Berkeley, George

Berkeley, George bishop of Cloyne, was born at Kilcrin March 12, 1684, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1707 he published Arithmetica absque Algebra aut Euclide demonstrata; and in 1709 appeared his well-known Theory of Vision, the first work in which an attempt was made to distinguish the immediate operations of the senses from the deductions which we habitually draw from our sensations. In 1710 appeared his Principles of Human Knowledge, in which he propounded the novel doctrine that what we call matter has no actual existence, and that the impressions which we believe that we receive from it are not, in fact, derived from any thing external to ourselves, but are produced within us by a certain disposition of the mind, the immediate operation of God. In 1724 he was made dean of Derry, and in the year following published his propositions for the conversion of the American savages by means of a college in the Bermudas. The design was received with favor by the government and by individuals, and great promises of money were made to him, such as to induce him to resign his living, worth £1100 a year, and to embark with his wife in order to purchase land for the intended College of St. Paul and to prepare for its foundation. Landing at Newport, R. I., he remained there for two years, and, finding all his expectations of assistance vain, he was compelled to return to England, and thus ended a noble scheme, to complete which he had spent seven years of his life, resigned his actual preferment, and refused a bishopric, declaring that he would rather have the office of superior in the new college of St. Paul than be primate of all England, this superiorship being actually worth to him £100 a year. In 1732 he published Alciphron, 2 vols. 8vo, the design of which work was to refute the various systems of atheism, fatalism, and scepticism. At length, in 1734, he was raised to the see of Cloyne. He continued to put forth from time to time works calculated to advance the cause of Christianity and his country, refused to exchange his see for that of Clogher, although the income was twice as great, and died at Oxford Jan. 14, 1753. His Works, with a Life of the Author, by Wright, were reprinted, with a translation of the Latin essays, in 1843 (London, 2 vols. 8vo). Mackintosh says that Berkeley's writings afford the finest models of philosophical style since Cicero. His style is very clear, and his bold method of thinking, and absence of all adhesion to great authorities, make his works even now valuable to the student. These same qualities make them difficult to describe, and the peculiar nature of the subjects which he treated has caused them to be misrepresented, so that their true scope is less understood than that of any other writings of his day. — Landon, Eccl. Dict. 2, 1.8; New Englander, 7, 474; Engl. Cyclopcedia; Sprague, Annals, 5, 63; Tennemann, Manual Hist. Philippians § 349; Mackintosh, History of Ethics, p. 130, North Amer. Rev. Jan. 1855; Christian Rev. April, 1861, art. 7; Lewes, Hist. of Philosophy, 2, 281, 3d ed.; Morison, Life of Bernard (Lond. 1877, 12mo).

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