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Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World
  • Kenneth L Pearce, Valparaiso University

Berkeley's philosophy is meant to be a defense of commonsense. However, Berkeley's claim that the ultimate constituents of physical reality are fleeting, causally passive ideas appears to be radically at odds with commonsense. In particular, such a theory seems unable to account for the robust structure which commonsense (and Newtonian physics) takes the world to exhibit. The problem of structure, as I understand it, includes the problem of how qualities can be grouped by their co-occurrence in a single enduring object and how these enduring objects can bear spatiotemporal, causal, and other relations to one another. I argue that Berkeley's solution to these problems lies in his views about language. At one level, human language allows us to exploit patterns in our perceptions to construct a highly structured representation of the physical world which allows us to make accurate predictions at minimal cognitive expense. At a deeper level, these patterns occur in perception because our perceptions themselves form a language in which God speaks to us.

  • George Berkeley,
  • language,
  • philosophy of language,
  • metaphysics,
  • idealism
Publication Date
March 21, 2014
USC PhD Dissertation
Citation Information
Kenneth L Pearce. Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. (2014)
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