In the hope that readers of the New Philosophy would find interest in it, I am here attempting a review of Bishop George Berkeley's Siris: A Chain of Philosophical Reflexions, as its author, inventor of the system of subjective idealism now known as Berkeleianism, quaintly called it. I shall spend most of my space in giving a summary of what seemed to me the author's most interesting or significant ideas, because I think they are more profitable in se than any criticism I can contrive of the last important work of this devout and clever contemporary of Swedenborg. Berkeley was born in 1685 and died in 1753.
Without trying to force Swedenborg’s philosophical works into some interpretative series, it seems possible to discern the purpose in his writing of The Infinite; or rather, a combination of interests, reasons and motives, behind which we may, perhaps, see a hint of Divine purpose. It seems evident that when Swedenborg left Stockholm in 1733 he had no other intention in mind than to continue with his mineralogical works after publishing the Opera Mineralia; the idea of writing The Infinite came later, but appears to have been growing for some time. To some extent, indeed, the idea may be said to have come directly from his Principia studies.
Swedenborg opens his treatment by commenting on the difficulties encountered in attempting to discover the true nature of the soul. One of the chief difficulties is that man wishes to attain the highest realms of thought directly from the lowest, without recourse to the intermediate degrees. For this reason he felt it necessary to formulate a “Doctrine of Series and Degrees” and a “Mathematical Philosophy of Universals.” These sciences he developed by studying anatomy and by scientific observation and study.
The Rational Psychology represents, in one sense, the culmination of the first period of Swedenborg’s philosophical labors. This work had been projected at the beginning of the Economy of the Animal Kingdom as the final treatise in that series. In it Swedenborg hoped to bring to final form and conclusion the efforts he had made in the whole Economy series. It is in the Rational Psychology, therefore, that we find the first formulation of the philosopher’s early efforts to attain to a knowledge of the soul.