On the selling of pepper: Sherwood, Auxerre, Bacon, and Spain

After our brief political digression last week, this week we’re back to the pepper puzzle. Since writing that post, I’ve been continuing to collect data on how medieval authors analysed these two sentences:

(1) Pepper is sold here and in Rome

(2) Pepper is sold in Paris and in Rome

(It’s interesting just to note which sentence is used by whom…a subtle indication of the location of the author when writing? Perhaps…)

I’m starting off with the Big Four (Sherwood, Bacon, Auxerre, Spain), because they are the first texts where supposition theory is presented in a relatively mature form. Of the four, Sherwood’s is the most nuanced, as he makes subdivisions that the authors do not, while Bacon’s is the most idiosyncratic, as he introduces new distinctions that the others do not use, and which do not appear to be taken up by later authors (though since we’re focusing on the 13th C yet, and haven’t gotten to the 14th C, we may be proven wrong).

Both Sherwood and Auxerre say that in (1), “pepper” exhibits simple supposition. Auxerre defines simple supposition as:

that according to which a term is interpreted for itself or for its [signified] thing without relation to the supposita contained under it [Auxerre, ¶1253].

Compare this with Sherwood, where a word:

supposits what it signifies for what it signifies [Sherwood, p. 107].

Auxerre notes that there are two ways in which “without relation to” can be understood; one, when there is in fact no relation whatsoever, and the other when there is some relation, but it isn’t determinate, rather indeterminate. He admits that in this latter case, the term “simple supposition” is used only loosely.

Again, compare this to Sherwood, who divides simple supposition into three types, according to the three different ways in which a word can stand for what it signifies [Sherwood, p. 111]:

  • without any connection to things (and then it is manerial)
  • connected with things insofar as it is actually preserved in every single thing and is predicable of it (and then it is reduplicative)
  • connected with things insofar as it is related to anything generally, in an unfixed way, and is not identified with anything in a determinate way (and then it is unfixed)

The “unfixed” or vaga (Lat. ‘vague’) simple supposition clearly picks up on Auxerre’s second way of understanding simple supposition. For both authors, this is the type of supposition that “pepper” has in (1).

Bacon takes a different tactic. He does not divide simple supposition into subtypes, nor does he speak of using simple supposition loosely in the way that Auxerre does. Instead, he introduces some distinctions that are orthogonal to the orthodox ones — distinctions that apply across the categories of personal and simple supposition. He says that:

there is another division of supposition and appellation, namely this: some suppositions and appellations are gemina, others antonomastic, still others are metonymical, and so on for the other figures of speech and construction [Bacon, ¶266].

(1) is an instance of gemina “twinned” supposition because of the conjunctive predicate. However, he says that there still remains a doubt as to whether the gemina supposition of “pepper” is simple or personal. He considers objections to both possibilities; we will discuss the objections and his resolution to the dilemma in another post.

Spain’s typology of supposition is the simplest of the four, with the fewest distinctions and divisions. He defines simple supposition as

the taking of a common term in place of the universal thing signified by it [Spain, p. 243].

He considers three ways in which a term may have simple supposition: It can be a common term used as a subject; a common term used as an affirmative predicate; or a common term used after an exceptive expression [Spain, pp. 243, 245]. His focus is to show that in each of these ways, it is not legitimate to move from something with simple supposition to something with personal supposition. (1) is not even mentioned, much less discussed.

We now have a sturdy thirteenth-century foundation upon which to build further investigations!


Roger Bacon. The Art and Science of Logic. Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2009. Trans. by Thomas S. Maloney.

Brian P. Copenhaver, editor. Peter of Spain: Summaries of Logic, Text, Translation, Introduction, and Notes. Oxford University Press, 2014. With Calvin Normore and Terence Parsons.

Lambert of Auxerre. Logica or Summa Lamberti. University of Notre Dame, 2015. Thomas S. Maloney, trans.

William of Sherwood. William of Sherwood’s Introduction to Logic. University of Minnesota Press, 1966. Norman Kretzmann, trans.

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A medieval Brexit sophism

(With apologies to Burley, Buridan, Ockham, and PoV.)

Curtain opens.

Scene: the EU/UK Brexit negotiating room. PLATO, playing the part of the EU negotiators, is sitting at the table.

Enter SOCRATES, playing the part of the UK parliament.

SOCRATES: “In order to get change from Europe we need to demonstrate there is a majority in Parliament for something! That’s what we’ve done by voting for the Brady amendment!”

PLATO: “Great! So, what is the majority for?”

SOCRATES: “The majority of parliament voted for something!”

PLATO: “Yes, yes, go on — tell us what!”

SOCRATES, proudly: “We voted for…alternative arrangements!”

PLATO: “What arrangements?”

SOCRATES: “The ones that a majority in parliament voted favor of!”

PLATO: “Can you be a bit more specific? For instance, was a majority in favor of staying in the customs union?”

SOCRATES: “Nope, that’s not what there’s a majority for.”

PLATO: “For new technological solutions to the border — which, remember, don’t yet exist?”

SOCRATES: “Nope, not that either! Hahah!”

PLATO: “Are they the ones that violate the Good Friday agreement?”

SOCRATES: “Hah, gotchya! It’s not those either!”

PLATO, exasperated: “Then what, exactly, is there a majority for?”

SOCRATES: “There is a majority in parliament for something!”

PLATO, wearily: “Yes, so you said.”

Lights dim. Curtain closes

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A medieval puzzle of generic subjects and conjunctive predicates

Last weekend I had the pleasure of giving a keynote talk at the Twelfth Annual Cambridge Graduate Conference on the Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic. I was asked to give an overview/introduction to medieval logic (here are my slides), working under the assumption that few people in the audience would know anything about the topic. All of the other speakers presented on much more modern material, so in addition to giving my own talk, I also did my best to play the role of the annoying person in the Q&A who raises their hand and goes “But what about X….” (Or rather: To connect modern questions to medieval ones and suggest them as an interest case for the modern analysis).

One very interesting talk, given by James Kirkpatrick (Oxford), was on generics — things like “Ducks lay eggs” and “Ravens are black”. Listening to it, I was reminded of a particular sentence that occurs in William of Sherwood’s discussion of supposition:

Pepper is sold here and in Rome

The question is what ‘pepper’ supposits for — and in what way does it supposit — in this sentence. It can’t be for the species of pepper, because species are not sold, nor is it an essential part of the species of pepper that it be sold here and in Rome, but rather accidental. But it also cannot be specific pepper individuals, because no individual item is sold both here and in Rome (at the same time; though with modern technology and dropshipping, it’s not longer clear that one and the same cannot be sold in two different places at the same time!). It’s clearly making a generic statement about the subject, pepper, in the same way that “ducks lay eggs” and “ravens are black” does; but there’s an added issue of the conjunctive predicate — “sold here and in Rome”.

So I suggested this to Kirkpatrick as an example he might find interesting to consider in his analysis, and decided myself I was interested in going back to Sherwood, and the other three of the Big Four (Lambert of Auxerre, Peter of Spain, Roger Bacon) to see what they all have to say about the analysis of this sentence. That work is now ongoing, and I’ll probably report back on it occasionally. However, three things surprised me:

  • I searched the archives of Vivarium to see what modern commentators have had to say about this sentence, and found nothing. In fact, when I restricted my search to simply “pepper”, I only got three hits:
    1. The first is “Jean Buridan and Nicole Oresme on Natural Knowledge” by Edward Grant (XXXI-1, 1993). Apparently, Oresme wonders “why pepper in small quantities is a laxative and a diuretic in large quantities”. I had no idea… Interesting, but not useful for my purposes.
    2. The second is “The Real Difficulty With Burley’s Realistic Semantics” by Michael J. Fitzgerald (XXVIII-1, 1990). Apparently, Burley doesn’t describe what he means by formal supposition, but Fitzgerald thinks it has to cover sentences like “pepper is hot”. In such a sentence “pepper” supposits for both individual instances of pepper, AND for pepper the species. This account therefore won’t work for “Pepper is sold here and in Rome”, since where pepper is sold is not apart of its essence.
    3. The third is “The Role of Discrete Terms in the Theory of the Properties of Terms” by Julie Brumberg-Chaumont (51, 2013). This is the only paper to actually address the example sentence in question, and does so only in a footnote — part of an explanation of why William of Sherwood thinks that ‘pepper’ has simple supposition in that context.
  • I then searched JSTOR for the English phrase, and also found only three papers!

    1. The first is a review of Grabmann’s edition of Sherwood’s Introductiones (by one “R. McK.” in the Journal of Philosophy in 1938), where it is merely mentioned.
    2. The next is Ivan Boh’s translation of Paul of Pergola’s treatise on supposition (Franciscan Studies 25, 1965). Paul has a rule that numeric adverbs and conjunctive clauses “cause terms to have merely confused mobile supposition”. He gives this sentence as an example of a conjunctive clause.
    3. The final is Tom J. F. Tillemans, “Formal and Semantic Aspects of Tibetan Buddhist Debate Logic” (Journal of Indian Philosophy, 17, no. 3, 1989). Tillemans draws a comparison to the Tibetan question of whether a word refers ONLY to a general notion/property (rang ldog) or whether it ALSO refers to the things having the property (gzhi ldog). Tillemans says “the Tibetans never developed a theory approaching the complexity of the Medievals’ theory of suppositio” (p. 280) — this is definitely a place where some more in-depth comparative work would be super interesting!
  • I then searched for the phrase in Latin on googlebooks, and that got me quite a bit more — but almost all of it was pre-modern!

So it appears that no one has done any sort of systematic survey of this topic, and that there are a large number of medieval and post-medieval occurrences of the sentence (or similar ones, such as “Pepper is sold in Paris and in Rome”)! It just goes to show what I always say when I’m introducing medieval logic to modern logicians — there is so much low-hanging fruit, so apart from any theoretical interest the topic has, there’s good pragmatic reasons for getting involved in medieval logic as a research enterprise!

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Spotlight on Gaunilo

Sometime between 1032 and 1064, a miller named Gualdrich, his wife Richilde, and their three daughters, Adelaide, Dominica, and Alburg, were indentured to the abbot of Marmoutier Abbey in Tours, and a document was drawn up in witness of this act. [1] An ordinary sort of activity — Marmoutier had many serfs, especially from the 11th century onwards when Marmoutier was one of the richest abbeys in Europe — and an ordinary sort of document — with many serfs come many records.

So what’s so interesting about this particular one? It isn’t anything to do with Gualdrich or Richilde or their excellently named daughters, but rather someone else who is mentioned in the document, namely, one of the witnesses, one Guanilo monachus.

“Guanilo”, you, well-versed in medieval philosophy, say. “Huh. I recognise that name. But, surely…”

Surely it can’t be that Gaunilo. Surely it can’t be the one who refuted Anselm’s ontological argument. I mean, he is from the 11th C, but we don’t really know anything about him, do we?

Well, that’s what I’d always assumed; I’d never actually read up on Gaunilo myself. So I did what any self-respecting academic would do, and plugged “Gaunilo” into wikipedia. Turns out, the conventional wisdom is that the Gaunilo of best-island-ever fame was a Benedictine monk of Marmoutier Abbey, in Tours, France. I.e., the guy who also witnessed the indenture papers of Gualdrich, Richilde, and family.

Little is known about the author of the rejoinder to Anselm. The Liber pro insipiente objection to Anselm, written around 1079 [2], is the only philosophical writing that has been attributed to him. (This rejoinder to Anselm is available in English translation from the Medieval Sourcebook [3], but I’ve not yet found a Latin edition easily accessible. [4]) In 2009, Ian Logan questioned whether the author of the Liber pro insipiente was in fact Gaunilo of Marmoutiers:

Neither Anselm nor his biographer, Eadmer, refer to the author of the Pro insipiente by name. Anselm appears to be unaware of the identity of the author, given the manner in which he ddresses him at the beginning of his Responsio: “Indeed you say — whoever you are…’. Eadmer refers to Anselm’s opponent simply as ‘someone’. [5]

Logan traces the basis for the ascription of the work to Gaunilo to a single early manuscript from the late 11th/early 12th century from Jumièges, now at Rouen (MS 539 (A366)), where “Gaunilo monachus Majoris-Monasterii” is given as the author (it is the only early MS to do so). Logan says that “as there is no separate manuscript tradition for the Pro Insipiente to that originating with Anselm at Bec (not even at Marmoutiers), it is possible that this ascription is the result of a scribal fantasy” [5].

But why would some scribe pluck an attribution like this out of thin air? Gaunilo is not a common name in 11th C France (or indeed later), so an explanation whereby the scribe picked a ‘generic’ name for the author of the text cannot be admitted. [6] Why, too, would the scribe specifically locate the author at Marmoutier?

Both of these seem to be unlikely choices for someone to simply make up. We aren’t, here, however, in the position of being able to address the question of whether Gaunilo, the monk at Marmoutier, was the author of the Pro insipiente or not. Let us rest content without further questioning the attribution of the work to this Marmoutier Gaunilo, and instead ask: What else can we find out about this Gaunilo from the indenture records collected in [1]? For the charter with which we opened our discussion is not the only one that “Gaunilo monachus” is mentioned.

He next appears in charter LXVI, dated to 1062, witnessing an indenture record concerning Fulcher of Tours and his sister Agnes. The next year he is mentioned in another document of a much more personal nature, for it concerns the nephew (and namesake), Gaunilo, of Gaunilo the monk (domni Guanilonis monachi nostri), in charter CIII.

In all three charters, the editor of [1] is confident that the “Guanilo monachus” mentioned is the same one — this is not an unreasonable assumption given that Gaunilo or Guanilo was not a common 11th C French name, and therefore the likelihood of there being more than one monk by that name at Marmoutiers is small. (There are other people named Gaunilo in these documents; but those that are identified in secular contexts cannot be equated with the monk.) The fact that the monk Gaunilo had a nephew named after him allows us to find him in a few other charters as well (that is, ones where he’s not explicitly identified by the editor). In charter I of the appendix, again dated between 1032 and 1064, there is a reference to one Guanilo Thesaurarius (i.e., treasurer). Later in the same charter is a mention of Guanilo nepos Guanilonis thesaurarii ‘Guanilo nephew of Guanilo treasurer’. The fact that we already know (from charter CIII) that our Gaunilo had a nephew named Gaunilo makes it almost certain that these two are the same, so we can conclude that not only was Gaunilo a monk at Marmoutier, he had, at some point, held the office of treasurer. Gaunilo the treasurer-monk turns up again in appendix charter VIII, dated 1040-1044, as both a witness and as the “owner” of the charter: after a lengthy opening, we get the phrase Proinde ego Guanilo, thesaurarius Sancti Martini ‘Hence I, Gaunilo, treasurer of Saint Martin’. But here, he’s not the only Guanilo:

Nihardus de Monte Aureo nepos meus, sed et alius nepos meus, Guanilo nomine, filius Gauscelini, nec non et alii duo nepotes mei Cleopas et Guanilo filii Malranni de Castor Noiastro, cum sorore ipsum, nomine Hersindi, uxore Adelardi Barduni.

That is to say:

Nihard of Mons Aureus my nephew, and another nephew of mine, by name Gaunilo, son of Gauscelin, and yet further two other nephews of mine Cleopas and Gaunilo sons of Malram of Noyers, with their sister, by name Hersinde, wife of Adelard Bardun.

This means that in appendix charter XX, dated around 1063, when we find one Guanilo de Montiniaco (i.e., of Montigny) and a reference to Guanilo thesaurarius avunculus ejus ‘Guanilo treasurer his uncle’, this is either Guanilo son of Gauscelin or Guanilo son of Malrann.

So not only do we have Gaunilo the treasurer, who is almost certainly the same as Gaunilo the treasurer-monk, who is definitely the same as Gaunilo the monk, we have a whole bunch of his relatives too. How cool is that?


[1] André Salmon, ed., Le Livres des Serfs de Marmoutier, Publications de la Société Archéologique de Touraine XVI (Tours: Imprimerie Ladevèze, 1864), charter LV.

[2] Jasper Hopkins, “Anselm’s Debate with Gaunilo”, ch. 4 of Anselm of Canterbury, vol. 4: Hermeneutical and Textual Problems in the Complete Treatises of St. Anselm (Toronto and New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1976), p. 97.

[3] It’s a modernized version of the translation published in St. Anselm: Proslogium; Monologium: An Appendix In Behalf Of The Fool By Gaunilo; And Cur Deus Homo, Translated From The Latin By Sidney Norton Deane, B. A. With An Introduction, Bibliography, And Reprints Of The Opinions Of Leading Philosophers And Writers On The Ontological Argument, (Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1903, reprinted 1926). Another translation, due to Jasper Hopkins, is available here, along with Anselm’s rejoinder.

[4] The Latin text appears in S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera Omnia, edited by Franciscus Salesius Schmitt, O.S.B. (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Friedrich Frommann Verlag, I968), Tome I, Volume i, p. I28, as well as in Jasper Hopkins, A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm’s Monologion and Proslogion, (Minneapolis: The Arthur J. Benning Press, 1986) p. 264–275, and [5] below.

[5] Ian Logan, Reading Anselm’s Proslogion: The History of Anselm’s Argument and its Significance Today (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 115-16. Thanks to Mark Thakkar for the reference.

[6] A much more generic choice of name for 11th C France would have been, e.g., Guillaume.

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Call for Papers: Britain’s Early Philosophers (April 1-2, 2019, Durham, England)

Call for Papers: Britain’s Early Philosophers (April 1-2, 2019, Durham, England)

Who were Britain’s earliest philosophers? What were Alcuin of York’s contributions to philosophy? To what extent can we consider thinkers such as Hild, Bede, Cuthbert, Gildas, and Cædmon philosophers? How did philosophy reach Britain? Who was reading it, who was writing it, who was teaching it, who was learning it? In this seminal exploratory workshop, we will be considering these questions as well as other questions such as: What counts as philosophy in the early medieval British period? What are the boundary/ies between philosophy and theology? Is there a specifically/uniquely early British philosophical tradition? Just who was reading Alfred’s translation of Boethius?

In addition to four plenary invited talks, we are soliciting proposals for contributed papers on any aspect of philosophy and philosophers born in or living in Britain before 1000. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent to Dr. Sara L. Uckelman by January 31, 2019; responses to decisions on abstracts will be communicated by February 15, 2019.

For more information, see the workshop homepage.

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Job ad: Professorship for Ancient and/or Medieval Philosophy (Bochum)

Professorship for Ancient and/or Medieval Philosophy

Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) is one of Germany’s leading research universities. The University draws its strengths from both the diversity and the proximity of scientific and engineering disciplines on a single, coherent campus. This highly dynamic setting enables students and researchers to work across traditional boundaries of academic subjects and faculties.

The Institute of Philosophy II, Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Sciences of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, invites applications for the position of a

Professor (tenure) for Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (Salary Scale W2)

 to start on 1 April 2019

The candidate is expected to establish a sustainable research program, be capable to produce and publish original research, be an effective teacher and mentor of both undergraduate and graduate students, and engage in institutional and professional service. We are looking for a scholar with an internationally visible research profile that complements the existing research expertise of the department. The future holder of the post will represent the subject ‘Ancient Philosophy’ or ‘Medieval Philosophy’ in research and both areas in teaching. Teaching is to be held in the context of B.A., M.A. and PhD studies in Philosophy and in the context of optional courses of other programs which involve philosophy. Courses for teaching should be offered in both areas, in ancient and medieval philosophy. The willingness to hold the obligatory lecture “Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Philosophy”, to be held in German and on a regular basis, is particularly expected.

Positive evaluation as a junior professor or equivalent academic achievement (e.g. Habilitation) or significant post-doctoral research contributions and teaching experience are as much required as the willingness to participate in the self-governing bodies of the RUB.

We expect:

  • outstanding international research activities in ancient or medieval philosophy
  • the willingness and the ability to combine significant research in the area of ancient or medieval philosophy with modern developments in theoretical philosophy
  • strong  commitment to academic teaching at graduate and undergraduate level;
  • willingness and ability to attract external funding;
  • the readiness to engage in establishing and developing international research activities

Ruhr-Universität Bochum is an equal opportunity employer.


Complete applications including CV, copies of academic certificates, list of publications, list of self-raised third-party funds, and a teaching record should be sent by email to the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Sciences of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Prof. Dr. Corinna Mieth (dekanat-pe@rub.de) not later than 5 October 2018. Further information can be obtained from our website at https://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/philosophy/ii/jobs.html.de.

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Commentary/book review: Virginie Greene, Logical Fictions in Medieval Literature and Philosophy (part 2)

(Read part 1 of the review.)

Part I: Logical Fables

Chapter 1: Abelard’s donkey: the non-existent particular

Greene: “What is the contrary of a lion? Some may say a mouse; some may say a snail. What is the contradictory of a lion? Aristotle may say a non-lion. [1]” (p. 13)

But ‘contrary’ and ‘contradictory’ apply to propositions, not terms; whether ‘non-lion’ is opposed to ‘lion’ contrarily or contradictorily depends on the nature of the propositions they are embedded in; ‘Some animal is a lion’ is opposed to ‘Some animal is a non-lion’ contrarily (taking the proposition involving the infinite term to be logically equivalent to the one with a negated finite term), while ‘Some animal is a non-lion’ is opposed to ‘All animals are lions’ contradictorily (again, with the same parenthetical proviso).

Greene: Footnote [1]: “I am playing here with Aristotle’s classification of negation and opposition, in particular with this distinction between contraries (bad v. good) and contradictories (he sits vs. he does not sit). For a summary of Aristotle’s theory of negation, see Horn, A Natural History of Negation, pp. 6-21.”

Ah. So, “playing with” Aristotle’s definitions. To me, “playing with” indicates a use of them which is non-precise, which is rather antithetical to the logician’s use of a term (and that includes Aristotle). I’m also a bit disappointed that Aristotle himself is not cited here.

Greene: “I will examine Abelard’s thoughts about imagination and the status of its products in the soul…while introducing my own theory about fiction as a mental process of creating imaginary particulars” (p. 14).

Excellent. My own views on the nature of fictional objects tends towards creationism, so I look forward to seeing what Abelard might have to contribute to this discussion.

Greene: “The minds who named twenty-four sorts of syllogisms with names such as Barbara, Festino, or Bamalip…” (p. 15)

Bamalip? Hmm, not come across that one before. Alas, no footnote.

Greene: “In sum, Aristotle contradicts himself by stating that universals (such as genus and species) are and are not things, exist and do not exist. [9].” (p. 16)

Err, what?? Oooh, footnote! Maybe there’ll be some supporting references and discussion there!

Greene: Footnote [9]: “This is, indeed, a simplified presentation of Aristotle’s formulations. On Aristotle and Plato’s thoughts on universals, see Libera, La Querelle, pp. 29-64.”

Oh. No Aristotle.

This first section on Abelard concludes with the recognition that our lives are made up of reference to many, many, many non-existent things — a thesis that necessarily falls out of presentism, that is, the idea that only the present exists. Presentism goes back (at least) to Augustine, who says that “for the past now has no existence, and the future is not yet” (Confessions, Book 11). Nevertheless, language is able to produce meaningful sentences about non existent objects, and these sentences can be either true or false. The question for the next section (and the next part of my commentary/review) is how?

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