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EORGE BERKELEY, Bishop of Cloyne, one of the most celebrated
English metaphysicians, was born at Dysert Castle, near Be Thomastown, Ireland, March 12th, 1685. After graduating with honor from the University of Dublin and entering the ministry of the Church of England, he went to London where he became associated with Swift and other «wits” of that remarkable period. He was one of the contributors to the Guardian when it was founded in 1713, and in making acknowledgment, its publisher declared that «Mr. Berkeley, of Trinity College, Dublin, had embellished its columns with many excellent arguments in honor of religion and virtue.” Through Swift he met «Vanessa” (Miss Vanhomrigh), at whose death he found himself the legatee of half her fortune – though it is said they never saw each other after the first meeting. In philosophy Berkeley stands for the tenet that matter exists only as a manifestation of mind. His «Commonplace Book,” « The Principles of Human Knowledge,) and his “Alciphron” are his principal works, though his discourse on tar water, «Siris, a Chain of Philosophical Reflections and Inquiries concerning the Virtues of Tar Water, etc.,” has been made celebrated by its own originality, and still more, perhaps, by the sense of humor of those who dissent from his system of metaphysics. He died at Oxford, January 14th, 1753.
PLEASURES NATURAL AND FANTASTICAL
Hor. Lib. I., Ep. vi. 2.
-Creech. JT is of great use to consider the pleasures which constitute I human happiness, as they are distinguished into natural and
fantastical. Natural pleasures I call those, which, not depending on the fashion and caprice of any particular age or nation, are suited to human nature in general, and were intended by Providence as rewards for using our faculties agreeably to the
ends for which they were given us. Fantastical pleasures are those which, having no natural fitness to delight our minds, presuppose some particular whim or taste accidentally prevailing in a set of people, to which it is owing that they please.
Now I take it that the tranquillity and cheerfulness with which I have passed my life are the effect of having, ever since I came to years of discretion, continued my inclinations to the former sort of pleasures. But as my experience can be a rule only to my own actions, it may probably be a stronger motive to induce others to the same scheme of life, if they would consider that we are prompted to natural pleasures by an instinct impressed on our minds by the Author of our nature, who best understands our frames, and consequently best knows what those pleasures are which will give us the least uneasiness in the pursuit, and the greatest satisfaction in the enjoyment of them. Hence it follows that the objects of our natural desires are cheap, or easy to be obtained, it being a maxim that holds throughout the whole system of created beings, “that nothing is made in vain,” much less the instincts and appetites of animals, which the benevolence, as well as wisdom of the Deity, is concerned to provide for. Nor is the fruition of those objects less pleasing than the acquisition is easy; and the pleasure is heightened by the sense of having answered some natural end, and the consciousness of acting in concert with the Supreme Governor of the universe.
Under natural pleasures I comprehend those which are universally suited, as well to the rational as the sensual part of our nature. And of the pleasures which affect our senses, those only are to be esteemed natural that are contained within the rules of reason, which is allowed to be as necessary an ingredient of human nature as sense. And, indeed, excesses of any kind are hardly to be esteemed pleasures, much less natural pleasures.
It is evident that a desire terminated in money is fantastical; so is the desire of outward distinctions, which bring no delight of sense, nor recommend us as useful to mankind; and the desire of things merely because they are new or foreign. Men who are indisposed to a due exertion of their higher parts are driven to such pursuits as these from the restlessness of the mind, and the sensitive appetites being easily satisfied. It is, in some sort, owing to the bounty of Providence, that, disdaining a cheap and vulgar happiness, they frame to themselves imaginary goods, in which there is nothing that can raise desire, but the difficulty of obtaining them. Thus men become the contrivers of their own misery, as a punishment on themselves for departing from the measures of nature. Having by an habitual reflection on these truths made them familiar, the effect is, that I, among a number of persons who have debauched their natural taste, see things in a peculiar light, which I have arrived at, not by any uncommon force of genius, or acquired knowledge, but only by unlearning the false notions instilled by custom and education.
The various objects that compose the world were by nature formed to delight our senses, and as it is this alone that makes them desirable to an uncorrupted taste, a man may be said naturally to possess them, when he possesseth those enjoyments which they are fitted by nature to yield. Hence it is usual with me to consider myself as having a natural property in every object that administers pleasure to me. When I am in the country, all the fine seats near the place of my residence, and to which I have access, I regard as mine. The same I think of the groves and fields where I walk, and muse on the folly of the civil landlord in London, who has the fantastical pleasure of draining dry rent into his coffers, but is a stranger to fresh air and rural enjoyments. By these principles I am possessed of half a dozen of the finest seats in England, which in the eye of the law belong to certain of my acquaintance, who being men of business choose to live near the court.
In some great families, where I choose to pass my time, a stranger would be apt to rank me with the other domestics; but in my own thoughts and natural judgment I am master of the house, and he who goes by that name is my steward, who eases me of the care of providing for myself the conveniences and pleasures of life.
When I walk the streets, I use the foregoing natural maxim (viz., That he is the true possessor of a thing who enjoys it, and not he that owns it without the enjoyment of it), to convince myself that I have a property in the gay part of all the gilt chariots that I meet, which I regard as amusements designed to delight my eyes, and the imagination of those kind people who sit in them gaily attired only to please me. I have a real, and they only an imaginary pleasure, from their exterior embellishments. Upon the same principle, I have discovered that I am the natural proprietor of all the diamond necklaces, the crosses, stars, brocades, and embroidered clothes, which I see at a play or birthnight, as giving more natural delight to the spectator than to those that wear them. And I look on the beaux and ladies as so many paroquets in an aviary, or tulips in a garden, designed purely for my diversion. A gallery of pictures, a cabinet, or library, that I have free access to, I think my own. In a word, all that I desire is the use of things, let who will have the keeping of them. By which maxim I am grown one of the richest men in Great Britain; with this difference, that I am not a prey to my own cares, or the envy of others.
The same principles I find of great use in my private economy. As I cannot go to the price of history painting, I have purchased at easy rates several beautifully designed pieces of landscape and perspective, which are much more pleasing to a natural taste than unknown faces or Dutch gambols, though done by the best masters; my couches, beds, and window curtains are of Irish stuff, which those of that nation work very fine, and with a delightful mixture of colors. There is not a piece of china in my house; but I have glasses of all sorts, and some tinged with the finest colors, which are not the less pleasing, because they are domestic, and cheaper than foreign toys. Everything is neat, entire, and clean, and fitted to the taste of one who had rather be happy than be thought rich.
Every day, numberless innocent and natural gratifications occur to me, while I behold my fellow-creatures laboring in a toilsome and absurd pursuit of trifles: one that he may be called by a particular appellation; another, that he may wear a particular ornament, which I regard as a bit of riband that has an agreeable effect on my sight, but is so far from supplying the place of merit where it is not, that it serves only to make the want of it more conspicuous. Fair weather is the joy of my soul; about noon I behold a blue sky with rapture, and receive great consolation from the rosy dashes of light which adorn the clouds of the morning and evening. When I am lost among green trees, I do not envy a great man with a great crowd at his levée. And I often lay aside thoughts of going to an opera, that I may enjoy the silent pleasure of walking by moonlight, or viewing the stars sparkle in their azure ground; which I look upon as part of my possessions, not without a secret indignation at the tastelessness of mortal men, who in their race through life overlook the real enjoyments of it.
But the pleasure which naturally affects a human mind with the most lively and transporting touches I take to be the sense that we act in the eye of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, that will crown our virtuous endeavors here with a happiness hereafter, large as our desires, and lasting as our immortal souls. This is a perpetual spring of gladness in the mind. This lessens our calamities and doubles our joys. Without this the highest state of life is insipid, and with it the lowest is a paradise. What unnatural wretches then are those who can be so stupid as to imagine a merit, in endeavoring to rob virtue of her support, and a man of his present as well as future bliss ? But as I have frequently taken occasion to animadvert on that species of mortals, so I propose to repeat my animadversions on them till I see some symptoms of amendment.
Complete. Number 49 of the Guardian,