Who is George Berkeley?

  • (noun): Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop who opposed the materialism of Thomas Hobbes (1685-1753).
    Synonyms: Berkeley, Bishop Berkeley

George Berkeley

George Berkeley ( /ˈbɑrkliː/; 12 March 1685 – 14 January 1753), also known as Bishop Berkeley (Bishop of Cloyne), was an Anglo-Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism" (later referred to as "subjective idealism" by others). This theory denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived. Thus, as Berkeley famously put it, for physical objects "esse est percipi" ("to be is to be perceived"). Berkeley is also known for his critique of abstraction, an important premise in his argument for immaterialism.

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    There being in the make of an English mind a certain gloom and eagerness, which carries to the sad extreme; religion to fanaticism; free-thinking to atheism; liberty to rebellion.
    —George Berkeley (1685–1753)