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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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Reference and Quasi‐Reference

Reference and Quasi‐Reference

(p.86) 5 Reference and Quasi‐Reference
Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World

Kenneth L. Pearce

Oxford University Press

In De Motu, Berkeley distinguishes between two uses of language, which we may call ‘genuine reference’ and ‘quasi-reference.’ Genuine referring expressions, like ‘red,’ are used to label language-independent objects. Quasi-referring expressions function syntactically, and hence inferentially, just like genuine referring expressions but lack this labeling use. The central thesis of De Motu is that the theoretical terms of physics are quasi-referring expressions. The metaphysical conclusion Berkeley draws from this linguistic thesis is not that forces do not exist but rather that they depend for their existence and nature on our theorizing activity. Berkeley’s anti-realism in the philosophy of physics is thus ultimately grounded in his philosophy of language.

Keywords:   George Berkeley, De Motu, reference, philosophy of language, philosophy of physics, metaphysics, anti-realism

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