Ockham's Assumption of Mental Speech

Thinking in a World of Particulars


In Ockham’s Assumption of Mental Speech: Thinking in a World of Particulars, Sonja Schierbaum advances a detailed philosophical reconstruction of William Ockham’s (1287-1349) conception of mental speech. Ockham’s conception provides a rich account of cognition and semantics that binds together various philosophical issues and forms a point of departure for many later and even contemporary debates. The book analyses the role of mental speech for the semantics and the use of linguistic expressions as well as its function within Ockham’s cognitive theory and epistemology. Carefully balancing Ockham’s position against contemporary appropriations in the light of Fodor’s LOTH, it allows us to understand better Ockham’s view on human thought and its relation to language.

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Sonja Schierbaum, Ph.D. (2012), University of Hamburg, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Humboldt-University, Berlin. She has published several articles in journals such as Vivarium. She co- authored a volume on the medieval conception of self-knowledge with Dominik Perler.
Acknowledgements ...vii
Abbreviations ...viii
1 The Basic Characteristics of Language: Signification and Supposition...12
1.1 Introduction...12
1.2 Signification and Supposition of Terms: First Approximation...14
1.3 Absolute vs. Connotative Terms...21
1.4 The Narrow and the Wider Sense of ‘Signify’ (significare)...24
1.5 The Property of Supposition ...37
1.5.1 The ‘Standard’ Case: (Personal) Supposition and the Truth and Falsity of Affirmative Propositions ...47
1.5.2 Personal Supposition of Terms and ‘Taking a Term Significatively’ (Sumi Significative) ...55
1.5.3 Improper Use and Improper Supposition ...64
1.5.4 Simple and Material Supposition ...70
1.6 Summary ...78
2 Ockham’s Semantic Model: Subordination, Correspondence, and the Role of Mental Speech with Respect to Spoken Language ...80
2.1 Introduction ...80
2.2 Signification in Relation to Subordination and Imposition ...82
2.3 Conventional Signification and Equivocation ...93
2.4 Mental Propositions and Spoken Propositions: The Relation of Correspondence...102
2.4.1 The General Explanation of ‘Truth’ and ‘Falsity’...111
2.4.2 Correspondence: Synonymy Again...123
2.4.3 Correspondence: Equivocation Again...129
2.5 Demonstratives, Correspondence, and Supposition of Mental Terms...134
2.6 Summary...143
3 Ockham’s Model of Thought...146
3.1 Introduction...146
3.2 How to Acquire an Absolute Simple Concept...152
3.2.1 The Three Steps of Concept Acquisition...155
3.2.2 Some Objections...171
3.3 Ockham’s Model of Non-Propositional and Propositional Acts...174
3.3.1 Propositional Acts of Apprehension: Mental Propositions...178
3.3.2 Propositional Acts of Apprehension: Spoken Propositions...185
3.3.3 Acts of Judgement...190 The First Kind of Assent...194 The Second Kind of Assent...199
3.4 Intuitive Cognition and Evident Judgement...203
3.4.1 General Propositions and Evident Judgement: propositiones per se notae...215
3.5 Summary...228
4 Why Ockham Is Not Fodor...231
4.1 Behaviourism vs. Cognitive Science...233
4.2 Fodor on Language Acquisition...236
4.3 Fodor’s Language of Thought (lot)...240
4.4 Fodor on Mental States and Acts...242
4.5 Why Ockham Is Not Fodor (Summary)...249
5 Conclusion...251

All interested in medieval philosophy and in the philosophy of Ockham and his assumption of mental speech, and any analytically inclined philosopher concerned with the relation between thought and language.