Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous Themes

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Common sense and the purpose of philosophy

In the Three Dialogues, Berkeley not only attacks specific philosophical ideas, but an entire idea of how to practice philosophy. The introduction begins with an attack on philosophy as “fruitless disquisitions” (3). Similarly, Berkeley frequently makes fun of both specific philosophers such as Locke and Malebranche as well as philosophy in general, most notably when he marvels at the beauty of nature and dismisses those philosophers who deny it as “extravagantly absurd” (46). The same antagonism towards philosophy is present in both Hylas and Philonous, who at the beginning of the Dialogues both distance themselves from contemporary philosophy, since they see it as deeply skeptical. This way, one can see Berkeley as the forefather of a philosophical tradition, running from Immanuel Kant and culminating in figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, Rudolf Carnap, and Jacques Deridda, which questions the possibility of philosophy at all...

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