From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Berkeley, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Berkeley. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Brekeley for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader 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
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 224 pages | Published: 2009
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
Category: General Introduction | Length: 288 pages | Published: 2000
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
Category: Overview | Length: 472 pages | Published: 2005
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
Category: Anthology | Length: 386 pages | Published: 2009
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
Category: Classic | Length: 148 pages
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.
Like 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
Category: Classic | Length: 154 pages
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:
- Hume and Berkeley – PHIL 433 | University of Oregon
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on George Berkeley
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on George Berkeley
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Introductory Books on Metaphysics
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.