Stoicism in Berkeley's Philosophy

In Bertil Belfrage & Timo Airaksinen (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 121-34 (2011)
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Commentators have not said much regarding Berkeley and Stoicism. Even when they do, they generally limit their remarks to Berkeley’s Siris (1744) where he invokes characteristically Stoic themes about the World Soul, “seminal reasons,” and the animating fire of the universe. The Stoic heritage of other Berkeleian doctrines (e.g., about mind or the semiotic character of nature) is seldom recognized, and when it is, little is made of it in explaining his other doctrines (e.g., immaterialism). None of this is surprising, considering how Stoics are considered arch-materialists and determinists. My aim is to suggest that our understanding of Berkeley’s philosophy is improved significantly by acknowledging its underlying Stoic character. I argue that Berkeley proposes not only a semantic ontology based on assumptions of Stoic logic but also a doctrine in which perceptions or ideas are intelligible precisely because they are always embedded in the propositions of a discourse or language.

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Stephen H. Daniel
Texas A&M University


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