The Meaning of the Proposition

Part of the Synthese Historical Library book series (SYHL, volume 1)


At the beginning of the comment on De Interpretatione in Ingredientibus, Abelard once again stresses that the ‘propositio’ (a complex but unitary element1) is the principal object of the inquiry in question; it is thanks to this that one then examines the noun and the verb as components.2


Personal Pronoun Logical Inquiry Grammatical Form Discriminatory Criterion Logical Syntax 
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  1. 1.
    The unitary quality of the proposition is deduced from the unity of the ‘intellectus’, or rather from the unity of the act of comprehension quite apart from the form of expression (which seems on the contrary to determine the simplicity of the ‘intellectus’). See G.G., pp. 325 (17–37), 326 (16–29).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    G.G., pp. 307 (20–3), 207.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    G.L., pp. 84–5; G.G., pp. 363–4; D., pp. 146–7.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    G.G., p. 363 (25–5); D., p. 147 (11–9). The need to stress this point, which, incidentally, agrees perfectly with the initial definition of logic as the study of significative vocal phenomena ‘per impositionem’ is inspired from Boetian considerations (G.G., p. 363).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This attitude refers back to Priscian: G.G., p. 364 and D., pp. 148 (19–30).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    G.G., pp. 364–5; D., pp. 147–8 (22–8).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    G.G., p. 364 (17–21).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    G.G., p. 364 (12). Moreover neither ‘res’ nor ‘intellectus’, the former possibly disappearing, the latter as ‘actiones transitoriae’ are capable of ensuring the ‘habitudo consecutionis’: see G.G., p. 366 (2–12).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    G.G., pp. 365 (34–8), 366 (26), 369 (18).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    G.G., pp. 367 (9–12), 366.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    G.G., pp. 365 (37–8), 366 (27), 368.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    G.G., p. 369 (37–8). The ‘dictum’ as the infallible meaning of a ‘propositio’ causes truth or untruth: it can perform this function even by not being a ‘res’: e.g., you die if you have not eaten (G.G., p. 369 (18)). The example is typical of Abelardian anti-realism.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    G.G., p. 369 (19–36).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See also: G.G., p. 369 (19–37). 15 G.G., pp. 137–9.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    The same attitude is confirmed in G.G., p. 358.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    G.G., p. 366 (27–40).Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    G.G., p. 366 (32).Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    See the passage on ‘de specie’ in Ingredientibus: G.G., p. 60 (17–25). Abelard emphasises the need for a view based on the ‘vis enuntiationis’ rather than on the ‘essentia rei’ By this latter ‘homo est animal’ is false or futile: false if ‘animal’ is “animal not yet informed about rationality or irrationality”; futile if it is “animal rationalitate informatum”. “Ad vim enuntiationis refertur ut videlicet homo dicatur esse animal non sit animal”: hereby the discourse is underlined not as a description of reality but as an enunciation of something. The same elements of reality can be differently discussed precisely on a basis of the diversity of the ‘dictum’ (G.G., p. 61). This is evident above all in the example: ‘aliud est dicere de nullo’ and ‘aliud est dicere quod nullus…’: “qui tacet de nullo dicit, quod currit, nee tarnen dicit quod nullus currit…” There is an analogous passage in D., p. 166 (4–15).Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    G.G., p. 291. Abelard refuses to accept the ‘consequentia’: “si homo est vera est haec propositio — homo est — “; he notes that the existence of a ‘res’ in no way determines the construction of a proposition about that ‘res’. The ‘consequentia conversa’ is more interesting: here, having affirmed the truth of ‘homo est’, he concludes with the existence of ‘homo’. Now Abelard denies that one can pass from the affirmation of a truth to a conclusion ‘actualis’; he denies the ‘consequentia secundum conditionem’, that is the causal connexion, which would lead to a strictly realistic position in the ‘quaestio de significatione propositionis’; and he accepts the ‘consequentia secundum comitationem’, that is a reality-truth parallelism which, in logic, cannot be a principle but is a basic guarantee. The ‘consequentia secundum comitationem’ is, in itself, ‘logically’ indifferent, but does not hinder a definition of truth which is independent of reality. In this passage a truth-verificability distinction seems to be indicated, though not developed.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    G.G., p. 327 (20–1): “enuntiando proponere id quod in re est vel non est in re”; G.L., p. 51 (23–4): “vere gressibile praedicatur de homine quia ita est in re”, and also G.L., p. 58 (29–43).Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    D., pp. 154ff.-See pp. 6–8.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    G.G., p. 366 (12–3).Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    D., p. 156 (1–13). One notes that in the case of ‘verum vel falsum’ being taken as ‘nomina propositionis’ one would lose the character of ‘nota’ which is part of the ‘propositio’, as it is of the ‘nomen’ and the ‘verbum’, and which is the object of logical inquiry, by definition an inquiry into everything that marks something other than itself (D., p. 111).Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    D., p. 156 (13f.). — Up to this point Abelard is faithful to the Aristotelian attitude.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Note the ‘dicuntur’ (and not ‘nominantur’) which in a certain way directs the problem.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    D., p. 157 (15–7).Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    D., pp. 157 (17–31), 160 (14–29); see G.G., p. 366.Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    D., p. 160 (33–6).Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    G.G., pp. 366, 367.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    D., pp. 154–7.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    D., p. 160 (17–21).Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    See note 20. See also the ‘quaestio’ on the proposition ‘de futuro contingenti’: D., pp. 211 (19), 213 (28).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    D., p. 140 (22–3). — Bear in mind the value of the ‘nominatio’.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    D., p. 157 and G.G., p. 369.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    D., p. 156; see also D., p. 204 (34).Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    G.G., p. 327 (20–1).Google Scholar
  37. 38.
  38. 39.
    In the present state of knowledge of Abelard’s works, the ‘dictum’ theory thus remains typical of the whole Ingredientibus. In fact we come across it in the comment on Categorie, De Interpretatione and De differentiis topicis (G.G., pp. 275 (5–6), 327 (20f.); G.L., pp. 225 (39), 226 (16)). Likewise in the section of the comment on De Interpretatione published by Minio Paluello one finds the expression ‘dictum propositionis’: see p. 15 (18), op.cit. This (as well as other characteristic positions such as the universal ‘vox’ theory and the distinction between ‘vox’ and ‘materia nominis’) seems of great significance for acknowledging that De differentiis topicis belongs to Ingredientibus.Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    Pointed to by De Rijk: D., pp. 264 (38), 282 (25).Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    From a passage in De locis one can see the metaphysical value of this ‘natura’ or ‘habitudo rerum’ (even if Abelard then switches his interest to the consequent ‘natura’ or ‘habitudo terminorum’), where it is opposed to the ‘complexio’ of what, on the contrary, is the logical value (D., p. 256 (20f.).Google Scholar
  41. 42.
    D., p. 283 (12–3).Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1969

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