Alciphron (book)

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Alciphron title page (1732).

Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher is an anticatholic philosophical dialogue by the 18th-century Irish philosopher George Berkeley wherein Berkeley combated the arguments of free-thinkers such as Mandeville and Shaftesbury against the Christian religion. It was first published in 1732.

The dialogue is primarily between four characters, the free-thinkers Alciphron and Lysicles, Berkeley's spokesman Euphranor, and Crito, who serves as a spokesman for traditional Christianity. The mostly-silent narrator of the dialogue is given the name Dion.

The work contains two especially notable sections:

  • Dialogue IV, in which Berkeley presents a novel teleological argument for the existence of God based on Berkeley's theory of visual language, defended in the Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision (first published in 1709, and included with the first edition of Alciphron).[1]
  • Dialogue VII, in which Berkeley presents a novel theory of language which has been compared with the theory of language advocated by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations.[2]

In a later work, The Theory of Vision Vindicated and Explained (first published in 1733), Berkeley adduced the work of Alberto Radicati as evidence that the views advocated by the character Lysicles were not overly exaggerated (para. 5).


  1. ^ See David Kline, "Berkeley's Divine Language Argument" in Ernest Sosa, ed., Essays on the Philosophy of George Berkeley (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1987), repr. in David Berman, ed., Alciphron in Focus (London: Routledge, 1993).
  2. ^ Anthony Flew, "Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein?" in W. B. Todd, ed. Hume and the Enlightenment: Essays Presented to Ernest Campbell Mossner (Edinburgh: The University Press, 1974), repr. in Berman, ed., Alciphron.

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