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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Edited by Jeffrey E. Brower

Volume 81, Issue 2, Spring 2007

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Displaying: 1-10 of 11 documents

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1. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
List of Abbreviations
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2. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Jeffrey E. Brower, Editor’s Introduction
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3. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Peter King, Abelard on Mental Language
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I argue that Abelard was the author of the first theory of mental language in the Middle Ages, devising a “language of thought” to provide the semanticsfor ordinary languages, based on the idea that thoughts have linguistic character. I examine Abelard’s semantic framework with special attention to his principleof compositionality (the meaning of a whole is a function of the meanings of the parts); the results are then applied to Abelard’s distinction between complete andincomplete expressions, as well as the distinction between sentences and the statements which the sentences are used to make. Abelard’s theory of mental language is shown to be subtle and sophisticated, the forerunner of the great theories of the fourteenth century.
4. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Ian Wilks, Abelard on Context and Signification
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Abelard maintains that individual words in a sentence represent distinct semantic units of its overall meaning. He employs two strategies to defend thisposition in the face of troublesome counterexamples. One strategy—the earlier of the two—sacrifices normal intuitions about what a word is, often labeling whatseem to be words as non-signifying syllables. The later strategy invokes a rather fluid conception of what the signification of a word is, allowing this significationconsiderable latitude to alter under the contextual influence of other words. This evolution of strategy is linked to a new willingness on Abelard’s part to adopt theprinciple of charity in interpreting sentences; this approach presumes the truth of the statement, and tries to find an interpretation which bears that presumptionout. This new willingness to adopt the principle is in turn linked to Abelard’s developing vocation as an interpreter of biblical texts.
5. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Andrew Arlig, Abelard’s Assault on Everyday Objects
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Abelard repeatedly claims that no thing can survive the gain or loss of parts. I outline Abelard’s reasons for holding this controversial position. First, a change of parts compromises the matter of the object. Secondly, a change in matter compromises the form of the object. Given that both elements of an object are compromised by any gain or loss of a part, the object itself is compromised by any such change. An object that appears to survive change is really a series ofrelated, but non-identical, objects. I argue that, for Abelard, this series of objects is not itself an object. Finally, I examine an apparent exception to Abelard’s claimthat no thing can survive a gain or loss of parts, and I show that this specific case does not undermine his general thesis.
6. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
John Marenbon, Abelard’s Changing Thoughts on Sameness and Difference in Logic and Theology
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The discussion of sameness and difference in the three versions of the Theologia has been analyzed by a number of recent writers (for example, Ian Wilks, JeffBrower, and Peter King). Despite some disagreements, they concur that Abelard’s views are best expressed in the Theologia christiana and that he is putting forward a theory that—perhaps adapted—can help philosophers now in considering the material constitution of objects. By contrast, I argue that his views, which should be seen as developing and reaching their final form in the Theologia “scholarium,” are much more closely linked than these scholars have thought to the particular theological problems involved in discussing the Trinity.
7. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Jeffrey Hause, Abelard on Degrees of Sinfulness
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Like many of his medieval successors, Peter Abelard offers principles for ranking sins. Moral self-knowledge, after all, requires that we recognize not justour sinfulness, but also the extent of our offense. The most important distinction among sins is that between venial and mortal sins: venial sinners show less contempt and may also be victims of bad moral luck, and so they are far less blameworthy. However, the subjective principle which Abelard uses to protect the venial sinner from blame appears to have absurd consequences: some agents whom we intuitively find saintly turn out to be mortal sinners, while other agents whom we intuitively judge wicked turn out to be mere venial sinners. I argue that Abelard suggests promising replies to these objections, but these replies themselves depend on controversial views about moral psychology.
8. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Sean Eisen Murphy, “The Law was Given for the Sake of Life”: Peter Abelard on the Law of Moses
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Abelard’s most famous spokesman for the ancient and abiding moral and religious worth of the Law of Moses is probably the character of the Jew, inventedfor one of two fictional dialogues in the Collationes. The equally fictive Philosopher, a rationalist theist who gets the last word in his exchange with the Jew, condemns the Law as a useless addition to the natural law, a threat to genuine morality with a highly dubious claim to divine origin. The Philosopher’s condemnation, however, does not go unanswered. Abelard himself, writing in his own voice in two major treatments of the Law (the Sermon for the Feast of the Circumcision and the Commentary on the Letter of Paul to the Romans), defends the ancient worth of the Law as a revolution in moral understanding and a potential guarantor of salvation. The Law is just and rational, he argues, in every one of its precepts, even when interpreted according to the letter. As such, the letter of the Law has been and ought to be retained in Christianity: its moral precepts are binding everywhere and always; its non-moral precepts are binding, when, in the changing circumstances of the Church, they are found to be useful and not conducive to scandal.
9. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
A. L. Griffioen, “In Accordance with the Law”: Reconciling Divine and Civil Law in Abelard
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In the Ethics, Abelard discusses the example of a judge who knowingly convicts an innocent defendant. He claims that this judge does rightly whenhe punishes the innocent man to the full extent of the law. Yet this claim seems counterintuitive to most people, and, at first glance, contrary to Abelard’s ethicalsystem. However, Abelard’s ethical system cannot be viewed as completely subjective, since the rightness of an individual act of consent is grounded in objectivestandards established by God. Likewise, any particular civil government must derive its authority objectively from the natural and/or Christian laws, whichground its possibility and function. In this paper, I examine Abelard’s explication of the natural law, discoverable through reason, and the divine laws, knowable only through revelation, in order to explore what form an adequate civil law would have to take under which the judge could be said to have acted rightly.
10. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 81 > Issue: 2
Margaret Cameron, Abelard (and Heloise?) on Intention
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For Abelard, the notion of “intention” (intentio, attentio) plays a central and important role in his cognitive and ethical theories. Is there any philosophicalconnection between its uses in these contexts? In recent publications, Constant Mews has argued that the cognitive and ethical senses of “intention” are related(namely, the cognitive sense evolves into the ethical sense), and that Abelard is repeatedly led to focus on intentions throughout his career due to the influenceof Heloise. Here I evaluate Mews’s arguments by examining and comparing the cognitive and ethical senses of the term. Although the basis for Mews’s claimseems to be false, I argue that there is nonetheless an important philosophical relationship between cognitive and ethical intentiones in Abelard’s thought, therecognition of which leads to a new and more precise understanding of his ethical theory of intention.