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Berkeley's Dialogues employ the Socratic mode of inquiry to examine fundamental beliefs. These dialogues are between Hylas (whose name is derived from the ancient Greek word for matter) and Philonous, whose name means "lover of mind." The scientific revolution that took place in the seventeenth century supported the materialism proposed by Thomas Hobbes and several other philosophers. This worldview proclaimed that all of reality consists of nothing but matter in motion, thus promoting atheism and ethical skepticism. The implications for politics, ethics, and religion caused concern among leading intellectuals in the eighteenth century. Philonous refutes a variety of attempts by Hylas to establish the existence and importance of matter as a way of understanding reality. He insists that only spirits and ideas exist, replacing the concept of matter with the notion of God, the infinite spirit who alone provides the order and structure human beings experience as the laws of nature. Whatever the value of the positive claims presented in this work, Berkeley foreshadows the philosophical impact of twentieth century physics, which challenges the foundations of such materialism and calls for a better understanding of both the physical and the mental aspects of reality.

Originally published in 1713, this work has been edited and revised by Albert A. Anderson and Lieselotte Anderson. The text is unabridged, but changes in language have been made to update and clarify 18th Century usage.

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