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Berkeley's Three DialoguesNew Essays$
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Stefan Storrie

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198755685

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198755685.001.0001

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Berkeley’s Semiotic Idealism

Berkeley’s Semiotic Idealism

(p.61) 5 Berkeley’s Semiotic Idealism
Berkeley's Three Dialogues

Keota Fields

Oxford University Press

This chapter proposes an interpretation of Berkeley as a semiotic idealist. According to semiotic idealism internal ideas are signs for external divine ideas, and sensible objects are composite entities with external divine ideas as their essential parts and internal ideas of the imagination and (where applicable) sensations as their contingent parts. Signification is the ontological glue that unifies these parts into individuals. Divinely instituted normative linguistic rules govern the use of internal ideas as signs for external divine ideas. This semiotic relation gives objective form and meaning to internal ideas. Furthermore, Berkeley explicitly links this semiotic relation with rewards and sanctions, and claims that such connections allow us to make predictions about advantageous and disadvantageous courses of action. Sensible objects turn out to be values (rather than facts) because they are sources of pleasure and pain, guides to human flourishing, and sources of external meaning for Berkeley.

Keywords:   suggestion, normativity, imagination, divine language, externalism

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