Protestant Semantics and the Curtain of Words
This chapter proposes a dilemma: Berkeley's attack on abstract ideas appears to require an acceptance of a Lockean-style ideational semantics. However, such a semantics would seem to undercut the viability of his central religious convictions. It would seem Berkeley can only save the latter by rejecting the former or vice-versa. The dilemma is removed by a careful examination of Berkeley's famous Introduction to the Principles. It is shown that Berkeley's attack on abstract ideas is actually based on a rejection of ideational semantics. Instead, Berkeley advocates a “use theory” of meaning. This semantic theory is then applied to the interpretation of Berkeley's divine language thesis and shown to help support a pragmatic approach to the ontology of the natural world. This interpretation is defended against competing interpretations by Jonathan Bennett and David Berman.
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