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Nominales and nominalism in the twelfth century

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Chapter Summary

Over a half century ago two young French scholars, Paul Vignaux and M.-D. Chenu, set new directions for the subsequent study of nominalism in the Middle Ages. Vignaux's articles became one of the principal interpretive guides for scholars working on late medieval nominalism. Chenu's articles, whose titles hid their relevance for twelfth-century nominalism, circulated primarily among those working in twelfth-century grammar and propositional theory. Nominalists were those who believed that universals were mere names (nomina) or spoken sounds (voces). The linked contrasts of vox/res and Nominales/Reales encountered in medieval sources were long viewed as interchangeable. The earliest reference to the Nominales occurs in John of Salisbury's Metalogicon. Ancient grammar had always given the central place to the nominative case of a noun and the present tense of a verb. The fundamental teaching of the Nominales was that only the nominative case of nouns and the present tense of verbs signify.

Keywords: M.-D. Chenu; Nominales; nominalism; Paul Vignaux; voces



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