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Book description

This 1982 book is a history of the great age of scholastism from Abelard to the rejection of Aristotelianism in the Renaissance, combining the highest standards of medieval scholarship with a respect for the interests and insights of contemporary philosophers, particularly those working in the analytic tradition. The volume follows on chronologically from The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, though it does not continue the histories of Greek and Islamic philosophy but concentrates on the Latin Christian West. Unlike other histories of medieval philosophy that divide the subject matter by individual thinkers, it emphasises the parts of more historical and theological interest. This volume is organised by those topics in which recent philosophy has made the greatest progress.


‘The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy brings together in one volume an impressively large number of short essays [which] … serve as exemplars of the proper way to ‘foster a … mutually beneficial relationship between medieval philosophy and contemporary philosophy’ … The authors combine their own ample creative insight into significant philosophical issues with a deep understanding of and appreciation for what their medieval interlocutors had to say about those issues. The editors … provide a fine general introduction to medieval philosophical literature and to the difficulties it poses for the contemporary reader, specialist and nonspecialist alike.’

Source: The Journal of Philosophy

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Page 1 of 3

  • I - Medieval philosophical literature
    pp 9-42
  • View abstract
    Medieval philosophical literature is closely associated with medieval schools and universities as well as with the material and psychological conditions prevailing at these institutions. Already in the twelfth century schools tended to specialise in certain studies. Paris and central France, for example, became famous for their teaching in logic and theology, Bologna for civil and canon law. This chapter emphasises the oral aspect of medieval philosophical literature. In another sense, however, medieval teaching was very much dependent on books. From university statutes students can gather that Arts disputations were normal and that attendance at and participation in disputations were required before receiving a degree. Even the most technical reports of medieval disputations can sometimes be relieved by glimpses of the tumult of actual disputation. Manuscripts and their errors are not only a problem for the medieval user and the modern editor of a medieval text, they are also a problem for any user of modern editions.
  • 2 - Aristoteles latinus
    pp 43-79
  • View abstract
    All of Aristotle's works were translated into Latin in the Middle Ages and nearly all were intensely studied. An examination of the medieval Latin Aristotle considers the genuine works of Aristotle, and also deals with works credited to Aristotle in the Middle Ages although now believed to be spurious. Biographical information about most medieval authors is scarce, and this is particularly true of the translators. The references to Boethius' translation, to James of Venice's translation and to the deplorable state of affairs in France are intriguing. The literal method of translating was made possible by the basic similarity of the languages, and it served its purpose well enough. It seems likely that the 'logica nova' and the new Aristotle were being lectured on in Oxford and Paris in the first decade of the thirteenth century. In the increasing elaboration of the glosses one can trace the growing self-confidence and sophistication of subsequent generations of readers.
  • 3 - The medieval interpretation of Aristotle
    pp 80-98
  • View abstract
    The question of the interpretation of Aristotle in the Middle Ages must be dealt with within the context of the medieval conception of science. Clerical science was accordingly the corporate transmission of traditional wisdom. Boethius' translations were, so to speak, an historical accident and could have but little influence, not only in the final phase of classical civilisation, but also in the monastic schools of the early Middle Ages. In Barcelona, in the Archives of the Crown of Aragon, there is a thirteenth-century manuscript which contains a manual or guidebook for students in the arts faculty in Paris. What came to be known as the Averroistic controversy in the 1260s and 70s led to some of the most intransigent formulations of the masters' own understanding of their role. This chapter shows that medieval exegesis had been concerned with the Bible. In the Aristotelian logic Thomas found prescriptions for the ordering of theological doctrine as a strict science.
  • 4 - Ancient scholastic logic as the source of medieval scholastic logic
    pp 99-127
  • View abstract
    Medieval logic grew out of the school curriculum; consequently, one characteristic vehicle of it was the commentary on a schoolbook. 'Scholastic' properly characterises philosophers who approach their task in the way men did in medieval Western Europe, but scholasticism in this sense was neither a medieval nor a Western invention. The Greeks had written commentaries on classical authors before the second century AD, but scholasticism did not really conquer philosophy till then. With a few exceptions it was the 'Roman course' that determined which Latin books on logic were handed down to the Middle Ages. Priscian's grammatical theory is Apollonian, as he himself admits. Like all ancient grammars, that of Apollonius Dyscolus was not historical. Everyone agrees that Porphyry influenced posterity very much, but little has been done in modern times by way of reconstructing Porphyry the logician. The medievals read Greek grammatical theory in Priscian.
  • 5 - Predicables and categories
    pp 128-142
  • View abstract
    Prominent among the antecedents of medieval philosophy, particularly of logic and philosophy of language, are two logical works of Aristotle's, namely De interpretation and Categories. An explanation of a substantial inheritance requires a brief excursion into the history of the terminology central to the Isagoge and the Categories. In his commentary on Porphyry, Boethius discusses the Porphyrian 'tree' which takes the category substance as genus generalissimum and uses the predicables to divide substance into a hierarchically ordered series of genera and species. It has long been customary to allocate words to diverse 'parts of speech' or 'semantic categories', including noun, verb, preposition, and participle. Appellatio is for Anselm that facet of meaning whereby a name in actual use points to its referents; in the case of paronyms these may be constant in kind or varied. The work of Anselm in logical and linguistic theory has, until recently, been completely overshadowed by his acknowledged accomplishments in theology and metaphysics.
  • 6 - Abelard and the culmination of the old logic
    pp 143-158
  • View abstract
    Of all the scholastic logicians writing while the old logic was still virtually the whole of the logical curriculum in the schools, Abelard is generally conceded to have been the most profound and original. For Abelard logic also had a close relation to physica, since in explaining the 'uses of words' the logician must investigate in a general way the 'properties of things' which the mind uses words to signify. This relationship leads to a concern with the psychology of signification, and with ontology. Throughout his logical works Abelard frequently deploys terms and analyses borrowed from grammar and generally view his own dialectical enterprise as deepening and to some extent correcting what grammar has already begun. The conception of dialectic and grammar as overlapping in interests would be difficult if not impossible had Abelard not taken words to be the subject matter of logic.
  • 7 - The origins of the theory of the properties of terms
    pp 159-173
  • View abstract
    Beginning as early as the eleventh century, the relationship between thought and language was a focal point of medieval thought. Thought was considered to be linguistically constrained by its very nature; thought and language were taken to be related both to each other and to reality in their elements and their structure. The contextual approach plays a most fundamental role in all stages of the development, sometimes to such an extent that it is no longer the appellative noun but the 'terminus' that has become the special linguistic element in the focus of the theory. Accidental supposition, the complement of natural supposition, is the acceptance of the same common term for only those individuals determined by what is adjoined to the term. Most authors do not discuss copulation as extensively as Sherwood does. The notions of appellation, ampliation, and restriction are of major importance.
  • 8 - The Oxford and Paris traditions in logic
    pp 174-187
  • View abstract
    Terminist logic grew to maturity in the period 1175-1250, a period that was also crucially important in the development of the universities of Paris and of Oxford. The Fallacie Parvipontane offers a division of univocation that obviously underlies the division of supposition which was subsequently introduced in the early treatises from Oxford. During the Summulist period, the contrast between Oxford and Continental doctrines increased. The Parisian doctrine essentially represented by Peter of Spain's Tractatus definitely sets the notion of natural supposition in the forefront, while that of appellation is relegated to the background. In Oxford, William of Sherwood was developing a doctrine of supposition and appellation founded on a syntactical definition of supposition as 'the ordering of some thought under some other thought. In his Oxford treatise Summule dialectices Roger Bacon mentions two opposed views on the nature of appellation. In the second half of the thirteenth century, logic at Paris was dominated by the 'Modist' approach.
  • 9 - The semantics of terms
    pp 188-196
  • View abstract
    Medieval philosophers and logicians used the word 'term' in several senses, two of which are especially pertinent to this discussion. There are two basic properties for the medieval semantics of terms: signification and supposition. Taking their cue from De interpretatione I, 3-8 and from Augustine's De trinitate, XV, 10-11, most logicians held that there are three kinds of terms: written, spoken, and mental. Terms were divided into categorematic words, those that can serve by themselves as terms in the strictest sense, and syncategorematic words, those, such as conjunctions and prepositions, that enter into propositions only along with categorematic words. The theory of categorematic words was complicated by the notion of 'secondary signification' or 'connotation', a notion closely related to Anselm's theory of paronymy. In order to accommodate tense and modality, the theory of supposition proper included a theory of 'ampliation'.
  • 10 - The semantics of propositions
    pp 197-210
  • View abstract
    The author of the Ars Meliduna employed a terminological distinction to mark the difference in assertive force between propositions uttered by themselves and propositions in so far as they are part of compound statements. As in the case of incomplexa, or terms, it was held that there are three kinds of propositions: written, spoken, and mental. Written and spoken declarative sentences and their mental images were contrasted with the corresponding thoughts, which were seen as belonging to a sort of universal mental language. Both in the Logica 'Ingredientibus' and in the Dialectica Abelard draws a sharp distinction between mere predication and the act of asserting. The interpretation of a proposition as a sentence-token was supported by the Boethian definition of a proposition as a combination of words which signifies something true or false. As to the question of the bearers of logical relations, an interesting distinction is found in the Tractatus Anagnini.
  • 11 - Syncategoremata, exponibilia, sophismata
    pp 211-245
  • View abstract
    The notion of syncategoremata that became important in medieval logic was, however, both narrower and broader than that comparatively orderly classification in terms of the parts of speech. The logicians' interest in syncategoremata began to flourish, naturally enough, in the rise of the logica moderna, stimulated by the recovery of Aristotle's treatise on fallacies around the middle of the twelfth century. Focusing on standard elements through all the texts that contain it is instructive, but the fullest development of the most interesting material is to be found in the sophismata. The simple strategy of resolutions such as Burley's is what leads me to group them as a type, but they are alike also in their use of 'quaelibet pars Socratis' as the analysis of 'totus Socrates' in its syncategorematic use. Designations preceded by asterisks indicate texts that the author have seen only in excerpts.
  • 12 - Insolubilia
    pp 246-253
  • View abstract
    Medieval literature on 'insolubles' began to appear by the early thirteenth century at the latest and continued to the end of the Middle Ages. Several approaches may be distinguished during the first period. One was called 'cassation'. A second approach, the most common early one, tried to treat insolubles as fallacies of confusing what is true only in a certain respect with what is true absolutely. A third early theory perhaps arose out of attempts to make insolubles fit what Aristotle says about fallacies secundum quid et simpliciter. With Bradwardine, the insolubilia-literature entered its second and most productive phase. Roger Swineshead, writing probably shortly after Bradwardine, took a different approach. According to William Heytesbury, insolubles should be treated within the context of obligationes, the codified conditions of formal scholastic disputation. It was perhaps by speculating on fact that Gregory of Rimini and Peter of Ailly were led to base their own theories of insolubles on the notion of mental language.
  • 13 - Speculative grammar
    pp 254-270
  • View abstract
    Medieval speculative grammar grew out of the schoolmens' work with ancient Latin grammar as it had been transmitted in the canonical works of Donatus and Priscian. The term 'Modistae' is used accordingly to denote the masters of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century who wrote on grammar, logic, and metaphysics within this tradition. After 1300 no original contribution to modistic theory was made, although modistic terminology continued to govern grammatical description. The critics included both nominalists like Ockham and Buridan and conservative Averroists like John of Jandun and John Aurifaber. The aim of speculative grammar was to describe intra-linguistic relationships, but the Modistae could not accomplish what they wanted without invoking to some degree the structure of reality. The elaborate semantic system inherits from Aristotle and the Arabs at first looked so impressive in itself that the previous form of logical interpretation was thought to be dispensable. A similar evaluation of the modi significandi is hinted by Walter Burley.
  • 14 - Topics: their development and absorption into consequences
    pp 271-299
  • View abstract
    'Topic' is the infelicitous but by now standard translation for the Latin technical term 'locus', designating a logical concept variously understood throughout ancient and medieval philosophy. According to Boethius, who is dependent on both the Greek and Latin traditions, two different sorts of things are Topics: a Topic is both a maximal proposition and the Differentia of a maximal proposition. The earliest known scholastic discussion of Topics which is still extant occurs in Garlandus Compotista's Dialectica, one chapter of which is devoted to Topics. The sort of metaphysical theory suggested in the terminists can be found more fully developed in thirteenth-century logicians, particularly in the modists but also, for example, in Robert Kilwardby. The connection between the principles dici de omni et nullo and the syllogism is variously expressed by thirteenth- and fourteenth-century logicians. There is not so much theorising about logic in the Tractatus longior as there is in the and by William Ockham's Summa logicae.
  • 15 - Consequences
    pp 300-314
  • View abstract
    A consequentia may be a conditional proposition or the relationship between the antecedent and the consequent in a conditional proposition. It may be an argument or the relationship between the premiss and conclusion of an argument, which may be called, confusingly, 'a rational proposition'. Scholars disagree about the origins of the theory of consequences. The word 'consequentia' can be found in Boethius, who found its Greek equivalent in Aristotle, even though it does not there have the technical sense of a relation among propositions. Garlandus Compotista and Peter Abelard inherited much from Boethius, yet in many ways the two were rethinking his doctrine very carefully. For a sample of the difficulties encountered in later medieval attempts to formulate a satisfactory definition of a consequence, we can turn to the Pseudo-Scotus. The century of Walter Burley, William Ockham, John Buridan, and others was indeed a golden age of logic, in which the theory of consequences attained its mature form.
  • A - From the beginning to the early fourteenth century
    pp 315-334
  • View abstract
    Perhaps one of the last really obscure areas of medieval logic is contained in the scholastic work on 'obligations'. From the fourteenth century onwards, scholastic work on obligations proliferates and diversifies. The putative Sherwood and the authentic Burley treatises on obligations differ only in the fulness of discussion, in the number of species of obligations considered, and in minor details of organisation or of content. William Burley begins his discussion of positio, as he does his discussion of obligations at the opening of the treatise, with a division into species. A clear and historically significant example of theoretical, philosophical interest in obligations can be seen in the forty-seventh of Richard Kilvington's Sophismata. Something of the same shift of emphasis, though much less dramatic or historically significant, can be seen in William Ockham's work on obligations in his Summa logicae.
  • B - Obligations: Developments in the fourteenth century
    pp 335-341
  • View abstract
    The obligations-literature appears to have entered a new phase with the Oxford Calculators, centred at Merton College in the 1320s and 1330s. There is reason to speculate that some of the most characteristic features of Roger Swineshead's Insolubilia grew out of reflection on Richard Kilvington's Sophismata. One of the most characteristic features of the old tradition of obligations was lost in new response. Certainly, if the purpose of the obligations was to provide students with logical exercises to sharpen their skills, the old response was much better suited to that purpose than was the new response. Swineshead's new response generated a certain amount of controversy. His view was accepted by Richard Lavenham in the second half of the fourteenth century, and was discussed by Robert Fland as apparently no less plausible than the old response. Peter of Candia also rejected Swineshead's second conclusion in the later fourteenth century, as did Paul of Venice in the early fifteenth century.
  • 17 - Modal logic
    pp 342-357
  • View abstract
    Aristotle's 'logical' definition of possibility might be recognised as important element of his modal theory. This chapter provides some examples of the medieval use of the statistical interpretation of modality, because it seems to have been the dominant model in logical contexts. In their doctrine of consequentiae ut nunc some writers explicitly used the interrelated ideas of statistically interpreted modal concepts and changing truth-values. The Aristotelian paradigm of potentiality as a power which strives to manifest itself was unqualifiedly accepted in Aristotelian scholasticism as a characterisation of natural reality. Albert the Great says that the assertoric premiss in valid syllogisms must be de inesse simpliciter and not de inesse ut nunc. The starting-point of Duns Scotus' modal theory is the concept of logical possibility. The chapter also discusses John Buridan as an example of the new fourteenth-century approach to modal logic. The formulations introduced above show that something like quantification into modal contexts was usual in fourteenth-century modal logic.
  • 18 - Future contingents
    pp 358-382
  • View abstract
    The later Middle Ages inherited the various problems of future contingents from antiquity and from the Church Fathers. This chapter discusses the state of the problem at the beginning of the later Middle Ages by considering the position defended by Anselm of Canterbury. In the period after Anselm much of the discussion of future contingents centred around the interpretation of Aristotle's view of truth, the view that a sentence is true if things are as the sentence says they are. The first towering figure in this discussion after Anselm is Peter Abelard. The most influential twelfth-century work on future contingents is recorded in the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Robert Holkot, one of William Ockham's followers, devotes the last part of Book II, Q. II of his Sentences-commentary to a discussion of whether God is able to reveal a future contingent. Thomas Bradwardine's views on future contingents are intimately connected with his views about time and modality.
  • 19 - Essence and existence
    pp 383-410
  • View abstract
    The recovery of Aristotle's Metaphysics by medieval Western thinkers prepared the way for them to concentrate on the science of 'being as being' in the high Middle Ages. This work was enhanced by the translation into Latin of Avicenna's Metaphysics in the twelfth century and of Averroes' Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics in the early thirteenth century. Thomas Aquinas agrees with Avicenna, Siger of Brabant, and Duns Scotus in maintaining that the subject of metaphysics is being as being or being in general, but he denies that God is included under this notion of being in general. Quite different from any of these positions regarding the subject of metaphysics is the one taken by William Ockham, who distinguished between the object and the subject of a science. Earlier in the thirteenth century, universal hylemorphism had been criticised by William of Auvergne.
  • 20 - Universals in the early fourteenth century
    pp 411-439
  • View abstract
    The vigorous early-fourteenth-century debate about universals was based on a rejection of Platonism, the theory that universal natures really exist independently of the particulars whose natures they are and independently of every mind. Duns Scotus' theory of universals develops his conviction that the nature must be somehow common in reality, even though it cannot exist apart from any and every particular. Another version of moderate realism current in William Ockham's time and apparently endorsed by his rival Walter Burley, in effect concurs in Scotus' theses but rejects the troublesome. Ockham and Henry of Harclay also argue that Burley's position will lead to contradictories, when it comes to accounting for the relation between substances and accidents. Ockham gave up the objective-existence theory, partly because of his own developing reservations and partly because of criticisms raised by his contemporary and fellow-Franciscan, Walter Chatton.
  • 21 - Faith, ideas, illumination, and experience
    pp 440-459
  • View abstract
    Religious faith was one distinct source of human knowledge. Augustine's use of the intelligible world to explain human thought is generally called today, as it was occasionally in the Middle Ages, the doctrine of divine illumination. The influential theologians of the school of Chartres, though immersed in the Neoplatonism of Augustine and Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite, tended in their commentaries on Boethius to describe universals as somehow abstracted from singulars by the activity of the intellect. In the first quarter of the thirteenth century, William of Auxerre was in full accord with the Aristotelian doctrines. Albert the Great, whose writings date from at least 1245 onwards, benefited from closer interpretation of Aristotle's De anima. Bonaventure likewise maintained that philosophy was necessary for the pursuit of theology, yet care had to be taken to avoid deception by it. As with Augustine and Anselm, understanding requires faith. William Ockham's nominalistic way of philosophising became widespread during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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