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Medieval Obligationes as a Theory of Discursive Commitment Management

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In earlier work, I have presented an interpretation of Obligationes as logical games of consistency maintenance; this interpretation has some advantages, in particular that of capturing the multi-agent, goal-oriented, rule-governed nature of the enterprise by means of the game analogy. But it has as its main limitation the fact that it does not provide a satisfactory account of the deontic aspect of the framework—i.e. of what being obliged to a certain statement consists in. In order to remedy this shortcoming, this paper argues for the more encompassing thesis that Obligationes can be viewed as a theory of rational dialogical practices, in particular concerning the management of one’s discursive commitments. The main inspiration for this interpretation comes from R. Brandom’s inferentialist, normative pragmatism, but more generally, it relies heavily on a dialogical conception of logic. I argue that it offers a more compelling account of several aspects of the obligational framework, in particular the role of doubting responses and the ubiquity of obligational vocabulary in the context of scientific discourse in the medieval tradition.

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam


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