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By Copleston, Frederick

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Logic 12 13 14 15 16 is concerned with terms of second intention, which cannot exist sine ratione, that is, without the mind’s activity; it deals, therefore, with mental ‘fabrications’. I said earlier that Ockham did not much like speaking of universal concepts as fictions or fictive entities; but the point I then had in mind was that Ockham objected to the implication that what we know by means of a universal concept is a fiction and not a real thing. He was quite ready to speak of terms of second intention, which enter into the propositions of logic, as ‘fabrications’, because these terms do not refer directly to real things.

Whether the universal concept is a quality distinct from the act of the intellect or whether it is that act itself is a question of but secondary importance: the important point is that ‘no universal is anything existing in any way outside the soul; but everything which is predicable of many things is of its nature in the mind, whether subjectively or objectively; and no universal belongs to the essence or quiddity of any substance whatever’. Ockham does not appear to have attached very great weight to the question whether the universal concept is an accident distinct from the intellect as such or whether it is simply the intellect itself in its activity: he was more concerned with the analysis of the meaning of terms and propositions than with psychological questions.

The theory of the suppositio, as formed in the terministic logic, may be implied in Petrus Aureoli’s idea of logic; but he was not a ‘nominalist’ in metaphysics. It is true that he emphasized the qualitative similarity of things rather than the similarity of nature or essence; but he does not seem to have denied essential similarity as the foundation of the specific concept: rather did he presuppose it. We have seen that for Petrus Aureoli conceptual knowledge is of the extramental thing in its likeness to other things rather than of the thing precisely as individual.

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A History of Philosophy - Ockham to the Speculative Mystics (Christian Library) by Copleston, Frederick


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