About this topic
Summary 'Immaterialism' was Berkeley's name for his theory of the perceived world. This theory consists of the negative thesis that there are not, and could not be, material substances or substrata, and the positive thesis that the existence of bodies consists in their being perceived (as Berkeley says: their esse is percipi).
Key works Major areas of dispute regarding Berkeley's immaterialism include the exact nature of the reduction of bodies to perceptions, and Berkeley's treatment of bodies unperceived by humans. On the first topic, Bennett 1971, sect. 29 defends a simple collection interpretation, which says that bodies are collections or sets of ideas. Atherton 2008 attributes to Berkeley a more sophisticated theory according to which an object is a structured collection of ideas. Winkler 1989, sect. 6.8, argues instead that Berkeley endorses a version of analytic phenomenalism, holding that claims about bodies are equivalent to certain subjunctive conditionals about human perceptions. On the second topic, it is widely recognized that Berkeley has two ways of talking about unperceived objects: he sometimes says that they exist because they would be perceived by humans under specified circumstances, and he sometimes says they exist because they are perceived by God. Bennett 1971, sect. 38, argues that Berkeley does not in fact believe objects unperceived by humans exist at all. Winkler 1989, ch. 7 argues that the two views are not contradictory, and Berkeley endorses both.
Introductions Most introductory texts on Berkeley focus primarily on his immaterialism. Stoneham 2002 provides a sympathetic introduction, focused on the presentation in the Three Dialogues. Dicker 2011 provides a critical introduction with focus on the presentation in the Principles.
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  1. Edwin B. Allaire (1995). Berkeley's Idealism: Yet Another Visit. In Robert G. Muehlmann (ed.), Berkeley's Metaphysics: Structural, Interpretive, and Critical Essays. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
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  2. Edwin B. Allaire (1982). Berkeley's Idealism Revisited. In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
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  3. Edwin B. Allaire (1963). Berkeley's Idealism. Theoria 29 (3):229-244.
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  4. M. Atherton (2013). Berkeley's Idealism, by Georges Dicker. Mind 122 (485):278-281.
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  5. Margaret Atherton (2008). 'The Books Are in the Study as Before': Berkeley's Claims About Real Physical Objects. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (1):85 – 100.
    (2008). ‘The books are in the study as before’: Berkeley's claims about real physical objects. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 85-100.
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  6. Margaret Atherton (2003). How Berkeley Can Maintain That Snow is White. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (1):101–113.
    Berkeley has made the bold claim on behalf of his theory that it is uniquely able to justify the claim that snow is white. But this claim, made most strikingly in the Third of his "Three Dialogues," has been held, most forcefully by Margaret Wilson, to conflict with Berkeley's argument in the First Dialogue that, because of various facts to do with perceptual variation, colors are merely apparent and hence, mind-dependent. This paper develops an alternative reading of the First Dialogue (...)
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  7. Margaret Atherton (1996). Lady Mary Shepherd's Case Against George Berkeley. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 4 (2):347 – 366.
  8. Margaret Atherton (1995). Berkeley Without God. In Robert G. Muehlmann (ed.), Berkeley's Metaphysics: Structural, Interpretive, and Critical Essays. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
  9. M. R. Ayers (1982). Berkeley's Immaterialism and Kant's Transcendental Idealism. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 13:51-69.
  10. Michael R. Ayers (2007). Berkeley, Ideas, and Idealism. In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy.
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  11. H. E. Baber (1989). Berkeley and the Tattletale's Paradox. Idealistic Studies 19 (1):79-82.
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  12. Donald L. M. Baxter (1991). Berkeley, Perception, and Identity. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51 (1):85-98.
  13. Bertil Belfrage (1992). The Constructivism of Berkeley's New Theory of Vision. In Phillip D. Cummins & Guenter Zoeller (eds.), Minds, Ideas, and Objects: Essays in the Theory of Representation in Modern Philosophy. Ridgeview Publishing Company.
  14. David Berman (1986). Berkeley's Quad. Idealistic Studies 16 (1):41-45.
  15. Daniele Bertini (2008). Berkeley and Gentile. Idealistic Studies 37 (1):43-50.
    My purpose is to compare Berkeley’s and Gentile’s idealism, interpreting Berkeley’s Treatise, §§22–23, and Gentile’s reading of this passage. The Italian philosopher finds in Berkeley’s master argument the original source of the true idealistic way of thinking, but he believes that Berkeley has not been sufficiently consistent in deducing all the consequences from his new principle. This criticism is the ground of Gentile’s actual idealism. Comparing the two positions is very instructive both to elucidate the general issue of idealism and (...)
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  16. Daniele Bertini (2007). Berkeley and Gentile: A Reading of Berkeley's Master Argument. Idealistic Studies 37 (1):43-50.
    My purpose is to compare Berkeley’s and Gentile’s idealism, interpreting Berkeley’s Treatise, §§22–23, and Gentile’s reading of this passage. The Italianphilosopher finds in Berkeley’s master argument the original source of the true idealistic way of thinking, but he believes that Berkeley has not been sufficientlyconsistent in deducing all the consequences from his new principle. This criticism is the ground of Gentile’s actual idealism. Comparing the two positions is very instructive both to elucidate the general issue of idealism and to understand (...)
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  17. Martha Brandt Bolton (1987). Berkeley's Objection to Abstract Ideas and Unconceived Objects. In Ernest Sosa (ed.), Essays on the Philosophy of George Berkeley. D. Reidel.
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  18. Harry M. Bracken (1976). Berkeley: The Philosophy of Immaterialism (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 14 (2):235-236.
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  19. Bill Brewer, Berkeley and Modern Metaphysics.
    Notoriously, Berkeley combines his denial of the existence of mind-independent matter with the insistence that most of what common sense claims about physical objects is perfectly true (1975a, 1975b).1 As I explain (§ 1), he suggests two broad strategies for this reconciliation, one of which importantly subdivides. Thus, I distinguish three Berkeleyian metaphysical views. The subsequent argument is as follows. Reflection, both upon Berkeley’s ingenious construal of science as approaching towards an essentially indirect identification of the causal-explanatory ground of the (...)
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  20. C. D. Broad, Berkeley's Argument About Material Substance (1942).
  21. C. D. Broad (1954). Berkeley's Denial of Material Substance. Philosophical Review 63 (2):155-181.
  22. C. D. Broad (1942/1975). Berkeley's Argument About Material Substance. Haskell House Publishers.
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  23. Richard Brook, Berkeley and the Causality of Ideas; a Look at PHK 25.
    I argue that Berkeley's distinctive idealism/immaterialism can't support his view that objects of sense, immediately or mediately perceived, are causally inert. (The Passivity of Ideas thesis or PI) Neither appeal to ordinary perception, nor traditional arguments, for example, that causal connections are necessary, and we can't perceive such connections, are helpful. More likely it is theological concerns,e.g., how to have second causes if God upholds by continuously creating the world, that's in the background. This puts Berkeley closer to Malebranche than (...)
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  24. Richard Brook (2005). Berkeley, Bundles, and Immediate Perception. Dialogue 44 (3):493-504.
    I argue in this article that, contrary to some recent views, Berkeley’s bundle theory of physical objects is incompatible with the thinking that we immediately perceive such objects. Those who argue the contrary view rightly stress that immediate perception of ideas or objects must be non-conceptual for Berkeley, that is, the concept of the object cannot be made use of in the perception, otherwise it would be mediate perception. After a brief look at the texts, I contrast how a direct (...)
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  25. Harold I. Brown (2000). Berkeley on the Conceivability of Qualities and Material Objects. The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 7:161-168.
    Berkeley’s “selective attention” account of how we establish general conclusions without abstract ideas—particularly in light of his denial of abstract ideas and rejection of the legitimacy of several subjects of scientific and philosophic study on the grounds that they presuppose abstract ideas—yields a puzzle: Why can’t we begin with ideas and use the method of selective attention to establish conclusions about qualities and material objects independently of their being perceived, even though we do not have ideas of these entities? I (...)
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  26. Anthony Brueckner (2014). More on Idealism and Skepticism. Theoria 80 (1):98-99.
    In “Idealism and Skepticism: A Reply to Brueckner”, Stephen Puryear maintains that Berkeley holds at most that ideas that “count as real things” as opposed to chimeras (e.g., my idea of the Eiffel Tower) must satisfy a criterion of intra-mind coherence. On this reading of Berkeley, my claim that a form of external-world epistemological skepticism can be constructed within Berkeley's metaphysical system cannot get off the ground. I respond here.
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  27. Anthony Brueckner (2011). Idealism and Scepticism. Theoria 77 (4):368-371.
    It is argued that contrary to appearances, Berkeleyan Idealism lacks anti-sceptical force. The problem stems from the way in which the idealist draws the appearance/reality distinction.
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  28. J. A. Brunton (1953). Berkeley and the External World. Philosophy 28 (107):325 - 341.
    The author examines and discusses berkeley's statement: "the absolute existence of unthinking things are words without a meaning or which include a contradiction." (staff).
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  29. M. F. Burnyeat (1982). Idealism and Greek Philosophy: What Descartes Saw and Berkeley Missed. Philosophical Review 91 (1):3-40.
  30. John Campbell (2002). Berkeley's Puzzle. In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. MIT Press.
    But say you,surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees,for instance,in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may so, there is no dif?culty in it:but what is all this,I beseech you,more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of anyone that may perceive them? But do you not yourself perceive or think of (...)
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  31. Maria Adriana Camargo Cappello (2005). A crítica à abstração e à representação no imaterialismo de Berkeley. Doispontos 1 (2).
    O presente texto tem por objetivo examinar as relações existentes entre a crítica às idéias abstratas, apresentada por Berkeley na “Introdução” ao Tratado sobre os princípios do entendimento humano, e a argumentação desenvolvida nos primeiros parágrafos da Parte I do mesmo texto, em que o autor propõe seu imaterialismo. A hipótese levantada a partir de tal exame defende uma relação direta entre o nominalismo de Berkeley e o caráter inaceitável, para o autor, da distinção entre o ser e o aparecer (...)
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  32. John Carriero (2003). Berkeley, Resemblance, and Sensible Things. Philosophical Topics 31 (1/2):21-46.
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  33. Lynn D. Cates (1997). Berkeley on the Work of the Six Days. Faith and Philosophy 14 (1):82-86.
    In the Three Dialogues, Hylas challenges Philonous to give a plausible account of the mosaic account of creation in subjective idealistic terms. Strangely, when faced with two alternative strategies, Berkeley chooses the less viable option and explicates the mosaic account of creation in terms of perceptibility. I shall show that Berkeley’s account of creation trivializes the affair, if it does not fail outright.
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  34. James Collins (1961). The Early Reception of Berkeley's Immaterialism, 1710-1733. The Modern Schoolman 38 (2):163-164.
  35. James W. Cornman (1971). A Reconstruction of Berkeley: Minds and Physical Objects as Theoretical Entities. Ratio 13.
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  36. Steven D. Crain (1997). Must a Classical Theist Be an Immaterialist? Religious Studies 33 (1):81-92.
    In this paper I examine two arguments, one by R. A. Oakes and the other by P. A. Byrne, that Berkeley's immaterialism is the only metaphysic consistent with classical theism. I show that not only do Oakes and Byrne fail to demonstrate the incompatibility of physical realism with classical theism, but also that their line of argument reveals a grave inconsistency between the latter and immaterialism. For as they expound Berkeley's metaphysic, it seems incapable of explicating the metaphysical dependency of (...)
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  37. Phillip D. Cummins (1990). Berkeley's Manifest Qualities Thesis. Journal of the History of Philosophy 28 (3):385-401.
  38. Phillip D. Cummins (1989). Berkeley's Unstable Ontology. The Modern Schoolman 67 (1):15-32.
  39. Benjamin L. Curtis (2009). A New Look at Berkeley's Idealism. Heythrop Journal 50 (2):189-194.
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  40. Stephen H. Daniel (2001). Berkeley's Christian Neoplatonism, Archetypes, and Divine Ideas. Journal of the History of Philosophy 39 (2):239-258.
    Berkeley's doctrine of archetypes explains how God perceives and can have the same ideas as finite minds. His appeal of Christian neo-Platonism opens up a way to understand how the relation of mind, ideas, and their union is modeled on the Cappadocian church fathers' account of the persons of the trinity. This way of understanding Berkeley indicates why he, in contrast to Descartes or Locke, thinks that mind (spiritual substance) and ideas (the object of mind) cannot exist or be thought (...)
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  41. Stephen H. Daniel (2001). Berkeley's Pantheistic Discourse. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 49 (3):179-194.
    Berkeley's immaterialism has more in common with views developed by Henry More, the mathematician Joseph Raphson, John Toland, and Jonathan Edwards than those of thinkers with whom he is commonly associated (e.g., Malebranche and Locke). The key for recognizing their similarities lies in appreciating how they understand St. Paul's remark that in God "we live and move and have our being" as an invitation to think to God as the space of discourse in which minds and ideas are identified. This (...)
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  42. D. M. Datta (1933). The Objective Idealism of Berkeley. The Monist 43 (2):220-235.
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  43. J. W. Davis (1962). Berkeley and Phenomenalism. Dialogue 1 (01):67-80.
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  44. Cornelis de Waal (2006). Having an Idea of Matter: A Peircean Refutation of Berkeleyan Immaterialism. Journal of the History of Ideas 67 (2):291-313.
  45. Liam P. Dempsey (2014). Newtonian Idealism: Matter, Perception, and the Divine Will. Southern Journal of Philosophy 52 (1):86-112.
    This paper investigates Isaac Newton's rather unique account of God's relation to matter. According to this account, corpuscles depend on a substantially omnipresent God endowing quantities of objective space with the qualities of shape, solidity, the unfaltering tendency to move in accord with certain laws, and—significantly—the power to interact with created minds. I argue that there are important similarities and differences between Newton's account of matter and Berkeley's idealism. And while the role played by the divine will might at first (...)
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  46. John M. DePoe (2011). Berkeley's Master Argument for Idealism. In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  47. Georges Dicker (2013). Berkeley's Argument for Idealism, by Samuel C. Rickless. Mind 122 (488):1183-1187.
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  48. Georges Dicker (2011). Berkeley's Idealism: A Critical Examination. Oxford University Press.
    Berkeley's Idealism both advances Berkeley scholarship and serves as a useful guide for teachers and students.
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  49. Georges Dicker (2008). Anti-Berkeley. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (2):335 – 350.
  50. Georges Dicker (1982). Two Arguments From Perceptual Relativity in Berkeley's Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Southern Journal of Philosophy 20 (4):409-422.
    I argue that philonous gives two versions of the argument from perceptual relativity--One for the secondary qualities and another for the primary. Further, Both versions ultimately turn on the epistemological assumption that every case of perceiving, Regardless of the conditions of observation, Is a case of "knowing" the character of some "object". This assumption is made in order to avoid a vicious regress that arises when one tries to understand how perceptual knowledge is possible.
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