Empty terms in W. Ockham's logic: what is the reference for chimaeras


Anastasia O. Kopylova


The paper is devoted to the problem of supposition of terms in the propositions about imaginary objects and the conditions of their truth values in the doctrine of William of Ockham who was a leading figure of the scholastic nominalism. His rather radical ontological position acknowledges the existence of no more than two types of essences: unitary substances and qualities. Being devoid of the universals, the Ockhamist doctrine implied the transformation of the previously elaborated semantic theories, including the theory of supposition. In the reconstruction of Ockham’s thought that became classical, the supposition closely approached the reference; however, in 2000s C.Dutilh-Novaes proposed the interpretation of supposition as a theory of propositional meanings. This approach brings forth the understanding of supposition as an intensional rather than extensional theory. One of the crucial arguments for this reconstruction is based on the application of supposition in the propositions about imaginary objects. According to our view, this argument is not free from some drawbacks. The term that makes the reference to the imaginary objects can have only simple or material supposition but not a personal one. W. Ockham names imaginary objects impossible objects.Chimaera is an impossible object, because it is considered as something which is combined of parts of different animals.That's why it should contain several substantial forms, which leads to contradiction with the metaphysical principle of the uniqueness of the substantial form.
In Ockham’s doctrine affirmative propositions about imaginary objects are always false since chimeras do not possess real existence. This observation implies that propositions about imaginary objects are more adequately squared with the extensional rather than intensional interpretation of supposition.




Philosophy and Logic


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