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Wyclif on the Felicity (Conditions) of Marriage

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Regarding marriage, John Wyclif defends the following position: strictly speaking, no words or any kind of sensory signs would be needed, since the consensus of the spouses together with God’s approbation would suffice for the accomplishment of marriage. But if words do have to be pronounced, then the appropriate formula should not be in the present, but in the future. In the following, I shall discuss Wyclif’s arguments by comparing them with some other medieval positions, as well as with some elements of contemporary theories of speech acts. It will appear that in his analysis of the only sacrament which is a “social act” in the literal sense of the expression, Wyclif (i) clearly acknowledges the central role of individual intentions behind (linguistic) conventions, and (ii) carefully distinguishes between the different, chronologically disparate acts involved in marriage and their respective (semantic, psychological and factual) felicity conditions.

Affiliations: 1: Université de Genève


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