From intellectus verus/falsus to the dictum propositionis: The semantics of Peter Abelard and his circle
Vivarium 34 (1):15-40 (1996)
In his commentary on Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias,1 Abelard distinguishes the form of an expression2 (oratio) from what it says, that is, its content. The content of an expression is its understanding (intellectus). This distinction is surely the most well-known and central idea in Abelard’s commentary. It provides him with the opportunity to distinguish statements (enuntiationes) from other kinds of expressions without implying a diference in their content, since the ability of a statement to signify something true or false (verum vel falsum)3 cannot be found in its content. More precisely, Abelard distinguishes statements both from complete expressions (orationes perfectae) that are not statements but rather questions, requests, commands, etc. and from incomplete expressions, that is, mere word strings (orationes imperfectae), such as homo albus. These kinds of expressions, according to Abelard, do not differ in the understanding they present but in the way they present it.
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