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Out of doors, in common daylight, which has occupied for ages the common air, in the life which he closest thoughts of the greatest enjoyed fully, with all his young thinkers. The carpenter who made faculties strung to its pleasures and this bit of oak or mahogany into its wonders, Berkeley was as other shape, no doubt, with open mouth men. A keen observation of every- and eyes, and with inextinguishable thing going on around him is ap- laughter, would tell the philosopher parent in his letters. The “horrible all about it; but the philosopher, rocks" of the Alpine passes make for his part, knows nothing about his heart melt within him ; the it. He cannot tell how that dead miseries he sees in France as he thing can be. He looks at it on passes through it "spoil his mirth." every side, and can make nothing Wherever he goes it is with open of it. Is it the shadow of some eyes, full of vivacity and human mysterious unknown thing which kindness. This is the world we exists unseen, unfathomable, in the live in, the world familiar and wide wastes of earth ? or is it only homely, whose facts are incontest- so far as it impresses its likeness able, whose delights console, whose upon a seeing eye that it exists at horrors appal us. In respect to its all? This is the question he makes stones and its posts, its roses and to the blank silence, which gives its landscapes, Berkeley is at one him no reply. The conclusion come with all mankind.
to by the philosophy of Locke But lift the curtain which hangs was, that a vast phantom called over the door of the philosopher's Matter did exist in the world study, and it is a different world that houses and mountains, and which you enter. He sits there in even tables and chairs, were, in the silence, with his books round some shadowy way, because of this him, with his desk before him, a vast substantial soul, if such an exmusing and bewildered creature, pression may be used, which was and asks himself what is real, and behind them. As the soul lives, what is a vain show. In that silence according to the Christian faith, there is but one thing that makes because God lives, so things were, itself evident, so as no man can according to philosophy, because contradict it. He himself is that Matter was. What it was, how it is the point from which he starts. was, or what connection it had with It may not, perhaps, be capable of all these eccentric signs of its preelaborate demonstration, but yet it sence, nobody could tell any more is, even by a philosopher, indisput- than anybody, unassisted by the able. He is there, but what are light of revelation, can tell what these visions around him? All God is, or how He unites Himself that he can understand of the to His creatures. The other was an merest table or chair is, that it Earth-God, a kind of heavy inaniconveys a certain notion to his mate soul to the inanimate universe. mind. The tree that looks in at his It brooded upon the depths a visible window is, he knows, not green in darkness. It found an Avatar, like itself, but green by right of some the Hindoo Divinity, in every new property in his eyes that makes it development of solid shape and size. so. His hand touches something Such was the idea current in the on which he leans-what is it? darkling world of philosophy. We But for the hand that touches, the repeat, all this had no more to do arm, that leans on it, the thing with the ordinary globe than a would have of itself no conscious chemical knowledge of its constitubeing. What is it, then? What ent parts has to do with the recan we ever know about it? Folly freshing influence of a draught of to laugh at to the echo outside, water. Outside, all was plain matbut within actually the subject ter of fact, indisputable reality, a world full of things and beings of And in doing this," he adds, with a many sorts and varieties; inside, touch of humour, there is no damage there were but, as it were, the sha- done to the rest of mankind, who, I dows glimmering confused upon a daresay, will never miss it... mirror-sometimes growing into So long as we attribute a real existence dark shapes, sometimes dispersing to unthinking things distinct from their into mere vapour. To bring the being perceived, it is not only impossible processes, the reasonings of one
for us to know with evidence the nature world into another, would be simply that it exists. Hence it is that we see
of any real unthinking being, but even absurdity. In the one, liberal philosophers distrust their senses, and nature takes everything for granted; doubt of the existence of heaven and in the other, nothing is believed, earth--of everything they see and feel, nothing allowed—everything put even of their own bodies. And after all to severest examination. Without their labour and struggle of thought, fully acknowledging and perceiving they are forced to own we cannot atthis distinction, and that with a tain to any self-evident or demonstrative candour and clearness which is knowledge of the existence of sensible not displayed by either Johnson or things. But all this doubtfulness which Reid, we can neither understand so bewilders and confounds the mind, Berkeley's system nor that of any and makes philosophy ridiculous in the other great leader of (so-called) eyes
of the world, vanishes if we annex thought.
a meaning to our words, and do not After this preface, we may ven- lute, external, exist, and suchlike, sig,
amuse ourselves with the terms absoture to give such an indication as nifying we know what. I can as well comes within the range of an ordi- doubt of my own being, as of the being nary observer of the views con- of those things which I actually perceive tained in the Principles of Human by sense-it being a manifest contradicKnowledge,' written when he was tion that any sensible object should be six-and-twenty, by the brilliant immediately perceived by sight or touch, young Irishman, which, Mr. Lewes and at the same time have no existence tells us, "made an epoch in meta- in nature, since the very existence of an physics.”. These principles are: unthinking being consists in being perThat spirit, the unseen being of God ceived." and of man, is the only real and knowable existence in the world:
This, then, is the much-talkedthat the Earth-God—the inanimate of
, much-laughed-at idealism of abstraction Matter, in which external Berkeley. Like every other system things were supposed to live and of philosophy, it involves the dishave their being, as the soul lives ciple in a thousand difficulties. and has its being in the life of God To say, that the furniture of a --is a mere invention of human room, that the landscape seen from fancy: and that we can form no the window, exists only when the conception of the world around us
inhabitant of that room beholds except as perceived by us. Such the one or the other, conveys (or are the plain and simple foundations would convey, were we outside in of Berkeley's system. From this it the ordinary world) a manifest abwill be seen that much laughter was surdity. But he is not without his expended by the age, and many answer to all such objections. “The shafts of dull wit shot at the philo- table I write on I say exists—that sopher which fell entirely wide of is, I can see and feel it and if I am their mark. In these clear and out of my study, I should say it simple principles there is nothing existed, meaning thereby that if I about the non-existence of stones or were in my study I might perceive posts.
it, or that some other spirit actually
does perceive it. . . . But, say you, "The only thing," he says, "whose there is nothing easier," he adds, existence I deny, is that which philoso- " than to imagine trees, for instance, phers call matter or corporeal substance. in a park, or books existing in á closet, and nobody by to perceive systems-all those unseen isles of them. I answer, you may so, there paradise which lie in undiscovered is no difficulty in it. But what is seas, --hanging, as in their proper all this, I beseech you, more than atmosphere, like the motes in the framing in your mind certain ideas sunshine, in the light of the eyes of which you call books and trees, and God! Never has a nobler concepat the same time omitting to frame tion filled the heart of any poet. the idea of any one that may per- The young soul in which it had ceive them ? but do not you your- its origin has such a right to the self perceive or think of them all name of Seer as falls to few of the the while ?". Thus the idea widens, most nobly endowed among men, gathering to itself all forces of ima- It is not within our range or gination and memory. These out- sphere to follow this new system side mysteries of nature live in your through the storm of argument, perception of them, live in your laughter, and discussion which it thought of them. When darkness called forth. It is enough for us falls over those woods you know, and to state what the theory was, which makes them invisible, are they even at this present day brings a not there alive, breathing, rustling smile to the lip of many an ignounder the night wind, "in your rant bystander at Bishop Berkeley's thoughts? and if not even in your name. The strain of subdued enthoughts, how can you tell what thusiasm and lofty poetry in the benighted creature, desolate of all book attracted many minds; and comforts, may haunt them, mak- so did the close and unbroken chain ing the gloomy glades alive with of reasoning, of which Hume said, the consciousness of a human eye? "that it admitted of no answer," or what angel, leaning from the although it produced no conviction. heavens, may charm them into If the pretensions of philosophy are reality ? Or, higher still, does not admitted at all, Mr. Lewes tells us God look and behold, giving them that Berkeley is irrefutable." He existence with His glance ? Some failed, as the greatest philosophers truths," says the philosopher, his of all times have failed, not because gaze widening, his mind swelling he was weak, but because philosowith an exaltation worthy his sub- phy was impossible," says the hisject, "are so near and obvious to the torian of philosophy. The book, a mind that a man need only to open small octavo volume, never came his eyes to see them. Such I take to a second edition so long as its this important one to be—to wit, author lived, but yet became at that all the choir of heaven and once sufficiently known to win him furniture of earth-in a word, all some fame, and to puzzle the brains those bodies which compose the of the philosophical world. "Mr. mighty frame of the world, have Berkeley published, A.D. 1710, at not any existence without a mind, Dublin, the metaphysic notion that that their being (esse) is to be per- matter was not a real thing," says ceived and known; that, consequent- Whiston in the Memoirs of Dr. ly, so long as they are not actually Clarke'; "nay, that the common perceived by men, or do not exist in opinion of its reality was groundmy mind, or that of any other created less, if not ridiculous. He was spirit, they must either have no pleased to send Dr. Clarke and myexistence at all
, or else subsist in the self, each of us, a book. After we mind of some eternal spirit." Where had both perused it, I went to Dr. could there be found a theory more Clarke and discoursed with him touching or more sublime ? All the about it to this effect, that I, bechoir of heaven, and all the furni- ing not a metaphysician, was not ture of earth-all the little stars able to answer Mr. Berkeley's subtle unnamed and unknown in their premises, though I did not at all
believe his absurd conclusion. I her will instead of demanding of therefore desired that he, who was her that she should do theirs. deep in such subtleties, but did not Right or wrong, such was the appear to believe Mr. Berkeley's principle rooted deeply by recent conclusions, would answer him; events in the heart of the nation. which task he declined." Thus An opposite opinion meant at that the young Irishman splintered moment Jacobitism, revolutionism, his lance upon the world without anything but devotion to the powers finding any immediate champion that be. In short, the title of the to do battle with him. There was powers then actually existing to a pause of consternation in that the obedience and devotion of the misty, doubtful, uncertain sphere. people was of so unreal a character The old philosophy did not ap- that such a treatise at such a pear to believe, but "declined the time looked very much like either task” of replying. It was some rebellion or nonsense. Berkeley, time before it found breath and however, meant it as neither. This courage enough even to acknow- is how he explains his curious exledge the challenge.
o position of duty : For two years after this the young Fellow of Trinity remained That an absolute passive obedience in Dublin, no doubt doing his work ought not to be paid to any civil power, with the joyful energy of his youth but that submissiou to government and enthusiastie temperament. should be measured and limited by the During this time “the principles public good of society; and that, there. inculcated in Mr. Locke's two trea-fore, subjects may lawfully resist the tises on Government seem to have supreme authority in those cases where turned his attention to the doc require it-nay, that it is their duty to
the public good shall plainly seem to trine of passive obedience," says his do so, inasmuch as they are all under biographer, “in support of which an indispensable obligation to promote he printed the substance of three the common interest : these and the like Commonplaces delivered by him notions, which I cannot help thinking that year in the College chapel." pernicious to mankind and repugnant He himself explains this publication, to right reason, having of late years by way of preface, with a mixture of been industriously cultivated and set in that lofty optimism which distin- the most advantageous lights by men guishes all his thoughts, and which of parts and learning, it seemed necesso often carries men of his stamp, in sary to arm the youth of our University their very pursuit of the highest good, the world well principled; I do not into conjunction with the meanest mean obstinately prejudiced in favour tyrannies-with that frank straight- of a party, but, from a nearly acquaintforward opposition to the great an- ance with their duty, and the clear tagonist he had chosen for himself, rational ground of it, determined to which is equally characteristic of such practices as may speak them good the man. The age was not favour- Christians and loyal subjects.” able to the doctrine of passive obedience; all its political order, in Perhaps nobody but an Irishman short, was founded upon a flat and could have sent forth in perfect practical contradiction of the theory. good faith at such a crisis a work So far from passively obeying, Eng- of such a kind. Queen Anne was land had but lately expelled her sinking towards her end. It was hereditary monarch, had set in suc- the general meaning and expectation cession two daughters of the exiled that the new family, with no claims king upon his throne, and was now whatever upon the obedience of plotting the introduction of an al- the nation, should be set in her together new family of rulers, leav- place; and it is little wonder that ing the old in banishment, in the this whimsical big bull should have hope that her new lords would do been afterwards produced against
Berkeley, when he was recom- adventurer in terms which seem mended for promotion to the new high-flown to the sober ears of Majesties. In the long-run, happi- posterity. “So much learning, so ly, it did him no harm; nor is there much knowledge, so much innothe least trace that he had any inten- cence, and such humility, I did not tion of turning the eyes of the young think' had been the portion of any fervid English-Irish community to- but angels till I saw this gentlewards the exiled Stuarts, who alone, man," says the Bishop. Thus, unisacred in their divine right, could versally admired and adopted by have any claim upon the passive the wits, the young man's short obedience of their hereditary sub- career “in town" must have been jects. His aim was honestly to a continued triumph. He pubprove "that there is an absolute lished there the Three Dialogues unlimited non-resistance or passive between Hylas and Philonous, in obedience due to the supreme which his new system of philopower, wherever placed in any na- sophy was once more set forth and tion;" and unappalled by the amaz- elucidated to the world. The form ing contradiction of circumstances of dialogue was one which pleased around him, he worked out his theory the age; but it has radical disadwith a calm as perfect as if the vantages at all times, and especisocial order of the empire had never ally when dealing with a subject been disturbed. A few months so difficult, The reader cannot after this publication, he went but feel that the hapless interto England for the first time, and locutor, set up there to be driven was received with enthusiasm. into one corner after another, comThe whole guld of literature pelled to make the most damaging scems to have opened its arms to admissions, and finally beaten and the young philosopher. Steele on triumphed over, is in every respect the one side, and Swift on the a man of straw, rather enfeebling other, brought him into the heart than strengthening, with his weak of all the society of the day. objections, the strain of the arguAddison, at this or a subsequent ment; nor are the dialogues so time, was so much interested in readable (although so evidently inhim that he took the trouble of tended to be more readable) as the bringing about a meeting at his grave work which preceded them, own house between him and Dr. What with this publication, and Clarke, in order to the discussion his warm reception by society, and reconciliation, if possible, of Berkeley's short stay in London their different views. Pope writes must have been sufficiently full. to him that “my Lord Bishop He is said to have written several Atterbury was very much con- papers for the Guardian,' only cerned at missing you yesterday," one of which, however, can be and entreats him to provide your- identified as his. He was introself of linen and other necessaries duced and recommended specially, sufficient for the week; for as I take it would seem, by Swift, who was you to be almost the only friend one of his many friends, to that I have that is above the little strange hero of romance the Earl vanities of the town, I expect you of Peterborough, then about to start may be able to renounce it for one upon a mission as Ambassador week, and to make trial how you to the Court of Sicily and other like my Tusculum, because I assure Italian States, and became his you it is no less yours, and bope secretary and chaplain. In the you will use it as your own country- suite of this remarkable and eccenvilla in the ensuing season." Atter-tric personage Berkeley left philobury himself, a more congenial sophy and England, and went out, spirit, adds his praise of the young wandering on an errant course