Copyright © Jonathan Bennett
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The Second Dialogue starts at page 28, the Third at page 41.
First launched: July 2004.
Last amended: July 2006
Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, in opposition
to Sceptics and Atheists.
By George Berkeley
THE FIRST DIALOGUE
Good morning, Hylas: I didn’t expect to find you out and about so early.
It is indeed somewhat unusual: but my thoughts were so taken up with a subject I was
talking about last night that I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to get up and walk in the garden.
That’s good! It gives you a chance to see what innocent and agreeable pleasures you lose
every morning. Can there be a pleasanter time of the day, or a more delightful season of the year?
That purple sky, those wild but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant bloom upon the trees and
flowers, the gentle influence of the rising sun, these and a thousand nameless beauties of nature
inspire the soul with secret raptures. But I’m afraid I am interrupting your thoughts; for you
seemed very intent on something.
Yes, I was, and I’d be grateful if you would allow me to carry on with it. But I don’t in the
least want to deprive myself of your company, for my
thoughts always flow more easily in
conversation with a friend than when I am alone. Please, may I share with you the thoughts I have
With all my heart! It is what I would have requested myself, if you had not got in first.
I was considering the odd fate of those men who have in all ages, through a desire to mark
themselves off from the common people or through heaven knows what trick of their thought,
claimed either to believe nothing at all or to believe the most extravagant things in the world. This
wouldn’t matter so much if their paradoxes and scepticism did not bring consequences that are
bad for mankind in general. But there’s a risk that they
do that, and that when men who are
thought to have spent their whole time in the pursuit of knowledge claim to be entirely ignorant of
everything, or advocate views that are in conflict with plain and commonly accepted principles,
this will tempt other people - who have less leisure for this sort of thing - to become suspicious of
the most important truths, ones that they had previously thought to be sacred and unquestionable.
I entirely agree with you about the bad effects of the paraded doubts of some philosophers
and the fantastical views of others. I have felt this so strongly in recent times that I have dropped
some of the high-flown theories I had learned in their universities, replacing them with ordinary