Tag Archives: Language

Locke and Port Royal on Affirmation, Negation, and Other ‘Postures of the Mind’

L. Jaffro (2018). Locke and Port Royal on Affirmation, Negation, and Other ‘Postures of the Mind’. In M. Pécharman and P. Hamou, Locke and Cartesian Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 172-185. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780198815037.001.0001/oso-9780198815037-chapter-11

The chapter claims that in order to understand Locke’s doctrine of assent, his philosophy of mind needs to be seen in conjunction with his philosophy of language, which in turn gains from being compared with Port-Royal’s logic and grammar. It points out two conflicting facts in Locke’s account of affirmation and negation in the Essay. First, Locke entrusts affirmation and negation with the task of signifying both the assertion by which we manifest our assent to a proposition and the junction or separation of the ideas constituting the proposition. The other fact is that Locke accepts a great variety of ways of considering a proposition. This diversity of ‘postures’ is poorly expressed by the limited number of syncategorematic terms, ‘particles’. The first fact fosters a one-act view of the assent we give to propositions. The second opens the way to a multiple-act view.

Language and Thought

L. Jaffro (2013). Language and Thought. In J. Harris (ed.); The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 128-148.

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.