Marsilius of Inghen, John Buridan and the Semantics of Impossibility (Graziana Ciola)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on May 3rd from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Graziana Ciola (Radboud Nijmegen).

Title: Marsilius of Inghen, John Buridan and the Semantics of Impossibility

Abstract: In the 14th-century, imaginable yet in some sense impossible non-entities start playing a crucial role in logic, natural philosophy and metaphysics. Throughout the later middle ages and well into early modernity, Marsilius of Inghen’s name comes to be unavoidably associated with the semantics of imaginable impossibilities in most logical and metaphysical discussions. In this paper I analyse Marsilius of Inghen’s semantic treatment of impossible referents, through a comparison with John Buridan’s. While in many ways Marsilius is profoundly influenced by Buridan’s philosophy, his semantic analysis of impossibilia is radically different from Buridan’s. Overall, Buridan tends to analyse away impossible referents in terms of complex concepts by combining possible simple individual parts. Marsilius, on the one hand, treats impossibilia as imaginable referents that are properly unitary; on the other hand, he extends the scope of his modal semantics beyond the inclusion of merely relative impossibilities, allowing for a full semantic treatment of absolute impossibilities as well. Here, I will explore the extent of these differences between Buridan’s and Marsilius of Inghen’s semantics, their presuppositions, and their respective conceptual impact on early modern philosophy of logic and mathematics.

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