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Priscian on Divine Ideas and Mental Conceptions: The Discussions in the Glosulae in Priscianum, the Notae Dunelmenses, William of Champeaux and Abelard

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Priscian's Institutiones Grammaticae, which rely on Stoic and Neoplatonic sources, constituted an important, although quite neglected, link in the chain of transmission of ancient philosophy in the Middle Ages. There is, in particular, a passage where Priscian discusses the vexed claim that common names can be proper names of the universal species and where he talks about the ideas existing in the divine mind. At the beginning of the 12th century, the anonymous Glosulae super Priscianum and the Notae Dunelmenses, which heavily quote William of Champeaux (as master G.), interpret the passage in the context of a growing interest in the problem of universals, raising semantic as well as ontological questions, and introducing a Platonic view on universals in the discussions on the signification of the noun. Moreover, this same passage will be used by Abelard to elaborate one of his opinions about the signification of universal or common names—that they signify "mental conceptions".

Affiliations: 1: CNRS/Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris


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