Berkeley and the Emotive Uses of Ethical Language

  • Paul J. Olscamp
Part of the Archives Internationales D’histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 33)


In the first chapter I discussed some of the problems concerned with the meaning of “truth” in the Berkeleyan system. I argued that he rejects the “idea-correspondence” theory of truth, giving two principal reasons for this: first, in sentences such as “Melampus is an animal” no correspondence of ideas is relevant to their truth or falsity because only one idea is involved. Secondly, in the case of sentences about minds, mental acts, or relations, no ideas at all are involved — only “notions”. I also mentioned a third claim, but only briefly. This was that the primary importance of such ethically relevant terms as “goodness”, “justice”, “grace” etc., lies to their use to influence action and emotion rather than in some correspondence with ideas, notions or things. I argued that these issues are closely related to the refutation of the doctrine of abstract ideas for Berkeley, and it was suggested that his theory of truth was probably very similar to modern pragmatic and instrumentalist views. In the present chapter these matters become central, because astonishingly enough some philosophers seem to have thought that Berkeley was an emotivist! If I am correct he must of course be a cognitivist, though perhaps a pragmatist or an instrumentalist so far as his theories of truth and meaning are concerned.


Good Thing Artificial Language General Word Card Game General Proposition 
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    Richards, I. A. and Ogen, C. K., The Meaning of Meaning, Harcourt, Brace and World Co., New York (1923), p. 42 (TMM)Google Scholar
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    Spring, 1962, “The Fate of Philosophy in the Twentieth Century”, p. 235Google Scholar
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    Stroll, A. P., The Emotive Theory of Ethics, Berkeley and Los Angeles, The University of California Press (1954), p. 24 (ETE)Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1969

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  • Paul J. Olscamp

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