Pope and Berkeley: The Language of Poetry and Philosophy by Tom Jones (auth.)

By Tom Jones (auth.)

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By Tom Jones (auth.)

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Instead of asking to what Pope refers when he writes about a rock descending a hill, and how his words conjure up images of the action they describe, one would be more inclined to ask the purpose of this kind of writing, to ask what it is to forge this kind of epic image, what the purpose of inspiring readers with ideas of heroism and valour Reading about Language 45 is, what Pope wanted to achieve, what he wanted to persuade his readers of and so on. Instead of asking to what Pope refers when he talks about gold, a reader would ask why he is talking about gold, what he wants the reader to believe the value or purpose of gold is, and, ultimately, whether gold is something to be sought or shunned.

One response to this argument is to say that the facial expression for disgust in one place is a natural sign for disgust: it is the natural sign in that place. These signs are not made unnatural because they are different from one another. Berkeley points out that nature is not always the same in all times and places: The plant being the same in all places doth not produce the same fruit – sun, soil, and cultivation making a difference . . 50 Human culture is historical and geographical and natural signs may differ according to time and place: the conventions governing visual representation in painting, for example, change drastically from place to place and time to time.

27 Whilst arguing against Cratylus and Hermogenes, Socrates shows that words can be used badly: mistakes can occur and they are not meaningless, they are understood to be mistakes. Words are still being used even if they do not produce true propositions or accurately reflect the nature of that to which they refer. 28 The two parts of Socrates’ suggestion that language has a purpose beyond naming, that words have a function like any other tool and that this function is to divide up reality and to teach one another, form the basis of this possibility.

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