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Berkeley's Three DialoguesNew Essays$
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Stefan Storrie

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198755685

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198755685.001.0001

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Matter, God, and Nonsense

Matter, God, and Nonsense

Berkeley’s Polemic against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues

(p.176) 12 Matter, God, and Nonsense
Berkeley's Three Dialogues

Kenneth L. Pearce

Oxford University Press

In the Preface to the Three Dialogues, Berkeley says that one of his main aims is to refute the freethinkers. Puzzlingly, however, we are then treated to a dialogue between two Christians in which the freethinkers never reappear. This is related to a second, more general puzzle about Berkeley’s religious polemics: although Berkeley says he is defending orthodox conclusions, he also reminds himself in his Notebooks, “To use the utmost Caution not to give the least Handle of offence to the Church or Church-men.” Both of these puzzles are solved by the recognition that the argument against matter in the Three Dialogues is patterned after an argument for atheism that Berkeley attributed to Anthony Collins. Berkeley’s aim is thus to use the freethinkers’ own premises and arguments against them. In doing this, however, he rejects doctrines many churchmen held dear—most notably, the doctrine of divine analogy.

Keywords:   George Berkeley, Anthony Collins, William King, freethinker, analogy, divine attribute

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