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Writing a philosopher’s life: The case of George Berkeley

Monday 1 April 2019, 6.30PM to 19.30

Speaker(s): Dr Tom Jones, University of St Andrews

Philosophy Open Lecture

This lecture will consider some of the challenges of writing the biography of a philosopher, focusing on George Berkeley (1685-1753). One such challenge is considering what philosophers do in relation to what they think– if, indeed, they do anything much other than think! Berkeley led an active and various life as a teacher, preacher, public reformer, aspiring colonist, churchman, family man and, not least, thinker. His philosophy, I suggest, encompasses practical activities in these spheres as well as the composition and publication of philosophical texts. The lecture will point to some of these connections between the practical and philosophical in Berkeley’s career. But it will begin with a challenge very specific to Berkeley: how to write the life of a thinker who argued that we have no direct knowledge of other people (or spirits, to use Berkeley’s term), and yet for whom there is only one substance in the universe, spiritual substance, or willing agents. In the course of this discussion the lecture will give an overview of the philosophical doctrine for which Berkeley remains chiefly known – immaterialism.

Dr Tom Jones

Tom Jones is a teacher and researcher in the School of English, University of St Andrews. His publications on the literary and intellectual history of eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland include Pope and Berkeley: The Language of Poetry and Philosophy (Palgrave, 2005), a study of the connections between the work of these friends; an annotated edition of Pope’s Essay on Man (Princeton, 2016); and essays on the history of linguistic thought. His interest in poetics is expressed in Poetic Language: Theory and Practice from the Renaissance to the Present (Edinburgh, 2012) and essays on contemporary poetry. His biography of Berkeley is scheduled to appear in 2020.

Venue details

  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Hearing loop

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building

Admission: Free admission, booking not required