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AN INTERPRETATIVE DILEMMA IN BURLEAN SEMANTICS I. Spade's Statement of the Dilemma In his discussion of the debate between Walter Burley and William ofOckham, concerning the theories of signification and supposition , P. V. Spade has left us with a dilemma in interpreting Burlean semantics. Spade claims that the semantic relations between the notion of signification and the notion of supposition, in Burley's writings , clearly reflect the theory of cognition of the Arab-Aristotelian tradition where "understanding is of universals and sensation is ofparticulars ."1 St. Thomas subscribed to such a theory, and argued that the intellect has an indirect knowledge ofsensible particulars via a process he calls 'abstraction'. In the late 13th century, and throughout the 14th, a rival epistemological theory developed. According to this rival theory, the intellect has a direct cognition of particulars. This rival epistemological theory has been called the "intuitive cognition" theory, and was primarily articulated in the writings ofDuns Scotus and William ofOckham. Spade argues, in effect, that an interpretative dilemma arises in Burley's writings because his semantic theory reflects the abstraction theory ofcognition , but there are grounds for believing Burley allowed for simply supposing common terms to indicate species, and the direct intellectual cognition of particulars. If Burley allowed for the direct intellectual cognition of particulars, such a theory of cognition would be difficult to reconcile with his semantic theories ofsignification and supposition . 1 Paul Vincent Spade, "Some Epistemological Implications of the Burley-Ockham Dispute," Franciscan Studies, 35 (1975): 221. l82MICHAEL FITZGERALD According to Spade, once one has shown that Burley allowed for the direct intellectual cognition of sensible particulars, then one cannot reconcile this sort of epistemic theory with Burley's semantic theory. Spade thinks this to be difficult, since Burley's semantics (in the case of simply supposing terms) requires that common terms in the context ofa proposition only stand for species or common natures. Moreover, according to Spade, on Burley's account of simple supposition , it is only when a term simply supposes that we can learn anything through language, or even know what we are talking about by means oflanguage. It is only in simple supposition that a term 'T' supposes for what it indicates to the intellect (i.e. pro suo significato). For Burley it is semantic relation of simple supposition that was given an epistemological role. It is only in simple supposition that a term stands for what it signifies. Hence, it is only in cases of simple supposition that we are talking about what we understand by the terms. But, pushed to its conclusion, this view seems to mean that it is only in context of simple supposition that we know what we are talking about. It is in cases of simple supposition that we can learn anything through languageā€”that is only cases of sentences such as "Man is a species," "Animal is a genus." And this to the exclusion of such sentences as "This cat is on the mat," which does not teach us anything about this particular cat, since the term 'cat' does not signify particular cats but rather the common nature.2 More precisely, Spade's dilemma can be formulated as follows: 1)If Burley allows simply supposing terms to indicate species, then he accepts the abstraction theory of cognition; and if he allows for a direct cognition of particulars by the intellect, then his epistemological theory does not reflect his semantic theory of proper supposition . 2)Either Burley allows for simply supposing terms to indicate species, or he allows for a direct cognition of particulars. 3)Therefore, either Burley accepts the abstraction theory of cognition , or his epistemological theory does not reflect his semantic theory of proper supposition. This paper will undertake to grab this "bull" by the horns, and show the conjuctive premiss of the dilemma to be false. Burley does 2 Spade 221. An Interpretative Dilemma in Burley183 allow for the direct cognition ofparticulars by the intellect, yet simply supposing terms, for him, indicate species. Further, even though he allows for the direct cognition of particulars by the intellect, it does not follow that his epistemology is not reflected in his semantic theory of proper supposition. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 181-192
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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