5

WONDERFULLY MENDING THE WORLD

George Berkeley and Jonathan Swift

The astonishing philosophy of George Berkeley (1685-1753) is best understood as an attempt to provide a truly radical alternative to the materialistic and sceptical trends that seemed to be emerging in eighteenth-century English thought. Born into an Anglo-Irish family in Kilkenny, Berkeley was educated at Kilkenny College and at Trinity College, Dublin, from which he graduated in 1704 with a BA degree. He was ordained an Anglican minister in 1710, the same year in which he published his philosophical masterpiece, A Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge. Three years later, in 1713, he popularized his arguments in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. It was also in that year that he set out on a series of travels that would take him to London, to a number of European cities, and to America. Perhaps the most singularly ambitious project of his life had been to set up a college in Bermuda, for the purpose of educating both 'the English youth of our plantations' and the young native Americans, whom he refers to as the 'young American savages' (1956:127). The extent of his naivety and presumption is best captured by his hope that these young savages might be educated 'till they have taken their degree of Master of Arts' (127). In 1726 he was granted a royal charter for the proposed college-to be called St Paul's College, with Berkeley as its president-and was promised a treasury grant by the House of Commons. The money, however, was not immediately forthcoming and for two years Berkeley waited patiently in London. In 1728, though there was still no sign of the treasury money, he made a decision to set out for America, mainly

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A History of Irish Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • 1 - Interpreting Marvels 1
  • 2 - The Philosophy of Creation 18
  • 3 - Nature Observed 45
  • 4 - John Toland and the Ascendancy of Reason 82
  • 5 - Wonderfully Mending the World 124
  • 6 - Against the Selfish Philosophers 168
  • 7 - Peripheral Visions (1) 214
  • 8 - Peripheral Visions (2) 241
  • 9 - Between Extremities 285
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 348
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