Saturday, 17 November 2007

Berkeley Forshadowing both Quine and Wittgenstein

From part VII of GJ Warnock's introduction to Berkeley's The Principles of Human Understanding:
...the explanation of general terms by reference to "abstract ideas" is unnecessary: for a term to be general, and to have a meaning, it is not necessary that it be "annexed," like a name" to any special variety of specially "framed" idea: what is needed is just that it be used to "denote indifferently" any of a class of particular things -- those , namely, which are like on another in the relevant respect. Similarly, my recognition of an object as pink does not require reference to an "abstract idea" laid up in my mind as a pattern or standard of Pinkness; if I have already learned that a number of objects are called "pink," all that is needed is that I should observe the new object to be like them; there is no need to go through, nor do we in fact do so, the elaborate process of "framing" a pattern and comparing objects with that.
And later:
It thus becomes clear that, in general, there could not be patterns of the kind which Locke wrongly supposes to be needed, if we are to use and understand general terms in our language. In fact, so Berkeley concludes, nothing else is required but the words that we use, and the particular experienced items that we use them to speak about; the generality of a general term lies in its use, and not in the peculiar nature of any special item of which it may, misguidedly, be though of as the name.

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