The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XI. Berkeley and Contemporary Philosophy

§ 9. Arthur Collier

In 1713, three years after the appearance of Berkeley’s Principles, Arthur Collier, rector of Langford Magna, near Salisbury, published a work entitled Clavis Universalis and professing to be “a demonstration of the non-existence or impossibility of an external world.” Collier was born in 1680, and, like Berkeley, seems to have formed his conclusions at an early age: for he says that it was “after a ten years’ pause and deliberation” that he decided to put his arguments before the reader. His results are almost identical with Berkeley’s; but he arrived at them in a different way. He seems to have been uninfluenced by Locke; Descartes, Malebranche and Norris were his favourite authors; and there was enough, in their writings, to raise the question. Collier writes in a straight-forward and simple style; he has none of Berkeley’s imagination or eloquence; he does not contend that he has the plain man on his side, nor does he apply his results to current controversy. But he has no less confidence than Berkeley had in the truth of his views; and his arguments are clearly put. Often, they resemble Berkeley’s; though greater use is made of traditional metaphysical discussions. Among these, the most notable is the argument from the antinomies of philosophical thought. The external world, conceived as independent of mind, has been held infinite in extent, and also it has been held to be finite; and equally good and conclusive reasons can be given for either alternative. Similarly, it is “both finitely and infinitely divisible.” But a thing cannot have two contradictory predicates. External matter, therefore, does not exist.