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MODES OF PERSONAL SUPPOSITION: THE PURPOSE AND USEFULNESS OF THE DOCTRINE WITHIN OCKHAM'S LOGIC The so-called "theory of modes ofpersonal supposition," in particular Ockham's version of it, has been a recurring source of perplexity to recent commentators. One especially persistent worry has been that of determining whether and how the doctrine could be reformulated in modern logic.1 However, oddly enough, these issues have been raised in the absence of any serious attempt at specifying the purpose of the doctrine and a fortiori at determining whether it makes a useful contribution to Ockham's logic as a whole. Instead it was generally taken for granted that, in Ockham's hands, the "theory ofmodes" (hereafter 'TM') is aimed at achieving a reduction of general sentences to truthfunctional combinations of sentences containing, in the positions 1 The following list of works where this preoccupation is present is not an exhaustive one: Philotheus Boehner, Medieval Logic (Manchester University Press, 1952). Philotheus Boehner, "A medieval theory of supposition," Franciscan Studies 18 (1958): 240-289. Gareth Matthews, "Ockham's Supposition Theory and Modern Logic," Philosophical Review 73 (1964): 91-99. Gareth Matthews, "Suppositio and Quantification in Ockham," Nous 7 (1973): 13-34. ibid, (the preceding article, 81-86). Desmond P. Henry, Medieval Logic and Metaphysics (Hutchinson U. London 1972). Robert Price, "William of Ockham and suppositio personalis," Franciscan Studies 30 (1970): 131-140. Graham Priest &. Stephen Read, "The formalization of Ockham's Theory of Supposition," Mind 86 (1977): 109-113. Hermann Weidemann, "William of Ockham on particular negative propositions," Mind 88 (1979): 270-75. 88ELIZABETH KARGER of general terms, only singular ones. These combinations were supposed by some to provide in turn the truth-conditions of the general sentences to which they are equivalent.2 Alternatively, it was suggested that the point of such reductions was to reveal the import, in a sentence, of the quantifying words (i.e. of'omnis,' 'aliquis' and their variants ) and oftheir ordering.3 However no textual evidence was offered in favor of the basic hypothesis that the purpose of TM is to operate such wholesale reductions of general sentences. For my part, I have been unable to discover a text which would confirm it. Consequently proposed "formalizations'4 of TM so interpreted ought, I think, be regarded with some suspicion, it being far from established that what has been formalized should be identified with TM at all. In this paper I propose to deal with the following unduly neglected issues: (a)what is the purpose of TM?5 (b)is the contribution which TM makes to Ockham's Logic an important and useful one?6 The first issue appears to be an easy one to settle. The purpose of a doctrine is revealed by the applications made of it. But the application which Ockham makes ofTM is easy to spot within the Summa 2 As by Peter Geach, Reference and Generality (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962) 71-72; by Graham Priest & Stephen Read, "Merely confused supposition: A theoretical advance or a mere confusion?" Franciscan Studies 40 (1980): 280; by Price 137. 3 Cf. Priest and Read, "The formalization": 112-113; Matthews, "Ockham 's Supposition Theory": 95 and "Suppositio": 13, where other references to interpretations which look upon TM as a rudimentary theory of quantification are given. 4 Cf. Priest and Read: "The Formalization." 5 One who did ask this question is Paul Spade. The answer he tentatively provides is moreover, at any rate with respect to Ockham, correct, though, as this paper will, I hope, show, it can be made much more precise. (Cf. "The semantics of terms," The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, N. Kretzmann, A. Kenny &. J. Pinborg, Eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1982) 195. 6 As this paper will, I hope, show, Ernest Moody gravely underestimates TM when he writes: "The significance of this analysis of kinds of personal supposition is not to be found in its utility, which is rather slight" (The Logic of William ofOckham (New York: Russell and Russell, 1955 reissued 1965) 192. Modes of Personal Supposition89 Logicae7 (hereafter 'SL'), which will naturally serve as our source for all the relevant material. Unfortunately, however, TM, as presented within SL, fails...


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