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George Berkeley Birthday Highlights

Birth Name
George Berkeley
Place Of Birth
Thomastown, Ireland
338 years old
Birth Date
December 2 1685

George Berkeley Facts

Child Star?
Education & Qualifications
Trinity College, Dublin
Current Partner
Anne Forster
Henry, William, George, Julia
William Berkeley, Elisabeth Southerne

About George Berkeley

George Berkeley was an Irish philosopher who made significant contributions to the fields of metaphysics and epistemology.

Berkeley was born in 1685 and passed away in 1753. He is best known for his theory of immaterialism, which holds that physical objects do not exist independently of the mind.

Berkeley started his education at Kilkenny College and went on to Trinity College, Dublin. After completing his studies, George Berkeley traveled to continental Europe and spent time in Italy and England. Later, he also went to America and stayed near Rhode Island for a few years. He was ordained as a priest in 1710 and served as the Anglican bishop of Cloyne from 1734 until he died in 1753. Some of George Berkeley's other famous ideas include subjective idealism (the idea that reality consists only of mental phenomena), spiritual monism (the belief that there is only one ultimate substance), and materialism idea (that physical objects are merely ideas in your mind).

George Berkeley was heavily influenced by the writings of John Locke, René Descartes, and David Hume. He harbored lifelong interests in mathematics and philosophy. Even though his work is no longer considered the dominant force in philosophy, he continues to be one of the most influential thinkers of the 18th century. His arguments against materialism were very influential, and they helped shape the way that philosophers think about the world today. In addition, Berkeley's work on the existence of God has been widely studied and debated by philosophers over the years. In this article, we will take a closer look at George Berkeley's life and work and explore some of his most famous ideas!

Childhood And Education

On March 12, 1685, George Berkeley was born to William Berkeley and Elisabeth Southerne. He grew up in Dysert Castle, Thomastown, County Kilkenny. His mother was the daughter of a Dublin brewer, while his father, William Berkeley, and his family originally came to Ireland from Staffordshire, England. In 1696, at the age of 11, George entered the Duke of Ormonde's School, better known as Kilkenny college. After studying there for four years, he shifted to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1700. George had no scholarship and had to pay his college expenses during this time. However, in 1701, at the age of 16, he was elected to the Erasmus Smith exhibition and managed to acquire a scholarship. In the spring of 1704, George completed his B.A. from Trinity College.

Upon graduation, George Berkeley worked on a mathematics textbook where he tried to explore the basis of arithmetical notation and the principal arithmetical processes required by the notation. He named the book 'Arithmetica absque Algebra ait Euclide demonstrata.' He was also looking for a fellowship at Trinity College during this time, but there was no seat available. At last, in 1707, after clearing some extremely competitive examinations, he became a Junior Fellow.

In the same year, Berkeley published his book on mathematics and read his essay 'Of infinites' to the Dublin Philosophical Societies, which remained unpublished till his death. Nonetheless, these works showed that John Locke heavily influenced Berkeley's philosophical ideas.

In 1709, George Berkeley started studying divinity and was ordained as a deacon. In 1710, he was ordained as a priest. He published two of his most celebrated works; 'An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision' (1709) and 'A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge' (1710). From 1713-1724, he traveled through Europe, visiting England, Italy, and France.

In 1716, he went to Italy accompanied by the son of the Trinity College provost, George Ashe and spent the next four years of his life there. From his own writing, it can be seen that he was much astonished by the eruption of Vesuvius in 1717. He described his journey to the mountain, including how the sight and noise affected him. He also vividly described the smoke and the 'murmuring, sighing, throbbing, churning' of the mountain. At last, he wrote how the eruption finally happened after a few days and how it shook the houses of Naples.

Family And Relationships

George Berkeley married Anne Forster in 1728 and before long sailed for America with his wife. Anne Forster was the daughter of the Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas, John Forster, and Rebecca Monck, his first wife. He landed near Newport, Rhode Island, in America and bought a farm at Middletown. In their married life, it is believed that George and Anne had six children, out of which only four (Henry, George, Julia, and William) could survive infancy. William's demise in 1751 contributed much to the declining health of George Berkeley and eventually led to his death in 1753.

Career And Professional Highlights

Best Known For…

George Berkeley is considered one of the greatest modern philosophers for his priceless contribution to the fields of philosophy and mathematics. Here is a list of some of his most celebrated works.

Followed by the publication of his elementary mathematics book, Berkeley penned his first major work, 'An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision,' in 1709. The book dealt with sight and touch, magnitude, and visual distance issues.

The following year, he wrote another masterpiece titled 'A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.' Here Berkeley tried to examine abstract ideas.

In 1712, he published 'Passive Obedience, or the Christian doctrine of not resisting the Supreme Power,' which talked about the issues of moral and political philosophy.

'Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous' was published by Berkeley in 1913.

In 1932, another important of Berkeley, 'Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher,' was published.

One of Berkeley's most important works, 'The Analyst: a Discourse addressed to an Infidel Mathematician,' came out in 1734. In this work, he attacked the principles of Newton's calculus and the notion of infinitesimal change or fluxion that Gottfried Leibniz and Sir Isaac Newton employed to develop calculus.

In his lifetime, George Berkeley published two works on tar water. The first one, 'Siris: a Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries Concerning the Virtues of Tar Water,' came out in 1742, and the second one, 'Farther Thoughts on Tar-water', in 1752.

In 1721, Berkeley wrote an article, which is considered an alarmist piece of Tory social commentary, titled 'An Essay Towards Preventing The Ruin Of Great Britain.' For the disenchanted Irish philosopher, the crisis was a natural result of recklessness, easy money, moral decadence, and corruption of early Hanoverian Britain.

In the same year, Berkeley wrote another essay called 'De Motu' where he refused the theory of absolute space, motion, and time given by Sir Isaac Newton. He submitted this article in a competition held by the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris but failed to win the prize.

The work considered to be one of Berkeley's most brilliant creations is 'The Querist.' During the time period of 1735-1737, the work was published in three parts. Here the philosopher deals with the basic elements of economics, such as demand, credit, industry, and the true idea of money, along with some complex issues like currency, luxury, banking, and the wool trade. The work ends with the most interesting question - who is at fault if poor Ireland remains to be poor?

Lastly, here are some of the most popular books that have been written on Berkeley and his works:

1) 'Berkeley: An Introduction' written by Kenneth P. Winkler

2) 'Berkeley' written by G. J. Warnock

3) 'Berkeley: The Philosophy Of Immaterialism' written by I. C. Tipton

4) 'Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Berkeley and the Principles of Human Knowledge' written by Robert Fogelin

5) 'A History of Irish Thought' written by Thomas Duddy

6) 'Berkeley's Philosophy of Mathematics (Science And Its Conceptual Foundations Series)' authored by Douglas M. Jesseph.

Charity Work

Berkeley is known for raising funds for establishing colleges and setting up schools throughout his life. In 1724, he planned to build a college in Bermuda to educate the sons of colonists and Native Americans. However, he could not raise the estimated budget, and the plan was never executed. Nonetheless, after becoming the Bishop of Cloyne, Berkeley opened a school where children could learn spinning.

When in America, Berkeley was convicted by Samuel Johnson to found a scholarship program at Yale. Berkeley donated a large number of books and also his plantation to the college before coming back to England.

George Berkeley's Hobbies And Interests

Even though George Berkeley remained a bishop until his death, he never lost interest in mathematics and philosophy. He kept studying these subjects and produced many works in his lifetime. In 1752, one year before his demise, he published two works titled 'Farther Thoughts on Tar-water' and 'Miscellany.'

Other Interesting George Berkeley Facts And Trivia

  • When for the first time George Berkeley visited England in 1713, he became friends with some of the intellectuals of the age like Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Richard Steele.
  • In 1749, Berkeley sent 'A Word to the Wise' to the Roman Catholic Clergy. In reply, he received these words: '... their sincere and hearty thanks to the worthy author, assuring him that they are determined to comply with every particular recommended in his address to the utmost of their power. ... in every page [of 'A Word to the Wise'] contains a proof of the author's extensive charity; his views are only towards the public good; the means he prescribes are easily complied with; and his manner of treating persons in their circumstances so very singular, that they plainly show the good man, the polite gentleman, and the true patriot.'
  • Upon becoming a Senior Fellow at Dublin College in 1721, Berkeley took on additional duties such as union dean, librarian, Greek lecturer, Hebrew lecturer, divinity lecturer, and senior proctor.
  • Around 300 writings, including books and articles, were published from 1709 to 1932. From this, it can be easily inferred that the proportion of Berkeley scholarship has increased significantly over the years.
  • George Berkeley resigned from the position of Senior Fellow at Trinity College in 1924 to become Anglican Dean of Londonderry.
  • In 1945, the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty penned a book titled 'Phenomenology Of Perception.' He dealt at length with the same issues raised by Berkeley's theory of vision more than 200 years ago.
  • After its publication, Berkeley sent a copy of 'A Treatise Concerning The Principles of Human Knowledge' to both William Whiston and Samuel Clarke. Whiston, not being a metaphysician, disagreed with Berkeley's conclusion. Even though he criticized the philosophy of metaphysics, Whiston praised Berkeley for his subtleties and keen vision.
  • Berkeley established two awards at Trinity College known as 'Bishop Berkeley's Gold Medals.' The awards are given to the students who show exceptional merit and clear a special examination held in Greek.
  • Berkeley's criticism of calculus is often regarded by scholars (also Berkeley himself) as a defense of traditional Christianity against deism. He challenged Newton's calculus by saying that it lacked rigorous theoretical foundations. He observed that both Leibniz and Newton applied infinitesimals sometimes as a number equal to zero and other times as a positive number with nonzero properties.
  • According to Berkeley, the principle of not resisting the Supreme Power is corroborated by the laws of nature. Even though he says that it is a command of God to humans, to him, this principle also has its root in reason. For example, Berkeley claims that this law of not resisting the Supreme Power is the only thing that stands between total disorder and us (civilization).
  • Most of the theories of this Anglo-Irish philosopher rely on his form of empiricism, which is also completely dependent on the senses. Berkeley's main philosophical claim was that material objects do not exist. He believed that everything in the universe is made up of spirit, and he used his knowledge of theology to support this idea. In addition to arguing against the existence of material objects, Berkeley also argued for the existence of God. According to Berkeley, God is responsible for creating all spirits, including human beings and animals.
  • This empiricism can be articulated with the help of these five propositions:
  • 1) all the words that we know signify ideas;
  • 2) All our knowledge is about these ideas;
  • 3) ideas come to us from two sources, either from within or from outside.
  • 4) the ideas that we receive from within are operations of the mind and are called thoughts;
  • 5) the ideas we receive from the outside come from our senses and are called sensations.
  • In 1752, Berkeley and Anne Forster traveled to Oxford to see their son, George, who had just begun studying at Christ Church; after that, Berkeley decided to stay at Oxford for the rest of his life.
  • The following year, on January 14, Berkeley had a heart attack while listening to his wife reading. He was buried at Christ Church, Oxford, Great Britain, after five days as he had instructed before dying.
  • In 1866, the College of California (now the University of California, Berkeley) was named after George Berkeley. This act of renaming was suggested by a trustee of the college, Fredrick Billings. It is said that Berkeley's 'Verses On The Prospect Of Planting Arts And Learning In America' deeply inspired Billings.

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