George Berkeley, 1685 - 1753

George Berkeley was an Irish-born English bishop and philosopher whose contributions to the philosophy of Idealism influenced Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos Bronson Alcott, and other New England Transcendentalists.  Berkeley held that matter does not exist independently of persons but exists only as we conceive it to exist.  Similar to Plato, he asserted that "ideas are things."  His famous A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge was first published in Dublin in 1710, and a revised edition appeared in London in 1734.  Emerson's chapter on "Idealism" in Nature (1836) draws heavily upon Berkeley's thought.  Writing to Margaret Fuller in 1841, Emerson exclaimed, "I know but one solution to my nature & relations, which I find in the remembering the joy with which in my boyhood I caught the first hint of the Berkleian philosophy, and which I certainly never lost sight of afterwards."