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Denying Conditionals: Abaelard and the Failure of Boethius' Account of the Hypothetical Syllogism

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Boethius' treatise De Hypotheticis Syllogismis provided twelfth-century philosophers with an introduction to the logic of conditional and disjunctive sentences but this work is the only part of the logica vetus which is no longer studied in the twelfth century. In this paper I investigate why interest in Boethius acount of hypothetical syllogisms fell off so quickly. I argue that Boethius' account of compound sentences is not an account of propositions and once a proper notion of propositionality is available the argument forms accepted by Boethius are seen to be incoherent. It was Peter Abaelard who first understood the nature of propositionality and propositional connectives and used this to criticise Boethius' claims in De Hypothetics Syllogismis. In place Boethius' confusion Abaelard offered a simple and correct account of the hypothetical syllogism.

Affiliations: 1: Auckland University

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