David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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"With Abelard, the term 'copula' enters into western thought. In fact, although widely attested, the use of the term 'copula' in reference to Aristotle's work is totally anachronistic. (1) What led to this term? In his Dialectica, Abelard was mainly concerned with the way syllogisms can be construed. The interest of the copula was in fact derivative from this main concern. As Kneale and Kneale (The development of logic, 1962: 206) put it, 'it is clear that for his [Aristotle's] theory of syllogism he assumes in every general proposition two terms of the same kind, that is to say, each capable of being a subject and each capable of being a predicate'. Thus, since the only linguistic entities that can play these two roles are nouns (in modern terms, noun phrases), it is easy to understand why the copula became central. Abelard pursued the Aristotelian theory by emphasizing the role of be as the element that can turn a noun into a predicate in a syllogism rather than as the element that provides the sentence with a time specification (see Dialectica: 161). It is this conceptual shift that underlies the invention of the term 'copula', which is cast on the Latin copulare meaning 'to link'. For example, in sentences like a man is a mammal and Socrates is a man the copula allows the noun phrase a man to play the role of the subject, in the first, and that of the predicate, in the second. Clearly, in such a framework the assumption that the copula can be interpreted as a predicate meaning 'existence'
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