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Summary From the very beginning of his career Berkeley was deeply concerned with the nature of signification and the role of signs in human thought, knowledge, and language. These concerns seem to be motivated primarily by concerns about religious mysteries, although they have much broader application. A 'mystery,' in the relevant sense, is a sentence to which religious believers assent 'by faith' which involves terms that do not stand for ideas possessed by those believers. In trying to explain how one can be said to believe what is asserted by a sentence without having an idea corresponding to each of the terms in that sentence, Berkeley developed a radical theory of language which has sometimes been seen as a predecessor to the views of the later Wittgenstein.
Key works The main primary sources for Berkeley's theory of language are the manuscript and published versions of the Introduction to the Principles and the seventh dialogue of Alciphron. Berman 1981 makes the case for the origin of Berkeley's theory in a particular historical dispute about religious mysteries. The early development of Berkeley's theory is traced by Belfrage 1985, Belfrage 1986, and Belfrage 1986. Berman attributes to Berkeley a form of emotivism or non-cognitivism about religious mysteries and moral language. The claim that Berkeley was a non-cognitivist is disputed with respect to Berkeley's early manuscript materials by Jakapi 2003 and Williford 2003, and with respect to Alciphron by Jakapi 2002. An alternative interpretation of Berkeley's mature positive theory is provided by Williford & Jakapi 2009. The case for similarity between Berkeley and the later Wittgenstein is made by Flew 1974.
Introductions A comprehensive overview of Berkeley's thought regarding signs and signification is provided by Winkler 2005.
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  1. Schwerin Alan (2015). On Hume's Defense of Berkeley. Open Journal of Philosophy 5 (6):327 - 337.
    In 1739 Hume bequeathed a bold view of the self to the philosophical community that would prove highly influential, but equally controversial. His bundle theory of the self elicited substantial opposition soon after its appearance in the Treatise of Human Nature. Yet Hume makes it clear to his readers that his views on the self rest on respectable foundations: namely, the views of the highly regarded Irish philosopher, George Berkeley. As the author of the Treatise sees it, his account of (...)
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  2. Atakan Altınörs (2010). Berkeley’in Dil Ve Anlam Yaklaşimi Üzerine Bir İncelemeA Study On The Design Of Language And Meaning In Berkeley. Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 3 (1).
    Bu makalemizde, Berkeley’in dil ve anlam yaklaşımını incelemeye çalıştık. Söz konusu yaklaşımının tarihî bağlamını belirtmek üzere, öncelikle Locke’un anlam teorisine yönelttiği itirazı takdim etmeyi denedik. Locke’a yönelik itirazının temelinde, “soyut idealar”ın mevcudiyeti konusunda, aralarındaki bir fikir ayrılığının yattığını gözlemledik. Locke’un anlam teorisinin aksine, Berkeley kelimelerin sadece ve her kullanıldıklarında soyut ideaların yerini tutmaya -veya aynı manâda, onlara işaret etmeye- yaramadığını savunur; bu bakımdan Berkeley’in nezdinde anlamlılık, bir kelimenin bir ideanın yerini tutması olgusuyla açıklanamaz ve açıklanmamalıdır.In this article, we sought to (...)
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  3. Robert L. Armstrong (1969). Berkeley's Theory of Signification. Journal of the History of Philosophy 7 (2):163-176.
    Berkeley's theory of signification is explicated and analyzed. Signification: (1) replaces abstract general ideas in the recognition of similar ideas, (2) replaces causation as the relation between ideas of sense and their external sources, (3) replaces substance in the account of sensible objects. Its supposedly simple character cannot be maintained. There are at least three different kinds of signification: signification within categories, Signification across categories, And ontological signification. Berkeley's immaterialistic metaphysics, Relying heavily upon the theory of signification, Is fantastic but (...)
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  4. M. R. Ayers (1986). Berkeley and the Meaning of Existence. History of European Ideas 7 (6):567-573.
  5. Donald Edward Baldwin (1978). The Divine Visual Language Argument in George Berkeley's "Alciphron.". Dissertation, University of Missouri - Columbia
  6. Jeffrey Barnouw (2008). The Two Motives Behind Berkeley's Expressly Unmotivated Signs : Sure Perception and Personal Providence. In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), New Interpretations of Berkeley's Thought. Humanity Books
  7. M. W. Beal (1976). Berkeley's Deletions. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 6 (3):455 - 478.
  8. M. W. Beale (1973). Universality Without Universals: A Deleted Argument From Berkeley's Introduction to the Principles. Modern Schoolman 50 (3):301-310.
  9. Bertil Belfrage (2007). The Theological Positivism of George Berkeley (1707-1708). Acta Philosophica Fennica 83:37-52.
    Did George Berkeley, as I argued long ago in Belfrage (1986), defend a theory of "emotive meaning" in his Manuscript Introduction (an early version of the introduction to the Principles)? This question has raised a broad spectrum of different issues, which I think it is important to keep apart, such as rhetorical, psychological, semantic, ethical, metaphysical, and theological aspects. In the present paper, I hope to clear the ground of ambiguities, which have led to serious misunderstandings on this interesting point (...)
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  10. Bertil Belfrage (1986). Berkeley's Theory of Emotive Meaning (1708). Hisory of European Ideas 7 (6):643-649.
  11. Bertil Belfrage (1986). Development of Berkeley's Early Theory of Meaning. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (3):319-330.
  12. Bertil Belfrage (1985). The Clash on Semantics in Berkeley's Notebook A. Hermathena 139:117-126.
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  13. Vahan Edward Benglian (1983). Berkeley's Analysis of the Linguistic Sources of Philosophical Perplexity. Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
    In view of the therapeutic and methodological significance Berkeley ascribes to the refutation and explanation of philosophical error, his treatment of the way in which language has been misunderstood and misused forms an integral part of his philosophical project. The task of the present study is to bring to light certain latent aspects in his analysis of the linguistic sources of philosophical error and perplexity. I seek to establish, within the perspective of Berkeley's system, the various kinds of ways in (...)
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  14. George Berkeley (1733). The Theory of Vision, or Visual Language, Shewing the Immediate Presence and Providence of a Deity, Vindicated and Explained, by the Author of Alciphron.
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  15. David Berman (1981). Cognitive Theology and Emotive Mysteries in Berkeley's Alciphron. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 81:219-229.
  16. Richard Brook (2003). Berkeley's Theory of Vision: Transparency and Signification. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 11 (4):691 – 699.
    By "transparency" with respect to Berkeley's theory of signs, I mean the notion that because of the often close association between signs and what they signify, we mistakenly think we sense what is signified by the sense that accesses the sign. I argue that although this makes sense for some examples, for a variety of reasons it's not really applicable to Berkeley's claim that we mistakenly think we immediately see distance ('outness') when we, in fact, immediately see only light and (...)
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  17. Richard Brook (1995). Berkeley, Causality, and Signification. International Studies in Philosophy 27 (2):15-31.
  18. Geneviève Brykman (1993). Berkeley Et le Voile des Mots. Vrin.
    Appuyé d’abord sur la critique de l’abstraction, l’immatérialisme de Berkeley évolua sensiblement par la mise en avant du caractère inévitablement métaphorique des formes de discours des hommes. En effet, le voile des mots était en réalité un double voile : le premier se tient dans la poussière savante des partisans des idées abstraites; le second se montre dans le caractère indicible de ce dont nous n’avons pas d’idées et dont nous parlons par analogies et métaphores.Or, si l’immatérialisme au sens strict (...)
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  19. Kay Codell Carter (1968). George Berkeley's Views on Linguistic Meaning. Dissertation, Cornell University
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  20. James W. Cornman (1970). Theoretical Terms, Berkeleian Notions, and Minds. In Colin Murray Turbayne (ed.), A Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge / George Berkeley, with Critical Essays. Bobbs-Merrill
  21. James P. Danaher (2002). Is Berkeley's World a Divine Language? Modern Theology 18 (3):361-373.
    George Berkeley (1685–1753) believed that the visible world was a series of signs that constituted a divine language through which God was speaking to us. Given the nature of language and the nature of the visual world, this paper examines to what extent the visual world could be a divine language and to what extent God could speak to us through it.
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  22. Stephen H. Daniel (2011). Berkeley's Rejection of Divine Analogy. Science Et Esprit 63 (2):149-161.
    Berkeley argues that claims about divine predication (e.g., God is wise or exists) should be understood literally rather than analogically, because like all spirits (i.e., causes), God is intelligible only in terms of the extent of his effects. By focusing on the harmony and order of nature, Berkeley thus unites his view of God with his doctrines of mind, force, grace, and power, and avoids challenges to religious claims that are raised by appeals to analogy. The essay concludes by showing (...)
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  23. Stephen H. Daniel (2011). Stoicism in Berkeley's Philosophy. In Bertil Belfrage & Timo Airaksinen (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars 121-34.
    Commentators have not said much regarding Berkeley and Stoicism. Even when they do, they generally limit their remarks to Berkeley’s Siris (1744) where he invokes characteristically Stoic themes about the World Soul, “seminal reasons,” and the animating fire of the universe. The Stoic heritage of other Berkeleian doctrines (e.g., about mind or the semiotic character of nature) is seldom recognized, and when it is, little is made of it in explaining his other doctrines (e.g., immaterialism). None of this is surprising, (...)
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  24. Stephen H. Daniel (2001). The Ramist Context of Berkeley's Philosophy. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 9 (3):487 – 505.
    Berkeley's doctrines about mind, the language of nature, substance, minima sensibilia, notions, abstract ideas, inference, and freedom appropriate principles developed by the 16th-century logician Peter Ramus and his 17th-century followers (e.g., Alexander Richardson, William Ames, John Milton). Even though Berkeley expresses himself in Cartesian or Lockean terms, he relies on a Ramist way of thinking that is not a form of mere rhetoric or pedagogy but a logic and ontology grounded in Stoicism. This article summarizes the central features of Ramism, (...)
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  25. Katherine Dunlop (2011). The Role of Visual Language in Berkeley's Account of Generality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):525-559.
  26. Daniel E. Flage (1987). Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning. St. Martin's Press.
  27. Anthony Flew (1974). Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein? In W. B. Todd (ed.), Hume and the Enlightenment: Essays Presented to Ernest Campbell Mossner. Edinburgh University Press
  28. Antony Flew (1989). Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (4):622-624.
  29. Denis Forest (1997). George Berkeley Langage Visuel, Communication Universelle. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 187 (4):429 - 446.
    Le motif du langage visuel, qui traverse l'ensemble de l'oeuvre de Berkeley, n'est pas seulement le noyau de sa philosophie de la perception. Il est aussi le préréquisit d'une preuve originale de l'existence de Dieu, une évaluation spécifique de la nature de l'expérience commune et de la portée de l'explication scientifique, et il a des conséquences singulières quant à la doctrine de la création du monde. La première conclusion de l'article est qu'en dépit du rejet berkeleyen du mécanisme, on peut (...)
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  30. Melissa Frankel (2009). Berkeley, Meaning and Minds: Remarks on Glezakos' Comments. Philosophia 37 (3):409-413.
    This is a response to Stavroula Glezakos’ commentary on my paper, in which I address three main points: (1) whether Berkeley is entitled to argue via inference to the best explanation, (2) whether Berkeley’s likeness principle might be too strict, and (3) whether the texts support my reading.
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  31. Melissa Frankel (2009). Something-We-Know-Not-What, Something-We-Know-Not-Why: Berkeley, Meaning and Minds. Philosophia 37 (3):381-402.
    It is sometimes suggested that Berkeley adheres to an empirical criterion of meaning, on which a term is meaningful just in case it signifies an idea (i.e., an immediate object of perceptual experience). This criterion is thought to underlie his rejection of the term ‘matter’ as meaningless. As is well known, Berkeley thinks that it is impossible to perceive matter. If one cannot perceive matter, then, per Berkeley, one can have no idea of it; if one can have no idea (...)
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  32. E. J. Furlong (1964). Berkeley's Theory of Meaning. Mind 73 (291):437-438.
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  33. Sidney Gelber (1952). Universal Language and Sciences of Man in Berkeley. Journal of the History of Ideas 13 (1/4):482.
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  34. David Aaron Givner (1959). A Study of George Berkeley's Theory of Linguistic Meaning: With a Discussion of Locke's Account of Language and a Consideration of the Relevance of Their Philosophies of Science. Dissertation, Columbia University
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  35. R. Glauser (1983). Les relations de signification chez Berkeley. Studia Philosophica 42:165.
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  36. Stavroula Glezakos (2009). Comments on Melissa Frankel's “Something-We-Know-Not-What, Something-We-Know-Not Why: Berkeley, Meaning and Minds”. Philosophia 37 (3):403-407.
  37. Roomet Jakapi (2007). Christian Mysteries and Berkeley's Alleged Non-Cognitivism. In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy.
  38. Roomet Jakapi (2003). Entry 720 of Berkeleys Philosophical Commentaries and Noncognitive Propositions in Scripture. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 85 (1):86-90.
  39. Roomet Jakapi (2002). Emotive Meaning and Christian Mysteries in Berkeley's Alciphron. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 10 (3):401 – 411.
    (2002). Emotive meaning and Christian mysteries in Berkeley’s Alciphron. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 401-411. doi: 10.1080/09608780210143218.
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  40. Roomet Jakapi (2002). Faith, Truth, Revelation and Meaning in Berkeley's Defense of the Christian Religion (in Alciphron). Modern Schoolman 80 (1):23-34.
  41. P. J. E. Kail (2007). Berkeley, the Ends of Language, and the Principles of Human Knowledge. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt3):265-278.
    This paper discusses some key connections between Berkeley's reflections on language in the introduction to his Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge and the doctrines espoused in the body of that work, in particular his views on vulgar causal discourse and his response to the objection that his metaphysics imputes massive error to ordinary thought. I argue also that there is some mileage in the view that Berkeley's thought might be an early form of non-cognitivism.
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  42. John K. Kearney (1975). Thought, Language, and Meaning in Berkeley's Philosophy. New Scholasticism 49 (3):280-294.
    This paper evaluates karl popper's claim in his "conjectures and refutations" that berkeley's "nominalism" is at the root of his "instrumentalist" philosophy of science. the argument of the paper is divided into two parts. in the first part, it is argued that, according to berkeley, "thought" is ontologically prior to "language". in this sense, berkeley's instrumentalism is rooted in a metaphysics of experience and not in a theory of language. in the second part, it is argued that the meaning of (...)
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  43. E. G. King (1970). Language, Berkeley, and God. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1 (2):112 - 123.
  44. A. David Kline (1987). Berkeley's Divine Language Argument. In Ernest Sosa (ed.), Essays on the Philosophy of George Berkeley. D. Reidel
  45. Thomas M. Lennon (1988). Berkeley and the Ineffable. Synthese 75 (2):231 - 250.
  46. Antonia LoLordo (2009). Comments on Kenneth P. Winkler's “Signification, Intention, Projection”. Philosophia 37 (3):503-505.
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  47. R. M. Martin (1952). On the Berkeley-Russell Theory of Proper Names. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 13 (2):221-231.
  48. William McGowan (1982). Berkeley's Doctrine of Signs. In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
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  49. Lawrence A. Mirarchi (1982). Dynamical Implications of Berkeley's Doctrine of Heterogeneity: A Note on the Language Model of Nature. In Colin M. Turbayne (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays.
  50. Paolo F. Mugnai (1979). Segno E Linguaggio in George Berkeley. Edizioni Dell'ateneo & Bizzarri.
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