This page contains a list of the best books on or by George Berkeley. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on Berkeley. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about Berkeley. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.
Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by George Berkeley in no particular order.
Berkeley: A Guide for the Perplexed – Talia Mae Bettcher
Publisher description: George Berkeley was an idealist and an extraordinarily eloquent man of letters. Yet his views are traditionally regarded as wild and extravagant. He is well known for his departure from common sense, yet perversely represents himself as siding with ‘the common folk’, presenting a complex challenge for students.
Berkeley: A Guide for the Perplexed covers the whole range of Berkeley’s philosophical work, offering an accessible review of his views on philosophy and common sense and the nature of philosophical perplexity, together with an examination of his two major philosophical works, The Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Geared towards the specific requirements of students who need to have a sound understanding of Berkeley’s thought, the book provides a cogent and reliable survey of the various concepts and paradoxes of his thought. This is the ideal companion to the study of this most influential and challenging of philosophers.
Berkeley’s Thought – George S. Pappas
Publisher description: In this highly original account of Bishop George Berkeley’s epistemological and metaphysical theories, George S. Pappas seeks to determine precisely what doctrines the philosopher held and what arguments he put forward to support them. Specifically, Pappas overturns accepted opinions about Berkeley’s famous attack on the Lockean doctrine of abstract ideas. Berkeley’s criticism of these ideas had been thought relevant only to his views on language and to his nominalism; Pappas persuasively argues that Berkeley’s ideas about abstraction are crucial to nearly all of the fundamental principles that he defends.Pappas demonstrates how an adequate appreciation of Berkeley’s views on abstraction can lead to an improved understanding of his important principle of esse is percipi, and of the arguments Berkeley proposes in support of this principle. Pappas also takes up Berkeley’s widely rejected claim to be a philosopher of common sense. He assesses the validity of this self-description and considers why Berkeley might have chosen to align himself with a commonsense position. Pappas shows how three core concepts―abstraction, perception, and common sense―are central to and interdependent in the work of one of the major figures of early modern Western thought.
The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley – Kenneth P. Winkler
Publisher description: In defending the immaterialism for which he is most famous, George Berkeley, one of the most influential modern philosophers, redirected modern thinking about the nature of objectivity and the mind’s capacity to come to terms with it. Along the way, he made striking and influential proposals concerning the psychology of the senses, workings of language, aims of science, and scope of mathematics. A team of distinguished contributors not only examines Berkeley’s achievements in this Companion, but also his neglected contributions to moral and political philosophy, writings on economics and development, and defense of religious commitment and religious life.
Berkeley: Philosophical Writings – George Berkeley
Publisher description: George Berkeley (1685-1753) was a university teacher, a missionary, and later a Church of Ireland bishop. The over-riding objective of his long philosophical career was to counteract objections to religious belief that resulted from new philosophies associated with the Scientific Revolution. Accordingly, he argued against scepticism and atheism in the Principles and the Three Dialogues; he rejected theories of force in the Essay on Motion; he offered a new theory of meaning for religious language in Alciphron; and he modified his earlier immaterialism in Siris by speculating about the body’s influence on the soul. His radical empiricism and scientific instrumentalism, which rejected the claims of the sciences to provide a realistic interpretation of phenomena, are still influential today. This edition provides texts from the full range of Berkeley’s contributions to philosophy, together with an introduction by Desmond M. Clarke that sets them in their historical and philosophical contexts.
The Principles of Human Knowledge – George Berkeley
Publisher description: Kenneth Winkler’s esteemed edition of Berkeley’s Principles is based on the second edition (London, 1734), the last one published in Berkeley’s lifetime.
Life other members of Hackett’s philosophical classics series, it features editorial elements found to be of particular value to students and their teachers: analytical table of contents; chronology of the author’s life; selected bibliography; note on the text; glossary; and index.
Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous – George Berkeley
Publisher description: Part of the “Longman Library of Primary Sources in Philosophy,” this edition of Berkeley’s Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous is framed by a pedagogical structure designed to make this important work of philosophy more accessible and meaningful for readers. A General Introduction includes biographical information on Berkeley, the work’s historical context, and a discussion of historical influences, and a conclusion discusses how the work has influenced other philosophers and why it is important today. Annotations and notes from the editor clarify difficult passages for greater understanding. A bibliography gives the reader additional resources for further study.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on George Berkeley
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on George Berkeley
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.