The Language of Scientia: Ockham's Mental Language as the Subject Matter of Aristotelian Science

Doctoral Dissertation


William of Ockham’s theory of mental language is among the most studied aspects of his thought; yet, surprisingly, there is little scholarly consensus on just what it is supposed to be a theory of. The most widely held view today is that Ockham’s mental language is intended to be an account of human cognitive operations, akin to the Language of Thought Hypothesis held by some contemporary cognitive scientists. In this dissertation, I first raise a series of objections to this interpretation, both philosophical and textual: Ockham refrains from endorsing the key doctrines this interpretation attributes to him, and his actual discussions of mental language seem disconnected from the theory of cognition he does indeed hold.

I then proceed to sketch an alternative interpretation, which takes as its starting point the sole argument that Ockham provides for positing mental language. On this interpretation, Ockham posits mental language in order to provide a collection of entities which are both compatible with his nominalist ontology and sufficient to fulfill the strictures of the Aristotelian account of scientific practice that he endorses.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-10142012-140434

Author Eric William Hagedorn
Advisor Richard Cross
Contributor Alfred Freddoso, Committee Member
Contributor Ted Warfield, Committee Member
Contributor John OCallaghan, Committee Member
Contributor Richard Cross, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2012-10-04

Submission Date 2012-10-14
  • United States of America

  • Augustine

  • perihermenias

  • mental word

  • Fodor

  • gregory of rimini

  • cognition

  • Language of Thought

  • syntactic complexity

  • summa logicae

  • ordinatio

  • scientific knowledge

  • cognitive psychology

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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