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Concepts and meaning in medieval philosophy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In his recent study, Concepts, Fodor identifies five nonnegotiable constraints on any theory of concepts. These theses were all shared by the standard medieval theories of concepts. However, those theories were cognitivist, in contrast with Fodor’s: concepts are definitions, a form of natural knowledge. The medieval theories were formed under two influences, from Aristotle by way of Boethius, and from Augustine. The tension between them resulted in the Ockhamist notion of a natural language, concepts as signs. Thus conventional signs, spoken and written, signify things in the world by the mediation of concepts which themselves form a language of thought, signifying those things naturally by their similarity. Indeed, later thinkers realised that everything signifies itself and what is like it naturally in a broad sense by means of the concept of its natural likeness.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntentionality, Cognition, and Mental Representation in Medieval Philosophy
EditorsGyula Klima
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherFordham University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780823262748
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

Publication series

NameMedieval Philosophy: Texts and Studies
PublisherFordham University Press

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