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.
Related categories

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  1. added 2018-12-05
    Berkeleyan Idealism, Christianity, and the Problem of Evil.John M. DePoe - 2017 - Philosophia Christi 19 (2):401-413.
  2. added 2018-08-27
    George Berkeley.Daniele Bertini - 2018 - Aphex 18.
    George Berkeley (1685-1753) is one of the most influential early modern philosophers, and in reason of this a never-ending critical interest focuses on his works. Such a critical attention gave rise to a broad literature and it is in fact quite easy to find valuable introductory books to Berkeley's works. It would be thus superfluous to provide a further summary of the entire production of Berkeley. Rather, I focus on a specific issue, namely the main points of interest of immaterialism (...)
  3. added 2018-06-19
    Language and the Structure of Berkeley’s World. [REVIEW]Eugene Callahan - forthcoming - British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-4.
  4. added 2018-06-19
    An Intuitionistic Defence of Berkeley’s Master Argument.Conor McGlynn - forthcoming - Analysis:any010.
    Berkeley’s ‘master argument’ for idealism has been the subject of extensive criticism. Two of his strongest critics, A.N. Prior and J.L. Mackie, argue that due to various logical confusions on the part of Berkeley, the master argument fails to establish his idealist conclusion. Prior argues that Berkeley’s argument ‘proves too little’ in its conclusion, while Mackie contends that Berkeley confuses two different kinds of self-refutation in his argument. This paper proposes a defence of the master argument based on intuitionistic argument. (...)
  5. added 2018-06-19
    La crítica de George Berkeley al representacionalismo de John Locke.Alberto Oya - 2018 - Anales Del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía 35 (1):109-126.
    En su Tratado sobre los principios del conocimiento humano, George Berkeley ofrece una serie de argumentos cuyo objetivo es criticar la tesis materialista. Mi propósito en este artículo es reconstruir y analizar en detalle estos argumentos. Dado que la crítica de Berkeley al materialismo es, fundamentalmente, una crítica al materialismo representacionalista de John Locke, empezaré este artículo explicando cuáles son las ideas básicas de la propuesta de Locke.
  6. added 2018-06-19
    Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. [REVIEW]Melissa Frankel - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2017.
  7. added 2018-06-19
    Reviewed Works: The Early Reception of Berkeley's Immaterialism, 1710-1733 by Harry M. Bracken; George Berkeley by Andre-Louis Leroy. [REVIEW]Walter B. Carter - 1960 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 21 (2):271.
  8. added 2018-03-14
    The Scope of Berkeley's Idealism in the 1734 Edition of Three Dialogues.Stefan Storrie - 2018 - In Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 160-175.
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  9. added 2018-03-14
    Berkeley's Semiotic Idealism.Keota Fields - 2018 - In Stefan Storrie (ed.), Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 61-83.
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  10. added 2018-02-17
    On Certainty, Skepticism and Berkeley's Idealism.Tero Vaaja - 2011 - SATS 12 (2):253-265.
    In this paper, I survey the way Wittgenstein reacts to radical philosophical doubt in his On Certainty.He deems skeptical doubt in some important cases idle, pointless or otherwise negligible. I point out that several passages of On Certainty make it difficult to judge whether Wittgenstein intends to address a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist. Drawing attention to the anti-skeptical nature of Berkeley’s idealism, I go on to argue that the question is far from trivial: rather, it affects the way we (...)
  11. added 2018-01-17
    George Berkeley and Jonathan Edwards on Idealism: Considering an Old Question in Light of New Evidence.Scott Fennema - forthcoming - Intellectual History Review:1-26.
  12. added 2018-01-17
    Is Shepherd's Pen Mightier Than Berkeley's Word?Samuel C. Rickless - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (2):317-330.
    In 1827, Lady Mary Shepherd published Essays on the Perception of an External Universe, which offers both an argument for the existence of a world of external bodies existing outside our minds and a criticism of Berkeley's argument for idealism in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. In this paper, I evaluate Margaret Atherton's criticisms of Shepherd's case against Berkeley, and provide reasons for thinking that, although Shepherd's particular criticisms of Berkeley do not succeed, she correctly identifies an (...)
  13. added 2018-01-17
    Action, Knowledge and Embodiment in Berkeley and Locke.Tom Stoneham - 2018 - Philosophical Explorations 21 (1):41-59.
    Embodiment is a fact of human existence which philosophers should not ignore. They may differ to a great extent in what they have to say about our bodies, but they have to take into account that for each of us our body has a special status, it is not merely one amongst the physical objects, but a physical object to which we have a unique relation. While Descartes approached the issue of embodiment through consideration of sensation and imagination, it is (...)
  14. added 2018-01-17
    Kantian Phenomenalism Without Berkeleyan Idealism.Tim Jankowiak - 2017 - Kantian Review 22 (2):205-231.
  15. added 2017-10-12
    George Berkeley: els arguments positius a favor del immaterialisme i el principi de semblança.Alberto Oya - 2017 - Comprendre 19 (1):83-92.
    L'objectiu d'aquest article és oferir un anàlisi dels arguments principals del Tractat sobre els Principis del Coneixement Humà, de G. Berkeley. Aquests arguments -que es troben a I, §4, I, §5-7 i I, §23 de l'obra de Berkeley- tenen como a objectiu demostrar la inconcebibilitat d'un món extern de caràcter físic. Argumentaré que la validesa d'aquests tres arguments depèn del anomenat «principi de semblança». La conclusió a la que arribaré és que l'acceptació del principi de semblança -i, en conseqüència, dels (...)
  16. added 2017-09-04
    Berkeley on Inconceivability and Impossibility.Thomas Holden - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Contrary to a popular reading of his modal epistemology, Berkeley does not hold that inconceivability entails impossibility, and he cannot therefore argue the impossibility of mind-independent matter by appealing to facts about what we cannot conceive. Berkeley is explicit about this constraint on his metaphysical argumentation, and, I argue, does respect it in practice. Popular mythology about the ‘master argument’ notwithstanding, the only passages in which he might plausibly seem to employ the principle that inconceivability entails impossibility are those that (...)
  17. added 2017-06-12
    Byl Berkeley skutečně imaterialista?Martin Kovář - 2014 - Studia Philosophica 61 (2):77-90.
    In this work I attempt to provide a materialist interpretation of Berkeley’s view of the world. In my opinion, we can already see this view in his early writings A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. My belief is based on Berkeley’s emphasis on common sense and the concept of God as the guarantor of the recognizability of the world. I also show that Berkeley understands the concepts of real and material as (...)
  18. added 2017-06-12
    Berkeley's Immaterialist Account of Action.Patrick Fleming - 2006 - Journal of the History of Ideas 44:415-429.
    A number of critics have argued that Berkeley's metaphysics can offer no tenable account of human agency. In this paper I argue that Berkeley does have a coherent account of action. The paper addresses arguments by C.C. W. Taylor, Robert Imlay, and Jonathan Bennett. The paper attempts to show that Berkeley can offer a theory of action, maintain many of our common intuitions about action, and provide a defensible solution to the problem of evil.
  19. added 2017-06-12
    Robert G. Muehlmann, "Berkeley's Ontology". [REVIEW]Lisa Downing - 1994 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 32 (2):309.
  20. added 2017-06-12
    I. C. Tipton, "Berkeley: The Philosophy of Immaterialism". [REVIEW]Harry M. Bracken - 1976 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 14 (2):235.
  21. added 2017-06-05
    From Logical Positivism Back to Bishop Berkeley.Robin Stenwall - unknown
  22. added 2017-06-05
    Particles and Ideas: Bishop Berkeley's Corpuscularian Philosophy. Gabriel Moked.Margaret J. Osler - 1991 - Isis 82 (1):143-144.
  23. added 2017-06-05
    Berkeley's Conception of Objectivity in the Physical World.Alden O. Weber - 1941 - Philosophical Review 50 (5):461-470.
  24. added 2017-06-05
    Neue Dialoge Zwischen Hylas Und Philonous. Gespräche Über den Kausalzusammenhang des Bewusstseins Und Die Grundlagen der Transcendentalen Philosophie. [REVIEW]G. V. J. Mc - 1939 - Journal of Philosophy 36 (17):474-475.
  25. added 2017-04-12
    A Straightforward Solution to Berkeley's Puzzle.John Campbell - 2012 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 18 (1):31-49.
  26. added 2017-04-12
    7. Berkeley and the Argument From Perceptual Variation.Alan Hausman & David Hausman - 1997 - In Alan Hausman & David Hausman (eds.), Descartes's Legacy: Mind and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy. University of Toronto Press. pp. 99-111.
  27. added 2017-04-12
    A Categorial Difficulty in Berkeley.Harry A. Nielsen - 1980 - Philosophy Research Archives 6:393-401.
    In Principles of Human Knowledge Berkeley speaks of the sensible qualities of an apple as being its parts. The paper argues that our words for sense-qualities play a role so unlike that of part-words that verbal atrocities would result from treating qualities as parts. Berkeley lends a surface plausibility to this move by focusing on a narrow selection of the normal linguistic accompaniment of the noun 'apple'. He puts out of mind the language of 'doing things with apples'— peeling, dicing, (...)
  28. added 2017-04-12
    Archetypes and Ideas.Eugen Bär - 1976 - Philosophy Today 20 (2):114-123.
  29. added 2017-04-12
    IX—Leibniz and Berkeley.J. J. MacIntosh - 1971 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 71 (1):147-164.
  30. added 2017-04-12
    The Argument for Sensationism as Drawn From Dr. Berkeley.E. B. Holt - 1934 - Psychological Review 41 (6):509-533.
  31. added 2017-04-12
    III.—Notes on Berkeley's Doctrine of Esse.C. Lloyd Morgan - 1915 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 15 (1):100-139.
  32. added 2017-03-20
    Berkeley's Master Argument: Its Form and Implications.Reginald Williams - unknown
  33. added 2017-03-20
    Immaterialism.Vilém Flusser - 2012 - Philosophy of Photography 2 (2):215-219.
  34. added 2017-03-20
    5. A New Approach to Berkeley's Ideal Reality.Alan Hausman & David Hausman - 1997 - In Alan Hausman & David Hausman (eds.), Descartes's Legacy: Mind and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy. University of Toronto Press. pp. 65-78.
  35. added 2017-03-20
    XI—Materialism and Immaterialism.M. J. Budd - 1970 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 70 (1):197-220.
  36. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley’s Argument for Idealism, by Samuel C. Rickless.: Book Reviews. [REVIEW]Georges Dicker - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):1183-1187.
  37. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley on the Numerical Identity of What Several Immediately Perceive.Richard Glauser - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (8):517-530.
    Although several passages in Berkeley are related to the question whether two or more finite substances can simultaneously perceive numerically identical sensible ideas, it is only in TDHP that he addresses the question explicitly and in some detail. Yet, Berkeley’s less than straightforward reply is notoriously difficult to pin down. Some commentators take Berkeley to be endorsing a clear‐cut positive reply, whereas others have him giving an emphatically negative one; others hold that for Berkeley there is no fact of the (...)
  38. added 2017-02-22
    A Metaphysics for the Mob: The Philosophy of George Berkeley. [REVIEW]Dale Jacquette - 2011 - Faith and Philosophy 28 (4):468-472.
  39. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley and Gentile: A Reading of Berkeley’s Master Argument.Daniele Bertini - 2007 - 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 (...)
  40. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley’s Epistemic Ontology: The Principles.Daniel E. Flage - 2004 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (1):25-60.
  41. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley and the ‘Mighty Difficulty’: The Idealist Lesson of the Inverted Retinal Image.Gideon Yaffe - 2003 - Philosophical Topics 31 (1/2):485-510.
  42. added 2017-02-22
    Epistemology and Ontology In Kant’s Critique of Berkeley.Ted Kinnaman - 2002 - Idealistic Studies 32 (3):203-220.
    Despite apparent similarities between them, in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics and in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant makes several attempts to distinguish his idealism from Berkeley’s. I argue that Kant’s arguments in three of the four places where he explicitly distances himself from Berkeley are insufficient to their task because they attack only Berkeley’s empiricism rather than his immaterialism. Although a close reading of the Refutation of Idealism lies beyond the scope of this (...)
  43. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley’s Metaphysics. [REVIEW]Jody L. Graham - 1998 - Dialogue 37 (2):411-413.
  44. added 2017-02-22
    The Theological Orthodoxy of Berkeley’s Immaterialism.James S. Spiegel - 1996 - Faith and Philosophy 13 (2):216-235.
    Ever since George Berkeley first published Principles of Human Knowledge his metaphysics has been opposed by, among others, some Christian philosophers who allege that his ideas fly in the face of orthodox Christian belief. The irony is that Berkeley’s entire professional career is marked by an unwavering commitment to demonstrating the reasonableness of the Christian faith. In fact, Berkeley’s immaterialist metaphysical system can be seen as an apologetic device. In this paper, I inquire into the question whether Berkeley’s immaterialist metaphysics (...)
  45. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley's Ontology.Robert G. Muehlmann - 1994 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 184 (3):386-387.
  46. added 2017-02-22
    Berkeley's Ontology.Robert G. Muehlmann - 1994 - Philosophical Review 103 (3):580-582.
  47. added 2017-02-22
    Kant and Dogmatic Idealism: A Defense of Kant’s Refutation of Berkeley.Vance G. Morgan - 1993 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 31 (2):217-237.
  48. added 2017-02-22
    Robinson on Berkeley: “Bad Faith” or Naive Idealism?Neil Levi & Michael P. Levine - 1992 - Idealistic Studies 22 (2):163-178.
  49. added 2017-02-22
    Divine Ideas: The Cure-All For Berkeley’s Immaterialism?Leopold Stubenberg - 1990 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 28 (2):221-249.
  50. added 2017-02-22
    Adversary Metaphysics.George S. Pappas - 1983 - Philosophy Research Archives 9:571-585.
    Berkeley construes his own immaterialist philosophy as facing a serious competitor, namely, what he often termed ‘materialism.’ He tries on several grounds to eliminate materialism from the competition, thus leaving immaterialism as the most plausible metaphysical theory of perception and the external world. In this paper these grounds are explored, and it is found that Berkeley’s method for rational choice between materialism and immaterialism involves consideration of a host of criteria for choice between competitive theories.
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