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Thomas Bricot (d. 1516) and the Liar Paradox E. J. ASHWORTH I. Preliminary Remarks No one interested in the history of the Liar Paradox will gain a just appreciation of the variety and sophistication of the solutions that were offered unless he pays attention to the logicians working at the University of Paris at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth. 2 The study of semantic paradoxes, known as insolubilia, formed a significant part of the first-year logic curriculum, which was of course the curriculum for all arts students; and those who taught the subject by no means confined themselves to a repetition of earlier views. Although Ockham, Buridan, Paul of Venice and Peter of Ailly certainly were read and discussed, original work was also produced. One of the earliest and most influential of these original treatises was written by Thomas Bricot. First published in 1491, it received its eighth edition in 1511, 3 and was still being read as late as 1529 when Domingo de Soto discussed it in his own work on semantic paradoxes. 4 A brief description of Bricot's career may be in order, s Aside from a mention in the poet Villon's Grand Testament of 1461, little seems to be known about Bricot's early life, except that he came from the diocese of Meaux and received his M.A. from the University of Paris toward the end of 1452. He became a doctor of theology on January 13, 1489/90, and he taught at the Coll6ge des Cholets, which was part of the University of Paris. His philosophical work seems to have ceased around the end of the fifteenth century, for at that point he became a canon and p~nitencier of Notre Dame and devoted himself almost exclusively to ecclesiastical matters and the internal affairs of the faculty of theology, of which he was at one time Dean. During this administrative period Bricot twice appeared in public life, once in 1506, when he made a long speech at the opening of the l~tats G6n~raux at Plessis-les-Tours, and once in 1515, speaking on the occasion of the king's entry into i I would like to thank the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, at one of whose seminars I presented an earlier version of this paper. I also would like to thank Drs. L. Jardine, N. Jardine, N. Kretzmann, and P. V. Spade for their helpful comments, and the Canada Council for its generous financial support. 2For further details and a bibliography, see E. J. Ashworth, Language and Logic in the Post-Medieval Period (Dordrecht Holland and Boston: Reidel, 1974). For the medieval background, see P. V. Spade, The Mediaeval Liar: A Catalogue of the Insolubilia-Literature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1975). 3 Tractatus Insolubilium (Paris, 1491; reprinted, Paris, 1492; Paris, 1494; Lyons, 1495; Lyons, 1496; Paris, 1498; Paris, 1504; Paris, 1511). I have examined copies of each printing and have prepared an edition of the text, on which I base my discussion. 40pusculum Insolubilium, in Introductiones Dialectice (Burgis, 1529), fol. cxliii-cxlixv~ [2671 268 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Paris. He died in 1516, at what must have been an advanced age. Bricot's most important philosophical work focused on Buridan's abridged versions of Aristotle, which he edited and commented on; but he also paid close attention to Buridan's own works and to the works of George of Brussels (about whom almost nothing is known except that he taught at Paris when Bricot was a young man). The only original self-contained works of Bricot that I know are his Tractatus Insolubilium and his Tractatus Obligationum, which were always printed together. In this paper I intend to discuss 0nly the Tractatus Insolubilium. The book's organization is worthy of some preliminary comment. Its main division is into three Questiones, each phrased in a similar manner. In the first Questio Bricot inquires whether there is a way of saving the possibilities, impossibilities , contingencies, necessities, truths and falsities of self-referential propositions; the second and third Questiones ask simply whether there is another way of saving, that is, justifying, the attribution...


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