Buridan's life, works, and influence -- Buridan's logic and the medieval logical tradition -- The primacy of mental language -- The various kinds of concepts and the idea of a mental language -- Natural language and the idea of a formal syntax in Buridan -- Existential import and the square of opposition -- Ontological commitment -- The properties of terms (proprietates terminorum) -- The semantics of propositions -- Logical validity in a token-based, semantically closed logic -- The possibility of scientific (...) knowledge -- Buridan's anti-skepticism -- Buridan's essentialist nominalism. (shrink)
“The expression ‘free logic’ is an abbreviation for the phrase ‘free of existence assumptions with respect to its terms, general and singular’.”1 Classical quantification theory is not a free logic in this sense, as its standard formulations commonly assume that every singular term in every model is assigned a referent, an element of the universe of discourse. Indeed, since singular terms include not only singular constants, but also variables2, standard quantification theory may be regarded as involving even the assumption of (...) the existence of the values of its variables, in accordance with Quine’s famous dictum: “to be is to be the value of a variable”. (shrink)
This collection of readings with extensive editorial commentary brings together key texts of the most influential philosophers of the medieval era to provide a comprehensive introduction for students of philosophy. Features the writings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Boethius, John Duns Scotus and other leading medieval thinkers Features several new translations of key thinkers of the medieval era, including John Buridan and Averroes Readings are accompanied by expert commentary from the editors, who are leading scholars in the field.
“The problem of universals” in general is a historically variable bundle of several closely related, yet in different conceptual frameworks rather differently articulated metaphysical, logical, and epistemological questions, ultimately all connected to the issue of how universal cognition of singular things is possible. How do we know, for example, that the Pythagorean theorem holds universally, for all possible right triangles? Indeed, how can we have any awareness of a potential infinity of all possible right triangles, given that we could only (...) see a finite number of actual ones? How can we universally indicate all possible right triangles with the phrase ‘right triangle’? Is there something common to them all signified by this phrase? If so, what is it, and how is it related to the particular right triangles? The medieval problem of universals is a logical, and historical, continuation of the ancient problem generated by Plato's (428-348 B.C.) theory answering such a bundle of questions, namely, his theory of Ideas or Forms. (shrink)
This is a brief, accessible introduction to the thought of the philosopher John Buridan (ca. 1295-1361). Little is known about Buridan's life, most of which was spent studying and then teaching at the University of Paris. Buridan's works are mostly by-products of his teaching. They consist mainly of commentaries on Aristotle, covering the whole extent of Aristotelian philosophy, ranging from logic to metaphysics, to natural science, to ethics and politics. Gyula Klima argues that many of Buridan's academic concerns are strikingly (...) similar to those of modern philosophy and his work sometimes quite directly addresses modern philosophical questions. (shrink)
This paper is not going to offer any criticism of the way Gaven Kerr treats Aquinas’ argument. Instead, it offers an alternative way of reconstructing Aquinas’ argument, intending to strengthen especially those controversial aspects of it that Kerr’s reconstruction left untreated or in relative obscurity. Accordingly, although the paper’s treatment will have to have some overlaps with Kerr’s, it will deal with issues essential to adequate replies to certain competent criticisms of his argument untreated by Kerr. For the sake of (...) the “formally inclined” reader, the paper’s treatment will also include an Appendix offering a formal reconstruction of both the main argument and its sub-arguments to demonstrate the formal rigor of Aquinas’ original. (shrink)
This paper primarily aims to provide a coherent interpretation of several, apparently conflicting claims made by Aquinas concerning the semantic function of the copula. The paper also argues that these claims can properly be understood only if they are interpreted as forming a coherent part of Aquinas' larger theory of the analogy of being. The Appendix sketches a model theoretical semantics for the reconstruction of Aquinas' relevant ideas, providing the technical means for setting apart the various senses of the verb (...) 'est' and its cognates distinguished by Aquinas. (shrink)
In this paper, I will primarily argue for the consistency of Aquinas’ conception, according to which the human soul, uniquely in God’s creation, is both the inherent, material, substantial form of the human body, and the subsistent immaterial substance underlying the immaterial operations of its immaterial, rational powers, namely, intellect and will. In this discussion, I will point out that typical challenges to Aquinas’ conception usually rely on semantic or ontological assumptions that can plausibly be denied in Aquinas’ own conceptual (...) framework. Since the issue of consistency merely assumes the less than self-evident claim of the immateriality of the human intellect, I will also provide a brief sketch of what I take to be Aquinas’ most promising proof of this claim. (shrink)
This paper argues that Aquinas's conception of the human soul and intellect offers a consistent alternative to the dilemma of materialism and post-Cartesian dualism. It also argues that in their own theoretical context, Aquinas' arguments for the materiality of the human soul and immateriality of the intellect provide a strong justification of his position. However, that theoretical context is rather "alien" to ours in contemporary philosophy. The conclusion of the paper will point in the direction of what can be done (...) to render Aquinas's position more palatable to contemporary philosophers. (shrink)
Contemporary "essentialism", if we want to provide a succinct, yet sufficiently rigorous characterization, may be summarized in the thesis that some common terms are rigid designators.  By the quotation marks I intend to indicate that I regard this as a somewhat improper (though, of course, permitted) usage of the term (after all, nomina significant ad placitum ). In contrast to this, essentialism, properly so-called, is the Aristotelian doctrine summarizable in the thesis--as we shall see, no less rigorous in its (...) own theoretical context--that things have essences. (shrink)
This paper argues for two principal conclusions about natural language semantics based on John Buridan's considerations concerning the notion of formal consequence, that is, formally valid inference. (1) Natural languages are essentially semantically closed, yet they do not have to be on that account inconsistent. (2) Natural language semantics has to be token based, as a matter of principle. The paper investigates the Buridanian considerations leading to these conclusions, and considers some obviously emerging objections to the Buridanian approach.
Thomas of Sutton was one of the earliest, and by all measures one of the most astute defenders of St. Thomas Aquinas’ characteristic theological and philosophical doctrines. As usual with medieval thinkers, we have little information regarding Sutton’s life..
This paper argues that three characteristic modern positions concerning intentionality – namely, (1) that intentionality is ‘the mark of the mental’; (2) that intentionality concerns a specific type of objects having intentional inexistence; and (3) that intentionality somehow defies logic – are just three ‘modern myths’ that medieval philosophers, from whom the modern notion supposedly originated, would definitely reject.
To many contemporary philosophers, the phrase “essentialist nominalism” may appear to be an oxymoron. After all, essentialism is the doctrine that things come in natural kinds characterized by their essential properties, on account of some common nature or essence they share. But nominalism is precisely the denial of the existence, indeed, the very possibility of such shared essences. Nevertheless, despite the intuitions of such contemporary philosophers,2 John Buridan was not only a thoroughgoing nominalist, as is well-known, but also a staunch (...) defender of a strong essentialist doctrine against certain skeptics of his time. But then the question inevitably arises: could he consistently maintain such a doctrine? (shrink)
It is supposed to be common knowledge about the history of ideas that one of the few medieval philosophical contributions preserved in modern philosophical thought is the idea that mental phenomena are distinguished from physical phenomena by their intentionality, their directedness toward some object. As is usually the case with such commonplaces about the history of ideas, this claim is not quite true. Medieval philosophers routinely described ordinary physical phenomena, such as reflections in mirrors or sounds in the air, as (...) exhibiting intentionality, while they described what modern philosophers would take to be typically mental phenomena, such as sensation and imagination, as ordinary physical processes. Still, it is true that medieval philosophers would regard all acts of cognition as characterized by intentionality, on account of which all these acts are some sort of representations of their intended objects. This course is going to provide a broad survey of the conceptual relationships between intentionality, cognition and mental representation as conceived by some of the greatest medieval philosophers, including Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham and Buridan, and some of their lesser known contemporaries. The clarification of these conceptual connections sheds some light not only on the intriguing historical relationships between medieval and modern thought on these issues, but also on some fundamental questions in the philosophy of mind as it is conceived today. (shrink)
Is Aquinas a representationalist or a direct realist? Max Herrera’s (and, for that matter, Claude Panaccio’s) qualified answers to each alternative show that the real significance of the question is not that if we answer it, then we can finally learn under which classification Aquinas should fall, but rather that upon considering it we can learn something about the intricacies of the question itself. In these comments I will first argue that the Averroistic notion of “intentional transfer”, combined with the (...) Avicennean idea of the indifference of nature, yielding the Thomistic doctrine of the formal unity of the knower and the known renders the question moot with regard to Aquinas, indeed, with regard to the pre-modern epistemological tradition in general. These considerations will then lead to a number of further, both historical and philosophical questions, which I will offer in the end for further discussion. (shrink)
Lo studio intende mettere in evidenza l'ambiguità della nozione di unità, intesa come entità numerica, con la nozione di unità quale sinonimo di essere. Sul primo concetto verte la parte iniziale dello studio, alla quale segue l'esame del significato ontologico di «uno». Le considerazioni fatte guidano l'A. a valutare i rapporti di relazione fra le nozioni di essere e uno, e quelle di sostanzialità, identità e semplicità in Tommaso. La gerarchia ontologica che ha al vertice l'essere assoluto e l'assoluta unità (...) implica la paradossale impossibilità di «significare» e definire la divinità. (shrink)
Saint Anselm’s proof for God’s existence in his Proslogion, as the label “ontological” retrospectively hung on it indicates, is usually treated as involving some sophisticated problem of, or a much less sophisticated tampering with, the concept of existence. In this paper I intend to approach Saint Anselm’s reasoning from a somewhat different angle.
This paper contrasts the Thomistic and Cartesian interpretations of what the substantial unity of the body and mind can consist in. A detailed discussion of the Thomistic account of the substantial unity of body and soul identifies especially those principles of the presupposed hylomorphist metaphysical background of this account that Descartes abandoned. After arguing for the consistency of the Thomistic view, briefly outlines how certain developments in late-medieval scholasticism prepared the way for the abandonment of precisely these principles. Finally, the (...) paper shows why from the perspective of the Thomistic principles identified in the first part, Descartes has to appear as someone paying mere lip-service to the thesis of the substantial unity of body and mind. (shrink)
This paper provides a comparison of three fundamentally different approaches to the issue of ontological commitment. It argues that despite superficial similarities on either side, Buridan’s approach provides an intriguing third alternative to the two commonly recognized modern approaches. Keywords: ontological commitment, existence, meaning, reference..
`Realism', `conceptualism' and `nominalism' are terms that one is most likely to come across in history of philosophy textbooks, presented as ones labeling three major ontological alternatives provided by mediaeval philosophy. The general inadequacy of these labels is perhaps best shown by the desperate efforts to provide further, modified labels , the well-known `moderate' and `extreme' or `exaggerated' versions of the above, in hopes of implying at least a lesser amount of falsehood in hanging..
Robert Pasnau’s paper presents a strong thesis, which it does not manage to substantiate. The thesis in question is that the Aristotelian doctrine of the identity of the knower and the known, as interpreted by St. Thomas, cannot possibly be used to fend off skepticism.
Let me begin my reply to Professor Roark’s objections in good old scholastic fashion, by a distinction. Philosophical objections can be good in two senses. In the first, trivial sense, a good objection is one that convincingly shows the presence of a genuine error in a position or reasoning. Such objections are useful, but uninspiring. In the second, non-trivial sense, a good philosophical objection broadens and deepens our understanding of the problems at issue, whether or not they manage to refute (...) the opponent’s position. In this reply I am going to argue that even if Roark’s objections may not be necessarily good in the first, trivial sense, they are.. (shrink)
Summary: The aim of this paper is to explore the relationships between Buridan’s logic and the ontology of modes modi). Modes, not considered to be really distinct from absolute entities, could serve to reduce the ontological commitment of the theory of the categories, and thus they were to become ubiquitous in this role in late medieval and early modern philosophy. After a brief analysis of the most basic argument for the real distinction between entities of several categories (“the argument from (...) separability”), I point out that despite nominalist charges to the contrary, “older realists”—that is, authors working before and around Ockham’s time—were not committed to such real distinctions, and thus to an overpopulated ontology, by their.. (shrink)
Anthony Kenny's book is one of the best of its genre, exemplifying the kind of introduction into (some field of) Aquinas's thought that endeavors to make his ideas accessible to the philosophically interested contemporary reader in terms of such philosophical, scientific and everyday concepts with which the reader can safely be assumed to be familiar. Indeed, Kenny's book provides us with such a good example of this genre that it brings into sharp focus the problems of the genre itself. Therefore, (...) while duly acknowledging the book's virtues of clarity of presentation, and its highly readable, almost conversational style, let me concentrate in this brief review on this problematic aspect of Kenny's book, as someone who is just as much concerned with making Aquinas accessible to a contemporary audience as the author is. (shrink)
One often hears extravagant claims made for the Aristotelian doctrine that "what understands and what is understood are the same" De anima iii.4; 430a4). This identity between knower and what is known, or between percipient and what is perceived, is often said to offer a way out of the familiar skeptical arguments against the possibility of our having knowledge of the external world. Typically such claims are made by students of Thomas Aquinas, who in this way seek to render Aquinas's (...) theory of knowledge immune from the skeptical and idealist controversies of modern philosophy. In this paper I argue that Aquinas put this doctrine of identity to no such use, that in fact he explicitly rejects any such use of the doctrine, and that furthermore no plausible reading of the doctrine could conceivably produce such dramatic results. (shrink)
ex opposito, any methodological doctrine that separates theological dogma from philosophical inquiry increases the autonomy of philosophical inquiry. But the Latin Averroist methodological doctrine of veritas duplex (rather improperly, but not entirely unreasonably called so) separated theological dogma from philosophical inquiry. Therefore, the Latin Averroist methodological doctrine of veritas duplex increased the autonomy of philosophical inquiry.
This paper examines the multiple semantic functions Aquinas attributes to the verb ‘est’, ranging from signifying the essence of God to acting as a copula of categorical propositions to expressing identity. A case will be made that all these apparently radically diverse functions are unified under Aquinas’s conception of the analogy of being, treating all predications as predications of being with or without some qualification (secundum quid or simpliciter). This understanding of the multiplicity of the semantic functions of this verb (...) as conceived by Aquinas will enable us to have a better understanding of the meaning of his metaphysical claims and arguments. In particular, with this understanding of Aquinas’ conception of being, we will be able to see how Aquinas’s famous “intellectus essentiae” argument for the thesis of the real distinction between essence and existence in creatures can work, despite Anthony Kenny’s arguments to the contrary in his recent book Aquinas on Being. (shrink)