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37 Franciscan Studies 61 (2003) The So-Called Res Theory of Walter Chatton I We should start by distinguishing and explaining four important questions in fourteenth-century philosophy of language. (1) What are the truth-bearers for subject-predicate sentences? (2) What are the truth-makers for subject-predicate sentences? (3) What are the significates of subject-predicate sentences? (4) What are the objects of assent? (Acts of assent include knowing, believing, opining, doubting, etc.) (1) The question of truth-bearers asks: What features of reality ultimately bear the properties true and false and so thereby play a role in explaining why certain sentences are true or false? Some possible candidates for the job of truth-bearer are: (a) sentence-tokens themselves, i.e., actual instances of sentences, whether written, spoken, or mental; (b) propositions, which, let us say, are non-physical entities associated with the meanings of declarative sentences; or perhaps (c) complexe significabilia, extra-mental objects which are given by the dicta of declarative sentences. For example, the complexe significabilia associated with “God is three and one” is that God is three and one (in Latin Deum esse trinum et unum or quod Deus est trinus et unus).1 (2) The question of truth-makers asks: What elements of reality are responsible for making true sentences true (and, typically, false sentences false)? Some possible candidates here are: (a) a combination of (i) the passage of time, (ii) change of location, or (iii) the generation 1 The literature on complexe significabilia is fairly large and cannot be usefully summarized in a footnote. A few of the discussions on the topic that I have read and found useful are as follows: Elizabeth Karger, "William of Ockham, Walter Chatton and Adam Wodeham on the Objects of Knowledge and Belief," Vivarium 33, no. 2 (1995): 171-196; Gabriel Nuchelmans, "Adam Wodeham on the Meaning of Declarative Sentences," Historiographia Linguistica 8 no. 1 and 2 (1980): 177-187 and "The Semantics of Propositions," The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, Norman Kretzmann, Anthony Kenny and Jan Pinborg, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Richard Gaskin, "Complexe significabilia and Aristotle's Categories," in J. Baird and I Rossier, eds., Actes du XIIIe Symposium européen de logique et de sémantique médiévales (Avignon, 2000). RONDO KEELE 38 or corruption of some res;2 (b) exclusively res themselves, i.e., things in the ten Aristotelian categories; (c) complexe significabilia; or in a modern vein, (d) states of affairs. (3) The question of the significates of sentences asks: Which elements of reality does a sentence call to mind? Generally speaking, signification is just that power of language whereby we are caused to think of certain things, viz., the things that the language in question is about. Usually we talk about the signification of simple terms of a language, rather than the signification of whole sentences, but there is no reason why the question of sentential signification cannot be at least raised. Signification of spoken or written signs is conventional, of course, but the signification of mental language has a non-conventional connection to the things it signifies. Moreover, spoken and written signs are subordinate to mental signs in some fashion. Hence we can say that question (3) is best understood as follows: A mental sentence signifies whatever entity or entities it naturally causes me to think about; what are those entities? Some possible candidates are: (a) strictly speaking, nothing, but if we consider loosely the question of the reference of sentences, then loosely they could refer to a restricted class of res, for example, only individual substances and their individual qualities (b) a broader class of res, in particular, the res that the subject term in the mental sentence is about (and possibly the predicate terms in a polyadic predication); or again (c) complexe significabilia. (4) Finally, the question of objects of assent asks: What pieces of reality serve as the termini of our "assertive" mental acts, i.e., those mental acts that relate to claims that can be true or false. Some possible candidates include: (a) mental sentences themselves; (b) res, in particular, the res that the subject term in the mental sentence...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 37-54
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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