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The Essential Berkeley and Neo-Berkeleian Empiricism/Idealism

The Department of Philosophy was pleased to host a series of three public lectures given by Professor David Berman.

All three lectures were held in the Neill Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub Building, Fellows's Square, Trinity College Dublin.

Monday 23 March, 10am-12pm
Wednesday 25 March, 10am-12pm
Thursday 26 March, 10am-12pm

Lecture series abstract:
These lectures have two main aims. The first is to present Berkeley's essential philosophy and its development. Here I try to show that at the centre of Berkeley's philosophy is a perceptual form of dualism, from which his larger philosophy unfolds. Simply stated, this core dualism is the awareness that I am a mind different from the objects I perceive, an insight which Berkeley clearly sets out in sections 1 and 2 of his Principles of Human Knowledge and most of his other philosophical works. The larger philosophy is then developed by Berkeley in a two-fold movement: the first is trying to show that matter does not exist; the second, that the space left empty by immaterialism can only be filled by God, who does what matter was supposed to do in the world.

But while Berkeley's larger philosophy is admirably simple and coherent, it has now become more a museum piece, of continuing importance historically, but not a living philosophy. Hence the second main aim of the lectures is to show how it might become a living philosophy once again. How? First, by going back and more deeply to the core dualism; then by arguing that both immaterialism and God should be shed; and finally, showing how the human mind, which remains after this radical shedding, divides naturally into two types, one monistic, consisting only of ideas and objects, the other dualistic but even wider in scope than Berkeley himself allowed, since able (in principle if rarely realizable) to experience another human mind as directly as it experiences itself. This is what I call Neo-Berkeleianism, which, I suggest, Berkeley himself was tending towards especially in his last work, Siris, 1744.

David Berman

David Berman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy; he retired in 2013 after a nearly 40-year career at Trinity College Dublin. Professor Berman's publications include George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man (Oxford University Press, 1994), Berkeley: Experimental Philosophy (Phoenix, 1997) and Berkeley and Irish Philosophy (Continuum, 2005). He has also edited: George Berkeley: Eighteenth Century Responses, 2 Vols (Garland, 1989) and Alciphron in Focus (Routledge, 1993), and is completing an abridged edition of Berkeley's works - from his circa 1707 notebooks to his last extant sermon of 1751 - upon which much of the present lectures is based.