Review of Metaphysics 28 (2):339-339 (1974)

This is a systematic and critical account of Berkeley’s philosophy of science. Brook’s intention is to evaluate Berkeley’s analysis of significant scientific concepts, his general theories in optics, physics, and mathematics, and finally Berkeley’s own interpretation and criticism of Newton’s principles. That Berkeley’s writings are pervaded with ambiguities, inconsistencies, and misinterpretations of Newton seems to be the conclusion that Brook reaches, although he does distinguish in the writings the areas in which he feels Berkeley is on target. Berkeley conceived the purpose of science to be the practical mastery of nature, and his philosophy is indicative of a phase in the evolution of a "new" science that had its roots as far back as Galileo who envisioned a universe that could be read off in terms of mathematical relationships. This view entailed the overthrow of traditional physics and its concern with substantial forms and qualitative changes. As Brook points out, the object of physics for Berkeley is a phenomenal order that can at best display only uniformities, efficient causality belongs to the realm of metaphysics. Brook does not go into the metaphysical or historical foundations of Berkeley’s philosophy of science, but his first chapter on the theory of signification presents sufficient background for the more detailed and complex chapters that deal with his theory of vision, philosophy of physics and mathematics. This is not an easy book to read, and the chapter on Berkeley’s mathematics may prove to be especially difficult to those who lack an orientation to this field. Yet Brooks could hardly do better than he does considering the obscurities and obfuscatory trappings that are to be found in the primary sources from which he is working. A good bibliography is included that should serve to facilitate a reading of this book. Brook’s study is the only work to date that takes into account Berkeley’s scientific works as a whole and not just some aspects.—K.R.M.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1974282162
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