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Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World$
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Kenneth L. Pearce

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198790334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198790334.001.0001

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Berkeley’s Attack on Meanings

Berkeley’s Attack on Meanings

(p.8) 1 Berkeley’s Attack on Meanings
Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World

Kenneth L. Pearce

Oxford University Press

Most of Berkeley’s predecessors assumed that words get to be meaningful by having meanings, where a meaning is understood as a special intrinsically representational entity such as a Platonic form, an Aristotelian universal, or an abstract idea. Berkeley’s arguments in the Introduction to the Principles are often interpreted as a narrow criticism of Locke’s theory of abstraction. This chapter argues, on the contrary, that Berkeley’s aim is to show that there cannot possibly be such things as meanings. The rejection of meanings prompts Berkeley to abandon the entire approach to theorizing about mind and language found in nearly all of his predecessors.

Keywords:   philosophy of language, meaning, abstract ideas, George Berkeley, John Locke, philosophy of mind

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