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On the eve of nominalism: Consignification in Anselm

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Chapter Summary

The theory of consignification - an indirect, secondary, or participatory type of signification - was at least as old as Priscian and Boethius, and was passed down through the grammatical and logical traditions to the eleventh century and Anselm's generation. There would not seem to be any problems with what consignification meant, nor how it was used by Anselm or other eleventh- and twelfth-century writers. But the meaning and history of consignification may not be quite so straight-forward. Two features or problems in particular are worth some examination. First, the theory of language and propositional truth associated with the original twelfth-century Nominates in the generation after Anselm depended in part on a theory of consignification. A second problem is that consignification had a double ancestry that affected the way it was applied. Nomen included not only what we call a noun, but pronouns, adjectives, and, according to Boethius, adverbs as well.

Keywords: Anselm; Boethius; consignification; Nomen theory; Priscian



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