Trinity Academic’s new book Language and the Structure of Berkeley’s World

Posted on: 25 April 2017

A new book on the work of Bishop George Berkeley has been launched by Dr Kenneth Pearce, Ussher assistant Professor in Berkeley Studies in the Department of Philosophy.  

The book, entitled Language and the Structure of Berkeley’s World, presents Berkeley as a theorist of ordinary language, aiming to understand how we use words to shape the world and our lives to the benefit of ourselves and others.

Dr Pearce said: “Berkeley has too often been presented as a philosophical cautionary tale, a compendium of arguments that must somehow be mistaken, since the conclusions are literally unbelievable. In this book, I hope I’ve shown that Berkeley presents a formidable theory addressing issues of continuing relevance that can and should be taken seriously in the 21st century.”

According to Berkeley, there is fundamentally nothing in the world but minds and their ideas. Berkeley tried to sell this philosophical system as a defence of common sense and an aid to science. However, Berkeley’s system does not always align with the highly structured world that is perceived through Newtonian science.

In his book, Dr Pearce argues that Berkeley’s solution to this problem lies in Berkeley’s innovative philosophy of language. It is argued that, in Berkeley’s view, physical objects are neither ideas nor a collection of ideas but rather they are mere quasi-entities brought into being by linguistics practices.  

Last month, as part of the Berkeley50 celebrations, Dr Pearce gave a lecture on the life and works of Berkeley in which he explored Berkeley’s philosophical ideas that he developed while at Trinity.

Dr Pearce is currently an Ussher assistant Professor in Berkeley Studies in the Department of Philosophy at Trinity. He received his PhD in Philosophy in 2014 from the University of Southern California and has had his work appear in journals such as Philosophers’ Imprint, Journal of the History of Ideas, and History of Philosophy Quarterly.  

The Language and Structure of Berkeley’s World is published by Oxford University Press.