Chronicles of George Berkely

George Berkely was a famous philosopher in the early modern era. He alongside David Hume and John Locke is regarded as the most important Empiricists to have ever come out of Britain. George was an Irish Anglican bishop who was incredibly gifted as a metaphysician and scientist. He is best known for practicing the philosophy of idealism which believes that everything apart from the spiritual exists just as long as the senses can perceive it.

  • Birth: On March 12, 1685, George Berkely was born near Kilkenny in Ireland. He was raised in the Anglican faith by his parents in Dysart Castle.
  • Education: Berkely began his studies in 1696 at Kilkenny College. In 1700, he got admission into Trinity College, Dublin at the age of 15 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1704. After his graduation, he was made a Fellow at the college. It was during this period at Trinity College that he began working on the ideologies that he is now recognized. His essay, New Theory of Vision, published in 1709 laid the foundation for his idealist philosophy.
  • Priesthood: In 1710, Berkely was ordained in the Anglican Church and became a priest. He also published his treatise called Principles of Human Knowledge.
  • Tutor: In 1720. Berkely became a tutor to a young man for four years. This job also involved traveling around Europe. It was while on this tour that Berkely wrote a tract that explained the philosophical foundations found in mechanics that helped shaped his views on scientific philosophy. This tract called De Motu also brought up an ingenious way of using instrumentalist approach to understanding Newtonian dynamics.
  • Dean: In 1724, Berkely returned to Ireland and continued with his position as a Fellow in Trinity College. He was appointed the Anglican Dean of Derry and had to resign from his post at Trinity. It was at this time he began conceiving the idea of opening a college in Bermuda. His rejected Europe as a destination because he perceived that the continent was in spiritual decay.
  • Sojourn: In September 1728, he travelled to America with his bride, Anne Forster after obtaining a charter and promises of sponsorship from the British parliament. In America, Berkely produced Alciphron, a significant work relevant to philosophy which also contained the essential parts of his ideologies. However, in 1731, he was forced to return to Britain due to insufficient funds and the collapse of his political support.
  • Bishop: In May 1734, Berkely was ordained as the Bishop of Cloyne in Dublin. He wrote Siris which became an instant bestseller. Siris is his most puzzling work till date because it chronicles the medicinal value of tar water. How this subject relates to his idealism philosophy continues to spark debate and discussions among scholars today.
  • Relocation: In 1752, he moved with his family to Oxford to supervise the education of his son, George who was schooling at Oxford University.
  • Death: Berkely died in Oxford on January 14, 1753, and was survived by his wife and three children.

George Berkely influenced great philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke, and David Hume among other. His contributions to several areas of philosophy particularly idealism and epistemology hastened the progress in those fields. The University of California, Berkely and the town of Berkely, California is named after him.
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