Berkeley's understanding of Christian belief

One of the most fascinating aspects of Pearce's work is how he unravels Berkeley's view of the truth of Christianity. Berkeley holds that both in ordinary and scientific language, "assent without ideas is a widespread phenomenon" (152). We assent to language that does not correspond to any idea when such assent enables to get on better in the world, e.g., we use the languages of "forces", even though we have no idea corresponding to "a force", because by doing so we are better able to predict the motion of objects in space. Similarly, to say, for instance, that one "believes" in the doctrine of the trinity is to assent to having one's life shaped by such a notion, and the "truth" of such language consists in the fact that those who truly assent to have their lives shaped by it thereby lead better lives. Or, as Pearce puts it regarding another belief, "The doctrine of the divinity of Christ produces a practical, interpersonal attitude toward Christ" (154).


  1. Did Berkeley not believe that Christianity was "actually" true, i.e. that it correctly described reality as it really is?

    1. What Berkeley is going to respond, I think, is that your question misapprehends the nature of language use. To see what I am saying, go to my (nearly complete) book review here:


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