David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Topoi 16 (1):41-63 (1997)
This paper follows up a suggestion by Paul Vincent Spade that there were two Medieval theories of the modes of personal supposition. I suggest that early work by Sherwood and others was a study of quantifiers: their semantics and the effects of context on inferences that can be made from quantified terms. Later, in the hands of Burley and others, it changed into a study of something else, a study of what I call global quantificational effect. For example, although the quantifier in ¬xPx is universal, it can be seen globally as having an existential effect; this is because the formula containing it is equivalent to x¬Px. The notion of global effect can be explained in terms of the modern theory of normal forms. I suggest that early authors were studying quantifiers, and the terminology of the theory of personal supposition is a classification of kinds of quantifiers. In this theory, to say that a term has distributive supposition is to say, roughly, that it is quantified by a universal quantifying sign. Later authors turned this into a theory of global quantificational effect. In the later theory, to say that a term has distributive supposition is to say that the overall effect is as if the term were universally quantified with a quantifier taking (relatively) wide scope. The difference between these two approaches is illustrated by the fact that the term man is classified as having distributive ("universal") supposition in Not every man is running in the earlier theory, whereas in the later theory that term does not have distributive supposition; it has determinate ("existential") supposition. In the paper I explain these options, and I argue from several texts that the earlier and later medieval theories actually worked like this. In an appendix I make further efforts to clarify the obscure early accounts, as well as the nineteenth century "doctrine of distribution". The last section of the paper discusses the "purpose(s)" of supposition theory.
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