How did he propose that we de-conceptualize human experience? Seems to me that conceptualizing is how we understand and categorize our experience. Did Berkeley view observation, or perception, as passive?
That's usually part of my own biased approach as to identification and organization of things and events, so doubtless it may contribute to my persisting uncertainty or semi-blindness as to how Berkeley remedied it. So I assume any perceived object, as an idea, just immediately is what it is, before further thoughts supply relationships that change that (i.e., the mounting conceptions may sometimes be like distortions that take us away from the original purity).
Berkeley was not much impressed by language being an underlying source of understanding -- it's only for communication, arousing passions, etc (note the final quote at the very bottom of this post). Now to his pet-peeve, the abstract add-ons that can adulterate perception, leading to confusions, illusions, etc:
"The generality of men which are simple and illiterate never pretend to ABSTRACT NOTIONS. It is said they are difficult and not to be attained without pains and study; we may therefore reasonably conclude that, if such there be, they are confined only to the learned. I proceed to examine what can be alleged in DEFENCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF ABSTRACTION, and try if I can discover what it is that inclines the men of speculation to embrace an opinion so remote from common sense as that seems to be."
Suffice it to say that the end result is that he rejects abstract general ideas. Though not general ideas, if understood that the latter merely refers to a word representing one selection at a time from a set of particulars, rather than all the characteristics of that set of particulars at once. That is, a particular idea or perception corresponding to "all of them" is impossible, because of the sometimes contradictory properties, and other reasons he gives.
Concepts also lack power to produce particular sensations: "To say, therefore, that these [sensations] are the effects of powers resulting from the configuration, number, motion, and size of corpuscles must certainly be false."
So a sequence of particular ideas (objects, etc.) have a different source, but he means spirit or God, not matter, the latter being another abstract generalization that some 'learned men' mistakenly reify. I guess "immaterial substance" somehow escapes this by having no perceived particulars in experience that such "substance" was inferred from (actually he probably argues better than that somewhere in The Three Dialogues
, but I'm too strapped for time right now to refresh my memory).
His wrap-up of the criticism of abstract general ideas and language, which will have to suffice as a quasi-synopsis:
We have, I think, shown the impossibility of ABSTRACT IDEAS. We have considered what has been said for them by their ablest patrons; and endeavored to show they are of no use for those ends to which they are thought necessary. And lastly, we have traced them to the source from whence they flow, which appears evidently to be language. It cannot be denied that words are of excellent use, in that by their means all that stock of knowledge which has been purchased by the joint labours of inquisitive men in all ages and nations may be drawn into the view and made the possession of one single person. But at the same time it must be owned that most parts of knowledge have been strangely perplexed and darkened by the abuse of words, and general ways of speech wherein they are delivered. Since therefore words are so apt to impose on the understanding, whatever ideas I consider, I shall endeavour to take them bare and naked into my view, keeping out of my thoughts so far as I am able, those names which long and constant use has so strictly united with them; from which I may expect to derive the following advantages:
FIRST, I shall be sure to get clear of all controversies PURELY VERBAL--the springing up of which weeds in almost all the sciences has been a main hindrance to the growth of true and sound knowledge. SECONDLY, this seems to be a sure way to extricate myself out of that fine and subtle net of ABSTRACT IDEAS which has so miserably perplexed and entangled the minds of men; and that with this peculiar circumstance, that by how much the finer and more curious was the wit of any man, by so much the deeper was he likely to be ensnared and faster held therein. THIRDLY, so long as I confine my thoughts to my own ideas divested of words, I do not see how I can easily be mistaken. The objects I consider, I clearly and adequately know. I cannot be deceived in thinking I have an idea which I have not. It is not possible for me to imagine that any of my own ideas are alike or unlike that are not truly so. To discern the agreements or disagreements there are between my ideas, to see what ideas are included in any compound idea and what not, there is nothing more requisite than an attentive perception of what passes in my own understanding.
But the attainment of all THESE ADVANTAGES doth PRESUPPOSE AN ENTIRE DELIVERANCE FROM THE DECEPTION OF WORDS, which I dare hardly promise myself; so difficult a thing it is to dissolve an union so early begun, and confirmed by so long a habit as that betwixt words and ideas. Which difficulty seems to have been very much increased by the doctrine of ABSTRACTION. For, so long as men thought abstract ideas were annexed to their words, it doth not seem strange that they should use words for ideas--it being found an impracticable thing to lay aside the word, and RETAIN THE ABSTRACT IDEA IN THE MIND, WHICH IN ITSELF WAS PERFECTLY INCONCEIVABLE. This seems to me the principal cause why those men who have so emphatically recommended to others the laying aside all use of words in their meditations, and contemplating their bare ideas, have yet failed to perform it themselves. Of late many have been very sensible of the absurd opinions and insignificant disputes which grow out of the abuse of words. And, in order to remedy these evils, they advise well, that we attend to the ideas signified, and draw off our attention from the words which signify them. But, how good soever this advice may be they have given others, it is plain they could not have a due regard to it themselves, so long as they thought the only immediate use of words was to signify ideas, and that the immediate signification of every general name was a DETERMINATE ABSTRACT IDEA.
But, THESE BEING KNOWN TO BE MISTAKES, A MAN MAY with greater ease PREVENT HIS BEING IMPOSED ON BY WORDS. He that knows he has no other than particular ideas, will not puzzle himself in vain to find out and conceive the abstract idea annexed to any name. And he that knows names do not always stand for ideas will spare himself the labour of looking for ideas where there are none to be had. It were, therefore, to be wished that everyone would use his utmost endeavours to obtain a clear view of the ideas he would consider, separating from them all that dress and incumbrance of words which so much contribute to blind the judgment and divide the attention. In vain do we extend our view into the heavens and pry into the entrails of the earth, in vain do we consult the writings of learned men and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity--we need only draw the curtain of words, to hold the fairest tree of knowledge, whose fruit is excellent, and within the reach of our hand.
Unless we take care TO CLEAR THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF KNOWLEDGE FROM THE embarras and DELUSION OF WORDS, we may make infinite reasonings upon them to no purpose; we may draw consequences from consequences, and be never the wiser. The farther we go, we shall only lose ourselves the more irrecoverably, and be the deeper entangled in difficulties and mistakes. Whoever therefore designs to read the following sheets, I entreat him to make my words the occasion of his own thinking, and endeavour to attain the same train of thoughts in reading that I had in writing them. By this means it will be easy for him to discover the truth or falsity of what I say. He will be out of all danger of being deceived by my words, and I do not see how he can be led into an error by considering his own naked, undisguised ideas.
All quotes from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
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"Besides, the communicating of ideas marked by words is not the chief and only end of language, as is commonly supposed. There are other ends, as the raising of some passion, the exciting to or deterring from an action, the putting the mind in some particular disposition--to which the former is in many cases barely subservient, and sometimes entirely omitted, when these can be obtained without it, as I think does not unfrequently happen in the familiar use of language. I entreat the reader to reflect with himself, and see if it doth not often happen, either in hearing or reading a discourse, that the passions of fear, love, hatred, admiration, disdain, and the like, arise immediately in his mind upon the perception of certain words, without any ideas coming between."