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Theory of Supposition vs. Theory of Fallacies in Ockham

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I propose to examine the issue of whether the ancient tradition in logic continued to be developed in the later medieval period from the vantage point of the relations between two specific groups of theories, namely the medieval theories of supposition and the (originally) ancient theories of fallacies. More specifically, I examine whether supposition theories absorbed and replaced theories of fallacies, or whether the latter continued to exist, with respect to one particular author, William of Ockham. I compare different parts of Ockham's Summa Logicae, namely III-4 (on fallacies), and the final chapters of part I and first chapters of part II (on supposition). I conclude that there is overlap of conceptual apparatus and of goals (concerning propositions that must be distinguished) in Ockham's theories of supposition and of fallacies, but that the respective conceptual apparatuses also present substantial dissimilarities. Hence, theories of supposition are better seen as an addition to the general logical framework that medieval authors had inherited from ancient times, rather than the replacement of an ancient tradition by a medieval one. Indeed, supposition theories and fallacy theories had different tasks to fulfil, and in this sense both had their place in fourteenth century logic.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden, The Netherlands

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