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SOME EPISTEMOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE BURLEY-OCKHAM DISPUTE The dispute between Walter Burley and William of Ockham over supposition and signification has been discussed often in the literature .1 For the most part, the philosophical — as distinguished from the textual — side of this discussion has centered on those aspects of the dispute which are based on the metaphysical disagreements between the two men. From this point of view, the main question in the debate is "For what does a common term stand when it stands in simple supposition?" Burley, the realist,2 maintained that such a term stands for what it signifies, namely, a common nature outside the mind.3 On the other hand, Ockham the conceptualist could not 1 See, e.g., Philotheus Boehner, Medieval Logic: An Outline of Its Development from 1250 - c. 1400 (Manchester: University Press, 1952), pp. 40, 48; and William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 265-271. On the chronology of the Burley-Ockham dispute, with references to further literature and an edition of one of the relevant texts, see Stephen F. Brown, "Walter Burleigh's Treatise De Suppositionibus and Its Influence on William of Ockham," Franciscan Studies, 32 (1972), 15-64. 2 On Burley's realism, see Herman Shapiro, "A Note on Walter Burley's Exaggerated Realism," Franciscan Studies, 20 (i960), 205-214; and his "More on the 'Exaggeration' of Burley's Realism," Manuscripta, 6 (1962), 94-98. 8 See Walter Burleigh, De Puritate Artis Logicae Tractatus Longior, with a Revised Edition of the Tractatus Brevior, Philotheus Boehner, ed. (St. Bonaventure , N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute, 1955), tract, long., tr. I, pars 1, c. 1, p. 3 lines 24 f.: "Suppositio vero simplex est, quando terminus communis vel singulare aggregatum supponit pro eo quod significat." (Henceforth, references to De Puritate will be to the Tractatus Longior, tract 1, pars 1.) The parallel passage in De Suppositionibus is par. 2.3 of Brown's edition. That a common term stands for a common nature is argued, De Puritate, c. 3, p. 8 lines 1-7: "Item, hoc nomen 'homo' significat aliquid primo, et non significat primo Sortem nec Platonem; quia sic audiens hanc vocem et sciens, quid per hanc vocem significaretur, determinate et distincte intelligeret Sortem, quod est falsum; ergo hoc nomen 'homo' non significat primo aliquod singulare; ergo significat primo commune; et illud commune est species; ergo illud, quod primo significatur hoc nomine 'homo' est species." In the lines immediately following this text (ibid., lines 8-29), Burley says that it makes no difierence to the argument whether the common species Epistemological Implications of the Burley-Ockham Dispute213 accept such a position; in his ontology there were simply no common natures outside the mind. For him, therefore, a common term in simple supposition stands for the universal concept in the mind.4 This much of the dispute then is based on the metaphysical disagreement over whether there exist common natures outside the mind. It is this metaphysical side of the dispute that is usually brought out in recent discussions. But there is quite another question too at issue between Burley and Ockham, one the answer to which is restricted but not totally fixed by their respective metaphysical views. It is: "Disregarding the question what we are to posit at the one end of the relation of simple supposition, which kind of supposition is it in which a term stands for what it signifies?" For Burley it is simple supposition, for Ockham personal. As will be seen, this issue has epistemological implications. It is this side of the dispute that I want to explore here. be a thing outside the soul or the concept in the soul. But in the next argument (ibid., lines 30-34) it is clear that Burley thinks the concept is ruled out on other grounds: "Item, haec est vera, secundum quod subiectum habet suppositionem simplicem: 'Homo est substantia secunda'. Si tamen subiectum supponeret pro intentione in anima, esset falsa, quia intentio in anima est accidens, et accidens nec est substantia prima nec secunda." 4 William Ockham, Summa Logicae I, Philotheus Boehner, ed., (St. Bonaventure , N.Y.: The Franciscan Institute, 1957), c· 64· Hues...


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