Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

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Copyright © Jonathan Bennett Square [brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. First launched: July 2004 * * * * * * * * * Principles of Human Knowledge By George Berkeley Introduction ............................................... 1 1-33 ......................................................... 11 34-84 ........................................................ 19 85-118 ...................................................... 34 118-134 .................................................... 45 135-56 ...................................................... 50 Introduction 1 intro. Philosophy is just the study of wisdom and truth, so one might reasonably expect that those who have spent most time and care on it would enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, know things more clearly and certainly, and be less disturbed with doubts and difficulties than other men. But what we find is ·quite different, namely that· the illiterate majority of people, who walk the high road of plain common sense and are governed by the dictates of nature, are mostly comfortable and undisturbed. To them nothing that is familiar appears hard to explain or to understand. They don’t complain of any lack of certainty in their senses, and are in no danger of becoming sceptics. But as soon as we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a higher principle - ·that is·, to reason, meditate, and reflect on the nature of things - a thousand doubts spring up in our minds concerning things that we previously seemed to understand fully. We encounter many prejudices and errors of the senses; and when we try to correct these by reason, we are gradually drawn into crude paradoxes, difficulties, and inconsistencies, which multiply and grow upon us as our thoughts progress; until finally, having wandered through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves back where we started or - which is worse - we sit down in a forlorn scepticism. 2 intro. The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of things or the natural weakness and imperfection of our understandings. It is said our faculties are few in number and are designed by nature ·merely· to promote survival and comfort, not to penetrate into the inward essence and constitution of things. Besides, it is not surprising that the finite mind of man runs into absurdities and contradictions - ones from which it cannot possibly 1
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