Elibba Dean

Date of Award


First Advisor

Sam Ruhmkorff

Second Advisor

Moira Buhr


This thesis exposes basic questions and debates within Philosophy of Language: What is the nature of language acquisition? How is it that we are able to use the same words to communicate even though every individual’s experiences and associations with that word are unique? To what extent is effective communication possible given this limitation? Is it really a limitation, or just part of the structure of language? The first attempt to resolve these questions which I present is from John Locke, who produces a theory rooted in the importance of a speaker’s first person mental content. This serves as a baseline which George Berkeley then critiques by questioning the nature of this mental content. Ludwig Wittgenstein ultimately dismantles Locke’s classical theory at the risk of [being interpreted as] negating the role or existence of mental content.

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