Title

Arnauld's Verbal Distinction between Ideas and Perceptions

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-2016

Abstract

In his dispute with Malebranche about the nature of ideas, Arnauld endorses a form of direct realism. This appears to conflict with views put forward by Arnauld and his collaborators in the Port-Royal Grammar and Logic where ideas are treated as objects in the mind. This tension can be resolved by a careful examination of Arnauld's remarks on the semantics of ‘perception’ and ‘idea’ in light of the Port-Royal theory of language. This examination leads to the conclusion that Arnauld's ideas really are objects in the mind, and not perceptual acts as many commentators hold. What Arnauld denies is that these mental objects are really distinct from the external objects they represent. Instead, Arnauld holds that, by the act of conception, the external objects themselves—not copies—come to be present in the mind and are therefore called ‘ideas’.