George Santayana on Bishop Berkeley. Immaterialism and Life

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Th e recent revival of Berkeley studies in the last three decades or so make it interesting to look back at George Santayana’s discussion of Berkeley. Th ough Santayana understood the latter’s arguments for immaterialism, he claimed no one could both seriously accept immaterialism, and live, as Berkeley certainly did, an embodied life. As he writes of Berkeley, “Th is idealist was no hermit” (205). Santayana claimed that without matter there was nothing (“no machinery”) for the soul to work on. For a soul (mind) the machinery consists of material objects including one’s body. In this, paper, aft er some introductory comments, particularly on some aspects of early modern philosophy, e.g. the theory of ideas, which Berkeley largely accepts, and the metaphysics of indirect realism which he rejects, I look at the issue of human embodiment, and conclude, although Santayana perhaps misread important aspects of Berkeley’s discussion, he is largely correct in noting that Berkeley’s idealism/immaterialism can’t capture the special relation we have to our bodies.
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First archival date: 2019-11-18
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