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Direkte und indirekte Bezeichnung. Die metaphysischen Hintergründe einer semantischen Debatte im Spätmittelalter

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Late medieval philosophers in the Aristotelian tradition developed two theoretical models in order to explain the signication of words. Some - including Thomas Aquinas - claimed that spoken words immediately signify concepts, but extramental things only mediately, while others - such as William of Ockham - held the view that they immediately signify things. The present essay analyzes these two semantic models, paying particular attention to their metaphysical and epistemological background. It shows that the «indirect signication model» defended by Thomas is not a model committed to representationalism or semantic idealism, as some recent commentators have claimed. It is rather a model that relies upon two crucial theses: (i) human beings form concepts by abstracting universal forms from extramental things; and (ü) spoken words signify those universal forms having an immaterial existence in the intellect. Ockham's refusal of the «indirect signication model» is mainly motivated by his rejection of these controversial claims.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-01-01

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