Medieval obligationes as logical games of consistency maintenance

Synthese 145 (3):371 - 395 (2005)
Abstract
I argue that the medieval form of dialectical disputation known as obligationes can be viewed as a logical game of consistency maintenance. The game has two participants, Opponent and Respondent. Opponent puts forward a proposition P; Respondent must concede, deny or doubt, on the basis of inferential relations between P and previously accepted or denied propositions, or, in case there is none, on the basis of the common set of beliefs. Respondent loses the game if he concedes a contradictory set of propositions. Opponent loses the game if Respondent is able to maintain consistency during the stipulated period of time. The obligational rules are here formalised by means of familiar notational devices, and the application of some game-theoretical concepts, such as (winning) strategy, moves, motivation, allows for an analysis of some crucial properties of the game. In particular, the primacy of inferential (syntactic) relations over semantic aspects and the dynamic character of obligations are outlined.
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