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M&Ms - Mentally Mediated Meanings

Laurent Cesalli
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The slogan according to which "vocal sounds signify things by means of concepts" (voces significant res mediantibus conceptibus) expresses the standard medieval (in fact, Boethian) interpretation of the opening lines of Aristotle's De interpretatione. Yet, the formula has been subject to divergent interpretations according to the various understandings of what 'mediantibus' was taken to mean: do concepts constitute an intermediary step in the semantic process, being at the same time significata and signa (e.g. Thomas Aquinas)? Are they rather that without which no vocal sound would be significant, being signa but not significata (e.g. William of Ockham)? A careful reader of the scholastics, Anton Marty takes up the medieval slogan and interprets it along the lines of the "pragmatic semantics" elaborated in his Sprachphilosophie. Names are involved in a twofold semantic relation: they mean (bedeuten) that a certain presentation (Vorstellung) should be triggered in a hearer; and they name (nennen) the object of that presentation - a dynamic situation which is precisely caught by another medieval slogan, apparently unknown to Marty: significare est intellectum constituere - "to mean is to bring about a concept". The paper will deal with the three following issues: i) which are the main competing medieval interpretations of the slogan voces significant res mediantibus conceptibus? ii) how is Marty's use of the slogan to be understood in the light of its medieval origins? iii) are there medieval instances of pragmatic semantics ?
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halshs-00750116 , version 1 (09-11-2012)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00750116 , version 1


Laurent Cesalli. M&Ms - Mentally Mediated Meanings. Anne Reboul. Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan http://www.philosophie.ch/kevin/festschrift, Université de Genève, pp.1-16, 2011. ⟨halshs-00750116⟩
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