In this set of previously unpublished essays, noted scholars from North America and Europe describe how the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1684-1753) continues to inspire debates about his views on knowledge, reality, God, freedom, mathematics, and religion. Here discussions about Berkeley’s account of physical objects, minds, and God’s role in human experience are resolved within explicitly ethical and theological contexts. This collection uses debates about Berkeley’s immaterialism and theory of ideas to open up a discussion of how divine activity and human experience are reconciled in a recurring appeal to the laws of nature. In that context, objects in the world are linked to one another by means of the perceptions and affections whereby minds come into being. The laws of nature thus become crucial for Berkeley in revealing how objects are unintelligible apart from being apprehended by minds that are themselves connected to one another in virtue of their ideas.
Overall, the essays indicate that, for Berkeley, our apprehension of the world as real depends on recognizing how the world expressed by our ideas is not a mere aggregate of disconnected bodies but is rather an integrated unity of the things we experience. This provides an antidote against the loss of unity created by Descartes’ isolation of the self from nature and Locke’s account of objects in terms of simple, discrete ideas.
In juxtaposing discussions of Berkeley’s later writings with his earlier works, this volume shows not only how, for Berkeley, mind is intrinsically linked to things in nature as the principle of their determination in law-governed ways, but also how minds are practically related to the objects of the physical world, one another, and ultimately God.
New Interpretations of Berkeley's Thought by Stephen H. Daniel