Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Starr, William

Second Advisor

Wreen, Michael

Third Advisor

Valadez, Jorge


The doctrine of matter, mind/body interaction, the primary/secondary quality distinction, the doctrine of absolute time: these are just some of the tenets of early modem philosophy that are vigorously attacked by George Berkeley (1685-1753), the AngloIrish bishop and philosopher who offered his own theory of immaterialism to replace the problematic dualistic philosophies of his day. Underscoring Berkeley's attack on these tenets, it is argued here, is his rejection of abstract ideas. The first five chapters of this study give an account of how Berkeley's rejection of abstract ideas plays a pivotal role in his most famous and powerful arguments. These arguments, it is maintained, are just as tight and convincing today as they were back then. In a critical vein, however, the final chapter of this study attacks Berkeley for his failure to distinguish adequately the conditions under which minds may be said to own ideas. Berkeley's failure to do this, it is argued, reintroduces the problem of skepticism and of explaining how finite minds can be free in a world determined by God's will. In conclusion, it is argued that, in the absence of such criteria, the personal identity of finite minds dissipates into God's infinite mind.



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