Berkeley's Theory of Language

In Samuel C. Rickless (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Berkeley. New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
Authors
Kenneth L. Pearce
Trinity College, Dublin
Abstract
In the Introduction to the Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley attacks the “received opinion that language has no other end but the communicating our ideas, and that every significant name stands for an idea” (PHK, Intro §19). How far does Berkeley go in rejecting this ‘received opinion’? Does he offer a general theory of language to replace it? If so, what is the nature of this theory? In this chapter, I consider three main interpretations of Berkeley's view: the modified ideational theory, the speaker intentions theory, and the use theory. I argue that the use theory does, and its competitors do not, make sense of Berkeley's remarks on language in both the earlier and later works.
Keywords George Berkeley  philosophy of language  ideational theories of language  use theories of language
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