20191201_004133316.pdf - 10 analogous to what we might think of as a baptism The act of imposing a word required that there be a verbal utterance that

20191201_004133316.pdf - 10 analogous to what we might...

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10 analogous to what we might think of as a baptism. The act of imposing a word required that there be a verbal utterance that was assigned by fiat to a thing in the world. But the “thing” on which a word was imposed was generally thought to be a non-particular thing (a nature or a formal feature, for example), and at the bare minimum, it required an understanding of a thing’s essential or at least distinctive qualities. 18 The distinction that medieval philosophers made regarded the various formal features that could come into play. In an act of imposition there could be an understanding of the features from which a name could be imposed, as opposed to an understanding of the thing on which the name was imposed. For instance, say that Bombalurina wishes to impose the utterance “gerbil” as a sign of a species of rodent that is generally desert - dwelling and furry- tailed. In doing so, Bombalurina might use the features “desert - dwelling” and “furry - tailed” as helpful features by w hich to identify the entities she wants to signify with the term “gerbil,” but she might intend “gerbil” to be a sign of the rodents themselves, whether or not they happen to be dwelling in the desert or have furry tails at any given moment. The favorite medieval example used to illustrate this distinction was the word lapis , “stone.” According to widespread belief, lapis derived from laedet pedem , “it hurts the foot.” 19 Thus the person who had first imposed lapis as an utterance for stones did so “from” an understanding of the stones’ accidental qualities of foot -hurting. But philosophers frequently pointed out that it was ridiculous to say that the name lapis simply signified “that which hurts the foot.” Clearly, lapis was imposed as a sign for the stone-nature itself, not just one of its qualities. So the quality from which the name was imposed was not the same as the thing on which the name was imposed, or the thing which the name was a sign of .
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  • Spring '17
  • Allen, Robert

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