Ockam. Lecture 3

MS 160: November-December 1869

 

As Scotus was the chief of the formalists who were the most consistent realists; so William of Ockam was the head of the terminists who were the most consistent of nominalists.

The chief peculiarity of Scotus was the importance he attached to formalitates or modes of conception; that of Ockam was the importance he attached to terms, in the logical sense.

I shall begin what I have to say about Ockam by reading with you the first few pages of his textual logic. He has departed here from the usual method, that of writing commentaries, because he wished to present his thoughts in an order chosen by himself and therefore the order which he adopts becomes of more than usual consequence.

This logic is divided in 3 parts and each part into chapters. I propose to run over the first 17 chapters, giving you the substance of each.

 

Chapter 1

 

"Omnes logice tractatores intendunt astruere per argumenta quod sillogismi ex propositionibus et propositiones ex terminis componuntur. Unde terminus aliud non est quam pars propinqua propositionis."

All systematical writers on logic conceive that they discover by means of arguments that syllogisms of propositions, propositions of terms are composed. So a term is nothing but one of the parts into which a proposition may be directly resolved.

In order however that we may have a perfectly distinct conception of this important subject, he draws a distinction in reference to terms which plays a large part in nominalism.

Terms are written, spoken, or conceived. "Triplex est terminus, scriptus, prolatus, et conceptus."

 

The written term is a part of a proposition which has been inscribed on something material and is capable of being seen by the bodily eye. The spoken term is a part of a proposition which has been uttered aloud and is capable of being heard with the bodily ear. The conceptual term is an intention or impression of the soul which signifies or consignifies something naturally and is capable of being a part of mental proposition and of suppositing in such a proposition for the thing it signifies. Thus, these conceptual terms and the propositions composed of them are the mental words which, according to St. Augustine in chapter 15 of De Trinitate, belong to no language. They reside in the intellect alone and are incapable of being uttered aloud, although the spoken words which are subordinated to them as signs are uttered aloud.

I say that spoken words are signs subordinated to concepts or intentions of the soul not because in the strict sense of 'signify' they always signify the concepts of the soul primarily and properly. The point is rather that spoken words are used to signify the very things that are signified by concepts of the mind, so that a concept primarily and naturally signifies something and a spoken word signifies the same thing secondarily. Thus, suppose a spoken word is used to signify something signified by a particular concept of the mind. If that concept were to change its signification, by that fact alone it would happen that the spoken word would change its signification, even in the absence of any new linguistic convention.

This is all that Aristotle means when he says that spoken words are signs of the impressions of the soul and Boethius means the same thing when he says that spoken words signify concepts. In general, whenever writers say that all spoken words signify or serve as signs of impressions, they only mean that spoken words secondarily signify the things impressions of the soul primarily signify. Nonetheless, it is true that some spoken words primarily designate impressions of the soul or concepts, but these words secondarily designate other intentions of the soul as will be shown later.

The same sort of relation I have claimed to hold between spoken words and impressions or intentions or concepts holds between written words and spoken words.

Now, there are certain differences among these three kinds of terms. For one thing the concept or impression of the soul signifies naturally; whereas the spoken or written term signifies only conventionally. This difference gives rise to a further difference. We can decide to alter the signification of a spoken or written term, but no decision or agreement on the part of anyone can have the effect of altering the signification of a conceptual term.

Nevertheless, to silence hairsplitters it should be pointed out that the word 'sign' has two different senses. In one sense a sign is anything which when apprehended brings something else to mind. Here, a sign need not, as has been shown elsewhere, enable us to grasp the thing signified for the first time, but only after we have some sort of habitual knowledge of the thing. In this sense of 'sign' the spoken word is a natural sign of a thing, the effect is a sign of its cause, and the barrel-hoop is a sign of wine in the tavern. However, I have not been using the term 'sign' in this wide sense. In another sense a sign is anything which (1) brings something to mind and can supposit for that thing; (2) can be added to a sign of this sort in a proposition (e.g., syncategorematic expressions, verbs, and other parts of speech lacking a determinate signification); or (3) can be composed of things that are signs of either sort (e.g., propositions). Taking the term 'sign' in this sense the spoken word is not the natural sign of anything.

 

Chapter 2

 

This is of little importance. He observes that a term may be taken in three senses.

1st For all that can be copula or extreme of a categorical proposition. In which sense a proposition is a term since it may be the subject of a proposition.

2nd It may be taken so as to exclude propositions.

3rd Precisely and more strictly for that which significatively taken can be the subject or predicate of a proposition.

In this sense when we say of is a preposition--of is not a term because it is not significatively taken, significative sumptum but only simpliciter or materialit[er] in scholastic phraseology.

On Chapter 3. He remarks that not only are terms divided into written, spoken, and conceived, but also that these are up to a certain point subdivided together. For example not only are written and vocal terms divided into Nouns and Verbs--but Mental terms are also divided in Mental nouns and verbs.

There are therefore some grammatical distinctions which belong at once to written, vocal, and mental terms.

But there are others which belong only to written and vocal terms and not to mental terms.

For instance there may be a doubt whether the distinction between verbs and participles exists in mental terms since a participle with est expresses sufficiently the same meaning as the verb: is running is the same as runs. This being the case there does not seem to be any great necessity of supposing such a plurality in the mental propositions and terms as there is in the vocal propositions and terms.

And he lays down the principle that those distinctions of words which have been invented not on account of a need of signifying but for ornament are not to be supposed to exist in mental terms.

He then runs rapidly through the various grammatical accidents and states what ones he conceives to be mental and what ones merely vocal.

This chapter has a significance which one who did not thoroughly understand the distinction between nominalism and realism would hardly suspect. And I will ask you to consider it a moment. Ockam endeavors to say what is and what is not a mental distinction. And his only means of determining it is by ascertaining what distinction is required by the necessity of signification. But this test can only determine whether a distinction must be mental or whether it need not be. And this he himself recognizes apparently, for he says "Utrum autem participiis vocalibus et scriptis correspondeant in mente quedam intentiones a verbis distincte potest esse dubium eo quod non videtur magna necessitas talem pluralitatem ponere in propositionibus mentalibus sine terminis."

It may be that the mental grammatical accidents are precisely those which belong to the Latin language or it may be that they are more various than and altogether different from those of any known language. And therefore it may be that the list of mental grammatical accidents which Ockam by his method obtains bears but a slight resemblance to the true list.

Yet if this be so it remains certain that the list which he ought to obtain by his method comprises the only ones which need be considered in logic, those omitted being mere accidental variations of our mental language and not springing from the necessity of signification.

There is then a peculiar importance in those distinctions which arise from the needs of signifying, over and above such importance as they may derive from their being mental distinctions. Yet these distinctions are not such as there are between different things. You cannot divide things into those that are signified by nouns and those that are signified by verbs--yet the distinction between noun and verb arises from the needs of signifying. So does most certainly that between a noun and a pronoun but you cannot divide things into those pointed out by nouns and those pointed out by pronouns. So does that between singular and plural but you cannot separate men into singular men and plural men.

Thus it appears that there is a distinction greater than a distinction merely in mentalibus and yet less than a distinction between different things or a distinctio realis. In other words there is such a distinction as the Scotistic distinctio formalis.

You will understand that I say this not because I believe it to be true or wish you to do so,--for throughout this course I care nothing whatever for the truth of logical doctrines--but only because I want to point out how differently a Scotist would regard this matter from what Ockam does.

In point of fact this chapter of Ockam's is distinctly anti-Scotistical and if he refutes the realistic position on the basis of the conclusions of this chapter, a Scotist might say that his reasoning was vitiated here.

Scotus's earliest work probably was his Grammatica Speculativa which is I suppose the earliest attempt at a Philosophy of Grammar. In this work he has discussed the same question here treated by Ockam.

Of this work I will read the first six chapters.

 

THE AUTHOR'S PREAMBLE

 

1 The rationale of the method. In all science, understanding and knowledge derive from a recognition of its principles, as stated in I Physicorum, Text Comment 1; we therefore, wishing to know the science of grammar, insist that it is necessary first of all to know its principles which are the modes of signifying. But before we enquire into their particular features, we must first set forth some of their general features without which it is not possible to obtain the fullest understanding of them.

Of these, the first and most important is, in what way is a mode of signifying divided and described? The second is, what does the mode of signifying basically originate from? Thirdly, what is the mode of signifying directly derived from? Fourthly, in what way are the mode of signifying, the mode of understanding, and the mode of being differentiated? The fifth is, in what way is the mode of signifying subjectively arrived at? The sixth is, what order obtains for the following terms in relation to one another, ie sign, word, part of speech, and terminus?

 

CHAPTER I

 

How the mode of signifying is to be divided and described.

2 The mode of signifying introduces two factors. The active and passive modes of signifying. Concerning the first, it must be said that the mode of signifying introduces equal factors which are called the active and passive modes of signifying. The active mode of signifying is the mode or property of the expression vouchsafed by the intellect to itself by means of which the expression signifies the property of the thing. The passive mode of signifying is the mode or property of the thing as signified by the expression. And because 'signifying and consignifying' imply being active and 'being signified' and 'being consignified' imply being acted upon, hence we can say that the mode or property of the expression by means of which the expression actively signifies the property of the thing is called the active mode of signifying; but the mode or property of the thing, in as much as it is signified passively by expressions, is called the passive mode of signifying.

3 The intellect attributes a double faculty to the expression. In addition, it must be noted that, since the intellect uses the expression for signifying and consignifying, it attributes to it a double faculty, [a] the faculty of signifying, which can be called signification by means of which a sign or significant is effected, and so it is formally a word; and [b] the faculty of consignifying which is called the active mode of signifying by means of which the signifying expression creates the cosign or consignificant, and so it is formally a part of speech. Therefore, a part of speech is such accordingly by means of this faculty of consignifying or active mode of signifying according to an instance of the formal principle; however, it is a part of speech in relation to other parts of speech by virtue of this same active faculty of consignifying according to the intrinsic efficient principle.

From which, it is clear that the active faculties of consignifying or active modes of signifying in and of themselves refer primarily to grammar, inasmuch that they are principles relevant to grammar. But the passive faculties of consignifying or passive modes of signifying are not relevant, except accidentally, to grammar, because they are neither a formal nor an efficient principle of a part of a speech, since they may be properties of things; they may be relevant only insofar as their formal aspect is concerned, since in this way they do not differ greatly from the active modes of signifying, as we shall see.

 

CHAPTER II

 

From what does the mode of signifying basically originate.

4 Every active mode of signifying comes from some property of the thing. It should be noted immediately that since faculties of this kind or active modes of signifying are not fictions, it follows necessarily that every active mode of signifying must originate basically from some property of the thing. It is clear therefore, that since the intellect classifies the expression for the purpose of signifying under some active mode of signifying, it is referring to the property itself of the thing from which it originally derives the active mode of signifying; it is also clear that the understanding, since it may be a passive capacity undefined by itself, does not apply to the prescribed act unless it is determined from another source. Hence since it classifies the expression for the purpose of signifying by means of a prescribed active mode of signifying, it is necessarily occasioned by a prescribed property of the thing. Therefore some property or mode of being of the thing corresponds to some active mode of signifying or other.

5 But if the objection to this is made that, since a significative expression such as deitas has feminine gender which is a passive mode of signifying, nevertheless the property is not mutually correspondent in the thing signified, because it is a property of being acted upon, and feminine gender arises from this. Similarly, negations and fictions fall under no properties whatsoever since they are not entities, and yet the significative expressions of negations and fictions have active modes of signifying, eg: caecitas (blindness), chimaera (chimera), etc.

It must be said that it does not follow that the active mode of signifying of a word is always drawn from the property of the thing of that word of which it is a mode of signifying, but it can be derived from a property of the thing of another word and attributed to the thing of that word, and it suffices that these should not be incompatible. And because we do not understand separate substances unless perceived by the senses, therefore we give names to them by means of the properties of the senses and assign active modes of signifying to their names. Hence, there is, in reality, no passive property in God, yet we imagine Him, as it were, being acted upon by our prayers.

Similarly we understand negations from their features, therefore we classify their names under the properties of their features and assign active modes of signifying to their names. Similarly in relation to the names of figments, the active modes of signifying are taken from the properties of the parts from which, for example, we imagine Chimaera to be composed, in that we imagine it to be composed of the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon; and so on.

6 And if it is insisted, that if the active modes of signifying in relation to the names of negations are taken from the modes of being of their features, then they designate the names of the actual existing feature and not of the negations. From such a standpoint, the names of the negations by means of their own active modes of signifying will be false from the point of view of consignification.

It must be said that it is not true, that the names of the negations, certainly do not by means of their active modes of signifying, designate with reference to the negations the modes of understanding of the negations which are their modes of being. In consequence of which it can be stated that although negations may not be positive entities outside the mind, they are however positive entities in the mind, as is shown in IV Met. Text 9, and are entities according to the mind. And because their conceptualisation constitutes their existence, therefore their modes of understanding will be their modes of being. Hence the names of negations will not be wrongly consignified by means of their active modes of signifying, because since the modes of understanding of negations can be reduced to the modes of understanding of the feature (since a negation is not known except by its feature), therefore the modes of being of the negations can after all be reduced to the modes of being of the feature.

 

CHAPTER III

 

From what is the mode of signifying directly derived.

7 The modes of signifying and understanding are bipartite. The third fact to be noted is that the active modes of signifying are directly derived from the passive modes of understanding. As a consequence it must be stated that, just as the mode of signifying is bipartite, ie active and passive, so too is the mode of understanding, ie active and passive. The active mode of understanding is the faculty of conceptualising by means of which the intellect signifies, conceives or comprehends the properties of the thing. But the passive mode of understanding is the property of the thing as comprehended by the mind.

From which properties are the active modes of signifying derived. It can therefore be said that the active modes of signifying are derived directly from the passive modes of understanding, because the active modes of signifying are not derived from the modes of being unless these modes of being have been comprehended by the mind. But the modes of being, as they are understood by the mind, are called the passive modes of understanding, therefore the active modes of signifying are derived from the modes of being by means of the passive modes of understanding, and therefore the active modes of signifying are derived directly from the passive modes of understanding.

 

CHAPTER IV

 

How the mode of signifying is distinguished from the mode of understanding and the mode of being.

8 What are the modes of being, understanding, and signifying. The fourth point to be noted is that the modes of being, the passive modes of understanding, and the passive modes of signifying are the same materially and in reality but differ formally, because the mode of being is the property of the thing as such, the passive mode of understanding is also that property of the thing as apprehended by the mind, and the passive mode of signifying is the property of the same thing inasmuch as it is consignified by the expression. They are the same materially and in reality, because whatever the mode of being expresses absolutely, the passive mode of understanding expresses inasmuch as is relevant to the intellect, and whatever the passive mode of understanding expresses, so does the passive mode of signifying inasmuch as it is relevant to the expression. Therefore they are the same materially. However, they differ formally, which can be shown thus: whatever implies the mode of being expresses the property of the thing absolutely or under the rubric of existing, but whatever implies the passive mode of understanding expresses the same property of the thing as something material, and the faculty of understanding or conceptualising, as something formal; whatever specifies the passive mode of signifying expresses the same property of the thing as something material and the faculty of consignifying as something formal. And since there may be one faculty of being, another of understanding, and another of signifying, they differ in terms of their formal faculties.

But they agree in terms of reality, for the mode of being expresses the property of the thing absolutely, the passive mode of understanding expresses the property of the thing by means of the mode of understanding, and the passive mode of signifying states the property of the thing by means of the faculty of consignifying. But it is the same property of the thing as perceived absolutely together with the mode of understanding and the mode of consignifying.

In what way do the mode of being, the active mode of understanding, and the active mode of signifying differ. Similarly it should be realised that the mode of being, the active mode of understanding, and the active mode of signifying differ formally and materially, because the mode of being expresses the property of the thing in absolute terms or by means of the faculty of existing, as was stated earlier, but the active mode of understanding expresses the property of the mind which is the faculty of understanding or conceptualising, and the active mode of signifying states the property of the expression which is the faculty of consignifying. But, one is the property of the thing extraneous to the mind, another the property of the intellect, and yet another a property of the expression, and therefore, one is the faculty of being, the others the faculties of understanding, and of consignifying; therefore the mode of being, the active mode of understanding, and the active mode of signifying differ both ways.

In what way do the active and passive modes of understanding differ and agree. Similarly it should be appreciated that the active mode of understanding and the passive mode of understanding differ materially and agree formally, for the passive mode of understanding expresses the property of the thing by means of the passive faculty of understanding, but the active mode of understanding expresses the property of the intellect which is the active faculty of understanding. It is the same faculty of understanding by means of which the intellect understands the property of the thing actively and by means of which the property of the thing is understood passively. Therefore the properties are different but the faculty is the same, and therefore they differ materially and are the same formally.

In what way do the active and passive modes of signifying differ and agree. Similarly it should be known that the active and passive modes of signifying differ materially and are the same formally, because the passive mode of signifying expresses the property of the thing by means of the passive faculty of consignifying but the active mode of signifying states the property of the expression which is the active faculty of consignifying. But the potentiality is the same as that by means of which the expression is capable of signifying in an active manner and by means of which the property of the thing is signified in a passive manner; materially they are different, but formally the same.

 

CHAPTER V

 

In what way is the mode of signifying empirically discovered.

9 In what way is the passive mode of signifying ascertained. Fifthly, it should be noted that the passive mode of signifying is materially real as it is empirically valable because from the material point of view it is the property of the thing; moreover, the property of the thing exists in that of which it is the property even as it is empirically valable. However, from a formal point of view it is empirically valable in the same way as is the active mode of signifying, because formally it does not differ from the active mode of signifying.

10 In what way is the active mode of signifying ascertained. The active mode of signifying, since it may be a property of the significative expression, is materially existent within the significative expression even as it is empirically valable; moreover, it is materially existent in the property of the thing even as some effect is materially existent in the original and abstract cause which effects it in the first place; and it is materially existent in the intellect even as an effect is materially existent in the most immediate cause that effects it; and it is materially existent in the construction, even as a cause capable of being effective is materially existent in its own particular effect.

 

CHAPTER VI

 

What is the mutual order of the following designations: sign, word, part of speech, and terminus.

11 Sign, word, part of speech, terminus. With reference to these, it must be noted that sign, word, part of speech, and terminus agree and differ. For they can show agreement from the point of view of Proposition and Counter-proposition because they can be found in the same Proposition, as for example sign and designate. They differ, however, in terms of their functions, because a sign is specified by means of the faculty of designating or representing something in absolute terms; but a word is specified formally by means of the faculty of designating superimposed on the expression, since a word is a significative expression. A part of speech exists formally by means of the active mode of signifying superimposed upon the word, because a part of speech is a word inasmuch as it possesses an active mode of signifying. But a terminus specifies the faculty of terminating the resolutions of the syllogism, because the dialectician resolves the syllogism into propositions, and propositions into subject and predicate which are said to be termini in logic.

12 Expression. Furthermore it should be known that expression, in so far as it is expression, is not considered by the grammarian, but in so far as it is a sign, it is, since grammar deals with the signs of things, and because the expression is the most suitable sign among other signs, therefore expression, in so far as it is a sign, is considered by the grammarian before other signs of things. But because being a sign is a property of the expression, therefore the grammarian, in considering expression, does so accidentally.

 

You see here how differently Scotus and Ockam regard the same question, how much more simple and lucid Ockam's view is, and how much more certain Scotus's complex theory is to take into account all the facts than Ockam's simple one.

I wish to lean a little towards the side of Scotus in what I say because I fear that you will lean very much the other way. To understand the historical position, you ought not to lean either way.

Chapter 4 is unimportant.

 

Both spoken and mental terms are subject to yet another division, for some terms are categorematic while others are syncategorematic. Categorematic terms have a definite and determinate signification. Thus, the term 'man' signifies all men; the term 'animal', all animals; and the term 'whiteness', all whitenesses.

Examples of syncategorematic terms are 'every', 'no', 'some', 'all', 'except', 'so much', and 'insofar as'. None of these expressions has a definite and determinate signification, nor does any of them signify anything distinct from what is signified by categorematic terms. The number system provides a parallel here. 'Zero', taken by itself, does not signify anything, but when combined with some other numeral it makes that numeral signify something new.

 

Chapter 5. Has somewhat more interest. It treats of the distinction between concrete terms such as man, horse, white, and abstract terms such as humanity, horseness, whiteness.

The distinction was first made a matter of some prominence in logic by Scotus, as I think. You may find his treatment of it in his 8th question on the predicaments.

He defines a concrete term as one which signifies an essence in so far as it informs a subject and an abstract term as one which signifies an essence as such.

Ockam by way of definition says that a concrete term and its corresponding abstract term are two nouns which have the same beginning and different terminations and that the one which usually has the most syllables and is a substantive is called the abstract and the one which usually has the fewer syllables and is an adjective is called the concrete.

Those definitions put the realist and the nominalist in unusually strong contrast.

[Read Nominum autem &c. down to pro distinctis rebus supponunt. Explaining that he wishes to avoid saying that a concrete signifies a thing on account of Scotus's arguments.]

 

Concrete and abstract names can function in many ways. Sometimes the concrete name signifies, connotes, designates, or expresses and also supposits for something, which the abstract name in no way signifies and, consequently never supposits for. Examples are 'just'--'justice', 'white'--'whiteness', etc. 'Just' supposits for men in the proposition 'The just are virtuous'; it would be incorrect to say that it supposits for justice; for although justice is a virtue, it is not virtuous. On the other hand, 'justice' supposits for the quality of a man, not the man himself. It is because of this that it is impossible to predicate this sort of concrete name of its abstract counterpart: the two terms supposit for different things.

 

This has to do with the distinction of logical Extension and Comprehension which Professor Bowen teaches was discovered by the Port Royalists although it was pretty well known in the middle ages. Enough so for John of Salisbury to refer to it as "quod fere in omnium ore celebre est, aliud scilicet esse quod appellativa significant, et aliud esse quod nominant. Nominantur singularia, sed universalia significantur." By appellativa here he means as I take it adjectives and such like.

___________________

 

Ockam devotes several chapters to the consideration of abstracts and concretes. You remember that Scotus holds that humanity or the general essence of man in the various men is not really distinct from the individual man but is formally distinct and therefore it becomes important for Ockam to show that he can explain the relation of concrete and abstract terms without making use of this conception of a formal distinction, for he is going to deny that there is any such distinction.

He treats the subject at considerable length in the 5th to the 9th chapters inclusive.

I do not think we shall find it advantageous to follow him through this, in which he has to speak with extreme caution and to introduce considerable complications into his theory in order to avoid a heresy concerning the incarnation of Christ.

It is sufficient to say that his theory is or evidently would be if it were not for his fear of this heresy that humanity means the same as man with some syncategorematic term added, he does not say what; probably no one would constantly serve, but frequently as such would do, so that humanity means man as such. Other abstracts are to be explained in the same way. This therefore is Ockam's substitute for Scotus's formal distinction. Between man and man as such there is such a distinction that one cannot be predicated of the other for you cannot say

 

Every man is man as such

 

and yet they both denote the same things namely all men.

We have therefore in Ockam a doctrine of implied syncategorematics in terms, which fulfills in large measure the same function as Scotus's formal distinctions in things.

And as Scotus's doctrine of formalitates is what gives to all Scotism its peculiar character of subtilety, so it is Ockam's doctrine of terms with their implied syncategorematics which gives to Ockamistic logic its peculiar character, which is an immense development of an extremely technical doctrine of the properties of terms and a continual reference to it.

For it is plain that if terms are very apt to have these hidden syncategorematics in them, syllogisms will constantly be vitiated by that circumstance. For instance, the syllogism

 

A rational animal is a man as such
No man as such is blue-eyed
Therefore no rational animal is blue-eyed

 

is apparently perfect in form but is entirely vitiated by the as such.

And if many terms contain latent syncategorematics it must be necessary to have a large addition to the science of logic to inform us of this matter in order that we may avoid fallacies similar in principle to this one.

Passing over Ockam's discussion of abstract and concrete names we come to chapter 10. This treats of the distinction between an absolute and a connotative name. Omitting a part of his explanation, it is as follows.

A connotative name is one which signifies one thing primarily and another secondarily so that in its definition there will generally be one noun in the nominative and another in an oblique case. An absolute name is one which is not connotative.

He gives a good many examples of connotative names among which are white which is defined as that which is informed by whiteness--Just or that which is informed by justice. Words of office as king and the like. The word cause or something able to produce something. All relative words also as like or that which has a quality such as something else has, are connotative names in the widest sense. Understanding is also a connotative name, for it is defined as a soul able to understand. So is intelligible which is defined as something apprehensible by thought.

Chapter 11. The foregoing divisions of terms belong says Ockam as well to terms naturally signifying (that is mental terms) as to those made by an arbitrary convention (vocal and written terms).

We now come to some divisions which belong only to terms ad placitum institutis--made by arbitrary convention.

In the first place then there are names of first imposition and names of second imposition.

Names of second imposition are those which signify arbitrary signs and their properties as signs. The term name of second imposition may be used, however, in two ways. First in a wide sense, for everything which signifies an arbitrary sign but only when it is an arbitrary sign and whether it implies a distinction which belongs also to conceptions of mind which are natural signs or not. Such are the terms noun, pronoun, conjunction, verb, case, number, mood, time, etc. These are what the grammarians call names of names. Strictly speaking however a name of second imposition signifies nothing but arbitrary signs. In this sense conjugation and declension are names of second imposition.

Names of first imposition include properly only categorematic terms.

Names of first imposition are divided again into names of first intention and names of second intention. Intention here I will remark means conception. I will also say that there is nothing peculiarly nominalistic about all this. It is old material.

Names of second intention:

 

But the common term 'name of second intention' has both a broad and a narrow sense. In the broad sense an expression is called a name of second intention if it signifies intentions of the soul, natural signs, whether or not it also signifies conventional signs in their capacity as signs. In this sense names of second intention can be either names of first or second imposition.

 

Chap. 12. [Read the whole. Explaining Ockam's position concerning the subjective existence of conception.]

 

In the previous chapter I indicated that certain expressions are names of first intention and others, names of second intention. Ignorance of the meanings of these terms is a source of error for many; therefore, we ought to see what names of first and second intention are and how they are distinguished.

First, it should be noted that an intention of the soul is something in the soul capable of signifying something else. Earlier we indicated how the signs of writing are secondary with respect to spoken signs. Among conventional signs spoken words are primary. In the same way spoken signs are subordinated to the intentions of the soul. Whereas the former are secondary, the latter are primary. It is only for this reason that Aristotle says that spoken words are signs of the impressions of the soul. Now, that thing existing in the soul which is the sign of a thing and an element out of which a mental proposition is composed (in the same way as a spoken proposition is composed of spoken words) is called by different names. Sometimes it is called an intention of the soul; sometimes an impression of the soul; and sometimes the similitude of the thing. Boethius, in his commentary on the De Interpretatione, calls it an intellect. He does not, of course, mean that a mental proposition is composed of intellects in the sense of intellectual souls. He only means that a mental proposition is composed of those intellective things which are signs in the soul signifying other things. Thus, whenever anyone utters a spoken proposition, he forms beforehand a mental proposition. This proposition is internal and it belongs to no particular spoken language. But it also happens that people frequently form internal propositions which, because of the defect of their language, they do not know how to express externally. The parts of such mental propositions are called concepts, intentions, likenesses, and "intellects."

But with what items in the soul are we to identify such signs? There are a variety of opinions here. Some say a concept is something made or fashioned by the soul. Others say it is a certain quality distinct from the act of the understanding which exists in the soul as in a subject. Others say that it is simply the act of understanding. This last view gains support from the principle that one ought not postulate many items when he can get by with fewer. Moreover, all the theoretical advantages that derive from postulating entities distinct from acts of understanding can be had without making such a distinction, for an act of understanding can signify something and can supposit for something just as well as any sign. Therefore, there is no point in postulating anything over and above the act of understanding. But I shall have more to say about these different views later on. For the moment, we shall simply say that an intention is something in the soul which is either a sign naturally signifying something else (for which it can supposit) or a potential element in a mental proposition.

But there are two kinds of intentions. One kind is called a first intention. This is an intention which signifies something that is not itself an intention of the soul, although it may signify an intention along with this. One example is the intention of the soul predicable of all men; another is the intention that is predicable of all whitenesses, blacknesses, etc.

But the expression 'first intention' can be understood in two senses. In the broad sense an intentional sign in the soul is a first intention if it does not signify only intentions or signs. In this broad sense first intentions include not only intentions which so signify that they can supposit in a proposition for their significata, but also intentions which, like syncategorematic intentions, are only signs in an extended sense. In this sense mental verbs, mental syncategorematic expressions, mental conjunctions, and similar terms are first intentions. In the narrow sense only those mental names that are capable of suppositing for their significata are called first intentions.

A second intention, on the other hand, is an intention of the soul which is a sign of first intentions. Examples are genus, species, and the like. One intention common to all men is predicated of all men when we say, "This man is a man; that man is a man; . . ." (and so on for all individual men). In the same way, we predicate an intention common to intentions signifying things when we say, "This species is a species; that species is a species; . . ." (and so on). Again, when we say "Stone is a genus," "Animal is a genus," and "Color is a genus," we predicate one intention of another just as we predicate one name of different names when we say that 'man' is a name, 'donkey' is a name, and 'whiteness' is a name. Now, just as names of second imposition conventionally signify names of first imposition, a second intention naturally signifies a first intention. And just as a name of first imposition signifies something other than names, first intentions signify things that are not themselves intentions.

Still, one could claim that in a strict sense, a second intention is an intention which signifies exclusively first intentions; whereas, in a broad sense a second intention can also be an intention signifying both intentions and conventional signs (if, indeed, there are any such intentions).

 

Chap. 13. [Read definitions of equivocal and univocal.]

 

A word is equivocal if, in signifying different things, it is a sign subordinated to several rather than one concept or intention of the soul. This is what Aristotle means when he says that one and the same name applies, but that the account of substance corresponding to the name is different. By "account of substance," he means a concept or intention of the soul including the mental description and definition as well as the simple concept. He wants to say that while these differ, there is just one name. A clear example of equivocality is found in the case of a word belonging to different languages, for in one language the expression is used to signify things signified by one concept; whereas, in the other it is used to signify things signified by some other concept. Thus, the expression is subordinated in signification to several different concepts or impressions of the soul. . . .

Every expression that is subordinated to just one concept is called univocal, whether the term signifies several different things or not. But properly speaking a term is not called univocal unless it signifies or could signify indifferently each of several different things. The term is univocal because all of the several things it signifies are also signified by one concept. Thus, a univocal term is a sign subordinated in signification to one natural sign which is an intention or concept of the soul.

 

Chaps. 14. 15. 16. 17.

But though Ockam held that only singular things existed, it is not to be supposed that he denied that form and matter were two really distinct and real things. He held that all forms or characters were really individual but he held that they were real things really different from the matter.

Thus he says of the specific difference

 

Whence it is not to be imagined that the difference is anything intrinsic to the species by which one species differs from another for then the difference would not be universal but would be matter or form or a whole compounded of matter and form but a difference is something predicable alone of one species and not agreeing with another and it is called an essential difference not because it is of the essence of the thing but because it expresses a part of the essence of the thing and not extrinsic to the thing. Whence the difference of which we are now speaking always expresses a part of the thing and one difference expresses a material part and another a formal part.

 

So under the head of subject he says that subject sometimes means something which really supports another thing inhering in it--and so we may speak of a thing as subject of its accidents or of matter as subject in respect to its substantial forms.

So again in treating of substance he says

 

In one sense substance is said to be anything that is distinct from other things. Writers use the word 'substance' in this sense when they speak of the substance of whiteness, the substance of color, etc.

In a stricter sense substance is anything which is not an accident inhering in something else. In this sense both matter and form as well as the whole composed of these are called substances.

In the strictest sense substance is that which is neither an accident inhering in another thing nor an essential part of something else, although it can combine with an accident. It is in this sense that substance is said to be a summum genus, and according to Aristotle it is divided into first and second substance.

 

Again under the head of quality he says

 

It seems that according to the principles of Aristotle's philosophy, one should say that the category of quality is a concept or sign containing under it all such terms as do not express a substantial part of a substance and can be used to answer the question posed about substance 'How is it qualified?' For the present, I shall not consider whether concrete or abstract terms more properly belong in the category of quality.

In the genus of quality there are certain terms which designate things that are distinct from substances, things that are not themselves substances. Examples are 'whiteness', 'blackness', 'color', 'knowledge', and 'light'.

 

Thus you perceive that Ockam while he denies that there is any distinction except between things really and numerically different, yet does allow that there is a real difference between things which are really inseparable.

But as to all relation he most emphatically and clearly denies that it exists as something different from the things related. And under relation in this connection he expressly says that he means to include relations of agreement as well as relations of opposition.

 

Whether similarity or dissimilarity is some little thing distinct from the absolute things.

Affirmative: Because it is impossible for anything to pass from contradictory to contradictory except by a change. But Sortes, from being non-whitelike at first, becomes whitelike. Therefore Sortes is changed; not absolutely, we presume; therefore relatively.

Negative: Those things which cannot by any power be separated from each other are not really distinct. But similarity cannot by any power be separated from two whitenesses, because it is a contradiction that two white things should be equally white and yet not be similar. Therefore, etc.

To this question I answer that neither similarity nor dissimilarity is some little thing distinct from the absolute things.

 

Therefore while he admits the real existence of qualities he expressly denies that these are the respects in which things agree and differ. For they agree and differ he says in themselves and in nothing else.

Yet while he denies that there is really any similarity in things except the things which are similar and while he denies that there is any real respect in which things do agree, yet it is a mistake to assert that he denies that things apart from the action of the mind are similar. For he says

 

Sortes and Plato are one in species. That is Sortes and Plato are contained under one species to wit under man or Sortes and Plato are such that one common species can be abstracted from them. And if it is said then they would not be really one, the reply is that they are one really, meaning by one what has been said of them that Sortes and Plato are really such that one species can be abstracted from them and so it is to be conceded that there is a real unity less than a numerical unity so that those individuals are really one in that sense and nothing imaginable distinct from the individual or individuals is one in that sense.

 

A Scotist would probably reply to this mode of supposing a real specific unity that nothing which is only in potentia really exists and that nothing whose existence depends on the mind really exists. The combination of these unrealities does not make a reality and therefore that whose existence depends on the mere possibility of an act of the mind does not really exist, and therefore a unity which consists only in the mind's being able to abstract from the singulars one conception is not properly called a real unity.

I would call your attention however to the fact that as Ockam here makes the essential resemblance, for that is certainly the same as an essential unity, depend upon and in fact consist in the possibility of the imposition of a common mental sign so he must consider every resemblance. The resemblance therefore consists solely in the property of the mind by which it naturally imposes the same mental sign upon the different things. And I have a strong impression that Ockam somewhere says this explicitly but I haven't been able to find the place and I rather doubt it because he seems to think that things do resemble one another apart from the action of the mind although out of the mind there is no general quality or respect in which they agree, but they simply agree of themselves.

This then is a general sketch of Ockam's nominalism so far as it can be understood apart from his psychological doctrines.

I have thought that as a matter of historical interest, an historical curiosity if you please, the Question of Nominalism and Realism would be one to which you would be willing to devote 3 hours, in view of the frequency of references to it--and the intimate connection between Ockamism and the modern English philosophy of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Hartley, Brown, the two Mills, and Bain.

You may perhaps think that I have been taking up your time with things dead and gone--and utterly trivial. But in reality the difference between Nominalism and Realism has a relation not remote from that between the Idealism of Berkeley and Mill and the Idealisms of Kant and Hegel. If by calling the Question of Nominalism and Realism trivial it is meant that it has no conceivable application to practical affairs it is nothing but the old objection which ignorance has always brought against all purely scientific studies. And one which for an educated man to recognize is to reject.

But it is not true that it is of no practical moment whether we believe in Nominalism or Realism, whether we believe that eternal verities are confined entirely to the other world (for a Nominalist may certainly be a Spiritualist or even a Platonist) or that they are matters of everyday consequence, whether we believe that the Genus homo has no existence except as a collection of individuals and that therefore individual happiness, individual aspirations, and individual life is alone of account or that men really have something in common--and that their very essence--so that the Community is to be regarded as something of more consequence and of more dignity than any single men.

But perhaps by calling the Controversy of Nominalism and Realism trivial it is meant that any reasonable being can decide it in a jiffy. If you think then that all men who disagree with you on this question are foolish, I can only remark that whichever way your opinion lies there are certainly many men quite as competent in mental power, training, and information, who think that you have not fully probed the question.

However though it doesn't seem to me so, yet to others whom I must respect, it does seem easy to decide the question. Let it be so then and let us all come to a unanimous decision upon it, only let our decision rest on a historical basis, the only sound basis for any human institution--philosophy, natural science, government, church, or system of education.