Whiston's comments on Berkeley's Treatise

[In A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge ] Berkeley published ... this metaphysical notion, that matter was not a real thing ; nay, that the common opinion of its reality was groundless, if not ridiculous. He was pleased to send Dr Clarke and myself, each of us, a book. After we had both perused it I went to Dr Clarke, and discoursed with him about it to this effect; that I, being not a metaphysician, was not able to answer Mr Berkeley's subtle premises, though I did not at all believe his absurd conclusion.

I therefore desired that he, who was deep in such subtleties, but did not appear to believe Mr Berkeley's conclusions, would answer him; which talk he declined. I speak not these things with intention to reproach either Mr Locke or Dean Berkeley. - I own the latter's great abilities in other parts of learning; and to his noble design of settling a College in or near the West Indies, for the instruction of the natives in civil arts and in the principles of Christianity, I heartily wish all possible success. It is the pretended metaphysical science itself, derived from the sceptical disputes of the Greek philosophers, not those particular great men who have been unhappily imposed on by it, that I complain of.

Last Updated February 2005