THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS,
IN OPPOSITION TO SCEPTICS AND ATHEISTS
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
THE FIRST DIALOGUE
PHILONOUS. Good morrow, Hylas: I did not expect to find you abroad
HYLAS. It is indeed something unusual; but my thoughts were so taken up
with a subject I was discoursing of last night, that finding
I could not
sleep, I resolved
to rise and take a turn in the garden.
PHIL. It happened well, to let you see what innocent
pleasures you lose every morning. Can there be a pleasanter time of the
day, or a more delightful
season of the year? That purple
sky, those wild
but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant
bloom upon the trees and flowers,
the gentle influence of the rising sun, these and a thousand nameless
beauties of nature inspire
the soul with secret transports; its faculties
too being at this time fresh and lively, are fit for those meditations,
which the solitude
of a garden and tranquillity of the morning naturally
dispose us to. But I am afraid I interrupt
your thoughts: for you seemed
HYL. It is true, I was, and shall be obliged to you if you will permit
me to go on in the same vein; not that I would by any means deprive
myself of your company, for my thoughts always flow more easily in
conversation with a friend, than when I am alone: but my request is, that
you would suffer me to impart
my reflexions to you.
PHIL. With all my heart, it is what I should have requested myself if
you had not prevented me.
HYL. I was considering
the odd fate of those men who have in all ages,
through an affectation of being distinguished
from the vulgar, or some
unaccountable turn of thought, pretended either to believe nothing at
all, or to believe the most extravagant
things in the world. This however
might be borne, if their paradoxes and scepticism did not draw after them
some consequences of general disadvantage
to mankind. But the mischief
lieth here; that when men of less leisure
see them who are supposed
to have spent their whole time in the pursuits of knowledge professing an
of all things, or advancing such notions as are
repugnant to plain and commonly
received principles, they will be tempted
the most important truths, which they
PHIL. I entirely agree with you, as to the ill tendency
of the affected
doubts of some philosophers, and fantastical conceits of others. I am
even so far gone of late in this way of thinking, that I have quitted
several of the sublime
notions I had got in their schools for vulgar
opinions. And I give it you on my word; since this revolt
metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature and common sense, I
find my understanding strangely
enlightened, so that I can now easily
comprehend a great many things which before were all mystery
HYL. I am glad to find there was nothing in the accounts I heard of you.
PHIL. Pray, what were those?
HYL. You were represented, in last night's conversation, as one who
maintained the most extravagant
opinion that ever entered into the mind
of man, to wit, that there is no such thing as MATERIAL SUBSTANCE in
PHIL. That there is no such thing as what PHILOSOPHERS CALL MATERIAL
SUBSTANCE, I am seriously
persuaded: but, if I were made to see anything
absurd or sceptical in this, I should then have the same reason to
renounce this that I imagine I have now to reject
HYL. What I can anything be more fantastical, more repugnant to Common
Sense, or a more manifest
piece of Scepticism, than to believe there is
no such thing as MATTER?
PHIL. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove that you, who hold
there is, are, by virtue
of that opinion, a greater sceptic, and maintain
more paradoxes and repugnances to Common Sense, than I who believe no
HYL. You may as soon persuade
me, the part is greater than the whole,
as that, in order to avoid absurdity
and Scepticism, I should ever be
obliged to give up my opinion in this point.
PHIL. Well then, are you content to admit that opinion for true, which
shall appear most agreeable
to Common Sense, and remote
HYL. With all my heart. Since you are for raising disputes about
the plainest things in nature, I am content for once to hear what you
have to say.
PHIL. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a SCEPTIC?
HYL. I mean what all men mean--one that doubts of everything.
PHIL. He then who entertains no doubts concerning
point, with regard to that point cannot be thought a sceptic.
HYL. I agree with you.
PHIL. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing the affirmative or
negative side of a question?
HYL. In neither; for whoever
understands English cannot but know that
DOUBTING signifies a suspense
PHIL. He then that denies any point, can no more be said to doubt of
it, than he who affirmeth it with the same degree of assurance.
PHIL. And, consequently, for such his denial
is no more to be esteemed
a sceptic than the other.
HYL. I acknowledge
PHIL. How cometh it to pass then, Hylas, that you pronounce me A
SCEPTIC, because I deny what you affirm, to wit, the existence
Matter? Since, for aught you can tell, I am as peremptory in my denial,
as you in your affirmation.
HYL. Hold, Philonous, I have been a little out in my definition; but
every false step a man makes in discourse
is not to be insisted on. I
said indeed that a SCEPTIC was one who doubted of everything; but I
should have added, or who denies the reality
and truth of things.
PHIL. What things? Do you mean the principles and theorems of sciences?
But these you know are universalintellectual
notions, and consequently
independent of Matter. The denialtherefore
of this doth not imply the
HYL. I grant it. But are there no other things? What think you of
distrusting the senses, of denying the real existence
or pretending to know nothing of them. Is not this sufficient to
denominate a man a SCEPTIC?
PHIL. Shall we therefore
examine which of us it is that denies the
reality of sensible
things, or professes the greatest ignorance
since, if I take you rightly, he is to be esteemed the greatest
HYL. That is what I desire.
PHIL. What mean you by Sensible Things?
HYL. Those things which are perceived by the senses. Can you imagine
that I mean anything else?
PHIL. Pardon me, Hylas, if I am desirous
clearly to apprehend
notions, since this may much shorten
our inquiry. Suffer me then to ask
you this farther question. Are those things only perceived by the senses
which are perceived immediately? Or, may those things properly
be said to
be SENSIBLE which are perceived mediately, or not without the
intervention of others?
HYL. I do not sufficiently
PHIL. In reading
a book, what I immediately perceive
are the letters;
but mediately, or by means of these, are suggested to my mind the notions
of God, virtue, truth, &c. Now, that the letters are truly sensible
things, or perceived by sense, there is no doubt: but I would know
whether you take the things suggested by them to be so too.
HYL. No, certainly: it were absurd
to think GOD or VIRTUE sensible
things; though they may be signified and suggested to the mind by
sensible marks, with which they have an arbitrary
PHIL. It seems then, that by SENSIBLE THINGS you mean those only
which can be perceived IMMEDIATELY by sense?
PHIL. Doth it not follow from this, that though I see one part of the
sky red, and another blue, and that my reason doth thence
conclude there must be some cause of that diversity
of colours, yet that
cause cannot be said to be a sensible
thing, or perceived by the sense of
HYL. It doth.
PHIL. In like manner, though I hear variety
of sounds, yet I cannot be
said to hear the causes of those sounds?
HYL. You cannot.
PHIL. And when by my touch I perceive
a thing to be hot and heavy, I
cannot say, with any truth or propriety, that I feel the cause of its
heat or weight?
HYL. To prevent any more questions of this kind, I tell you once for
all, that by SENSIBLE THINGS I mean those only which are perceived by
sense; and that in truth the senses perceive
nothing which they do not
perceive IMMEDIATELY: for they make no inferences. The deducing
therefore of causes or occasions from effects and appearances, which
alone are perceived by sense, entirely relates to reason.
PHIL. This point then is agreed between us--That SENSIBLE THINGS ARE
THOSE ONLY WHICH ARE IMMEDIATELY PERCEIVED BY SENSE. You will farther
inform me, whether we immediately perceive
by sight anything beside
light, and colours, and figures; or by hearing, anything but sounds; by
the palate, anything beside tastes; by the smell, beside odours; or by
the touch, more than tangible qualities.
HYL. We do not.
PHIL. It seems, therefore, that if you take away all sensible
qualities, there remains nothing sensible?
HYL. I grant it.
PHIL. Sensible things therefore
are nothing else but so many
sensible qualities, or combinations of sensible
HYL. Nothing else.
PHIL. HEAT then is a sensible
PHIL. Doth the REALITY of sensible
things consist in being perceived?
or, is it something distinct
from their being perceived, and that bears
no relation to the mind?
HYL. To EXIST is one thing, and to be PERCEIVED is another.
PHIL. I speak with regard to sensible
things only. And of these I ask,
whether by their real existence
you mean a subsistenceexterior
mind, and distinct
from their being perceived?
HYL. I mean a real absolute
from, and without any
relation to, their being perceived.
PHIL. Heat therefore, if it be allowed a real being, must exist without
HYL. It must.
PHIL. Tell me, Hylas, is this real existenceequally
compatible to all
degrees of heat, which we perceive; or is there any reason why we should
attribute it to some, and deny it to others? And if there be, pray let me
know that reason.
HYL. Whatever degree of heat we perceive
by sense, we may be sure the
same exists in the object that occasions it.
PHIL. What! the greatest as well as the least?
HYL. _I_ tell you, the reason is plainly
the same in respect of both.
They are both perceived by sense; nay, the greater degree of heat is more
sensibly perceived; and consequently, if there is any difference,
we are more certain of its real existence
than we can be of the reality
of a lesser
PHIL. But is not the most vehement
degree of heat a very
HYL. No one can deny it.
PHIL. And is any unperceiving thing capable
of pain or pleasure?
HYL. No, certainly.
PHIL. Is your material substance a senseless
being, or a being endowed
with sense and perception?
HYL. It is senseless
PHIL. It cannot therefore
be the subject of pain?
HYL. By no means.
PHIL. Nor consequently
of the greatest heat perceived by sense, since
this to be no small pain?
HYL. I grant it.
PHIL. What shall we say then of your external
object; is it a material
Substance, or no?
HYL. It is a material substance with the sensible
qualities inhering in
PHIL. How then can a great heat exist in it, since you own it cannot in
a material substance? I desire you would clear this point.
HYL. Hold, Philonous, I fear I was out in yielding intense
heat to be a
pain. It should seem rather, that pain is something distinct
and the consequence
or effect of it.
PHIL. Upon putting your hand near the fire, do you perceive
uniform sensation, or two distinct
HYL. But one simple sensation.
PHIL. Is not the heat immediately perceived?
HYL. It is.
PHIL. And the pain?
PHIL. Seeing therefore
they are both immediately perceived at the same
time, and the fire affects you only with one simple or uncompounded idea,
it follows that this same simple idea is both the intense
immediately perceived, and the pain; and, consequently, that the intense
heat immediately perceived is nothing distinct
from a particular sort of
HYL. It seems so.
PHIL. Again, try in your thoughts, Hylas, if you can conceive
to be without pain or pleasure.
HYL. I cannot.
PHIL. Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sensible
pain or pleasure
in general, abstracted from every particular idea of heat, cold, tastes,
HYL. I do not find that I can.
PHIL. Doth it not therefore
follow, that sensible
pain is nothing
distinct from those sensations or ideas, in an intense
HYL. It is undeniable; and, to speak the truth, I begin to suspect
very great heat cannot exist but in a mind perceiving it.
PHIL. What! are you then in that sceptical state of suspense, between
affirming and denying?
HYL. I think I may be positive
in the point. A very violent
heat cannot exist without the mind.
PHIL. It hath not therefore
according to you, any REAL being?
HYL. I own it.
PHIL. Is it therefore
certain, that there is no body in nature really
HYL. I have not denied there is any real heat in bodies. I only say,
there is no such thing as an intense
PHIL. But, did you not say before that all degrees of heat were equally
real; or, if there was any difference, that the greater were more
undoubtedly real than the lesser?
HYL. True: but it was because I did not then consider the ground there
is for distinguishing between them, which I now plainly
see. And it is
opposition [,ɔpə´ziʃən] n.反对；反抗；阻力 (初中英语单词)abroad [ə´brɔ:d] ad.海外；到处；广泛 (初中英语单词)unusual [ʌn´ju:ʒuəl] a.不平常的；异常的 (初中英语单词)innocent [´inəsənt] a.无罪的；单纯的 (初中英语单词)delightful [di´laitful] a.讨人喜欢的 (初中英语单词)purple [´pə:pl] n.紫色 a.紫(红)的 (初中英语单词)inspire [in´spaiə] v.鼓舞；使感悟；吸入 (初中英语单词)lively [´laivli] a.活泼的；热烈的 (初中英语单词)interrupt [,intə´rʌpt] v.中断；打扰 (初中英语单词)intent [in´tent] a.专心致志的 n.意图 (初中英语单词)ignorance [´ignərəns] n.无知，愚昧 (初中英语单词)entertain [,entə´tein] vt.招待；娱乐；使高兴 (初中英语单词)sacred [´seikrid] a.神圣的；庄严的 (初中英语单词)tendency [´tendənsi] n.趋势；倾向 (初中英语单词)revolt [ri´vəult] v.&n.反抗；起义；反叛 (初中英语单词)strangely [´streindʒli] ad.奇怪地；陌生地 (初中英语单词)mystery [´mistəri] n.神秘；秘密；故弄玄虚 (初中英语单词)seriously [´siəriəsli] ad.严肃；严重，重大 (初中英语单词)contrary [´kɔntrəri] a.相反的 n.相反 (初中英语单词)softly [´sɔftli] ad.软化地；柔和地 (初中英语单词)virtue [´və:tʃu:] n.美德；贞操；长处 (初中英语单词)persuade [pə´sweid] v.(被)说服；使相信 (初中英语单词)examination [ig,zæmi´neiʃən] n.检查；考试；检验 (初中英语单词)agreeable [ə´gri:əbəl] a.适合的；符合的 (初中英语单词)acknowledge [ək´nɔlidʒ] vt.(公开)承认；感谢 (初中英语单词)existence [ig´zistəns] n.存在；生存；生活 (初中英语单词)reality [ri´æliti] n.现实(性)；真实；逼真 (初中英语单词)universal [,ju:ni´və:səl] a.宇宙的；普遍的 (初中英语单词)therefore [´ðeəfɔ:] ad.&conj.因此；所以 (初中英语单词)sensible [´sensəbəl] a.感觉得到的 (初中英语单词)pardon [´pɑ:dən] n.&vt.原谅；饶恕；赦免 (初中英语单词)inquiry [in´kwaiəri] n.询问；质询；调查 (初中英语单词)properly [´prɔpəli] ad.适当地；严格地 (初中英语单词)sufficiently [sə´fiʃəntli] ad.充分地，足够地 (初中英语单词)reading [´ri:diŋ] n.(阅)读；朗读；读物 (初中英语单词)perceive [pə´si:v] vt.察觉；看出；领悟 (初中英语单词)absurd [əb´sə:d] a.荒谬的，可笑的 (初中英语单词)thence [ðens] ad.从那里；因此 (初中英语单词)variety [və´raiəti] n.变化；多样(性)；种类 (初中英语单词)distinct [di´stiŋkt] a.清楚的；独特的 (初中英语单词)absolute [´æbsəlu:t] a.绝对的 n.绝对 (初中英语单词)equally [´i:kwəli] ad.相等地；平等地 (初中英语单词)whatever [wɔt´evə] pron.&a.无论什么 (初中英语单词)plainly [´pleinli] ad.平坦地；简单地 (初中英语单词)capable [´keipəbəl] a.有能力；能干的 (初中英语单词)consequence [´kɔnsikwəns] n.结果；后果；推断 (初中英语单词)sensation [sen´seiʃən] n.感觉；轰动；轰动一时 (初中英语单词)conceive [kən´si:v] v.设想；表达；怀孕 (初中英语单词)suspect [´sʌspekt, sə´spekt] v.怀疑；觉得 n.嫌疑犯 (初中英语单词)violent [´vaiələnt] a.强暴的；猛烈的 (初中英语单词)finding [´faindiŋ] n.发现物；判断；结果 (高中英语单词)fragrant [´freigrənt] a.芳香的，芬芳的 (高中英语单词)solitude [´sɔlitju:d] n.孤独；寂寞；荒凉 (高中英语单词)impart [im´pɑ:t] vt.传授；赋予；告知 (高中英语单词)distinguished [di´stiŋgwiʃt] a.卓越的，著名的 (高中英语单词)extravagant [ik´strævəgənt] a.奢侈的；过度的 (高中英语单词)disadvantage [,disəd´vɑ:ntidʒ] n.不利(条件)；损失 (高中英语单词)leisure [´leʒə] n.空闲；悠闲；安定 (高中英语单词)commonly [´kɔmənli] ad.一般地；通常 (高中英语单词)concerning [kən´sə:niŋ] prep.关于 (高中英语单词)hitherto [,hiðə´tu:] ad.至今，迄今 (高中英语单词)reject [ri´dʒekt] vt.拒绝；抵制；否决 (高中英语单词)manifest [´mænifest] a.明显的 v.表明 (高中英语单词)whoever [hu:´evə] pron.任何人，无论谁 (高中英语单词)consequently [´kɔnsikwəntli] ad.因此，所以 (高中英语单词)affirm [ə´fə:m] vt.肯定，断言，证实 (高中英语单词)discourse [´diskɔ:s] n.论文；演说；说教 (高中英语单词)intellectual [,inti´lektʃuəl] n.知识分子 (高中英语单词)hearing [´hiəriŋ] n.听力；听证会；审讯 (高中英语单词)intense [in´tens] a.强烈的；紧张的 (高中英语单词)external [ik´stə:nəl] a.外部的；外面的 (高中英语单词)seeing [si:iŋ] see的现在分词 n.视觉 (高中英语单词)positive [´pɔzətiv] a.确定的 (高中英语单词)morrow [´mɔrəu] n.翌日 (英语四级单词)resolved [ri´zɔlvd] a.决心的；坚定的 (英语四级单词)considering [kən´sidəriŋ] prep.就…而论 (英语四级单词)vulgar [´vʌlgə] a.粗俗的；大众的 (英语四级单词)sublime [sə´blaim] a.崇高的，伟大的 (英语四级单词)absurdity [əb´sə:diti] n.荒谬，愚蠢；谬论 (英语四级单词)definition [,defi´niʃən] n.限定；定义；明确 (英语四级单词)rightly [´raitli] ad.正义地；正确地 (英语四级单词)desirous [di´zaiərəs] a.渴望的；想往的 (英语四级单词)apprehend [,æpri´hend] vt.理解；忧虑；逮捕 (英语四级单词)shorten [´ʃɔ:tn] v.缩短，变短 (英语四级单词)arbitrary [´ɑ:bitrəri] a.任意的；专断的 (英语四级单词)exterior [ik´stiəriə] n.&a.外表(的) (英语四级单词)lesser [´lesə] a.较小的；次要的 (英语四级单词)senseless [´sensləs] a.无知觉的；愚蠢的 (英语四级单词)suspense [sə´spens] n.悬挂；悬虑不安 (英语六级单词)denial [di´naiəl] n.否认；拒绝 (英语六级单词)diversity [dai´və:siti] n.差异；多样性 (英语六级单词)propriety [prə´praiəti] n.正当；合适；礼貌 (英语六级单词)subsistence [səb´sistəns] n.生存；生计；生活费 (英语六级单词)vehement [´viəmənt] a.猛烈的；热烈的 (英语六级单词)