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IT has often been remarked as singular that English literature should possess no complete edition of the works of Bishop Berkeley, and that no tolerable account of the life of one of the greatest philosophers of this nation should have been given to the world.
A few years since I was honoured by a request to undertake the present edition for the Clarendon Press. I have devoted to it some long summer vacations of the Scotch Universities. However imperfectly successful in the result, the work has been the occasion of pleasant hours to one whose own love for philosophy was first engaged by Berkeley in the morning of life, and who regards his writings as among the best in English literature, for a refined education of the heart and the intellect.
Berkeley has suffered more than perhaps any other great modern philosopher from misunderstanding. He lived through the most prosaic and least metaphysical age since the revival of letters : he was himself the greatest metaphysician in his own age.
When reflection returned to the springs of thought and feeling, his philosophical language had in some measure lost the meaning which he intended, and no adequate attempt has since been made to recover his point of view, or to recognise the intellectual influence which, partly originating in him, has since been silently modifying all the deeper thought of the time in physics and in metaphysical philosophy. Is an unknowing and unknown something, called Matter, or is Intelligence the supreme reality; and are men the transient results of material organization, or are they immortal beings? This is Berkeley's implied question. His answer to it, although, in his own works, it has not been thought out by him into its primary principles, or sufficiently guarded in some parts, nevertheless marks the beginning of the second great period in modern thought, that in which we are living. The answer was virtually reversed in Hume, whose exclusive phenomenalism, reproduced in the Positivism of the nineteenth century, led to the Scotch conservative psychology, and to the great German speculation which Kant inaugurated.
It is as a spiritual philosopher, having warm and true sympathy in all human life, that Bishop Berkeley must be looked at, and not at all as a professional ecclesiastic. His writings and his life centre in speculative philosophy. But they radiate from it in various practical and fruitful directions; for his inclination was to what is concrete, at first in a more polemical, but afterwards in a meditative spirit. In their form, his works are numerous and occasional, not individually bulky or systematic.
Four editions of Berkeley's Collected Works have been already published. The first appeared in Dublin, in two quarto volumes, in 1784, more than thirty years after his death. The next was published in London, in three volumes, in 1820. A cheap edition, in one volume, followed in 1837. The last edition was a London one, in two volumes, in 1843. All of them omit important works which should have found a place, and the same works are omitted in all, as if by common consent. No attempt is made in any of them, except to a small extent in the last, to collate and revise the text, which is
founded sometimes on one edition, and sometimes on another. The works are not arranged on any principle -chronological or philosophical.
In the preparation of the present edition I have had the following objects chiefly in view :
(1) To revise the text of the works formerly published, and to present them in a satisfactory arrange
(2) To help the reader to reach Berkeley's own point of view in each work, by means of bibliographical and analytical prefaces, and occasional annotations or brief dissertations, in which the author might be compared with himself, and studied in his relations to the circumstances in which he wrote.
(3) To collect and publish any hitherto unpublished writings of Berkeley which might illustrate his opinions or character.
(4) To offer a comprehensive conception of his implied philosophy as a whole.
It was not easy to apply any satisfactory principle for the arrangement of the Works. On the whole it seemed well to divide them into three groups :—the Pure Philosophical; the Applied Philosophical; and the Miscellaneous, some even of the last containing a pretty distinct metaphysical ingredient.
1. THE PURE PHILOSOPHICAL Works. Four small treatises present Berkeley's exposition of the Metaphysical Philosophy of his youth :1. The Essay towards a New Theory of Vision
(1709). 2. The Treatise concerning the Principles of Human
3. The Three Dialogues (1713).
vindicated and explained (1733).
These form the first volume in the present edition. They contain his reductio ad absurdum of Abstract Matter, and his reasoned exposition of the merely phenomenal nature of the real material world, in opposition to scepticism, and especially to the materialistic denial that Active Intelligence is of the essence of things. The dependent, sui generis, existence of space and the sensible world, in which we nevertheless become aware of what is external to our own subjective personality, is with Berkeley a datum of intuitive experience ; the independent or absolute existence of Matter is, on the contrary, an unintelligible hypothesis. He was the first in modern times to attack the root of what has been called Cosmothetic Idealism, and to lay the foundation, however indistinctly, of a reasoned Natural Realism--by discarding representative images in sense, and accepting instead what he believed to be the facts of consciousness. He maintains, accordingly, the certainty of sense perception, in opposition to ancient and modern sceptics, who dispute the possibility of any ascertainable agreement between our perceptions and reality; and, however defectively, in opposition also to a merely subjective Idealism, like Fichte's, which refers the orderly succession of sensible changes to the laws of the individual mind in which they are perceived.
The last of the four treatises in the first volume is a defence not only of the New Theory of Vision, but also, in a reserved way, of the Philosophy involved in that Theory, which was unfolded twenty years earlier in the Principles and Dialogues. It has hitherto been unaccountably omitted in all the collected editions.