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date: 23 August 2019

Berkeley, George locked

(b Dysart Castle, Kilkenny, March 12, 1685; d Oxford, Jan 14, 1753).
  • Edward Chaney

Extract

(b Dysart Castle, Kilkenny, March 12, 1685; d Oxford, Jan 14, 1753).

Irish bishop, philosopher, writer, collector, and traveller of English descent. He established the basis of his reputation as a philosopher while still a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, with An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (Dublin, 1709) and the Principles of Human Knowledge (Dublin, 1710), in which he introduced his theory that material reality exists only in as much as it can be perceived by the mind, and that God is the omnipresent perceiver and the originator of our sense experiences. Early in 1713 he visited England. There he met the writers Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, and Alexander Pope; with their help and encouragement, by October he had arranged to travel as chaplain to Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough on his embassy to Sicily; but Berkeley only reached Tuscany on this occasion. He returned to Italy in 1716, however, as tutor to St George Ashe, son of the Bishop of Clogher. Over the next four years Berkeley conducted his frail pupil on what was an exceptionally extensive (and intensive) Italian tour for the time. Though underestimated in the history of aesthetics, Berkeley’s value to art history lies largely in what he recorded in his travel journals and letters home from Italy. Cumulatively these represent a fascinating landmark in the history of taste and indicate how successfully a truly independent mind can resist the pressure to conform to contemporary opinion. In early ...

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