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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 86, Issue 3, Summer 2012

William of Ockham

Gyula Klima
Pages 403-414
DOI: 10.5840/acpq201286337

Ontological Reduction by Logical Analysis and the Primitive Vocabulary of Mentalese

This paper confronts a certain modern view of the relation between semantics and ontology with that of the late-medieval nominalist philosophers, William Ockham and John Buridan. The modern view in question is characterized in terms of what is called here “the thesis of onto-semantic parallelism,” which states that the primitive (indefinable) categorematic concepts of our semantics mark out the primary entities in reality. The paper argues that, despite some apparently plausible misinterpretations to the contrary, the late-medieval nominalist program of “ontological reduction” was not driven by considerations that try to “read off” ontology from semantic analysis or those that try to identify semantic primitives in their search for ontological primitives. The medieval authors presented a much more flexible, dynamic view of “Aristotelian naturalism,” which challenges both of the unappealing modern alternatives of “conceptual tribalism” and “conceptual imperialism.”

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