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Richard Billingham's Speculum puerorum, Some Medieval Commentaries and Aristotle

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In the history of medieval semantics, supposition theory is important especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In this theory the emphasis is on the term, whose properties one tries to determine. In the fourteenth century the focus is on the proposition, of which a term having supposition is a part. The idea is to analyse propositions in order to determine their truth (probare). The Speculum puerorum written by Richard Billingham was the standard textbook for this approach. It was very influential in Europe. The theory of the probatio propositionis was meant to solve problems both in (empirically oriented) scientific propositions such as used by the Oxford Calculators, and theological propositions, especially those about the Trinity. The book is original, concise, but not clear in every respect. Studying medieval commentaries may help us to understand Richard's book. In the present paper three commentaries are presented. The commentators discussed problems about the status of Richard's book, and about its doctrine: what is the relation between probatio and truth, what is the relation between probatio and supposition, what exactly are mediate and immediate terms ( the pronoun 'this' mediate or immediate?). The commentators sometimes criticize Richard. For example, one of them argues, against Billingham, that the verb 'can' ampliates its subject term and is therefore mediate.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden University


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