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The Role of ‘Denotatur’ in Ockham’s Theory of Supposition

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Abstract In the scholarship on medieval logic and semantics of the last decades, Ockham’s theory of supposition is probably the most extensively studied version of such theories; yet, it seems that we still do not fully understand all its intricacies. In this paper, I focus on a phrase that occurs countless times throughout Ockham’s writings, but in particular in the sections dedicated to supposition in the Summa logicae: the phrase ‘denotatur’. I claim that an adequate understanding of the role of the concept of denotatur within Ockham’s supposition theory shall yield a deeper understanding of the theory as a whole. Here, I first examine a few uses of the term ‘denotatur’ and its variants by other authors. I then turn to Ockham: first I briefly mention some uses of the term in contexts other than his theory of supposition. Following that, I focus on his supposition theory, in particular on how ‘denotatur’ allows him to deal with two crucial puzzles, namely the supposition of empty terms and the supposition of terms in false affirmative propositions. The treatment of these two puzzles suggests that Ockham’s theory of supposition must be understood as a theory chiefly intended for the generation of the meanings of propositions.

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen


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