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“What An Ugly Child”: Abaelard on Translation, Figurative Language, and Logic

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An examination the development of Peter Abaelard’s views on translation and figurative meaning. Mediaeval philosophers curiously do not connect the theory of translation implied by Aristotelian semantics with the multiplicity of tongues consequent upon the fall of Babel and do not seem to have much to offer to help in solving the problems of scriptural interpretation noted by Augustine. Indeed, on the Aristotelian account of meaning such problems do not arise. This paper shows that Abaelard is like others in this respect in not in general finding translation problematic. Two particular cases, oppositio in adiecto and accidental predication, however, present problems for him and the paper examines and tries to explain the differences between the account given in the Dialectica and that given in the Logica ‘Ingredientibus’.

Affiliations: 1: Auckland University

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