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Berkeley Conference

The Department of Philosophy organised and hosted a major conference on the philosophy of Berkeley, with a special emphasis on Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. The conference was held from 4-6 April 2014. The opening address, which was aimed at a wider audience, was delivered by Professor David Berman (who has been a distinguished Berkeley scholar of the College since A.A. Luce in the late 1960s) Professor Berman spoke on 'Irish Philosophy: Past and Future'. There followed three major keynote speakers:

  • Lisa Downing (The Ohio State University)
  • John Russell Roberts (Florida State University)
  • Tom Stoneham (University of York)

Conference Programme

Friday 4 April 2014

Marsh's Library
St. Patrick's Close, Dublin 8

12:30pm-1:30pm    Tour of the Marsh Library

1:30pm-2:30pm    Kenneth Pearce
                             University of Southern California
                             "Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues"

2:45pm-3:45pm    Sukjae Lee
                             Seoul National University
                             "Berkeley's Occasionalism in the Dialogues"

3:45pm-4:15pm    Coffee Break

4:15pm-5:15pm    David Wilkins
                             Trinity College Dublin
                             "Berkeley, the Minute Mathematician"

The Royal Irish Academy
19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

6:30pm-7:30pm    David Berman
                             Trinity College Dublin
                             "Irish Philosophy:past and future"

7:30pm-9:00pm    Alumni Event

Saturday 5 April 2014

Trinity Long Room Hub
Fellows' Square, Trinity College, Dublin 2

10:00am-11:15am    Lisa Downing
                                The Ohio State University
                                "Ideas and sensible qualities: The Structure of Idealism in the Principles vs. the Dialogues"

11:30am-12:30pm    Keota Fields
                                University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
                                "Berkeley on Idealism, Meaning and the Naturalistic Fallacy"

12:30pm-3:00pm      Lunch

3:00pm-4:00pm        Jennifer Marusic
                                 Brandeis University
                                 "Berkeley on Sensations as Acts of Mind and the Passivity of Perception"

4:15pm-5:15pm        James Levine
                                 Trinity College Dublin
                                 "On the Prior-Mackie Analysis of the Master Argument"

5:30pm-6:30pm         International Berkeley Society Meeting

7:30pm                       Conference Dinner

Sunday 6 April 2014

Trinity Long Room Hub
Fellows' Square, Trinity College, Dublin 2

10:00am-11:15am    Tom Stoneham
                                University of York
                                "Refractions, Reflections and Dreams"

11:30am-12:30pm    James Hill
                                Charles University, Prague
                                "'Perception and the Self in Berkeley's Three Dialogues"

12:30pm-2:30pm      Lunch

2:30pm-3:30pm        Stephen Daniel
                                 Texas A&M University
                                 "Berkeley on God's Knowledge of Pain"

3:45pm-5:00pm        John Russell Roberts
                                 Florida State University
                                 "A Platonic Solution to a Puzzle in the Three Dialogues"

5:30pm-7:00pm         Roundtable Discussion

8:00pm                       Informal Dinner

Who was George Berkeley?


George Berkeley (1685-1753) is widely regarded as Ireland's greatest philosopher. His most influential philosophical thesis, "Immaterialism," has, since the eighteenth century, attracted considerable attention in the fields of epistemology and metaphysics. Berkeley also wrote important works on the psychology of vision, on mechanical science, mathematics, economics, moral and political philosophy, Christian apologetics and (notoriously and extensively) on the medicinal virtues of "tar-water." The main influences on his early work are generally regarded to be John Locke and Nicolas Malebranche, and in later life he was influenced by writers in the Platonist tradition. He had considerable influence on the works of many important philosopers including David Hume and John Stuart Mill and poets and writers of prose fiction, such as, William Blake, William Butler Yeats and Jorge Louis Borges.

A Model Alumnus

Most people would be content to play but a small part in the improvement of a college or university, but not Berkeley. He decided to found a new college. It was to be named St. Paul's, its location - Bermuda. Between 1726-8 Berkeley lobbied relentlessly for the project, raising £6,000 in private subscriptions and worked toward acquiring a charter from the king to erect the college, which he received in June 1725. In May 1726 a majority of the House of Parliament voted for an address to the king for a public grant for the project worth about £20,000 that was to be obtained through the sale of some land on Saint Kitts.

By July 1730 it had become clear that the grant Berkeley was hoping for would not be paid. The reasons were partly that Bermuda, quite understandably, was thought to be an unsuitable location for the college. Also, a number of influential people in Britain were completely opposed to building colleges in America as it would weaken Britain's hold on the colony. When returning to Europe Berkeley began repaying the money from private subscribers for the Bermuda project. Many declined and asked him to keep the money as reimbursement for his own heavy personal outlay. Berkeley refused to do so and suggested, instead, that their subscription go to Yale College. He further gave Yale his farm of 96 acres and his house "Whitehall" which funded two resident students. Though Berkeley's project ultimately failed, he did so much for higher education in America that his influence can still be seen today in several colleges and universities, most famously the university and town of Berkeley, California, which bear his name.

On returning to Dublin in May 1734 Berkeley donated a Greek font to the new printing house that allowed the University Press to publish Plato's Dialogues in 1738, which is said to be the first book in Greek printed in Ireland. His final gift was the founding of the Berkeley gold medal for Greek which he endowed in perpetuity just before his death.