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Ockham and Buridan on Simple Supposition

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Chapter Summary

What is at stake, philosophically, in the disagreement between Ockham and Buridan is whether there is simple supposition in the mental language or not. The key difference is that Ockham's theory allows for the possibility of use/mention ambiguities within mental language, while Buridan's approach, whatever it is exactly, does not. Ockham's definition of simple supposition is the following: 'Simple supposition is when a term supposits for an intention of the mind (that is, a concept), but without being taken significatively', the standard examples being, 'man is a species' or 'man is a concept', where the term 'man' supposits not for what it signifies, but for the corresponding concept, the concept of man. Apart from terminological differences, Ockham and Buridan basically agree on the nominalist thesis that in sentences such as 'man is a species' or 'animal is a genus'.

Keywords: Burida; mental language; nominalist thesis; Ockham; simple supposition



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