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Berkeley's Thought by George S. Pappas

Berkeley's Thought
by George S. Pappas

George Berkeley  1685-1753

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George Berkeley : Idealism and the Man by David Berman.
Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics by Peter B. LloydConsciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics by Peter B. Lloyd 

Modern science has no explanation for consciousness. In this book, the author claims that this is because the conscious mind is simply not physical. To understand consciousness, we must therefore go beyond physical science and into metaphysics. Rigorous philosophical arguments are given by the author to show that the metaphysical theory called 'mental monism' provides the only correct understanding of consciousness. Mental monism turns conventional wisdom on its head. According to this theory, consciousness itself is the primary reality, and the physical world is a derived construct - a convenient fiction that helps us to deal with our experiences of the world. Although this theory may seem paradoxical at first, compelling arguments are given by the author to establish that this is the correct view.

The theory of mental monism was first given a clear statement in Western philosophy by George Berkeley, an eighteenth-century Irish philosopher. Berkeley put forward mental monism as a reaction to the rising tide of mechanistic Newtonian metaphysics, which had gained popularity by riding on the back of the scientific revolution. The stranglehold of materialism has lasted three hundred years, but there is now a growing awareness of the inability of physical science to address the problem of consciousness. Burgeoning interest in consciousness studies makes this an ideal time to revisit mental monism and reassess its value.

The hegemony of the Newtonian world-view has been so powerful that the Berkeleian approach has been almost totally excluded from curricula of teaching and research in academic philosophy. Outside academia, remnants of Berkeley's vision have been transmitted only in the 'New Thought' religious groups of the United States, such as Christian Science and Science of Mind. Ironically, the immaterialism of traditional Hindu and Buddhism philosophies is now more widely known in the West than its own indigenous form of idealism. The author seeks to redress this balance, by presenting Berkeleian thinking as a strong candidate for the best way to understand reality.

The reigning orthodoxy in neuroscience is that the conscious mind is reducible to information processing in the brain. Versions of this orthodox view range from crude mind-brain identity to the seemingly sophisticated notions of functionalism and of the conscious mind as an emergent property. Those versions, however, share basic flaws that undermine any physicalist account of the mind. The author carries out a sustained and detailed critique of this orthodoxy, showing that it is not a tenable position. At the very least, we can conclude that the conscious mind is part of a mental world, distinct from the physical world.

Part of the critique rests on thought-experiments that involve surgical modifications of a conscious brain. In one experiment, the physical substrate of a single experience within the subject's mind is removed from the subject's brain. It is then shown that interfering with that corpus yields contradictory predictions according to physicalism. In another experiment (following Pylyshyn and Chalmers), the cells of a conscious brain are progressively replaced by artificial components that have the same in-vitro functional behavior.

The author then presents a second, and more subtle, line of argument. This shows that the conscious must, in fact, be the primary reality. The physical world is relegated to a fiction that conveniently lets us handle our conscious experiences more easily. Essentially, this argument is a modernized form of Berkeley's semantic argument. The author has taken on board the more recent insights into the philosophy of language offered by Wittgenstein, and makes use of the idea of a hierarchy of language-games. For example, the discourse of physical science is regarded as a subsidiary language-game to that of phenomenal experience. This approach enables us to avoid the paradoxes of saying that everyday objects, such as tables, exist in one sense but not in another.

Given the radical nature of mental monism, the author recognizes that any presentation of the theory raises questions about the purpose of philosophical argumentation. It is implausible to suppose that anybody would revise their fundamental notion of reality just on the basis of a piece of reasoning. Revising one's beliefs and concepts at such a deep level can be achieved only by apprehending a new perspective: the world must be seen anew. Whilst the philosophical arguments must be given, and must be rigorous, nevertheless it they are impotent to change people's fundamental view of reality. That insight, that new vision, can be achieved only by contemplation of one's personal encounter with reality. The author hopes that this book will help to steer the reader's contemplation in that direction.

Whilst mental monism solves the philosophical mind-body problem at a stroke, it nonetheless encounters substantial technical problems, because it must give an explanatory account of the structure and function of the natural world, including the mind itself. The author outlines an approach to modeling the mind purely in the mental domain, without any physical substrate to fall back on.

This book is an exciting and stimulating contribution to the modern debate on the nature of the conscious mind. The author adheres to rigorous philosophical reasoning, whilst presenting the issues and arguments clearly with a minimum of technical terminology. Advocating a position that is highly unorthodox, the author expects his views to receive strong opposition. Nevertheless, the book has the merit of giving a clear and forceful statement of one possible solution to an entrenched problem

Click here for more information about Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics

Paranormal Phenomena and Berkeley's Metaphysics by Peter B. LloydThe author's companion book, Paranormal Phenomena and Berkeley's Metaphysics explores the relevance of mental monism to providing a coherent explanatory account of psi phenomena.

About the Author

Peter Lloyd took a mathematics degree at Cardiff University in 1981. After graduating, he remained at the university for six years, carrying out research in solar engineering, combined with developing computer for engineering research. He then moved to Oxford for six years, where he developed software for a clinical trials research group in Oxford University. During that time, he studied philosophy in evening classes under Dr Michael Lockwood. After leaving academia, he has been working as a freelance software developer, and studying and writing philosophy in his spare time. He shares a house with his girlfriend in West Hampstead, London, England.

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George Berkeley Biography 

Biography by Peter Landry at


Berkeley, born in Ireland, was educated at Trinity college, Dublin. He eventually became an Anglican bishop. As a young man he published a number of philosophical works. In 1713 came to London and from there, at the expense of a rich family who required a chaplain and a tutor, traveled to France and Italy; he spent the best part of seven years on the continent (shades of John Locke.) By 1721, Berkeley had returned back to Ireland, and, in 1728, he sailed for America for the purpose "of founding a college at the Bermudas for the Christian civilization of America." He did not achieve his purpose. After having spent three years at Rhode Island he returned back to England...


International Berkeley Society

The International Berkeley Society (founded in 1975) holds meetings, conferences, and symposia, and publishes the results of scholarly research on both sides of the Atlantic and brings attention and information, both old and new, about George Berkeley and his works.


Berkeley Web

Page dedicated to Berkeley.  

Site Includes:

bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) (
bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) (
bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) (
bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (
bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (
bulletA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (
bulletThree Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (1713) (
bulletThe Analyst (1734) ( versions in HTML, LaTex, PostScript
bulletThe Analyst (1734) (
bulletThe Querist Containing several Queries Proposed to the Consideration of the Public (1735-37) (
bulletThe Querist Containing several Queries Proposed to the Consideration of the Public (1735-37) (
bulletThe Querist Containing several Queries Proposed to the Consideration of the Public (1735-37) (
bulletA Defense of Free-Thinking in Mathematics ( versions in HTML, LaTex, PostScript
bulletReasons for not replying to Mr. Walton's Full Answer ( versions in HTML, LaTex, PostScript


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