Since the publication of Paul J. Olscamp’s The Moral philosophy of George Berkeley (1970), research has focused on Berkeley’s theory of immaterialism as the defining element of his thinking. New readings of his work gathered in this volume position immaterialism as a component of a much broader, overarching apologetic project, which is highly pragmatic in nature.
Through close examinations of Berkeley’s writings on key political, economic, social, moral and ethical debates, leading experts demonstrate that his writings are not simply theoretical but also bound to a practical concern with the well-being of humanity. The volume opens with nuanced analyses of Berkeley’s utilitarianism, which contributors position more precisely as a theological utilitarianism, a facet of natural law and a theory with a distinctly pragmatic basis. This doctrine is reconsidered in the context of Berkeley’s moral philosophy, with contributors highlighting the implications of free will for the evaluation of personal (or divine) responsibility for one’s actions. Berkeley’s concept of desire is reconfigured as a virtue, when channelled towards the common good of society. Contributors close by reassessing Berkeley’s political and economic thought and uncover its practical dimension, where individualism is sacrificed for the greater, national interest.
The George Berkeley to emerge from this book is a philosopher deeply concerned with the political, economic and social problems of his time, and whose writings proposed practical and not simply theoretical solutions to the challenges facing Britain in the eighteenth century.