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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 Theory of Language in Alciphron 7

Berkeley’s Theory of Language in Alciphron 7

(p.54) 3 Berkeley’s Theory of Language in Alciphron 7
Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World

Kenneth L. Pearce

Oxford University Press

Berkeley’s most detailed discussion of the philosophy of language appears in Alciphron. Although Berkeley’s discussion is motivated by problems about religious language raised by John Toland, his response is not to develop a theory of religious language as a special case but rather to defend a general theory of language and show that the meaningfulness of these religious utterances is a consequence of that theory. The theory Berkeley adopts holds that words get to be meaningful when they are used according to conventional rules as part of a public social practice aiming at practical ends. Berkeley does not endorse a sharp distinction between emotive and cognitive language, but rather holds that one and the same word is typically associated with a wide variety of rules, which may instruct users not only to have ideas but also to feel emotions or perform a variety of linguistic or non-linguistic actions.

Keywords:   George Berkeley, John Toland, Alciphron, philosophy of language, religious language, meaning as use, emotive language

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