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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter set outs the variety of eighteenth-century approaches to the relations between language and thought, beginning with post-Lockean debates focused on the status of abstract general ideas, and ending with anti-empiricist Scottish philosophy at the end of the century (especially Thomas Reid). The empiricist theory of signs, notably in George Berkeley, is one important dimension of the discussions: ‘Ideas’ are centre stage, although they do not exhaust the empiricist furniture of the mind. There is also a different philosophical trend illustrated by neglected figures (James Harris, Lord Monboddo), which may be termed Platonic, and which affects eighteenth-century philosophical conceptions of language. The project of conjectural histories of language (Adam Smith) and views about the connections between linguistic skills and the social nature of human beings are also covered.

Keywords: language, thought, empiricism, signs, ideas, abstraction

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