About this topic
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, Similar problems are also raised by Berkeley's critique of abstraction: if there is no abstract, general idea triangle then there is no one idea which is the meaning of the word 'triangle'. These puzzles and concerns led Berkeley to rethink the ideational theory of meaning he had inherited from his predecessors. How far Berkeley goes in departing from that theory is a matter of considerable scholarly dispute.
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 the philosophy of language in Berkeley's Alciphron and that of the later Wittgenstein is made by Flew 1974Roberts 2007 has argued that Berkeley already held this view as early as the 1708 Manuscript Introduction. This interpretation has been further developed and defended by Pearce 2017.
Introductions Overviews of Berkeley's philosophy of language include Winkler 2005 and Roberts 2017.
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  1. Berkeley ’in Dil Ve Anlam Yaklaşimi Üzerine Bir İncelemeA Study On The Design Of Language And Meaning In Berkeley‘.Atakan Altınörs - 2010 - Ethos: Dialogues in Philosophy and Social Sciences 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 (...)
  2. Berkeley's Theory of Signification.Robert L. Armstrong - 1969 - 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 (...)
  3. Berkeley and the Meaning of Existence.M. R. Ayers - 1986 - History of European Ideas 7 (6):567-573.
  4. The Divine Visual Language Argument in George Berkeley's "Alciphron.".Donald Edward Baldwin - 1978 - Dissertation, University of Missouri - Columbia
  5. The Two Motives Behind Berkeley's Expressly Unmotivated Signs : Sure Perception and Personal Providence.Jeffrey Barnouw - 2008 - In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), New Interpretations of Berkeley's Thought. Humanity Books.
  6. Berkeley's Deletions.M. W. Beal - 1976 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 6 (3):455 - 478.
  7. Universality Without Universals: A Deleted Argument From Berkeley's Introduction to the "Principles".M. W. Beal - 1973 - Modern Schoolman 50 (3):301-310.
  8. Berkeley's Linguistic Criterion.M. W. Beal - 1971 - Personalist 52 (3):499-514.
  9. The Theological Positivism of George Berkeley (1707-1708).Bertil Belfrage - 2007 - 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 (...)
  10. Berkeley's Theory of Emotive Meaning (1708).Bertil Belfrage - 1986 - Hisory of European Ideas 7 (6):643-649.
  11. Development of Berkeley's Early Theory of Meaning.Bertil Belfrage - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (3):319-330.
  12. The Clash on Semantics in Berkeley's Notebook A.Bertil Belfrage - 1985 - Hermathena 139:117-126.
  13. Berkeley's Analysis of the Linguistic Sources of Philosophical Perplexity.Vahan Edward Benglian - 1983 - 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 (...)
  14. The Theory of Vision, or Visual Language, Shewing the Immediate Presence and Providence of a Deity, Vindicated and Explained, by the Author of Alciphron.George Berkeley - 1733
  15. « To Stand for » Et « to Represent » Dans l' « Introduction Manuscrite » de Berkeley.Dominique Berlioz - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (3):331 - 338.
  16. Cognitive Theology and Emotive Mysteries in Berkeley's Alciphron.David Berman - 1981 - Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 81:219-229.
  17. Berkeley's Theory of Vision: Transparency and Signification.Richard Brook - 2003 - 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 (...)
  18. Berkeley, Causality, and Signification.Richard Brook - 1995 - International Studies in Philosophy 27 (2):15-31.
  19. Berkeley Et le Voile des Mots.Geneviève Brykman - 1993 - 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 (...)
  20. Language and the Structure of Berkeley’s World. [REVIEW]Eugene Callahan - forthcoming - British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-4.
  21. George Berkeley's Views on Linguistic Meaning.Kay Codell Carter - 1968 - Dissertation, Cornell University
  22. Theoretical Terms, Berkeleian Notions, and Minds.James W. Cornman - 1970 - In Colin Murray Turbayne (ed.), A Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge / George Berkeley, with Critical Essays. Bobbs-Merrill.
  23. Is Berkeley's World a Divine Language?James P. Danaher - 2002 - 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.
  24. Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning. [REVIEW]Jonathan Dancy - 1990 - Philosophical Review 99 (1):111.
  25. Stoicism in Berkeley's Philosophy.Stephen H. Daniel - 2011 - In Bertil Belfrage & Timo Airaksinen (eds.), Berkeley's Lasting Legacy: 300 Years Later. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 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, (...)
  26. Berkeley's Rejection of Divine Analogy.Stephen H. Daniel - 2011 - 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 (...)
  27. The Ramist Context of Berkeley's Philosophy.Stephen H. Daniel - 2001 - 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, (...)
  28. The Role of Visual Language in Berkeley’s Account of Generality.Katherine Dunlop - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):525-559.
  29. Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning.Daniel E. Flage - 1987 - St. Martin's Press.
  30. Was Berkeley a Precursor of Wittgenstein?Anthony Flew - 1974 - In W. B. Todd (ed.), Hume and the Enlightenment: Essays Presented to Ernest Campbell Mossner. Edinburgh University Press.
  31. Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning. [REVIEW]Antony Flew - 1989 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (4):622-624.
  32. Daniel E. Flage, "Berkeley's Doctrine of Notions: A Reconstruction Based on His Theory of Meaning". [REVIEW]Antony Flew - 1989 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (4):622.
  33. George Berkeley Langage Visuel, Communication Universelle.Denis Forest - 1997 - 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 (...)
  34. Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. [REVIEW]Melissa Frankel - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2017.
  35. Berkeley, Meaning and Minds: Remarks on Glezakos' Comments.Melissa Frankel - 2009 - 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.
  36. Something-We-Know-Not-What, Something-We-Know-Not-Why: Berkeley, Meaning and Minds.Melissa Frankel - 2009 - 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 (...)
  37. Berkeley's Theory of Meaning.E. J. Furlong - 1964 - Mind 73 (291):437-438.
  38. Universal Language and Sciences of Man in Berkeley.Sidney Gelber - 1952 - Journal of the History of Ideas 13 (1/4):482.
  39. Universal Language and the Sciences of Man in Berkeley's Philosophy.Sidney Gelber - 1952 - Journal of the History of Ideas 13 (4):482.
  40. 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.David Aaron Givner - 1959 - Dissertation, Columbia University
  41. Les relations de signification chez Berkeley.R. Glauser - 1983 - Studia Philosophica 42:165.
  42. Comments on Melissa Frankel's “Something-We-Know-Not-What, Something-We-Know-Not Why: Berkeley, Meaning and Minds”.Stavroula Glezakos - 2009 - Philosophia 37 (3):403-407.
  43. Abstract Ideas and Meaning in Berkeley and Hume.Donald Gotterbarn - 1975 - Proceedings of the XVth World Congress of Philosophy 5:701-705.
  44. Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy?Ian Hacking - 1975 - Cambridge University Press.
    Many people find themselves dissatisfied with recent linguistic philosophy, and yet know that language has always mattered deeply to philosophy and must in some sense continue to do so. Ian Hacking considers here some dozen case studies in the history of philosophy to show the different ways in which language has been important, and the consequences for the development of the subject. There are chapters on, among others, Hobbes, Berkeley, Russell, Ayer, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Feyerabend and Davidson. Dr Hacking ends by (...)
  45. Language and Thought.Laurent Jaffro - 2013 - In James A. Harris (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press. pp. 128.
    This chapter set outs the variety of eighteenth-century approaches to the relations between language and thought, beginning with post-Lockean debates focused on the status of abstract general ideas, and ending with anti-empiricist Scottish philosophy at the end of the century. The empiricist theory of signs, notably in George Berkeley, is one important dimension of the discussions: ‘Ideas’ are centre stage, although they do not exhaust the empiricist furniture of the mind. There is also a different philosophical trend illustrated by neglected (...)
  46. Christian Mysteries and Berkeley's Alleged Non-Cognitivism.Roomet Jakapi - 2007 - In Stephen H. Daniel (ed.), Reexamining Berkeley's Philosophy.
  47. Entry 720 of Berkeleys Philosophical Commentaries and Noncognitive Propositions in Scripture.Roomet Jakapi - 2003 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 85 (1):86-90.
  48. Emotive Meaning and Christian Mysteries in Berkeley's Alciphron.Roomet Jakapi - 2002 - 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.
  49. Faith, Truth, Revelation and Meaning in Berkeley’s Defense of the Christian Religion.Roomet Jakapi - 2002 - Modern Schoolman 80 (1):23-34.
  50. Berkeley, the Ends of Language, and the Principles of Human Knowledge.P. J. E. Kail - 2007 - 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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