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Berkeley's Immaterialism and Kant's Transcendental Idealism

  • M. R. Ayers


Ever since its first publication critics of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason have been struck by certain strong formal resemblances between transcendental idealism and Berkeley's immaterialism. Both philosophers hold that the sensible world is mind-dependent, and that from this very mind-dependence we can draw a refutation of scepticism of the senses.



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1 Principles of Human Knowledge, I, 8791.

2 Principles, I, 3034.

3 Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Smith, N. Kemp (New York: St Martin's Press, 1965), A376.

4 Principles, I, 90.

5 Principles, I, 56.

6 Critique, A373.

7 Turbayne, C. M., ‘Kant's Refutation of Dogmatic Idealism’, Philosophical Quarterly (1955); republished as ‘Kant's Relation to Berkeley’ in Kant Studies Today, Beck, L. W. (ed.) (La Salle: Open Court, 1969).

8 Justin, G. D., ‘On Kant's Analysis of Berkeley’, Kant Studien (1974); Allison, H. E., ‘Kant's Critique of Berkeley’, Journal of the History of Philosophy (1973). Margaret Wilson, in ‘Kant and the Dogmatic Idealism of Berkeley’, Journal of the History of Philosophy (1971), had argued that Kant's criticisms do correspond to important differences from Berkeley but also indicate that Kant did not know Berkeley's theory well.

9 Critique, B70f.

10 Critique, H274f.

11 Siris, 271.

12 Cf. Principles, I, 7, 73f, etc.

13 Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, trans. Lucas, P. G. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962), 374. Numerical reference follows the pagination of the Berlin Academy edition of the Collected Works.

14 The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, Luce, A. and Jessop, T. (eds) (London: Nelson, 1953), V, 14ff.

15 For explicit mention of ‘pure intellect’ in earlier works cf. Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, I (Works, II, 153) and De Motu, 53. But the wellknown theory of ‘notions’ is also endorsement of a quasi-Cartesian pure intellect (without innate ideas). Cf. Principles, I, 27f., 89, 140 and 142; Three Dialogues, III, 232f.

16 Principles of Philosophy, II, trans. Haldane, E. and Ross, G. (New York: Dover, 1955), 10f.

17 Elements of Philosophy, II, vii, 2.

18 Elements, II, viii, 1.

19 Syntagma, Second Part, I, ii, 1, as translated by Brush, C., Selected Works of Pierre Gassendi (New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1972).

20 Cf. Divine Dialogues, I.

21 Principia Mathematica, Def. VIII Schol.

22 Op. cit., II, xiii, 10.

23 Principles, I, 110116, etc.

24 Optics, qu. 28.

25 Prolegomena, 374f., quoted by Allison, , 60.

26 Prolegomena, 286.

27 Prologomena, 289.

28 Critique, A51 (B75). In Kemp Smith's translation, ‘intuitions without concepts are blind’.

29 Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, 45et passim.

30 Cf. Essay, IV, xi, 2, etc. I do not mean to imply that it is not also helpful towards understanding Berkeley to consider Descartes' rather different account of perceptual beliefs, and in fact Principles of Philosophy, II, 1, seems to set the scene rather neatly for the Berkeleyan theory. But Berkeley does allude specifically to the features of Locke's account described here.

31 Cf. Essay, II, xxx, 2; II, xxxi, 2; etc.

32 Cf. Three Dialogues, III, 239; Theory of Vision Vindicated, 11ff.; Philosophical Commentaries, 80, 112.

33 Prolegomena, 374.

34 Cf. Historical and Critical Dictionary, article ‘Leucippus’.

35 See Turbayne, , 226.

36 Clavis Universalis, II, iii.

37 Bayle, , Dictionary, article ‘Zeno’; Collier, Clavis, II, iv.

38 On the one hand, in the early notebooks known as Philosophical Commentaries; on the other, in The Analyst and A Defence of Free-Thinking in Mathematics.

39 Three Dialogues, I, 188ff.

40 Three Dialogues, I, 189. Cf. Locke, , Essay, II, viii, 21.

41 Principles, I, 11.

42 Arnauld, and Nicole, , Logic, or the Art of Thinking, IV, i, as translated by J. Dickoff and P. James (Indianapolis 1964).

43 Search After Truth I, vi, as translated by T. Lennon and P. Olscamp (Columbus: Ohio State University Press 1980).

44 Dictionary, article ‘Zeno’.

45 Principles, I, 47.

46 Essay, II, xv, 9.

47 New Theory of Vision, 85; cf. Three Dialogues, III, 245.

48 Critique, A439 (B467).

49 Critique, A487f. (B515f.) and A505 (B533).

50 Essay, II, xiii, 4.

51 New Essays on Human Understanding, II, xiii, 4, trans. P. Remnant and J. Bennett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

52 Cf. Putnam, H., ‘Meaning and Reference’ in Mind, Language and Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975).

53 Essay, II, xiv.

54 Principles of Philosophy, I, 55ff.

55 Cf. Gassendi, , Objections to Descartes' Meditations, II, 6, 9; Malebranche, , Search after Truth, III, ii, 7; Locke, , Essay, IV, iii, 16f.; IV, iii, 29; IV, vi, 14.

56 Three Dialogues, I, 190.

57 Principles, I, 98.


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