Medieval Theories of Language and Logic

Course Description: 

The class will cover the basic issues of the linguistic and logical theories of the Latin Middle Ages, beginning with the theory of signs of Augustine, and then following up the issues of speculative grammar, and finally the mature logical theories of High Scholasticism. The logical issues which became characteristic of the philosophical paradigm of the Latin West had been forged at the universities between 1100 to 1500, since philosophy (meaning science) relied heavily on linguistic and semantic presuppositions, a re-interpreted heritage of late antiquity. The new analytic conceptual methods brought about the “linguistic turn” of medieval philosophy. This turn is manifested in the theories of significatio, suppositio, propopositions, and some familiar, and some seemingly arcane theories, like: Porphyrian semantics, semantic representation, meaning and reference, significatio, suppositio, connotatio, universals, speculative grammar, modi significandi, entia rationis,  primae et secundae intentiones, properties of terms, modi significandi (and their criticism), intuitive and abstractive knowledge, sensible and intelligible species, complexe significabile and the meaning of propositions, modi essendi and modi praedicandi, enuntiabile, dictum propositionis and the significatio propositionis (sentential reference), or the unity of the proposition. Medieval logic allowed the analysis to venture beyond the received wisdom and lead to innovative questions. Far from being "Aristotelian" or "Platonic", the new developments were problem-oriented, often going well beyond the auctoritates.  The class will investigate topics in their intellectual context and reconstruct their inner logic, focusing on the presuppositions and consequences of various strategies. Not all issues can be covered in one semester, but we will certainly and primarily look at the problem of sophisms and paradoxes. The class will present an overview of the main solutions to the problems, but will be primarily concerned with the intuitive intelligibility of the issues. Latin is an advantage, but not a requirement.