restricted access 5. Triple Is the Word
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Part ii Thirteenth-Century Controversies F6925.indb 101 F6925.indb 101 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM F6925.indb 102 F6925.indb 102 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM This page intentionally left blank 103 chapter five Triple Is the Word F rom here, our history takes a new turn. The theme of interior discourse , or mental speech, played a significant role in certain major discussions in Greco-Latin antiquity (on the rationality of beasts, notably , and on the divinity of Christ); but it had not itself become the object of any controversy explicit enough to give rise to overt theoretical debate . It’s not as if there were complete consensus on the issue: on the contrary, we saw diverse traditions form, as well as a major rift between the philosophical notion (of Platonic-Aristotelian inspiration) and the Augustinian notion (colored by Judeo-Christian spirituality). But these differences were never debated. The precise theoretical status of mental language had not yet been perceived as a problem about which one might develop arguments. Precisely this is what happened, in various ways, in the last decades of the thirteenth century in the European universities—those new (and in many respects even revolutionary) academic institutions where argumentative discussion was the daily bread. The three following chapters will be dedicated to examination of these university polemics, wherein were problematized such issues as the ontological status of the mental word—ardently discussed at the end of the thirteenth century and beginning of the fourteenth (Chapter 6)—the relation between the sign and the interior concept—a magna altercatio, according to Duns Scotus (Chapter 7)—and, crucial for our study, the very object of logic as a scientific discipline (Chapter 8). For each of these there is abundant evidence in the rich Scholastic literature of Summas, Questions, and Commentaries. Here there will be no pretense of attempting exhaustive treatment. In each case we will consider only some of the most representative and revealing texts in order to discern those clashing ideas and shifting stakes that, especially during the time between Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham, prepare the way for the elaboration of a highly articulated notion of an interior language subject to grammatical and semantic categories. However, before coming to this, I wish in the present chapter to retrace the principal doctrinal threads that ensured the persistence of our theme in the Latin West from the eleventh century to approximately the middle of the thirteenth and outline the most prominent forms that reference to mental language took during this period. To this end, we will stop first at Anselm of Canterbury’s Monologion, written around 1070; certain of its very Augustinian passages were regularly cited by Scholastics on this topic. Following this, we will see, on the basis of these texts by Anselm (as well as others, already indicated, by Boethius, F6925.indb 103 F6925.indb 103 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM 10/24/16 12:52:24 PM 104 Thirteenth-Century Controversies Damascene, and al-Fârâbi), various classifications—strikingly, nearly always threefold classifications—of different senses of the word verbum; such classifications helped spread, from its originally theological context, the Augustinian distinction between the mental word properly so called and silent discourse conducted in the imagination in a given language. The final section will be dedicated to the introduction (around the middle of the thirteenth century), especially in the theorization of grammar, of a new notion of mental discourse (sermo in mente or sermo internus), this time corresponding to the representation of spoken words in the intellect and no longer only in the imagination. Anselm’s Augustinianism Directly inspired by Augustine’s De Trinitate, Anselm, at the dawn of the great Scholastic period, revisits the idea of the mental word in his Monologion. Chapter 10, dedicated to the preexistence of creatures in God’s thought, became very influential on this subject. It is worth citing a long extract: Now what is that form of things that existed in his reason before the things to be created, other than an utterance of those things (locutio rerum) in his reason, just as, when a craftsman is going to make some work of his art, he first says it within himself by a conception of his mind? Now by an “utterance ” of the mind or reason (locutio mentis sive rationis), I do not mean what happens when...


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