George Berkeley and the power of words

According to a picture of language that has enjoyed wide popularity throughout the history of Western philosophy, language is a tool for making our thoughts known to others: the speaker translates
Philosophy News image
According to a picture of language that has enjoyed wide popularity throughout the history of Western philosophy, language is a tool for making our thoughts known to others: the speaker translates private thoughts into public words, and the hearer translates the words back into thoughts. It follows from such a picture that before we can use words properly we must have thoughts corresponding to them. In 17th and 18th century European philosophy, the thoughts that correspond to most words were called ideas. Thus most philosophers from this period—including, for instance, John Locke (1632–1704)—held that if I am using a word like ‘apple’ properly, I have an idea of an apple when I say it and my saying it results in the hearer having an idea of an apple. This account may seem rather bland and commonsensical, but at the end of the 17th century it resulted in the burning of a book and the endangering of its author’s life. This account may seem rather bland and commonsensical, but at the end. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

blog comments powered by Disqus