Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World
According to George Berkeley (1685-1753), there is fundamentally nothing in the world but minds and their ideas. Ideas are understood as pure phenomenal 'feels' which are momentarily had by a single perceiver, then vanish. Surprisingly, Berkeley tries to sell this idealistic philosophical system as a defense of common-sense and an aid to science. However, both common-sense and Newtonian science take the perceived world to be highly structured in a way that Berkeley's system does not appear to allow. Kenneth L. Pearce argues that Berkeley's solution to this problem lies in his innovative philosophy of language. The solution works at two levels. At the first level, it is by means of our conventions for the use of physical object talk that we impose structure on the world. At a deeper level, the orderliness of the world is explained by the fact that, according to Berkeley, the world itself is a discourse 'spoken' by God - the world is literally an object of linguistic interpretation. The structure that our physical object talk - in common-sense and in Newtonian physics - aims to capture is the grammatical structure of this divine discourse. This approach yields surprising consequences for some of the most discussed issues in Berkeley's metaphysics. Most notably, it is argued that, in Berkeley's view, physical objects are neither ideas nor collections of ideas. Rather, physical objects, like forces, are mere quasi-entities brought into being by our linguistic practices.
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abstract ideas according to Berkeley actions Alciphron argued Aristotle assent Atherton attributed belief Berkeley holds Berkeley says Berkeley writes Berkeley’s arguments Berkeley’s theory Berkeley’s view bodies causal chapter conventional rules Crito Dialogues discourse discussion dispositions distinct divine language domain of discourse emphasis added entities Euphranor existence explicit explicitly follow force Furthermore genuine referring expressions God’s holism human inference Inference Rules interpretation Intro involves label language of nature linguistic Locke Locke’s Manuscript Introduction mathematical meaningful Melampus metaphysical mind natural philosophy Nevertheless notion objects one’s particular Pearce perceived perception phenomenological appeal Philonous philosophical philosophy of language physics practical Principles proposition propositional knowledge quasientities question regarded religious rulefollowing sense sensible qualities sentence sign system signify Siris sort speaker spirits structure suggest talk theory of language Theory of Meanings Theory of Vision things triangle true truth understanding visual words