September 9, 2013

"Berkeley's Meta-Ontology: Bodies, Forces, and the Semantics of 'Exists'"

I've posted a new draft to my (recently reorganized) writings page, "Berkeley's Meta-Ontology: Bodies, Forces, and the Semantics of 'Exists'." This paper defends, in a relatively short space, some of the central conclusions which I defend at much greater length in my dissertation, Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. Here is the abstract of the paper:

To the great puzzlement of his readers, Berkeley begins by arguing that nothing exists other than minds and ideas, but concludes by claiming to have defended the existence of bodies. How can Berkeley's idealism amount to such a defense? I introduce resources from Berkeley's philosophy of language, and especially his analysis of the discourse of physics, to defend a novel answer to this question. According to Berkeley, the technical terms of physics are meaningful despite failing to designate any reality; their meaningfulness derives from the useful role they play in organizing and predicting our experience. I argue that Berkeleian bodies have the same status as these theoretical entities: they are mere 'quasi-entities' introduced by our ways of speaking and thinking in order to serve our practical purposes. Berkeley nevertheless considers this to be a defense of the existence of bodies because he endorses a radically deflationary semantics for 'exists.'

As always, comments are welcome.

Update (Sept. 28, 2013): I have changed the title of this paper from "Berkeley on the Existence of Bodies" to "Berkeley's Meta-Ontology: Bodies, Forces, and the Semantics of 'Exists'." I have updated this post accordingly.

Posted by Kenny at September 9, 2013 10:11 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

Return to