Kant called Berkeley a "material idealist" on the grounds that Berkeley stated you are not and cannot experience objects outside a mind because the mind wouldn't understand what that means.

Kant seems more interested in how perceptions (thoughts, qualia, sensory perceptions, etc.) are filtered by a mind, and not so much by the cause of those perceptions.

At the end of the day, however, there is a large difference between the perceptions translated into neurons (as Berkeley seemed to suggest) and the perceived objects.

I would like to reference Magritte's painting The Treachery of Images. The neurons are much like the pipe, wait, no, the painting of a pipe. The painting is like a neuron representation of a pipe, but is not equivalent to a pipe, so in this Berkeley seemed dead on, and Kant seems to take the same for granted in his own critique of pure reason, for example, his own chair example where he says it is an immediate representation (note the term used) of a chair.

Do these two concepts not seem so linked? Are they not founded in much the same metaphysical ideal?

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    One maybe helpful fact: What is translated to representation is in German Vorstellung. It may also be translated to conception. Concepts [Begriffe], on the other side, put conceptions in order. They are no "mediate representations". Wikipedia is so wrong in so many ways here. The chair example is a) inaccurate and b) not Kant's own.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 20:29
  • @Philip Klöcking I could've sworn I remember Kant using a chair in his examples. Describing the space it took up, etc. Commented May 19, 2016 at 3:43
  • A quick full text search did only bring up the passage where he speaks about voluntarily raising from a chair in the discussion of the third antinomy (A450|B478).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 7:04
  • Another aspect that, given time, knowledge about the transcendental deduction and some quotes, would probably make an answer: Kant does hold objectivity for real. The objects and their interconnections (under the name of Vorstellungen) are real for us, accessable. Berkeley does not and cannot contribute to reality of objectivity accessable for us, Kant does.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 10:59
  • @Philip Klöcking Berkeley does contribute to the "reality of an object", just not in the same sense. He states all things continue to exist and persist because they are all in God's mind. What those objects actually consist of is irrelevent, physics is irrelevent, (at least for this case) it is how we experience it that links the two theories. Both men describe how we experience chairness and both regard objective reality as "questionable" (see Kant's problematical idealism in the Critique of Pure Reason). Perhaps Berkeley goes too far to link to a cause for reality, Commented May 19, 2016 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


No, Kant's and Berkeley's positions have barely anything to do with eachother. I don't think there is any evidence that Kant ever read Berkeley until a very critical review of his work was published, authored by Garve and Feder, who accused Kant of Berkeleyan immaterialism (what is sometimes called "subjective idealism", "spiritualism", "solipsism" etc. - but Berkeley himself doesn't use the term "idealism" at all and Kant means "idealism" in Leibnizian sense of "ideal", i.e. a distinction that is only as far as it is thought). This is, however, a very confused ascription.

Schopenhauer thought that Kant "disfigured" his work by (according to him) emphasizing the independence of objects of our senses from our sensing them in the B edition of the Critique (1787) following the review. But Schopenhauer's reading of Kant is so incredibly confused that it's almost ineffable. Kant only offered clarification on what is already explicit in the A edition - there's nothing more "Berkeleyan", as Schopenhauer would like to claim, about the first edition.

In fact, the position that Kant ascribes to Locke and Hume in the Critique of Pure Reason is in many ways resembling Berkeley more than either Locke or Hume (as they both never doubted that there is an external world in a robust sense, although we cannot know anything about it independent of experience and our experience, cognitively speaking, has a very loose relation to it). So Kant was aware that Berkeley's phenomenalism/immaterialism is a consequence of the Lockean view of perception, as primary qualities quickly become redundant and are reduced to secondary qualities, even though he probably hasn't read Berkeley's work. This, however, just further shows that Kant was not a Berkeleyan... because he was not a Lockean.

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