Later Medieval Metaphysics: Ontology, Language, and Logic

Later Medieval Metaphysics: Ontology, Language, and Logic

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Later Medieval Metaphysics: Ontology, Language, and Logic
    Book Description:

    This book begins with standard ontological topics--such as the nature of existence--and of metaphysics generally, such as the status of universals, form, and accidents. What is the proper subject matter of metaphysical speculation? Are essence and existence really distinct in bodies? Does the body lose its unifying form at death? Can an accident of a substance exist in separation from that substance? Are universals real, and, if so, are they anything more than general concepts? Among the figures it examines are Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Walter Chatton, John Buridan, Dietrich of Freiburg, Robert Holcot, Walter Burley, and the 11th-century Islamic philosopher Ibn-Sina (Avicenna). There is also an emphasis on metaphysics broadly conceived. Thus, additional discussions of connected topics in medieval logic, epistemology, and language provide a fuller account of the range of ideas included in the later medieval worldview.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5023-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Medieval metaphysics and modern-day metaphysics share much common ground; many issues of concern to medieval metaphysicians would be quite familiar to those who find themselves in a present-day metaphysics seminar. These earlier philosophers worried about the nature of change, the fundamental structure of reality (and of the entities within that reality), identity, time, and so on. It is easy to look past this fact, however, because of the fundamental ontology they adhered to: for them, God, angels, and miracles were entities and phenomena that had to fit into their metaphysical systems. Just as contemporary metaphysicians work with the ontology of...

    • 1 Duns Scotus on Metaphysics as the Science of First Entity
      (pp. 11-29)

      Among Paul Vincent Spade’s many distinguished contributions to research in the history of philosophy is a study of “The Unity of Science according to Peter Auriol.” As Spade notes, Aureol considers nine previous opinions, including “two (!) of Duns Scotus.” Moreover, Aureol may be mistaken in his evaluation of Scotus’s views.¹ Alas, disagreement is one hallmark of Scotus studies, and those disagreements are about fundamental questions. The two that will concern us here are: What is the subject of the science of metaphysics and how is it unified?

      These are fundamental issues since Aristotelians call metaphysics “first philosophy” because it...

    • 2 Aquinas vs. Buridan on Essence and Existence
      (pp. 30-44)

      In this essay I will argue that although Anthony Kenny’s objections to Aquinas’sintellectus essentiaeargument for the real distinction of essence and existence in creatures are quite easily answerable in terms of a proper reconstruction of the argument, the argument thus reconstructed is still open to an objection offered by the John Buridan in hisQuestions on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The discussion of how Aquinas could handle Buridan’s objection will show that the conflict between their judgments concerning the validity of the argument rests on a fundamental difference between Aquinas’s and Buridan’s conceptions of how our concepts latch onto things...

    • 3 The Form of Corporeity and Potential and Aptitudinal Being in Dietrich von Freiberg’s Defense of the Doctrine of the Unity of Substantial Form
      (pp. 47-83)

      Dietrich von Freiberg, O.P., was active in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.¹ He is probably best known for his work on the optics of the rainbow,² one of the most remarkable achievements of late medieval empirical science.³ He has also gained some attention for his distinctive theory of the intellect, especially for the extent to which he draws upon Proclus’Elements of Theology.⁴ In addition to his demonstrable interest in, and appropriation of Proclusian Neoplatonism, Dietrich’s surviving writings show him also to be a very capable and knowledgeable Aristotelian thinker, deeply immersed in the philosophical controversies that were...

    • 4 Accidents in Scotus’s Metaphysics Commentary
      (pp. 84-100)

      Despite a historical bias toward considering primarily the substance of things, accidental features play an important and often ignored role in medieval philosophy. First, and most obviously, in typical cases a complete description of an item requires not only that one specify its substance—for example, its humanity—but also its accidents (being tall, sitting, etc.). Second, many medieval theories of universals rely in an important way on accidents, either in a constitutive or epistemic sense (see, e.g., Boethius’s account of individuation from hisTheological Tractates, or William of Champeaux’s early theory of universals).¹ Third, insofar as theological considerations bear...

    • 5 Avicenna Latinus on the Ontology of Types and Tokens
      (pp. 103-136)

      Let me begin this essay with a little sophism, familiar to anyone who has tried to explain what types and tokens are:

      This flag (i.e., this particular piece of cloth) is a token of a type.

      This flag is the Union Jack.

      The Union Jack is a type.

      Therefore, this flag is a type.

      Tokens of types are not themselves types.

      Therefore, this flag is not a token of a type.

      At the end of this essay I shall explain how, on my view, Avicenna would have resolved that sophism, but to arrive at that objective a rather arduous journey...

    • 6 Universal Thinking as Process: The Metaphysics of Change and Identity in John Buridan’s Intellectio Theory
      (pp. 137-158)

      In his magisterialStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyarticle on William of Ockham, Paul Vincent Spade writes that:

      Over the course of his career, Ockham changed his view of what universal concepts are. To begin with, he adopted what is known as thefictum-theory, a theory according to which universals have no “real” existence at all in the Aristotelian categories, but instead are purely “intentional objects” more or less in the sense of modern phenomenology; they have only a kind of “thought”-reality. Such “fictive” objects were metaphysically universal; they just weren’t real. Eventually, however, Ockham came to think this intentional realm...

    • 7 Can God Know More? A Case Study in Later Medieval Discussions of Propositions
      (pp. 161-187)

      In this essay, I trace the development of a peculiar debate between William of Ockham (d. 1347) and some of his immediate successors at Oxford over the question of whether “God can know more than he knows.” Discussion of this question (which begins well before the fourteenth century) has its origin in specific theological concerns about the compatibility of divine omniscience and immutability. At the hands of Ockham and his colleagues, however, it comes to take on much broader philosophical significance. This is because, as they see it, whether or not God can know more depends entirely on the nature...

    • 8 The Power of Medieval Logic
      (pp. 188-205)

      Aristotelian logic has been very well studied. By “Aristotelian logic” I mean the system of logic that appeared in logic texts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries under that name. It consists primarily of conversion principles and principles for judging the validity of syllogisms. The theorems of this system are theorems of the monadic first-order predicate calculus. It is known to be inadequate for many very important logical applications since relational statements cannot be formulated in the system. So “Aristotelian logic” is an unflawed but importantly incomplete system.

      What about medieval logic? Is it also unflawed? Is it also incomplete?...

    • 9 Iteration and Infinite Regress in Walter Chatton’s Metaphysics
      (pp. 206-222)

      Under the pressure of a foreign military campaign, soldiers will sometimes improvise weapons and armor for themselves with an alacrity unmatched by military engineers back home whose motivational level is affected by their more peaceful surroundings. So too for the soldier in medieval theological battles; sometimes in the heat of discussion there is innovation in argumentation that logicians outside the conflict never have time to catch up to.

      For the most part, medieval logicians stayed up with the theologians. Many logical and semantic theories are well discussed by logicians in the Middle Ages and are in turn well used by...

    • 10 Analogy and Metaphor from Thomas Aquinas to Duns Scotus and Walter Burley
      (pp. 223-248)

      In the history of Aristotelianism and Thomism people often speak aboutanalogia entis, the analogy of being,¹ or what, following Giorgio Pini and Silvia Donati, I shall call metaphysical analogy.² In fact, this notion was foreign to Aristotle, and for Thomas Aquinas analogy, under that name, was semantic analogy.³ It belonged to the theory of language, since it was regarded as a type of equivocation, the medieval name for homonymy. Metaphor too was closely related to equivocation, although, unlike analogy, it was an improper use of language, and produced by usage rather than imposition. In the second half of the...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 249-300)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 301-302)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 303-314)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)