 treat of the tive experiments by Wheatstone, 

(mediate) visual perception of Mag- in the Philosophical Transactions 

nitude. Cf. sect. 52-87 in the (1852). 
Essay. There is a record of rela- 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 405 

phanous plain, and occupying the squares thereof to a 
certain height marked out by a right line reaching from 
the eye to the farthest limit of the horizon. A line drawn 
through the foremost height or mark, upon the diaphanous 
plain, and parallel to the horizon, I call the horizontal 
line. Every square contains an image of some correspond- 
ing part of the horizontal plain. And this entire image we 
may call the horizontal image, and the picture answering 
to it the horizontal picture. In which representation, the 
upper images suggest much greater magnitudes than the 
lower. And these images suggesting the greater magni- 
tudes are also fainter as well as upper. Whence it follows 
that faintness and situation concur with visible magnitude 
to suggest tangible magnitude. For the truth of all which 
I appeal to the experience and attention of the reader who 
shall add his own reflexion to what I have written. 

57. It is true this diaphanous plain, and the images 
supposed to be projected thereon, are altogether of a 
tangible nature ! . But then there are pictures relative to 
those images 2 ; and those pictures have an order among 
themselves, answering to the situation of the images, in 
respect of which order they are said to be higher and lower 3 . 
These pictures also are more or less faint ; they, and not 
the images, being in truth the visible objects. Therefore, 
what hath Ijeen said of the images must in strictness be 
understood of the corresponding pictures, whose faintness, 
situation, and magnitude, being immediately perceived by 
sight, do all three concur in suggesting the magnitude of 
tangible objects, and this only by an experienced con- 
nexion. 

58. The magnitude of the picture will perhaps be thought 
by some to have a necessary connexion with that of the 
tangible object, or (if not confounded with it) to be at 
least the sole means of suggesting it. But so far is this 
from being true, that of two visible pictures, equally large, 
the one, being fainter and upper, shall suggest an hun- 
dred times greater tangible magnitude than the other 4 ; 
which is an evident proof that we do not judge of the 

1 [Theory of Vision, sect. 158.] — images. 

Author. s [Supra, sect. 46.] — Author. 

2 Cf. sect. 49-51, for the distinc- * [Theory of Vision, sect. 78,] — 
tion intended between pictures and Author. 



406 THE THEORY OF VISION 

tangible magnitude merely by the visible, but that our 
judgment or apprehension is to be rated rather by other 
things, which yet, not being conceived to have so much 
resemblance with tangible magnitude, may therefore be 
overlooked. 

59. It is farther to be observed that, beside this magni- 
tude, situation, and faintness of the pictures, our praenotions 
concerning the kind, size, shape, and nature of things 
do concur in suggesting to us their tangible magnitudes. 
Thus, for instance, a picture equally great, equally faint, 
and in the very same situation, shall in the shape of a 
man suggest a lesser magnitude than it would in the shape 
of a tower. 

60. Where the kind, faintness, and situation of the 
horizontal pictures 1 are given, the suggested tangible 
magnitude will be as the visible. The distances and 
magnitudes that we have been accustomed to measure by 
experience of touch, lying in the horizontal plain, it thence 
comes to pass that situations of the horizontal pictures 
suggest the tangible magnitudes, which are not in like 
manner suggested by vertical pictures. And it is to be 
noted that, as an object gradually ascends from the horizon 
towards the zenith, our judgment concerning its tangible 
magnitude comes by degrees to depend more entirely on 
its visible magnitude. For the faintness is lessened as 
the quantity of intercepted air and vapours is diminished. 
And as the object riseth the eye of the spectator is also 
raised above the horizon : so that the two concurring 
circumstances, of faintness and horizontal situation, ceasing 
to influence the suggestion of tangible magnitudes, this 
same suggestion or judgment doth, in proportion thereto, 
become the sole effect of the visible magnitude and the 
praenotions. But it is evident that if several things (for 
instance, the faintness, situation, and visible magnitude) 
concur to enlarge an idea, upon the gradual omission of 
some of those things, the idea will be gradually lessened. 
This is the case of the moon 2 , when she ascends above 
the horizon, and gradually diminisheth her apparent dimen- 
sion, as her altitude increaseth. 

61. It is natural for mathematicians to regard the visual 

1 [Supra, sect. 56.] — Author. 

8 [Theory of Vision, sect. 73.] — Author. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 407 

angle and the apparent magnitude as the sole or principal 
means of our apprehending the tangible magnitude of 
objects. But it is plain from what hath been premised, 
that our apprehension is much influenced by other things, 
which have no similitude or necessary connexion there- 
with \ 

62. And these same means which suggest the magnitude 
of tangible things do also suggest their Distance 2 ; and in 
the same manner, that is to say, by experience alone, and 
not by any necessary connexion or geometrical inference. 
The faintness, therefore, and vividness, the upper and 
lower situations, together with the visible size of the 
pictures, and our praenotions concerning the shape and 
kind of tangible objects, are the true medium by which we 
apprehend the various degrees of tangible distance. Which 
follows from what hath been premised, and will indeed be 
evident to whoever considers that those visual angles, with 
their arches or subtenses, are neither perceived by sight, 
nor by experience of any other sense. Whereas it is 
certain that the pictures, with their magnitudes, situations, 
and degrees of faintness, are alone the proper objects of 
sight ; so that whatever is perceived 3 by sight, must be 
perceived by means thereof. To which perception the 
praenotions also, gained by experience of touch, or of sight 
and touch conjointly, do contribute. 

63. And indeed we need only reflect on what we see to 
be assured that the less the pictures are, the fainter they 
are, and the higher (provided still they are beneath the 
horizontal 4 line or its picture), by so much the greater 
will the distance seem to be. And this upper situation 
of the picture is in strictness what must be understood 
when, after a popular manner of speech, the eye is said 
to perceive fields, lakes, and the like, interjacent 5 between 
it and the distant object, the pictures corresponding to 

' [Supra, sect. 58.] — Author. of the Essay on Vision. 

2 [Theory of Vision, sect. 77.] — 3 i.e. perceived by sight mediately, 

Author. Sect. 77 refers to Dis- or through suggesting signs, 
tance in connexion with Magnitude. 4 [Supra, sect. 56.] — Author. 

The invisibility of real distance, and 5 [Theory of Vision, sect. 3.] — 

visual suggestion of the distances Author. 
of things are treated in sect. 2-51 



408 THE THEORY OF VISION 

them being only perceived to be lower than that of the 
object 1 . Now, it is evident that none of these things have 
in their own nature any necessary connexion with the 
various degrees of distance. It will also appear, upon 
a little reflexion, that sundry circumstances of shape, 
colour, and kind, do influence our judgments or appre- 
hensions of distance ; all which follows from our prae- 
notions, which are merely the effect of experience. 

64. As it is natural for mathematicians to reduce things 
to the rule and measure of geometry, they are prone to 
suppose that the apparent magnitude hath a greater share 
than we really find, in forming our judgment concerning 
the distance of things from the eye. And, no doubt, it 
would be an easy and ready rule to determine the apparent 
place of an object, if we could say that its distance was 
inversely as the diameter of its apparent magnitude, and 
so judge by this alone, exclusive of every other circum- 
stance. But that this would be no true rule is evident, 
there being certain cases in vision, by refracted or reflected 
light, wherein the diminution of the apparent magnitude is 
attended with an apparent diminution of distance. 

65. But further to satisfy us that our judgments or appre- 
hensions, either of the greatness or distance of an object, 
do not depend absolutely on the apparent magnitude, we 
need only ask the first painter we meet, who, considering 
Nature rather than Geometry, well knows that several 
other circumstances contribute thereto : and, since art can 
only deceive us as it imitates nature, we need but observe 
pieces of perspective and landscapes to be able to judge 
of this point. 

66. When the object is so near that the interval between 
the pupils beareth some sensible proportion to it, the 
sensation which attends the turning or straining of the 
eyes, in order to unite the two optic axes therein, is to be 
considered as one means of our perceiving distance 2 . It 
must be owned, this sensation belongeth properly to the 
sense of feeling ; but, as it waits upon and hath a regular 
connexion with distinct vision of near distance (the nearer 
this, the greater that), so it is natural that it should become 

1 [Supra, sect. 55.] — Author. 

: [Theory of Vision, sect. 16, 17.] — Author. 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 409 

a sign thereof, and suggest it to the mind '. And that it is 
so in fact follows from that known experiment of hanging 
up a ring edge-wise to the eyes, and then endeavouring, 
with one eye shut, by a lateral motion, to insert into it the 
end of a stick ; which is found more difficult to perform 
than with both eyes open ; from the want of this means 
of judging by the sensation attending the nearer meeting 
or crossing of the two optic axes. 

67. True it is that the mind of man is pleased to observe 
in nature rules or methods, simple, uniform, general, and 
reducible to mathematics, as a means of rendering its 
knowledge at once easy and extensive. But we must not, 
for the sake of uniformities or analogies, depart from truth 
and fact, nor imagine that in all cases the apparent place 
or distance of an object must be suggested by the same 
means. And, indeed, it answers the end of vision to 
suppose that the mind should have certain additional 
means or helps, for judging more accurately of the distance 
of those objects which are the nearest, and consequently 
most concern us. 

68. It is also to be observed that when the distance is 
so small that the breadth of the pupil bears a considerable 
proportion to it, the object appears confused. And this 
confusion being constantly observed in poring on such 
near objects, and increasing as the distance lessens, be- 
comes thereby a means of suggesting the place of an 
object 2 . For, one idea is qualified to suggest another, 
merely by being often perceived with it. And, if the one 
increaseth either directly or inversely as the other, various 
degrees of the former will suggest various degrees of the 
latter, by virtue of such habitual connexion, and propor- 
tional increase or diminution. And thus the gradual 
changing confusedness of an object may concur to form 
our apprehension of near distance, when we look only 
with one eye. And this alone may explain Dr. Barrow's 
difficulty, the case as proposed by him regarding only one 
visible point 3 . And when several points are considered, 
or the image supposed an extended surface, its increasing 
confusedness will, in that case, concur with the increasing 

1 [Supra, sect. 39.] — Author. 3 [Theory of Vision, sect. 29,] — 

1 [Theory of Vision, sect. 21.] — Author. 
Author. 



410 THE THEORY OF VISION 

magnitude to diminish its distance, which will be inversely 
as both. 

69. Our experience in Vision is got by the naked eye. 
We apprehend or judge from this same experience when 
we look through glasses. We may not, nevertheless, in 
all cases, conclude from the one to the other; because 
that certain circumstances, either excluded or added, by 
the help of glasses, may sometimes alter our judgments, 
particularly as they depend upon preenotions. 

70. What I have here written may serve as a com- 
mentary on my Essay towards a New Theory of Vision; 
and, I believe, will make it plain to thinking men. In an 
age wherein we hear so much of thinking and reasoning, 
it may seem needless to observe, how useful and necessary 
it is to think, in order to obtain just and accurate notions, 
to distinguish things that are different, to speak con- 
sistently, to know even our own meaning. And yet, for 
want of this, we may see many, even in these days, run 
into perpetual blunders and paralogisms. No friend, 
therefore, to truth and knowledge would lay any restraint 
or discouragement on thinking. There are, it must be 
owned, certain general maxims, the result of ages, and 
the collected sense of thinking persons, which serve instead 
of thinking for a guide or rule to the multitude, who, not 
caring to think for themselves, it is fit they should be 
conducted by the thoughts of others. But those who set 
up for themselves, those who depart from the public rule, 
or those who would reduce them to it, if they do not think, 
what will men think of them? As I pretend not to make 
any discoveries which another might not as well have 
made who should have thought it worth his pains : so 
I must needs say that without pains and thought no man 
will ever understand the true nature of Vision, or com- 
prehend what I have wrote concerning it. 

71. Before I conclude, it may not be amiss to add the 
following extract from the Philosophical Transactions, 
relating to a person blind from his infancy, and long after 
made to see 1 : — 'When he first saw, he was so far from 

f 
1 This is Berkeley's principal as distinguished from inward con- 
reference to results of experiment. sciousness, in verification of his 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 411 

making any judgment about distances that he thought all 
objects whatever touched his eyes (as he expressed it) as 
what he felt did his skin, and thought no objects so agree- 
able as those which were smooth and regular, though he 
could form no judgment of their shape, or guess what it 
was in any object that was pleasing to him. He knew not 
the shape of anything, nor any one thing from another, 
how different in shape or magnitude : but upon being told 
what things were, whose form he before knew from Feeling, 
he would carefully observe them that he might know them 
again ; but having too many objects to learn at once, he 
forgot many of them ; and (as he said) at first he learned 
to know, and again forgot, a thousand things in a day. 
Several weeks after he was couched, being deceived by 
pictures, he asked which was the lying sense — Feeling or 
Seeing? He was never able to imagine any lines beyond 
the bounds he saw. The room he was in, he said, he 
knew to be part of the house, yet he could not conceive 
that the whole house could look bigger. He said ever}' 
new object was a new delight, and the pleasure was so 
great that he wanted ways to express it V — Thus, by fact 

conclusion, that what is called years of age. By Mr. Will. Chessel- 

seeing is really interpreting the den, F.R.S., Surgeon toHerMajesty, 

prophetic language of Nature that and to St. Thomas's Hospital, 
is continuously presented to our 

sight by God. ; Tho' we say of the gentleman 

1 [Philosophical Transactions, No. that he was blind, as we do of all 

402.] — Author. This is Berkeley's people who have ripe cataracts, 

only allusion to the experiment of yet they are never so blind from 

Chesselden, recorded in the Philo- that cause but that they can dis- 

sophical Transactions for 1728. As cern day from night ; and for the 

this once celebrated case is im- most part in a strong light dis- 

perfectly presented in the text, tinguish black, white, and scarlet ; 

I here reprint the Communication but they cannot perceive the shape 

as it appears in the Philosophical of anything ; — for the light by 

Transactions, along with some which these perceptions are made, 

references to more recent cases being let in obliquely through the 

of the experience of born-blind aqueous humour, or the anterior 

persons when they began to see : — surface of the chrystalline (by 

which the rays cannot be brought 

' An account of some observations into a focus upon the retina), they 

made by a young gentlenfan, who can discern in no other manner, 

was born blind, or who lost his than a sound eye can thro' a glass 

sight so early, that he had no of broken jelly, where a great 

remembrance of ever having seen, variety of surfaces so differently 

and ivas couched between 13 and 14 refract the light that the several 



412 



THE THEORY OF VISION 



and experiment, those points of the theory which seem 
the most remote from common apprehension were not 



distinct pencils of rays cannot be 
collected by the eye into their 
proper foci ; wherefore the shape 
of an object in such a case, cannot 
be at all discern'd, tho' the colour 
may. And thus it was with this 
young gentleman, who though he 
knew these colours asunder in a 
good light, yet when he saw them 
after he was couch'd, the faint 
ideas he had of them before were 
not sufficient for him to know them 
by afterwards ; and therefore he 
did not think them the same, which 
he had before known by those 
names. Now scarlet he thought 
the most beautiful of all colours, and 
of others the most gay were the 
most pleasing, whereas the first 
time he saw black, it gave him great 
uneasiness, yet after a little time 
he was reconcil'd to it ; but some 
months after, seeing by accident a 
Negroe woman, he was struck with 
great horror at the sight. 

' When he first saw, he was so 
farfrom making any judgment about 
distances, that he thought all objects 
whatever touched his eyes (as he 
express'd it) as what he felt did 
his skin ; and thought no objects 
so agreeable as those which were 
smooth and regular, tho' he could 
form no judgment of their shape, 
or guess what it was in any object 
that was pleasing to him : he 
knew not the shape of anything, nor 
any one thing from another, how- 
ever different in shape or magni- 
tude ; but upon being told what 
things were, whose form he knew 
before from feeling, he would care- 
fully observe, that he might know 
them again ; but, having too many 
objects to learn at once, he forgot 
many of them ; and (as he said) at 
first he learn'd to know, and again 
forgot a thousand things in a day. 
One particular only (tho' it may 



appear trifling) I will relate : — 
having forgot which was the cat 
and which the dog, he was asham'd 
to ask ; but catching the cat (which 
he knew by feeling) he was ob- 
serv'd to look at her steadfastly, 
and then setting her down, said, 
"So, Puss! I shall know you an- 
other time." He was very much 
surpris'd that those things which 
he had lik'd best did not appear 
most agreeable to his eyes, expect- 
ing those persons would appear 
most beautiful that he lov'd most, 
and such things to be most agree- 
able to his sight that were so to his 
taste. We thought he soon knew 
what pictures represented which 
were shew'd to him, but we found 
afterwards we were mistaken ; for 
about two months after he was 
couch'd, he discovered at once, 
they represented solid bodies ; 
when to that time he consider'd 
them only as party-colour'd planes 
or surfaces diversified with variety 
of paint ; but even then he was no 
less surpris'd, expecting the pictures 
would feel like the things they 
represented, and was amaz'd when 
hefound those parts, which by their 
light and shadow appear'd now 
round and uneven, felt only flat 
like the rest ; and ask'd which was 
the lying sense, — feeling or seeing ? 

' Being shewn his father's picture 
in a locket at his mother's watch, 
and told what it was, he acknow- 
ledged a likeness, but was vastly 
surpris'd ; asking how it could be 
that a large face could be express'd 
in so little room, saying, it should 
have seem'd as impossible to him as 
to put a bushel of anything into a 
pint. 

'At first he could bear but very 
little sight, and the things he saw 
he thought extreamly large ; but 
upon seeing things larger, those first 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 



413 



a little confirmed, many years after I had been led into 
the discovery of them by reasoning. 



seen he conceiv'd less, never being 
able to imagine any lines beyond 
the bounds he saw ; the room he 
was in. he said, he knew to be but 
part of the house, yet he could not 
conceive that the whole house 
could look bigger. Before he was 
couch'd he expected little advantage 
from seeing, worth undergoing an 
operation for, except reading and 
writing ; for he said he thought he 
could have no more pleasure in 
walking abroad than he had in the 
garden, which he could do safely 
and readily. And even blindness, 
he observ'd, had this advantage, 
that he could go anywhere in the 
dark much better than those who 
can see; and after he had seen, 
he did not soon lose this quality, 
nor desire a light to go about the 
house in the night. He said every 
new object was a new delight, and 
the pleasure was so great that he 
wanted ways to express it ; but his 
gratitude to his operator he could 
not conceal, never seeing him for 
some time without tears of joy in 
his eyes, and other marks of affec- 
tion : and if he did not happen 
to come at any time when he was 
expected, he would be so griev'd 
that he could not forbear crying at 
his disappointment. A year after 
first seeing, being carried Upon 
Epsom Downs, and observing a 
large prospect, he was exceedingly 
delighted with it, and called it a 
new kind of seeing. And now 
being lately couch'd of his other 
eye, he says that objects at first 
appeared large to this eye, but not 
so large as they did at first to the 
other ; and looking upon the same 
object with both eyes, he thought 
it look'd about twice as large as 
with the first couch'd eye only, but 
not double, that wc can anyways 
discover.' 



No very satisfactory inference 
can be drawn from a narrative so de- 
ficient in the refinement of thought 
and expression which the subject 
requires. The question is too sub- 
tle for experiments conducted in 
this fashion. Nor can much be 
said in favour of a succession of 
somewhat similar experiments re- 
corded in the Philosophical Trans- 
actions. The more important are 
the following : — 

1. Case described by Mr. Ware, 
Surgeon, in the Philos. Trans. 
(1801). 

2. Two cases described by 
Mr. Home, in the Philos. Trans. 
(1807). 

3. Case of the lady described by 
Mr. Wardrop, Surgeon, in the 
Philos. Trans. (1826). 

To these may be added Dugald 
Stewart's 'Account of James 
Mitchell, a boy born deaf and blind,' 
in the seventh volume of the Trans- 
actions of the Royal Society of Edin- 
burgh. See Hamilton's edition of 
Stewart's Works, vol. III. Appen- 
dix, pp. 300-370 ; also p. 388. 

I have quoted one of the earliest 
described cases — that of Chessel- 
den. I end by giving the following, 
one of the last and best described 
of any I have met with. It is 
contained in Mr. Nunneley's 
treatise on The Organs of Vision : 
their Anatomy and Physiology 
(1858) :- 

' The case was that of a fine and 
most intelligent boy, nine years of 
age, who had congenital cataract 
of both eyes, in whom the retina 
was more perfect than it commonly 
is at so advanced an age, as shewn 
by the excellent sight he subse- 
quently acquired. He had always 
lived in a very large manufacturing 



4 i4 



THE THEORY OF VISION 



village, about sixteen miles from 
Leeds. He could find his way all 
about this place. Walking along 
the middle of the road, when he 
heard any object approaching, he 
at once stopped, groped his way to 
the side of the road, and remained 
perfectly still until it had passed. 
Any one whom he knew he was 
able to recognise by the sound of 
the voice, and by passing his hands 
over the face and body of the 
person. He could perceive the 
difference between a bright, sunny, 
and a dark, cloudy day, and could 
follow the motions of a candle 
without discerning what it was. 
He had been sent to school for 
some time, and by means of models 
and a raised alphabet, could by 
touch alone arrange the different 
letters into short words. I pre- 
sented to him in succession a great 
number of different objects, each 
one of which he took into both 
hands, felt it most carefully over 
with both, then with equal minute- 
ness with one, turning the object 
over and over again, in every 
direction ; the tongue was next 
applied to it ; and lastly, he applied 
it so near to the eye as to touch 
the eyelids, when he pronounced 
his opinion upon it, and generally 
with correctness, as to the nature 
and form of the object, when these 
were distinct. Thus he recognised 
books, stones, small boxes, pieces 
of wood and bone of different 
shapes, a broken piece of hard 
biscuit. A cube and a sphere he 
could readily recognise, saying the 
one was square and the other 
round, and that both were made of 
wood ; but a sphere which was 
made of perfectly smooth, hard 
wood, he was very confident was 
bone. In an object where the 
angles were not very distinct, he 
made constan t mistakes in the shape, 
first saying that it was square, then 
that it was round. Very bright 



light colours, when touching the 
eyelids, he could at once recognise, 
calling them all white ; all dull and 
dark colours he said were black. 
Between a thin circle of wood and 
a sphere or a cube he instantly de- 
cided by the hand alone. On putting 
half-a-crown piece into his hands 
he immediately said it was money, 
but for long was undecided whether 
it was half-a-crown or a penny ; 
however, after carefully turning it 
over for some time, so as frequently 
to bring every part into contact 
with the hand, then putting it to 
the tongue, and afterwards so close 
to the eye that it touched the eye- 
ball itself, he said decidedly, " It is 
half-a-crown." 

' The lenses were very large, 
milky, with caseous particles, quite 
white and opaque, the capsules 
being clear and transparent. As 
is well known, in most cases, 
before this period of life, the lens 
itself has been absorbed, leaving 
only a leathery, opaque capsule, 
and, of course, not nearly so favour- 
able for such observations as this 
one. After keeping him in a dark 
room for a few days, until the 
opaque particles of lenses were 
nearly absorbed, and the eyes clear, 
the same objects, which had been 
kept carefully from him, were 
again presented to his notice. He 
could at once perceive a difference 
in their shapes ; though he could 
not in the least say which was the 
cube and which the sphere, he saw 
they were not of the same figure. 
It was not until they had many 
times been placed in his hands that 
he learnt to distinguish by the eye 
the one which he had just had in 
his hands, from the other placed 
beside it. He gradually became 
more correct in his perception, but 
it was only after several days that 
he could or would tell by the eyes 
alone, which was the sphere and 
which the cube ; when asked, he 



VINDICATED AND EXPLAINED 



415 



always, before answering, wished 
to take both into his hands ; even 
when this was allowed, when 
immediately afterwards the objects 
were placed before the eyes, he 
was not certain of the figure. Of 
distance he had not the least con- 
ception. He said everything touched 
his eyes, and walked most carefully 
about, with his hands held out 
before him, to prevent things 
hurting his eyes by touching them. 
Great care was requisite to prevent 
him falling over objects, or walking 
against them. Improvement gradu- 
ally went on, and his subsequent 
sightwas, and now is comparatively 
perfect.' 

None of these experiments, taken 
by themselves, unequivocally de- 
termine the question — Whether 
the power of interpreting the visual 
signs of real or tangible extension 
is inspired instinct, or is acquired 
by association, or by constructive 



activity of intellect. But they con- 
firm the conclusion, that visible 
signs are not less indispensable to 
our imagination of trinal extension 
than verbal signs are necessary to 
abstract thought and reasoning. 
They shew that the born-blind 
have only a vague perception of an 
external world. Moreover, when 
once we are experimentally ac- 
quainted with distances, mathe- 
matical analysis of the perspective 
lines leading from an object to the 
eye is possible, with an involved 
sense of necessity, which seems to 
presuppose relations of reason 
common to the visible signs and 
the felt reality. The difficulty which 
confronts Berkeley is, that on the 
empirical foundation of his juvenile 
theory space and its mathematical 
relations are relative to sensations 
which, pet- sc, are contingent and 
thus wanting in the element which 
gives absolute stability to mathe- 
matical science. 



END OF VOL. II 



B 1304 .M8 1901 
v.2 SMC 
Berkeley, George, 

1685-1753. 
The works of George 

Berkeley D. D. ... 
AKN-4571 (sk)